On February 18th you can find me at Meow Cafe in Wellington, between 1-4pm (FB Event page here!), where I will officially be launching Serafina’s Flame, along with six other authors and their books at Kiwi Book Feast’s inaugural event.
I’m terribly nervous as it’s my first book launch, but also excited! Serafina’s Flame has been a long time in the making, and with last year being a pretty awful one on the writing front this is the first book I’ve published in… well, let’s not count, huh?
I’ve never done a physical book launch, so it’s a totally new experience for me. If you are in Wellington, why not come along and say ‘Hi!’, there will be some giveaways and nibbles, and I will do my very best not to speak too fast…
Anyway, if you’d like to get your hands on this book early you can sign up to my newsletter (here). I’m giving all my lovely subscribers a digital copy to say thanks for being so patient with me. If you’ve read Burn and wanted to know what happened next, you’ll want in on this as Serafina’s Flame includes, and continues, what Burn started.
I’ve seen it capitalized all over the place – people from across the world have been having a hard time of it, and it was no different for me. It’s been almost four months since we moved cities, which was a total upheaval but has given me a lot of time to reflect and grow. Growing can be painful, but I really believe it’s worthwhile. And I think in the last few months, in particular, I’ve come a long way.
I was watching a friends video the other day (FB Live, have you tried it? I think if I ever did a live thing my kids would totally video bomb me lol), and she was talking about what her word for the year might be in 2017. It got me reflecting on what my word of the year has been in recent history, and while I haven’t always ‘set’ them purposefully, they have been there.
They go something like this ‘Survival’ or ‘Balance’. ‘Not falling apart’ could probably make it to the list too. Because on reflection, I’ve had a few hard years. In 2014 I finished my studies and published my first book. At that point, I was struggling hard, I just didn’t know it yet. One of the topics of my study ripped me apart and I’d spent months spiraling that, and I determined that in 2015 I would put myself back together again, in some fashion. I decided to give antidepressants a shot, and while they helped somewhat, it was a lot of ups and downs, side effects, and eventually feeling incredibly numb.
I didn’t write a lot of new stuff in 2015, though I published several things that had been waiting. Towards the end of 2015 I was toying with the idea of coming off my meds, and I did that and felt a huge sense of relief. I could actually FEEL again, and that was amazing. I’ve not doubted that decision for a moment since, and despite all the turmoil this year has brought me, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time. I am strong. And I have bad days, but I get through those, much like most people do. Life is full of ups and downs.
2016 was a light year for writing too. Very light. I did a good chunk of editing, worked for others, but always put aside my own work.
Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that my writing has not been a priority for a long time. I’ve been dealing with so many real life issues that there wasn’t room for that creativity and it was much easier to do things for other people. But I’m ready now.
And my word for 2017 is going to be FOCUS. Because it’s time. It’s time I actually gave this a real chance, time I made my writing a priority. Time to stop putting everyone else’s work ahead of my own. This both terrifies and excites me, because if I actually try, then there is always the chance I can fail, and failing sucks. But I’d rather try and know than just keep putting it on the backburner.
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.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately. Moving regions with three kids in tow proved to be far harder than I thought it would be. I’ve had high points and low points, and it continues to be a bit of a rollercoaster. I’ve been feeling vulnerable in general which has impacted on everything – I’ve been fairly quiet on social media, I’ve gotten sick a few times, my creativity has waned, and I’ve been left wide open to a PTSD flare-up worse than any I’ve had in over a decade.
But I’m still here. I’ll continue to still be here, because carrying on is what I do.
I was reminded of this earlier today when reading an email from one of my lovely clients. They said:
It was a really timely reminder. I have out stubborned life before, and I can totally do it again. I’ve been starting to make moves towards that, chipping off the long list of things that need to happen, and while occasionally I slip and fall, and feel like I lose any forward momentum, I get back up again.
This week those steps were seen in a few different ways. I printed out a bunch of inspiring quotes and laminated them for my future office space. I plastered the holes in the walls of my future office. I finally remembered that I pulled my books out of Kindle Unlimited and put them back up on other distributors, and today I put them all up on PayHip as well. You can find new book links here. Oh and I also tweaked my website a bit. It took far too long to do a very basic job, and I’m still not happy, but I am less unhappy with it than I was this morning.
These things might not be ‘writing’ but they are all steps in the right direction. And I’m a stubborn woman. I’ve got this 😉
My friend (and valued member of my crit group) Richard Parry has some thoughts on his blog about the state of things. About the way people interact, about the negative feedback loops we sometimes get caught up in (go read it now, then come back. I’ll wait).
Some days, it seems like everyone in the world is just trying to annoy me, but then I remember that everything is relative and if I’m struggling I’m more likely to interpret other people’s behaviour in negative ways.
Everyone is doing the best they can, but sometimes that looks like being an asshat because they are totally tapped out.
I am trying really hard to remind myself of this. Having moved about 6 weeks ago, I am still getting my head into the right space. Still struggling to get a routine in place. Some days the dishes pile up and we resort to takeout, some days I forget to brush my hair, and the kids hang out in their PJs all day (who doesn’t like PJ days?) and all I can really manage is basic meals (ie: toast!) and to bury myself in a book. It might not look like it from the outside, but on those days, that is the best I can do.
Not every day, of course, and on fewer days the longer we’re here (for which I am grateful). But this being kind to others, and assuming they are trying their best means I have to try and believe that I’m doing my best as well. Which is interesting.
As I get back into writing, I am struggling to really disappear into the story and I have a long held habit of writing myself in-text notes. Historically these have looked like [WTF Cassie?!] or [this is such shit, you can do better]. And now, I hold back on berating myself. Now they are more along the lines of [while this is an inelegant solution, I can see you’re feeling your way through introducing this element to the story, it’ll clean up later] or [bring it back on track, Cassie. You’ve got this]. It might not be as hilarious when reading it through again, but I’m certain it will be more helpful, and in the now? It means I don’t feel so crappy about my attempts to write.
I’m not really sure if I have a point here, other than maybe we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves, and to others. We can never tell what’s happening inside another person’s mind or body. We don’t know what they are going through. Sometimes we can’t even tell what’s going on with ourselves!
Of course, some people are just assholes. But not everyone. And not me. I’m just struggling.
I started writing something new a few months ago now. It was based off an idea I’d had kicking around for six months or so and started out as play – I just needed to write something fresh, something in a new world (well, our world still, but not a take on it that I’d written before). I was excited by it, I felt like it was a good something, and I shared it with my crit group and a few friends, and they all liked it too! In fact, they picked up on everything I’d wanted them to, had all the right questions about what was going on, and it thrilled me to the core.
It was hitting all the right marks. It had potential. It was good.
And what I didn’t realize at the time was that all this positive feedback was not only helpful and wonderful, but it caused me to start building a wall of fear around this thing. Because it was new for me, and experimental in some ways – I very rarely write first person, and this was a new genre. And everyone was like ‘heck yeah, we want to read more!’
But what if this was a strong start and everything else sucked? What if I couldn’t maintain it? I had a really good chat with a writer friend yesterday, in which all of this became clear to me. I said to her, “What if I fuck it up?”
She gave me the greatest words of wisdom in response:
The only way you fuck this up is if you don’t try.
Damn. How true is that? I’ve been writing for years now, but even I sometimes forget that first drafts are allowed to suck, and that the real work – the making of something into an excellent thing – is in the rewrites and the edits. So I have put aside my fear and doing another thing that terrifies me – writing an outline/planning. Because while I might not get it all right on the first draft, having a roadmap will go a long way to making sure I hit most of the right spots along the way.
We’ve been here in our new house, new town, new region, for two weeks today. The boxes are mostly unpacked, and everybody – human and animal alike – is settled. Apart from me. I am not. I’m just not.
Which is not to say I am unhappy, because at times I really am. I love it here. The house is wonderful, I’m loving having a fireplace again, I love the way we all get up at the same time (even if it’s a tad on the early side!) because Hubby has to get up so early for work. I even love that there is so much less to do, because I feel like maybe I’ve been in need of a holiday for a while now, and am finally getting a bit of a mental break.
But it can’t last forever, and the more time that passes without me making progress on the writing front, the more miserable I become. And yet, I am without direction. I am so out of the habit at this point that I barely feel like a writer, and at times have wondered whether this is it. Maybe I’m done. Maybe I’m just never going to do it again. The only thing that stops me going down that road of thought is the pang of loss and instant sorrow that comes if I think about never writing.
Clearly, I am not done. But also, very clearly, I am without direction, purpose, drive, focus.
So today I went back to basics and booted up 750words. I’ve used this website off and on for YEARS now, and I find it most helpful when I am struggling. It doesn’t seem to matter what the struggle is, it just helps to vomit up my brain-goo and this is a good way to do it.
This weekend past I attended my second ever SFF convention. It was a long weekend, full of socializing, sitting in on fascinating panels and discussions, and which for me meant convening my first ever panel (Mythology, with amazing panelists), attending a launch for At the Edge (which has my short story Hope Lies North included), the SJV Awards (where I didn’t win anything), and a closing ceremony (during which I won a prize for having the best-coloured hair – truly impressive, because there were some awesome colours present!).
I came home sick, but that was expected. It just would have been really nice if I hadn’t begun the weekend sick! lol I had a horrible case of vertigo all weekend, headaches, and a terribly sore tailbone after the first day or so of sitting. Despite the discomfort, I really enjoyed my time away! There were so many great talks, and I got to meet one of my favourite authors – Juliet Marillier. It was almost six years ago that I was geeking out over appearing alongside her in A Foreign Country, so it was really neat to meet her and to find she is just as lovely in person as online.
I also came home feeling reconnected with the writing community in NZ. To see such a bounty of fantastic authors (who are also fantastic people!), to just hang, to talk story and craft and all the other stuff that goes along with being a writer was really awesome. Pretty much all of my local writing groups collided, and no-one died on impact 😉 New connections were made, old ones strengthened. It’s a beautiful thing.
We also got to make an announcement about LexiCon, but it’s secret squirrel for now! Keep an eye out next week for that one. We’re almost finished lining up our guests of honour and after the weekend we have an abundance of panels to pick from. It finally feels like a real living thing. We all wanted to give Au Contraire it’s time to shine, and it did. It was a great weekend. Now it’s our turn 🙂
Special thanks to all my writing crew for making it the weekend it was. You know who you are!! ❤ MISS YOU!!!
Hey there! I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. Not because I’ve been doing nothing, but because life has been so busy lately. I mean, really busy. We’ve been away several weekends, a wedding, a homeschool camp, we’ve been down with colds for almost two weeks now, and there has been SO much going on. I can’t talk about some of it right now, so you will just have to take my word for it.
Basically, the past month or so has seen a massive shift in where my wee family is headed, and that’s been scary, sad, and exciting all at once. We’ve got what feels like a gazillion balls in the air right now, and I’m as okay with that as I can be 🙂 Doing a lot better than I had expected anyway.
Sadly, this has meant not as much writing as I’d have liked. Stress does that to me. I can anxious and can’t think creatively. It’s coming back to me now, though. I’m a bundle of ideas and am looking forward to putting some of them on paper in the next few weeks.
But first, I have to make it through the weekend! Au Contraire is coming up fast, and I am both nervous and excited about it. I am really looking forward to seeing people I don’t see nearly enough, hanging out amongst other like-minded people, talking geeky writerly stuff, and enjoying a great selection of panels and discussions. And I am nervous as fuck about convening a panel myself! On mythology, with some AMAZING authors, one of whom I’ve been a fan of for a very long time now – Juliet Marillier. I’m going to get to meet her! And then ask her questions! And omg!! How am I going to be able to speak? I just have to try not to stutter through the whole thing somehow…
I’ll also be at the At the Edge book launch directly before the mythology panel – my short story ‘Hope Lies North’ appears in it, and I am super excited to get my hands on a copy – and at the SJV’s on Sunday night as well, where all my books are finalists. I have zero expectations of winning an award myself, but I’m thrilled to be able to be there and cheer on some friends who I am sure will be picking up trophies! Fun times ahead. I am very much looking forward to heading to Wellington for a weekend that should include most of my favourite things (that aren’t my husband and kids, but I guess you can’t have everything right?).
I shall endeavour to update on a more regular basis, and hopefully soon I will have something fun to announce.
It’s been ages since I’ve done a Friday, I’m in love. But today it’s perfect for it to be Friday, and perfect for me to be in love.
You see, I’m very close to finishing the first draft of the last book in a series. Which in itself is a first for me.
I hope not. I wrote Burn years ago, and published it a little over a year ago. That novella began from a themed call for submissions which included an older female protagonist. Carmel took that role, in place of a younger version of her who originally held it in an even earlier story prompt… This thing has a long history.
Burn didn’t make it into that particular anthology, seeing as I accidentally submitted a psychology assignment instead of the book… But, that just meant I had the freedom to publish it on my own, and I’ve enjoyed doing so. It’s got a few fans, and everyone who reads it wants more.
The only thing is that I’d never planned to write more, not on that story anyway, so I had to stop what I was doing and make a decision – write the story I’d originally intended, or write the one my readers most wanted. I opted for the latter. I’m not entirely sure that was the best decision because I have struggled with the sequels for longer than I’d have expected to. But it’s been really fantastic learning experience.
Anyway, I finished Flare a few weeks back, gave it a round of revision and sent it off to betas – they loved it. They told me this just as I was reaching the final scenes of Ignite, and that added to the overwhelming feeling that I was going about this all wrong. In fact, my characters showed up on the page and revealed something which almost made me quit. I’ve since convinced them that my original plan was better, and they’ve realigned themselves with a little convincing.
And I’m really happy with how it’s all coming out. I mean, I was REALLY worried about finishing this series, getting it right, doing a good enough job. But instead of the intense angst I felt around it last week, now I am blissful. It’s all come together. I’m tying up the storylines, I’m totally at peace with the way this is concluding, and for possibly the first time in my writer life I’m not rushing towards the ending, desperate to close it off and never look at it again.
For years I have been running on deadlines, on sleepless nights (child and study induced), on jam-packing my whole life with ALL. THE. THINGS. I studied, I wrote, I raised kids and played the perfect housewife. I raced everywhere, mostly against the clock, and against my emotions.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my life. My husband is my best friend, my kids are fucking epic. We’re incredibly lucky, and I am so blessed to be able to stay home with them. None of that changes that my brain is a bit wonky. I’ve always overcommitted and then burned myself out delivering. I have always taken on more than I can chew in an endless battle to fit more into the day/my life. I’d get so stressed out trying to do all the things that I resorted to binging everything. Work, study, housework even (yes it’s totally possible). I was the Hare, rushing rushing rushing to the finish line. I can go so fast! I can do it all!
I’ve tried many times over the years to stop these self-destructive habits – hell, I do so well juggling all those balls that people just kind of assume I’ve got it all under control most of the time – but I have tried. I learned how to say ‘NO’ more often, I put my own stuff first. I started saying ‘I’d really like to do that, but I need time to think about it before I can give you an answer’. Even then, I would still rush and push myself harder than I could. Well, until I fell apart and just couldn’t any more. And let’s be honest, I did that a bunch of times on a smaller scale over the years. Collapsing into a heap, exhausted, drained, unable to function well.
So in some ways this last round of major depression was a really good thing. I had to stop. I took my meds, and they wiped out my motivation so even though I kind of felt like I should be doing more, I just couldn’t. I could not. Nope. None of it was happening.
I think I really needed the break. All pressure was off, and if I felt tired and unable to do stuff, then I knew it was the meds, and that was a lovely thing to fall back on. Nope. I’ve just gone up a dose and am adjusting. Nope. I’m not quite where I need to be. Nope. Nope. Nope. No, I just can’t right now. I can’t.
And that was good for a bit. It was. And then I recovered, and now I am off them and OH DO I BURN. I want to do all the things. My brain is firing again. It gets excited and goes down rabbit holes and it feels all the wonderful pleasure of the world again. It’s a beautiful thing. The creative drought is over. I’m back, baby!
But the Hare is dead. I know I can take a breath. I know I can say no, and I can consider things, and I can put my needs ahead of others. My brain may be diving off, exploring options, but that incessant need to do ALL. THE. THINGS has dulled somewhat. I’ve got a voice in the back of my head, the ghost of the hare that tells me to run and binge and doitallnownownowNOW.
But I am the tortoise. I’ve looked at my daily habits, I’ve assessed my goals, and I know that burning out isn’t going to get me where I want to be. Since the beginning of the month I have written and revised more of my own work than in the last four months combined. And I’m not even working that hard. I’m writing a little bit. I’m revising a little bit. I’m doing my paid editing gigs a little bit. Each of those three things, every day, and the progress is delicious.
I’ve found a new, far more rewarding addiction. One I’d never thought would ever work for me. It’s called… pacing myself.
WTF. Yes. I’m still getting my head around it myself. But here’s hoping it serves me well for a long time – long live the Tortoise!