January 2023: Off to a good start!

Monthly updates, can I manage that? I seem to manage it on my review blog, so maybe I can manage it here as well.

Given that I was overseas until a week ago, I was generally planning for February to be when I got back into writing for the year.

But then on January 12, I had a breakthrough on a short story that I’ve had sitting around since 2020, and now I have a finished first draft!

And on January 29, I sat down and finally worked out an ending to my circus-y romantic fantasy, Facing the Music. I first started it in 2018 and worked on it fairly consistently for about two years. While the characters have stayed with me since then, determined to one day have their story told, I didn’t have an ending until now.

Definitely not a bad start to the year if I do say so myself! Looking forward to the year ahead with these projects to work on!

2023: Replenish

Water streaming from a stone fountain in close-up. on the black background to the left are the words Replenish 2023.

Happy 2023, everyone!

At the start of every year, I try to choose a word that will be my theme for the next twelve months. This year’s word is REPLENISH.

After the year that was, my main priority this year is to refill the creative well, as well as take more time for myself and my own goals, and allow less time for big commitments that I will struggle with down the track.

2022 started out quite well! I published Enchanted Sleep, the second book in the Drosselmeier Industries series, and I had my first short story accepted and published in an anthology. And I managed to finish the year with a short story set in the DI universe.

But in the meantime, I had to move house, and I was busy rehearsing for a show that ended up not going ahead due to COVID (what else?). I then went straight into rehearsals for another show, and spent three months struggling with the commitment, despite enjoying the music and the friendships formed through it. And once that was over, I only had three weeks break before I was off on a ten-week overseas trip!

So it worked out well that I had made the decision in late 2021 to not have any solid writing goals for 2022.

I am doing much the same in 2023. I want to finish the third Drosselmeier Industries book, and maybe write some short stories, but that’s all I’m saying in terms of goals. Once I am home from overseas, I’ll probably review my list of unfinished projects and see what takes my fancy.

I guess this post is mostly for my own benefit. I don’t know if anyone else is likely to read it. But it’s good to have something to look back on down the line.

If you are reading this, thanks! I hope you meet your goals this year!

Merry Christmas from Max, Clara and me.

Hello from Budapest, Hungary! I’m in about week six of a ten-week European tour, and at the moment I’m especially looking forward to seeing The Nutcracker at the Hungarian State Opera on Christmas Day.

Knowing that this was coming up, I was struck by the idea of Clara and Max going to see The Nutcracker. Admittedly, I don’t know if the ballet technically exists in their universe (weird that neither of them recognised the similarities with Operation: Sugarplum if it does) but we can ignore that. At the end of Operation: Sugarplum, Max mentions that the Veritas team would be working on a game set in a world of haunted dolls. So I took that and ran with it!

Before we get to the story, though, I wanted to let you know that both Drosselmeier Industries books are available outside of Amazon now! If you use Kobo, Apple Books, B&B, etc., then visit the Drosselmeier Industries page for all the links.

And now, on with the story!

~*~

“I still can’t believe that you have German grandparents and you have never seen The Nutcracker! Your nickname is ‘Nutcracker’, and you’ve never seen it. How is that possible?”

“I’ve never been to the ballet at all,” Max Drosselmeier admitted, once Clara allowed him to get a word in.

He wasn’t sure he was going to enjoy that night’s performance, either, but he wasn’t going to tell Clara that. She’d gone out of her way to get good seats and she hadn’t stopped talking about the upcoming theatre trip for at least a week. Max appreciated her enthusiasm to share this Christmas tradition with him.

They filed into the theatre, through doors with red velvet curtains pulled to either side. An usher directed them to their seats: six rows back, directly in the centre. The seats, also red and plush, were comfortable enough, though Max’s long legs were squashed in the confined space.

The lights dimmed, and the overture began. Clara took Max’s hand and grinned at him. The curtain rose to reveal a massive Christmas tree in one corner, decorated with glittering baubles and flickering candles. Max was transported back to Christmases with his paternal grandparents: the snow, the smell of chestnuts on the fire and the roast in the oven… the light-headedness after a glass or two of glühwein.

He settled down in his seat as dancers entered the stage. Maybe the ballet wouldn’t be so bad.

Read more: Merry Christmas from Max, Clara and me.

~*~

Clara glanced over at Max every few minutes. They’d only been dating a few weeks, and she had worried whether expensive tickets to The Nutcracker were a bit too much this early in the relationship.

Fortunately, Max seemed to be enjoying his first ballet experience. She’d even caught him tapping his toe along to the Nutcracker March, thanks to their clasped hands resting on his knee.

She slid her gaze to him once more as the Mouse King made his appearance in young Marie’s bedroom. Max leaned forward, his head tilted to one side. Clara had been waiting to see how he reacted to the similarities between the ballet and his virtual reality game, Operation: Sugarplum. He hadn’t looked at the program before the show started, but she couldn’t wait to see his face when he realised some of the characters shared the name Drosselmeier.

As the Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King continued to confront one another, an electronic vibration ran up Clara’s arm. She looked down and saw the lit-up screen of Max’s smart watch.

“Max, turn it off,” she whispered, quickly puling her hand away from his. To her annoyance, he didn’t immediately lock the screen, but cupped his hand around it to block out as much light as possible while he read the incoming message.

“Max!” she hissed again. The person on Max’s other side turned to glare at him, but Max didn’t notice.

“I have to go,” he said, standing in his seat.

“What?”

“Emergency. I’ll explain later. I’m sorry.”

He started edging his way along the row towards the aisle, oblivious to the grumbling and stares from the people he was disrupting.

Clara fixed her gaze on the stage. The Nutcracker Prince was triumphant over the Mouse King, but she barely registered his victory. Her face burned, partly from embarrassment, but also from being ditched on a date she’d been looking forward to so much. Max had better have a good explanation later.

~*~

Max’s mind whirred on the short drive from the theatre to the Drosselmeier Industries offices. He knew he’d have to find a way to apologise to Clara later, but right now, he was preoccupied with the text he’d received from his uncle:

There’s a Faceless One in my office. Get here as soon as you can.

Max wasn’t sure why Josef was at work at close to 9pm on a Saturday, but was glad Josef, and not any of their other colleagues, had been there to find the Faceless One,. Few people knew about Max’s uncanny ability to remove characters from the company’s virtual reality system – the Veritas – and he preferred it that way.

The problem was, though, that Max had only worked on the Faceless Ones game in a limited capacity, and he hadn’t touched it at all in at least a month. Usually, Veritas characters survived a few days at most outside their games. How had this one lasted so long?

Max swiped his way into the building. The lift seemed to take an eternity to reach him on the ground floor and take him to Josef’s office on the third. Josef met him in the corridor.

“Where is it?” Max asked.

Josef eased the door open and nodded towards the far corner. “I trapped it under the bin. It didn’t seem to know what to do about that.”

As Max followed his uncle’s gaze, the upturned bin in the corner jiggled. The rim raised slightly off the ground before clattering back onto the tiles. The noise made Max flinch in the otherwise quiet office space. Swallowing, Max edged towards it. In theory, he knew what he would find but sometimes seeing the Veritas characters outside of their natural environment was unnerving. He suspected that would apply especially to creatures designed for a horror game.

He bent down and lifted the bin, putting it aside. The Faceless One’s body looked like a live porcelain doll, with segmented limbs and a wobbling head that was slightly too big. As with most characters removed from the Veritas, it was also pixelated around the edges. The fuzziness usually suggested that the character would soon disintegrate in the real world and return to its game automatically. Was the Faceless One simply disintegrating at a quarter of the speed of other characters?

It took a tottering step towards Max. Despite its lack of features, he still had the sense the little creature was staring at him as it turned its head slowly upwards.

“You are weird-looking, aren’t you?” Max told it. “Still, could have been worse. Could have been your dad.”

Inside the game, the Faceless Ones first appeared as children, growing up into grotesque, distorted versions of the toys they started out as. An adult would likely have been much harder to manage. At least, Max hoped a child was less likely to try to eat him. Or whatever it was faceless dolls did to people.

“Now, how have you lasted here so long?” he asked it.

It couldn’t answer him with words, but it seemed to understand the question. Or maybe it was just a coincidence that it chose that moment to throw itself towards Josef’s desk. It awkwardly pulled itself up the chair, inhibited by both its small stature and the way its fuzzy limbs kept passing straight through the chair when it tried to grab on.

It reached the desk and planted itself on the keyboard. The computer was open to Josef’s email inbox, but the Faceless One didn’t seem to be interested in the content. Instead, it basked in the glow coming from the screen.

As Max and Josef watched, the light grew brighter, but it also coalesced into a narrow beam between the screen and the Faceless One. The Faceless One thrummed with energy and its fuzzy edges started to solidify.

“Is it… feeding?” Max asked in a loud whisper. He didn’t want to disrupt whatever it was the Faceless One was doing.

“if it is,” Josef whispered back, “then it’s interesting it can do it from my computer and doesn’t need the Veritas.”

“This explains how it’s been here so long.”

“Can you get rid of it?”

“Sure can try. Does your bin have a lid? We need to get it upstairs somehow.”

Max retrieved the bin from the corner and Josef found the lid near his desk. They stood on opposite sides of the Faceless One and on Max’s count, grabbed it by the arms and forced it into the bin. Max grimaced as they pushed the lid in on top, despite knowing that the Faceless One couldn’t feel any pain as they squished it inside.

Together, they carried the bin up three floors in the lift to the area where the Veritas team worked. There were offices for designers, storyboarders, developers and animators. Max went straight to an office at the end of the corridor with seven computers arranged in a U-shape around the room.

“I used this one the last time I looked at Faceless Ones,” he told Josef, switching on a terminal. “The characters are only ever removed from the instance I play, not the game in its entirety. So hopefully opening the game on here will send it back.”

He drummed his fingers on the desk as he waited for the computer to start up. When it did, he sat down in front of it, and paused with his fingers over the keyboard as he considered where he needed to go. For all he knew, the files could have been moved or changed or removed from this computer all together. He’d have to hope for the best.

A metallic scraping noise alerted Max to the Faceless One trying to escape its confinement. Max leaned to his left and firmly pressed down on the bin lid as he opened the file he needed with the other hand.

He pulled on the headset and looked around the world he had entered. A toyshop, dimly lit. Shelves full of teddy bears, puppets, balls, cricket and baseball bats…. And behind the tall counter, rows of porcelain dolls on floating shelves.

The Faceless One could have come from there. There were no gaps on the shelf, but Max could slip it in somewhere and let the game sort itself out.

Or more likely…

With a few strokes of the keyboard, Max manoeuvred into the workroom behind the counter. Baskets of doll limbs lined the walls. Two dark corridors led off to other parts of the workshop, but Max avoided those. He was on edge enough without an oversize doll coming for him in the dark.

Instead, he made his way to a worktable in the centre of the room. There were tools laying on it: wire cutters, a chisel and a pair of pliers. A tin full of lengths of thin wire sat across from them. And between them all were four leather restraints, spaced exactly where a small Faceless One’s wrists and ankles would be.

This was the place.

Satisfied that he knew where he needed to return the Faceless One, Max removed his headset. Now he needed to find the files associated with that scene and code the Faceless One back in. As he’d once said to Clara, he could move quickly to write over a game when he had to, but he didn’t love the idea of doing it in a game that wasn’t his.

Max spent the next hour trawling through the development files. Josef disappeared and reappeared with a flask of tea, which he left by Max’s side, then disappeared back to his office.

Max finally found the relevant scene and arranged the view so he was looking at the Toymaker’s worktable from above. He leaned down again and removed the lid of the bin. He didn’t have to search around for the Faceless One. Its tiny hand clamped around his fingers in seconds. Wincing, Max hauled it onto his lap.

“Let’s put you back where you came from, hey?”

Slowly but surely, Max found the relevant components of the doll and dragged them back onto the worktable. There was the physical rendering, followed by embedding the character traits and programming certain actions.

He saved his changes compulsively, each time looking down at the Faceless One to see if there was any change. He knew his job was done when the weight on his lap vanished, and the Faceless One on the screen squirmed on the worktable.

Mission accomplished.

Max sat back and took a large swig from the flask of tea. He wouldn’t be satisfied until he ensured that everything was as it should be on the game’s front end. After another mouthful of tea, he re-opened the game and slid on the headset again.

The Faceless One was trying to sit up on the table in front of him.

“Oh no you don’t,” Max muttered, and clicked on the restraints. They fastened around the Faceless One’s limbs, securing it in place. Finally, the scene looked as it had when Max had viewed it so long ago.

Max removed the headset and closed the game. He looked at his watch. It was after ten. The ballet would be well and truly over by now. Max pulled out his phone, wondering whether Clara had been in touch. She hadn’t, but he knew he needed to apologise for ruining the night as soon as possible.

He pressed the call button and then turned in surprise when Clara’s ringtone trilled behind him. There she was standing in the doorway.

“Clara.” Max hung up the phone and slipped it back into his pocket.

Josef must have let her in. She didn’t have access to the building and usually it was Max escorting her when she visited.

“Crisis averted, I assume?”

“Um, yeah.” Max gestured vaguely to the computers behind him. “But we have a lot of new material to add to our research notes. How did you know I was here?”

“Figured an emergency here was more likely than one at your apartment. Plus, I could walk here from the theatre, rather than calling an Uber.”

“Ah. Right.” In his rush to get to the office, Max hadn’t really considered that he’d left Clara with no transport. He rubbed the back of his neck, not sure what to say next.

“The ballet was good,” Clara remarked, filling the silence.

“I’m really sorry.” Max crossed to the door and took Clara’s hands in his. “I know you were really excited for tonight.”

“It’s okay,” Clara replied, giving a little shrug. “I know you had to fix things up here before they got out of hand.”  She tried to smile, but Max could see the disappointment behind it.

“I’ll make this up to you, I promise.”

Max put his arm around Clara, and together they began to walk out of the office.  When they reached Max’s car, Clara paused before climbing in.

“You know,” she said. “At least it was The Nutcracker. We can just try again next Christmas.”

New Release: Where the Weird Things Are Vol. 1

Hi everyone!

I’ve had a very stressful couple of months but we’re coming out of that now, and I have an announcement!

My short story “Sign Me Up” is featured in Deadset Press’s new anthology, Where The Weird Things Are Volume 1. It features a public servant in a job she hates on a dangerous mission to save dragons from taxpayer-funded extermination.

(You can tell I’m a public servant with a description like that 😂)

At the moment, there’s only an ebook available, which you can obtain at your favourite online book retailer via the handy universal book link.

Watch this space for the paperback!

a promo image for the Where the Weird Things Are anthology featuring the story Sign Me Up by Emily Wrayburn.

Well, hello, mid-March.

With a new book coming out at the end of the month and WordPress about to charge me for another year of domain registration, I thought I should pop in and update this blog a bit.

First of all, Enchanted Sleep, book two in the Drosselmeier Industries series, comes out on March 26! You can pre-order here! And here’s book one in case you haven’t read it yet, either! And if you’d prefer to read up a bit on the series before you commit, you can do so here!

Also, isn’t this cover just beautiful?

It shows a young white man with his hands raised to a virtual reality headset over his eyes. A spinning wheel and a fireplace are in the background. The title is Enchanted Sleep and the author is Emily Wrayburn.

All thanks go to Les (germancreative on Fiverr) for the design. I was pretty vague with what I wanted, and yet she managed to figure it out and give me something superb!

This novella has been a really good learning experience, in terms of both writing and publishing.

There was a two week period after I finished Draft Two in October last year where I was convinced the story was terrible and I should bin the whole thing. And throw in the whole self-publishing towel.

By the end of that month, I was slowly easing myself back out of that hole, and since then, the story has gone through four more drafts. Shout out here to beta readers Nicole, Leanne and Celia, who read Draft Four and gave me wonderful feedback, making me realise that some of my ideas weren’t expressed clearly, and pulling me up on some inconsistencies in the plot.

Draft 5 was read by another friend, Veronica, who was wonderful enough to not only say “you use this word a lot” (101 instances of the word ‘but’ in 11000 words! 🤣), but also used tracked changes to suggest how to get rid of half those instances. I’m very grateful to her for doing half the work for me!

I set up the pre-order to give myself a deadline, but when I had no choice but to do it, I discovered that Amazon doesn’t like you changing the release date of a book on pre-order. It let me do it once, but had I needed to change it a second time, I would then have been barred from publishing for a year!

But! I am now confident that I’m going to make that deadline with a good story, so we all live happily ever after.

So what’s next?

I set up the Amazon listing for this book in around October last year, but since then, I’ve decided I won’t be publishing anything else in 2022. Or at least, it’s not a priority. If it happens later in the year, great! But I really just want to spend this year writing. I have so many unfinished projects. I want to work on things that are bringing me joy, without the pressure of needing to finish them on a publishing schedule.

There will definitely be a third Drosselmeier Industries book. I’ve written some notes and an opening scene but now I have to figure out what happens next (#PantserProblems). I’ve also got an urban fantasy that I drafted last year but now want to pretty much gut and start again from scratch. And a bunch of short story ideas. The sky’s the limit!

I won’t send out newsletters all that often but I’ll still be pretty active on Instagram and Twitter if you want to hear more about what I’m doing. Maybe I’ll see you there!

The One With the End of the Year Summing Up

I remember saying at the end of 2020 that people were putting a helluva a lot of pressure on 2021 to be ~better~ than 2020. I think it’s pretty safe to say that 2021 did not deliver on that front, and I don’t think anyone is harbouring any of the same illusions about 2022.

In my case, I was more affected by the pandemic this year than last. In 2020, I still went into the office two days a week and we were never really in hard lockdown where I live. In one week of August 2021, we had more cases in our region than we’d had in the whole of 2020.

On the writing front, well… I looked at my January 1 goals post earlier and all I can say is “wow!” I acknowledged at the time that it was ambitious, but I have no idea how I ever thought I’d get through even half of that!

But let’s look at what I did achieve:

  • Completed a first draft of a new urban fantasy novella, Lucy Williams Is A Witch.
  • Completed two drafts of Enchanted Sleep (Drosselmeier Industries #2). I’m on track to release this in March.
  • Submitted two short stories to Deadset Press‘s upcoming anthology Where the Weird Things Are (still waiting to hear back on either of those – cross your fingers!)
  • Kept a pretty decent Instagram schedule, posting about what I was reading as well as snippets from what I was writing. I also ventured into the world of Instagram reels, though I’ve got plenty still to learn on that front!

I think the most important thing, though, is that I’ve really spent some time figuring out what sort of writing schedules and methods work for me. I will be able to use that to my advantage going into the new year! I’ll be back tomorrow with a (admittedly much less impressive) goals post for 2022.

See you then!

2021 Goals Midpoint Check-in

This was supposed to be my quarterly check-in. I found it in my drafts folder today. Oops!

I am usually a stickler for having these types of posts go up on the last day of the period they refer to or the first day of the following period, but here we are. 😂

This year was to be the year of completing things. You can see my original January 01 Goals List here. How’s that all going? Ehh… reasonably, I guess. As 2020 certainly proved, I aim high and certainly can’t account for the times when my head is simply not in the game.

But one thing I am determined to do is shift my mindset to focus on what I do achieve, rather than what I don’t. I’m not going to list every goal I originally posted here, and tell you how I’m going with it.

Instead, I’m going to talk about what I have achieved so far this year.

Goal: draft two Drosselmeier Industries sequels

I finished the first draft of the first sequel in February, which seems a long time ago now. I recently reopened the file one day while I was bored at work and found myself immediately making some notes about how to improve it for the next draft. I’m not sure when I might get to it but not that I’ve got it back at the forefront of my mind a little, I do want to revisit it sooner rather than later.

I will admit that multiple drafts of one sequel is more likely than drafts of two sequels at this stage. That’s okay. I’d love to have it ready for around a February 2022 release, which would follow on nicely from a Christmas round of promotion for Operation: Sugarplum. We’ll see.

Goal: complete two projects from the incomplete WIPs list

In March and April I completed the first draft of a novella called Lucy Williams Is A Witch. It was the result of an idea that I had kind of sketched out and had on that list. It’s no longer a romance, and no longer set at Christmas, and it’s YA rather than adult… but I’m still counting this as finishing an incomplete WIP. I’d only ever got as far as vaguely outlining my “Witchy Christmas novella” anyway, so it still counts.

I’m working on the second draft now and can see at least third and fourth drafts on the horizon.

Goal: Relaunch A More Complicated Fairytale

I keep getting distracted from this goal. My plan was to spend the rest of April getting this formatted, but I ended up doing more editing on it. And I only did a few chapters before life got the best of me, and I haven’t returned. This is why these check-in posts are so useful for me, even if no one else ever reads them! To be honest, this hadn’t been at the forefront of my mind at all!

Goal: post at least two writing-related posts on Instagram each month.

I’ve been doing decently at this! I started the year posting regularly on both the #SnippetSaturday and #WriterWednesday tags. The Wednesday posts have fallen off a bit, but I’ve done pretty well at sticking with weekly Saturday posts.

I would love to be able to increase engagement on my writing posts and so I’m poking around in other hashtags as well to see if they might be more useful.

Goal: Re-work newsletter onboarding sequence and keep up with monthly newsletters

I’ve been keeping up with the newsletters, but still need to do more work with growing my list. Lately I’ve been commissioning artists on Twitter to do illustrations of my Lucy Williams characters and sharing them in my newsletters. Closer to publication time, I will share them on this here blog, too.

To be honest, newsletter time tends to surprise me each month. I know that to grow my list I need to get the links out there in the backs of my books and things like that, too. I’ve got to set some time aside to really focus on that.

Goal: learn to tap dance

I started classes in mid-February. The first four weeks were a foundation course for those who had never tapped before. Now that I’m in the Beginners course, it’s a bit more challenging and I would even go as far as to say I am not always enjoying it, but I shall persevere and improve!

So that’s where I am now. How are you doing with your goals for this week/month/year?

2021: the Year of COMPLETE

A grid of jigsaw puzzle pieces with a black border. In the centre, one piece is not attached to the puzzle, but instead is sitting slightly off centre. There is black in the empty space. Above this is in the word Complete in upper case white text on a black background. Below the out-of-place puzzle piece is "Twenty twenty-one" but all one word, also in white on a black background.

In 2020, a few writer friends and I all chose a word to be our theme for 2020. I’ve decided to do that again this year. I have so many unfinished projects I want to return to, so it makes sense that my 2021 theme word would be Complete.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the coming year. I’ve used the same categories I used last year; I found them to be quite a helpful breakdown.

A shot of a desk with a notebook, phone and laptop. The laptop is open and there are hands resting on it, but we cannot see the rest of the person.

WRITING

  • Complete Facing the Music draft 2

I’ve been thinking about this WIP a lot lately, and I think I finally have a way forward with it. My problem has been that I have been cramming too much into it, and I never really knew what I wanted it to be.

So I’m paring it right back. I’m going to revisit the Snowflake Method of outlining, and see if that helps me figure things out.

  • Draft two Drosselmeier Industries sequels

I have two in-progress drafts, but I think I’m going to nearly scrap them both and start fresh. I’m really hoping to complete the series this year.

  • Complete two other projects from the incomplete WIPs list

This is a long list, I can tell you that! Some are short stories, some are probably closer to novella length. Some are only outlined, some I’ve started the first draft, and some others are probably nearly finished. So I’ll revisit that and see what strikes my fancy.

A woman sitting at a desk, looking at a large-screen computer.

PUBLISHING

  • Publish Drosselmeier Industries sequels ebooks
  • Publish Drosselmeier Industries combined paperback
    • cover design
    • formatting
    • social media graphics
    • marketing

Given the length of the DI stories, it made no sense to publish separate tiny paperbacks, but I do want to put out a combined edition in hard copy for those who prefer that to ebooks.

  • Add back matter to already-available ebooks
  • Re-launch A More Copmlicated Fairytale
    • new cover design
    • formatting
    • social media graphics
    • marketing
A light bulb in the centre of a blackboard. In chalk, six lines lead off from the light bulb. At the end of each line is a circle, like the light bulb is sparking new ideas.

LEARNING

  • Read four books on self-publishing and other indie author business, e.g. Dave Gaughran.
  • Continue doing Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ads courses (one is starting this month!)
  • Complete IngramSpark’s self-publishing courses that I didn’t get to this year.

MARKETING

  • Set aside regular time (monthly? fortnightly? Still TBC) to work on Amazon ads.
  • Post at least two writing-related photos on Instagram each month.
  • Re-work newsletter on-boarding sequence and keep up with monthly newsletters.
  • Research book swaps, giveaways, etc, to engage more readers.

NON-WRITING-RELATED

  • Learn to tap dance!

I’ve been saying for years I’d like to learn! I’ve found a studio. I’ve got shoes on order. This time, it’s happening!

As expected, this is a pretty ambitious list. I didn’t reach all my goals last year and that’s fine. I may not (probably won’t) reach them this year. But it’s always good to have something to aim for.

Let me know what your 2021 goals are, either in the comments or in a link to your own post. Best of luck this year, whatever you are aiming for!

What I Achieved in 2020


When I posted my 2020 Writing Goals on the first of January, Australia was basically on fire. My city was shrouded in smoke, as were others, and N95 masks had sold out across the country. At the time, we thought it couldn’t really get much worse.

March 30 was my first day working from home. Things changed so quickly that month. I am incredibly fortunate to live not only in Australia, but in a region that has barely had a COVID case in the last few months (at time of writing, we currently have 1 active case – an overseas arrival in quarantine).

was back to working in the office pretty much full time by the end of August, and our public spaces re-opened not much later.

Instead of going through all my 2020 goals and giving myself some kind of pass/fail grade, talking about whether I succeeded or not, I decided to just make this a post of the wins I achieved in the last twelve months.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with my 2021 goals.

What I achieved this year: 

For the most part (apart from one deviation in early May), I managed to avoid the temptation to stress myself out by signing up for word count challenges.

I submitted 3 short stories to 4 different places. This was my first time regularly doing this, and reworking stories as I went, making them better all the time.

I reached a point where I considered the first draft of my big WIP, Facing the Music, as completed as it was going to be. There’s still lots of work to be done on it. 

I participated in Bryan Cohen’s Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge three times, with varying degrees of completion due to external factors. Amazon ads require a fair bit of on-the-job learning so I’ll be continuing with these courses. 

I also completed Ellie Marney’s self-publishing course. It was great to work with an author I’m a big fan of and get her insights!

Armed with the knowledge from these courses, I went ahead and published Operation: Sugarplum as its own ebook in the lead-up to Christmas. And I scored such an awesome cover!

I performed a light edit on A More Complicated Fairytale and have got it ready for reformatting and re-publication next year.

I started a mailing list. It’s pretty small fry at the moment but I’ve read some books on mailing lists now and I have Plans for it in the new year. 

And I registered emilywrayburn.com and had my beautiful author photo shoot

On the non-writing front, I was also privileged to still be able to participate in the local theatre scene. I played two roles in The Thornthwaite Inheritance: the Musical. I will admit that Zoom rehearsals through the period of March to May were incredibly tedious, but I’m immensely grateful for the friends I made throughout this process. 

could beat myself up about the things I wanted to achieve and didn’t, but there’s no point to that. 

Please share your 2020 reflections with me, either in the comments, or with a link to your own posts. I’ll be back here tomorrow with a list of 2021 goals nearly as ambitious as this years!

Take care. xx

#FlashFiction – “Not the Last”

Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:

“If you only had one day to live, what would you do with your time?

I can’t decide whether to save the world from impending doom or go get froyo.”

My story is not so much a “one day left to live” as “one day left on Earth” but I had fun with this fro-yo addicted guardian angel.

Not The Last

I have approximately sixty minutes left on this Earth and I am wasting them dithering over frozen yoghurt flavours.

It’s the small things, you know? The Almighty sends you down here for a century or so to keep an eye on a few good souls and then in the second half of the twentieth century, they develop fro-yo.

And look, I’d argue it’s an important decision, all right? It’s the last one I’m ever going to have. I mean, sure, up home I could just pull one out of the air whenever I want, but it won’t be the same. I can’t even remember when I started getting fro-yo to mark significant milestones in the lives of my assigned souls, but at some point it became tradition. It has to mean something.

And so that’s why I’m dithering, because it’s my last day on assignment and so in a way, this one has more meaning that any of the others because it’s the end of this era.

All right. Mango. I’ve always really liked mango flavour. It’s one of my favourites. So a scoop of mango and a scoop of… okay, what goes really well with mango? Coconut? But on the other hand, I’d really like chocolate.

Maybe I should get two? Yeah, why not?

“Hi, I’ll get a double scoop mango and coconut, please,” I say, still casting my eye over the other flavours to decide on my second helping.

The cashier starts to scoop out the mango when a massive clap of thunder startles her, making her nearly throw the scoop over her shoulder.

“Jeez,” she says. “I didn’t know there was going to be a storm.”

There’s not. She can’t see him, but an Archangel has joined me in front of the counter. He’s giving me an ice-cold stare, scrutinising me as though judging my worthiness for… whatever has warranted this visit. I bow my head and turn back towards the counter. Staring back might be seen as disrespectful or something and I don’t want to risk an Archangel’s wrath literally an hour before I’m supposed to step back through the Pearly Gates.

“Your help is required,” he finally says, and I’m trying to work out a way to reply without the fro-yo attendant thinking I’m weird for talking to myself. I settle for turning slightly and raising my eyebrows in acknowledgement.

“Was there anything else?” the attendant asks, oblivious, as she hands my fro-yo over.

“Um, no, that’s it, thanks,” I reply, pulling out a card and hastily paying. I grab my fro-yo cup and a spoon and make a hurried retreat. The Archangel follows me. Once outside, I pull out my phone and hold it to my ear as we begin walking along the pavement.

“All right, what’s going on?”

The Archangel stares at me for a moment. “What are you doing?”

“Making sure everyone who can’t see you doesn’t think I’m crazy. So what’s going on?”

I can’t eat the fro-yo when my phone is in the other hand. Dammit. Should have thought this through.

“There have been increased signs of demonic activity around the world. We’re enlisting every angel that’s currently earth-bound to help investigate.”

“I’m supposed to go home today. In –” I look at the phone screen – “forty-seven minutes. And now I have to help with demons?” Apart from the fro-yo, I was looking forward to heading home.

“Are you an Angel of the Lord or not?”

“I’m a guardian angel! Not one of you fire and brimstone types.” I motion to his armour and the sword glowing at his hip. He gives me that stare again. I am possibly crossing the line. Maybe should ease back on the snark. I’ve been around humans too long. Surely that’s a sign I shouldn’t be sticking around any longer.

“You don’t have a choice in this matter.”

I had a feeling that was the case. “How long will it take.”

“As long as it takes.”

Well. Righto then.

I give up on the phone and put it away, ready to dig into my mango and coconut. I guess this isn’t my last fro-yo after all.