Followers of this blog and of my current web serial may have noticed a somewhat erratic pattern to my updates lately. This particular blog has always been a bit up and down; I have a tendency to post here in spurts, depending on when I have time and impetus. My web serial, though, I have tried to keep far steadier and more reliable.
Not so much lately. Even my precious Starwalker has been impacted by my recent life issues, and I’m here to say: I hate it. It breaks my heart every time I have to go on there and tell my readers that I am letting them down again. They are wonderful and supportive and understanding, and I am grateful for every one of them. I disappoint myself more than them, it seems.
I honestly wouldn’t blame them if they got sick of all the inconsistency there has been lately and stopped reading. I always promised myself that I wouldn’t be that writer, who missed deadlines and was labelled as unreliable because she couldn’t stick to her own schedule. I have always been so determined to stick to my promises and keep the story rolling on the cadence that I’ve set. But I fear I’m failing in all of my promises lately.
My health is the core of the issue. The chronic fatigue syndrome is impacted by a lot of life stuff – stress, change, work, other health problems – and it’s all making me pretty miserable at the moment. For those familiar with the spoons theory, I think I’ve lost a few spoons over the last year or so, and I’m struggling to juggle them effectively. It’s all I can do to get to work most days, and getting home and sorting out dinner sometimes makes me want to cry or scream quietly in frustration. It can all be so hard.
I’ve dealt with CFS for several years now. I don’t think I’ve had it drag me this far down for this long before. I’m fighting with it, and I don’t think I’m winning.
But I didn’t come here just to whine (okay, maybe I wanted to whine a little bit). I despise what this is doing to me. I hate that it’s making it so difficult to write. My usual writing time is on my commute to and from work, and most of the time I just want to rest when I’m on the train. I’m not awake enough to put words together, or I’m too drained after a day of working and need to wind down before I hit the evening chores at home.
No, I am fighting it. I’m also trying to figure out how to manage it so that I can do what I want. That means some changes to my lifestyle, and I’m still working a lot of that stuff out. I’m simplifying things at home a bit, and getting help with the chores and tasks that I just can’t get to (for one reason or another).
I think that was a big step, actually: recognising that it was time to ask for help and actually doing it. Admitting to myself that I can’t do everything. I’m a very independent person. I like to be able to sort myself out, in my own time, be self-sufficient. I am always making compromises, but I like to feel that I’m capable, that I’m able to get myself by. It was a wrench to realise that that’s simply not true any more. Everything costs and I’m too energy-poor to be able to pay for it all.
I had to tell myself that it was okay to ask for help. It’s tempting to feel guilty or shameful about admitting it, but honestly, I don’t have the energy for that either. I’m sick, sicker than I have been in a long time. I’m doing what I can to manage it, mitigate it. And I guess my need to be realistic and practical – and not drive myself into a collapse – won out over my pride and my need to feel like I was whole enough to be truly independent.
I think I’m a little proud of myself for that, because I feel like I’m doing the sensible thing and not hiding behind my fear and pride. Which sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes sense to me.
I don’t know if it’s enough. After all, I’m not feeling – or doing – any better yet. I’m still looking long and hard at the pieces of my life, sizing them up for extraction or adjustment. I went over my priorities recently here on the blog, and they’re still true. I still need to work and I’m holding onto that well enough. I’m about to order the last bit of help for things at home, and that will help. I’m trying to keep the number of running projects to a minimum, even though I get restless and I want to get things moving. I’m also working on some healthy living stuff, to try to bolster this stupid body of mine that doesn’t seem to want to do anything these days.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Starwalker a lot. Like I said, I hate that I’ve been so inconsistent there. I don’t like missing posts, or delaying things, or being That Author who can’t work to schedule. I’ve been throwing around my options, because clearly what I’m doing right now isn’t working.
I considered taking a hiatus, but I did that recently and it was no help whatsoever. What do I think will have changed when I return? It’s a stop-gap at best; it’s not a solution.
I also considered changing the posting frequency. Maybe shifting it down to once a fortnight rather than once a week would give me enough breathing space. I don’t want to do that, though. I think that’ll just shift the problem from every week into once a fortnight, and I’ll wind up in the same position again: trying to write and edit and post, and finding that I’m too exhausted to do any of it.
I have to change something, so the next thing on my list is when I write. The train was my thing, my office, my writing time. That’s not working any more (now it’s dozing or reading or just zoning out to music), and maybe that’s what I need to change. I need to find a new space in my life to write in. And with my energy levels where they are, maybe every day is just too much. Summoning up the creative energy is a lot harder than it used to be.
Maybe what I need to do now is dedicate some time on the weekends to writing. Right now, my weekends are pretty much like this:
- Saturday: the day I Do Stuff. Run errands, do the chores around the house that I don’t have help with. Once a month, I spend the day at my favourite Coffee Club with my writing peeps and write (the post following this one never misses, because this is where it gets done!).
- Sunday: the day I Rest. I try to do as little as possible on Sundays, because I have to recharge before the new work week. If I try to go out or be all active, I’m usually paying for it over the next week. That’s no fun. Instead, it’s my gaming day. I usually spend a lot of my Sunday time on Guild Wars 2, as that’s when I am able to meet up with friends and run around and kill stuff, and they can’t tell if I’m still in my pajamas and haven’t brushed my hair.
So what would I change? Hard to say. I have to be able to get stuff done on the weekends, and I have to protect my Sundays as much-needed rest time. But could I work writing time in there somewhere? It’s entirely possible. Maybe if I keep Saturday afternoons free, get all my running around done and then settle down with the netbook, that will work. Or figure out how to say no to that last dungeon run and log off a bit earlier on a Sunday. Maybe I should do both.
It’s worth a try. It’s going to take some organisation and conscious effort, but all this stuff does. If it was easy, I wouldn’t be posting this at all, I suppose.
It’s a good place to start. I’d rather try this and see if I can make it work before I go changing things like posting frequency or reader expectations. I guess I’m still too stubborn to give up, and I’m glad of that. This damned sickness will only strip me of my life one thing at a time, and I’ll make it work for each and every one. Somehow, I’ll stay strong and keep pushing, in the hope that one day I’ll get on top of this beast and kick its ass.
You know what frustrates me more than anything? The ideas that pop up into my head, stories that are almost full-fledged, and me with no time to write them in. One day, I’ll make time for them all and toss them out into the world. Because that’s what I live for.
Last year, I ran the first ever Writers’ Asylum. It was a crazy day: 6 challenges in 6 hours, each one to write 1,000 words on the prompt that was given.
Afterwards, I solicited feedback, and got loads of useful input. Big thanks to everyone who chipped in their 2 cents! You help me make this event better and I’m always willing to try something out to see how it works.
I don’t do this stuff for me. I do these events so that people will come and have a good time, and hopefully get something useful or positive out of it. That’s what I like to do. I can take a guess at what people will enjoy but input is always useful.
This year’s Asylum is coming along great. I have most of the details sorted out now! Check out the page for the full run-down.
In brief: it’s going to be on Saturday 12th April, running from 11am to 5:30pm (Brisbane / Australian EST time), at the same on- and offline locations as before.
Changes made for this year’s Asylum:
- It has a theme: Altered Perspectives. Last year was all about a broad spectrum of challenges and subjects. This year, following an attendee’s suggestion, we’re focussing on a single theme: point of view. Each challenge will involve a different kind of POV character, and again the aim is to go for something you probably haven’t tried before. Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of your own head.
- There are 5 challenges, not 6. Last year, the schedule was very tight and very hectic. This was partly on purpose, but it got tiring towards the end of the day. This year, there is a 10-minute break between each back-to-back challenge.
- You’re allowed some lunch. Again, to help our poor, challenged writers, I’ve inserted a lunch break into the schedule. You’re welcome!
And that’s it! Everything else is the same. Listen to/read the prompt, then write 1,000 words within an hour on it.
The page is updated with all the info (including the schedule). The Coffee Club tables are booked. The challenges are drafted (I write the challenges myself).
All that’s left to do is polish up the challenges, get the posts scheduled up and ready to go, and finish off some advertising/coordinating tasks.
We’re almost there. Soon, the Asylum doors will open… and eat you.
We’re already a couple of weeks into 2014, but it’s not too late to set goals! Let’s see what I’ve got on my list for this year.
I should perhaps add a caveat that I’m going to be a bit more conservative than I was last year. Struggles with my health and energy levels are forcing me to be a bit more realistic, as goals I know I can’t reach just depress and discourage me. If I go above and beyond, then fantastic. But this is what I’ll be happy with achieving. Maybe a little more. I like to aim high, even if I’m pulling my focus in slightly.
Home / Work
Might as well get this stuff out of the way! My goals here involve:
- Keeping up with the day job as I am currently. It’s going well, I’m always learning new stuff, and it enables me to do all of those other things that make me happy. I’m lucky enough to have a good group of people around me, too, and I’m thankful for that.
- Finishing up the big change-around at home. The first phase of this is done, and it’s going great. There’s still some tidy-up work to do and the next phase to knock over before I’ll be content with how things are. This will make things easier for me at home, releasing more time and energy for other things.
- Beating my health with a stick until it behaves. Worth a try, right?
Ah, the beloved web serial. Book 4 is well underway and I’m aiming to finish this particular story arc (and book) this year. Will there be a Book 5? At this stage, I’m honestly not sure – there are a couple of places the story could go after the end of the current trials, but I don’t have any set plans for that yet.
It’s also possible that it’s time to put a pin in that particular project and move on to one of the others on my list. Do I have much more story left to tell there? Would it benefit from a break? All good questions, and no doubt I’ll be asking them right up until it’s time to make a decision. Which will probably be around the end of Book 4, whenever that happens.
Could that be the end of Starwalker? Unlikely. It just might change from its current pattern.
Here’s what I have in mind for this year’s tasks:
- Finish Book 4. Unless it extends beyond the end of this year, but right now that’s not looking likely.
- Edit Book 1. A light edit is partially done; I’m looking to finish the edit off and tidy it up for potential submission to publishers.
- Do more shorts. Elliott’s one is fighting me, but I’m determined to defeat his story and release it into the wild. I have a list of others to do, too, and aim to get to some more of them as well.
- Look at publication options. By the end of the year, I’d like to have sorted out my options and decided what I want to do. The Kickstarter is still a possibility.
I’m loving how the second draft of this story is coming out. This year, I’d like to continue with the second draft and see if I can get closer to finishing it. It’s falling into 3 parts and the first part is almost done. One more NaNo should give me the second part, at least. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on it a bit more than that, but that will depend on other commitments (and potentially whether Starwalker is still running as a serial).
I’m also considering putting this up as a serialised novel, once the second draft is done. Effectively, I’d be serialising the third draft, as all I’d be doing is editing and posting. However, considering how much more there is to write in the second draft, I have no idea if I’ll even start this in 2014.
It’s entirely possible that I have already bought the domain for such a serialisation, however. Ahem.
Tales from the Screw Loose
Recently, I had a little squee moment when my brain stumbled over the missing piece for this story. I finally have everything I need to start writing this one! Except for time and opportunity, of course.
I’m not sure yet whether I’ll write this one as a serial, or as a background project to be serialised later (like I’m considering with Vampire Electric). I’m pretty sure that I will serialise it somehow. A lot will depend on Starwalker and whether I keep that going as a serial, as that will dictate my capability for writing another fresh, off-the-cuff serial. (Trying to write two serials at the same time would be a recipe for disaster for me. Let’s keep things realistic!)
I’d like to get all of the groundwork laid for this story this year. Maybe even start the first draft (or set of posts). A lot will depend on how the two projects above are going!
Ahh, the good old Apocalypse Blog. I’ve got new covers and fresh edits to apply. I mean to sort these out! Get the books all redone and shiny, and publish them on all the outlets I can get my e-fingers on. I’ll also be changing up the pricing structure to reflect the latest trends. I’d like to rejuvenate the sales for my beloved trilogy and see my graphs go back up again. That would be lovely.
I’m still getting requests for a fourth book on this series. Which I love! I’m so happy that people are enjoying it. I don’t have any fixed plans for a fourth book, but I have notes lying around for some shorts. No promises at this point, but if an idea from this world bites strongly enough, I’ll write it.
Last year, I wrote a couple of shorts for anthologies. This year, I hope to see them published, but that depends on the projects in question. Watch this space!
I’m also looking at putting together my own anthology this year. I’ve got a few themes in mind to choose from, and the kernels of ideas for stories. Still working out details, but I’m aiming to have one released (to the public! to buy and read!) this year. This will be a collaboration effort, rather than an anthology of my work – I’ll be writing one story for it, maybe, and editing, collating, and typesetting the whole thing for release. I have a couple of friends I’ll be working with on this, so it’s not just me.
This is a first for me. I’m not sure how it’ll all go, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to find out! Need to polish up my ability to write short stories. Also need to figure out more of the back end side of doing a project like this.
I love learning new things.
I adore my local writing community, and that I get to help shape it. I have no intention of stopping, because of all the wonderful help, support, and encouragement I get from the awesome people around me.
Into its sixth year now and still going strong. This year, we have a new time-slot to experiment with, later in the evening, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I took a poll of the subjects that the group wanted to talk about at the end of last year, and I’m curious to see how that list works out. I have a few topics to research so we can talk about them, and that’s all good.
This was an experiment last year and went so well that I’m doing another one. Preparation for this is going well (I got the prompts written recently), and I’ll be lining this up for April soon. Watch this space!
Can’t go without mentioning this. I fully intend to resume my Municipal Liaison mantle for the 8th year, and we’ll be having fun with the usual events. Plus, there are plans for a new-style Kick-off Party and another Writer’s Retreat. The ball for the Retreat will probably start rolling soon (organising an event this big has to be done well in advance). I’m looking forward to the awesomeness already.
Is that everything? I think that’s everything.
Oh, except that a friend and I have been sorting out setting up an editing service. It’s a way for us to do what we love and raise some money in the process. I’m both eager to get going on this and reeling at the thought. Right now, it’s on a pause until I can get stuff at home more settled. Then I’ll be able to give it the attention and devotion it deserves.
More on this in (hopefully) the near future. For now, I have a set of goals before me. So enough talking about it: let’s get going. Onwards, my friends!
After the success of last year’s (2012) Writer’s Retreat, my co-MLs (Municipal Liaisons) and I were enthused to do another one (in 2013). Our first attempt had proven a few important things to us, including:
- People wanted to come and were willing to pay the ticket price.
- Getting money out of people wasn’t as stressful as I had feared (I really hate asking people for money).
- We got loads of writing done.
- Lots of people were interested (and jealous!) when they heard about it, and wanted to come the next time.
- North Stradbroke Island is pretty easy to get to, and gorgeous to boot.
- It was possible, feasible, and doable.
We also learned a few key lessons that helped us to plan this year’s excursion:
- Don’t use an agent. Our agent steered us wrong on several points, some of which were the main downsides of our experiences last year. This included a ’5-minute walk down the road’ to a hotel which turned out to be a 15-minute walk up a hill (which was a major difference to some of our attendees), and a deck we were assured would hold 35 people that was actually only able to hold 15. Liaising directly with the vendors (venue and catering) gave us a much better idea of what we were getting and the options available to us. As a result, there were no nasty surprises this time!
- Go visit the venue. It was so very helpful to be able to see what we were signing up for, and the managers were only too happy to show us around and give us an idea of what our weekend away would be like. We got to see into all of the rooms and were able to ask questions, none of which would have been possible from a distance.
- Get a dedicated room for the activities. It’s a NaNoWriMo Retreat, which means lots and lots of writing time, and the whole point of doing a mass excursion is for us to write in the same location. Having a dedicated conference room to ourselves was key. It also meant that we weren’t encroached on by anyone else, we were protected from the weather, and we could be rowdy if we chose.
- Don’t try to write and leave on the same day. Last year, we returned home on Sunday evening, and this meant that the group’s focus was split for the whole day between packing, moving out of villas, organising travel back to the mainland, and writing. It wasn’t a very productive day for most people. So instead, we decided to stay an extra night this year, and return on Monday morning.
This year, we went to Anchorage: a resort located right on the beach. Beautiful views from the rooms, an air-conditioned conference room, reasonable prices, and flexibility with sharing. Plus, the room that became ‘ML HQ’ had its own mascot: a friendly kookaburra who liked to visit our balcony and hang out with us. We called him Kitten. A couple of the guys even got close enough to stroke him.
The rooms were much more comfortable than last year, the views were spectacular, and the conference room was a huge hit. We were able to write as a group and run breakout events with everyone. It was also a lovely, air-conditioned hub for the weekend.
Some writers chose to go off and sit elsewhere for the bulk of their writing, and that’s fine. They enjoyed the lovely poolside area or the beach, and most importantly: they got lots of writing done. I think it’s good to be flexible and let people write the way that works for them, and I’m happy that they had an enjoyable, productive weekend.
This year, we tried a few new things as well, all of which went well! Thanks to one of my lovely co-MLs and the help of one of our Wrimos, we got special stickers for the Retreat attendees. They came out awesome. The stickers were part of our welcome packs, which were another new thing. They helped make the Retreat feel more official and professional, and simplified the registration/check in process.
We tried a new activity as well: the Plot Bunny Herding Session (PBHS). I’ll tell you a secret, shhhh, but we didn’t actually plan what this was until about half an hour before it started. It sounded good, though, and it got a lot of interest, so we put it on the schedule anyway, believing that we’d pull something out of the hat in time. Because we’re awesome that way.
What we ended up doing what having each person in the group write down up to four plot bunnies (those ideas that crop up and demand attention, but don’t fit into the story you’re writing at the time) on a piece of paper. Then everyone handed their sheet to the left. We went around the circle, introducing our story and reading out the plot bunny from the sheet we’d been given that best fit into what we were writing. There were some hilarious results, and some scarily appropriate plot bunnies, and one or two that made it into the actual novels that were being written. It took a long time (an hour and a half, three times what we’d budgeted for it), but it was so much fun that no-one minded.
The other thing we tried this year was doing a bonfire on the beach. To prepare, we had our attendees write down names on two pieces of paper: one of their own characters and how they die; and a character from popular fiction that they wish would die. Then, once the fire was going and everyone was assembled, we read out what was on the papers and sacrificed them to the flames.
Honestly, I was a bit nervous about this, as I wasn’t sure how the group would react. But they all seemed to take it in the spirit in which it was meant, which was all a bit of fun. It was interesting to note the differences in tone between the two types of sacrifices: it was more solemn when sacrificing their own characters and more gleeful for those characters we wish would just die. Overall, it went down really well, and it was a lovely wind-down to the weekend, chilling on the beach, watching people try (and often fail) to toast marshmallows.
It was a lovely weekend. More complex than last year from an organisational perspective, but less stressful by a mile. Everything went smoothly, and when we solicited (anonymous) feedback, it was all wreathed in praise and happy writers. Suggestions and complaints were very few, and that makes me happy.
So, things we’ll take forward to the 2014 Retreat planning:
- All the new stuff was good, keep it.
- The extra night was worth the cost. Sunday was a much more productive and Retreat-centric day, plus we had the bonfire night to cap off the Retreat.
- Keep the same venue. It’s gorgeous, the staff are great, and it has everything we need.
- Change up the catering. The food was good but not great, and we can do better.
- Have a mixer/get-to-know-you session earlier in the weekend. The PBHS was great at getting everyone talking about their novels, but it was on Sunday afternoon when people were starting to wind down. We should do something closer to the kick-off of the weekend for this to help people mix more easily, possibly on the Friday after registrations are all done with.
- Have it later in the month. We were constrained by venue bookings to an early weekend, which left less chance for new people to get involved (though some did!). It also clashed with Supanova, which is a mainstay for many of those who would otherwise have come.
It’s a lot! But it’s wonderful and worth all the effort. I’m so proud that I could help make it happen, and I can’t wait to get started on the next one.
2013. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I’m a week into 2014 and I’m only just getting to this.
I just pulled up my goals post from the beginning of 2013, and wow. The year went so differently to what I had planned. But I guess life would be boring if it was all that easy to plot out, right?
Let’s break it down a bit and see what I managed to achieve and what fell by the wayside.
This one went pretty much as I had hoped. It has been a busy year with occasional bouts of stress, but for the most part it has been secure and steady. Thanks, workplace.
This is a big part of what changed for me this year. The financial stuff has settled down and that’s a layer of stress that has lifted off me. Score one for me!
However, my folks were both called away several months ago, and they’re currently on the other side of the world. Nothing to worry about: they’re staying with my brother for a while and playing with the grandkids. All good! We share a house, so I’m currently housesitting and catsitting and generally taking care of everything at this end for them. Which, to be clear, I don’t mind in the least, but it is an extra overhead that I didn’t have before.
What I didn’t expect was just how much those little things would impact everything else. I’ve lived on my own before, looked after a house (and its associated furry inhabitants) by myself before, but this time around it’s different. I’m struggling way more than I ever have before. I think my health is just so much worse now and that’s making it difficult for me to keep up. In truth, I haven’t been coping well, and I’ve had to call in friends to help out when my energy reserves just failed me.
In struggling to keep up with things at home, everything else has been impacted. This is because my priorities have to be:
- Work, so I can pay to eat and live
- Home stuff, so I eat and live
- Writing, so I can breathe and be me.
For the latter months of 2013, I spent some time trying to figure out how to make things work at home. It has involved shuffling some things around (not moving house, but moving a lot of stuff around inside the house; this is a work in progress, but it’s getting there); paying someone to pick up the things I don’t have energy for, like the cleaning; and toying with the idea of getting in a lodger. The lodger idea has slipped into the background for now, and I have a few ideas for improvements to help things go more easily for me at home, but it’s getting better. Slowly and surely!
It has been a big change for me. I hadn’t realised just how much I had become used to sharing a house (and all its associated work) with my folks, and how much I relied on their help and input on a day-to-day basis. I’m so grateful for my friends and all the help they’ve given me as I’ve been working to adjust and cope; I would be in such a mess now if it wasn’t for them.
Yeah, it’s crappy. The CFS has been getting worse for a while and I’m struggling along on empty all the time now. I’m budgeting my time and activities more frugally than I’ve ever had to before. For those familiar with the spoons theory, I have fewer spoons to play with these days.
I’ve had a little bit of progress. The tests I had towards the beginning of the year highlighted about three separate issues that I needed to deal with. Things are improving there, slowly. Sadly, these are all digestion-related, and while my tummy is happier these days (most of the time), it hasn’t led to an improvement in energy levels.
The CFS is an ongoing battle. It forces me to prioritise things very strictly, and getting on top of things at home has been more important than chasing the unicorn of a successful CFS treatment. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I needed to get the immediate concerns sorted out so that I have the leeway to tackle the longer-running problems like CFS. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy to handle both at once.
As the home stuff gets sorted, I hope to get time to devote attention to my shitty health. In the meantime, I plough on.
Here’s the really interesting stuff. The short version of this post is that it hasn’t gone anywhere near as far as I had hoped. But let’s break it down a bit.
The web serial is still going strong! It’s into its fourth book now and heading swiftly towards its fourth birthday. Hard to believe I’ve been writing it for that long! My readers continue to be a delight and a wonderfully supportive blanket. They have been so understanding about the posts I’ve had to miss because I was simply too sick to make it (and I’ve done it far more than I’m comfortable with). I’m so grateful for them. I still love the story and even though it’s getting harder to keep up, I have every intention of pushing on and trying hard.
I talked about making the first trilogy into ebooks. Maybe running a Kickstarter campaign and having a whole plan – I actually got as far as writing out the plan. This has largely been skittled by the issues above; my priority is keeping the web serial posts going, and work on editing the first book is very much a background task now.
As for the shorts, I have a pile of ideas brimming but little to no time to get them down. The fourth one of the series is almost written, but it’s fighting me and I’ve been letting it rest so I can come back at it fresh. Not much progress here.
I had hoped to finish the first draft. What I wound up doing this year was quite different: I have abandoned the first draft about 70% complete, and started over. It was my NaNoWriMo 2013 project, and I used November to start fresh on the second draft of this story. I knew a lot of the things I wanted to fix or do better or differently, and I think it worked. It’s coming out much stronger now, though I’m only about a third of the way in. On the plus side, I have a good idea of how it’s going to end now, and I still can’t wait to write it.
Tales from the Screw Loose
I aimed to get all the prep done for this. I wound up doing a load of planning during my NaNo prep, so I’ve actually achieved this! There are still a couple of key things that I’m still figuring out to tie it all together, so it’s not quite ready to start writing, but it’s ticking over in the back of my brain. Soon, my pretties, soon.
Not as much progress here as I’d like. My sales dived into the toilet and I’ve been working to kick them back up again, to no avail. This is mostly because I haven’t got to the point where I could put my work into the public domain and actually do said kicking. On the plus side, I have fresh edit feedback on the ebooks and a set of shiny new covers all ready to go. I just need to put them all together into ebooks again and re-release them.
I haven’t been entirely idle this year! I joined in on a couple of anthologies that were being put together through a group on Goodreads. I have written my stories and sent them through, but both projects have foundered since then (not due to my involvement, I promise!). One of them is back up and running now, and I have hope that it will see the light of day in the next year. Fingers crossed for the other one.
Community and Events
I’m still heavily involved in my local writing community. NaNoWriMo is still a big event for me, full of events to organise and run, and explains why this blog went so chillingly silent after 1st November rolled around. We did a bigger and better than ever Retreat, lots of write-ins, and lots of fun was had. Plus I got nearly 50,000 words of that second Vampire Electric draft done, which makes me happy.
The Creative Writing Group is still going strong. Five years old and still rolling. This makes me insanely happy. Lots of interest and enthusiasm from old and new faces alike, so definitely nothing to complain about here.
I also did an experiment this year by holding the first Writers’ Asylum. Why do I call it the first? Because it got such good feedback that I think it was a great success and I’ll be doing another one. However, they take so much work to set up that I’m not rushing it: right now, it looks like it’ll be one per year. Otherwise I’d never get my own writing done!
It has been a hell of a year. I haven’t achieved anything like as much as I had hoped. But I’m still here, I’m still moving forward, and I’m grateful for all those things that have gone well. It’s harder than it used to be, but I’m still writing. I still have ideas clogging up my brain and popping out of the woodwork when I least expect it.
I know it’s a bit late for new year’s resolutions (and I never really do them anyway), but I’ll do a 2014 goal-setting post soon. It helps to see it all laid out; I like plans. Here’s hoping that 2014 is the year that I manage to stick to more of what I aim to do!
It’s almost here. I can’t believe it’s almost November.
As you may know, it’s National Novel Writing Month in a few days, and I’ll be trying to write 50,000 words in a month again. It’s my seventh year and I can’t break the pattern! I’m also MLing this year, which means organising loads of events, including a weekend away on a tropical island for around 30 writers.
Yes, I’m crazy. Luckily, I have help this year from a couple of fellow nutty writers, and they’re doing a wonderful job of lightening the burden of organising stuff. (No, they won’t help with the 50,000 words; they have their own novels to write and I’m not eager to share that part of NaNo!)
So, other than getting the events all lined up and good to go, what else have I been up to in preparation for my annual Month of Madness?
- Getting my nails done, all themely. Because these things are important.
- Putting party bags together to give away to writers. Because we’re all secretly 5 years old. (Okay, in many cases, not so secretly. Some of us are shameless.)
- Putting hipster PDA/lanyard packs together with report cards, so that writers can collect stickers through NaNo when they achieve goals. (See point above for reasoning. Writers love stickers.)
- Getting piles of prizes ready for various competitions.
- Planning out two projects, because I’m having a decision-making disorder.
- Getting the next month’s strategy for my team at work all lined up and ready, because I’m taking a lot of November off.
- Tying up loose ends at work so I can be away for the next couple of weeks.
- Trying not to panic.
- Attempting to figure out if I’m taking a hiatus from Starwalker or going to keep writing it while I’m novelling.
- Remembering to feed the cats.
A couple of weekends ago, we had an awesome Planning Day for our NaNo peeps. I took along a pile of notecards and wrote a load of colour-coded goodness. Both of my proposed projects are now fleshed out, and planned about as much as I plan anything I write. After I got back home, I diligently stuck the notecards up onto their respective pinboards, so now I have pretty planning boards for the stories.
If only I was sure about which one to write! I think I’m leaning towards Vampire Electric at this point, though it’s entirely possible that I’ll wind up bouncing to Screw Loose if the steampunk doesn’t flow or work the way I want it to. Yes, I know it’s rebelling, but I’d rather write words I know will be useful than bang my head against a story that’s just not working.
I had semi-planned to take a break from Starwalker and go on a month-long hiatus. However, it’s not that long since I had a break (when Book 3 ended), and I don’t think it’ll be a huge drain to keep the posts going over the month. My readers have been awesomely patient with me while I’ve been sick and I’d like to reward them by maintaining their usual weekly service of posts. Also, I can count the posts I write in November towards my total.
Last Sunday, we had our Kick-off Party for NaNo; a BBQ in the park where we can get together, give away loads of stuff, get excited about NaNo, talk about our novels, and meet fellow crazy people. It was great! The weather was perfect (not too hot for a change, and it didn’t rain on us at all), and there was a good mix of familiar faces and new people to welcome into our fold.
This week, we have a drinks meetup on the 31st October. I expect there’ll be lots of ‘ahh, I can’t believe it’s the 1st tomorrow’, ‘I have no idea what to write!’, ‘I can’t wait to get writing’, and ‘is that a costume or do you always dress like that?’ It’s going to be a blast. Looking forward to it!
I’m currently reading over the first draft of Vampire Electric, to get myself in the mood for picking it up again. It’s reminding me of how much I like the milieu and the characters, and I’m already starting to pick out the bits I want to redo heavily in the rewrite. I plan to start over from scratch, and it’s good to have a clear idea of what I want it to be.
This time last week, I was drained and weary, and trying not to fret about being ready in time. This week, I’m getting enthused about the writing and more comfortable with how prepared we are for the events. There’s just the logistics for the Retreat to sort out, and then we’re good.
I’m getting there. Soon, there will be novelling. And on top of it all, I’m having fun with an awesome group of people. I love my region. Luckiest ML and writer ever.
This blog is all about my creative writing life, but really, that’s only part of the picture for me.
As some of you may know, I’m a technical writer by profession/employment. I have been working in the field for many years now, and have learned many interesting and useful things along the way.
So my question to you all is: should I start blogging about the stuff I’ve learned as a technical writer? Would you like some insights from someone in the industry? Is it something you folks would be interested in? I know, it’s my blog, I should write about whatever I like, but it’s always good to check these things before I start babbling into the void.
If you would prefer that I didn’t start talking about tech writing, I’d love to hear why.
If you don’t want to comment directly, feel free to use any of the buttons on the end of this post. I will take all of them to mean ‘yes please’ (because I know you’re all polite like that). Comments are always gratefully received, whether made here on the blog or by email.
Thanks for reading. :)
I can’t believe that it has been so long since I posted here. Things are busy, my health is crap, and most of the time I’m scraping through the bare minimum to keep my head above water. Plus there’s Starwalker to write and post, and all of this year’s NaNoWriMo stuff to prepare, including another ambitious Writer’s Retreat. Oh, and there was GenreCon, which was awesome and I should post about that.
So much to do, so much to report on, and so little time. With NaNoWriMo starting next week, that’s where a lot of my focus is, so let’s start with that. The ML stuff is coming along nicely (much thanks to my co-MLs and other friends who have leant a hand; I’m so grateful to have them). The Retreat is ticking along and about to start sucking up more of my time, as we approach deadlines and confirmations and the need to pay for things.
And I’m still not sure what I’m going to write this year. I’m determined to write something new/different and not focus on Starwalker for once (my brain needs a break, and I’ve been writing Starwalker for the past three NaNos, so it’s time for a change). But in my looooong list of potential projects, which one to choose? I have two that are in a good state to start writing and I’m currently struggling to decide between them.
500 years ago, electrical creatures rose up and drove humanity out of their city. In the wilderness, a strange bargain was struck and the first vampire was made. Humans went on to build their new civilisation on steam and clockwork, while this new breed fed on the energy of humans in secret.
Now, Diza just wants to prove to the university board that a scholarship girl can earn a linguistics degree. To do that, she takes on the translation of an ancient text that tells the tale of the first vampire, the deal he struck, and a device that might create a newer, stronger combination of man and electrical entity. But she knows that this is no fable; this might be her chance to take revenge on the vampire that killed her family. As she gets drawn deeper into the politics of the vampire world, she begins to wonder if the protection of the man who hired her will be enough to keep her alive long enough to see that revenge through.
I have been writing this one on and off for a couple of years now. It’s one of those things that I poke at in the background when I have time or need to do something a little different. I’m about 70,000 words through it and haven’t reached the end (it’ll probably hit 100k before I’m done). I’ve got to the stage where I know all the things that I want to fix, do differently, and do better.
So while this one wouldn’t be a ‘fresh start’ exactly, I think I’m in a good position with it to start a new rewrite.
Tales from the Screw Loose
It’s not a good time to be an android on the colonies. After Earth was evacuated, floods of refugees needed homes and jobs. Automated solutions are being pushed out, and with it, the need for droid mechanics is on the decline. Grace is forced to leave her home outpost and seek work in the big city.
She ends up as the maintenance engineer at the Screw Loose, a robot brothel. With competition from the real-flesh whorehouse across the street, rising anti-robot sentiments, and an inconvenient corpse that could close the Screw Loose permanently, Grace’s new job quickly proves to be more fraught and dangerous than fixing farm gear.
I have talked about this one on and off for some time. It has taken a couple of years for the pieces to come together, all the elements that will take it beyond an amusing situation (robot brothel, lol) and turn it into an actual story with something to say. Not that I’m aiming for Fiction With A Message; I prefer stories to have a plot and an arc to them, and an idea that they’re ‘going somewhere’. As much as I love serial writing, soap operas and situation comedies are not my style.
Now, I finally feel like the Screw Loose‘s elements are all there, and it’s about ready to start.
The truth is, neither piece is speaking to me very loudly at the moment. It’s possible that there’s just too much going on in my head right now for them to be heard. I kind of suspect that, come 1st November when the starting pistol goes off for this year’s novel-writing challenge, I’m going to be staring at a blank yWriter project, wiggling my fingers above the keys to try to encourage a decision to come out. And then I’ll start writing.
Wish me luck!
This is a piece I wrote some time ago. It was forgotten until I was poking through my netbook for a piece to give to my writing group to be critiqued.
It’s the result of a random idea I had, revolving around Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, support groups, and vampires. This led me to the Vampire Victim Support Group and how hilarious that could be, charting the stories of each of the members in vignettes or shorts, maybe framing it in the context of a meeting. Awkwardness over bad coffee and donuts. Uncomfortable plastic chairs. That one member who’s not quite sure why they’re there. All the different types of reaction to a very odd kind of trauma in the context of our modern (supernatural-oblivious) world.
This piece was put aside mostly because I have a million projects already fighting for attention, as well as a web serial to write. But the idea of it still makes me smile and I was so happy to polish up this first little piece of it.
So here you are! The first (and possibly only) vignette of the VVSG. Enjoy.
VVSG - Jaime
Jaime woke to the sound of sleeping. The susurrus of slack breathing; the soft rumble of a snore; the shift of heavy limbs. The sounds washed over her like a tide trying to drag her back down. She shouldn’t be awake. She should let herself slip under again, give in to the dark whispering in the corners of her mind.
She knew that if she opened her eyes and let light into those dark corners, the headache would start. From the heaviness of every muscle and the twist in her stomach, she knew she’d had way too much to drink last night.
But who could she hear sleeping, and why did she feel naked?
Jaime cracked her eyes open and sat up, wincing. Yes, she was completely naked, and so were all the bodies lying around her. She was adrift on a sea of flesh, spotted with clumps of tangled hair like seaweed.
She was breathing way too fast. She swallowed and forced herself to slow down. Take things one at a time, Jaime. Don’t panic. It can’t be as bad as it looks. Even if it looks like the aftermath of an orgy.
One thing at a time. She was lying on a couch. She wasn’t hurt, except for the hangover and a sore spot on her shoulder. A scab: had she cut herself? It ached but it wasn’t bad. She got up, wobbling, and swallowed back the urge to vomit.
She really didn’t want to wake these people, whoever they were. She didn’t recognise a single one of them. She also had no idea where her clothes were. Her underwear, her shoes, her purse: she couldn’t see them anywhere. It made her feel more naked than ever and she wrapped an arm over her breasts, as if that might help.
She looked around, trying to locate at least the blue dress she had been wearing. Details popped out of the scenery: the antique swords on the wall; the aged brocade of the furniture; the solid oak coffee table with the girl sprawled atop it; the couple twined so tightly on the other couch that it looked like they fell asleep mid-coitus. There were more bare breasts than she’d seen since she left high school.
Every instinct in her body screamed at her to get out of there. Jaime spotted a scrap of blue fabric and snatched it up as she picked her way across the room on shaking legs, trying not to wake anyone.
It wasn’t her dress but she pulled it on anyway. She hurried through long hallways and tried random doors until she stumbled outside. The early morning silence shocked her ears and the sun hit her like a hammer. Jaime’s head spun, and when she glanced back at the house, it was looming over her, all glass eyes and creeping vines. With a confused sob, she ran barefoot down the drive and along the street, and kept going until she ran out of breath.
She was about to hail a cab when she realised that she still didn’t have her purse and that meant nothing to pay with. Should she go back for it? Her keys were in there. Her ID. Her phone. Her knickers were back there, too.
Her mind kept returning to the girl on the coffee table. She had been sprawled on her back, arms and legs flung out with abandon. It couldn’t have been a comfortable way to sleep, especially not with the way her head lolled over the edge of the table. She hadn’t seemed asleep; her eyes had been open and staring. But she wasn’t moving, not even a twitch or a blink. Not a rise or fall of her bare breasts.
Oh dear god, the girl was dead. Jaime now knew what a real corpse looked like in the flesh. Her eyes filling with burning tears. She couldn’t go back, not now. She had to get out of there, go home and lock all the doors. There was a spare key in a plant pot, money in the house…
She rushed out into the street to wave down the next cab to come along, vowing that she wouldn’t throw up until she got home.
Over the course of that day, Jaime tried to put together the night before. She wanted to call the police, but what if they thought she was involved? She had stolen a dress and run from the scene of a crime. What if they thought she was guilty?
What if the dress belonged to the naked, dead girl on the coffee table? Jaime wanted to burn it, but settled with burying it in the bottom of her bin.
It was supposed to be a simple night out with the girls. But after they got to the bar, all she had was flashes of memory. They had started on the tequila slammers and it had gone downhill from there.
She had danced, writhing in a morass of bodies that shared a single rhythm. Heat had pressed against her skin, beaded her with perspiration. Somewhere, she had lost sight of her friends. She had breathed heady cologne and warm musk. She had sung until her throat hurt, her voice lost in the thump and trill of the speakers. She had danced on a coffee table, hands high and head tipped back.
The same coffee table that the dead girl was sprawled on. No, that had happened later.
There had been a strong arm around her waist: a single, solid contact on a shifting dancefloor. He had spun her until she laughed at her own dizziness, and his kisses had stolen her breath away. He had pressed her back against a wall; they fucked fast and heated that first time, the passion thick with gasped breaths and alcohol’s buzz.
The first time. There were several more with him that night: the rest were in the room with the antiques, though she didn’t remember travelling there. Or all the other people she’d woken up with.
How many had she slept with? She only recalled one. She remembered his pale eyes and the wicked curl to his lips as he licked them. He had made her belly flop over in that good way. She hadn’t even minded when he bit her shoulder hard enough to hurt.
Now, she had two crescent marks on her shoulder where his teeth had torn right through her skin. Strangely, the wound was neat and clean, as though someone had tended to it. His mouth had spent a lot of time on the wound, as if he wanted to stop it making a mess but was too busy fucking her to fetch a dressing. Or as if he was…
No, that was just ridiculous. People didn’t actually drink blood.
The floor was a pool of people, naked and gleaming in a golden half-light. Their bodies were dribbled with fine trails of blood: released from some; devoured by others. Hungry mouths gasped for air or closed over open wounds. The sea of them rippled with pleasure.
A pale-eyed lover sunk his hook into her shoulder and drew her in. She tumbled towards him, her head swimming, let it all wash over her…
Jaime woke up abruptly on her couch, her heart pounding and throat strangling. Realising where she was lying, she scrambled to her feet as if her own furniture was on fire.
She hadn’t meant to fall asleep. It was barely midday and she never napped, late night or no. She didn’t feel like herself at all. She was pale and shaky; this was unlike any other hangover she’d had. Trying not to think too deeply about the dream, she took another shower and scrubbed her skin until it stung.
There were no murders reported in the news. No stories about debauched orgies or girls turning up tragically dead after a night out. There was a three-car accident on the highway and a drunken punch-up outside a nightclub that had landed a young man in hospital. There was a robbery in another city.
Jaime should report it. She knew that was the right thing to do. She’d seen the body and the authorities had to know. But she had no idea how to explain what had happened, where she had been or how to get there. As the day dipped down towards dusk, the scene she had awoken to was becoming more blurred and surreal.
Maybe she had imagined it. She had been very out of it when she woke up. Her night was so full of holes; maybe someone had slipped her something. Rohypnol caused memory loss. There were other drugs they might have used. There might not have been a dead girl at all, just random sparks of narcotics.
Somehow, being drugged was less frightening than the idea that she had slept near a corpse. It was less horrifying than the girl’s staring eyes and the way her face had looked hollow. Someone would have found her if it was real and reported it. Someone would know.
And yet, Jaime couldn’t shake the girl’s face from her mind. She was like a stone wedged in Jaime’s mental shoe and no shaking would throw her loose.
She was making something out of nothing. It was the drug haze playing games with her. She couldn’t even remember the house she had woken up in, not beyond the antiques. She had been caught up in something beyond her control under the influence of a narcotic. Now it was over. She had to put it behind her.
The next morning, she found her knickers in the mailbox.
One of the most consistent pieces of advice you’ll see about how to create a good (e)book is: make sure you get it properly edited. I have to agree (and I say that as an author who is currently in the process of re-releasing her ebooks because they needed to be re-edited). I also say that as a reader who is intensely irritated by mistakes in published works, however the book is published.
I’ve come across many professionally-published (including traditionally-published) books that have errors in them. Spelling mistakes, grammar errors, missing or incorrect punctuation, clumsy wording… all these things make me want to take a red pen to my pristine paper book and post it back to the publishing house. Once in a book I can forgive; I understand that the book was created by fallible humans, but even that is disappointing. More than once? Come now. I expect more for my hard-earned money.
I’ve read books where there’s an error in pretty much every chapter. Recently, I had to put a book down because it was so clumsily edited that the story was ruined for me (and it’s a rare thing for me to abandon a book once I start it). The poor editing was tripping me up so often that I kept losing track of the story; it constantly threw me out of the flow of the narrative and I wasn’t engaged with or enjoying it at all, so there was no point in progressing with it.
The quality of the editing is a sign of care. If a writer cares so little about the presentation of their work that they’ll release it with multiple errors, should I care deeply about it as a reader? If they have been careless on this front, how much can they be trusted to take care of other aspects of writing? Will my tiny trust be betrayed?
Writing should be invisible: this is what I believe writers should aim for. The mechanical aspects of writing are things that writers care about; readers care about story and character and getting caught up in this wonderful thing you’ve laid out before them. The more I notice the writing, the less I’m involved in the story. (Note: literary fiction can be an exception to this, but I’m talking about the mechanics of writing – spelling, grammar, ‘the basics’ – rather than technique, like metaphors. Even in literary fiction, the mechanics of spelling things correctly and using the right punctuation is important.)
I’m the sort of person who notices these things, and they grate. They spoil stories for me, though the extent varies widely depending on how many mistakes there are. I know I’m not the only one; most, if not all, of my writer friends say the same thing. As a professional (technical) writer and editor, I weed these things out as part of my daily work and with a measure of professional pride. Mistakes reflect on my abilities and skill in my job, and they reflect badly on the company I work for if they should reach our customers, so it’s important to me to make sure my work is as clean and correct as possible.
It’s a fact that it’s harder to edit your own work than it is to edit someone else’s. You’re too close to your own work to pick up the errors; your mind fills in gaps and smoothes off rough edges too eagerly. It takes distance and discipline to edit your own work well!
With the web serial, it’s not always possible to catch everything before I publish a post. This is part of the price I pay for writing it on the fly and editing it entirely myself (with no gap between writing and editing). I have accepted that there will be the occasional error and I fix them up whenever I (or my readers) spot them (and I’m glad to say that they are only occasional!). I also plan to edit the stories thoroughly before they’re published as ebooks, so I’m not overly concerned if there are minor typos at the moment.
However, I can’t tell you how mortified I was to realise that there were errors in one of my ebooks. I’m currently having an independent editor go over all of my books so that I can release fresh, more correct editions (which should be free for those who have already bought the ebooks). I wish now that I’d taken more care before releasing the ebooks, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
This is why I’ve had an independent editor go over the Apocalypse Blog ebooks. This is also why I’m looking at starting up an editing service, to edit others’ work and offer them the professional look and feel that readers expect from published works. I believe I have a lot to offer in this area.
I love stories. I love making them shine as brightly as they can, and getting the mechanics of the writing correct is just one way to help that along. So just as soon as I get all my stuff together, I’ll put myself out there as an editor for hire, and see if I can’t improve the quality of ebooks everywhere, one corrected typo at a time.