Writing in difficult times

The whole world is not as it was. In different areas around the globe we are experiencing very different realities. And it is hard.

At this stage, we are working from home, schooling from home and unable to leave the house unless we absolutely must. Which in some ways I like – if given the chance I would be the village hermit, only leaving the cave in emergencies. But when you can’t leave, it can make things a little stressful, and we can’t see family or friends.

As all of this ramped up, along with my stress and worry, I found it increasingly difficult to write, and sleep.

I was also getting a lot of advice, do more exercise, eat better, drink less and the list goes on. But none of it was helping. Eventually, I allowed myself a weekend of nothing by sitting on the couch and watching something different. Different to the news that is, I opted for Korean drama – which I love – a fantasy series and then a contemporary drama. I did nothing all weekend but go from episode to episode, no house work, no writing, no cooking – just me and the tv.

The escape was just what I needed. The complete switching off from everything else helped recharge me. By Monday I was feeling more human, by Tuesday I was writing again.

We need to ensure in all of this that we continue to look after ourselves, and our mental health. It is ok to be stressed and worried by what is going on around us, we are all feeling the same.

Look after yourself and your family and I hope you are finding small joys in being locked away. I’m allowing my daughter space to what she wants to recharge, and we are getting together of an evening to watch a movie. Once she starts school holidays, I want to introduce some more puzzle time. She’s been working on a 4x4 Rubik’s cube which was a challenge – although she’s worked it out now. And we have a tap board so that she can continue her tap-dancing practice, not so conducive to writing, but we are making it work.

Stay safe and well.

The Heart of Oldra Preview

I thought I might try something a little different, and share an excerpt from my upcoming release, The Heart of Oldra. This is available on all platforms from February 14, 2020.

Visit the book page for more details.

Chapter 1

The warm rock against her palm was almost smooth, small dimples on its surface keeping it in her loose hold. The flashing blue light lit up the world. Panic closed in around her, making it hard to breathe. Although she could hear her heart pounding fast in her ears, it was as though it had stopped in her chest.

As she focused on the man in dark green clothing by the porch, the egg dropped from her fingers. Its shell broke on the gravel with a quiet crack. Yolk oozed slowly out between the sharp edges of what had once kept it safe.

The whole world closed in around her.

Cora sat up, dragging in deep breaths. Each time she had the dream, the strange world she found herself in made more sense. The odd metal machine was a car, the rock was an egg, and that the man with his hat held too tight in his hands, didn’t want to be there.

Cora slid into the bench seat at the low table before the fire. Her mother remained silent, standing between her and the flames. The last time Cora had dreamt of the blue lights, she had woken to find her mother standing in the same place, but she had moved back to the sleeping area without a word when Cora had sat at the table.

Other than her father’s gentle snores, the rest of the cavern was silent. She looked away from her mother’s rigid back and glanced across the dark space. No one else moved, although she could feel Deen’s gaze on her.

Her mother turned slowly from the flames and sat opposite her. Cora looked down at the table, running her fingers over the wood’s grain.

Her mother cleared her throat.

‘We don’t have to talk about it,’ Cora offered quickly.

‘How often do you dream this?’ her mother asked.

‘You know.’

‘I do,’ Cora’s mother admitted, reaching forward to take her daughter’s hands.

Cora pulled her hands away. She didn’t want to feel her mother anymore that night.

‘That was the day I left,’ her mother said in a sad voice.

‘It felt as though the world was ending,’ Cora said, reliving the pain her mother had felt that day.

‘It was also the day your father found me in the snow, disappointed that I wasn’t what he wanted me to be.’

Cora looked up then, surprised at her mother’s words. She knew the story. The entire cavern knew the story of how the great Oldra, Gerry, had come to them from a land so far away. But it was always accompanied by the story of how much Pira loved her, how they were linked from the beginning. How this was where she was meant to be.

‘I can’t imagine that,’ Cora said softly.

‘Essawood was so different from the world I knew. I had lost so much, and I was so lost myself. They needed a man. They needed a warrior.’

‘They got one. You are amazing with a bow.’ Cora watched the woman opposite her carefully. ‘I thought you were meant to be together.’

‘We were,’ her mother said, the smile forming easily on her lips as she looked back at the sleeping area. ‘But I didn’t know that, and he fought it for so long.’

‘When did you know?’ Cora asked.

‘That I loved him?’

Cora nodded once.

‘When I lost him.’ Her mother sighed. Cora reached across the table then and took her hands. ‘You have heard the stories of the battle when he fell from dragonback and we feared him lost forever.’

‘You and Ariandi found him, and saved him.’

Her mother shook her head. ‘I found Sarn that night. Looking for one man, I found another.’

‘But that helped end the war.’

Her mother pulled her hands away. ‘They were both so broken, so close to death.’

‘You saved him,’ Cora said again. ‘You saved them both.’

‘I remember wondering how I would live if Pira died. How easily the world would go on without him. I was so scared,’ she added in a whisper.

‘You are never scared.’

She gave a little huff of a laugh. ‘I am scared more often than not. I am scared that babies will not survive, that the darkness would take us over, that Pira could slip from dragonback on any hunting trip.’

‘I didn’t know,’ Cora whispered.

‘I knew that I loved him, but I didn’t know what we had until he showed me.’

Cora raised her eyebrows. She wanted to know… And yet, this was not something she wanted to learn about her parents.

‘When two Oldra come together, they are bound in dragonlight.’

She expected comment from the dragons then, but there was nothing. She could feel them close by, and yet they were out of the cavern hunting. Usually they returned by the time she woke.

‘Why could I not choose my own dragon as the others did?’ Cora asked instead, drawing the conversation away from her parents’ union.

‘Ariandi chose me after a long time with no rider. Dra chose you, because you are the greatest Oldra of them all.’

Cora looked down at the table again. ‘I don’t think I can live up to that.’ She put her hand over her chest, where the mark lay cool against her skin, directly over her heart.

‘You will understand some day.’

‘And if I don’t want to understand?’ Cora asked, sounding far more like a child than she wished.

Her mother smiled indulgently, like she had when Cora was small. ‘This is your fate. This is who you are.’

‘My healing skills are limited at best, and I’m not the warrior you were, nor am I needed to be.’

‘You are the greatest Oldra,’ her mother insisted.

‘How do you know that? Why are you so sure I can be so strong?’ she asked more loudly than she’d intended, the frustration evident in her voice.

Her mother stood slowly from the table. ‘Because you have already saved us all from the darkness, and there will come a time when you will find the shadows again.’

2019 in Review

I tend to write these posts for myself, to take the time and put down in writing what I have achieved and to assess what I can do for next year. That is, what I can do better and what I can do less of to fit in more writing. Sharing that information helps me and I hope in some ways it will help you too.

I reminded my daughter just recently of a great quote by Dwayne Johnson (yes, that Dwayne Johnson) – “Be the hardest working person in the room”.

I love this quote, it doesn’t mean you have to be the best, but it does mean that you have to put your all into what you do. So that if you don’t win the prize or someone gets a better mark, makes more money etc, you can’t say that you didn’t try. That if you had put some extra effort in, it might have been you. They might be better on the day, but if you continue to do all you can, then next time, it might be you that wins.

I have been trying harder this year to be that person. Even though I usually write on my own, alone in my room, or in a café, or even with my office door shut of a lunch time. I set myself some crazy goals this year and I managed to meet most of them. There were some other things that came up, some of which I decided to step away from and others I have tried to add in. And some things didn’t quite come to plan – Iski Flare being one of them.

Here is a reminder of my goals for the year:

  • I will finalise the Iski Flare Series by publishing ep 8-10
  • I will draft new HP Series and publish all 3 by Christmas 2019
  • I will draft Oldra sequel
  • I will continue to produce a monthly newsletter and blog occasionally
  • I will grow my readership
  • I will consider next series and start planning and outlining those stories

When I started the Iski Flare Series I had the idea of publishing all ten episodes over two years. Yet in the last couple of years I have only published two episodes, bringing the series to a total of seven episodes. There were lots of reasons for this, partly because I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. I have a good idea of where it is going, but Iski and I have fought a bit over the years, and I was worried he might go and do something unexpected.

Most of my characters do that. For my last series, The Magics of Rei-Een, I had a very clear idea of the series and where it was going. Unfortunately, early in book 1 it was clear that neither Lis or Remi or anyone else for that matter, were going to do what I wanted them to. But that said, during 2019 I managed to write and publish all three books. Along with finishing the Raven Crown Series, that meant 2019 was the year of 4 published novels!

I have learnt a lot this year, including I don’t need to watch so much Korean tv (as much as I love it) but a weekend lost to binge watching a series, could have been a complete read-through of one of my own novels, or a good chunk of editing, or even 10,000 or more new words written.

I have recently turned to short sprints to try and increase my output, and this has worked well. I average anywhere from 1500-3000 words an hour, with my average around 2400 words an hour. Which means when I put the time in, I am getting the stories out.

In terms of drafting, I started life as a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants), and everyone told me that was a bad idea. I have tried outlining, but the characters don’t stick to the plan (see above). Now, I am trying something in between and so far it is working well. I watched a talk on “writing into the dark” which is a bit like reading a book, you don’t know what is going to happen next (pantsing really).

I am not strictly sticking to this. I have an idea of the world, the characters, an idea of what I might like to happen, or what I think the major conflict is and then I just start writing.

Using this method I have written The Mark of Oldra Sequel – The Heart of Oldra – which will be available early next year. And as I work through the editing it needs a little work, but overall, I’m happy with the story.

I have also started drafting a whole new series. This is a bigger world and I’m part way through book 1 and so far so good. I will draft the first three books before I start editing and I plan five or six books for the series, but that of course is dependent on the characters and where they want to go.

In anticipation of another great year I have booked the editor for the first few projects for 2020 and the covers for the whole year. If I can do it once, I’m hoping to do it again. The plan for next year involves publishing four novels and finishing the Iski Flare Series. I have a plan already mapped out and the work I’m doing now will feed into those plans.

And of course my mind is already looking further out into other new worlds and more characters and so there are a lot more stories to come.

I usually try to take a break over the Christmas/New Year period, but I’m writing through this year and my newsletter will continue to go out on the 14th and 28th of each month. I’ll let you know just what I have planned for 2020 in the New Year.

Happy Holidays

If you would like to leave a Christmas gift for an author – give the gift of a review.

2019 Writing Retreat

I have already been back from my retreat for almost as long as I was on it. Usually I’m super keen to tell you how my time away went. This year it was a little more difficult. My story wasn’t working like I wanted it to, I couldn’t picture the end, and this is the end of a series, so the pressure was on. I came back exhausted and although I had a tonne of work to do, I didn’t.

I caught up on all the tv I missed over the week. And what seemed like far too much washing for one child for one week. My mum watched the child, cats and house and despite keeping everything running, and organising to get the wallpaper up that we have talked about the last 12 months – I had a room filled with piles of books and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable in my own home.

What should have been an invigorating, enthusiasm building and restorative retreat ended up nearly wiping me out creatively.

So instead of racing to tell you what I’ve done, I hid away for a bit.  I struggled through a painful read through of my novel, where I wrote rude messages to myself, highlighted problem sections and groaned (a lot). Feeling all was lost I finally started the editing process. And part way through page 1 I found myself again.

First morning

Last morning

This was salvageable. It wasn’t too bad, just needs a bit of rearranging, and pulling together. After stressing myself out completely, I’m actually feeling okay about it now. I still haven’t got the ending pulled together, but as of this morning I’m only on Chapter 3. And I know now that it will come as the characters and I settle into a story we are all happy with.

The good news about the retreat –I slept really well, ate badly but enjoyed every sugary mouthful, drank a bit much, walked in the sunshine, watched the birds play in the bottlebrush, practiced my Chinese and wrote just over 50, 000 words. They were like wringing blood from a stone, but they were words non-the-less. I even managed to wash some clothes and we didn’t burn through too much wood (like we usually do).

This year we started on a Sunday, when we usually go away midweek and return midweek. There is not very much open on a Sunday morning, so things were a little different. But we managed the same shopping routine, had a nice lunch and stocked up on sugar and wine before we reached the cottage. I also played a bit with my camera (phone) as you can see from some of the photos attached.

We even watched a couple of movies this year, just to rest the brain.

I worry that I’m not going to make the deadlines I have set myself, but if I can get this to the editor on time, and continue to write, I might be able to get back to where I thought I would be.

I kind of got a bit carried away this year as I decided it was time to focus on this writing business properly. I have actually mapped out a pretty tough schedule that covered not only this year but the next 2 years as well.

So now that I’m feeling a little calmer about the book, it is back to the writing, and I only hope I can keep the books coming as rapidly as I would like. And I haven’t forgotten about Iski – he will be back. He is just not as close to the top of the pile at the moment.

First 2019 Writing Update

I set myself some pretty hefty writing goals this year on top of everything else I’m trying to do, and a pretty busy day job.

Add to that the idea that my writing group is running a book fair for indie authors this year, with no real experience and no idea just how much work was going to be involved, including an interview on the radio!

I have been much better at reviewing where I’m at in previous years; the time got away from me this year, partly because I have been busy writing. After a bit of a panic recently about exactly how much I am trying to do, I realised that it was time to take stock.

For this first part of the year I had aimed to do the following:

  • Draft all three books of my new series
  • Get the next Iski Flare episode out to readers and ready for publication
  • Keep in regular touch with my readers – via my newsletter and social media and even blog a little.
  • Some planning for The Mark of Oldra sequel and the next series.

Not too much really.

The New Series:

I have been trying writing sprints, where I just write and don’t pay attention to the typos to get as many words on the page as I can. And this has worked reasonably well. My problem came when my characters decided that they weren’t going to go along with my plan. They appeared to have definite plans of their own and it made me very nervous.

I am not quite where I want to be but I have achieved the following:

  • Books 1 and 2 fully drafted
  • Books 1 and 2 read through and marked up for problems, inconsistencies, plot changes etc Book 1 I am actually very happy with, book 2 will need some work.
  • Book 3 is moving slower and I only have 12, 000 words. Those words have helped fill in some plot holes and I now have a better idea of where it is going. I plan to continue to draft this one while I start on the editing of book 1 – it will be slower but I think it will help it become the strong finish the series needs.

Iski Flare:

Iski Flare Episode Eight kind of fell by the wayside. I have half of it drafted, and it is much stronger than my usual first draft. But it is a long way from being ready for readers. I want to spend some time this month and get things back on track. I want to finalise the Iski Flare series and get all books out this year.

Upcoming books:

No planning for The Mark of Oldra sequel other than a brief think about it. The new series has been the hardest as I had two ideas I was playing with and I wasn’t sure which I wanted to work on first. At the beginning of the year I had an idea for yet another series, and I think I want to tackle that first. I have made some very rough notes, some character sketches and considering a longer series (4 to 6 books). All just plans at this point. I won’t start anything concrete until the end of the year.

Readers:

I have struggled with social media this year, working in fits and starts. Partly because I don’t want to get lost on Facebook when I could be writing. I created a plan, but I’m not really sticking with it. I am considering expanding what I do with Facebook, but I’m delaying ideas over writing at the moment. I’ll confirm when I can.

I am managing to continue to get my newsletter out to readers monthly. And try to include information on other writers as well. 

My blogging has off as well, but I find sharing what I’m planning and how I am going meeting my writing targets helps me as much as it keeps you informed. If you want to hear about other aspects of my writing or have a question you would like answered, please contact me.

Where to next:

I have realised as I go this year that I can complete more than I had thought, but I need to put the time in and sometimes I’m not doing that. Partly due to other commitments, partly because I’ve run out of energy to get them done.

Amongst all of this writing I am also trying to fit in reading, learning and training courses around writing and marketing, and trying to look after myself. And of course my daughter, who entering her teenage years is more willing to leave me alone to write while she does teenager stuff.

There is a group of us working on the Bookfair which helps share the load, but it certainly has taken more time than I anticipated. I am gathering my promotional material together and have just submitted an order for books. I am learning a lot from this process, including what other indie authors in my local community are looking for. I think there will be a lot more come from this.

My writing plans for the next three months:

  • Finish book 3 of new series
  • Edit and revise book 1 of new series and get it to my editor
  • Iski Flare Episode Eight – finalised and published
  • Iski flare Episode Nine – would like to get it written and then published, but it may be that it just gets to readers.
  • Planning for new works
  • Regular Newsletters
  • Regular updates on social media

Lots to do, but I’m loving it.

Happy Reading.

2018 in Review


Another year is coming to a close and again I haven’t achieved all I wanted to.

I started the year out strong, with great plans, only to find that I had overwhelmed myself in the first couple of months with too much. I started a new series, had a short story to complete for an anthology and I was still working on the Raven Crown and Iski Flare series. I just couldn’t keep up.

So, the new series stopped. I was still thinking about it, but not writing. I focused on the deadlines imposed by others (the anthology)and the series that were still unfinished.

Iski and I continued to struggle and my planned output went out the window. To the point I was only able to get a boxset out early in the year. Episode Seven is very nearly here – and I’m trying hard to get it out before Christmas.

The Raven Crown Series moved slower than I hoped as well. The Caged Raven (book2) finally appeared in June and I had hoped that book 3 would be published before Christmas. I have had some delays with my usual proof reader, namely that I didn’t book her soon enough, and now I’m looking at publishing early next year. This is on track for 1 February release. I’m excited that this is so close to finished although a little sad too. I’ve really enjoyed this series and I might write something else in this world in the future.

I have continued to plan out the new series and I’ve thought about other projects that I would like to work on next. And there are so many stories…

I have continued to send out a regular newsletter and recently surveyed readers to find what else they might like to see. This is a work in progress and will change from time to time, depending on what I’m working on and the giveaways and promotions I am able to include.

My blog posts have dropped off. Previously this was taking a lot of time from my fiction writing and I decided to allow it to drop off. Although I had hoped to still post something semi-regularly. This is like my social media presence which has also dropped away. I’m certainly spending too much time on social media, particularly Facebook Groups – learning from and connecting with other indie authors – but posting very little myself.

I have looked at the time I’ve spent writing and how I can use that time more efficiently. From this my plans for next year are probably even more ambitious than they were for this year. I have so many stories trying to get out, that I really need to try harder to get them out there. I’ll share these crazy plans with you in the New Year.

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