life, office, Uncategorized

The Office

A few days ago, I moved into my office.

YAY!

This has been the culmination of weeks of thinking, and shuffling things around, as well as gathering the essential supplies and doing a little bit of a makeover. Being that I homeschool my three kids, and they are a lovely combination of ADHD/aspie/just-plain-weird-like-their-parents, you can imagine that sometimes the inside of my house is very loud. Like, really loud. Sometimes it’s mostly populated by small things that look like children but are actually animals (complete with conversations held in meows, woofs, and getting your face occasionally licked).

photogrid_1477889251055Sometimes, I just need a place where I can go and hide out. A quiet place, filled with quiet, peaceful things. Sometimes, this quiet place is actually loud so I can listen to music without using headphones and can sing at the top of my lungs without being yelled at. But it’s my space and I’ll damn well do with it what I please. Mostly it’s quiet. There is a lock on the door. This is important.

Some lovely friends came and helped me paint a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the purple of childhood dreams. I think this was a subconscious thing on my part, a nourishment, a recollection of simpler days. A reclamation of innocence stolen. Whatever, it’s calming. And I do really like purple. The ceiling is ugly, and instead of patching it up and painting I found some pretty wool lace online and ordered enough to drape. It’s like being in a purple cave decorated by a massive spider web. I like it. I have curtains to go in still, but they aren’t 100% necessary for my use of the space so I’ll get around to it eventually.

photogrid_1477951571993Between having houseguests for most of a week, and every else being down with a tummy bug for the weekend, it took me until Tuesday to move my desk in. This was a big step. Not only would I have to leave the house to use my desk (my office is the small, second room in the sleepout), but I’d have no regular, easy place to work inside.

And you know what? It’s awesome. It’s no longer easy to turn on my laptop and spend endless hours trawling the internet. If I really need to check stuff I can do that on my phone anyway. It’s been less than a week and I am already forming some good habits. I go to my office to work. I GO to work. That’s a huge mindset shift in itself! This morning, sick of juggling an armload of items, I packed my bag instead and called to the kids “I’m just going to work in the office for a half hour!” and off I went.

photogrid_1478209511779To be clear, the office is not far. I can still hear them if anything goes amiss. They are free to come out, but normally prefer to stand on the deck and call me instead. A lot of the time they’ll jump on the trampoline outside my office window, sometimes they will come and work on projects in the big room of the sleepout. If they want to jump on the trampoline and I am not working they ask, “can you go and do some work?” and off we go. How cool is that?

And WOW does that ever feel good after what has felt like months of spinning my wheels. I know that logically that was all important. Settling in takes a long time, and I am only just now at the point where I feel like we really truly live here and that’s good. I still miss a lot from back home, but this is home now too.

Home, and an office.

It’s not complete. There are still things I need, but I’m determined to only put stuff in it I love. I want to surround myself with reminders that my needs and wants are valuable, and that I am worthy of an abundance of awesome. Because I am. And, hey, so are you! In the months to come, I’ll have some really cool stuff to share with you. I kind of feel like I’m starting a new phase of my life, and I’m super excited about it all.

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authors, writing

Cthulhu Slippers

So, I stumbled across this new web comic a week or so ago, and have to say that every time I see an update I head over to the site to get my fix. It always makes me smile – the drawings are just so cool, the comics are clever, and I like to follow the work of fellow NZ writers (such as Andrew Jack, who writes this comic). I’m fairly new to the world of Cthulu, but love seeing all the things that have been inspired by Lovecraft.

If you want to check it out, and you should, start here

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On the hunt for a new album

Throughout the writing of Sun-Touched, I had one album that I put on repeat. Whenever I sat down to write, it was there. If I was trying to write and it wasn’t on, at times I struggled. It helped to get me in the zone, to focus me on the writing – even though the type of music, the lyrics, etc in no way, shape or form mimicked/added to/accented the type of story I was writing.

Now that Sun-Touched is done. I feel a little like I am done with that album. I want something new (to me), something fresh to accompany me while I write my next piece.

May is going to be full of planning, so it’s the perfect time to stop and find some new writing music. Seeing as I have two projects coming up, I need two different albums! And this time, I am going to try and do a better job of matching the albums to the stories.

I’m so out of the loop with the music scene though, that this could prove to be challenging. I may need your help.

The novella I plan to write in June is about an older woman’s journey to reclaim a part of her heritage that many of her people have abandoned. She travels with her baby grandson, whose parents are dead, so a lot of the time she’ll be virtually alone. As much as it’s a physical journey, it’s also an emotional/spiritual journey, so that’s going to be interesting to write.

On the other hand, my YA science fiction series is full of action and drama, romance and conflict (or will be when I’m done with it!).

Any suggestions for music to check out?

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2012, you’re finally here!

Well, we are back from a week away visiting family, and it’s never been so good to be home. Gosh, I appreciate our space more than ever right now, and am looking forward to several months of just being here.

So nice <basks in the glow of being home>.

Anyways, I was lying in bed on New Years Eve, thinking about how I wasn’t staying up until midnight and wondering what this said about me. I finally decided that it meant I’m old enough to know that change doesn’t happen over night. The clock striking midnight doesn’t mean that magical things happen (though, wouldn’t that be nice), and that perhaps this wisdom will help me achieve all the things I want from 2012. Rather than starting the new year with a bang, I’m getting on with things slow and steady.

Or maybe I’m just getting old 😉 In any event, I can’t afford to burn through all the zeal I have stockpiled, I need to be the tortoise this year to get where I want to be.

2012 is all about:

of new and old, of the dynamics of my life, of everything that I am interested in and passionate about. It’s well and truly time to take things up a notch, and get down to business.

I’ll be completing Lifeline training, starting post-graduate study, finishing the first draft of Sun-Touched, editing TCM to submission standard and still being a kick-ass mother and wife – not to mention a million other little things. I’m feeling so good about the year ahead, and I know that if I pace myself, if I take it one step at a time, I will get to where I want to be.

I hope the year ahead is everything you could hope for, and I’m looking forward to sharing the highs and lows with you. I’ve been reading all the goals posts so far and love what I’m seeing. There is such a good vibe for 2012!

Onwards and upwards!

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New kids on the block

This year has been pretty exciting for us NZ writers – not one, but two, new publishers of speculative fiction have appeared! Magic 😉

I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with the men behind both of these ventures. Some of you might recall the interview I did with Stephen Minchin, editor of Steam Press, earlier in the year. I was thrilled to find him passionate and dedicated to his venture. Since chatting with him last, he has signed three books! The first will be released during New Zealand Book month (March, 2012). It sounds like a really great read and I know I’ll be picking it up.

The other two are secret projects – one of them by the incredibly talented couple Matt and Debbie Cowens. They are both fantastic writers, so I am looking forward to that! The final one listed is by Michael Morrissey. He’s new on my radar, but he’s in good company so I am sure it’ll be worth checking out too 😉

Comets and Criminals is a new zine dedicated to publishing Science Fiction, Adventure, Historical and Western genre pieces. I actually submitted a short story once I saw they were open, and was thrilled to have it accepted (it’ll be on the site in October, in the first issue). I can say that the editor, Samuel Mae, is a fantastic bloke. He’s great to work with – he communicates really well, and likes to work with the authors to get their stories into the best shape possible. I’d definitely recommend this market, and am looking forward to reading issue one!

So if you have something to submit, long or short, why not consider these markets? They might be the new kids on the block but their passion, drive and commitment are obvious. I think they both have bright futures ahead.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting a review of Mary Victoria’s ‘Tymon’s Flight’.

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Steam Press – an interview with the Editor

Something exciting happened in late May this year. Steam Press, a brand new publisher of Speculative Fiction, was launched by editor, Stephen Minchin. Curious to find out more, I sent him an email to see if he’d be interested in answering a few questions to give us some insight into what goes on behind the scenes. To my delight, I found that Stephen is a man very passionate about both speculative fiction, and New Zealand writing. Read on to find out more about Steam Press…

It’s very exciting to see a speculative fiction publisher in New Zealand, what made you decide to delve into the world of publishing and start your own press?

I’ve written speculative fiction for ten or twelve years, but it didn’t take me long to realise that very few publishers in New Zealand would even look at a horror or science fiction novel so I put bought a suit and got a job at a consultancy firm. Last year I suddenly realised that I didn’t like my job and I knew that I had to move into a career that I could be passionate about. I managed to convince my wife that it’d be fun to live on instant noodles for a year, quit my job, and managed to get a place in Whitireia’s publishing programme. I’m halfway through the diploma now and am doing part time work at Steele Roberts in Wellington, to help keep out of mischief.

Steam Press came about through my study – specifically, it was inspired by the publishers who spoke with us in the first few months of the course who all said that there was no market in New Zealand for speculative fiction. This didn’t make any sense to me as the major publishers in Auckland are all happy enough to import spec fic, with The Passage, Harry Potter, the Discworld novels, or Twilight all selling tens of thousands of copies when most New Zealand literature, which these same publishers are all keen to print, might only sell a thousand copies. I’m aiming to prove those publishers wrong.

While print is a medium people love, e-books are certainly growing in popularity. Is there a specific format (print or e-book) that you plan to focusing on, or will you be putting out a combination of both?

I will be focussing on print for the launch of Steam Press’s books, with e-books following a few months later. I believe that print books have a future so long as they are produced well – gorgeous covers, beautiful internal design, and quality production. That all adds to the reading of a book. E-books have their place, and as far as selling internationally goes they really are the best option for a small press, but an e-book will never give the reader the same experience.

We know you are looking for speculative fiction, but is there anything in particular you would love to find in your submissions inbox? What really excites you, or what do you think there is not enough of on the shelves at the moment?

STEAMPUNK! Good Lord, what I would give for a brilliant steampunk novel which was set in colonial Wellington. I’d have kittens.

I am really keen to see science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories which are unashamedly set in New Zealand. British authors don’t have any concerns setting their novels in the UK, and most of the American authors I read set their books in the US. A lot of Kiwi authors, however, seem to avoid a New Zealand setting, opting for either a generic northern hemisphere backdrop or a US / UK setting. I am interested in publishing New Zealand speculative fiction, and by this I mean more than the fact that the stories were written by a Kiwi – I’d love to read about people fighting zombie hordes down Lambton Quay, aliens blowing up the Sky Tower, and clockwork-powered engines running amok through the Otago goldfields.

What kind of editorial process can authors who publish with Steam Press expect to go through?

I am reading all submissions and making the first cut. If I find a manuscript that I really like I will trust my gut and respond to the author straight away; if I’m feeling more cautious I’ll run the manuscript past a friend who has agreed to help me with this. For anything that we decide to take further I’ll let the author know if I’d like to see any significant changes (though of course I’m always happy to discuss these suggestions), and once the story is pretty much sorted it’ll be time to get them contracted. Then it’ll just be a matter of hammering out any minor problems with the story, fixing typos etc, and I’ll spend a fair bit of time during this stage trying to pick holes in the manuscript, double checking all the timelines and descriptions to make sure everything lines up, and generally just being annoying.

Once that’s done the manuscript should be pretty tidy so I’ll typeset the book, run the story past a few more people to make sure we haven’t missed anything, and then I’ll run off a first set of proofs. This will lead to a fun and exciting series of second, third, and potentially fourth proofs, a which point everyone should be sick to death of the damn thing. After a glass of two of wine we’ll send the files to the printer for proofing on their machine, and we’ll be checking the cover artwork and design then as well. If that all goes according to plan (we live in hope) that’ll be the book sorted, and the we’ll just have to deal with the clamourings of the press, Peter Jackson, and crazed fans…

Sell yourself! What are three things about you, as an editor, that sets you apart from other editors.

I think the main thing that sets me apart from most editors in New Zealand is that I am passionate about speculative fiction. It’s what I read, and it’s what I want to get into bookstores. If it floats my boat then I’ll be keen to publish it, unlike the major publishers who also have to weigh up the commercial interests as dictated by their multinational overlords.

As well as this, I am a writer as well as an editor so I’ve been on the other end of the submissions process. I understand what it’s like to submit a novel but have no idea if it got through, and wait three or four months hoping you’ll eventually hear back. I acknowledge all submissions when they arrive in my inbox, and I am aiming to respond to all subs within a month. So far, I’ve managed to keep response times down to two to three weeks. And if a writer has any questions, wants to meet me for a coffee, or just wants to buy me drinks, I’m pretty approachable.

I’m hoping to develop a niche somewhere in the middle ground between the small presses and the major publishers, combining the focus of the former with the training of the latter. The Whitireia Diploma in Publishing has taught me a huge amount about editing, design, and book marketing, so I’m confident that I’ll be able to produce a professional text, plus I know cover designers who can make Steam Press books look as good as anything else that’s on the market, and I’m gaining the industry knowledge and connections to get those books into shops.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far by sending me their manuscripts and offering to be involved. I’m really excited to be reading manuscripts and starting to talk with authors about getting their stories published. Please spread the word that I’m looking for manuscripts, follow me on Twitter if that’s your thing, feel free to contact me, and keep an eye out for our first book – I’m hoping to have something out in early 2012. Cheers!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us, Stephen! It’s highly encouraging to learn more both about you, and the Press. We wish you all the best with this endeavour—and many happy years turning out quality New Zealand speculative fiction.

You can find submission guidelines and contact details for Steam Press here and find them on twitter here.

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After the Shiny

Comes the crash. That time when you feel flat about the project your meant to be working on, even after you’ve managed to store that shiny away for another day.

And I did store it. I played with ideas, I made notes. I’m letting it simmer in the back of my mind while the right characters and plot direction sort themselves out. It’ll let me know when it’s just about done.

Still, there is the flatness (or there was). Here is how I tackled it:

a) I stuffed around, opening documents, reading small bits, closing them, unable to set my mind to any particular task.

b) felt too daunted by getting back to work on Mocha Nihilism so decided that something else would get worked on first.

c) decided that I should finish my Skaazi story and submit it, because that was a surefire way to make myself feel better.

d) didn’t.

e) got some advice from Bob via Merrilee (which she then wrote a great post about).

f) Merrilee then told me to write for ten minutes, set her timer, and away I went.

It’s a fairly long process, but I only lost a day over it, and I’m now feeling re-energised about Mocha Nihilism. I’m almost halfway through making my scene notes and I can see so clearly where the story can be cut, and where it needs to be strengthened. All the threads are being pulled together.

Mentally cutting stuff out of a story? That’s a priceless feeling. I think it’s one of the things I love most about revision – mercilessly deleting words that don’t need to be there. Taking chunks of exposition and then finding ways to delicately insert the important information into the story in more subtle ways.

Ah yes, I’m re-focused, and feeling good. I’ve set myself the task of finishing this bit by the end of tomorrow, and then I’ll work on a new outline and get stuck into the second draft.

Exciting times, folks! I am so excited about working on this til it’s looking great.

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Wed

The beginning of a new day! Hang on a sec, there is a cat tapping at the window. Apparently, even though I’m up early they think they should be allowed to come in.

Okay, I’m back. So, part of my new routine is to attempt to get up early! lol the purpose of this is to clear my email and other such stuff out of the way before the kids wake up. Lauren’s getting quite good at sleeping in until 7.30, and Ivy has an alarm now which amazingly prevents her from waking up before 7am, though it does on the other hand mean that she is always up then. Unless we make it later, which we have on a couple of occassions and she’s had some well needed sleep ins. Who would have thought an alarm would fix all our ‘early bird’ issues with her? It’s great!

Anyway… yes, I plan on clearing the decks first thing in the morning. Then I can do the good Mum thing without thinking about whether I got a reply to whatever, or anything else net related. Mmmm setting myself up for some freedom from the beast. Brilliant I think.

That’s my mornings taken care of, and then the afternoons where Ivy is at preschool I can tinker when Lauren is sleeping, she does a fair bit of that in the afternoon, though I’ll have to work on making most of it occur in a bed rather than on me. I’ve been pretty lazy about that. Just enjoying the time when she’s so little and still wants to be near me all the time. I know it won’t last long.

SO. I made a huge list of catch up things to do yesterday and I managed to get most of them done which was thrilling. Finally a list where I can tick stuff off. After the net didn’t come on for so long I realized that so many of my ‘writing’ goals were attached to the internet, which simply sucked.

I couldn’t keep up with my Critters, I couldn’t finish critting the novel because I couldn’t get the chapters, I couldn’t submit a new story to get critted, or keep up with the blog, or Pax (which Tama lost interest with in the time I was gone), I couldn’t start looking for places I might query about my novel. I was derailed.

The internet is an essential writing tool it seems. Thank goodness it’s back!

Anyway I better go, 5 minutes til Ivy is up and I’d like to get the animals fed. Mishka is winding her way around my legs in an attempt to get me off my seat.