How to make the best of a hiatus

You might expect this to be a how-to guide, given the title. Consider it more of a question that I’m currently pondering. I won’t promise that this will be a useful guide for everyone. It might not even be useful for me. Let’s see!

So, the reason for taking my current hiatus was equal parts:

  • Taking a break from Starwalker
  • Catching up on projects that I have been delaying for a while
  • Trying some new stuff
  • Moving things to a new server
  • Doing something with the first four Starwalker books
  • Planning the next phase of the Starwalker saga.

Like with battle, plans for how to spend my free time tend to fly to the wind as soon as you engage the enemy (with ‘the enemy’ being ‘life and reality’ in this case).

Currently, I am successfully taking a break from Starwalker. Tick!

Let’s see about the rest…

This. So much this.  (Picture: not mine)

This. So much this.
(Picture: not mine)

Catching up on delayed projects

I’m not sure if this blog counts as a ‘delayed project’ (it’s probably more of a ‘neglected outlet’ for me), but you’ve probably noticed that I’m posting more often again. My goal is to build up some momentum here, along with a nice, healthy backlog of stuff scheduled up, and to knock over some of the posts that I’ve been meaning to write for a while. I’ve got over a dozen draft posts here on the site, capturing thoughts that were relevant when I had them: it’s time to go through them, sort them out or throw them away. Expect more posts to come! For at least the next little while.

As for actual fiction-writing projects, the VVSG is going well, and looking good to keep going that way. I haven’t looked at any other existing projects yet. Boomflowers kinda snuck up on me, so that could count as a bit of ‘new stuff’, but is also something that has been percolating for a little while. Half-and-half, really.

The other projects that I am hoping to work on soon include the Apocalypse Blog. The ebooks need a fresh go-through, edit, and new covers applied. I’ve been talking about doing this for ages. It’s about time I just did it! Now that I’m in a good place with the new short-serials (VVSG and Boomflowers), I’m hoping to dedicate some time to this over the next couple of weeks.

I’d also like to get back into the Starwalker shorts. I have a whole list I’d like to do, and a couple of tickling ideas here and there. It would be nice to post something on the Starwalker site for the readers to enjoy while I’m taking this break from the main story! However, that’ll be once I’ve had a stretch of a break from that world. I want to knock over some of the big stuff before I delve back into that universe, and I’ve got to be careful of not starting too many things at once.

Trying new stuff

This is something I chase on a semi-regular basis. Most often, it applies to the events and things that I do locally, rather than with my writing itself (keep an eye out for some NaNoWriMo-related posts coming up soon, for this year’s fun in the works). Overall, I guess I’m pretty happy with my writing itself (though I always look to improve my skills): it’s the periphery that I tend to experiment with. For example, how I publish, or my editing work, or events.

What does this mean for the hiatus? Well, I guess the first new thing I’m trying is Inkspired, and seeing how that works as a serial outlet. I’m spamming them with feedback and suggestions, so I guess we’ll watch that space.

I’m also in the process of setting up an editing and ebooking service. I’ve got skills in those areas and a good friend who’s building it with me. I think we can make a good go at it, and are in a good position to do well with it.

Linked with that but not entirely under that banner is an anthology idea or two that I have. I’m putting together a project to create an anthology with some local writer friends, capitalising on some research I did a while ago with a publishing/editing contact of mine. I’m confident we can put together something pretty awesome. After a suggestion from a local writer, we’re going to make the first one with a view to raising money for our NaNo community writing events.

This is going to be a bit of work, but it’s not going to be just me working on it, and it’s something I really want to have a go at. Ideas abound, and I’m hoping to get the bulk of it off and running pretty soon, so I can make the most of my hiatus time (that is, so it doesn’t wind up sucking up too much time once I’ve restarted Starwalker!).

There’s also some movement in the serial writing circles about setting up an endeavour to expand and promote quality serial fiction. I’m involved in a few conversations there, and I’m really keen to see where that goes. I think I’ve got useful experience to lend to the cause there (mostly in editing, layout, ebooking, and so on). This could explode somewhat, which would both be exciting and potentially derailing.

I’m going to have to be careful what I commit to! For now, I’m enjoying all the opportunities that are spreading out before me, and generally trying not to get too distracted by all the shiny things.

The server move

I started the process of moving all my websites over to a new web host recently. This blog was one of the first things I moved, and is the only one that is also changing its domain name. For the rest, I have a whole slew of domains that need to be shifted (most of which are reserved for projects that I plan to serialise or otherwise put online someday), a couple of websites that I host for family, and lastly the rest of my websites with content.

I’m planning to use the hiatus to shift the Starwalker site over to the new host. There’ll be a short downtime while things get moved across, but it should be quieter on the activity front, so there’s less chance of losing data (comments, etc). It’ll be nice to move to a fresh WordPress install, because the Starwalker one has been a little broken ever since it got hacked. This has been something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time; it’s nice to have the opportunity to do it!

After Starwalker and the Apocalypse Blog sites are moved over (the last big websites to shift), I should be able to close down the old hosting account. Then dust off hands, all done there.

Starwalker so far

I have four whole books of Starwalker shenanigans. What to do with them!

This is something I’m planning to sit down and figure out. I would really like to get them published but I’m still tossing up what kind of publishing I should go for. I could self-publish ebooks again. I could try the traditional publishing world. I could run a Kickstarter and do an actual physical print run.

This particular story is positioned in a way that would make it a good candidate to sell to a traditional publisher. Hybrid authors tend to be the most successful: traditionally-published books bring in the exposure and breadth; self-published books bring in greater revenue. All the stats from the past few years tell us this. And I still have that lingering dream to see my books on bookstore shelves.

However. Starwalker is already sprawling into a fifth book. There are shorts and spin-offs planned. I’m a little bit leery of selling all of that to a publisher.

Pros and cons are yet to be fully weighed. We shall see!

In the meantime, I am aiming to get the first four books collated, edited, and cleaned up, ready to be published. That’s going to be a huge chunk of work on its own, and I may or may not get it done before the end of the hiatus. Let’s start with getting the first book done and go from there, shall we?

Starwalker Book 5

The last big bit of work that I want to get done while I’m on hiatus is to plan out the next phase of Starwalker. Currently, I’m calling this Book 5. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the story creeps out beyond a fifth book: not only is this me we’re talking about – I’m good at sprawling stories – but also I have some suspicions that there are enough questions left to answer to take our favourite little ship on a few loooong journeys.)

I’m not quite sure what it’ll take to do this planning. Hopefully just a couple of days dedicated to laying out the pieces I’ve got to play with.

After that, I need to figure out the timing of the writing. With all the stuff that’ll be in progress over this hiatus, I need to work out when I can responsibly restart the serial. Too soon, and I’ll be too overloaded to do it well. Too long, and I’ll lose a chunk of my readership. It’s a balancing act.

One option might be that I start Book 5 as this year’s NaNo project. That would mean sacrificing the next scheduled chunk of progress on Vampire Electric (which is still halfway through the second draft). I’d have to weight up the pros and cons of that.

This would be a departure in how I write the serials. I tend to write and post as I go, literally week to week. Over the last year and a half, I’ve had mixed success with this, and been far more unreliable than I like. Spending a month writing nothing else, powering through a huge chunk of it: this is pretty attractive. I could have a buffer again!

There’s 6 months between now and NaNo, so I’ve got some time to figure it out. Let’s see what happens.


So there you go: that’s what I have planned for this ‘break’ I’m taking. Ambitious? Maybe. I’m enthused and happy to be able to delve into all these things. There’s a lot to get through and I’m trying not to take my time too much. Wish me luck!

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VVSG: cover and coverage

The brand new awesome cover!

The brand new awesome cover!

The Vampire Victim Support Group is one of those projects that kinda snuck up on me, tempted me down an alleyway, then ran off with my keys.

I hadn’t intended to dedicate any real time to it. It was supposed to be one of those background things that I poked at when I needed a mental break from whatever I was really working on. It lurked at the bottom of my to-do list and seemed quite happy slumbering there.

Then I got to playing with Inkspired and decided to toss the first vignette up there (Jaime’s story). I had another couple of pieces in the series in various stages of completion, and it didn’t take much more work to get a second one ready to post for everyone to see (Niamh’s story).

Then I got a little excited, chatted with the lovely artist Svenja Gosen*, and commissioned a cover for it. Doesn’t it look awesome? I know I love it.

I planned out the VVSG members and their stories sometime in the last year (I’m not sure when, but it was after I bought my current laptop). I knew I wanted each one to be very distinct, each person very different. As much as it might be reasonable to have multiple survivors of the same vampire attack, I really wanted a diverse set of stories to play with.

Diversity is a theme that I took into the scheming part of this story pretty heavily. It wasn’t just different vampire attacks: I wanted different ages, genders, and backgrounds. Different voices. Different reasons for encountering a vampire, and different reactions to the situation.

Because people are fascinating and there’s nothing more boring than having a group of people sit and nod and agree with each other on every point. Even if they all agree that vampires are nasty, vicious beasts (and I’m not saying they will), they’ll each agree for their own reasons. That’s what interests me, as a writer.

I also love writing about people on the periphery of the big stuff. Those who are touched by something as big and life-changing as the existence of vampires, but who would be side-characters or throwaway cutouts in the story of good vs evil, heroes vs villains. These victims don’t throw punches. They don’t saddle up and go vampire-hunting, armed with all the pop culture lore they can make into hopeful weapons. These are the ones who are hurt and traumatised and bewildered; the people who the heroes step over on their way to punching the Big Bad in the fangy face.

These people are just trying to figure out how to deal with this new element to their lives. These are the ones trying to fit this awful thing into their otherwise normal lives. These are the sorts of people who would start and attend a Support Group as a way to figure out how to get past it.

I’m interested in seeing if I can write all these different voices. Most of them I haven’t tried before, not in a viewpoint character. Part of my reason for building this project was to stretch myself as a writer, and as I get into the pieces, wow, is it doing that.

I’ve currently got three different members’ stories in various stages of drafting. One wandered off on a tangent that is both exciting but not really what I intended it to be, and needs to be pulled back on track. One is from a very different POV than I normally write and is proving to be a bit of a challenge. I think I’m struggling to find his voice. The third is going well and almost done, I think! But again, it’s a different voice and I’m not sure how well I’m pulling it off. I’ve sought a second opinion on that one, but I’m still nervous about it.

It’s fun and I’m enjoying the exercise it’s giving me. There are nine characters in all, and I think each one will have two phases to their story, so it’s going to be fun to get through it all!

In one way, I think I started posting it a little early. I was originally going to frame the vignettes with glimpses of the support group meeting itself, and I’d still like to do that, but I don’t want to write that until I have all the characters fully fleshed-out in my head and I had all the pieces I wanted to put together. The frame of the support group was supposed to tie the stories together.

Now, I’m thinking that I’ll save that part for the ebook version. The plan is to keep posting this story up on Inkspired, build up the full complement of group members, their stories, and a picture of a city’s undead underbelly from the perspective of those who skate close to it but don’t quite fall. After all, they weren’t killed outright, right?

The fun continues. I’m looking forward to getting this next piece finished and posted (it’s due up very soon!). I’ve signed up to post one a month – I think I can stick to that. Fingers crossed!

* Svenja is also responsible for my Starwalker art, and the soon-to-be released new covers for The Apocalypse Blog books.

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Inkspired: shiny new toy

Get Inkspired! (Picture: theirs)

Get Inkspired!
(Picture: theirs)

I have been involved with a new publishing venue for a little while, and I figured that it was about time I shared it with everyone. It’s still in beta, but that doesn’t mean you can’t jump in and see what it’s all about.

It is called Inkspired, and it is a free, serial-friendly publishing and reading portal. It’s pretty simple to use: as a writer, you copy in your story, fill in a few details, and click ‘publish’; as a reader, you can read stories on the website or through the app.

(Tip: not to be confused with the tattoo magazine of the same name.)

Let’s get the scary legal stuff out of the way: Inkspired don’t take any rights to your work; it all stays with the author. You’re free to do whatever you want with anything you post up there and you’re not tied to them in any way.

As a writer, Inkspired offers:

  • An easy-to-use interface.
  • Basic text formatting only. If you want something complex, this probably isn’t the venue for you.
  • Access to their readership*, through:
    • Their home page
    • Discoverability / searchability
    • Weekly bulletin emails
  • Automatic notifications to readers who follow your story, whenever a new chapter is published.
  • Automatic reminders when you’re approaching your next chapter due date.
  • The ability to send broadcast updates to your followers.
  • Reviews on a chapter before it is published**.
  • Comments from readers on published chapters, and the ability to reply to them.

* The site is pretty new and the reader base is pretty fledgling-sized. I’d be curious about their actual numbers and how it goes as the reader base grows.

** This is a new feature, added for a recent event I held for them. Writers can get comments directly on a draft of a chapter from invited Inkspired users. It’s great! Some functionality still being ironed out here, though.

I think it’s a professional-looking site and pretty reliable. The creators are open to feedback and have implemented a bunch of features from suggestions. There’s a donation system on the way, so readers can donate to their favourite authors/stories, and likely to be other features in the works I haven’t heard about yet.

Overall, I’m still not sure what I think about it; it’s early days. I like the site and the interaction with the readership. I like that it’s easy, and looks good without much effort on my part. I like that people are discovering my stories on there (more on them soon!), liking and following them, and I get happy little notifications when that happens.

It’s still growing and developing, and it’s exciting to see it shift and change, especially when I get to have input into those changes. At this point, I can’t really tell how the long term or the big picture is going to pan out. Is it a good publishing portal? Will it be successful? I’m not sure and don’t really have the direct experience to predict it. I hope it does work out.

Right now, I’m treating Inkspired as an experiment for me, my writing, and publishing. I’m trying different things, and trying to get the word out there to see what input others have on the subject. Already, I’ve had it compared to Wattpad and realised that they’re fairly similar. As a result, I’m considering doing a compare-and-contrast with Wattpad, just to see what’s what.

As part of my work with Inkspired’s creators (they are local to me here in Brisbane), I ran an event with them recently that we dubbed the Write – Review – Publish event. It went well and was an interesting endeavour, and I hope to do something similar again soon. I’ll write more on this when I’ve had a chance to digest it more fully.

Hopefully, there will be a lot more news on this front over the next little while. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’d love to know what you think about Inkspired.

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