Novelling posts

2013: plans and dreams

I’ve done the retrospective for 2012; now it’s time to look to the future. Now is the time for possibilities and ambition.

I usually like to aim high at a time like this. I know I probably won’t do everything I put on this list, but if it’s not here I’ll never do it. I’ll most likely get to most of it and that’s all good.

Let’s get the boring, necessary stuff out of the way first.


This is settling down for me at the moment. I’m hoping to stay with my current team for a stretch and make a bit of a home for myself, and the management have assured me that this is likely (as far as their current plans say, but, well, you never know with these things). Some stability would be nice.

The stress is a lot less than it was and I’ll be aiming to keep it that way.

Financial Issues

Now that our house move is complete and we’ve reduced some of our overheads, I’m hoping that this will plateau as well. We’ve got a bit of work to do on this front but, with luck, our situation should be sustainable for the next few months at least.

I’m working to worry less about this stuff.


The CFS isn’t going away anytime soon, and as long as it doesn’t get any worse, it’s manageable. I’m used to dealing with it (I was diagnosed over 7 years ago), so not a big worry there.

I’ve got some testing coming up in a couple of months to investigate some other issues I’m having. I’m nervous about the tests (mostly because they’ll put me out and anaesthetic doesn’t get along well with me), but I’m glad at the possibility for answers and, hopefully, treatment. I won’t say ‘cure’ because I don’t believe in unicorns and there’s no way I’m that lucky. Progress is good, though, and it’s moving in the right direction.


Ah-ha, here’s the important part! Here’s the section of my life where I get to have fun, where I aim for the stars and am quite happy with landing on the moon. So, what’s on my list for 2013?

Starwalker: Web Serialising

First up, I will finish Starwalker. I keep saying that there’s still a lot to come, and while I don’t want to put a date on its conclusion, it will definitely finish this year, probably in the first quarter.

When I say ‘finish’, I mean that I’ll get to the end of Book 3, which is the end of the original story arc I planned when I set out on this journey. Will that mean the end of the web serial completely?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t believe in stringing stories out for the sake of it (which is why I haven’t gone back to the Apocalypse Blog in so long: I haven’t felt like I’ve got more story to tell there). However, I’m pretty sure my readers will have something to say if I kill it completely and I’ve come to love my readers a lot.

I do have a follow-up story in mind. There has been a notecard with the name of the story-arc on it pinned to my planning pinboard for a couple of years now. I don’t think it’ll be a full novel-length story – it’s a novella at best at this stage – but maybe it’ll make a good interim story for me to tell while I ponder the future of the Starwalker and her crew.

Starwalker: Ebooks

This is something I’ve had my eye on for a while now. I’d really love to package the Starwalker saga up into ebooks and release it.

However, that’s not a quick process. Firstly, they have to be edited. I already know of some rewriting I want to do (nothing major, but it’s work that needs to be done), and I’m sure there will be more honing and polishing that I’ll do as I go through. This all takes time, and how much I continue the web serial will impact on how quickly this happens.

Next up, I need covers. That will probably cost money, which I’ll talk about later. I have some base graphics already but I want something really slick and professional for the book covers. Which means no home jobs by me (I freely admit that I suck at graphics).

The formatting and releasing parts are easy once all the above is done. I’d like to get at least one book out this year.

Starwalker: Shorts

I made a start on this in 2012 and I mean to continue it. I have stories planned for almost all of the crew (the shorts are character-focussed stories) and I’d like to get through all of them eventually.

It’s hard to have a fixed goal with this, because so much depends on other commitments. Shall we say one a month? That’s probably a bit ambitious; one every two months is more realistic.

My end goal with this is to compile them into an ebook – a Starwalker ‘get to know the crew’ anthology – and release it. Possibly for free. (Having a freebie available really helps draw people into paying for the series: this is what the Apocalypse Blog ebooks have taught me!)

Alternatively, I could release them individually, but that depends on being able to get the covers for them. On the plus side, I would be able to release them sooner if I didn’t have to wait for the anthology to be complete. Also, individual character covers would be awesome.

Vampire Electric

My goal for this year is somewhat simpler here: finish the first draft. I already have a pile of notes for the second draft, including a bit of a restructure, but I really need to get the first run-through finished. I’d love to find out how this story will end! (Yes, yes, I have something in mind, but as always with me, it’s a general, blurry picture that I won’t truly figure out until I get there.)

Tales from the Screw Loose

This is, potentially, the next web serial on my list to pick up. It’s set in the Starwalker universe and is the first spin-off that I have in mind to tackle (I have a whole list of spin-off ideas for the Starwalker universe!). You may have heard me refer to it as the ‘robot brothel story’: Tales from the Screw Loose is its proper name.

I’m not sure if I’ll get to this over the next year. A lot depends on whether or not I keep Starwalker going (as a web serial), because I have a strict rule of one web serial active at a time. I know my own limits well enough to know that both stories would suffer if I tried to keep two going in tandem.

Regardless, I still have some work to do before I can get started on this story. I have made a start on the worldbuilding (it’s set on one of the colony planets) but I need to work out the cast and some of the plot elements before I start putting fingers to keyboard.

I also need to sort out the website and I’m pondering some custom graphics/design for it. This may cost money, so is dependent on a number of factors. On the plus side, I’ve already got the domain: (yes, it’s a bit early, but I’m determined like that and I didn’t want to lose the domain while I sorted the rest of it out).

For this year, I think I’d like to have the prep all done and the story ready to go. Actual words on the page will be a bonus!

Apocalypse Blog

The ebooks are going pretty well. I’d like to capitalise on some of the good reviews and see about marketing it, but I’m pretty bad at self-promotion, so I won’t make any firm plans about this.

I would like to do paper book editions of it, however. Most likely through Amazon’s CreateSpace, which will link nicely up to the ebooks on Amazon (and it seems like a better and cheaper system than Lulu).

I’ve had a look at the work required to do this and it’s not as easy as the ebooks were. It’ll take some time to get the formatting done for printing, and I’ll also need to get the covers redone.

I’d also like to get the books re-edited, and will most likely refresh the ebook editions when I do that.

I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing an omnibus edition, at least of the ebooks, so I’ll look into this, too.

There have been many calls for another (fourth) book in the series, and a part of me really wants to satisfy this desire. However, I’m not sure what that fourth book would entail. I’m letting it rest in the back of my brain for now; if inspiration strikes, I’ll be sure to let you all know. Never say never!


Ah, my annual nuttiness. I don’t have a huge amount planned yet, but we’re all pretty sure that there will be another Writer’s Retreat. This time, up a mountain! I’ll be heading on a roadtrip soon with my lovely co-MLs (I might have two this time!) to check out the options. I’m sure that it won’t be long before that ball is off and rolling.

The rest of the NaNo stuff will be worked out over the months leading up to November. No other firm plans yet, but there will no doubt be plenty of write-ins at our favourite Coffee Club, drinkies, and possibly a write-out or two.


This is an option that I’ve been looking at lately. I know other writers have had success with platforms like Kickstarter and have raised money to allow them to develop a new story, pay for covers and printing costs, and that sort of thing.

As mentioned above, some of what I want to do requires paying for services. I’ve had donations through the links on my websites and I am endlessly grateful to the donors for their generosity: they helped to pay for the Starwalker graphics I had done in 2012. But what I have in mind is going to take rather more.

Due to being based outside the US and UK, I can’t run a Kickstarter campaign. However, there are other options available: most notably, Pozible and iPledg look promising, but I haven’t gone through all the crowdfunding platforms available to me yet.

A campaign seems like a lot of work but I think I want to give it a go. I am terrible at asking for money (see previous comments about self-promotion), but I have always been astounded by the generosity and support of the online community. I approve of the notion of the rewards you can offer to supporters, too. And at the end of the day, what’s the worst that could happen?

It’s good to know that I have this option when I’m looking at commissioning covers for Starwalker, or a website for Screw Loose. All those things that require money for me to achieve could actually be possible!

Now all I need to figure out is what to ask for and what I can realistically offer as rewards. And then the time to do it all.

Other Stuff?

Wow, I’m not sure. What else might 2013 hold for me? No doubt I’m forgetting about something. These are the things that are buzzing around in my head right now. This is what I’m taking with me into 2013.

Now excuse me, I think I’m going to go away and write something.

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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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Still alive!

I can’t believe that it has been so long since I updated this blog. I’m so sorry! It has been months, and whenever I think of it in those terms, my brain says, “Months? Nah, it can’t be… oh, it is. Damn.”

Every time I have thought about writing something for this blog lately, I’ve had the desire and intention to write a post but the time has just slipped away from me. Even now, I’m writing this on the train on the way home, taking a break from writing actual fiction.

So, what have I been up to? It has been a packed, crazy few months. Let’s see if I can summarise my recent journeys in fiction and writing, and catch up to now.

November was NaNoWriMo, as it always is for me. Not just because of the challenge itself, but also because I’m a Municipal Liaison for this region. That means: prowling the forum with encouragement and aid for my faithful, madly-typing wrimos; organising and running events all over the city; putting together prizes and competitions; working full time at my day job; and, oh, writing a novel.

NaNo 2011 was a weird one. Usually, our numbers swell progressively from year to year, as word of the madness spreads and more lemmings leap off the novelling cliff into the wordcrafting updrafts. 2011, though, saw our event attendance drop, which worried my co-ML and me at first. We did everything we could think of to spread the word and it did pick up through the month (usually, it drops off!). Overall, we were really happy with how it went. We met a pile of new friends and had a blast, and we’ve got stacks of ideas to make NaNo 2012 bigger and better yet.

I managed to slide over the 50,000-word line without much problem, too! Despite everything that was going on, the writing came easily and quickly for me. I can’t say how much of a relief that was!

I used half of the NaNo wordcount target to finish off the second book of Starwalker, which has just finished posting (phew!). It was great to get ahead of the curve for a change!

Once that was drafted, I moved on to a project that has been tickling in the back of my brain for a while now. It’s a novel (rather than a serial), it’s steampunk, there are kinda-sorta vampires (I struggle to take ‘straight’ vampires seriously), and the central protagonist is a librarian. It’s possibly the first in a trilogy, as it links in with another story that I’ve been toying with for ages, though I’m still working out how they play together in the sandpit. I’m having lots of fun with it, though.

The end of NaNo was a relief: I was glad to put it to bed, but sad too. It’s a wild ride and I’m always more than ready for a rest when it’s done! A lot of December was spent recovering, as well as catching up on my day job, madly preparing for the more mundane events (like Christmas), and attempting to keep up a little momentum on my writing.

The two projects I worked on through NaNo have kept me busy since November ended. When I haven’t been editing and polishing Starwalker for posting, I’ve been writing the steampunk. The latter is up to 70,000 words and still going strong; there’s quite a long way to go there yet. I’m hoping I’m over the halfway point, but I don’t like to restrict myself; we’ll see where it goes.

Now that Book 2 of Starwalker has finished (more on that in another post soon!), I’ve decided to take a bit of a break before delving into Book 3. There is a third project that I’ve been struggling to get to, so I’ve decided to dedicate February to making a dent in it: editing the Apocalypse Blog for ebook release.

I’m up to the second book (of the main trilogy; that is, not counting the prequel). It’s over 100,000 words now and it’ll be even bigger by the time I’m finished. I’m hoping to get through all of Book 2 in the next month, so both of my other projects are on hiatus until 29th February.

It’s a bit of a gamble. The most dangerous thing for my writing is for me to take a break, because I find it so difficult to pick up a project mid-way through after I’ve put it down. That’s one reason why web serials work so well for me: they have additional pressure for me to keep the momentum up; and having people reading and waiting for the end pushes me to get there. So, Starwalker readers, don’t fear: I’ll pick that story up again. Getting back into the steampunk will be harder, though.

It will be worth it. I really want to get more of the Apocalypse Blog out (I’ve been getting emails asking me when more of it is going to be released in ebooks!). I want to get all three books edited and polished, and maybe look at doing a set of short stories related to it (I have plans for that somewhere). The short stories will depend on my other commitments once the ebooks are out of the way, though.

I’m certainly not short on plans. There’s so much I want to do! Starwalker and related spin-offs (I’m not going to say now just how many kernels of ideas there are already growing in the Starwalker universe). AB ebooks and spin-offs. The steampunk series.

Well, fingers crossed, I’ll get to it all before too long. Life, health, and work permitting!

I’m still battling with my health on a daily basis. Stress at the day job coupled with a general decline of my energy levels makes summoning up the creative juices so much harder these days (that’s why I am finally writing this blog post, because I’m not quite feeling up to thinking about story this afternoon).

We’ve got a big deadline at work coming up in April, and I think things are going to be rocky for me until that passes. Such is the fun of being a team leader. I’m hoping that things will improve after then, but I’m becoming more and more sure that I’d really like more of my mental energy focussed on my creative writing. It’s where my heart lives, and I have so little energy to go around these days. Those who know me know that I have a habit of picking up responsibilities, though, and I don’t know how easy letting go will be. I guess we’ll see about that.

In the meantime, I hope to not let it hold me back. I’ve had CFS for years now and I’m not putting my life on hold in the hopes it’ll get better soon. Push through and carry on, as always.

I have an ambitious year ahead of me: AB ebook releases; Book 3 of Starwalker; submitting the steampunk for publication; more NaNo organisation. It’s entirely possible that I’ll be arranging a writer’s retreat weekend for this November, too. It’ll be hard work but so worth it!

I’m still here; I’m still writing. It’s hard going right now but I’ll get there. Here’s to aiming high!

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Retrospective: 2010

2010 has been a strange year. Wonderful and frustating, with progress both backwards and forwards. I haven’t done many things that I had hoped and planned to do, but it hasn’t all been disappointment.

Achieved this year:

  • Got Starwalker up and running, and completed Book 1. When I started it, I had no idea how much actual story I had to play with. I had 12 ‘chapters’ planned out and had only got through 6 when the 100,000-word mark arrived. The arc worked out nicely, so that became Book 1. Book 2 looks like it’ll only take up the next 2 planned ‘chapters’ (!!!), so it seems that I’ve got lots of material to play with for that particular story. Which means: yes, there will be a Book 3.
  • Started some Starwalker shorts. Got some good ideas lined up here and the groundwork done. Some previews are available – now all I need to do is go back and finish them all off. Ahem.
  • NaNoWriMo – got my 50,000 words done, and did some bewildering ML-stuff at the same time. My co-ML and I had some ambitious plans, added a few things in on the fly, and had a fantastic time. It was bigger and better than 2009, and it all went swimmingly. I was left feeling awesome, and completely drained.
  • Creative Writing Group is still going strong. We had a hiccup in the middle of the year when our venue decided it couldn’t host us any more, but now we have a new home and it’s all looking good.

Things I didn’t manage:

  • Posting Starwalker three times a week. I dropped it to one post a week to give myself a bit of a breather, and haven’t managed to get back up to three posts a week. Even with a pile of NaNo material to use, editing and sorting out the posts in time to get them up three times a week just hasn’t happened.
  • Apocalypse Blog shorts. I promised to do them. I have half of one written, but just haven’t got back to it in months. I am disappointed by this, and I do hope to get back to it at some point. To everyone who has been waiting for them: I’m sorry. It is still on my list. Really sorry. 🙁
  • AB e-books. I am most of the way through editing the first ‘book’ of AB, but various other commitments have got in the way. I will have to attack this again soon.
  • Merchandise. My potential avenue for this is struggling to get off the ground, and it hasn’t happened. Delayed but not forgotten or given up on.
  • Getting business cards and doing more self-marketing. I had hoped to put myself out there a bit more, get some AB/SW t-shirts and go to cons to spread the word some more. Hand out business cards and bookmarks. Still struggling to sort out the graphics/design for these, though. It is still on my list of things to do.
  • WorldCon. Work interfered and I had to be here for a major deadline, so I couldn’t go down to the event in Melbourne. Poot.
  • Novel edit/submit. Haven’t even picked it up. Part of this has been the weight of webfic stuff I’ve been doing, but it also needs something more. I’m not sure what that ‘something’ is yet, but it is percolating in the back of my brain. Once I find that elusive missing piece, I will go back to it, but it’s not something that can be rushed.
  • Other random blogfic. Yeah, didn’t get to this either. Starwalker has sucked up a lot of my creative time this year, and the angel-based blogfic has a lot of prelim work needed before it can start. With my energy levels as they are at the moment, this one won’t get going until SW is well and truly finished!
  • More writing tips posts. I haven’t been posting on this blog anywhere near enough, and with nothing like the amount of ‘tips’ posts that I had hoped to do.

Without trying to make excuses, I will offer some explanations. I think the main one has been my health – I simply haven’t been as well this year as I was in 2009. The CFS is becoming more of a problem, and while I’m seeking specialist help, I still haven’t found the meds that will help kick it back out of my way.

It’s like trying to think through treacle, only not as sweet. Exhaustion is a weight on creative thinking, and I’ve had to push hard to get through some weeks and create something entertaining, for me and my readers. I don’t like that the CFS gets in my way, but I also can’t deny it or pretend it isn’t there, as much as I’d like to. Sadly, this isn’t something I can do a lot about – no more than I’m doing already, anyway. Just keep slogging on, I guess.

The other major factor this year is my work. Since my promotion in late 2009, I’ve had to take on the management of a small team with very little preparation or training, and carry it through a number of changes. Everything has changed, from our deadlines, to our format, to our management, to the structure of the entire R&D department, to the company we work for (we got bought out last month). Between picking up all the things that we’ve done previously and making it work with all the new stuff coming at us… it has been stressful. And busy. And crazy. And yes, very distracting.

I’ve had good stuff come up too. I managed to pull together some threads of various plots and characters I’ve been tossing around for a while. I have plans for the Starwalker universe that will take it beyond the story of the ship. There’s the possibility of a whole offshoot into another facet of that world, and that’s exciting. One particular character that I’ve been playing around with for about 10 years now has morphed in just the right way to fit in. And there’s a plotline that almost got started back in 2008 in a different project that I think I can make work in Starry’s world, too. Plus, of course, there’s the villain shorts that I’ll be working on in the new year, too.

I should probably come up with a name for the universe, to tie all these pieces together. Hmm.

Another couple of ideas have also recently come together, marrying up another long-standing character idea with a previously-separate world concept, with some aspects inspired by other fiction that I’ll mash in for good measure. That one has some background work to go yet, but I managed to get some outline notes down during NaNo (when I was burned out on Starwalker and needed to bulk out my wordcount), and I know I’ve got enough plot for three full story-arcs.

In short: I’m not going to run out of things to write anytime soon.

I’ll post more about my immediate plans in my ‘what I want to do in 2011’ post, which I’m sure will turn up sometime in the next few days. In the meantime… 2010? You were hard work. You weren’t all that I hoped you’d be, but I had high hopes to start with. I achieved some of what I set out to do, and I’m not disappointed with what I ended up with.

Here’s hoping that I can climb a little higher next year.

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Monthly write-ins

I had so much great feedback on the NaNoWriMo write-ins this year, and so many people sad to see them stop, that I let myself get talked into running a write-in every month next year.

Clearly, I don’t have enough to do in my life already. 😉 But I’m looking forward to it, and it’s getting lots of interest even though it doesn’t start until January. And hey, maybe I’ll get more of my own writing done!

Things are looking good. I have the Nightowls set to help me edit the first book of Starwalker next year (and I’ll be giving them feedback on their novels, too), and I’m sorting through the stuff I wrote for NaNo this year. Book 2 is fun! Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get up to date soon.

Anyway, back to the grindstone. Looking forward to next year, stuffed full of writery fun!

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Writing like crazy: this year’s NaNoWriMo

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of November and I haven’t talked about NaNoWriMo yet! I need to get better at updating this blog. Bad me, no biscuit.

This is my fourth year taking part in NaNoWriMo. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a mad challenge to write 50,000 words in November. It’s the best fun, completely exhausting, and wonderful for ploughing through that project you’ve been putting off all year.

Of course, I crank the pressure up to a hundred by acting as an ML (Municipal Liaison) and organising all the local events and get-togethers. Yes, on top of working full-time, writing 50,000 words, and dealing with my CFS. Yes, I’m nuts.

This year, the turnout has been astounding. Over 950 people in my region for me to look after, and event attendance is up to double what it was last year. It’s all a bit bewildering at times, but we’re making it all work and having a great time doing it. I’ve met so many new people that my ability to retain names is completely retarded, and I caught up with lots of familiar faces from previous NaNos.

My co-ML and I have been ambitious this year, organising prizes and competitions and all kinds of extra stuff for the writers in our region. We’ve had several write-ins every week, all over the city and surrounding areas, and big BBQs to organise.

We even had one write-in on the local trains, travelling around the city, collecting writers as we went and writing like mad. It was hilarious and everyone enjoyed themselves, and I actually got quite a bit written. Definitely one we’ll try again, and I have another idea for a similar roving write-in for next year.

The past few weeks have been a blur of organising, travelling, working, and running events, but it’s all gone great so far! What’s terrifying it that I think we might try to top it next year. At which point I suspect my head might explode.

On the actual writing side, things have been more mixed for me. Due to the crazy schedule I’ve been keeping, I’ve wound up having blitz writing days, and then gaps when I was catching my breath or too tired to form sentences.

I had a pretty clear idea about what I wanted to do this year. The timing actually worked out pretty well for me – I finished the first book of Starwalker early in October, and took a break in the lead-up to the NaNo madness, and then ploughed into Book 2 on 1st November.

But when I got into the meat of the first section of Book 2 (nominally named ‘Slave’), I realised that I hadn’t planned it out anywhere as much as I would have liked. Normally this isn’t a problem – I work a lot of stuff out as I go and see where it all takes me. But with the momentum of NaNo behind me, driving me to up that wordcount, I didn’t have time to stop and ponder. And because the bulk of my writing (in fact, all of it so far) has been done away from an internet connection, I couldn’t stop and research the little details like what star system they are visiting next.

It isn’t going to plan. Just like Book 1, Book 2 has six sections or chapters planned out. I’m almost to 50,ooo words and I haven’t finished the Slave section yet. I had to stop a week or so ago and go back, adding in notes about things I wanted to put in or change. Book 1 was just over 100,000 words.

Yet again, it looks like the story is not taking the shape I thought it would. And, actually, that’s fine. When I realised where it was all going, I took a pause to think about it, and I think it’s all just fine. ‘Slave’ looks like it will end up being the majority of Book 2, along with the section that is due to follow it. Which leaves the remaining four planned sections for Book 3.

Holy crap, there’s going to be a Book 3.

With that decided, I now have lots of scope to go back and fill things out. I will probably end up breaking down ‘Slave’ into several smaller parts, but that’s something I’ll worry about later. Right now, I’m excited to hit the NaNo target, so that I can go back and edit the guts out of what I’ve got. And by ‘edit’, I mean ‘rewrite and expand’. And fill in the details that I had left, like the names of new characters and that star system that I still have to look up.

And, just to be annoying, I heard of a magazine that wants horror scifi stories. Which got my overactive imagination going, and so I’ve been working on that when I get too braindead on the main Starwalker run. The story I’m working on is set in the Starwalker universe and connected to the events in Book 2. Never done horror before, so this is a new endeavour for me.

In all, I am doing okay, and looking forward to December. I have the last two days of November off work, and can’t wait to sleep, recuperate, and come back at it all fresh.

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Video: novelling talk

I think I have managed to make this work! Here’s the video of my novelling talk, all 45mins of it. I believe the sound is crappy, but make of it what you will. 

If you want to see the presentation I was using, you can download it here (warning: in Office 2007 format).

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Novelling talk

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will know, I gave a talk on novelling at my work recently. The kind lady who organised it emailed me a few days before to ask ‘do I mind if she videos the talk’? Caught flat-footed, I couldn’t think of a good reason to say ‘HELL NO’ like I wanted to, and now there is proof.

The talk went well! I had well over 30 people come along, and lots of questions. It was more fun than I was expecting, but about as terrifying as I thought it would be. Especially when the head of my entire department came along to sit in. They’re all good people, so I was fine once I got into it. Public speaking is not exactly my forte.

The video is huge – 200MB – and 45 minutes long. YouTube apparently doesn’t like anything over 10 minutes and flickr doesn’t like anything over 8MB. I am looking into self-hosting the thing, and will link to it on here as soon as it is ready. Apparently the sound isn’t so good, but I’ll let you make of it what you will.

Will post again when the video is all uploaded and good to go, hopefully with happy embedding/links.

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Change of plan

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. Things have not been going well for me, and if I’m honest, I’m struggling.

There are a lot of reasons for it. Work is stressful and I’m constantly fighting to keep all the balls in the air there. I’m managing more people, more projects, and tighter deadlines than we’ve had before. I’m still learning what the hell I’m supposed to be doing half the time, and every time I turn around, the goalposts have shifted six inches to the left. We’re doing all right, we’re still on-track, but that’s only because I’m busting my ass trying to make sure that’s where we are. I like clear goals. I like to know what I’m aiming for. I do not like playing catchup, especially not when it’s someone else’s fault.

There are also family-related factors at play that I don’t particularly want to get into. Let’s just say that it’s another source of concern, but not one I can do anything about (which is probably worse) except be there for them. It’s frustrating.

And then, once I’ve dealt with all of that, there’s my writing. I’m falling behind with everything. Organising my writing groups is simple – a couple of emails a month each (I have two groups), turn up and pretend to be competent, and enjoy the company and conversation. Easy, right? At the moment, it’s one more thing that I have to worry about, and the other week I started to seriously consider stopping them. Or at least one of them. But then I go to a meeting and I love it. It’s so worth it. It’s the bits in between, sending out the emails and having it niggling at the back of my head, all ‘don’t forget about this!’ Those are the parts that wear on me.

Starwalker is going really well. I keep meaning to post updates on this blog, but it’s yet another thing that I just don’t get to these days. Last month, SW had over 1,000 visitors. As in, different people, all coming to the site to read it. One thousand. And the feedback I get is amazing. People are talking about it. They’re getting excited about the storylines, and attached to the characters. I feel so lucky when I see that! I look at the stats and the comments and I’m all: “Wow. People like my stuff.” It’s a lot to get my head around!

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m going to all these new places with it, juggling and adjusting things as I go to make sure it hangs together, trying to get the physics right enough to be convincing. So far, it’s all working great! I have all of these plans for it, so many avenues still to travel down. It’s exciting, but it’s hard.

I think the difficult parts aren’t entirely down to SW itself. It’s everything else that gets in the way. It’s shifting mental gears whenever I sit down to write, trying to put all the job-related and other stuff aside for long enough to focus. It’s sitting down on the train for twenty minutes at a time and trying to get part of a post down. It’s giving up three evenings a week to pull a post together, edit it into something coherent, and get it posted. And more than anything else, it’s the exhaustion.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – it is the bane of my life, once again. All of that stuff I’m juggling makes me stressed, and stress makes the CFS worse, and then I get exhausted and that makes it more difficult to deal with the stressful stuff. Fun, huh? It has been bad (and getting worse) for the last couple of months. I keep trying to take some time off, take a break, catch my breath, and that works in tiny portions. Unless it puts me behind with everything (which it usually does), in which case I have to bust my ass to catch up again, and I wind up exactly where I started – exhausted and struggling to keep up.

Last year, I set my sights high. I didn’t do everything I aimed to do, but I did most of it and I came out of it all feeling really good about how it went. This year, I didn’t set myself targets that were anything near as ambitious, I’m not doing everything I aimed to, and I’m still failing. A week ago, I had that thought, the one that says ‘something has to give’. I’ve been here before, looking at myself in a downwards spiral, and unless I change things, I’m not going to get out of it until I hit bottom and have to stop doing everything. That was five years ago, and it was a lot worse than it is now before I realised how close and inevitable that bottom really was. Funnily enough, the key stress- and frustration-factor then was my job, too.

That, sadly, isn’t something I can change. It’ll get better eventually and now is not the time to change jobs. I am in a really good position; the best one I’ve ever been in, professionally. I’m doing well, despite all the crap I’m handling. And more than anything else, I need the stability of that place right now.

And, dammit, I don’t give up on shit easily. It’s probably part of what’s made me so sick – I should have done this a while ago – but having dealt with chronic conditions of one kind or other my whole life, I’m stubborn when it comes to this kind of thing getting in my way. There’s a part of me that suspects I should take a proper break from all the extra things in my life – the writing groups, the blogfic, the novel that’s waiting for me to edit it, the Apocalypse Blog stuff that I promised to do this year. But even as badly as I’m doing right now, I’m not ready to go quite that far. Like I said, I’m stubborn about this kind of thing.

But I have to change something. I need some way to get back on my feet. Right now, I feel like I’m failing at everything, even though it probably doesn’t look like I am. I’m told that it doesn’t show in SW yet – but it will. A post was due up yesterday and I haven’t even started it yet. I’m so exhausted that it’s difficult to think straight enough to write this, let alone slide my brain into Starry and try to step forward with her story.

I’m not going to do yesterday’s post. I’m not going to force it and have it come out half-assed. It’s time to be realistic and cut back. I thought three posts a week would be easy, but when the CFS is this bad, it’s too much. I’ve been tossing around the idea of dropping down to two posts, but I have to be honest with myself – that’s not enough. I’m not going to stop Starwalker – mostly because it will be incredibly difficult to start again if I do that – but I am going to bring it down to one post a week. Take a proper breather in it. Not permanently, but long enough for me to sort the rest of my life out. I’m not sure how long that will be yet.

I don’t know how this will affect the real-time aspect of Starwalker, but I’ll deal with it if and when it becomes a problem. I still love the story and its characters. I’m still excited about sharing it with everyone. Hell, the other day, I was pondering an old storyline I created a few years ago and realised that it would fit into the SW world perfectly. My original planned plot just got extended by another story arc. I am still committed to making this story work and won’t let this CFS screw it up completely.

So there you have it. I’m not giving up, not stopping. But I do need to step back for a while. I’ll aim to post on Wednesdays, I think, because by the end of the week I’m usually so tired I can hardly see straight. I still have to look at the other things in my life and see what I can do about them. I need to fix some non-writing-related factors as well, like the exercise I’m not doing and how often I can’t be bothered to cook. They’re next on my list.  I have some time booked off work coming up, too, and hopefully that will help me get on top of things a bit.

Wish me luck – I think I’m gonna need it – and watch this space!

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