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Archive for the ‘A writer’s life’ Category

It’s 2023 and I haven’t written a word. I want to but things are complicated. I seem to be lazing my way through hot summer days, focussing on housework and cooking and listening to audio books.

I’ve started writing out a chore list so we can divide up the chores so I don’t feel like it’s all up to me. My partner does his bit really but there are things that don’t get seen so writing them up helps. I’ve also written up what’s important to me…mostly but there are always things I leave out and have to add in and then my list is just too long. How can I focus on everything I want to do?

For instance, I need to get fit and healthy and lose weight. Guess what’s not on the list? I want to walk more, go to the pool and eat better and that requires I put it on the list. I need to squeeze that in the list and my life.

Obviously not everything needs focus everyday. Craft can be once or twice a week, maybe. Looking at my assessment of what I do that I like and I spend lots of time on family and social media so something has to give. Add to that, I’m resuming work so even less time than I have now.

If only we could lengthen the days, stretch out the hours, turn back time, whatever.

Anyway, I’ve done one task today and that’s order books for the ARRA signing in February. Next, I need to book some flights.

Better get to it.

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The lead up to the New year was full of good intentions. I was going to set goals. I was going to do an overview of my year. I was going to send a newsletter and going to write and all of that is in the land of good intentions and no action.

I’m writing this blog post now because I’m waiting for the household to get ready to go to Ikea and Costco and it’s past midday. All I’ve achieved this morning is picking apricots so that I can make jam before the birds eat them. We haven’t even gotten around to netting the tree. I’m a little tired myself as I did a road trip yesterday to Culcairn to visit my friend and her family. Waves to Sharyn. However, with EV charging and wait times I did not get home until 9 pm and I left home around 8 am. However, I did get to listen to most of Solace House by Joy Ells and read by my favourite reader, Richard Armitage. It’s a new crime novel with Jackman and Evans, set in the Fens of Lincolnshire, where one of my great, great, great, great grandparents originated.

My Phd is done. I’m now Dr Donna! I am graduating in person I think in March but the university couldn’t tell me so it could be April. I’m heading back to my day job in February so I’m conscious I have less than a month left of my half pay leave. I’ve been on fostercare leave and I needed every day of it. I’m transition to normal leave next week. Fostering a teenager with issues has been hard but we love her heaps.

I have print copies of Awakening finally. In my original order for print copies I accidentally ordered copies of Argenterra. Lesson is don’t order books when distracted or without glasses. I need to order more for the signing in ARRA Sydney and Melbourne. That’s coming up fast. I need to book flights and high teas etc. Julia Quinn of Bridgerton fame will be a guest at the Australian Romance Readers Association Romantic Rendezvous. Link. I’m signing in Sydney and Melbourne. This also means I’ll be selling books! I have two new books out. Awakening, SF romance and The Changeling Curse, the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell under Dani Kristoff. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with the romance gang as they are so welcoming.

Other than printout the structural edit copies for the Phd novel, Sihem, I have not touched it and that’s quite important on my to list. I also need to make my exegesis available to survey participants, which is also high on the to do list. I also need to research publishers to put in a proposal to publish my romance reader and writer data so that it is more accessible. Gah!

So to finish off I’m happy to report that Maeve, the kitten, is getting on with the huge Gin our cranky old man cat. Matthew sent me this picture yesterday. He found them like this when he got home from the mall.

I hope you are all enjoying your January and finding the time for repose or fun. I need to get ready for Mabel’s birthday. My grandbaby turns 4 today and I’ve been tasked with cake making.

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Christmas is done and New year is looming. I feel like it’s been a mad rush to get 2022 over. Pandemic! Renovations! Phd Thesis! Bad knees! Fostering a now 13 year old. Christmas! What a year!

I went for a walk early this morning before it got too hot. I let my mind wander and think about what I want for myself from now. I figure I need a planner with goals. Okay so I know that’s not going to last. Me with a journal with a ‘to do’ list. Right? But even knowing I’m not very consistent, I feel I need to think about how to get the most out of my day, work out my goals for writing, health and life and try to fit it all in. I’m thinking a planner/journal is how I can attempt that first step. Otherwise I walk around with all these things in my head, like a heavy sack of regret, because I haven’t done half of them or have only half done them.

We’ve broken the back of the renovations. A few little things to do. There’s the total ruination of our backyard…can’t really call it a garden and my half done garden beds and free floating pond that never got installed. There’s craft. I’ve got a quilt I was trying to finish in June and it’s still there waiting for me to finish it off. Sigh. It will get done. I just can’t do it all at the same time, no matter how my brain thinks.

That’s the other thing. Something weird happening with my brain. My memory is shot. I mix up words. Matthew thinks it’s just stress but I worry it is something more sinister. A brain scan a few years ago tells me I’m ok. I was worried then too obviously.

This year I have my Phd novel to edit and prepare for shopping around. Another Jemima Hardcastle novel, Amber Rose, to write. There are other projects but they are the two main ones.

I go back to work early February. I’ve been on foster care leave and I needed it. My son has been here with his wife for a few months before they head to Singapore to live but he leaves early February too.

Did I mention we have a wee little kitten? Gin our big cat has finally softened towards it but now we are a two cat household. She’s a joy.

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Two major things occurred this week.

I delivered my printed and bound thesis to the university to complete my Phd. It is a week shy of a year from when I submitted it. Honestly, the longest 12 months ever due to the administration at the university. Anyway, I hope to graduate in April in person but I’m likely to have my degree conferred before then. This now means I can start work on developing my Phd novel, Sihem, for publication, actually to submit to agents first up. I have structural edits to take up. You might ask why do I need to do that. Didn’t I just do a PhD in creative writing? Yes, I did but I was limited to word length and also I explored themes related to my PhD topic and that restricted how much time I devoted to other aspects of world building. That’s my January sorted.

The second big bit of news is Awakening has been published to most e retailers. I’m about to hit print on the print version too. I haven’t updated my links yet. There’s a lot going on as we finish off renovations and painting and pay attention to family visiting in the lead up to Christmas.

I wanted to share with you a bit about the genesis of Awakenings. It started with a kind of a poem as I sat by my mother in the early morning in the later stages of her life. She didn’t die that time but it was close. So I sat there at 2 am watching her on April 19 2014, looking at her pale white skin, her shallow breaths and then wrote down the ideas that came to me. Here is what I wrote:

Bring out the soldiers who lie within their frozen crypts

Do not wake them or disturb them

Their time is done

They gave us this peace, t his life and we are thankful.

Let not their sleeping, tranquil faces beguile you

They are bringers of death, purveyors of harm

It is time to let them go

Let them burn

Their flesh to no more rise

Let us grasp a future where they no longer exist

Where we are free

I don’t claim to be a poet, but these words were the genesis behind Awakening. I used some of these words and the ideas behind them for the novel. Here is the blurb.

Bring out the cold soldiers who lie in frozen sleep.

Do not wake them nor let their tranquil faces beguile.

They are purveyors of death.

They must burn!

What soldiers?  Colony Five has been proudly peaceful since before living memory. 

The cryptic new orders make no sense to Deleen Milo… until she sees the burning bodies in the stasis sarcophagi.  She tries to uncover the truth behind the mysterious soldiers, only to become adrift in a colony suddenly full of secrets and threats.  Who wants the soldiers destroyed and the colony defenceless?

Pursued into hiding, Deleen manages to revive Rik Chesson, a Cold Soldier trying to understand the new world waiting for him after 134 years of cryosleep.  Deleen has never trusted easily, and Rik’s nanotech-infused posthuman form sets her nerves on edge.  But they are the only ones who can rescue the surviving Cold Soldiers and defend the colony against a deadly new threat.  They have to work together, and as they begin to truly know one another Deleen realises that however Rik’s body may have changed, the man inside might just be one she can love…

It has taken a while to get this book published. I started out thinking it would one thing but Nicole Murphy who was my first reader suggested I take a different tack. Every time I was part way through a revision something else would crop up and some of those revisions were big. This year, I had another beta reader, Lily, who did an amazing job and her comments helped me focus on getting it done and out there. I hope you like it.

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Time really speeds up when you’re are busy with life. It’s been a bit of this and that.

On the writing front I went to the ARRA awards in Sydney and it was great to catch up with people and feel like a writer again. I got all inspired and borrowed ideas for ways to promote me and my books at places like Gammacon in Canberra in July and Geek Markets later in the year and the ARRA signing in February in Sydney and Melbourne.

I’ve also been working on getting books out. I have the edit back of The Changeling Curse (that’s under the Dani Kristoff name) and I’ve got comments on Awakenings so that’s next in the chute for edit. I did manage to sneak away for a few days to write. I started the first chapter of Lightning Strike, which is a sequel to The Changeling Curse. Let’s hope that doesn’t take years! And I started a short SF story. However, since being back there’s just too much going on at home.

I’ve finally put in an order for a pull up banner and a banner for the back part of my table. I’m just in the middle of trying to get a table runner set up too. Meanwhile I’m getting these custom book marks made (Thanks Keri) as well. This means that my table and books will be presented at least.

There has been a change of government here in Australia, with a few more independents, which will make things interesting. There’s still heaps of Covid around and a war in the Ukraine.

On the weekend though we went to Sydney and to Luna Park. I tried the new Big Dipper. I went twice but you know I didn’t want to have a stroke so I didn’t go a third time. Also, the girl who looks you in said “Back again?” possibly because I’m old! Lol. We were so luck to have such a great day sandwiched between two rainy days. I also got to try out Sydney’s public transport, buses, trains, light rail and ferries. We stayed on Coogee Beach at the Coogee Sands and I highly recommend it. They had free parking and it was just a step outside to the promenade. Anyway, here are some shots.

As you can see great day
Great view under the bridge from Milsons Point
Through the bus stop windows
Caught the sea gull taking off
From the roof of the Coogee Bay Sands

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I’m still writing, still excited by touching my passion.

My problem now is that I have to moderate my time at the key board because sinking into a story for hours gives me RSI in my right arm, but also a sore back because posture suffers from long sitting.

Last night I ached but I was all good today. I’m using a timer now.

Today the farm settled. I might have mentioned we renovated and emptied it out etc. We are celebrating with pizza tonight. It was meant to settle last Thursday so we booked an amazing degustation dinner at an exclusive restaurant. The settlement didn’t go through. We celebrated any way. So today, the actual day, it’s pizza at home, in front of a kung fu movie Matthew wants to watch.

I’m very focussed on getting The Changeling Curse to the editor. I’m taking up comments from the most amazing beta reader Lily and also Nicole. I have about 199 pages to go (67 pages done). The main thing is I am very happy with how it’s going. I probably still have a few pot holes to fix but I’m so happy and excited, I’m loving it. I hope this feeling lasts.

Awakenings, my SF novel is with beta readers right now so I’m hoping that I can get The Changeling Curse out the door to the editor before beta reader comments come back.

Better go. Pizza is here.

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I am back here again blogging. Not year long wait this time.

Since I blogged last I’ve been making a concerted effort to reengage with my creative writing.

I booked to go the Australian Romance Readers Awards in Sydney at the end of April. I’m not up for an award or anything (not having published anything in the last couple of years) but I want to reengage with the scene, with other authors, some of whom at great buddies. And it’s a great event, at a great venue and Matthew and I will enjoy ourselves.

The next thing I did was actually get out some manuscripts. I have a middle grade book I’m writing so I reviewed what I had written so far and extended the story a bit. I have a lot of works in various stages of progress. I targeted two novels that have been almost there for a while. The science fiction one, Awakenings, I reviewed and then sent to beta readers. That was a massive milestone for me.

On Saturday, I also shared a table to sell books at the Geek Markets here in Canberra. Again, this was to help me get back into my writing groove. It’s not all just about drafting, revising and editing. There’s actual promotion, selling and getting into the scene. I had an okay day. I sold books, talked about my books and answered questions about my books. I hung with fellow writers, some I haven’t seen in two years.

I wore a mask most of the time and I’d say about 30 per cent of the people I saw walking past had masks. They don’t have to wear them, but there are still a lot of Covid around. I seriously like Canberra geeks. I have now put in to book for Gammacon in Canberra in July. (I hope I managed to snag a table)

Anyhow, something in what I’ve done appears to have worked. Today, I started working on The Changeling Curse, the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell, a paranormal romance, very spicy. Something happened. I am sharing the covers with you below. They have been languishing for so long for me to put the words with them.

Today, I fell into writing, editing etc and entered the ‘zen’ zone. I call it the zen zone because everything around me disappears. I lose track of time. I go into the space where my story is unfolding. I feel excitement. It’s like a drug. I just want more and more. This feeling kept going. I did lose track of time. I had an appointment and shamefacedly realised that I’d been absent. I went out and then I came back and started writing again. And the zen zone came back. I am so excited by this. I have passion again. I feel like I did when I first discovered writing. It feels so amazing.

I can’t describe how happy and invigorating this makes me feel. Now instead of setting goals like ‘half hour a day on a manuscript’ I’m setting myself goals ‘take a break before you wreck yourself.’ For so long I was in a creative desert.

I’m really grateful to my writing buddy Lily Mulholland. She beta read The Changeling Curse for me and also made comments and suggested edits. These small things, which probably took her a lot of time, have been amazing. I feel like I can do this. I feel like I’m a writer again.

I could probably look back on the last month or so and see other activities that have helped me reinvigorate my passion. I beta read for two authors. I sat down with Kaaren and talked about her story. We brainstormed ideas for the plot. I said to her… Gee I feel like I’m a writer. I also beta read another story and it somehow turned me back onto excitement of creating stories. These small things were stoking the flames I think. I did not think I’d feel this enthusiasm again. I kept wondering what I was going to do with myself if I didn’t write. My future seemed bleak. Now it doesn’t anymore.

I had to share this with you all. I have my passion back. I want to weep with the joy of it. I hope it doesn’t go away again.

Here are the covers that I have had for years. I hope to get these books out this year.

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It’s been a year since my last post. That’s totally unforgivable, even in these trying times. A lot has happened. None of it writing fiction. I hang my head. However, I am writing again or trying to. Perhaps I’m just too precious but I am affected emotionally and mentally by world events. Like a number of author friends I’m finding it hard to be creative.

A short recap of the last year. My partner lost his job in April (made redundant) but it’s not as bad as it sounds. He inherited a farm and if we could sell that between his superannuation pension and the sale of the farm he could be a full time writer (Me Too!). This meant cleaning out the farm, doing some renovations to make it habitable and selling it. Of course, pandemics don’t help much there and we were locked down for nearly three months when we could have been selling. As well as painting, flooring etc, I started a job to keep us ticking over. I’m still working but now I’m only three days a week and that’s pretty good so far. Working and renovations did take it out of me and I had to put aside the sourdough baking.

We also took a couple of trips to NZ on family business mid year. (when the country was open and just made it back before the borders slammed shut). That did not turn out how we thought it would. Counseling and recovery later, we are getting there. Without going into too much detail, this really changed everything, our house, what we thought our lives would be and we were left going on okay but slightly damaged. Sorry I can’t be more explicit.

Locked down with my daughter and granddaughter in August/September and into October. That was so hard. Both my daughter and I working from home. Child care of a two year old. My partner was amazing. My younger son was here too. Lockdown was damn hard. The news is damn hard. I agree with mask mandates, lockdowns and staying safe and even then I found it very, very hard. I had to have more counseling to cope with it, particularly after lockdown when Omicron started spreading. I was beginning to doubt we would have Christmas. Then, dealing with ‘living with COVID’ was also another change. I felt as if we had been tossed to the wind to fend for ourselves.

It isn’t all bad you know. I managed somehow to submit my PhD thesis in December. Although it didn’t go out to markers until March, due to COVID, missing forms and I don’t know what else. I believe this is something to be happy about but emotionally I’m just drained. We had a great Christmas. We survived lock down and we are all still speaking to each other.

We sold the farm and are just waiting on settlement.

One of my daughters was able to move into a brand new townhouse which was delayed. She loves it. And it’s not too far away.

We bough an electric car (KONA EV) and we love it. At first we couldn’t go anywhere much but we are doing a little bit now.

Meet Ruby Red

My partner had two books come out in hardback and audible. We think the paperbacks will be out soon. He’s starting to get his writing mojo happening again. Those two books took him about five years while looking after two elderly parents, then losing them a year apart. Then you know, smoke, hail, fire, pandemic and things really haven’t let up.

Here they are. The paperback of The Serpent and the Saint comes out April 12.

Link to Amazon (for Kindle version or preorder paperback)https://www.amazon.com/Urdesh-Serpent-Saint-Warhammer-000-ebook/dp/B096BFVK6X/ref=donna00-20
Link to Amazon (for kindle version or preorder paperback) https://www.amazon.com/Urdesh-Magister-Martyr-Warhammer-000-ebook/dp/B09KVF2PLJ/ref=donna00-20

I’ve been quilting. Two examples below.

Crafting has been a godsend. I just totally lose myself. I’m still learning. I haven’t been weaving because we moved my floor loom into the garage as part of the house changes mid year and we haven’t sorted that out yet. My craftroom is being used as a bedroom. I was doing a lot of crochet and other craft until I gave myself RSI. It’s better now but I’m limiting myself to a row of Matthew’s blanket a night.

Front side of French Braid pattern.
Reverse side has a Maori inspired design

The pink quilt was for my sister. Both quilts used Jelly Rolls by Moda. The pink one had to be completely unpicked and re-sewn. It is an easy quilt in theory but YouTube tutorials don’t always give you all the technique

In progress shot

Also, while we didn’t garden this year due to renovation on the farm, I did manage to buy in tomatoes to make passata earlier in the month. A year’s supply and tomato ketchup too.

The results and the mess

There is more obviously to be grateful for. My grandkids and kids are safe. So are my family and friends as far as I know.

What’s changed though for me is my attitude to socialising. I also wonder will we ever be the same again. We went out for my son’s birthday to a restaurant, inside, with other people. First time in a long time and it felt transgressive. We had been socialising two on two on our deck or in cafe’s without outdoor seating until then. There is still so much COVID around. Then again, I’ve been at the pool recently and that’s just asking for it I suppose. However, I have prepaid and the pool have been very good all year stretching my visits out but once the government opens things up, the clock starts ticking again. I have such big lock down belly. I swear we drank two gins and ate three bags of chips a night in lock down. We also ate a lot of takeaways and chocolate. All my hard work in losing kilos. I got down to 65 kilos in July and I’ve put 10 back on. That’s not good for my health or knees. We are trying to get some kind of routine going, walking in the evenings, the pool and eating healthily. (I just ate dahl and a pork bun not sure how good that is).

Writing encompasses a number of tasks and projects and plans. As I manage my own ebooks on market places and do my own marketing, that’s all slid in a heap. Books are still selling here and there but I’ve not done anything much at all to help things along. The only thing I’ve managed is to do my BAS and my taxes. So when I start to think about writing, it’s not just the writing part, it’s the whole, newsletter and promotions as well. I’m totally out of the game and things change in one year…I wasn’t doing much before then either. Two years is a better estimate.

To get books published, I have to write them, revise them, get them edited etc. I have a couple that are getting close. To be honest they have been close for two years. One is a Dani Kristoff title, called The Changeling Curse, an ex rated paranormal fantasy. I received two beta reader comments on this and one lot of comments requires me to think. So that’s in the too hard basket. I have an editor lined up. Have had for a year. Next cab waiting is Awakenings which is a SF kind of romance. It was very much a romance but my beta reader (thanks Nicole) convinced me to ditch the sex scenes and concentrate on the SF side of things. That’s getting close to being sent out again to beta readers.

I started a kids book for NaNoWriMo in 2020. (I don’t think NaNoWriMo registered in 2021 with work and pandemic). I’ve been tinkering with that so I can finish the draft and send it out to beta readers.

These are only a fraction of what I have in the way of projects in progress or on the to be written list. But if I did happen to knuckle down I could achieve quite a bit. Having a backlog makes concentrating hard because you know…choice!

I hope I’m over this slump. I will try to blog again to update on my progress. I can’t say I’ll be the same as before because I don’t think I am or will be. Cheers from me and Matthew from our High Tea at the Hyatt last Monday. (Don’t know why he’s focussing on the glass!)

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I keep thinking that I’ve been doing this PHD for years and I haven’t written anything creative in ages. That’s a big fat lie!

In the early years of my PhD I put out a lot of books. I also republished books that I had received the rights back from publishers. I call bull on my thinking there.

Then, you know this is a creative writing PhD that I’m doing and I have written a novel. Isn’t a novel a creative piece of work? Well, yes, I say, it is. It may not be published yet but that does not mean it doesn’t exist.

That doesn’t count, part of my brain says…but what about that short story you wrote last year and that was published in late December? Mmmm???

I wrote a short story! I was productive! Evidence.

Okay I’m not productive all the time….right…and maybe I have high expectations…maybe I look on jealously as friends launch books and post about word counts…

I am too hard on myself. I often thing my kids are harsh critics of me, but I think I err. I am my harshest critic!

I do have manuscripts that are sitting there waiting for the final run through…They stick like a knife between my shoulder blades, sending their angry, neglected thoughts into my skin. I will get to them.

Anyway….about that short story. Crash Baby appears in Unnatural Order, an anthology published by CSFG publishing and edited by Alis Franklin and Lyss Wickramasinghe. The premise of the anthology was to write in a non-human voice or from a non-human perspective. Crash Baby is written from the perspective of a maintenance robot. The story was inspired by my new baby granddaughter and the long hours where I helped care for her in her first year. I also have lots of robot story ideas….I feel a collection coming on one day.

A first for me is that I share the Table of Contents with my partner Matthew Farrer who wrote about monster love. Here is the blurb!

Is an unlikely friendship enough to save a human and a voidbeast?
Can a robot’s heart be broken?
What happens to the demons when all the humans are gone?
Can dishonest hearts find peace?

By all accounts a very good line up so go check it out.

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It is not possible to fight change. you have to roll with the punches. One minute you think you are heading this way and the next something alters, a new path arises and whammo, your future looks different.

I can’t really talk specifically about this change because while it affects me it’s not my news. We were going to refiniance and borrow heaps of $$$$ to renovate our house. We were almost there to signing when something changed and now we aren’t going through with it. I’m not upset or annoyed. We will be fine, but it does mean some short term stress to effect a positive change in our lives.

My partner is a writer. He gets paid and he has been writing while I’ve been slacking off doing this Phd gig. Although the Phd thing is getting closer, and closer to completion soon I’ll be wondering what I’m going to do with myself. Anyway, I think by the end of the year there will be lots more writing going on from both of us. That’s all the hint you are going to get. No I have not sold a novel…but I might finish one or two or maybe three.

I did something weird and extraordinary last night though. Instead of vegging in front of Netflix, I came upstairs and started revising a novel I last looked at in November 2019. I am 31 pages in. Yay me. I thought it might shock Matthew to know that while he was in his office diligently working on his revisions, I was in mine next door. It was thrilling and exciting. This is a paranormal romance I’m working on for my Dani Kristoff name and is the sequel to The Sorcerer’s Spell, featuring werewolves and sorcerers set in Canberra (mostly).Anyway, I was excited because I deleted words, trimmed and crafted sentences and otherwise behaved in a writierly fashion. Sigh.

It felt so good.

In other news, we had a craftanoon here on Sunday and I got out the tiered platter for some high tea shenanigans. Yes, there were scones, jam and cream. I finished my first ever embroidery kit after maybe seven years…cough. We had loads of fun. It is the second one I have hosted and it was relaxed and lovely. I have had to slow down on the crochet due to elbow issues. Today though I felt the call of the garden and attacked the forest that is the yard with the weed trimmer and now I’ve crawled up here to my office to do some real work. Cough.

We don’t have rampant covid here so we can almost lead a normal life and do things like socialise carefully. I am very grateful for that. I probably won’t get vaccinated until later in the year when it’s my turn. Australia is only now rolling out the vaccines. I’m so pleased that people I care about in the UK and the USA are getting vaccinated.

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