life, writing

It’s all in the words you use

I am a writer.

I wrote in primary school – stories five times as long as those of my peers. I wrote in high school – every afternoon I’d get off the bus, grab some food and boot up the old computer, black screen, green type, and I would disappear. I remember printing one book off and giving it to my art teacher to read. I recall her face as I handed her the pages – you know, the one that says they will read this, but only because they want to be supportive, not because they think it will be any good. I recall her face as she handed them back – surprised that actually, it was much better than she had imagined. There was a complete story, potential.

I’ve always had a story in me, and when my cousins and I would get together to play games over the school holidays it would most often be me who picked names, ages, who filled out the back stories for the personas we’d take on. They were sprawling games, taking place all day, across my grandparents farm where we’d immerse ourselves so deeply into the story that the natural landscape was invisible, merely a backdrop to our invented lives.

My friends and family all know I’m a writer. They know it’s a part of me that isn’t going away. I’ve seen the looks on their faces too when they’ve read things, not expecting them to be good, and then being surprised. Some of them don’t like the content of my stories, but they can’t deny that they get engaged, that I can draw them into my other worlds.

So, I am a writer. This is a well known fact. It’s set in stone. It is not going to change.

But recently, I’ve changed what I am saying. Recently, I’ve begun to say not just “I’m a writer”, but, “I’m going to publish a novel later this year”, and I have been amazed by how much that changes things.

I’m not just someone who writes, someone who occasionally publishes a short story anymore (short stories don’t seem to count with a lot of people, they read NOVELS, not shorts). But I’m someone with a whole book, and people want to read it…

This has been, really bizarre, and interesting. They WANT to read this book! Most people might not even know what it’s about, but they still want a look at it. I’ve had people ask me if they’ll be able to get it in paperback or will I just be doing digital, when it will be out, and whether I can sign a copy, whether I need another reader, if I want them to review it when it’s released.

This small change in the words I use to describe what I am doing has changed everything. It’s like it signifies a transition from the act of writing (which essentially, one does by oneself so is not such a visible thing) to the act of publishing. It’s that opening of the door to finally reveal what I’ve been working on for years, and it’s scary and exciting and wonderful.

I really hope I don’t disappoint, but the fact that people are curious is really encouraging – I can’t wait to share my worlds with you all!

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life, writing

The Assignment Zone

I’ve been deep into assignments for the last week – have just yesterday handed in the first, and am attempting to clear my head of culture and counselling, and switch to family therapy. It’s a big shift, actually, and despite having read everything I needed to for the new assignment, do you think I can remember any of it? I think this has confirmed once and for all that as much as I love to call myself a multitasker, when it comes to the big things – assignments, stories, novels – I work far better in a focused approach, tackling one thing at a time.

Academic writing is a lot different to creative writing. I can bang out 500 words of fiction in 10 minutes, but it might take me an hour to do the same on an essay. While there can be a lot of research involved in writing fiction, you never have to stop to make sure you’ve referenced the right source. And the editing! Ack. I find it much easier to let my work flow in fiction, I always fear my academic writing comes across as stilted, though I guess in some ways it’s meant to be that way 😉

I have one week to write this next assignment, and then I get to take a little break from the academic stuff and get back to my novel. I’m seriously looking forward to that, and now, more than ever, pleased that the year is moving quickly and I can count down the months until I’m no longer a student, and writing can take up more time and space in my life.

Bring on October!!

writing

An abundance of M’s

Today I’ve been trawling through every file on my computer, Dropbox and Google drive in an attempt to find  something I started writing 3+ years ago. I remembered that it had been an attempt to write something with more of an ‘action’ feel to it, and that it began as an exercise in a creativity workshop thing I was doing just prior to Natalie’s birth – I’d been too tired, too scared, too anxious about trying to write something novel length since Lauren was born, and this particular piece, stemming from a dream I’d had, was a perfect way to cautiously approach a novel.

Of course, I never finished it, because life with a newborn, a 20 month, and a 5yr old is actually kind of insane.

But I thought about it today as I’m in a weird place in life right now – I have some spare time, but I have to start work on another assignment really soon, I have no pressing deadlines hanging over me (for uni, or anything else), and I want to write, but have nothing in progress as such. I’ve finished the drafts of three novellas this year, but I don’t have the time right now to revise any of those, and there isn’t much point in stressing myself out about that right now because I don’t plan on releasing those until late next year…

So naturally my brain went back to that other time when I was in limbo, waiting, and wanting something to play with. And this novel was the thing.

It has zombie babies, and regular zombies too. I’m on a bit of a kick right now and a friend recently said to me ‘you should write your own zombie novel’, so it was inevitable that my brain latched on that old idea.

I never titled this piece, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the main characters names, so I went digging through every forgotten file, every ‘untitled’ document I could find.

And I didn’t find the story initially*. What I did find was that I have a ridiculous tendency to give my female leads names that begin with M. Overwhelmingly so. I had no idea!

Madea is the MC in Sun-Touched, and then we have Melanie from Surplus to Requirements, there is Melody in The Way the Sky Curves, and Moana in Shell and Bone. And then we have Meredith, Marama, Meagin, Megan, Marie, and Melissa from various short stories. And finally, Matilda in the Zombie Baby novel. Yes, I’m just going to call it the zombie baby novel for now. I literally have no idea where the story is going, though I’m sure I’ll have a blast finding out.

Not ALL my novels have M’s in the lead – Delaney is in charge in Saving Tomorrow**, and Lyssa is the female lead in Chasing Ascension… Gah! That might be it? Lord help me. I have an obsession with M names. Someone stage an intervention, right now. I’ll have to go out of my way to pick ANY other letter of the alphabet the next time I start a novel. Well, Samantha is the lead in my next novel, so at least she’ll kind of balance things out…

Save me?

Next time I start something new, I think I’ll put it to you to choose the letter the name begins with, because I need help. Obviously.

*I did find the first couple of chapters, thank goodness, but only because I’d emailed them to Anthony and I hadn’t deleted that email. I’m so pleased that my inbox seems to hold EVERYTHING from FOREVER ago. Apparently sending your stories to other people is the best back up method after all!

** It appears I might also have a thing for titles that begin with S… 

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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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The first

I finished the first draft of a new short story last night. I feel too blah about it to read it yet, but I am sure it’s not as bad as I imagine it to be (after all, the last time I felt blergh about a story it placed 3rd in the Ergo Fiction Search Term Challenge, and found a place in Tales for Canterbury. Feeling this way is not an indicator of worth of the story, but that’s probably a whole other blog post).

It got me thinking, though, and after doing some math this morning I realize that it’s the first story I have started and completed since the earthquake hit, back in Feb.

Which isn’t to say I’ve been doing nothing. I’ve worked my ass off in those three months on the anthology, I just hadn’t realized how much of a backseat my own writing had taken until now. One short story, and like, 4 scenes on the novella. In three months. I think I produced more after the birth of my third child 😉

In any event. This one is done, and I am hoping that by passing this milestone I’ve signaled to my brain that I am back on board and ready to work. So many writers around me are gearing up for SoCNoC over at Kiwi Writer’s, and I’m finding myself…envious, you could say. I want to work on something new, too! But I have to finish this novella first. I’m hoping to get the rest of this version finished by the end of June so it can get back to some readers for feedback, because my end game goal is to be finished with the submitting of the MS before the end of the year so that I can either self pub it, or whatever. I have SO many ideas lined up that need to be written, I just need to get back in the habit. Take some deep breaths, and focus.

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Those words were not a waste

Yesterday, and this morning, I’ve been clearing out my writing folders. It’s long overdue! While they are fairly well organized, they are (were) littered with stories that simply don’t hold that essential spark. I made a point of reading through them all, just to be sure, and was disappointed that a lot of the stories I thought were pretty good were not.

Immediately, the ‘I suck!’ thoughts set in. It’s pretty natural. I was feeling low about the quality of my writing, considering that some of these pieces are just under a year old. I thought that I got this whole short story thing now. I thought I was better than this.

Then I was reminded that each of these stories has been part of the journey. They may not be (now, or ever) up to scratch for publication, or even for giving away/sharing with friends, but they have all been part of the process. The words were not a waste. Not every story can be amazing, not every story can even be great, and to expect that level of awesome from myself is unrealistic. (Maybe when I am getting eight hours a night, every night, and the kids are in school…lol). Sometimes you have to clear out the mess so that you can make room for the good stuff.

So what am I left with? 20 or so stories in my ‘trunk folder’, 5 in my ‘to finish’ folder, and just a couple out on submission – one of which I will be trunking when it gets rejected. There are plenty of other ideas floating around, and at some point when I have more time, I’ll get back into the habit of writing shorts on a regular basis.

At some point, I will also have to go through my novels and clear them out as well. I’m not quite ready for that yet though. I am firmly attached to each of my novellas, so they aren’t going anywhere. It’s a little scary, culling. It makes it seem like you have little to show for all that time. But I know, those words were not a waste.

*With thanks to Sadie Hart and her tweets to me earlier today*

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All that behind the scenes stuff

As some of you will know, there are many different things that go into making an anthology. Right now, a big portion of my time is consumed by those things (I’ve read more short stories in the last week or so than I have in yonks!). We’re making excellent progress though: we are almost finished reading the submissions to date, we have our publishing stuff sorted out, the cover is getting made, contracts are being emailed, and hopefully later this week we will be able to start taking pre-orders for the e-book version!

It’s exciting to get closer to the book being in existence, and I know both Anna and I can’t wait to start getting those pre-orders through and getting some money down to Christchurch. It may only have been a couple of weeks, but it feels like longer.

In my own writing things are also ticking away. I should be finished two short stories by the end of the week and then start moving onto the other ones I need to write. There is a tight deadline for one, and I haven’t even started it yet which is a little bit of a worry!

I’ve also been reading a lot for my own pleasure, and the novels are a welcome break from short stories. The stories are great – but trust me, reading with an eye to publication is a bit different from reading for fun and a lot more tiring!

Tired pretty much sums up where I’m at. I feel like I am moving at snail pace. I’ve cut back on pretty much all of my extra energy-sappers (not facebooking so much, not commenting on as many blogs, not reading things I don’t need to read, not checking in on forums that I normally would). I just don’t have the time or energy – I need to conserve what I do have for the tasks that really need my attention.

So, I’ll apologise now. I have nothing riveting to say, nothing inspirational or profound. This is me, getting the work done and getting through the week, one day at a time. I love what I’m doing, but it’s the most work (on top of raising three kids etc etc) that I have done in a long time. I’m going to enjoy the lull before we jump into promotion/marketing mode 🙂

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Writing update

I’ve had a bit of a lull again – it seems that the ‘I Sucks’ are doing the rounds at the moment and I had my dose. Thankfully, I’ve moved on from there and am stuck back into my work.

I have a few things going on at the moment, though most of my time has been spent rehashing the structure of MN – I’ll keep calling it this for now, but I need a title that better reflects the tone of the story, so at some point, it will change! – I was trying to do it in a spreadsheet, but then got frustrated and got some memo paper. It was the closest thing to index cards I could find at the supermarket.

I should confess right now that I have never used index cards before in my life. It has always sounded like a cumbersome and difficult way to do things. I just never *got* it. So you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I had a desperate desire to use them…

I’m using them to figure out which scenes go where. I have the beginning and end done, I just need to finish filling out the middle so that it’s not flabby. I’m working off the three act structure, the pink slips being my intro, 1st doorway, 2nd doorway, and big show down scenes. It’s actually really cool to see it there on the wall, and I think it will helps loads when I get around to the next draft.

At the moment, I’m looking at starting in March because there is an editing challenge on over at Kiwi Writers for 20hrs in the month. I’m going to be doing the editing anyways – might as well get a shiny badge out of it! lol I may get stuck in before then, but I have a couple of things to finish off this month still.

Top of the list is a short fantasy story that I’m reworking, The Comfort of Wood. I love this story, so I’m hoping that I can get it finished off in the near future.

I’m also tossing around ideas for my next big project. This requires some serious thinking about where I want to head as a writer. So many options, all of them tempting and delicious. At least I’m not limited in any way 😉 freedom to choose my own path is something I want to celebrate, which ties in a little to my guest post over at Amy Rose Davis’ blog. It’ll be up at some point – I’d give you a better idea of time but I suck at figuring out time conversions 🙂

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I <3 my Kindle

As some of you know, I decided that I wanted nothing more than a Kindle for my 30th Birthday, for some very valid reasons. We ordered it many weeks ago, but due to Xmas and all, it took a very long time to get here.

It finally arrived on Monday last week, while I was out of course, but my Mum was awesome and went to collect it for me. OMG. I can’t fathom my life without it now. How did I ever carry those large clunky books around? lol no, I still love me some print, but I truly adore my Kindle. I think I’ve read more in this last week than I have in a long time, and can see that trend will continue.

It has changed the way I read, and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t seem to come up on the kids radar – there is something about a book, or a laptop, that means they must see what I’m doing. While the Kindle has caused interest, and Ivy thinks it’s fantastic (I can totally see her wanting one when she is a bit older), they don’t seem distracted by it in quite the same way. I love that they are respectful of it because they know just how excited I’ve been about getting it – maybe I need to make a huge deal about things more often? – I love that I can now read outside while they play and they can get on with what they are doing and let me get some reading done. Until now, they would never go outside without me, but most of my books were on the laptop. Problem solved. Bliss.

And it’s totally possible to curl up with your Kindle. So easy to read from (initially I thought the text on the screen was a placeholder card, it looks that much like a book), and you forget that it’s an electronic device after a little while. It’s the STORY that is important, not the medium. This medium is slim, lightweight, feels good on your fingers and is easy to use – all good things for me.

I’ve had my first attempt at a case for my Kindle. It turned out better than I expected (the kids were all chattering at me, poking their heads and fingers into my space as I assembled it), but it’s made me realize I really don’t want a case that it sits in all the time. I actually like to hold my Kindle, and the case just adds bulk to that. I’ll have to make another one though, because the girls think it’s awesome and that way they can have one each.

Next time, I’ll be making a sleeve for it. I just need some fabric for the interior and I’m good to go. Considering how little time it took to put together the case, the sleeve should be a breeze.

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Multiple pen-names?

How common is this? Is it something you’ve considered?

Until now, it hadn’t really crossed my mind. I wasn’t concerned because pretty much everything I wrote was speculative in nature, until I decided to revise Mocha Nihilism and publish it…

I am still waiting on feedback from my critique buddies, but one of them said something about it being different to what he expected. He’s read a bunch of my short stories, so it would be fair for him to assume he’d have a rough idea of what he was getting. His comment made me think about how different from my other stuff it is.

I may be taking what he said completely the wrong way (and, I have no idea if it was a good thing or a bad thing – he’s being a hold out until he gets his comments together [I had to write that just in case you’re reading :-P]) but when I compare a story like Birth Rights to Mocha Nihilism – well, they have very little in common!

I do want to write more light stuff, more fun stuff, more stuff set in the real world with no speculative elements. Stories free of killers, and crazies, weird stuff, magic, science, wonder and fantasy (which I totally love, and will continue to write forever).

In your opinion, would it be a good idea to keep the two separate? I would hate to build an expectation with one name, only to frustrate and annoy (and no doubt confuse/lose) readers, because they have found stories that are of a completely different nature.

That said, would that mean I need to build two platforms? Or should I just stop being a genre slut and narrow down my field of focus?

Thoughts welcomed! What would you do?