Celebrating Three Years as an Indie Author.

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Happy new year! I hope you’re well rested and making plans for 2023.

I admit 2022 was not one of my best years. I had ongoing health issues which hampered my writing efforts. Despite that, though, it gave me time to reflect on what I considered important in my life; writing being one of them.

Before I self-published three years ago, I read that once I hit that “publish” button, my life would change. In some respects, it did. I had more work to do, and like blogging, I had readers to satisfy. The trouble was, I managed to get caught in the belief that to be successful, I needed to write fast. Add on the “fear of missing out,” and worrying about things out of my control, what once gave me pleasure, I soon began to dread. I even considered chucking it all in.

Thankfully, I managed to persevere, believing that my health issues were an opportunity for me to slow down (the slow and steady route has always been my preferred  option, anyway). I continued to take a step back from all the noise of social media and have come to realise the three most important things when it comes to indie publishing: –

  1. Focus on your product
  2. Do what is comfortable for you, and
  3. Enjoy the process.

Indie publishing is a lot of work, and we can get so caught up in all the rush we forget why we’re doing this in the first place. Sometimes we need to reassess and take the time to appreciate how far we’ve come.

My husband recently told me to think about my personal satisfaction. Knowing I have created something I am proud of, and that readers enjoy, makes it all worth-while.

If you’re an indie author, have you been overwhelmed, or do you prefer to do it your own way? If you’re not published, which option are you considering – traditional, indie, or both?

Do You Fall Behind Or Catch Up on Your Writing Goals Over Christmas?

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We’ve made it to December, and it’s the final post for the IWSG for the year.

The question for this month is quite poignant. Usually, over Christmas, I fall behind, but I’ve been behind in my writing goals all year. I have been suffering from chronic pain and fatigue since late 2021, which threw my writing goals into disarray. Then, in the middle of NaNoWriMo, I had to abandon the challenge, as my town was hit by the recent floods, and my father-in-law’s house was affected (thankfully, he’s okay and is back home). Basically, it has been almost impossible to make plans for anything, let alone, writing.

So, this Christmas, I’ll be playing catch up with my writing goals. It’s a good thing I already adhere to the ‘slow and steady’ approach!

I have a few seasons of ‘Supernatural’ to catch up on as well. 😉

The final novella in my Marsden Hall series, House of Echoes, is with my editor, which means I can now start work on something new – only I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that will be (yep, squirrel). 😉

Christmas is also a time to reassess my writing goals and figure out what I’m comfortable with when it comes to both writing and marketing. If these past twelve months have taught me anything, it’s to go at my own pace; I’m in this for the long haul.

Happy Christmas everyone and best wishes for the new year. Wishing you lots of writing successes in 2023!

Do you fall behind or catch up on your writing goals over Christmas? Are you happy to go at your own pace when it comes to writing?

Writers: Have You Ever Participated in NaNoWriMo?

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Recently, I had been working on the edits for a couple of projects and planning what to write next when this month’s question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group appeared. It was certainly good timing, and I thank the group for the question, because I had forgotten all about NaNoWriMo. In fact, when I visited the site, I was shocked to discover I hadn’t participated in six years!

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo about three times in the past, making it over the finish line of 50k twice. I can honestly say that both times, those ‘successes’ were both steaming excrements, and I have not revisited either of them. Having said that though, they were both learning experiences. I learned that for me, at least, when it comes to writing novels (or even novellas for that matter), I need to have an outline.

So, why has it been so long since I participated?

I’m not sure if it is just me, but each time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I would get bad headaches. Maybe it was the stress of pushing myself to reach a certain word count every day, or other factors, like the computer screen, or needing to get my eyes tested. This time, though, I’m prepared: I have a new computer with a bigger screen, and I’ve been wearing reading glasses for some years now (the joys of getting older). I’m devoting the entire month of November towards this project, as well as trying to meet a deadline for my editor. At least now, I have an excuse to binge on Netflix! 😉

In the past, I always worked on something new, but this time I’ll be doing something different by writing a new draft of an existing project. Don’t worry, I won’t be cheating, as this project is in dire need of a re-write (it hasn’t been touched for some years). But by doing this, my outline is already there after a few tweaks, and my world and characters are a bit more fleshed out. I usually work linear as well, but in NaNoWriMo you don’t have to, which is a great help in getting those words down. Because this project has been bubbling away for some time, I’m keen to get started.

If you’re participating this year, let me know, the more the merrier. I wish you the best of luck! Let’s cheer each other on!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? Have you worked on your novel after NaNoWriMo? Are you a plotter or a panster, or somewhere in-between?

What Do You Like Best About Gothic Fiction?

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It’s time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), and as October is Halloween month, it seems appropriate that I’ll be talking about my favourite genre.

Haunted houses, eerie landscapes and forbidden secrets: ever since the publication of The Castle of Otranto in 1764, Gothic Fiction may have received its fair share of detractors, but it has gone on to become a very versatile genre.

For many years, I could never work out exactly which genre I wrote in. As I read in multiple genres, my writing would gravitate towards a variety of genres as well. Horror, romance, historical, mysteries: I tried them all. It’s only in more recent years that I’ve come full circle, returning to the genre that I was drawn to from a very early age (although I do still write in other genres).

I think I’ve managed to avoid my characters doing this. I might have to try it sometime!

One of the reasons why I enjoy Gothic Fiction so much is because it incorporates other genres, and therefore gives it more scope to tap into various themes. Two recurring themes for me are mental illness and gender issues, such as the status of women in society (which works well in a historical setting).

I grew up watching horror films and have always been fascinated by the paranormal (ghosts being my favourite), so I am naturally drawn to stories that contain these elements. I enjoy the suspense built within them, eager to keep turning the pages or watching to see what lurks within the shadows. As the setting is an important characteristic of the Gothic genre, this helps heighten the feelings of dread.

Gothic fiction is also highly emotional, which is why it works extremely well with romantic elements. Throw in a flawed, brooding hero and I’m sold. 😉

The BBC production of Jane Eyre is my favourite.

Death is a constant companion within the genre. I’ve had a morbid fascination about the subject from a young age (regular family visits to the local cemetery may have something to do with it). It is one of life’s great mysteries, and being naturally curious, I really enjoy a good mystery too!

Gothic Fiction has many characteristics, and as you can probably tell, I’m fond of all of them! Recently, I’ve heard that the Gothic novel is ‘coming back.’ For me, it never left.

For those who celebrate – Happy Halloween! 🙂

What do you consider the best characteristics of your favourite genre? Have you struggled to find your genre when it comes to writing? Do you have a favourite production of Jane Eyre?

What Genre Would You Find Difficult to Write?

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Firstly, I’ve returned to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), where writers get together to share and encourage others. It’s good to be back and I look forward to reacquainting myself with fellow writers and meeting new ones along the way. 😊

The answer to this month’s optional question was a bit of a no brainer for me. As much as I enjoy watching science fiction, this is one genre I would find difficult to write. Despite my interest in science in general, I can never get my head around all the terminology and complex workings (the subject was not my best at school). I have a brain that’s wired to what my husband likes to refer to as ‘arty-farty’ (I’ll leave the hard-core science stuff to him).

I grew up in a household where we watched a lot of sci-fi shows on television: – Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Space 1999, Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, The Twilight Zone. So, it’s not as if I am suffering from a lack of influence! The funny thing is, it was not until after we got married that my husband discovered I was a Trekie (bonus brownie points, I guess).

I admit I have never tried writing anything in the genre, because, if I’m being honest, my interest is not strong enough. By that, I mean I don’t feel passionate enough about it, and realistically, we should be writing in genres where we feel the most passionate. And that, for me, is in the horror genre (The Twilight Zone helped play its part here).

Yes, I remain interested in science, I mean, how cool is the sound of a black hole? Sounds like something out of a horror movie! But I’ll leave the writing of the genre to others. I’m happy to just keep watching it and be introduced to more great shows, like Firefly. 😉

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why? Which genre do you feel the most passionate about? Do you enjoy watching sci-fi?

 

Writing with Chronic Pain.

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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?

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?

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?

The Writing Journey: Persistence Matters.

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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! 🙂

A Return to Slow Blogging

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This year has been a tough one for many of us, myself included, although I have been more fortunate than others. As a result, my writing has pulled me in different directions and there have been times (including just recently) when I wondered if I should give it up completely. This also included blogging.

I have been blogging for eleven years (that’s some milestone right there!) and throughout that time, I have met some lovely people around the world, built up a small community, and continue even now, to get followers.

With other forms of social media (and people can sometimes forget that blogging is a form of social media), there is only so much that can be said. As a writer, blogging is a form of creative expression and outside of writing my stories, blogging gives me the freedom to express myself to others. I feel comfortable doing it and I enjoy it. So, in the end, I have decided to stick with it.

When I began blogging, I had set out to make it part of my writing journey. It helped me write to deadlines, focus on my topic, and meet other writers. Lately, I’ve been hearing that blogging is ‘dead’, but that has been said for many years now, and yet blogging continues. Without blogs, I would never have read articles that would help me with my craft and learn how to be an indie author. I would also never have known about online courses and seminars that I have learned so much from. Without blogging, I may never have progressed as far as I have done. Without blogging, I may never have had author interviews or receive book reviews. I owe blogging and the blogging community so much!

Having said that, for some time, I was against the idea of doing a newsletter. It sounded so much like blogging and would only be another thing to add to my ‘to do’ list. However, after learning more about newsletters, I have recently caved. I am currently working on creating a newsletter and plan to have my sign up form up and running in January 2021. I’ll keep you posted!

As a result, this blog will be an extension of the newsletter and vice versa. Also, I will be blogging less – about once a month, although there may be other posts appearing from time to time.

This is just another step in my writing journey. I hope you’ll come with me! 😉

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year. Let’s hope that 2021 has better things in store for all of us. Stay safe!

And don’t forget, First Christmas is available on Amazon. What’s a shameless plug between friends? 😉