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2017 in review

When I looked back through my blog to see if I’d actually set myself goals for the year I could see just how little I’d blogged in 2017. I think it might be the quietest year since I started this, and that makes me feel a little sad. But I think it’s a really good reflection on just how much this year ended up being about keeping things together.

Last year I posted a little about how the preceding years had been a lot about keeping afloat, surviving, getting through and I chose FOCUS as my word for 2017. 

Yeah. Well. I guess I was focused for some of it. If it was a goal to work towards then I’d like to say that over the course of the year I nailed that sucker. I’m coming out of 2017 feeling focused and with big goals for the coming year.

Last year I wrote:

2017 will be a year of words. A year of saying no to the things I don’t really want to do but maybe feel like I should. Of saying YES to my own worlds.

And I can say that I achieved all of these things. Sure, not all at once, but I got there. Despite reflecting on the fact that I’ve had a few hard years, I’m going to say that 2017 has been the worst in a really long time. I’ve had massive patches of depression, the death of my much loved Nana, struggles with health across the family, PTSD flare-ups, massive amounts of stress in the lead up to the convention in June.

And yet, I still got more achieved this year than I have in a long time. 

Once the convention was all done I had a heap of space in my brain for other things and I got really stuck into working on my writing. This year I published four new titles: Serafina’s Flame (which is Burn + the two follow-on novellas in a single title), Beneath Broken Waves, In the Earth’s Embrace, and Of Souldust and Starlight – the final three books in the Kotahi Bay series. This wraps up 2/3 of the series I started back in 2015 and I couldn’t be happier about that. It feels really good to finish some things. Which isn’t to say there will never be another Kotahi Bay book, there might be, just not right now. 

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Did I say no to more things? Yeah, I did. I turned down some work, I let a few clients know that I wasn’t going to be able to edit for them anymore. I didn’t leap at every opportunity so much as suggested in my presence, and I stopped feeling like I had to do things just because it was the nice thing to do. I started using the ‘I’d love to say yes, but I need some time to think about it before I can commit’ line with people. I was more honest about when I just couldn’t, and that felt really good too. To actually just say ‘I really can’t, I’m tapped out’ when that was the truth. I feel like while I still have some work to do in that area, I’ve gotten a lot better at putting my needs near the front of the list, which has gone a long way to helping out my mental health situation.

So, while 2017 was a hard fucking year. It really was – I’ve not been so close to a complete break down in a really long time, I barely held it together at several points, hell, maybe I DID have some small breakdowns – it was also a really successful one. I wrote and published books. I made huge leaps in my author world and implemented some really good strategies for both work and personal life. Boundaries, yo. I think I’m getting some 😉 Self-care? Definitely improving on that front too. 

I’m still mulling on my goal specifics for 2018, so I’ll post about them next week – I feel like it’s going to be a good year though, and can only hope it has a few less big challenges in it.

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Mon- Ah, Wednesday round up!

Apparently I am now that person who posts sporadically and can’t even remember when Monday is. Maybe it’s just that things have been so busy and I have SO many balls in the air right now that I just can’t keep track of where I am. The list is large.

It feels a little ridiculous actually, that I am feeling this stress. The NZ Independent Book Festival isn’t until the first weekend of October – AGES away – and yet in order to make sure I have print books for it, I need to be organized way in advance of that (or spend a fortune getting books here with faster shipping). I’m opting for being organized. I am on track (which never ceases to amaze me), and yet there is this fear that the books won’t be here on time. I hope that after I have done this once, I will feel a little less anxious about the whole thing.

Which brings me to the status updates. I’m just going to list things, because there are a few!!

20150803_203741Burn is just about ready to order. The print proof arrived with a friend and it looks beautiful ❤ Can’t wait to get my hands on copies.

Sun-Touched is FINISHED. I literally just need to write the blurb, format the thing and get the cover sorted and then I’ll pick a release date. YAY!

I now have a spiffy new imprint name, and a gorgeous logo to go with it (designed by an amazing friend), which I will unveil in the very near future.

I have banners and stuff being designed by the eternally wonderful Kate over at Dwell Design and Press, and they are beautiful!

I finished all the editing and proofing jobs in my queue! This has never happened before. I am enjoying a few days off, as there was a lull in my personal workload as well. I’ll have my next job incoming on Friday and I am (strangely) looking forward to getting to work on a new project. I will also really like getting paid as it means I can order the next lot of books 🙂

Which reminds me, the print formatting for The Way the Sky Curves is also nearing completion! I’m just waiting on that cover as well (working Kate VERY hard right now, poor thing. I owe her a nice bottle of wine or something after this).

It’s ALL on right now. I can barely keep track of what needs doing, but I *think* I’m managing to get everything done. I just hope something doesn’t smack me upside the head that I’ve failed to think of… And, well, with different projects coming to the end of various stages, it is pretty exciting in general 🙂

monday check in, writing

Monday – and I’m done

Well. Today is fairly monumental.

I am officially finished edits on Sun-Touched, and it is off with my proofreader. I’m not even sure how to feel. It’s been such a long time coming and now I am here. At the place where it’s just the final touches – blurb, acknowledgements, dedication and formatting. Oh, and the cover. Which is proving to be more complicated than we thought it would, naturally 😉

Anyway, I’ve been fairly quiet this past few weeks. Littlest was vomiting the other week, and then school went back and things kicked into gear again. We spent the weekend at a marae, and visiting some of my old haunts which was really nice, if a little sad at times. My primary school, which I adored so much, has been completely demolished. The land is there. The trees remain. But all the buildings have been removed, the tennis courts pulled up, and the pool taken out as well. It was so strange to see it that way. Ah well, I will always have my fond memories, and I got to share my favourite climbing tree with my children, which was very special.

PhotoGrid_1437979590844The time off was lovely, and much needed. I enjoyed hanging out with my homeschooling tribe, enjoyed the communal living, the laughs, the tears, the ease of friends and the comfort of knowing we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Knowing there is a safety net for any one of us when needed is pretty awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

There was a lot of colouring, and eating – we even had an epic hangi, nom nom – gathering around a fire, and a really great planning meeting. I’ve returned feeling more whole, if more aware of how lonely and isolating modern life can be at times. It is strange to only have our family here in the house.

So what now? Well, my plans have changed ever so slightly, and I still have work to do. But I am hopeful to be ordering the proof copy of Burn tomorrow (knock on wood), and then Sun-Touched won’t be too far behind. Exciting times! Print! Omg!

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A good week

This week has been a really good week. Despite us all having colds I am making excellent progress on this revision (only 10 scenes to go!). We’ve been doing lots of fun learning about lizard, more specifically monitor lizards, even more specifically the komodo dragon. I got to introduce the kids to Steve Irwin and we’ve watched his komodo dragon episode like once a day for the last three days. EXCELLENT I say.

Have been planning my youngest’s 3rd birthday party as well which is fun. I love hearing her input. She wants a blue dinosaur cake, a pinata, macaroni cheese, savaloys and sauce, and lemonade, and that’s pretty much it. In all her sweetness, she has made sure to invite all her family members – it’s lovely to have that confirmation that these are the people she loves the most.

I’ve started putting scenes from my novella out for feedback, which has been fun and means I am going over all the beginning scenes again, so it’s kind of like a double revision round, I guess. I’m really liking the way it’s coming together this time, so fingers crossed it won’t need too much more work. I know I could spend weeks poring over it, getting every sentence perfect, but who has time for that? Onwards!

This week has also seen me finish off a short story, which was a lot of fun. I haven’t done ‘creepy’ in a long time. I’d forgotten a) how much squick factor can be involved and b) how much fun it is watching someone as they read your story and just knowing which bits they are up to when they cringe or wince or just look terribly troubled. Muahaha.

Oh, AND I got to okay the ‘galley’ for my short story. That is always so cool! I love seeing how my story will look in the book, it makes me crazy happy!

If all of those things haven’t been wonderful enough, the timetable for Au Contraire was released and I’ve looked through it many times, imagining how my weekend away is going to go. Too much fun!

So, I am one very happy writer at the moment 🙂 Everything is ticking along beautifully – long may it continue. I hope you’re all having a good week too!

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Writers WRITE

Last week someone pointed me to this blog post about labels – Writer vs Author. As I was reading it, I was nodding along, agreeing, until the point at which I started to feel kind of irritated. There was some uncomfortable truth in the post, and one I hadn’t been forced to think about it in a while.

A writer writes. Often. Sure they take breaks, but being a writer is a process and if you’re not involved in the process, then you can’t really call yourself a writer. There is no reason you can’t sit down and write even a hundred words a day. Hell, fifty. TWENTY. It’s still writing.

I began to justify my lack of words on page every day: But there are so many other aspects of writing that need my attention. I really need to get this outline right so that the revision can work properly. I’m world building at the moment. I have to pin down my characters; they are all over the show. I really have to get this assignment sorted. The kids need me all the time. The house needs to be cleaned. I have so many other things to do!

You get the idea…

When it comes down to it, all of those things ARE super important, both for writing, and revising in particular, and in my case, study and life in general, but they are not valid reasons for why I am not writing.

Why aren’t I writing? I have all the excuses in the world. But when it comes down to it, they are just excuses. There is no reason why I can’t find even just ten minutes a day to do the thing I love. No reason at all. I’m the only one getting in my way.

So I have picked up the pen again. Yes I have an assignment looming, and yes the pressure I feel from that is starting to build. But writing makes everything better. Knowing I am making some progress always improves my general outlook. And I have done all that restructuring and world building and planning and I’m pretty sure that this draft will kick ass. Even if I can only find 10 minutes a day to write.

I will. Because I am a writer. And writers write.

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What would I do, without my to-dos?

Recently a few writer friends have been on my case a bit. Between study, and the kids, I’d lost my writing drive and was fumbling around not making much progress at all. Gah. How often that seems to happen…

Anyway, back to the point of the post. Near the end of April, one friend suggested that we make weekly goals for May and see how that helps. I have long been a fan of to-do lists, so this seemed like an awesome idea to me!

That said, I had only really done lists for a day at a time, and when I made plans, there were only ever general deadlines, rather than specific dates. She whipped up a handy little sheet that we’re sharing between us, with each week having space for 7 items. I was surprised by how quickly I could break down my tasks and balance out the weeks, and even more surprised when only one day in, I had already ticked several things off! Not even two weeks in, I have ticked everything off my first two weeks, some from week three, and even a couple from week four.

I’m already thinking about what to line up for next month…

Obviously, this is going to work for me. It feels AMAZING to be making progress again and I’m really hoping that by balancing out my tasks on the list I can finally break down the mental barriers that have seen me either writing OR studying, and not both in the same day. Fingers crossed. Or not, because I can’t really get much done that way, but you get my drift.

How do you break down the mountain of tasks in your life, whether writing related or not?

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June, already

I’m still getting my head around the fact that it’s June already. I know I keep saying this, but the year is flying past. May kicked my ass. It was one of those months that simultaneously blew past, but also dragged on forever. It was pretty hellish. June is already looking better, and I really hope it stays that way.

My big goal for this month is to get the first draft of my new novella (Burn) written. I began on June 1st, and am currently sitting at just over 6,500 words. I’m hoping to hit 10K by the end of the approaching weekend, which should mean I am around halfway done – that said, I am lousy at predicting word counts, so that could well change.

I’ve done things a little differently this time, having sourced a bunch of images on Pinterest to help guide my character, and myself, through the plot of the story. Several of them have scenes crafted around them, while others just contribute to the general feel of the story for me. I’m really enjoying writing it so far, and have to say that this month, first drafts are easy!

I’m quietly hoping to wrap it up before the end of the month so that I can claim some more time for StR. I only managed 5,000 odd words on it in May, when my goal was 10,000. I feel like getting back to basics with this novella has helped shift my head from the ‘must be perfect’ mind set that was choking my progress just a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed huh?

What’s happening for you this month?

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Drowning the voices of the past

It’s Monday here in New Zealand, and yesterday I reached 50,000 words on Sun-Touched. It’s funny because last weekend I hit 40,000 words (I’d written 5k in a week and was really proud of myself) and M said to me ’50K next weekend!’ and I replied something along the lines of ‘LOL’. 10,000 words in one week? That was ridiculous. I mean, sure, I was steadily increasing the number of words I was writing a day, but 10,000 in one week?

So I’m actually quite surprised to be sitting at 50K. I mean, that’s half a novel. I’m halfway, and the writing is only getting easier. I’ve decided that I while I love the shiny new ideas, and the planning and day dreaming that happens before you start writing a new novel, while I adore the freshness of new characters and a new world, what I love most is when I’m in the thick of it all, when all the threads I’ve put into play are intertwining and leading me inexorably towards the end of the novel.

I can’t see me doing 10K every week – I do have study and family and all those other things to think about – but it’s nice to know that when I put my mind to it, I can knock out a lot more words than expected. I’m firmly in ‘the habit’ now, and sitting down to write 500 words is no longer hard.

A key to getting back to the place where I can write more in the day has been letting go of the past. There has been a voice in the back of my head going ‘you used to write 1.5K a day, every day.’ It’s a loud voice that drowns out the other ones that tack on ‘you only had two children then, one of them a newborn,’ and ‘you weren’t studying then,’ and ‘you were getting a little more sleep back then too, ya know?’

Finally, I kicked that loud voice to the curb and introduced a new one which says something along the lines of: Life happens, and there are only so many hours in the day. You love to write, so make time for it, but quit being so hard on yourself!

This week I have had many 1k+ days, a 2.5k day and even a 3k day. And there are no voices in my head telling me that I’m not doing enough. I’m in love with my story, and relaxed about my output. And I know, more than anything else, that I’m the only one who can write this novel. And it’s awesome.

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Totally out of character

I’ve been feeling beyond frustrated this week with the lack of writing progress I’m making – the kids seem intent on dominating any writing time I might have, and by the end of the day I just want to curl up in bed with a book. So last night, I did something I’ve never done before.

I left the house at 9pm. I took my laptop, and headed to McDonald’s for a frappe. Normally, 9pm finds me in my PJs on the couch, finishing watching a show with my husband, or in bed. So it was obviously time for drastic measures for me to be heading out at that time of night.

It was awfully tempting to stay home, go to bed, and finish The Night Circus (which I did once I got home, I couldn’t help myself). But it was time to put my writing first for a few minutes, and I knew I had to be free from my house in order to make that work.

And it DID work. I didn’t quite hit my 1k goal, but I did get 900 words, and would have got more if I hadn’t been spotted by someone I knew over ten years ago who thought he would come and chat to me. Ah well. I guess that’s one of the ‘dangers’ of writing in public 😉

I’m not sure I’ll manage to get out again this weekend, but I will try. We’ve got Hubby’s work Christmas function tonight, and then the work kids Christmas party tomorrow afternoon, but if a chance arises, then I am going to snatch it. I was aiming to have 10,000 words by the end of the weekend and I am still a few thousand off.

I may be uncharacteristic again in the future. It was kind of nice to do something I’ve never done before. Now, let’s hope that I don’t have to escape the house every time I want to get some writing done!

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1/3rd in!

After a little burst of productivity over the long weekend, it appears I’m 1/3rd of the way through my reworking of the novella. I’m a little stunned – I really don’t know how that happened!

Actually, I do know what happened. Once I finally pushed my way through the first new scenes, I got to add in some old ones and tweak those. Much easier, and makes progress much faster. I’m up to a new scene again, but this time instead of pausing, umming and ahhing, I’m just going to dive right into it. It’s a first draft of a new scene, it does not need to be perfect. I’ll be repeating a writers mantra for the next month or so ‘you can’t edit what you haven’t written’.

It feels amazing to be making progress again. Now that I am past that first hurdle, I can see clearly the path I am taking, and feel like I am back on track. Finally. Fingers crossed nothing else major crops up to throw me off again 😉

How are you all doing?