becoming, books, change, Uncategorized

Coming clean

I’m currently in the process of doing a massive overhaul of my writerly systems, part of which includes a website update coming soon, but right now, I need to announce something that I’ve been hiding in the shadows…

You see, a little over a year ago I was not in a very good place; if you’re a regular here you might have picked up on that lol. I’d been really depressed, exhausted, in pain – for a long time. We now know that was/is Fibromyalgia. At the time, I didn’t. I just knew shit wasn’t good. We were gearing up to move home, Nana had died, I was overtaxed on so many levels, and struggling with my mental health as well as my physical health.
So, I ran away from it all in the best way that writers know how.

I started a secret penname.

Have you recovered from that news yet?

I know, I know, I’m typically a very open person, but for a time there, I needed to be someone else. I needed to not be Cassie, to not even be J.C. Those people had done cool things, had some fans, had people waiting on books. Those people had expectations hanging over them; and yes, those were mostly placed by myself (I can own that), because when you’re already struggling, it’s super easy to smother yourself in guilt.

So, I became Nova. I basked in anonymity, and somewhere along the line, realized that actually, she’s as much me as J.C. is. Neither are false, but Nova gave me a new name to hide behind, a name that meant nothing to anyone but me. Allowing me to write whatever the hell I wanted to write. To be bolder than I had been in the past.

These are good things to embrace.

Thankfully, this past eight months or so has seen a lot of awesome transitions for me. I’ve been able to develop my writing via the amazing opportunity that is Te Papa Tupu. I’ve had my diagnosis and have been able to work on my health to the point where things are okay most of the time. I’m always tired and in pain, but I can handle that. And, I’m on amazing meds that have the dulled the poison-tipped claws of my mental health beast so that it’s only a small thing that mewls in the corner of my brain, rather than sitting on a throne admiring its handiwork.

Which brings me here. To the point at which I also realize that running two pennames entirely separate is completely ridiculous for a person such as me, and also, where I finally feel like I can bring the two together; bring all of me together. The only difference moving forward is that J.C. will be focused on NZ based fiction, and Nova will be responsible for writing all the other things. And it will all be here. Somewhere.

From now on I’ll be finding a way to make this place all about Cassie. Because it’s all, always, been just me. And my pennames can flit around doing exactly what they feel like. Which is going to be interesting, and fun.

If you’d like to check out what I’ve been up to, you can start with this freebie – the first book in the series is coming out soon (if you like adventure, Egyptian gods, and magic, it might be a thing for you) – and this novella is a prequel to that, involving the mythical Fountain of Youth.

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2019 – the year ahead

2019 only feels like it really began at the start of February, and even then, it was a slow start to the year. I spent all of January working my butt off to get Butcherbird done and delivered on time, and during the final pass I was so happy with what I was seeing. I was proud. I AM proud. I’m confident it’s my best book yet, and that’s a really nice feeling compared to the usual nerves, anxiety and sick in my stomach feeling I normally get when I finish a book.

So, it’s off with Huia now, and the wait has begun. But I don’t have time to think about that, because there are so many other things to do! This year is going to be a busy one with more travel than ever before – there are writers festivals to attends, conventions too, a joyous assortment that has me slightly worried about how on earth I’m going to manage my chronic illnesses, but I know I’ll find a way.

Because I’m more in control now. Sure, flare ups happen, but I’ve done heaps of reading and learning, and for the first time ever I’m actually okay about a slower pace. In the past I’ve often referred to myself as the tortoise, rather than the hare, but that’s truer than ever. I rest, a lot. I look after myself more – because I know that’s the only way I can keep doing the things I love. I still have days where I’m all ‘fuck I hate my illness’, because ugh, it’s annoying as hell, but on the flip side I feel like I’m in a better place than I’ve been in years and if it hadn’t been for finally seeing a Dr who was willing to look deeper and not brush off my issues, I wouldn’t have arrived here. I’d still be struggling with my mental illness, still be crashing and burning on a regular basis. Still be dealing with the frustrating belief that I SHOULD be able to do so much more because I WANTED to, desperately.

But, I can’t. Actually. And I shouldn’t. And while the want, the drive, the desire is still there, I’m okay to potter along at my own pace. I’m good with that.

Ahhhh, peace.

Anyway, this post was meant to be about what’s in store for the year! Goals, and hopes and dreams and whatnot. I think I can summarise those pretty easily though.

  1. Enjoy all there is to enjoy about my amazing writer life.
  2. Read over 100 books (I’m already well on the way! Check out my challenge here).
  3. Rewrite and knock Juniper into shape for publishing.
  4. Do some rebranding for J.C. Hart.
  5. Try not to think too hard about Butcherbird (I SO want to share it with everyone).

There will be other writing projects as well, I know that. But I’m still formulating what I want everything to look like. And, a kind of, grand reveal… I’ve been keeping a secret, but it’ll all be out in the open soon 😉 and I’m looking forward to when that happens as well.

Right, I think that’s it for now! If you missed my journals from Te Papa Tupu, then you can find those here. It was such a great programme to be part of, and I hope that one day in the future I’ll be able to be part of it as a mentor.

I hope 2019 is treating you well so far – it feels a lot different to last year, in a lot of good ways.

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2018 Wrap-up

This has been a big year. Maybe not in the ways I’d have liked it to be, but sometimes we don’t get a choice about that. Sometimes we just need to make the most of the hand we’re dealt.

And this year I was dealt a bunch of things, both good and bad. We started out the year by selling our house in Paraparaumu, packing and moving back home to Taranaki. It was a huge relief for all of us to be here, and within a few months it felt like we’d never left.

Except we did, and things changed. Mostly things in our family, because our friendships were still tight and intact when we came home. However, my health wasn’t good, in fact, none of our health was amazing, we’d all deteriorated in ways which were hard to explain. It wasn’t until just a few months ago that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which explains why I have struggled so much for so long now.

I’m getting to grips with that now. Making changes, making new plans that are realistic within the confines of my illness.

Looking back I can see that I didn’t really set any goals for this year, and it was probably just as well. Nana had not long died, we were all caught up with the moving process; I had no headspace to think about what came next. Despite that, it’s been a pretty good year for me. I had a short story published in Cthulhu: Land of the Long White Cloud, and then went to launch it at Armageddon, along with a panel – which was really cool!

I also got selected as a mentee for the Te Papa Tupu incubator programme, which has been such an amazing experience. I feel like this has been an accelerated learning path for me, with my mentor highlighting my weak spots and helping me shore them up. While it’s meant I haven’t published anything new this year for J.C. Hart aside from that one short story, I’m confident that I’m a better writer than I was and that everything I do going forward with be a step up. If you want to read my journal posts from my time in the mentorship, you can find those here.

Other notable things? I’m still here! lol some days that seems like enough. I challenged myself to read 70 books this year and hit that yesterday (check them out here, and feel free to add me as a friend). I think I’ll still fit a couple more in though – it is the holiday season after all, even if I’m not done working for the year.

I’m still mulling on what 2019 is going to look like for me, but I’m hoping in general it’s a slightly easier year, one with less disasters, less stress, less pain. I hope 2018 was good to you though – that there were some high points, and not too many low ones – and that you all have a merry festive season.

mdeI’m still mulling on what 2019 is going to look like for me, but I’m hoping in general it’s a slightly easier year, one with less disasters, less stress, less pain. I hope 2018 was good to you though – that there were some high points, and not too many low ones – and that you all have a merry festive season.

Aroha nui. 

xxx

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booksMy second post for the Māori Literature Trust is now live! This one is about my love of books, and my love of creepy things as well.

You can check it out here.

If you are a GoodReads user, feel free to add me as a friend! I make sure to set a goal for the challenge they do yearly, currently I’m at 57/70 books for 2018, so, well on track to meet it by the end of the year.

When I was a child my mother worried that I didn’t get out and spend enough time with friends, but who needs friends when you have books?

I’m joking! I’m joking. I have many wonderful friends.

But I also have many wonderful books.

I spent a lot of my childhood embedded in pages. Mum didn’t need to worry, the books were taking very good care of me, leading me on all kinds of adventures through this world and countless others.

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The Struggle is Real

fshbtyThis is a hard one for me to post about. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but feel like it’s important to be real about things, so this is me being real. I’m not looking for any sympathy, just sharing my journey.

I’ve been doing it pretty hard for a few years now, lots of ups and downs and me coming up with reasons why it’s all totally normally and acceptable.

You see, my life is busy! I home school three energetic kids, each with their own special needs, I write, I edit, I keep everyone fed and clothed. I also have bipolar 2, and anxiety. Of course I’m tired. It’s totally normal, to be expected even. Right?

Right.

But it hit the point where I had to admit that I wasn’t okay. I ran out of excuses and I had to do something about it. And that something was to go and see a Dr, take a bazillion tests, and get a diagnosis.

Turns out I have Fibromyalgia (possibly with a side of Chronic Fatigue, I’m waiting on a specialist appointment). The symptoms I’m living with are not new (have in fact been around for years), however it’s been a bit of an adjustment getting my head around this diagnosis and realizing that it’s not just a thing that I’m going to get over if I go to bed earlier or do more yoga.

People often say things along the line of ‘I don’t know how you do it all’, and I am often thinking, ‘I don’t either’. Hell, I don’t think I DO ‘do it all’, at least, not in the way I would like. Not in the way I believe I should be capable of. It’s kind of just enough in all areas to keep things ticking over, but if one thing is getting more attention, then another thing is sliding until I’ve got the energy to drag it back up to where it needs to be. It’s a constant juggling act where I have to make decisions about what I can manage on any given day.

Now I know why. I have a legitimate reason for all the aches and pains, for my constant fatigue. For always juggling. I’m not a ‘flake’, I’m just not super well.

And it sucks. It really sucks. No one wants a chronic health issue. Sure, it could be worse. I could be dying. But it’s still pretty crappy. I was hoping for a magic pill that would ease everything, but it’s just not that simple.

What it does mean is that I need to change my expectations of myself. I’m not going to get back to the level of energy and output I had just like that. There is no quick fix. I need to try different things to see what works for me, and most importantly, go a little easier on myself. Or a lot, depending on who you ask 😉

I feel like these past few years have seen me constantly pulling back on my expectations. And while I fully understand why that’s important – now more than ever – I feel so much resistance to it. I want so badly to be doing all the things. It’s why those things are in my life! And I’m sure as hell not going to let illness get in the way of me achieving my dreams. Though I might need to modify some of my desired timelines for said dreams.

Three weeks ago I started taking antidepressants which are meant to help with Fibro. It’s also meant to be pretty good for bipolar 2 and anxiety, so maybe this will be a magic pill after all, just not the one pill and done kind. My pain levels have decreased a bit, but I’m still in that ‘wait and see’ zone – these things take time. I’ve never been a very patient person when it comes to myself, but I think maybe I’m finally learning that lesson.

And while I wait and try out new things to help my health, I’ll keep writing and making the most of the energy I do have. If I’ve learned anything these past weeks it’s that regardless of whether you’re unwell or not, you need to make good choices about what you spend your time on. Life is short, energy is limited, and we live in a crazy busy world. Surround yourself with awesome people who lift you up and make time for the things you love – read those books, watch that movie, play that game, hug the people you love, laugh lots.

That’s what I’ll be doing.

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I am a Writer. I am Māori.

My Te Papa Tupu mentorship is going well so far, and part of the expectations of it are that we’ll post monthly journals over on the Māori Literature Trust website. It felt strange to be writing for a different audience – this place here is well worn and familiar. I know who is stopping by most of the time, and I’ve been flying to Wellingtondoing it for so long that it’s an easy thing (even if sometimes I go months without doing it!).

But this feels different. Like I’m stepping out into the open as a Māori author. I don’t know the audience, and they don’t know me. It took me so long to write my first post, and probably as long to write my second – I’m hoping that when I start my third shortly it’ll come a little easier.

Anyway, you can find my first post here. It’s got some thoughts on my origins as a writer, and also my submission to Te Papa Tupu. I hope you’ll stop by to check it out as well as those from my fellow mentees, who are all awesome people!

I come from a family of storytellers; they seem to be able to spin the spoken word into magic. Put me on the spot and my words get tangled in my mouth and become something awkward and heavy. I can never quite seem to articulate my thoughts that way, but give me a pen? Give me a pen and everything changes.

2018, butcherbird, july, New Zealand, Te Papa Tupu

Office in a Bag

Sometimes, you just have to upgrade. I feel like I’ve been doing that a lot lately – I got some new clothes for the first time in ages. I got a haircut for the first time in almost year. A drink bottle that was mine and not a tomato passata jar I’d washed out.

And I got a new computer.

Now, I loved Mal, but it was just time. She’s slowed right down to the point where I spend more time being frustrated than working painlessly. There were other niggles in the household; a constant tech battle over who had access to what and where. I decided that I deserved to have a computer that could not only run the full gamut of author processes, but also run the games I like to play. And it would be mine. All mine. No sharing.

Enter Indi. Yes, partly because of her delicious colour, but also because it makes me think of ‘independent’ and I am, and also, India Jones, and who doesn’t want to be reminded of adventuring, action and excitement? I’m bringing that to my writing in my own way.

Indi is a little bigger than Mal was, which meant upgrading my bag as well.  I needed something that could fit all the things I needed. Something that calls to my geeky side, but that’s also not too in your face. With Te Papa Tupu I’ve got a lot more travel lined up than ever before, so it needed to be sturdy as well. I got the Horizon: Zero Dawn messenger bag, and I love it.

20180721_115023So here is my office in a bag! This is my ‘work for hours at a time while out’ set up and it’s all the same stuff I use at home, which makes for a nice easy transition. I’ve got a space-saving set up too, but we’ll leave that for another time. I think having the backing of Te Papa Tupu has given me that little boost that says it’s okay to spend money on things that will help push my career forward. A little validation can go a long way in this business.

Mostly, I just wanted to gush about how freaking much I love my new computer 😉

Shiny!

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Changing pace

IMG_20180225_175714_333Well, we’ve moved! Despite the fact that we’re still unpacking, we’ve settled into life really quickly – I guess that’s the joy of coming home to a place that we love. It’s been this beautiful re-entry into a life that has also been slightly surreal. Even Hubby said it’s almost as if we never left. A lot of things have changed internally – in who we are, in the way our family is, the things that we discovered while we were gone – but the foundations, the relationships we have here, the group that we helped established, it’s still there and as strong as ever. How awesome is that?

I’m back at writing, though it’s going a little slower at the moment as we work through unpacking. Plus, life is just busier here, and I hadn’t really accounted for that. We’d been in the house twenty minutes before my lovely nephew was over for a play, and the first full day here we were off on a museum explore. The kids are so keen to hit their favourite spots and see all their friends. It’s been almost non-stop!

And meanwhile, I’ve been exhausted. I think that the last few months have really been hard and while I’ve handled it so much better than I ever imagined I would, it’s taken a toll and been building up. I had a feeling that once we were home I’d crash – the grief from Nana dying, the stress of getting a house ready to sell, the sale process, then all the cleaning, packing and finally moving and unpacking… well, it’s enough to make anyone exhausted right?

So I’m changing pace a bit, and that’s okay. My writing was slower while working through all the above, and it’s still slower while I defrag from everything and get myself into a good place. It bothered me something wicked last week but I’ve come to accept it now.

Sometimes, you just have to go slower. Sometimes, getting your head straight, finding your feet, establishing good new patterns is more important than being fast. I’m just going to take it easy, at least for now.

What does that mean for this year’s releases? I’m not sure yet. I’m not in a place to be able to see that clearly. I’m still working on Juniper’s book (and loving it! I have some new processes that I’ll talk about in a bit), I’m still waiting to hear back from my first reader about Butcherbird, and I still have the Sun Touched sequel percolating in the background. I just don’t have any release dates for these things yet.

It’ll happen. And it’ll be worth the wait.

life, Uncategorized, writing

Things to calm the brain

The past few months have been kind of chaotic. Despite that chaos, I’ve been making good progress on my goals and I think this is in part due to finding things to help my brain along.

You see, I have bipolar 2. My brain can be a bit of a dick sometimes. That’s enough to contend with most days, but add in grief from my Nana dying, prepping a house to sell, selling said house, and packing to move cities among regular life and other things – well, it’s been an interesting few months. I fully expected to fall over at some point and not get back up. I’m still standing. And actually doing better than I have in a very long time despite the aforementioned challenges.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on some tools that helped me – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear those!

Friend and fellow author, Richard Parry, introduced me to the video below. It’s been a staple in my rotation ever since. I haven’t played the game myself but it’s an excellent meditation.

I played Tales from the Borderlands last year (absolutely stellar game – right up there in my top 5 at present) and discovered this song. It’s gorgeous and when I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and close my eyes everything disappears. Bliss.

And those noise-cancelling headphones? AMAZING. I picked up a set of Backbeats Pro 2 through a reward programme and could not be happier. Sometimes I walk around with just the active noise cancelling on – it dulls the background noises and makes my brain a happier place to live. And when I do want sound? Well, the quality is much better than my old cheap headphones or my tinny phone. SO HAPPY.

20180208_200024Another thing that helps is getting out in nature – I’ve been taking the kids to the park or beach most nights after dinner. They run and play, I make notes for the next days writing or read. Sometimes the view is a little distracting and I don’t get much done – that’s cool too. Brains need time to declutter themselves.

I try and make time to do the other things I love too: play games on my PS4, read books that I actually enjoy, watch a range of excellent TV shows and movies, take time out of the house to be ALONE.

That last one is pretty important. I need time alone. Like, NEED. My headphones give me the illusion of it when I can’t actually be alone, but there is nothing that quite compares to a little solitude. Not for me, anyway.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going?

 

 

butcherbird, January, new zealand author, Uncategorized, writing

On first readers

Today I sent Butcherbird to my first reader, which is both exciting and terrifying.

stencil.instagram-post

What’s a first reader? Well, some people call them an alpha reader, but either way, they are the first person to read your work. Often, the only person or people to read the first draft in all it’s rough and raw glory. We writers are sensitive souls, so it’s not always good for our writer health to be sharing such formative versions of our work*.

Which means that it’s very important to choose your first reader carefully. Some people opt for a supportive partner (mine does not read fiction, so that’s out), but I’ve found a good one in my lovely friend and fellow author Leigh K Hunt. She laughs at all my jokes, can see past the mess to the gold underneath, to my intention and goals, and gives me excellent pointers for honing it into something beautiful. Butcherbird is a little different from the Kotahi Bay books (no romance for starters!), so I’m going to be hanging out to find out what she says about it – being the first book in a new series the nerves are higher than normal. But…

It’s time.

Time to get some feedback. Time to make a plan for the rest of the series. Time to start thinking about covers and sharing things with you as it gets edited. I’m so excited about this book, folks. I hope you’re going to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’ve already got the outline for book two, though I think I’m going to wait till after we’ve moved before I dive in. Don’t need to have another big life change happening while I write each of the subsequent books 😉 I’m hoping to knock out a smaller, fun project in that time, so watch this space.

This is going to be a good year. I just know it.

* Some writers are different, of course, and never feel any doubt, but I can’t see me ever being one of those. Others write amazing first copy and while they swear it makes them sweat when they let you read their stuff you can’t help but be sure they are kicking back with a beer waiting for the inevitable praise because their first drafts are just that damn good. Yes, I’m looking at you, Richard Parry.