An Unexpected Turn of Events

I know, I know, I’ve been AWOL. The last week was always going to be bad in terms of blogging etc, because my son turned seven on Monday … but it took an unexpected turn last Thursday when the school called to say they thought he had broken his arm.

It turned out he had. In three places — both wrist bones and his humerus, just above the elbow. He needed surgery to have the bones set (and the elbow pinned), and we spent the night in hospital.

It … was not our best day ever.

To make matters worse, his party this year was booked in at a gymnastics centre, so we had to cancel. The plan is to reschedule for once he’s out of the cast and gets the green light from his doctor to run around like a lunatic again, but that will be after our impending holiday to Alice Springs, some time early next term.

You’d think unexpectedly having a week off work would have meant free time, but I’ve been fulfilling the role of Mumma Nurse for the last week. I haven’t had much time to read, or write, or go over the excellent edits I got back from Lauren on my fantasy manuscript. In fact, the only thing I have kept up to date on is posting to Instagram, and that’s because I had already taken a bunch of book pictures and had them saved on my phone, ready to go.

Yes, I do photo shoots for books now. (That happened fast.)

Still, the boy is in less pain now than he was, and tomorrow we have the first of several follow-up X-rays booked to see how he’s healing. So hopefully life will return to something resembling normality some time soon.

How have you been, internet? Read (or taken photos of) any good books lately?

Bookstagrammin'.

 


40 Revolutions Around the Sun

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Off and on at the blog I mention Chuck Wendig — not only have I read, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed a bunch of his books (the most recent of which was Aftermath, his first Star Wars novel), but I love his writing advice posts and his hilarious, often profanity-riddled style.

One thing about Chuck is that he and I were born only a few days apart. That’s right, we’re practically twins! And this week he posted an epic list of 40 things that he has learned after four decades of life. You should go read it.

Yes, this is my round-about way of telling you I also turned 40 this week.

Earlier this year, I felt vaguely uneasy about my impending birthday. I mean, 40. I wouldn’t be able to say I was in my 30s anymore — as though that one day between 39 and 40 would make a huge difference, be somehow transformative. But it’s all a bit of a lie that revolves around us humans placing significance on certain things, like round numbers, multiples of ten: a number we’ve chosen to obsess over presumably because of our (traditional) number of fingers.

When I was a kid and the various adults in my life would ask me, on the day of my birthday, whether I felt any older. I’d always feel like the answer should be yes, but it was always no.

I do feel older now, but it’s a feeling that’s been creeping up on me for a while. I have a smattering of silver hairs that I’m rather fond of, mainly because they are politely behaved; in contrast, I also have a handful of weird, crazy white hairs that refuse to obey trivial things like gravity. My knees have have started to crunch like a pepper grinders when I walk up stairs. And my optometrist assures me that bifocal glasses are in my near future (she’s mean like that).

Still, there are upsides to being 40; to me, they are mostly about having a better sense of perspective. I was talking to a friend today about how when you’re in your teens and 20s you (and by “you”, of course, I mean “I) care way too much about what others think. Not just people who are dear to you, but random strangers. People you go to school with or work with but to whom you’re not close. There are probably sound evolutionary reasons for it — if you’re too different from the herd, you might get driven out, be unable to find a mate.

(Hehe, she said “mate”.)

Although I doubt I’ll ever be able to completely dismiss others’ unsolicited opinions, they don’t mean as much to me as they used to. If someone thinks my comfortable shoes are daggy, or raises an eyebrow at my geeky t-shirt, so what? If they don’t like a book I wrote and leave a negative review, then eh, they are entitled to their opinion.

So was turning 40 traumatic? No, actually, it was kinda cool. I had a variety of tasty meals with different groups of friends and family over the course of this week, got to catch up, had a few laughs. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to have an EPIC BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA — setting too-high expectations and then being disappointed is another thing I’d like to think I left behind last decade. I got hugs and warm wishes from people that mattered.

I wouldn’t be able to come up with a list of 40 things I have learned, partly because Chuck stole all the good ideas already. But there are a few things I’d add, random pieces of advice I’d give to younger-me if I could:

Unfriend or otherwise cast off toxic, judgemental people from your life. They aren’t worth the stress and grey hairs, and they definitely aren’t worth the crazy, gravity-defying white hairs.

Be prepared to make sacrifices to do the thing you want to do. I’m not much of a risk-taker and I’m definitely not saying you should quit your job to write your magnum opus, but maybe you could watch a little less TV?

Find something physical that you like doing and then actually do it. Regularly. Even though my knees were mostly fine till I started karate, I’ve felt a lot better about myself since I joined.

Wear sunscreen. It’ll mean less wrinkles (and also less chance of skin cancer) when you’re older.

Be kind to yourself. All those people who say that one day you’ll look back on photos of yourself when you were young and realise you were hotter than you thought at the time ARE RIGHT. The bastards.


In case you missed it, earlier this month, over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about Four Awesome Writery Rewards for Good Behaviour.

AussieOwned_Contributor


Recharging the batteries…

As I mentioned a week or so ago, at the end of January my boy and I went to the coast for five nights with a friend and her son. The lead-up was a bit traumatic as, two days before, my boy managed to slam his finger in the car door, so we had to get it x-rayed to see if it was broken. Thankfully, it wasn’t, just very badly bruised (and I’m sure he’ll lose the nail). Then the day before there was a massive hail storm and my friend’s skylight smashed, so she had to organise the SES to come and patch it up.

It was as though the universe was conspiring. But we overcame!

It was great to have a break, jump waves at/nearly get drowned at the beach, and generally make happy gold-memory-orb-style memories. A highlight for me was successfully flying a kite for the first time in years — on the beach, with the waves threatening to soak my shoes. The boy declared he would remember it forever. Winning!

Another highlight was the crazy thunderstorm that hit the night before we came home. The lightening was constant but erratic, like a misfiring strobe light, and the thunder just rolled on and on. And on. We got over 100mm of rain overnight, and not a lot of sleep. I’m amazed we didn’t wash into the Pacific!

I did a lot of reading. I gobbled Storm in a Teacup by Emmie Mears (review to follow, but spoiler: I loved it), and also finished doing an alpha read on a new release by K. A. Last (spoiler: I loved that too!).

I didn’t do much writing. I was setting out to do no writing at all, but I slipped and fell* and accidentally scribbled a couple hundred words down while the boys were playing an elaborate game involving Transformers and a sunscreen bottle. Eh. Nobody’s perfect.

Putting no pressure on myself was worth it, too. I’d been feeling quite drained going into the holiday, but on the drive home my brain kept yammering story ideas at me. Not fully formed plots, but hints. Whispers. Most of them were inspired by the names of roads or rivers. Shoemakers Creek. Wild Dog Creek. Mount Darragh (which is apparently near Myrtle Mountain — what a great name!). Others were by sights, such as the businessman walking along the single lane highway with a briefcase in hand and his tie flapping in the wind, farmland all around us. Others were by things we were told: apparently there was an earthquake the night before we passed through Bombala. For tectonically stable Australia, that’s rather noteworthy news.

People always ask writers — not just me but properly famous writers — where we get our ideas. Some days, the real question should be how do we get them to shut up?

Still, I feel blessed, and thankful I live in such a gorgeous country, with such awesome names. 🙂 Now I can get stuck into finalising the publication of Melpomene’s Daughter and writing the sequel to Lucid Dreaming.

* I didn’t literally slip and fall, for those familiar with the fashion in which I ruined my first and only overseas holiday.

BoyOnBeach


An update ramble (aka proof that Cassandra shouldn’t blog tired)…

So, err, January has sort of gotten away from me. I had all these ideas for blog posts — primarily to, you know, write them — but clearly that hasn’t gone well. So of course, since I got maybe five hours sleep last night, now seems like the perfect time to write an update. Mostly so you know I haven’t been eaten by rampaging drop bears or whatever.

Me, writing this blog post

Me, writing this blog post

One of the posts I was planning was going to be a “my goals for 2016” post. It can more-or-less be summed up in this short list:

  • Self-publish Melpomene’s Daughter (Isla’s Inheritance #3)
  • Write the sequel to Lucid Dreaming
  • Be awesome

Melpomene’s Daughter is going well. I have the paperback proof from KILA Designs and have maybe 50 pages left to read. My goal is to get it done by the end of this weekend, so that I can get it back to Kim before my son and I scarper down to the coast for a week of probably getting rained on at the beach. (It’s going to be awesome.) That way, when I get back, the book should be all go for a February re-release.

Melpomene's Daughter paperback title page

Such a lovely title page. I could pat it.

I started drafting the sequel to Lucid Dreaming over Christmas. I’ve got three chapters down and, well, lots to go. I’ve also got my next project lined up — one I’m super-excited about — so, aside from wanting to finish off Melaina’s story for its own sake, I’m also keen to finish it so I can move on to fresh pastures. I’m so fickle. 😉

Lucid Dreaming has been getting some great reviews on Goodreads and other review sites/blogs. If you’ve reviewed it (or any of my books), then know that I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about how audiobooks are the best thing since, well, books.

I haven’t been reading as fast as usual — unless you count my own books, which I have read many, many times. In fact, I’ve been on the same two books (one audio, one ebook) all year. Which is not to say that they aren’t awesome, because they are. I just haven’t had as much time lately — and my usual time to read audiobooks, on my commute, hasn’t been viable because my son has been with me more often than not. If it does rain at the coast as much as I anticipate, at least I can catch up on some stories.

Currently reading 0116

On a personal note, this month has been pretty rough for me and the boy. Close friends of mine have moved away for an awesome work opportunity; their kids are good friends of my son’s, so he has been just as sad as me about the whole thing. The difference is that, when you’re six, you process these things differently. It’s been hard, but this week has shown signs of improvement. (And the coast trip is a distraction that couldn’t be happening at a better time. Awesome parenting high five, me!)

I’ve also spent a bit of time being sucked into a casual, mobile game called Fallout Shelter. It’s based on the Fallout games, but is more of a resource-management game than a shooter. I like it … though I’m less wild about some of the decisions the game designers have made. Maybe one day I’ll have a rush of blood to the head and review the game, but IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

I’m not that tired.

LOTR dachshund

So, that’s where I’m at. How about you? Has 2016 been treating you nicely so far?


Wrap-up for 2015

As I said in my Christmas post, 2015 has been a crazy year for me. It started off with a bang, with Isla’s Oath being released in January. In April, Melpomene’s Daughter came out.

However, for both books, only the ebook version was released — and, in October, just as I was gearing up to self-publish Lucid Dreaming, I got the word that Turquoise Morning Press was closing. The bright side is that I got the rights to the trilogy back straight away, as well as permission to use the original covers if I wished. I ended up deciding to commission new covers, and so the scramble to re-release them commenced.

I couldn’t have done it without Kim from KILA Designs; as well as being my designer and friend, she also patiently explained the parts of self-publishing a book that I hadn’t even considered to that point.

The upshot is that, in 2015, I had five release days for three books. Is it any wonder I’m spending my new year’s eve in my pyjamas and a T-shirt (a black one that says “The book was better”)? I’m too knackered to contemplate anything else!

I achieved most of my
reading and writing resolutions…

but not all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I only read 9 out of 12 of the books in my Aussie Readers challenge. And, although I did indeed release Isla’s Oath, Melpomene’s Daughter and Lucid Dreaming, and I did finish writing my fantasy novel, I didn’t manage to write another Tammy Calder novella. I’ll have to save that one for next year.

I also set myself a goal of blogging at least twice a week, but I don’t know that I always achieved that. (Trivia: according to the WordPress stats monkeys, my most popular post in 2015 was my review of Eleven Weeks by Lauren K. McKellar.)

I haven’t done up a list of 2016 resolutions yet. I know I’m supposed to do it before the year kicks over, but at the moment I can’t think past “don’t release three books five times”!

I read one book a week…

That wasn’t deliberate; it just worked out that way. For the last two years, my Goodreads challenge number has been 40 books + however many kids books I read/listen to with my son (excluding picture books, which I don’t bother recording). This year, that worked out to 50 books. I overachieved a little.

Of these:

  • 87% were by women writers (or, in the case of Three Slices and Illuminae, had at least one female writer)
  • 75% were speculative fiction of one stripe or another (including the children’s books)
  • 31% were by Australian authors (or, in the case of Losing It, had at least one Aussie author)
  • 25% were by Kim Harrison (I gobbled the entire Hollows series this year)
  • 12% were by Cressida Cowell (the boy and I went on a How to Train Your Dragon kick earlier in the year — did you know the audiobooks are narrated by David Tennant?)
  • 4% were non-fiction

Goodreads2015

So there you have it!

This year has been busy, but I got by with a little (or a lot of) help from my friends. And also my family, and you guys — my lovely readers. I hope your 2016 is filled with love, hugs, laughter and, above all, books.

See you next year!


A Christmas song and a warm, fuzzy hug

Every year on my blog I’ve had a Christmas post with a song for people to enjoy. My two favourite Christmas carols are here and here, but I posted those early; last year, I went with the Muppets, because you can’t go wrong with Beaker and Animal. (Note: Beaker may not agree.)

I don’t write this post every year for the views. Goodness knows, on Christmas Day most people aren’t reading my little blog. Partly, I write it because traditions are good. My family has Christmas traditions, and even though I’d describe myself as somewhere between agnostic and atheist, I still really love them. They remind me of sleepy summer afternoons after too much food; the sweetness of overloaded pavlova; the crinkle of bright paper.

I also write the post because I know some people don’t have anywhere to go, anyone to be with, on Christmas Day, and maybe my random blatherings and a song will make them feel less lonely. I get a taste of this every second year, when my son is with his father for Christmas. I will see my boy on Boxing Day, and I will still see my parents today … so it could be worse. But I miss my son and his enthusiasm and cuddles.

One more day to go.

This year has been huge. I thought last year was huge — my debut came out in October 2014 — but this year was huger. I released two books with TMP. TMP then closed down just as I was about to self-publish Lucid Dreaming … so I released that, then re-released two of the three books I’d released with TMP. (The third one will hopefully be done before the end of February.)

I’d take it as a kindness if next year is slightly less huge. Or, if it really must be huge, let it be in such a way that I can quit my dayjob to manage the hugeness. 😉

To everyone who has supported me throughout the year: Kim with her beta reading and design, Lauren and Jennifer with their editing, Stacey with her beta reading; my family, for their support and somewhat baffled enthusiasm; my friends for their enthusiasm and endless coffee. You guys are the best.

And to anyone who has read one of my books, or pimped them on social media, or left me a review (or some combination thereof) … may your holidays be bright and full of crinkling paper.

Warm and fuzzy hugs. (And an a cappella carol by … the Brady Bunch, I think?) xo


Audiobooks, colouring and being an adult

Colouring

Since I joined Audible in June last year (they lured me in with a month’s free trial), I’ve become a bit of an audiobook addict. Usually I read my paperbacks in bed, and these days I’m generally so tired when I hit the sack that I barely manage to read a chapter before I fall asleep. Audiobooks, on the other hand, give me something to listen to in the car other than music and the news. I’d also listen to them while preparing dinner, folding the washing, that sort of thing.

More recently, I bought myself one of those newfangled adult colouring books and a set of coloured pencils. Now my new favourite form of relaxation is to sit at the dining table, surrounded by pencils and shavings, and scribble away while listening to the doings of whatever characters I’m shipping at the time.

It is basically the best thing ever.

When I first heard that adult colouring books were a thing, I was a bit bemused by the idea. (Trivia: there are also “adult” colouring books, if you know what I mean. *wink wink, nudge nudge* I don’t have any of those, but apparently Amazon does if you’re curious.) One of my friends expressed an interest in them, so after the Aussie Owned and Read post on them, I ordered a couple for her birthday — and then in the meantime she went out and bought herself one of the same ones. So I kept the double-up, which is Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

Colouring in is a great, meditative way to keep my hands busy while my mind is off on a fantastical adventure. (Or listening to a memoir.) It’s more fun than folding the washing, and more satisfying than driving the car.

Don’t colour while driving, though. #protip

One of my photo-manipulations, from years ago

“Faye” – a photomanipulation by yours truly

I’ve experimented with various forms of art over the years – I did art in high school, but never really excelled. I’ve also experimented with digital art (photomanipulations), which is something I’m better at, but not brilliant at. Writing is the art-form I’m best at, probably because it requires less hand-eye coordination — though there’s always something new to learn there too (thankfully, or wouldn’t it be boring?).

Still, even though I’m still a bit of an amateur, it’s such a delight to be able to look back through the colouring book — I decided to do the pictures in order — and see how much my shading in particular has improved. It’s also funny to see the way I associate particular images with different books. 🙂

Colouring and audiobooks: I highly recommend it.


I think I’ve become a sports person (sort of)

Now there’s a blog post title I never thought I’d write. But hear me out.

A week and a half ago I got a sporting injury. I know it’s a sporting injury, because the very nice young physiotherapist I went to see called it that. And it certainly sounds like a sporting injury; see, I got a calf strain, which is something I usually associate with rugged footballers who have no necks, and whose thighs are as wide around as my car.

How did I achieve this thing? Me, whose usual idea of a strenuous physical activity is lifting a hardcover novel? (Hey, those suckers are heavy.)

I was doing a warm-up at karate.

I never thought I’d be a karate person. But, after it was recommended to a friend’s son to help him work on his coordination, she and I decided to enrol our two boys. A colleague recommended his old school, GKR, because it is friendly and low contact.

By the end of the second Saturday morning watching my boy get all this perfectly good exercise while I sat on an uncomfortable chair, I decided to sign up as well. It took a huge act of will; the class I go to is quite large, and has a mix of adults and kids. I am incredibly unfit, and hate embarrassing myself in front of strangers. Or, well, anyone. But the sensei is kind, encouraging and funny (sadly, he’s also married 😉 ), and I figured, what have I got to lose? Other than more weight than I need and a lifetime of awkwardness, I mean?

Hells yes.

Here are some reasons why karate is working for me

In-built babysitting

My son is six. If I joined a gym, I’d need to organise babysitting for him (or spend money on a crèche), all of which is expensive and requires more organisation than I have brain cells spare for. We have a gym near work, but finding the time to actually go at lunch when we’re so busy has proven difficult. Also, I hate having to shower at work afterwards. Communal showers: ugh.

Whereas at karate, the boy and I are in the same dojo. We can exercise in the same class, each at our own pace. And afterwards I can drive us home to our bathroom. It’s the best of all worlds!

Exercise

Because I hear it’s good for you?

I do feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in my gi, but after a few months I can see changes in my musculature, and I have more endurance than I used to. After I tore my calf muscle I actually cried at the idea of having to take a break. Also because I was sore. But still, how pathetic/awesome is that? I’ve never felt that way about exercise before.

Get rid of the hat, add glasses, and this is basically me.

Get rid of the hat, add glasses, and this is basically me.

Meeting new people

Although I have lots of close friends that I’ve met on-line, my circle of real-life friends is small. Close, but small. I’m an introvert, and doing karate has forced me to chat to strangers. Some of them I could see myself becoming friends with. Others I can oggle at a distance. It’s great.

Research

Fight scenes, my friend. Fight scenes. I now know how to throw a punch or …er, kick … a kick. I’m not very good at the latter, because I’m still working on my balance, but I spend a lot of time watching talented black-belts demonstrate, and I know what it’s meant to look like. That means I can describe it. It’s fantastic! Last weekend I missed a women’s self-defence workshop they were running because I couldn’t walk very well, but next time they offer it I’ll definitely go along to that as well. My characters will benefit, for sure!

Do you do a martial art? Have you tried acquiring a new physical skill later in life? Leave a comment, so I don’t feel so alone!


I finished writing a book, you guys

I had an amazingly productive week last week. It turns out all I need to have happen in order for me to get things done is:

a) have a medical treatment that means I feel fine but can’t be around people because I am slightly radioactive, and

b) send my son to his father’s place interstate for a week (see a, above).

Lead container

This is what a lead container holding a radioactive tablet looks like. Note the gloves. #TwoByTwoHandsOfBlue

I had my expensive tablet on Tuesday of last week and went home to my silent house. There, I spent all day continuing to work on my edits for Lucid Dreaming, finishing them by dinnertime. (If you need an editor for an indie project, I can strongly recommend Lauren K. McKellar.)

The next day, I cracked open my work in progress, the fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before. I was only a few chapters from the end, so I wrote … and wrote … and wrote… By the weekend, when I collected my son, I had 12k words down, with only a couple thousand left needed to finish the book.

I wrote those couple thousand on Monday night this week.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have seen me getting all giddy about it. Because although the draft is — like all first drafts — as rough as guts, and there are a couple of niggling plot holes I have to fix before I do anything else, it’s DONE! And that is the best feeling, because you can’t edit nothing. And because I am a super-slow writer, and the fact I’ve managed to finish five novels is just OMG wow, you guys.

Happy pointing

This was me, basically. Only with more glasses and less bow tie. #BowTiesAreCool

I started this project in October last year, around the same time Isla’s Inheritance came out. It was always a challenging project for me, because I’ve only ever written urban fantasy before, and I found fantasy a lot more difficult due to the world-building required. (That’s why I put off writing it for over a year.) But I attribute more of the delay to the fact I released two books after I started drafting — editing and promotion are time-consuming — and wrote two novellas for different projects as well.

The book doesn’t yet have a name; it’s working title was (wait for it) “Greek Fantasy”. I am a freaking legend at naming things! It’s currently 92k words, making it the longest first draft I’ve ever done.

The plan from here is to proofread Lucid Dreaming so I can give it to the formatter, and then I will read over Greek Fantasy and tidy it up for my critique partners. And then I will start the sequel to Lucid Dreaming, which also doesn’t have a name yet.

(send help)


My mini writing retreat

This week I’ve been on a long-anticipated mini writing retreat. Only I didn’t stay in a house by the beach, or in a rainforest cabin, but in my own home. I took this week off work, which meant that because of the public holiday on Monday I had four days where my son was at school and I could write in peace and quiet.

Four days.

And it was basically the best week ever.

This is NOT where I stayed. (Source)

This is not where I stayed. Gorramit! It looks so warm. I bet you don’t need a blanket on your knees to be comfy there… (Source)

For a start, I got to drop the boy off for class every day. Usually he goes to before-school care because I work full time and, although he loves it, we’ve both really enjoyed me being able to walk him up to the playground where they do the morning “meet and greet”. We’ve gotten there early every day so I could get a carpark, and even though it’s been below freezing as often as not he’s enjoyed showing me around the place, playing games while I watch, and insisting I listen to the announcements every morning. (I think so I have to suffer as much as he does?)

Another awesome thing is that, the one time I was exhausted after a writing stint, I was able to have a nap before I picked him up. And I also got to read in peace and quiet.

But the best part was all the wording that happened. I wrote over 9000 words during the past four days (I’m hoping to sneak in another thousand on the weekend, because … round numbers.) Given I usually manage 2000 at best in a week, I’m over the moon about that. My current WIP has been in progress since October last year, so I’m mad keen to get it finished.

I’m not quite there. But I’m close. So close. I should be able to knock it off in the next few weeks.

And then there will be celebrating. Oh yes.

The only sad thing about all this, of course, is that I’m back at work next week, which means it’s back to my usual snail’s pace. So if someone could see their way clear to paying me to write full time, that’d be awesome! [INSERT PLEA FOR PEOPLE TO BUY AND/OR REVIEW MY BOOKS HERE KTHXBAI]

For those of you reading this who are writers, have you ever been on a writing retreat, genuine or otherwise? Was it as awesome as mine?

Before I finish, in case you missed it, last Tuesday I was at Aussie Owned and Read, talking about ellipses and semicolons. It was really interesting, I promise! Check it out.