Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy 2015!

Here in New Zealand we're now winding down the first day of 2015, so I figured it was time for my yearly letter to myself.  This is the sixth year I've done this, and it's always interesting to go back at the end of the year to see how many of the things I planned to do, I actually did (see my last post).  So here's my 'dear me' letter for 2015.  I'll review how things are going in June, and again at the end of the year….

Dear Me,

Before I go ahead and outline my plans for the year ahead, I feel like I need to look back on the year that has just been.  It felt like a hard year, and there was so much I didn’t enjoy about 2014, yet in many ways it has been the most successful year I’ve had in a long time.  I think my dissatisfaction was largely because I really didn’t enjoy the job I had for much of the year.  It was tiring and demanding and very unsatisfying and that left me so drained that it was hard to motivate myself to write at the end of every day.  So I haven’t produced the amount of work I’m used to producing in a year.

But at the same time, 2014 was the year my first novel was published and the year I got an agent.  And right at the end of the year, I got a new job that is already making me so much happier than my old one.

Going into 2015, I’m excited about my new job.  It’s going to be challenging, but I think I’m going to enjoy that.  I’ve been doing the same thing for so long, it’s refreshing to be going into a job where I’ll have new responsibilities and a variety of different people to work with throughout the year, as well as a variety of different tasks and responsibilites.

With weekends and evenings free (for the first time in 23 years), I plan to set myself a regular writing schedule, with enough flexibility that I can still go out every now and then without feeling guilty about missing a writing day.  I figure a 5-day a week schedule will work because at the speed I generally write, I can guarantee 7500 – 10 000 words a week while drafting.  Revising is usually a lot slower, but I still usually manage a chapter or two a night, depending on how much rewriting and adding new scenes is needed.

I’m still drafting my NaNo novel, but it’s almost finished. It’s going to need a lot of revising because it’s really just a bare bones draft and so much of the story and characters have come into focus as I’ve written the book.  And the story has taken me in some interesting and unexpected directions as I’ve written it.  Once the draft is done, I’m going to leave it for a few weeks before diving into revisions.

While I let the NaNo book settle, I plan to finish the NA I’ve been working on off and on for the last year or so.  It doesn’t need a ton of work since most of it is done, but it needs some polishing and my CP’s eagle eye over it before I will feel comfortable sending it out into the world.

So the plan for this year is to finish the NA and this year’s NaNo book, plus I have another story idea I’m excited to write.  Once the other two are done, I’ll write this one (it’s also an NA story, I think…)

Another reason my productivity has been low in 2014 is that I’ve had other things going on. An Unstill Life published in January and keeping up with publicizing it has taken up quite a bit of my already limited writing time.  I have also been doing revisions on another book so my agent can take it out on submission early this year. 

I’ve found switching focus between projects is challenging for me and I have trunked a novel this year because somehow, in between editing and publicity and revising other things, I lost what I was trying to do with the book.  I need to get over this problem because if I’m going to have a writing career, this is going to happen a lot.  There will always be times when a WIP has to be dropped for edits or revisions, and I need to be able to pick back up without feeling lost in my text.  I’m not sure quite how to do this….

In 2014 I didn’t manage to be as present for my crit group as I wanted to be.  This year I will endeavor to be more regular with my critiques.  I love this group and they are a huge part of my writing journey, so I need to give them the same attention they give me.

I didn’t manage to lose any weight in 2014, so once again I’ll list it in my ‘to-dos’ for 2015.  I have a plan for regular trips to the gym and exercise during lunch-breaks, not to mention a diet plan I hope to have the will power to stick to.  I’ve managed to keep my weight the same over the last few years because my job has been quite physical, with a lot of time on my feet.  Now that my job is mostly sedentary, and the bus takes me pretty much right there, I need to really focus on diet and exercise if I don’t want to blow up like a balloon.

And that’s about it for 2015.  I’m sure things will come up that I’m not expecting, and some will be wonderful and others less so…  I’ll check in mid-year to see how things are tracking.

Love, Me.

I hope you all manage to achieve everything you wish to in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year's End Check In

2014 is coming to a close so it's time to look at the resolutions I made at the beginning to see how I did. So here is a copy of the letter I wrote myself at the beginning of the year, with my comments in blue italics.

Dear Me,

Before I launch into the goals for 2014, I think I need to reflect on 2013 and its successes and failures.  2013 was a year of highs and lows.  The same day I signed my first publishing contract, I lost my job.  Luckily I managed to find a new job within a few weeks, so it wasn’t a huge problem financially, but after over eight years in the one place, being told to leave hurt.

The job thing has changed again.  That new job I found at the end of 2013 really didn't suit me at all and I wound up accepting a voluntary redundancy there when they restructured the management team.  Luckily I got another job quickly and am now very happily (so far) employed by the government agency that funds and supports local film making.

But on the upside, I have a published book now!  Or will on January 3rd.  And that launches me into the first of my goals for 2014.

I will do whatever I can to make An Unstill Life a success.  I don’t expect to make a fortune, of course, but the idea that my book will be available to readers is a thrilling one, and I want to make sure as many readers as possible discover Livvie’s story.  I’m uncomfortable about promoting myself, so doing publicity for my novel will definitely take me outside my comfort zone.

Not sure how to measure this one.  I've done a lot of work to push the book and it's on going, but I wouldn't exactly call it a success.  I've sold few hundred copies, and while that's more than just my friends and family, it's not what I'd call a best-seller.  But the reviews have been generally good, and I've had a couple of lovely emails from readers who loved the book, so I'm reasonably content. It's even been nominated for a couple of awards!

Last year I wrote a book called STUMPED.  It’s YA, but deals with sex and disability in a way I’ve never seen in YA literature before.  I love this book.  It’s my favorite of all the titles I’ve written and I really want it out in the world.  I stopped querying when I got the contract for An Unstill Life because my writing time was suddenly taken up with revisions and edits and copy edits.  In 2014 I will resume querying this one and hopefully will find an agent brave enough to take me (and Ozzy) on.

Funny how things work out…  I did query STUMPED some more, and I got a lot of interest. I even got an  R & R request which I did and feel like the book is stronger for it, but it did not end up getting me an agent.  Yet I am now agented, thanks to a contest and an older MS that I pitched because I felt like STUMPED had done the rounds a fews too many times.  So I have achieved that goal over the year, just not in the way I thought it might happen.  And my agent is currently reading STUMPED, which has me a little nervous given how different it is to The Sidewalk's Regrets which is what she signed me for.

I got 50K into a new book last year.  It’s title-less right now, so I’m calling it Lana.  It’s not the best thing I’ve written, but there are definitely some things I like about it.  In 2014 I will finish this story, revise it and throw it into the hands of my critique group to figure out how to polish it up.

This book ended up being called Finding Lana Jones and I did finish it and I did start getting critiques on it.  Somehow though, I lost the spark that started me writing it in the first place and found myself foundering around as I revised.  So I trunked it and moved on.  Maybe I'll come back to it another time and figure out what I was trying to do and say with the story because it's lost to me now.

While they sink their teeth into that one, I have a new story idea just itching to get out.  It’s based on something that my new boss has been involved with over the past few months, and I think it could be very interesting, not to mention emotionally draining.  It’s hard not to get too excited about new ideas, but I really want to finish Lana before I start this one.

I did write this story.  It ended up being my NaNo project and the first draft is not quite finished.  I hope to get this done before I go away in January so I cam come back after my yearly trip to the beach house and revise the huge mess I know it is.

My critique groups are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I plan to be far more active in them this year.  With all the excitement and deadlines that rushed at me with my publishing contract, I don’t feel like I have been giving my CPs nearly the time they deserve.  So even if it’s just one review a week, I’ll become more active in my groups again.

This happened sporadically.  Some weeks I managed several reviews, others, none.  But I'm still in there and I still value my CPs as much as I ever have.

I’m not quite sure how I managed it, but I read 165 published books last year.  I did write less than I have in previous years, so I imagine that’s how I did it.  This year I plan to finish two novels as a writer, so I’m only going to shoot for 150 books read.  We shall see how that goes.  My bus ride to work is shorter now, so my reading time is a little more limited than it has been…

Yup.  Done.  Not quite sure how, but I've read as much this year as last, and with two more days to go until the end of the year, I may even get closer to 170 this year.

On a personal level, I will continue my regular trips to the gym.  Between them and the steep uphill walk to work each day, I figure I’m in the best shape of my life.  But that doesn’t mean I get to be complacent.  I could still stand to lose 5-10Kg…

I've stuck to my gym schedule for the most part, but I've lost  no weight.  With my new job being sedentary, I'm going to have to be way more conscious of food and exercise if I don't want to end up even huger by next Christmas!

Well, that’s about it for now.  I’ll check back mid-year to track my progress, and then again as 2015 begins sneaking toward us all.

Happy New Year!  And may you reach all your goals for 2014.

Love, Me.

How have you done with your 2104 goals?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Celebrate the small things 26-12-14

This post is part of VikLit's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?


We made it through Christmas Day yesterday and I'm now looking forward to a nice, relaxing nine days of holiday.  I plan to clean the house from top to bottom, go to the gym every day and get some much-needed writing done.  I also want to spend some time with the kids because they go away the day after I go back to work .

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday too!

What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Weekly Goals 22-12-14

Let's face it….  It's Christmas week, so aiming to get anything much done except eating and unwrapping gifts and then cleaning up is foolish.  So I've set aside my MS for the week so I can fully focus on the other things that need my attention - like my kids.

I finish up at work tomorrow and don't go back until January 5th which is a nice little break.  Especially considering I've only been in the job 3 weeks!  But I plan to use the break wisely.  We are going to do a whole house spring clean, top to bottom, inside and out.  It might take the whole break….

After all the Christmas madness is over (next Monday, I promise) I will get back into my WIP. I hope to have this first draft finished by mid-January when I go away for a week.  Possibly even sooner.  But either way, I will let it rest while I'm in the South Island, then start revising when I get back.  And it's gonna need a lot of revising….

What are your goals for this week?

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Déjà Vu Blog Fest

The Déjà Vu Blog Fest is the brainchild of the wonderful DL Hammons who is also responsible for Write Club and Blog Blitzing.  It's an opportunity to recycle an old blog post that maybe didn't get the number of eyes across it as you hoped.

This post is one I wrote back in October and I think it's worthy of being re-seen…

I've been working on an older story of mine this week.  Just pottering around with it, trying to make it work.  And because I'm not sure it is working, I started posting the chapters I've finished tinkering with up for my critique group to tear apart.

I got my first piece of feedback on my first chapter yesterday, and it was 100% spot on.

My CP pointed out that I was opening my story too soon.  That by starting my book with someone sitting in front of a computer, bored by his homework, I was going to start the book by boring the reader.  Even though the inciting incident happens in this chapter, that first scene wasn't going to compel anyone to read on.

She then said that while the inciting incident is good, it happens too soon for the reader to care.  That she needed to know the character a little better before he had his world rocked.

I agree.

I'm usually accused of having opening chapters in which nothing much happens because I always like to let the reader meet the characters and get a feeling for their world before throwing the crap at them.  With this story I'd decided forego that and jump right into the action.  I should have trusted my usual storytelling instincts.

So I went back and wrote a new chapter one last night.  Not an enormous amount happens in it, but I think by the end of it you know Tony a lot better, and have some idea of the struggles he's going to face  as the book goes on.

Having good critique partners is essential.  I can't stress that more.  You need readers you trust, readers who aren't going to be afraid of hurting your feelings if they think your work stinks.  You also need to be ready for critique, ready to accept that your work isn't as flawless as you'd like to think.

But more on that next time...

Do you have critique partners you trust?

Monday, December 15, 2014


I was at a wedding over the weekend and it made me think a lot about community and the very different groups of people we choose to surround ourselves with.  A wedding is one of the few events or places where people can bring together all the different communities we belong to.

In my life I have several, distinct communities.

First there's family.  They're a ready-made community and they're there regardless of choice.  I'm lucky that my family isn't too dysfunctional and for the most part we all get along reasonably well.  And I'm including my partner's family under that umbrella too.

Then there's my work community, the filmmakers and distributors and cinema people I deal with on a regular basis.  The people who work with me in the office and anyone who has ever worked with me in the past.  This is a community that grows and changes as people move around and change jobs, myself included.

Then there's the 'mum' community.  The people I've made friends with through my kids.  Some of these women have been my friend since the kids were babies, others I've met more recently through friendships my children have made at school.

And I can't forget the music community.  This is the one that introduced me to my partner, so it's one that is very dear to me.  And since music is one of my great passions, it's one I work to maintain.  A lot of the people in this community are not in the city I live in, so keeping in touch with everyone can be challenging.  The internet helps.

And finally there's my writing community.  This exists almost exclusively online, but is probably among the most important communities to me.  I can't imagine a week without chatting with my critique group or emails from my main CP.  I love emails from my agent and publisher. I love taking part in contests and helping newer writers navigate their way through the tricky waters of the publishing world.

The people I have chosen to surround myself with are the people who make my life complete and whole.  I can't imagine who I'd be without these people, so I value each and every member of every community.  But I can't see any occasion on which they would all come together in once space.  Maybe my funeral???

What communities do you surround yourself with?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things 12-12-14

This post is part of VikLit's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

I'm not sure if I'm celebrating or mourning, but I've cut just over 5K out of The Sidewalk's Regrets.  I'm still working on it, and hope to cut another 2K, but it's looking a little doubtful I'll get quite that far.  I have a few scenes I've marked as possible cuts, but my heart isn't really with them…  I guess I'll have to leave the final decision to my agent.

I got to see Nick Cave play on Monday night and it was awesome.  Not quite up there in my top 10 gigs ever because it wasn't the first time I've seen him, and while it was a fantastic show, it was seated and the other times I've seen him I've been right up in the front row with the spit and sweat spraying over me.  As far as I'm concerned, that's the best place to be at a live show, but for a seated show, we had good seats and I had fun.

I've made it through week 2 at my new job, and I'm enjoying it so far.  I like the people I work with, and that's always the most important thing.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Release Day for Last Will and Testament!

 It's here….

Yes, today is the release day for Dahlia Adler's NA romance, Last Will and Testament.  I know I've posted about this book before, but I'm so excited to help Dahlia launch it into the world.  She is such an amazing advocate for writers, this is the least I can do to repay her.

Plus, I've already had a chance to read the book, and it's good!  Really good.  You'll fall in love with Lizzie and Connor and really root for them to be together even when things look impossible.  But don't take my word for it.  The book is available now, so click on one of the links below and get it for yourself.

Title: Last Will and Testament
Series: Radleigh University 
Author: Dahlia Adler
Pub date: December 9, 2014
Buy links: Amazon B&N | iBooks | Smashwords | Kobo

Blurb: Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Weekly goals 8-12-14

This week's goals involve cutting words, not making word count.  My agent asked me to make some cuts to The Sidewalk's Regrets before we take it out on submission, so I'm sifting through the book, looking for scenes and sentences and even single words I can cut out without losing anything important.  So far, I've managed to lose about 5K.  It may be all I can do, but I'd like to try and get another 2K or so out if I can.

Once I've finished cutting, I'll go back to my NaNo book and try to finish it.  I'd like to get done by Christmas so I can set it aside to rest until the kids go back to school at the end of January.  Not sure that's going to happen, but I'll give it a shot.

While My Murder Year is resting, I have an NA book I've been working on off and on over the past year, and I plan to try and get that finished over the summer holiday period.

I'm heading into my second week of my new job, so I'm hoping to start feeling like I have more of handle on what I'm doing….  And I hope to get some Christmas shopping done in my lunch-breaks.  I'm feeling pretty behind on that because I haven't really started.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Celebrate the Small Things 5-12-14

This post is part of VikLit's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up! 

So, what am I celebrating this week?

I started my new job on Monday and I've had a good first week.  I definitely have a lot to learn, but I think I'm going to really enjoy it.  I've never worked a regular job with regular hours, so the prospect of having a whole two day weekend is pretty exciting too.  

I haven't made as much progress on finishing my NaNo book as I wanted to.  Earlier in the week I got notes from my agent about some cuts she thought I should make to The Sidewalk's Regrets, so I've been busily snipping bits out of that MS instead of writing new words for My Murder Year.  Cutting words is HARD!

On Monday I'm going to see Nick Cave play a solo show.  Having been a huge Nick Cave fan for almost 30 years, this is very exciting and I can't wait.

What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Weekly Goals 1-12-14

With NaNo finished, I'm no longer writing like a madwoman, but I do want to reach the end of my book.  So my goal this week is to write my usual 1500 words per day and just plod my way to the book's conclusion.  I figure it's not too far away, and I'm hoping to finish before Christmas so I can enjoy some time off from writing around the holidays.

I started my new job yesterday, and boy do I have a lot to learn!  So a lot of my energy is going to have to go toward that over the next few weeks.  I think I'm going to really enjoy it, but at the moment it's a steep learning curve.  Also, I'm going to have to adjust to the new hours and try to fit my life around them. Finding time to go to the gym looks like it might be more of a challenge than I thought!

With December having arrived, I guess I have to start thinking about Christmas and gifts.  I shall have to be organized and figure out who I need to get presents for, and what to get them.

What are your goals for the week?