Creative Writing Group posts

2015: Hopes and goals

January is already nearly done, and I’m only just setting myself some goals? What can I say: it has been a busy year already.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking about what I hope to achieve this year. Already, some planning has happened and things are shifting. So let’s get down to it! What stars am I aiming for this time?


Life Stuff

As annoying as it is, life stuff impacts on my ability to write and create the stories that are buzzing around in my head. So what are the things that I’m hoping to get done this year, and will they make my writing life easier?


The beloved and begrudged day job pays the bills and makes everything possible. I have some hopes for improvement in this area, particularly with how challenging it is right now, but I really can’t complain.

I’m in the enviable position of:

  • Having a job that pays my bills
  • Enjoying the job and liking the people I work with
  • Being relatively secure in my job
  • Qualifying for long-service leave this year. I just need to decide when and how to use it!
The view from my writing balcony.

The view from my writing balcony.

I’m always leaning towards new prospects and opportunities, but really, staying happy and healthy in my current position will suit me just fine for this year.


Over the past 18 months, I have reorganised my home to be more comfortable and conducive to writing. I’m most of the way through the process, so my main goals for 2015 in this area are to:

  • Finish up the reorganisation, which mostly means:
    • Gutting the dining room and refilling it.
    • Sorting out the old office. It’s going to become a guest room or possibly a beanbag room. Or both.
  • Enjoy my surroundings.
  • Use my writing balcony more.


Ah, the monkey on my back, the fly in my ointment. It hasn’t been good, though I’ve been keeping my head above water (which I judge by my ability to keep going to my day job). I’m hoping to do some investigations into potentially helpful avenues, depending on cost, and will mostly keep trying to look after myself.



This is what we’re really interested in, right? What writing am I hoping to achieve this year? A tricky question, because I’m not sure if I should continue to aim high, or learn from last year and be more conservative.

I guess, at the end of the day, this is a list of things I want to achieve. So let’s start there!


The StarwalkerAfter a hiccup in the latter part of 2014, Starwalker Book 4 is still under way. I’m still loving writing it, too. My aim is currently to finish up Book 4 and get to the end of the current arc.

My plan has always been to stop there. I’ve got the kernels of ideas for Book 5 brewing (the seeds are being planted in Book 4), but there’s not enough there to write. Yet. I don’t believe in starting blindly; I won’t write without knowing what it is I’m writing (I’ve done this before and it doesn’t work for me). It’s simply not ready.

On top of that, I have been writing Starwalker for 5 years now (!!!). I am immensely proud of that, and I’m just as in love with it now as I was when I started. But it’s time for a break. I’ve got projects piling up on my to-do list that I would love to get to, and right now, I don’t have headspace to seriously write more than one at a time.

So what does this mean? It means I’ll be putting a pin in Starwalker after Book 4 is complete. I may come back to it one day, but I’ll be taking a rest from it.

If I get the itch to play in the Starwalker realm, I may well continue building the Shorts. I have a list and an idea for most of them, and shorts are a good way to capitalise on downtime.

I may also look into publishing options. Self? Traditional? Kickstarter-funded? All good questions to consider.

Vampire Electric

I made good progress on this last year, and I want to capitalise on that this year. My long-term goal is to:

  • Complete the second draft (currently about 50% done) and get to the end of the story
  • Do an analysis of the draft and see how happy I am with it, and what work it needs. It might need to be broken up into multiple novel-sized chunks.
  • Serialise the third draft, editing and reworking as I go.

For 2015, I want to work on the first of those bullet points. It’s going to be a big story; if current patterns hold true, I’ve got about 100,000 words left to write. This means I’m unlikely to finish it this year, but I’ll probably work on it as my NaNoWriMo project again and make a good-sized dent in the remainder.

Apocalypse Blog

The Apocalypse Blog Book 1: End of the Old

The Apocalypse Blog Book 1: End of the Old

These ebooks have been out for a while, and I’ll be honest: I’ve let them languish. I have edits I need to do to them, and new covers to apply, and new blurbs to write. I need to adjust the pricing and try to lift their market presence.

In all, it’s probably not a huge amount of work (though with marketing, it’s a bit of a black hole, so we’ll see), but I want to set aside the time and mental space to do it.

Vampire Victim Support Group

This is a lot of fun, and because they’re shorts, I’m hoping to be able to fit them in between other stuff. I’ve got a list of them roughly mapped out, and hope to expand the series over the next year. I’ve also got some big-picture ideas (the original idea was a group of loosely-connected vignettes, and I’ve started pondering ideas for the connective material), but we’ll see where that goes.

Tales from the Screw Loose

This project (otherwise known as the ‘robot brothel story’) has been lurking for a while and is almost in a state that’s ready to write. Talking with a friend about it recently, it’s easy to get enthusiastic and excited about it. It’s not going to be a short or quick project (current plan have a rough trilogy outlined), so this will take some investment. Probably a good one to serialise.

I’m not confident of my ability to get to this in 2015. The projects listed above could easily fill up the year, and I’m not in a place where I’d put this at the top of my list.

Chances are, what I’ll do is see whether I could cope with a second serial when I get to the stage of serialising Vampire Electric. That probably won’t be this year. So Screw Loose will remain on hold, for now, but not forgotten.

Other Stuff

I’m not entirely sure what this covers. I know I talked last year about putting anthologies together, but I really don’t have the mental energy for a project like that this year. Or at least, right now. I think the list above is plenty to keep me busy; everything else is on hold. Backburners. I’ll fight the urge to get distracted by squirrels and shiny objects.

I will add that I’m hoping to be a bit more regular with posts on this blog. I let a few things languish last year, so I’m aiming to be better this year. Finish what I start, which means putting up a lot of posts currently sitting as half-finished drafts. I’m getting there, one step at a time. Watch this space!


Writing Events and Community Stuff

I’m still very active in my local writing community. And by ‘active’, I mean that I organise a bunch of events, get people together, and have a load of writing-related fun. I have no intention of changing this. My writing friends are a constant source of support, amusement, inspiration, and comfort. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Monthly Writing Group and Write-in

That said, I am changing things up this year. The monthly events I run are successful and working, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be better. I have spread the events out over the month, sharing the load around a bit, and I’m hoping that will wind up being better for my health (previously, the two big monthly events were on the same weekend, which was a big, tiring time for me). It also spreads the cost of the events, which will help many of my attendees.

Writer’s Retreat

The view from our balcony. Gorgeous. (Photo: mine)

The view from our balcony. Gorgeous.
(Photo: mine)

After the turnout and feedback we got last year, my co-ML (Municipal Liaison – I have a wonderful friend who helps me to organise the events) and I are in discussions about whether we will do another one this year. The main issue seems to be the cost and getting time away from family commitments. We can’t do anything about the latter, and we work to keep the prices as low as possible, but at the end of the day, if it’s not working, we need to be honest about it.

We’re looking at other ideas and options, and it’s likely that we’ll try something new and different this year. Cross your fingers for us! I’m sure it’ll be fun, if a lot of work, but it’s always worth it.

Writers’ Asylum

This has been a lot of fun over the past couple of years, and I’m aiming to run another one this year. I took feedback last year and have some ideas for how to change it up, so there’ll be a new setup this time. I’ve got the theme in mind and I think I know what the challenges should be. I’m hoping to make it fun for everyone who gets involved.

That’s everything! It’s a big list, now that I look at it all in one place. I’m both a little daunted and utterly ready to get going. So much to do, why waste time?

Let’s go. Let’s make 2015 better than 2014. Onwards and upwards, my friends.

I hope you’ll all join me on the journey.

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Retrospective: the year that was 2014

The awesome writing balcony! Magic happens here. And cats.

The awesome writing balcony! Magic happens here. And cats.

Hard to believe that it’s already 2015. Sheesh! So much has happened, and yet, not anywhere as much as I had hoped.

2014 was a frustrating year for me. Struggles with my health meant struggles with everything else… but let’s take an honest look at what I accomplished last year, compared to what I set out to do.

I have been so grateful for the support and help of my family, friends, and readers this year. They have helped me achieve the house stuff, sent me well-wishes, and supported me when I was flagging. I don’t ask for help often or easily – I’m a very independent person – and I’ve needed a lot of it over the past year. Thanks to everyone who has been there, including those of you who I only talk to through a screen. Your words, your time, and your attention are always appreciated.

Home/life stuff:

  • Day job – it continues, it’s going well, and I’m still utterly grateful for it. 🙂
  • Big house change-around – not complete yet, but I’ve got the main parts tidied up and working. In 2014, I finally got a whole bunch of my comic book art framed and up on the walls, and I set up an awesome writing balcony for myself. Love that balcony, it’s wonderful. Still a bunch of work to go to ‘finish’ the change-around, though.
  • Beating my health with a stick – it has been more like the other way around. Bah. 🙁

Writing stuff:

  • Starwalker Book 4 didn’t quite go to plan. Due to health stuff, there were more delays and interruptions than I like, enough that I was frustrating myself. Late in the year, thanks to a few factors (I haven’t written a post about this yet, have I? I should do that), the fourth chapter took a bit of a turn down a dark alley, and proceeded to drag its feet, sucking and slurping along until I put a pin in it. I took a break from it for about six weeks, and I really needed that time to get my head straight and come back to the story fresh. The fourth book has had a little bit of retconning done and is now back on track, humming along on a much better path.
  • Other Starwalker stuff – hasn’t really happened, mostly because Book 4 took much longer than expected, especially with the break and reset of a section. Nope, haven’t edited any of it, or done any more shorts yet.
  • Vampire Electric – the second draft is coming along nicely! It was my NaNo project for 2014, and it is currently sitting at about 100,000 words. Disturbingly, I’m only about halfway through the story. It’s going to be a long one! I’m pleased with how it’s going, though, and looking forward to getting back to it at some point.
  • Other projects – all pretty much on hold. With my health as it is, I just haven’t had the mental bandwidth to deal with multiple projects at the same time. Writing a web serial means that I have to have my attention pretty much glued to Starwalker the whole time. I don’t consider this a bad thing – I still love to write Starwalker – but it is a restriction. I did a little poking around on the edges of a couple of projects, planning a few things out, but nothing substantial. Yet.
  • This blog – I didn’t have any particular goals around this, but updates have been spotty at best. I really should do better. I have a whole list of things I want to write about but just didn’t get to.

Writing community stuff:

  • My Creative Writing Group is still going strong! We had a lot of fun over the last year, and the turnout continues to be strong. They’re a wonderful bunch of people and I learn a lot with them.
  • I tried something a little different with the Writers’ Asylum this year. It went well! Some changes were made due to feedback from the previous year and they seemed to work well. I got some more feedback and I have a plan to try for the next one. Ideas are in motion.
  • NaNoWriMo went well. I wrote loads, and events were big and crazy, and we spent a weekend on an island again. There were a couple of things that didn’t go so well – a couple of issues with people, which is always a danger when dealing with a big, diverse group, and our TGIO party got rained off – but nothing we couldn’t work around or get past. We tried a couple of new things, and learned some stuff we’ll put into practice next year. On the whole, a successful month.

2014 was pretty hard on me, but looking at it this way, I think I achieved more than I give myself credit for. I think it’s because I had to fight harder than usual to get things done, and I champ at my own restrictions because I demand more from myself than what I’m currently capable of.

I think the most disappointing thing in the whole year was having Starwalker wander off-track and having to retcon to pull it back into line. That upset me, because I try to be better than that. I try not to let the pressures in the rest of my life bleed into my writing, and I failed.

On the other hand, the thing I am most grateful for is the support I got when I took that hiatus and took the time to get my head straight. I often say how wonderful my readership is, and this is just another example of how much they do for me, and how much they mean to me. There was not a single complaint, even when they admitted that they weren’t enjoying the story so much since it started to slide. There was support and encouragement, and understanding. They are what I like to call ‘awesome humans’, and I’m proud to have them as my readers.

I’m also proud that I stood up and took action when the story was going wrong. It took a while for me to admit to myself that I was in a place I couldn’t write my way out of, but once I had, I didn’t hide it. It’s not easy to put your hand up and admit you made a mistake, especially to the people you want to have adore and trust you. So, yes, it sucks that I got into that position and I’ll be doing my damnedest to never be there again. But I think I handled it well – or at least I didn’t suck at it – and it came good in the end.

Perhaps that’s the best thing I can take away from 2014: there were many battles in it, but I got through them and out the other side. I have learned things, and grown, and I’m still pleased to be who I am. Onwards! Into a shiny new year and all the promise that it holds.

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Looking Forward: 2014

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time. (Picture by Mykl Roventine)

Aim for the sky! One rung at a time.
(Picture by Mykl Roventine)

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.

Vampire Electric

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!

Apocalypse Blog

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.

Writing Community

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.

Creative Writing Group

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.

Writers’ Asylum

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!

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Mad writing specialness

When I was sorting out the library room for my Creative Writing Group for this year, I was informed that I couldn’t have the room in April. At all. It was booked out for some month-long event. For about five minutes, I was upset. Then I shrugged and decided to see it as an opportunity to do something a bit different.

April used to mean Script Frenzy, a challenge to write a script in a month brought to you by the OLL (the same people who do NaNoWriMo every year). However, it ended last year; there won’t be one this time around. It’s a shame, because I had hoped to take part one year. But it seems that April is opening up for writers all over.

Now, we all know that I can get a bit ambitious when it comes to writing events. My ‘let’s do something a bit different’ impulse is what led to the Writer’s Retreat. I’ve got a lot on my plate this year, so I shouldn’t go too crazy here. Right? Yeah, okay.

So naturally, ‘we can’t have an hour and a half’s CWG meeting’ prompted the question ‘why don’t we do a day of writing things instead?’ Because that’s a logical progression. My brain immediately leaned towards the notion of making a day out of it, of making it something special, a stand-out event in the year rather than just a fill-in thing we did because we couldn’t do our regular meeting.

I might as well aim high, right?

That was the extent of my pondering late last year, when I got the confirmation of my CWG dates. Then other distractions took over and I put it to the side. After all, April was months away.

It’s a little closer now and my brain is, apparently, a bit restless. So I got to thinking about what we could do, where we could go, options options options.

The easiest thing would be to use the Monthly Write-in time to do something for the whole day (it’s on a Saturday, which means I won’t have to juggle work). That means we could use the cafe where we usually write. Venue and time: easy.

But what to do? We get together and write all the time. It should be different to that. It should be challenging and invigorating. It should be inspirational. Everyone should be able to walk away feeling positive and good about what they’ve done that day. And it should be drop-in, drop-out, because not everyone can make day-long events.

That’s how I wound up with the notion of let’s do a day of writing challenges. Not just writing prompts, but actual challenges. Not snippets, but longer pieces (500-1,000 words). On the hour, every hour, for a whole day. A variety of stuff, things that people might not normally try in their writing. Challenges to push and stretch us.

Uh oh. I feel a plan forming.

I think this can work. I’m already thinking of ways we could make it more awesome. We could have an online version, and post the challenges up online (on here?) so people who can’t make it to the event can still join in. I could see if my lovely friend Sarah would want to start us off with Writercise, a bit of gentle exercise and mind-prep for a day of writing. She created it for the Writer’s Retreat and everyone loved it. I could also see if the QWC would want to be involved (prizes? Maybe even an alternate venue? Or support and advertising?).

That’s what I’ve got so far. What else? I’m not sure. Ideas are still percolating. Anyone got suggestions? Ideas? Candy? Send ’em over, I’m sure I can put them to good use.

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Creative Writing Group: into 2013

I have been pondering the future of my Creative Writing Group for a while now. I have been running it for over 4 years, and it’s good to stop and consider the situation every now and then.

It’s going really well. As I mentioned in the 2012 retrospective post, I still get a really good turnout, and people seem to enjoy the sessions. I still enjoy running it.

Still, it has been getting hard to think of things to talk about at each session. I don’t want to repeat material too much or people will just get bored and stop coming. On the other hand, I’ve got enough fresh members that most of them won’t remember the first time we went over things.

Also, over the time the CWG has been running, the format has evolved. We used to do regular critiques, but that dropped off over the past couple of years because no-one wanted to submit pieces for critiquing. I’m perfectly fine with that; I run the CWG for its members, so I’m happy to go with their preferences.

Lately, I’ve been leading discussions on specific topics. I usually get a pile of material together, and either talk us through it or call on others for opinions and experiences (most often, both). The room in the library that we use has a whiteboard, and this is proving useful for gathering information and prompting discussions.

It has been a great learning experience for me. I’ve done a lot of writing courses and study, but I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about writing. I may lead the group but it’s not about expounding my views. It’s about exploring different aspects of writing and working out what’s important for our writing. In preparing for a meeting, I research the topic of the month to make sure I’m not just taking my own limited knowledge in with me.

For example, when preparing for a meeting about planning novels/long-form stories, I had to look up the snowflake method because it’s a basic planning method. It’s not for me, but the whole point of these sessions is to share things that others might find of use. It’s hard to do that if you don’t know what the options are.

That’s all going really well, but like I said, I was starting to run dry of things to talk about. It felt like it was time to shake things up a little and see if I could refresh our group. I want 2013 to start with a surge of enthusiasm and engagement.

So, at our last meeting, we had a long discussion about what sort of things we wanted to talk about in the CWG. I ask at every meeting if people have stuff they wanted to explore and got few responses. This time, with the prospect of a new year and a fresh start, the group opened up and gave me a whole list of things they wanted to tackle. I was delighted! For some of it, I have no idea how I’m going to find material to talk about. Other stuff I already have loads of notes prepared. I’m looking forward to both!

I also floated the idea about getting critiquing going again. On the heels of a frenetic NaNoWriMo, most of the people in the CWG have at least a first chapter. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive about this idea, and so we’re going to give it a try.

So now I’m really enthused about the CWG going into 2013. I have lots of stuff to look into, which is something different to fill my brain up with. I love learning new things. And the CWG members seem eager to keep going.

I’m also pondering some marketing options. I’ve had many comments about how people struggle to find the group and most have stumbled across it by accident or heard about it by word of mouth (for example, through NaNo). I’ve got a couple of options that I can pursue, so maybe I’ll try them out and see what happens.

Another thing I’m pondering is what to do in April. The library where I hold the group can’t let us have the room that month, so we’ll be homeless. I want to do something else instead. But what? Some kind of Writing Derby? Games? A party? I’d like to take the opportunity to do something a little different (no-one likes a stale writer) and there are so many options that I don’t know where to start!

I’m sure something will come to me. It usually does. If all else fails, I’ll just pick the brains of my writers.

Feeling good about the CWG in 2013; I think it’s going to be heaps of fun!

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The year that was… 2012

The beginning of a new year is not so different from any other day. It’s an arbitrary demarcation of a calendar that we give meaning to, rather like a lot of people did to the Mayan calendar (particularly, its end). It think it’s good to remind ourselves that calendars only hold the meaning we give them.

The turning of the year is a way to mark time and, hopefully, progress. It’s a chance to step back and take a look at where we were and where we are now. It’s a chance to try to gain some perspective. It’s when we look forward and think about where we want to be. It’s when we take the time to make plans, rather than the usual day-to-day we live.

So let’s start with the road travelled so far. 2012: a year of struggle for me.


Necessary toil: my day job as a technical writer pays the bills and lets me do my creative writing. Plus, I get to put my writing skills to good, professional use.

Over the past year, I coordinated the delivery of:

  • A major release, 2 and a half years in the making. I coordinated the entire documentation side of the project from start to end. Getting it released was a huge effort and I was glad to see if over and done with!
  • 2 minor releases, both roughly 4-month projects. There might have been another one in there. I lost track; they kept turning up on my plate without any warning.

With all that to juggle, there were a lot of changes. Over the year, I changed:

  • Positions twice. Once from team leader to team writer, and then back to team leader again (it’s a different role now and I’m managing developers and testers as well as writers, which is all new to me).
  • Teams thrice. Lots of reasons for this, most of them positive about me.
  • Desks more times than I can remember, but at least three times!

Other challenges included continuing to strive to overcome problem team members (despite no longer actually being in the same team as them) and adapting the documentation processes after a restructure as our department moved into Agile practices.

It has been stressful to say the least, and a lot of mental effort to stay on top of it all. But I did. I pulled off everything they handed to me. I made it to the end of the year without snapping and breaking down or getting myself fired. I’m still here, working away and keeping my head above water.

Financial Issues

At home, things have been tough, too. Like so many others here and around the world, our financial situation is not good. We’ve been fighting to make ends meet, and wound up moving house to reduce our costs. (It’s a good move and a lovely house, so I’m not disappointed by that, but wow it was a lot of work.)

A lot has been resting on me at home. I’m the primary breadwinner, which means those times when I’ve wanted to walk away from my job, even downgrade to something less stressful, I can’t afford to. So I’ve pushed through and done what I can to support my family while they get their own stuff sorted out.

It’s all coming along, as slowly as it always has. We’re in a more sustainable position now, which is good, and that should lift some of the pressure.


Between the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and other issues that are exacerbated by stress, I haven’t had the best of years. I’m running ragged most of the time. I’ve been sick more than usual.

I’d like to think that it hasn’t impacted my writing but I know it has. I’ve missed posting deadlines; more than once, I’ve put posts off for a week because I can’t make it. I despise that. I hate knowing that I’ve failed to keep my promises; my readers are wonderfully forgiving, but I’m not. I know that if I don’t push myself, it won’t get done at all. I don’t like letting myself or my readers down.

I don’t know if the quality of my writing has been impacted. I don’t have any real perspective right now, but I suspect that it has.

It’s just another one of those things that I’m pushing through. I’m carrying on despite it, because I refuse to let things like this stop me from doing what really matters to me. Which is:


Here’s the part that we’re all interested in: that wonderful activity that I fill up all my off-time with, the thing that gives me a break from everything else when I need it and keeps me going. The things that spurs my hopes and dreams, and spills my soul out onto pages.

Even with everything that has been going on (and still is!), even with all that clutter in my head, I have stories to tell. I have characters who want to speak. I have things to say. It has been harder than usual – writing with energy when you don’t have any is far from easy – but I’ve done my best to keep up.


My web serial is still going strong. I’m averaging a book a year and this year doesn’t seem to be any different (though this third book is looking like it’s going to stretch well into next year!).

I’m still loving it. Starry and her crew are so much fun to play with, even when I’m torturing them. I have a wonderful, supportive readership; checking the comments on the posts is a highlight of my week.

The visit rate has been holding fairly steady through the year, slowly creeping upwards. Currently, I’m getting over 3,000 unique visitors a month, and anywhere between 250 and 400 visitors every day. It’s easily beating the Apocalypse Blog‘s stats, which hit 200 visits on a good day if I was lucky (I think it averaged around 180 v/d).

Starwalker has made it to the top 10 of Top Web Fiction‘s lists, and has been hovering around the number 1 spot for science fiction for some months now. This makes me insanely happy and proud.

The actual writing part has been rocky. As mentioned above, I’ve had to delay posts a few times this year. Keeping it going has been a struggle at times; one that I hope hasn’t been visible to the reader, at least not in the writing itself.

I feel like Starwalker’s plot has slid sideways and meandered more than I’d like, but it’s still heading in the right direction. I still know where it’s going to end up and how it’s all going to end. I’m excited to get there, though it’ll be a little while yet. So many miles to go!

Overall, I’m really happy with where I am. The serial is over 300,000 words now and still going. All my plans are still working and I’m laying the foundations for what’s to come. It still makes me smile when I sit down to write it.


This is usually something I keep promising that I’ll do and then never get to. But this year, not so! I made a start on some Starwalker shorts, and three of them are complete.

Not as many as I had hoped for, but it’s a start. They prompted positive reactions and I can’t ask for more than that. I have lots of plans in this area, but that’s for another post.

Vampire Electric

Ah, the elusive steampunk novel. I started off this year writing it in tandem with Starwalker, but had to take a break around March to get my breath back. It took until November for me to pick it up again. I made good progress with it, though there’s another big chunk that needs to be written before the first draft is done.

I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to keep working on it, even if my attention in this area has been sporadic. Often, it takes me a while to get back into a project – it’s one of the reasons I try not to take ‘breaks’ – but not so with this one. It still speaks to me loudly enough that I can take a few months off and still go back to writing it without any problems.

It’s not finished yet but it’s getting closer.


The annual novel-writing craziness was a wild ride this year. I’ve written four blog posts about it, so I won’t go into details here. In brief: it was hard, I learned things, my people are awesome, and I’m completely nuts (but the Retreat was amazing).

Apocalypse Blog

This one is last because I haven’t done any actual writing in this area this year. However, there has been activity!

Early this year, books 2 and 3 of AB were released. Around the same time, Amazon realised that Book 0 was free elsewhere and price-matched it, which led to a huge up-kick in sales.

I am now getting monthly cheques from Amazon. They’re not huge, they’re not enough to pay the bills with, but they do mean that I’m a published, paid author. I still grin like a kid when I think about that. I feel like I’ve Made It, at least in the indie sphere.

The books are doing well! After some experimentation with pricing, I’m selling roughly 150 books per month. Book 0 (the free one) usually hovers in the middle of Amazon’s top 100 (in science fiction).

I’m also getting some pretty awesome reviews. People keep asking when the next (4th) book is coming out. There’s no more, not yet!

Readers like my work enough to want more. Couldn’t ask for more than that, really.

Writing Community

I wrote about this in reference to NaNo, but it’s worth saying how awesome the people around me have been this year. The group has been building for several years now, and over the past year or so, it has taken on a momentum of its own. I feel that the writers in this city have really gelled and become a wonderful, supportive community that I’m a big part of.

In fact, I’m often leading it, which is intimidating when I stop to think about it. As a NaNoWriMo ML, I naturally do a lot of the coordination, but it extends well outside November. Its monthly write-ins and weekly drinks run all year now, along with my regular writing group.

My Creative Writing Group is still going strong. It has been running for over four years now and I still have a good turnout every month. There are new faces joining and long-standing ones drifting away, but that’s the way of things. We have yet to run out of things to talk about and explore, and if I know my group (which I do pretty well now!), we won’t stop any time soon.

I’ve made many good friends through the various groups and events that I’m a part of. They’ve become dear parts of my life and I’m grateful for all of them. As years go, this one has been a winner in this respect.

Not to mention that I have an actual social life now. Who knew that would happen to me? Who could have predicted that it would come out of what is, essentially, a solitary activity?

Life is strange. And there’s so much more to come.

That has pretty much been my year. Productive, hard work, and progressive. I’m in a better place now than I was at the beginning of the year. I’m getting there, one slow step at a time.

I’m glad 2012 is almost over; I’m done with it. I’m looking forward to closing the book on this year and starting a new one. Next year will be better and brighter.

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Where I’ve been

2012 has been a rocky year for me so far. One of the most obvious signs of that is the lack of posts on this blog. I keep coming back here and lining up things I want to post about, but finding the time and brain-space to actually post has been out of my reach for much of the time.

I won’t go into detail why. I’ll just summarise and say that my day-job has been very stressful (more so than it ever had before). I don’t deal well with unreasonable expectations, untenable positions, or problems I’m unable to fix. I’m under a certain amount of pressure at home as well (most of it financial and none of it anyone’s fault – life just gets that way sometimes). Couple all of that with CFS (which is made worse by stress, of course), and, well. Let’s just say that it has been a strain to get anything productive done in my ‘spare’ time.

This blog is usually the first thing to fall off my radar when I get busy, as it’s the one I have least commitments to. So, to those of you who read this blog: my apologies, and thanks for your patience. It’s not that I love you least! I’d make more of a commitment to updating here if I thought I was capable of maintaining it!

Sadly, it has also been affecting my current web serial. I’ve missed posts, delayed things, mostly due to health reasons. I despise doing that. Part of what works for my web serial writing is keeping to a schedule, and missing that schedule means I’m letting myself (and my readership – more on that later) down. However, I have to be realistic and recognise that it’s not always possible to keep it up! And I’d rather not put up a shitty post just for the sake of posting.

All the same, I think the quality of the writing has probably suffered. At least a little. It makes me sad to know that (I take a great pride in my work, and I consider the web serial ‘work’, not play). It also makes me look forward to editing Starwalker! (Whenever that may be.)

However, it’s not all dire news. Firstly, I’d like to say that I have the most wonderful readers. They have been nothing but understanding and supportive, despite the amount of ‘sorry guys, there’s gonna be a delay on the next post’ messages I’ve had to put up so far this year. I’ve had so many wonderful comments, letting me know that it’s okay to take the time I need, and even emails offering more support and advice.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those messages. You guys are why I write. You make it all worth it!

I work to live and live to write. I push myself to write more and write better because I love it. I have so many ideas, so many things I want to do, so many stories I want to share with the world. Running around in my head right now:

  • Starwalker (in progress!).
  • Apocalypse Blog shorts (shelved but not forgotten).
  • Vampire Electric, the steampunk novel (along with a couple of non-vampire sequels).
  • Screw Loose, the robot brothel (the next web serial? Maybe!).
  • Starwalker spin-offs (I have a few in mind, including the villain shorts, the story of the Carapace, and something centred on the consciousness of stars).

I can’t wait to get to them all. I can’t wait to share them with everyone. I can only focus on one thing at a time right now (between working full-time and fatigue), but I hope to get to them all eventually.

And then there’s all the other writing stuff I’m involved in. I’m still running my Creative Writing Group every month, and the Monthly Write-ins are where I get a pile of writing done! Planning for NaNoWriMo 2012 started a couple of months ago and is already galloping ahead.

On top of all that, the ebook sales for the Apocalypse Blog are going amazingly well. (I’m hoping to do a post specifically about that; fingers crossed I’ll get to it soon!) I got my first cheque for ebook sales in this week! I can now say that I’m a professional, (self-)published author.

So, yeah, it’s been a hell of a year so far. But I’m just finishing a week’s holiday from work and I’m feeling better. I’ve caught up on a few things (this blog being one of them!). The work of dealing with the stressful parts of my life continues, and they’re being weeded out steadily.

Writing posts like this is usually an interesting exercise for me. I know I’m ambitious with everything I try to do. I know I push myself hard (mostly because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get anything done; it’s too easy to let CFS be the excuse that stops you from doing or being what you want).

Today, I look at everything here and I think: I’m actually pretty awesome. I’m holding it together and I’m getting there. I’ll come out of the other side of this rocky patch better than before.

Most of all, I’m grateful. For the friends who listen to me whine, who hug me and make me laugh. For the family who love and protect me. For the budding MLs who are helping me with the NaNo stuff this year, and my previous co-MLs. For the readers who enjoy my work, both those who let me know and those who visit silently. For those who spend their money on my work, both through donations and buying ebooks, and help me know that they believe my stories are worth paying for.

You all know who you are. I love you and thank you. I’m lucky to have you in my life.

Time to press onwards. Hopefully you’ll hear from me soon! Be well, everyone, and I’ll try to do the same.

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Writing, talking, absorbing

The writing events are coming thick and fast lately! And it’s only going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective) for me as November gets bigger in the windscreen.

The weekend was packed full of writing events, rather like last month’s weekend of writing and awesomeness but with less birthday celebrations. Once again, the Creative Writing Group meeting coordinated with other events. This time, however, there were a lot more than two festivals competing for attention!

I managed to get to two of the festivals on offer. These were the Emerging Writers’ Festival – specifically, the Digital Writers’ Conference that was held as part of the EWF – and the Write Around Moreton Bay: Readers and Writers Festival. Big thanks to the lovely Elle, who gifted her Digital Writers’ Conference ticket to me.

Both days were jam-packed, fun, and informative. I had a great time, met interesting people, and caught up with some familiar faces. I also got to hang out with a good friend, so it was all good!

Today, I’ve got pages of notes that I have to write up into coherent blog posts, a Starwalker post to finish (as I was sick last week and didn’t manage to get it up), and some formatting of ebooks to do. Looks like taking the day off work to rest hasn’t led to a lot of resting! But I’m feeling well enough to get started, so might as well get to it. Onwards!

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Kylie Chan and being published

As I mentioned recently, Kylie Chan came to talk to my writing group this month. I’ve been lax in updating here when this stuff happens, but I’m trying to get better at posting this kind of thing!

First, it might be useful to have a little bit about Kylie Chan. She’s a bestselling author in the Australian fantasy market, with four books published in her Dark Heavens series so far and the fifth one out later this year. She’s published with Harper Collins’ Voyager imprint, who are dragging their feet about publishing her overseas (in the US and UK markets), but she hopes to be released in at least one of those markets by early next year.

She writes modern fantasy (or contemporary fantasy, if you prefer) based in Chinese mythology and set in Hong Kong. It’s interesting stuff – I’ll review the first book of the series if I get the chance.

The meeting was a relaxed affair – we asked her questions and she chatted to us in a very open, honest way. I love it when guests feel comfortable enough to do that, as I generally try to foster a relaxed atmosphere in the group. We wound up running way over time, partly because traffic delayed people getting there and because it was really hard to stop talking! (Eventually, we got hungry enough to break for dinner, and that was it.)

We got lots of interesting and useful information out of the talk. We talked about the different ways to approach writing – ‘planners vs pantsers’, and the middle ground. Personally, I tend towards a ‘stepping stone’ approach, but the group is made up of a variety of planners and discovery writers. Everyone has their own way! It was nice to have a writer encourage us to write however it was best for us.

Kylie also talked about what it’s like to be edited, and was very frank about her experiences with getting and being published, which is better than hedging and trying not to put people off. (To be clear: this is talking about the traditional paper publishing industry, not self- or e-publishing.)

Let’s face it: getting published is hard. And once you’ve crested that hurdle, being published is not all it’s cracked up to be (unless you’re a rare shiny thing like JK Rowling or, heaven forfend, Stephanie Meyer). Startling worldwide success aside, when someone tells you ‘don’t give up your day job’, they are not necessarily insulting your talent; they might just be aware of how hard it is for a writer to earn a living from traditional publication.

Royalties are small and are only paid after they have covered your advance. From what I understand, it’s not uncommon for a book not to earn back its advance, and royalties tend to return little to the author.

There are ways to maximise what you earn from your work. Being published in as many territories as possible is one way, though you won’t get the same percentage from foreign market sales as you do from the book’s home market (which is, I believe, the first market it is published in, not necessarily where the author is). There are other ways, but this topic is what a lot of the talk revolved around.

For an unpublished author, negotiating that first contract can be a losing battle; you don’t have any cards to play, being an unproven risk for the publisher, and you usually don’t know what pitfalls to look for. You’re asked to sign away a lot of your publishing rights. On the plus side, you’re being published and on your way to being a known, successful writer. Future contracts will be easier to negotiate.

For writers in Australia, it’s tricky because while the Australian market is good, it’s not that big, especially when compared to countries like the UK and US. If your Australian publisher has the international rights to your book and chooses not to publish you overseas, then you can’t take advantage of those markets. That’s a lot of revenue to miss out on.

So what can we do about this? The most direct way is to go through an American or UK agent/publisher (there is no reason why you can’t do this) and be published in one of those countries first. It’s quite common for authors to do this, particularly genre or niche writers – I know a British horror writer who got published in the US, because it was so difficult to get horror published in the UK.

Another hurdle for Aussie writers selling overseas is writing about Aussie things. Kylie’s series involves an Australian main character, which is seen as a barrier to publishing in other markets (particularly the US). On the plus side, her books are set in Hong Kong and you don’t have to be Australian to read them (the Australian flavour to the book is subtle and unobtrusive, in my opinion), so hopefully this won’t be a big problem for her. I just hope the publishers agree and take the chance to find out!

Kylie also recommended a couple of books that helped her to prepare her books for publication. They were:

  • Self Editing for Fiction Writers – Browne & King
  • The First Five Pages – Noah Lukeman

I think I’ve babbled on enough. That doesn’t cover everything we talked about, but no-one wants a blow-by-blow. Right?

Hope you all find it helpful. I know I did!

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Stumbling in

Last night’s writing group was great fun. Thanks to footie and traffic, everything ran a bit late and we didn’t get a huge turnout. There was enough of us for a good discussion, though, and it was wonderful to have Kylie Chan’s advice and insight into being published. I’ll aim to post more about that soon.

I wound up getting home so late that I didn’t have time to sort out my Starwalker post. It’s all written and edited! I just need to get it uploaded and formatted, and post it. The formatting takes attention and time, and I’ll sort that out as soon as I get home tonight. Sorry everyone – it’s on its way, I promise!

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