Look out, Anxious April! Mighty May is here.

I don’t know how or why but April was a really crap month. March was busy, but overall good, but as I got to the end of March, I hadn’t made myself a spreadsheet with my daily April goals. I figured that my daily writing, mindfulness and healthy eating had become habit by now, and I didn’t feel like checking them off every day.

Turns out, that was a mistake. From April first, my mood tanked, my motivation hit the floor and I was paralysed by anxiety over almost every aspect of my life. Finances was a big one. To try and get a better balance between freelance work and creative projects, I decided not to take on any new clients this month with the result that I then spent a lot of time worried that I wouldn’t earn enough to cover my expenses for May (I did–just barely, but I did!). Then global events hit a very upsetting note, and I spent a long time questioning everything. I go in depth in this post here, but just as I’d worked out actions I could take to help and was feeling positive, I got hit by the nastiest cold I’ve had since returning to New Zealand. It was brutal! Dizziness, sore-throat, constant coughing, runny nose, burning mouth, sore skin, aches, fuzzy head… I’m finally over the worst of it and feeling better every day, though symptoms still persist.

I know there were a lot of reasons why April did not go the way I hoped. Still, the correlation between me stopping my mindfulness regime, and immediately suffering from anxiety is a bit too blatant to ignore! The severity of my cold could be linked to that,  or the fact that I have not been eating as well as I could throughout April. I’ve already determined that March is going to be better. Before writing this blog post, I did my daily mindfulness exercise (shifted to the start of my day to make sure I do it!). Next to me is a healthy breakfast and my vitamin tablet.

April Goals (this is going to be depressing):

  • Finish Life After Humanity. Done! 
  • Edit Life After Humanity. In progress.
  • Submit Life After Humanity. Nope.
  • Daily Writing Habit Nope
  • Read 9 books  Yes!
  • Weekly Blog updates  Nope!
  • Balance Freelance and Creative writing I need to think about how to measure this one. 
  • Plot Secondary project No.
  • Plot Third project No.
  • Start writing Secondary project No.
  • Grow some hair Yes!

My biggest achievement in April was finishing Life After Humanity. I’ve started rereading in preparation for editing, making notes as I go. I’ve also been visited with a lot of inspiration for the fourth book, and am incredibly eager to get started plotting that. Which actually leads into Mighty May Goals:

  • Plot Thorns and Fangs Four
  • Write Thorns and Fangs Four
  • Finish editing Life After Humanity
  • Submit LAH
  • Daily mindfulness habit
  • Eat five plus fruit or veges a day + vitamin
  • Walk every day.

I feel quietly confident, despite April’s setbacks. I’m staying at my sister’s until Thursday, and between my niece and the black labrador, I’m sure I will hit my walking quota. Then I’m off to housesit for relatives who have a dog that gets walked twice a day, so I don’t have a choice–I’m definitely hitting one of these goals, no matter what happens with the rest.

Authors and Publishers for LGBT Chechnens.

April has been a really difficult month. I try to stay positive, but the global events, particularly in Chechnya and Nigeria, have left me feeling helpless. I’ve been avoiding social media for the most part, because the last thing I want to do is spread hopelessness, but have struggled to come up with any meaningful actions I can take on my own.

Fortunately, Olivia Helling and Dale Cameron Lowry got in contact with me about their initiative, Authors and Publishers for LGBT Chechnens.  They’re putting together a list of authors and publishers who are donating royalties to organisations like the Russian LGBT Network and from May 5th, they’re auctioning off goods donated by authors and publishers.

Money has been tight this month and will be tight next month, but the auction gave me a way to contribute. I’ve donated two items: a story written to the winner’s specifications (like the M/M Romance Group’s DRitC), and an edit of an existing manuscript. I’m not sure how successful my contributions to the auction will be, but having signed up, I’m feeling much more hopeful, and thinking of more concrete actions I can take.

If you’re like me, and have wanted to help but been feeling overwhelmed, I recommend checking out Olivia and Dale’s website for more information and ideas about contributing. If you don’t want to wait to help, the website links to organizations helping Chechnens that are taking donations now. I’ve also found this list of LGBT friendly organizations in Nigeria. If you’ve got other suggestions, or links to share, please let me know.

Just finished the first draft of the third Thorns and Fangs book.* I’m warning everyone now, this one’s a monster. I’m having a hard time restraining myself from starting the editing right now, but I really do have to eat breakfast and then maybe take a walk.

 

*Okay, so technically this is the third draft of this book, but it’s changed so much between versions that I count this as an entirely new story. Who cares! It’s finished!

Accelerated April

Accelerated April is off to a slow start. Over the weekend, I volunteered to help out with The Single Fin Mingle, which is not in fact the prequel to Ibiza on Ice, but a surfing contest and caught up with a friend. I also went to my second yoga class. The end of March was crazy–I had overloaded myself with projects–so I have been slow getting April started. Luckily I just completed a big item on my to-do list and hope to have an announcement soon!

March … wow. March definitely made up for the lack of productivity in January and February! I achieved my goal of writing every day and while I didn’t complete Life After Humanity, I did write 80,000 words. I also passed both the defensive driving course and my full licence test, which I was not expecting to do, and with the support of many friends and family members, raised $935 NZD for Shave for a Cure. Freelance work took up a ton of time for not much reward. I finished March feeling happier and healthier than I have in a long time–one of my non-writing goals was talking a multi-vitamin and eating five plus fruit and veggies everyday. This, I accomplished and I think it has continued to have a real positive impact on my health.

Unfortunately, I didn’t achieve all my goals–especially the Deep Magic boxset or regular blog posts. I think I might have to shift blog updates to once a week because I am finding it very difficult to fit them in around everything else that is going on. I also had an unexpected bill for my car which ate into my savings, acerbating my money worries, and I am doubly glad that I made mindfulness and meditation part of my daily routine in March because I think that March would have been much more stressful without it. In the end, I count March as a success. Here’s why!

March Goals:

  • Daily Writing Habit (Yes– 31/31)
  • Write Thorns and Fangs #3 ( Progress– 80522/100,000)
  • Balance Freelance and Creative Work-Nope!
  • Read 9 books (Yes–11/9)
  • Regular blog posts (No–5/9)
  • Edit and release Deep Magic boxset-Nope
  • Complete Defensive Driving Course-Yes!
  • Sit Full Licence Test-Yes!
  • Shave for a Cure-Yes!

April. April is going to be different. I’ve already decided that I am going to try and avoid taking on any new freelance clients because I want to make sure that I don’t get overloading and over-stretched as I have been. Four days into this, and I it is a battle not to sign up to every volunteer activity I see! I need to spend some time setting myself some deadlines for April to motivate myself.

April Writing Goals:

  • Finish Life After Humanity.
  • Edit Life After Humanity.
  • Submit Life After Humanity.
  • Daily Writing Habit
  • Read 9 books
  • Weekly Blog updates
  • Balance Freelance and Creative writing
  • Plot Secondary project
  • Plot Third project
  • Start writing Secondary project
  • Grow some hair

As always, wish me luck!

Shaved for a Cure!

On Friday I said goodbye to my hair–and the ability to go an hour without touching my head (it feels so weird! But in a good way!). I promised an update, and have been procrastinating, because I really don’t know what to say. So I finally decided to let the pictures speak for themselves!

 

Of course, the entire point of this was not how weird my head feels (when I pulled my hoodie on after the cut and the fabric just dragged across my skull–it was the oddest sensation and I was not expecting it all). The point of this was raising money for Shave for a Cure, who supports patients with leukaemia and blood cancer and their families. I was hoping to raise five hundred dollars, and I ended up raising eight hundred and thirty-five dollars with the chance of a little more.

I feel really good. The support I received was incredible, and I’m really pleased to be able to pass that on to the many New Zealanders battling blood cancer. I’m also really relieved. I confess, I actually waited until my niece had left for the UK before going in for the shave because I was really afraid that she wouldn’t recognise me without my hair. It sounds stupid, but it was probably the thing I was most afraid of doing this. However, my sister facetimed me from the UK and my niece looked at me, frowned, and then asked me where her kiwi toy that we’d been playing with before she left was, so I had to find the toy and do the kiwi voice for her, and that was that.

Thank you everyone who left me comments of support and/or made donations! I am really pleased that together we made this happen–I hope you are, too.

I Sat in Dame Ngaio Marsh’s chair!

Dame Ngaio Marsh was—along with Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers—one of the Queens of Crime, a group of women writing during the Golden Age of the Detective story. In addition, she was an artist and an enthusiast for the theatre, becoming recognised as much for her services to New Zealand theatre as she was for her detective novels. And yes-she was a New Zealander. In fact, she lived in Christchurch most of her life. And it never occurred to me that her house might still be here and that you can visit it.

Turns out her house is here in Christchurch and you can visit it. You simply need to arrange a time and date with one of the tour guides and off you go (http://www.ngaio-marsh.org.nz)! I e-mailed and have been binge-reading Ngaio Marsh any free moment I got since.

I was lucky enough to join an already booked group, and visit on a day when a guide was being trained, so there were five of us Ngaio Marsh enthusiasts in the same place. This never happens! It was hugely exciting–as exciting as her house.

By modern standards it’s small–but full of treasures. Ngaio was an only child, so she inherited a few family heirlooms from both sides of her family, as well as those she collected herself in her travels. Some of her dresses still hang in her wardrobe, and her the furnishing are just as they were when she lived in the house–with a few exceptions (there were some breakages because of the earthquake and a few repairs).

What I found most interesting is how the rooms were used. There was no spare room, no office. In this lovely dining room, Ngaio Marsh entertained visiting celebrities including Laurence Olivier. This room is the least altered from the house’s original appearance. Marsh’s parents built it, and originally the entire house was this dark wood.

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Her kitchen was practical, small (despite being enlarged from its original size), and an amazing collection of seventies style. Our guide was not a fan. I thought it looked neat–but then, I didn’t have to try and cook in it!

Ngaio’s bedroom was fantastic. It blended her theatrical and artistic sides. Her passport is there, along with her travelling trunk and there were hatboxes stacked on top of the wardrobe. I was happy to spot some Japanese woodcuts in one corner, but my favourite discovery was the copy of Lord of the Rings on the shelf.

The long room. It was a combination living room and office. I gravitated to an impressive looking typewriter, but it turns out Ngaio wrote longhand sitting in her green armchair. Later her secretary typed things up for her.

Towards the end of her life, Ngaio had her basement converted into an office/bedroom/bathroom/studio so that she wouldn’t have to climb the stairs to her house.

The tour takes an hour, but after it finished, we must have spent a good thirty minutes just talking with our guide. The gentleman visiting with his wife seems to know a lot about New Zealand theatre, going to school with a few of the successful actors that Ngaio promoted, and he and our guide reminisced about people they knew connected with Ngaio. I felt really glad that I timed my visit to coincide with another group, as I feel I got more of an insight into that side of her life.

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I took a lot of photos, but I feel hesitant about sharing all of them. Instead, here is my highlight—the moment I got to sit in the chair where Ngaio Marsh wrote her mystery novels. The bookcase directly in front of me had all of her first editions. Actually, she had bookcases in every room we visited. It was definitely my kind of house. Any Christchurch visitors (M. Caspian, what do you think?): Just so you know, I will totally return to this house and tour with you anytime.

 

 

Name This Dog! Contest and Excerpt.

I’ve been working away at Thorns and Fangs Three (yes, it does have a title—but considering that this is the fifth title I’ve come up with, I’m sitting on a bit longer to be sure this is the one). It’s going a little slower than I would like, but I am pleased with how it’s coming along.

And since I’m enjoying myself, I thought I’d share the fun. Check out this handsome fellow:

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Woof.

He needs a name. Or rather, his Thorns and Fangs counterpart needs a name.

I know that not everyone reads excerpts, so for the spoiler-free crowd, Nate adopts a stray dog, Aki wants no part of it, and they have to agree on a name for the poor creature (if you enjoy spoilers, read on to see what the poor dog has already endured). Please give me possible names for the dog (a comment on Facebook, Goodreads or WordPress, a tweet, an e-mail, any method okay). The deadline is midnight March 31st NZ time, at which point I will pick the most suitable name to use in the story (and hopefully be able to give the winner a prize as well).

You can make as many suggestions as you like, but unfortunately there is only one dog, so only one winner.

Thank you very much for reading and I look forward to your suggestions!

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