life

Book-a-rama

I’m trying to cut down on the amount of paper books I have. I’m without fixed abode at the moment, so every couple of months I have to pack up and move house. As a result, I’m limiting my possessions to things I can comfortably fit in my car. My sister and mother have both offered me storage space at their places, but I don’t want to intrude too much on their generosity. Instead I’ve been leaning highly on the wonderful public libraries we have here in Christchurch.

And then this happened.

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To be fair, I knew that going to the Bishopdale Rotary’s annual Book-a-rama would probably be a danger, but I didn’t anticipate the sheer scale of the event. Doors opened at 10:00. I got there about ten past. There were no parking spaces at the venue, or in the neighbouring streets. The recreation centre where the secondhand book sale was held was so crammed with books and people that at one point, I was trapped unable to move for about five minutes because of the sheer amount of people searching the paperback tables.

I was exhausted pretty quickly (I don’t handle crowds well), and left without scanning half the tables there. But I’m pretty pleased with my haul! Especially the three Trollope novels which were my main reason for going to the Book-a-rama. A very kind friend read Gentlemen Don’t Murder and gave me a lot of feedback, which can be basically condensed as ‘needs more research and a rewrite.’ She recommended Trollope as an authority on the intersection of class and money in the Victorian mind, and suggested I get paper copies as they were better for note-taking and book marking, which she thought I would want to do. I’m about halfway through an e-book version of Dr Thorne, and I’m itching to take notes, so I’m very happy to have found it in paperback!

The rest are a mix of ambition, research, nostalgia and just fun. I’ve got a high-fantasy Ancient World type story percolating, and I’ve been doing a lot of world building–which reminded me of reading the David and Leigh Eddings books as a teen. I’m not sure how well they’ll hold up to an adult reading, but either way, it will be interesting and hopefully informative to see how other writers handle major world building. Marion Zimmer-Bradley comes highly recommended by a podcast I love. Famous Cases of Scotland Yard, P. D. James and the Sophie Hannah Poirot novel, will hopefully serve as further inspiration for Gentlemen Don’t Murder, while the regency Mills & Boons are not only great fun, but will hopefully be good examples of how to keep to a brisk story structure without compromising on world building and historical accuracy.

All this—and they had a sausage sizzle outside.

Christchurch people, the Book-a-rama continues Saturday and Sunday at the Bishopdale YMCA, behind the library. I recommend checking it out, but be warned, it is extremely popular!

Baby steps.

I’m in the middle of doing something quite exciting: editing Morgen Prince. This was not exciting until maybe ten minutes ago, when I suddenly realised how significant the scene I’m working on is.

On one level: It’s nothing really. Duhywynt has been cruelly forced to visit Bardsey Island with Myfanwy and a tourist, Drew, who wants to be friends with him (oh, the humanity!).

On another level, it’s everything. This is me writing about something I could only dimly imagine writing about when I first plotted Deep Magic. I sensed the seeds of this were there, but I couldn’t have articulated this—and I would have run a thousand miles before trying to write it.

So what’s the thing? It’s only Duhywynt rejecting the labels suggested to him in order to be true to an identity he hasn’t fully grasped yet. To many of my readers, this will mean nothing, but right now it meals a lot to me—because it’s the first time my truth has shown up so openly in something I’ve written.

At thirty-six, I’m still exploring who I am. I’m in no hurry to stop discovering me, and have a lot of unease around labels. Although I identify as asexual-bisexual, I’m more likely to identify myself as an author, a traveller, an Aunt, or a writer. These labels are much more me than the labels ‘asexual’ or ‘bisexual.’

This seems really weird, given that I am so strongly drawn to writing LGBTQI stories. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think the reason is that my experience of being ace or being bi doesn’t match the experiences I see expressed in the blogs I read, twitter feeds I scan, Facebook communities I join, books I read or media I consume. And I really hate to disagree with people–like, really, really hate to disagree. So rather than risk making people feel like their experiences weren’t valid, I’ve avoided expressing my truths openly—and in the process, I’ve invalidated myself.

I’ve been slowly coming to the realisation that my truths are important, even if they don’t resonate with everyone. Embracing them will make me feel whole and will give permission to others with different truths to express them in their way. Again, as obvious as this may seem, this has been a long time coming… Too long, probably, but I am a work in progress, and no where near the end of my first draft so I’m going to forgive myself.

And in case you missed it… cute Weddell seal being utterly ridiculous:

This is pretty much exactly how I imagine Evans Oliver.

February Done/March To-do

I feel like I’m floating—and not in a good way. I’m sitting at my Thursday writer’s group, feeling really disconnected from what is going on around me. A few big deal things have happened recently—Dead Wrong released, I got print copies of Thorns and Fangs and Uprooted—and none of it really seems to sink in.

I also coughed for an hour last night, barely slept and woke up this morning completely congested, so this is not a life crisis, it’s a cold. But it’s still something of a wake-up call.

I’ve been really busy chasing volunteer experience, job interviews—everything except writing. I don’t multi-task well, and so I just need to remove these distractions so I can focus fully on writing. It’s a bit unnerving, stepping away from the safety net of steady employment, but ultimately I think I need to focus on meeting my writing goals. The uncertainty and interruptions of February (and December and January) have meant that I haven’t made the progress I want to. The really good news is that my family is one hundred percent behind me in this, so I’ve got that safety net.

February Goals:

Write Murder Isn’t Art. Added 31,500 words. Not great!

Unfortunately, I can’t get straight down to work in March. I have two freelancing commitments that need to be finished ASAP plus I have a YA story I need to outline and write in March to make editor deadlines. I just have to get my head down and get to work. I’m going to do what I can to get back into a regular writing habit. I’m also going to do what I did last year with my Mindful March, and work at getting myself into a healthier space: walking everyday, eating more fruit and veges, taking my vitamins (lost between move from house to house), and practicing Mindfulness again.

March Goals:

-Outline YA and submit to editor.

-Write YA superheroes

-Freelance #1

-Freelance #2

-Weekly Freelance articles 1-5

-Edit Morgen Prince

Wish me luck!

Going Backwards to Go Forwards: 2018 Goals and Life After Humanity

LifeAfterHumanity-SliderI’ve been in a really weird headspace for about the last month. It started with the lead up to Christmas, and continued, with a few brief breaks, over New Year’s. I seemed to shake it off for a little while, but it would sneak back, insidious and subtle, and before I knew it, I’d spent another day unable to do anything.

I’m still not exactly sure what the cause of it was, but I suspect I let myself get overworked and overwhelmed in December, and by fussing when I should have surrendered, inadvertently prolonged the mood. Yesterday, I had an afternoon of forced doing nothing. I showed up too early for an appointment, and had nothing to do but sit and read. It was glorious. Today, despite having had a busy morning and a full on afternoon babysitting, I feel full of light and energy, and I’m finally ready to face my last years goals.

I’ve been putting it off and putting it off because I have a really hard time admitting failure. And I knew that I’d fallen short of my goals. Luckily, I’d forgotten what those goals were so when I was stewing in my bad mood, I wasn’t beating myself up as much as I might have otherwise.

2017 Goals.
▪ 8 books published.
▪ 1 year entirely supported by writing.
▪ Investing in my work (marketing/learning)

How did I do? Well…

  • 3 books published —Uprooted, Wing Commander’s Curse and The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert.

So not great! However, I remembered this goal as ‘8 books written’ and I did slightly better on that front—Life After Humanity, Dead Wrong, Wing Commander’s Curse, The Charity Shop Rejects, Gentlemen Don’t Murder, and Morgen Prince. I also revised Banging the Supernatural, which I think gives me a total of seven books written—and if you count freelance projects I ghost wrote for clients, I can add four more.

I realised in November/December how difficult I was finding balancing my freelance work with my own writing and family commitments. I made the decision that once I’d completed my current freelance projects, I wouldn’t be looking for more. In fact, I’ve launched a serious job hunt. I think having a regular schedule and taking some of the financial pressure off, will mean I stress less and have more mental energy to give to writing. Unfortunately, job hunt is practically synonymous with stress and uncertainty. Here’s hoping that the short term uncertainty pays off with long term productivity!

  • 1 year entirely supported by writing.

Success! I did expand into dog-walking and babysitting, but I supported myself throughout all of 2017 primarily by writing, mostly freelance work. I find it really reassuring to know that if necessary, I’ve got this as a fallback.

  • Investing in my work (marketing/training).

Actually, I did make headway in this direction, too. Not as much as I’d like, of course, but overall, I didn’t really need to beat myself up as much as I did.

2018 goals.

I’ve only got one 2018 goal, and I’ve already mentioned it—publish a book or story a month throughout 2018. I’ve got January and February covered, but I’m already behind. I’ve only just started on the story I intended to write in December, but I’ve suddenly realised that’s okay.

In 2017, I struggled to write in January. I started the new year enthusiastic but tired, and my creative project quickly got overwhelmed by doubt and a freelance project I was working on.

In 2016, my January got taken over by school and cold and being sick. Can’t remember January 2015 either, but I’d be surprised if I got anything done. And I know that January 2014 I struggled to write anything at all.

This is a really obvious trend. So obvious that I really need to acknowledge it, take some pressure off, and celebrate what I have managed to achieve. Even if it doesn’t feel like much. Even if it’s a step backwards.

And speaking of backwards…

Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) releases in one week!

Life After Humanity came about in a really backwards way. I wrote it as the second book in the Thorns and Fangs series, learned a hell of a lot while editing Thorns and Fangs, pretty much rewrote it a second time, submitted it to NineStar, and was in the early stages of reworking it when a writing friend helpfully pointed out the series was missing something, and I realised Life After Humanity was book three, not book two. It was on hold while I wrote Uprooted, and the ways that Ben and Nate developed in Uprooted meant that I had to rewrite Life After Humanity a third time (or possibly fourth time)—and it became something entirely different. There are things I miss from the earlier drafts, but this story leads into Dead Wrong in a really powerful way, and makes the series really hold together, so I can’t regret the changes too much.

I do regret that I didn’t see what was missing sooner, or that I didn’t plan the entire series before jumping in and getting started writing. But I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just let that go. After all, a big part of Life After Humanity is Ben stepping back to get his life straightened out, even though that means putting his relationship with Nate on hold. I support sideways moves or even a step back to regroup when friends or family members need to figure out life stuff. Why is it so hard to give myself the same permission?

I am really nervous to see if readers are willing to allow Ben and Nate a step backwards. I think it’s necessary for their development individually and together, but it’s not something you see a lot of in typical romance. Luckily, I think my readers appreciate atypical romance…but we’ll see! In the meantime, stay turned for sneak previews, where the central plot of Life After Humanity came from, and more.

The Ugliest Sweater: Live

Not last weekend, the weekend before, I did something for the first time. If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I decided I needed to challenge my fear of putting my work in front of others and really concentrate on getting it out there. I put three pieces into Cold Reads, and pitched and submitted my work to agents. I still haven’t successfully managed to react to someone saying ‘oh, I’d like to read [your story] without immediately telling them everything that is wrong with [my story], but hey. Baby steps.

Not baby steps: reading an excerpt from The Ugliest Sweater to a live audience at the NZSA December Book Buzz and Open Mic.

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Oh this will be easy, I thought. I got up in front of classes of students how many times when I was an English teacher? Not to mention doing presentations at seminars! I’m used to public speaking. This will be a piece of cake.

Yeah, nah. My voice wobbled, and I did that nervous thing when you repeat yourself a lot. Whoops.

Still–I did it! And people laughed at the funny bits, and wow, that was a rush. In retrospect, I’m really glad I chose The Ugliest Sweater to read, because the humour is pretty much immediate. I’m also glad that I chose the NZSA Book Buzz to read at because the audience was primarily other authors and they were definitely a sympathetic audience. I’m definitely going to do this again–and other authors, I encourage you too as well.

 

Writing Update & ARC Team call.

Apparently I look like a writer. How do I know this? I showed up to a meeting of the Friends of Ngaio Marsh today, and someone said “[Gillian], you look like a writer–would you take notes?” Approximately two seconds later there was a motion passed to make me a committee member, followed immediately by a motion to promote me to secretary–and here I am—secretary!

Weird fact: I have taken the minutes at all but two meetings that I’ve attended. Apparently I exude good note-taking vibes. Which, I do, so…truth in advertising?

I could share the minutes of the meeting with you today, but I’m not sure that you really want to know all the details of the heritage house tour, so instead a writing update. I’ve mentioned that I’ve got three upcoming releases: The Charity Shop Rejects Live in Concert (For the Love of Christmas #3), Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) and Dead Wrong (Thorns and Fangs #4). Gentlemen Don’t Murder is currently with an agent, awaiting feedback. And I’m on chapter ten of an expected fifteen chapters of Morgen Prince (Deep Magic #4). 

You may be thinking ‘That’s a lot of books.’ You’re not wrong.

I don’t know when I came up with the idea of releasing a book a month in 2018, but I did, and so that is the plan. I already regret it, but the point of goals is to challenge yourself and I am definitely feeling challenged. The big freelance project is the major cloud raining on my parade right now, but I’m going to try and avoid taking on any Freelance projects over December and instead try to enjoy the holiday season and my family, without making myself insanely busy.

This may be more of a challenge than releasing a book a month in 2018, but hey–dream big, right?

As I prepare to write more books, I’m going to need help making sure that the works I produce stay up to scratch. If you’re interested in donating your time as an Advance Review Copy (ARC) reader, please drop me an e-mail at gillian.stkevern at gmail dot com letting me know that you’re interested! I’d honestly really appreciate it. This would involve reader the book and leaving an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other online bookstores. If you’d like to help, but can’t commit to reading right now, then taking the time to leave a review on any of my other works would work just as well. Thanks in advance!

My new side-gig.

Although I’m a published author, I’m still a long way off being able to write full-time. Since quitting my job as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, most of my income comes from freelance jobs, anything from ghost-writing to editing to travel-writing. I also babysit, and this month I added another side-gig to my repertoire—and I think you’ll agree I really lucked out here.

Dog-walking.

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This is my new boss, and although she works me hard, I have to say I enjoy every minute of it. She’s always happy to see me when I arrive, gives loads of positive feedback, and is totally up for taking an untried route. If we get a little lost or walk farther than we intended, it’s all good! She’s not one to watch the clock. All in all, I really enjoy her positive attitude and look forward to many future walks.