Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Process

Writing with Chronic Pain.

Free image courtesy Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay.

When it comes to my writing this year, I began with optimism; I had another novella to write, and I was full of new ideas. Of-course, life doesn’t always go according to plan, and as the year went on, I found myself facing my biggest challenge yet.

The previous year (2021), I had taken a couple of falls, landing on alternate knees, causing injury, but thankfully no broken bones. Normally a healthy person, this was frustrating, but I managed. However, it was not until the end of the year that another health problem arose.

As the months passed, pain in my legs and lower back intensified. I had trouble sleeping and went to ‘bed’ on the lounge. To make matters worse, our family doctor of twenty years eventually retired, leaving me anxious and receiving three different diagnoses from three different doctors. Eventually, when at my lowest ebb, things worked out and in early July, I finally received my diagnosis. Sacroiliac joint pain – inflammation in my lower back, pelvis, and thighs. Yep, when I get sick, I make sure I do it properly!

Although I could go the quicker route to recovery by having a cortisone injection in my back, I’ve decided to go the slower route (an injection some months earlier in my left hip left me with a bad experience and I swore I’d never go through it again). Now, I have the right dosage with my medication, I am regularly seeing a chiropractor, and having regular acupuncture and massage. Some days are better than others, and after sleeping on the lounge for three months, I am now back in my bed again! 🙂

Throughout all of this, I naturally backed away a bit from social media, and as you’d expect, my writing has been seriously impacted. I have always been a slow writer, and living with chronic pain has made me accept that it’s part of my writing process.

I’m normally not one to talk about such personal issues, but I mention it to demonstrate that setbacks do happen; nobody knows what’s going on behind the scenes in a writer’s life. Not everyone can write fast, whether it’s through circumstances and/or their genetic makeup. You shouldn’t have to feel like a ‘failure’ if you don’t (and I’ve been there too many times to count). If you can write fast, that’s great, too! Everyone is different. It’s okay to write at your own pace, you shouldn’t have to feel shame either way.

Right now I’m on the slow road to recovery, and that also means the slow road when it comes to writing. We all have our own paths. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take dramatic changes in our lives to come to terms with it.

Has 2022 turned out differently to what you had planned? Have you come to accept your own writing process? Have you ever felt pressured to write faster?

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

Have You Ever Felt Cursed?

Have you experienced so much bad luck, you felt that you were cursed?

This is exactly how I felt on my tenth birthday, believing that I must have done something terribly wrong. Okay, so I was prone to having an overactive imagination and seeing the dark side in everything even at a young age. 😉

The day had gone well, despite having to spend it at school, but I guess that was the calm before the storm. I had some friends over to help celebrate in the afternoon, and wanted one of them to stay overnight, but they were not allowed. Despite my disappointment, as it would turn out, that was the best decision.

I was on the bed playing with my new toys, when what sounded like stones were being thrown against the side of the house. I thought it was the kids next door, but thought it strange, as they had never done such a thing before. When I heard the same sound on the roof, I went to ask my dad what was going on.

It was the beginning of a hailstorm, which would go on to cause major damage to our home. Our roof was so bad, you could look up and see the sky from our lounge room. My sisters and I moped the kitchen floor to no avail; the water just kept coming, and the hail was deafening.

My concern was for my guinea pigs. The mother had recently given birth to two little ones. They were outside under an awning, and I had wanted to bring them inside for the night. My mum thought they’d be fine under there.

When the storm was over, we crossed the white, icy road, where the hail was as large as golf balls, to our aunt’s house. We ended up living with my aunt and uncle for some months while our house was being repaired. The following day, I sat in my auntie’s lounge room in front of a heater with the mother guinea pig in my lap, trying to keep her warm. Cold and in shock, she died, joining her two babies that had died during the storm.

It was a night I will never forget.

That day I felt cursed, but at least that was something I eventually grew out of. These days, however, hailstorms are something I have come to dread.

Have you experienced a lot of bad luck? Did it ever make you feel so overwhelmed you thought you were cursed?

This Writer's Life, Writing

Creating Your own Writing Retreat.

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Recently, I spent several days in the Blue Mountains, a location that inspires some of my stories. Rather than splash out at attending writing retreats specifically tailored for writers, I create my own.

I’ve been doing this for some years now, which initially started with me going it alone, but these days, now that the kids are older, it’s whenever my husband and I go away. I’m now in the habit of packing my laptop and writing notes with me, so I can continue writing and gaze out the window admiring the different scenery.

The past three trips away, I’ve worked on the first two novellas in my Marsden Hall series in their various incarnations. I’ve thought about plot outlines while soaking in an outdoors hot tub, edited by the beach, as well as editing while being snowed in in a log cabin.

This is not to say that I won’t knock back the opportunity to go on a writing retreat to meet other writers if ever I get the chance (I was lucky to have been chosen to participate in one back in 2009), but it’s having that control of where and when I choose to write. Being alone or with one other person, also allows me to focus and not be too distracted by others.

New places and experiences are always great fodder for stories. We may look forward to a bit of R&R, but then, a writer never truly switches off! 😉

*And the good news is, the first draft of Marsden Hall 3 is done!! Watch this space!*

Do you create your own writing retreats, or have you ever been on a professional one? Have you found them beneficial? What’s your idea of an ideal writing retreat?

This Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Process

Silence is Golden.

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Seeing in a new year always brings with it a clean slate and endless possibilities. For 2022, I’ve been making plans for my next writing projects, as well as my publishing plans for the year. So far, I feel as if I am starting from scratch and therefore, willing to try something new.

Last year, I wrote about the struggles I was experiencing and how persistence matters when it comes to writing. I had reached a point where I gave serious consideration to giving up writing altogether, as I was no longer getting any pleasure from it. I was in a dark place, but then, given the nature of what I write, I needed to be. While writing my novella, The Stranger Within, I needed to stay there.

A beta reader once told me to ‘go darker.’ I can do that!

I wanted the novella published before the end of 2021, so I had a deadline to meet as well. I made it, but by the end, I was mentally and physically exhausted. That year, I had two falls, causing injury to both knees, as well as the anxiety over COVID-19 and going through lockdowns. I had also lost my spark for writing and needed to find it again. What I needed was a break!

For 2022, I have made the decision to spend less time on social media, specifically Facebook and Instagram. For me, this is where a large part of the ‘comparisonitis’ comes from (and I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories the effects these networks can have on young girls, especially). Besides, being an introvert, I am much more comfortable blogging and writing newsletters.

It’s only early days, but so far, I believe I have made the right decision. I have taken the time to relax, read, plan my writing projects for the year, and come up with a business plan. I’ve even given my desk a long overdue clean out!

Perhaps this may lead to a more permanent arrangement. 😉

What plans do you have for 2022? What changes are you making to help reach your goals this year?

This Writer's Life, Writing

Goodbye 2021 – A Year I’d Rather Forget.

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Another year is almost over and it’s beginning to look like we’re stuck in a perpetual time loop. It’s been another crap year with lockdowns, COVID-19 in its various incarnations, and I’ve had two falls injuring both knees, which I am only now slowly beginning to recover from. After all this, it’s not easy to end the year on a cheerful note and stop being a ‘Debbie Downer!’

To be honest with you, I’ve become physically and emotionally drained, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! 2021 has been a very long, exhausting year, a year where I have really had to push myself to get any writing done, finding my motivation somewhat lacking (and that’s another post in itself). But having said that, I did manage to publish two novellas, so it’s not all bad! 😉

If nothing else, COVID-19 has revealed what’s important in life, which for me is my health, family, and writing. After having read The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre, I believe that as an indie author, the writing is the main thing, and that there is nothing wrong with taking the slow and steady approach.

I feel this way every time I publish!

It’s also been a time to take a step back, analyse, and enjoy the little things. Going out to be amongst nature can be beneficial both physically and mentally. Ever since I was a kid, this has always been my ‘escape,’ and the opportunity to let my imagination run wild.

The epidemic, so far, has taught me not to take anything for granted and to take one day at a time. The future is unpredictable, but it has always been that way. We learn to adapt. The new year brings with it new opportunities and a chance to start afresh.

I hope you have a happy Christmas, and a safe and healthy new year! Here’s to new beginnings!

What things have you done to cope during 2021? Do you have any big plans for the new year, or do you intend to take things one day at a time?

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Celebrating Two Years as an Indie Author.

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Last year, I wrote a post listing what I learned during the first twelve months of being an indie author. Now, two years after hitting that ‘publish’ button, those points basically remain the same, but with a few added caveats.

Marketing can overtake the writing.

Yes, we want readers to find our books and read them, but sometimes the marketing side to indie publishing can become all-consuming. We can focus too much on all the different ways to market, hop on to the latest trend, spread ourselves too thin, and become obsessed with sales figures, and wonder what we are doing wrong. I’ve mentioned before that writing is a marathon, not a sprint, and the same can be said for the marketing side of publishing. Find something that you enjoy when it comes to marketing, even if it’s just one or two, and start your following from there. Too often, the focus can be on having large numbers, but there are many benefits to having a smaller following.

You need to remember the writing is what’s important.

A few years back, I spent a lot of time blogging, and my writing took a bit of a back-seat. My husband told me ‘I thought you wanted to be a writer, not a blogger.’ As much as I enjoy blogging (I’ve been doing this for twelve years now), he was right, and so I started taking a small step back. Lately, I’ve found myself doing the same thing with other social media – we crave the immediate attention it can bring. We need to find the right balance between writing and marketing, and remember our priority should be our stories.

Trying to maintain work/life balance.

As an indie author, we’re running our own business. We are in control of what we do, which includes our working hours. This can become a business where we work 24/7, if we let it. I admit to working evenings, weekends, and even waking up during the night or the early hours of the morning thinking about it. The thing is, I love what I do and that’s a good thing. Not many people can say they love their work, however, we still need to take breaks for the sake of our physical and mental health. COVID-19 has taught me that this, along with family, is what’s important. This year, I’ve also had two falls, landing on alternate knees about six months apart. I am still not fully recovered, and I guess the long recovery process is one way to tell me to slow down (as well as to unfortunately remind me how old I am)!

Recently, I’ve been reading The Relaxed Author by Joanna Penn and Mark Leslie Lefebvre (I’ll now have to start getting some of his books 😉 ), which has been very timely and confirms what I have been thinking for some months now.

Lately, I have been making plans for the next twelve months, but one thing is certain – the ‘slow but steady’ approach works for me.

What have you learned on your writing journey this year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your priorities? What writing process works best for you

Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal, Writing

The Writing Journey: Persistence Matters.

Free image courtesy of Pixabay.

In November of 2019, I self-published my first short story. Since then, I have published two more short stories and recently published my first novella, the first in a series. I have learned a few things along the way, and being an author is an occupation where you are always learning. But I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most determined and obstinate people you will ever find (just ask my husband), but one of my biggest weaknesses is comparing myself to others. I’ve been telling myself (and you here on this blog), that everyone’s writing journey is different, and this is my way to remind myself of this reality. In her book Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, Becca Syme has an entire chapter on the subject – ‘Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else.’ It’s good to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Even though my husband has been telling me this for years, I guess I needed to also hear it from others.

However, back in September 2020, things started to fall down around me. Despite being in a network of other writers, I felt alone. Even though they are lovely people whom I’m happy to have as writing friends, it began to dawn on me that they were not my ‘tribe.’ What I write does not necessarily gel with theirs. I started to pull away and even though I published another book of short stories a couple of months later, I began to go through one of the longest bouts of depression I have ever experienced.

Throughout this period and into a new year, I spent months setting up and sending out newsletters, and preparing my first Gothic novella for publication. I wondered what the point was because nobody cared, no-one was interested. I felt like a complete failure, but I persisted. As recently as April, a month before publication, my husband told me that if I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, then don’t do it. Do something else. I couldn’t stop because writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. ‘This is me,’ I told him. ‘This is who I am.’ He just didn’t get it.

I like to keep this quote on my desk as a constant reminder.

It was also around this time, that something started to happen, a kind of shift. A fellow writer put me onto David Gaughran’s course ‘Starting from Zero.’ As I prepared my next book for its release, I began to use what he taught me. Shortly after release, a Facebook friend sent me a request to join a group for indie horror writers. From that group, I was asked to participate in a competition for Gothic writers, as well as join a group for Gothic readers (which also included writers). I had finally found my ‘tribe.’

Together, these two incidents, helped make the launch of The Curse of Marsden Hall, my most successful. It reached as high as No.4 in one of its categories on Amazon Australia and was one of its ‘hot new releases.’ This then helped one of my other short stories, First Christmas, reach No.2 (yes, you read that right) in one of its categories on Amazon Australia.

A rare moment of seeing two of my books side by side in the Top 20.

Of-course such a high is short lived and it was a good couple of weeks while it lasted, but it gives me hope that maybe – just maybe – things might be starting to change on my writing journey.

For eight months I struggled with self-doubt and depression, but it was also a journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned who I am as a writer, both in my genre and my process. I’ve come to the conclusion, that although I may not become a big name, what’s important for me is the writing itself, and making my readers happy. Who knows, I might become an ‘overnight success’ by the time I’ve published my 20th book! 😉

Yes, I’ll continue to doubt myself and make mistakes along the way, but I’ve managed to overcome this hurdle. Persistence (and a healthy dose of stubbornness) pays off.

Being an indie author is hard work but there’s no point in worrying about things out of your control. Keep showing up and put yourself out there. Have fun, and love what you do!

It’s been some months since I last posted about writing and my writing journey (and reading this post, you’ll understand why). This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write, but I do so because I prefer to be honest with you and maybe help others who are struggling with their own writing journey.

Looking for spooky stories? Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Home is Where the Heart Is.

Free image courtesy David Mark from Pixabay.

This time last year, I entered my first RWA short story competition. Although my entry didn’t place, I managed to step out of my comfort zone. That story, along with one other, would later go on to become ‘First Christmas’, my first foray into the world of sweet paranormal romance. Even though I had fun writing both those stories, when my book was published in November, I felt happy to go ‘home’.

And where is that, exactly?

They say ‘home is where the heart is’, and for me that place is a spooky old mansion, full of dark shadows and forbidden secrets. My home, my real home, is among the darkness. Like many journeys we take, we sometimes need to spread our wings, but we always return to our roots.

In her book ‘Dear Writer, You Need to Quit’ (which I recommend for all you writers out there), Becca Syme says that we need to quit focusing on our weaknesses. Instead, we should focus on our strengths. Once we know what they are, development is the next step.

I recently finished reading Stephen King’s ‘Full Dark, No Stars’, and one of the things he had to say in the afterword resonated with me. ‘When it comes to fiction, the writer’s only responsibility is to look for the truth inside his own heart’.

Yes, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, but the dark side is my comfort zone. I have always been drawn to the horrors of what human beings are capable of, as well as the supernatural. I have come to accept it and learned to embrace it.

As we head into 2021, my path leads me into the shadows. I hope you’ll join me.

Where is your natural ‘home’ as a writer? Do you plan on writing in a different genre this year? Have you experimented with other genres, only to return where you’re the most comfortable?

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Celebrating One Year of Self-Publishing.

Free image courtesy Social.Cut on Unsplash.

November is an important month for me, but this year, it is even more special. This month marks my one-year anniversary of being self-published!

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by already, and what a year it’s been (hello, 2020). When I first hit that ‘publish’ button, I thought I knew what I was in for. I had spent years reading up on self-publishing, but it wasn’t until I actually began my journey that I found there was still so much to learn. The best way to learn about anything is by doing!

Here are the biggest take-aways I have learned these past twelve months: –

Learn from our mistakes and be prepared to experiment

In some respects, I’m fortunate that I began self-publishing without a big bang. There have been plenty of highs and lows, and yes, I’ve made some mistakes, but we learn from them and try to do things better. It also helps to keep a bit of an open mind and experiment. It’s a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Keep Finding Your Audience

Not everyone is going to like what you do, and that’s okay. We all have different tastes. We just need to find ways of locating our audience – they’re out there somewhere! You just need to keep rolling up your sleeves and put in the work.

Do What is Right for YOU

There is a lot of advice out there about the ‘best’ way to self-publish, but what works for one author won’t necessarily work for you. Some authors can do a ‘rapid release’ and produce quality work, but some may be like me and be in the ‘slow and steady’ camp. Neither one is right or wrong, you just need to do what fits with your personality.

Everyone’s journey is different

Having said that, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. I’ve been doing this long before I hit that publish button and it still hasn’t changed. Whenever I compare myself to others, I take a step back and focus on my own writing and genre. I look at what I have accomplished so far and what I need to do to achieve my next goal. The writing journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep moving forward one day at a time.

Love Your Network

I don’t think I would have got this far without my existing network. Apart from my husband, my support team has been entirely on-line. The writing community has been wonderful in their support, both for craft and morally. They have provided publicity for me, so I can reach readers that I would never have had access to, nor even considered. Cherish these people and reciprocate!

I love this quote! And I love getting creative with Canva & Book Brush too. 😉

Fellow writers, what have you learned this year on your writing journey? If you’re self-published, what was your biggest take-away during your first year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your outlook and/or your goals?

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

Author Interview – Halloween Edition.

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Hi everyone! I’ve had another author interview, this time with a Halloween theme.

This week I speak to fellow RWA member, and author/blogger Davina Stone. It’s a short, fun interview, with myself and two other authors of paranormal romance. I talk about my inspiration, my upcoming release, and a Halloween party guest of honour. Many thanks to Davina for letting me be a guest on her blog!

You can read the full interview at Davina’s website Spellbound! Fall in love with Spooky Romance this Halloween. Oh, and I also dress up for the occasion! 😉

And for those who celebrate it, Happy Halloween!

This cracks me up every time!