Darian Smith, NZ Book Week, writer, writing

NZ Book Week: Darian Smith

Another lovely day in Aotearoa, and another day of NZ book week!

Today I’m bringing you some specials from kiwi author Darian Smith. He’s a smart fellow, and I’ve heard it said that our writing is quite similar – so if you like my stuff you should definitely head over and check out his work! All his books are on Kindle Countdown right now, so get in there quick!

Currents of Change frontCurrents of Change Sara’s sanctuary is a haunted house. Can she find love and safety with the ghosts and secrets of the past? Amazon US: Amazon UK:

Shifting Worlds 16 diverse stories of changing realities. Amazon US: Amazon UK:

The Psychology Workbook for Writers Easy to understand tools for creating realistic characters and conflict in fiction using psychology and counselling theory. Amazon US: Amazon UK:

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authors, life, Uncategorized, writing

Writers Retreat

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going away on writers retreat with some of my writing crew. These girls are AWESOME people, and it was an absolute pleasure to go and hang with them for a couple of days.

Of course, a weekend is never really enough. It disappeared far too quickly for my liking, and it was a bit too ‘whirlwind’ on arrival and departure.

I flew up to Auckland midday on Friday, leaving the kids at home with their Dad. My Dad picked me up and took me for a coffee while I waited for Leigh to arrive. Then we hung out in the pick up zone until her Step-Dad arrived, and then it was off to pick up Tee and say hello to one of her daughters!

From there we went for dinner at Tee’s folks restaurant (the weekend really expanded our writer lives to include our families), and then headed over the harbour to Whangaparoa. Naturally, at this point, wine was consumed and we talked and talked and talked… though we couldn’t get properly started until the next day when the last of our group would arrive.

Saturday was definitely the best. Melissa and Brenda arrived about 10 and we launched into talk of business plans and marketing!

Seriously, unless you’ve had the opportunity before, you’ve got no idea how EPIC it is to spend, literally, hours just talking about writing and publishing. Everyone but me has at least one novel published, but I’ve edited or given feedback on a good portion of the books published, so I feel like I’ve got a fairly decent grip on things. I adored hearing about the many, varied things these women have lined up. The next 18 months or so look AMAZING, and I can’t wait to finally be out there publishing alongside them.

Sunday morning saw us all working away at various things. We had a large lounge to take over and there was writing, editing, critiquing, listening (Tee was proofing her audio book), all in relative silence, punctuated only by the occasional goal shout-out. And then just before 12 we packed ourselves into Mel’s car and headed back to the real world.

The rest of the day sucked. There were too many goodbyes, and it feels like way too long until I’ll get to see them all again in the flesh – thank heavens for the internet though! At least we have something.

So, lessons learned over the weekend?

A writers retreat really needs to be more than a weekend! I think we need at minimum, a day and a half for talking, followed by at least the same for working, and probably half for winding things down – I could easily do more. If we have longer, we may even venture out of the house at some point over the weekend 😉

Sharing your business plan, and hearing other peoples is incredibly motivational and inspirational. I felt really validated and encouraged after sharing mine, and inspired after listening to everyone elses. You can learn a lot from other people, so take those opportunities when you can get them.

Once a year is not enough! Escaping from the real world to indulge in writing is a real treat and I wish I could do it more often. I’m going to try and make an effort to at least get some more uninterrupted writing time in the near future as I’ve been reminded how much that feeds my souls.

Finally, possibly the two most important things it confirmed (for me): THIS – writing – is what I’m most passionate about outside of my family. Right now everything else (like study) is a barrier to what I truly want to be doing. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to try and do the things I ‘should’ do, when the thing I am called to has such a loud voice and tempts me constantly.

And, having a bunch of supportive writer friends (not just counting the ones I was away with, but everyone else as well) is a huge advantage and something I could not do without. They make everything writing related better and I’m truly blessed to have so many kick-ass friends.

Have you ever been on writers retreat? Any tips or hints? I think it’s going to be in my town next time and I’m already planning possibilities 😉

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Liebster Blog Award

The lovely Jennifer Neri named me as an award winner just the other day (Thanks, Jennifer!). She is a fellow writer-mum, and our youngest are only a few months apart, so I had the pleasure of following a similar path to her in 2010 when we had our babies – it was great to know someone else going through the same things at roughly the same times.

Anyway, here are the rules:

Upon receiving your Liebster award, you should:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed. (some say just 3 or more blogs of less than 200 followers each)
5. Let them know they have been chosen, by leaving a comment at their blog.

So, without further ado – I’m going to introduce the members of my official writers group! These folks are some of my staples in the writing world, in alphabetical order:

1) Anna Caro is someone who I have been staff with at a couple of writers orgs now, she’s a writer, a student, has a job and is passionate about many things – I really admire her drive, and her conviction to stand up for her beliefs. She is dedicated and hard working, in everything she does. This year she is focusing on finishing a novel.

2) Kerryn Angell is the founder of kiwiwriters.org and I’ve known her for five years now. She has been working steadily at her writing, and launched her new look blog last year. She is working on revising the novel she wrote last year, and vanquishing her editing demons.

3) Leigh K Hunt is possibly the newest edition to my writers crew, but trying to remember my writers life before she showed up is pretty difficult as we trade emails on a daily basis. This year she is joining in our big challenge, as well as having her first baby in the near future! Yay!

4) Merrilee Faber is an awesome writer, and at the core of my writing crew. She’s been one of the best writing buddies I could ever ask for, and is the instigator of Project 2012: From first draft to submission. You should totally check out her blog because there is a lot of fabulous info on there.

5) Tama Wise is the only male in my official writers group, but he does just fine. He has been the creator of many whacky writing games, which I am always drawn into, and I’ve really enjoyed writing alongside him for the last few years. He has his first novel coming out in March this year, and I may be more excited about it than he is 😉 He is the first of our official group to get a novel published, but I don’t think he’ll be the last!

There are many other awesome writers out there who are part of my circle, all of them unique and wonderful in their own way. So even though I’m limited to five, I want to give a shout out to everyone else – love you all!

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New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week begins!

Tēnā koutou. Haere mai! Welcome, everyone.

A year ago, I had no idea just how rich the realm of speculative fiction was within New Zealand. I’d been in contact with a few people, had a few friends who were doing things, but I was mostly unaware of the gold that was still untapped. This all changed at the end of February when Anna and I set about the task of compiling the benefit anthology, Tales for Canterbury.

Through this project I had the opportunity to make contact with a phenomenal range of New Zealand authors*. They all have such different takes on the world, such varying styles of writing, but one thing remained the same—they were all generous, helpful, friendly and wonderful to work with.

I never imagined that despite other commitments and deadlines looming, despite being affected personally by the quake, so many writers would be so willing to pitch in. I don’t know why I was surprised though, because for the most part, this is my experience of being a New Zealander. That ‘get in there and help out’ attitude.

So, not only is New Zealand filled with amazing writers (some of whom I’ll share more about later this week), but those writers are also amazing people. I feel lucky, and inspired, to be part of that bunch, and hope that one day when I’m better established as a writer I’ll be able to do my country proud like these folks. Creativity and passion are not lacking here. The Land of the Long White Cloud is filled with it.

I hope you’ll tune in this week, and check out the other posts that will be going up around the web. A list will be compiled at this page as we get the links through.

Enjoy!

*I had contact with a fair few fabulous overseas authors as well, but because this is NZ spec-fic blogging week, I’ll be focusing on the Kiwis 😉

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9 things everyone should know about writers…

Amy (I think?!) linked to this post a couple of days ago now on twitter.

I think these things are very important to know, so I’m passing the link on. The first one in particular made me laugh and nod my head knowingly.

1.WE ARE WORKING. when you call and ask us to hang out (thank you kindly for the invitation!) and we say something to the effect of What ho! Sorry there, friend! Can’t do, today! Working on the manuscript! and you LAUGH AT US? wellllllllll let’s just say maybe we will be writing you into the first book in our series and maybe you will not show up in the second. *

Go on, have a read. Maybe it’ll give you some insight into the life of a writer 😉

*Are you wondering now whether I’ve written you in (or written you off in) a novel? Don’t worry. I think you’re all safe.

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Tales for Canterbury

Yesterday when I first heard about the earthquake, I jumped online to learn more about it. The news images and reports were shocking. I sat online for most of the afternoon with a friend down there, hoping to offer some support and comfort while she waited to hear from her family.

I felt pretty useless, thinking there was nothing I could do. But then I had an idea, and while it made me nervous, I thought – to hell with it. I have to do something!

I am a writer, and all I can really offer is words. But words can make a world of difference. I emailed Anna Caro to see if she would get on board with the idea and since then it’s taken off!

Here is our initial announcement:

Christchurch, New Zealand, and the wider Canterbury region, was rocked yesterday (22.2.11) by another round of serious earthquakes. This time they struck during the middle of the day causing more devastation, and loss of life, to a city still trying to pick up the pieces from last September’s quakes.

In an attempt to do something, anything, to make a difference, we are putting together an anthology of short stories loosely themed around survival, hope and the future. All profits of this anthology will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal, or another registered charity aimed at aiding those in need in Canterbury.

The purpose of this Anthology is two-fold—to help financially, but also, we hope, to provide entertainment and alleviation in a time of crisis. We hope that our words will help make a difference.

We have already begun to approach authors, and the response is encouraging. Mainly due to time pressures, this anthology will be by invitation. However, if you are an established writer, and keen to contribute, please feel free to get in touch with us at just.cassie.hart@gmail.com. We are looking for stories between 1,500 and 5,000 words, of fairly upbeat nature in the general, literary, science fiction or fantasy genres.

Feel free to repost this and get the word out!

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Why Speculative Fiction?

I’ve seen a few posts around the place asking that very question.

‘What’s wrong with Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror? Why do we need this new term?’

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term speculative fiction, there are a few definitions around, but the common theme is that it is any of the above. What it means to me is not only those three genres, but everything that falls in between as well – all the stories that don’t fit into tidy little genre boxes, all the stories that cross genres and push the boundaries one way or another. Quite often ideas for these kinds of stories start with two simple words. What if….

When you say science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, there is a certain expectation. These expectations are held in place not only by fans, but also by the critics – for better or worse, people either love or hate sf/f/h. There is snobbery attached to many who refuse to read them, and geek/nerd/freak labels attached to some of the people who love them.

Further more, there are now so many sub genres that one can get awfully confused about what something is. Half the time, I’m not sure I’ve got the right label for any given story. When is something urban fantasy, and when is it contemporary fantasy, or magical realism for that matter? They all appear to have magical elements to them set in modern times to me, but for some the difference is huge.

I see speculative fiction as a way to escape that. I’ll use one of my own stories as an example of why the term really works for me.

The Feud began with the question: What if a community believed that another community had found a way to make sure they had only stillbirths?

There are no elves, wizards, magic, castles, trolls, orcs, hobbits, swords or battles. It’s not set in space, or on another planet or world. There are no robots or advanced technologies. There are no zombies, werewolves, vampires, killers or other variety of psychopath. So you can see, I might have a hard time putting it into a genre box.

It does have a little bit of science. It has two groups of individuals who live in a world that is not our own, but could be. In a time that isn’t our own, but isn’t any other specific time. It’s disturbing, but hardly horrific. If I HAD to say it was one of the three I might lean towards fantasy, but I’d still be questioning if I got it right.

Speculative fiction solves that problem for me. I don’t have to be boxed in – I can explore whatever I want to without struggling to make sure the story fits a specific genre. What’s more, I don’t have to feel like I MUST choose between them. I can blend them, or jump from one to another – I feel like it’s given me the freedom to write anything and that is liberating indeed.

Speculative fiction, as an umbrella term, brings writers together. It unifies us and I love that. I think that by doing so we can generate a wider range of ideas, and explore things we might never have thought of before. And let’s face it. New Zealand isn’t that big – isn’t it better that we all come together and embrace our weirdness?

This is my 3rd post for New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week (Sep 13-19).

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Books: readers vs readers/writers

I’ve had some interesting chats to a couple of people lately about books – the books we love, the books we can reread without getting halfway through and putting them down again, books that we outgrew – and I started wondering if there was a difference between people who write, and people who don’t.

When I first read a book I’m happy to let myself enjoy it, throw myself in and make a few allowances along the way should I need to for the story. But lately I’ve been finding that books I thought I loved, thought were amazing, aren’t really all that flash on second reading. Now, I don’t normally re-read books (perhaps this is why? I like to keep the idea of wonderful writing alive in my head?), but I have been making a point of flicking through some of my old favourites to see who has stood the test of time.

As a writer, I think I read in a different way now (slightly, anyway), even from a few years ago. If a book is badly written or is ridiculous (in a bad way) then chances are very high I’m not going to spend time on it – unless of course I’m trying to get to the bottom of why it’s so damn popular. But if it’s a reasonably well written and the story is engaging I’ll finish it. I don’t have the highest standards, but I’ve been putting down a lot more books lately than I used to.

There are a few novels that have fallen out of grace simply because as an older reader, a more experienced person, I crave slightly more intricate story lines. As a writer who is working on her craft, I’m more likely to notice clumsy word choices, head hopping and other things which detract from a story.

Do you find this? Do you have non writer friends who can re-read novels constantly and never get sick of them or pick up on the faults? I do, and I scratch my head sometimes wondering how they can do it over and over again. It might not be a difference between readers and reader/writers at all, it might just be the kind of person I am, but so much is lost from a novel when I read it a second or third time – or at least, the ones I have tried anyway, I’m obviously consuming a lot of ‘read once’ novels!

I did however start reading a series again recently and am so pleased that it’s just as good this time around. The writing is still solid, the story line captivating and I’m pretty sure I’ll be working my way through the three trilogies I have.

Unless of course you want to tell me what I could read instead?

What has stood the test of time for you? Are there novels you’d recommend that writers read as wonderful examples of writing? Are there things you thought you loved but have since found lacking?