My Author Photo Shoot!

So most of the photos I have of myself are connected to the local theatre productions I’ve done over the years. I’m usually wearing makeup and contact lenses. Which is all fine, but theatre!me is quite a different vibe to author!me.

This year I met Stephanie, who is still in high-school but already has an eye for a good shot. Now that we’ve finished the musical we were in, I asked her if she’d be keen to help me with some more author-y style photos. I picked her up this morning, and away we went. She’d delivered them by afternoon tea time!

What do you think? I’m incredibly happy with how they turned out!

2020 Writing Goals – October Check-in

A photo with a phone, computer keyboard, headphones and a notebook and pen. The text reads "2020 Writing Goals"

At the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

I’ve definitely been learning. And now we’re on the downhill run towards the end of the year. In some ways, it feels like the months have dragged on beyond belief, and in other ways it feels like it has flown by. So it’s time for a last look at goals, what I’ve achieved and what I’m still working on, before that final check-in at the end of the year.

Writing

  • Don’t sign up for any challenges with arbitrary goals, e.g. word count goals

Still doing fine with this. People are starting to talk about NaNoWriMo and I am not even the slightest bit tempted.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’m still sitting at 3/4 for this goal. I do have one last WIP that it would be good to finish and send out before the end of the year. We’ll see. I did conclude a while ago that if I’m only going to complete either the short stories goal or the Facing the Music goal below, this one would probably be more likely.

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I made a spreadsheet with one-sentence chapter summaries ages ago. I mentioned it in my mid-year writing update. In fact, I think I did it around Easter. And I said that I was pretty much at the point where I would start looking at it as revisions/second draft ready. And I haven’t touched it since then.

Learning

In my initial 2020 Goals Post, I had a list of courses I wanted to complete this year. I’m not going to list that here because I haven’t really been doing those. That said, I have

I am intending to participate in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge this month. I completed this in April and have been sprucing up A More Complicated Fairytale to better benefit from the lessons I’m learning here. I was going to participate in July

Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp is coming up in a few weeks as wlel.

I’ll have to have a good think about how to work these other goals into my schedule.

Publishing

  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I was reformatting this a while ago, but progress stalled and I’ve only returned to it in the last few weeks. It’s getting there slowly. I’m hoping to get a decent chunk of revisions and formatting done on the upcoming long weekend. Then I need to work out what the next steps are.

  • Self-publish Operation: Sugarplum as an ebook once Christmas: Australis exclusivity period ends.

This is happening! I have a cover on the way (can’t wait to see what it looks like!). I’m reading over the story just to make sure there aren’t any typos (shouldn’t be – it was in pretty good shape to go into Christmas: Australis). I’ve registered it against an ISBN. Watch this space!

  • Compile short stories that don’t get accepted elsewhere into my own collection (if some do get accepted, maybe this could be pushed out until other exclusivity periods end).

This is very much a work in progress that will extend into next year. But I’m keeping it here to remind myself.

So what to aim for over the last three months of the year (how are there only three months left of the year?!). I need to not push myself too far. I’ve been so busy. And I’m having a bit of a time with work. So here’s my plan:

  • Publish Operation: Sugarplum ebook and all that entails (book description, etc.)
  • Finish editing/formatting for new A More Complicated Fairytale (if I get it republication-ready by the end of the year, that will be a bonus!)
  • Finish and submit one more short story.
  • Complete courses as they come up.

That’s it. I’m hoping there’ll also be a few more flash fictions on this here blog but I’m not holding myself to that too hard.

Snippet er… Sunday? – September 27, 2020

A small spiral0bound notebook being held between a thumb and forefingers. The text on the cover of the notebook reads "Snippet Saturday"
Snippet Saturday

Yes, I’m leaving the graphic up even though it has the wrong day on it. Soon I’ll get back to regular Saturday posts. 😂

I got some lovely responses to my flash fiction on Wednesday, so thank you for that!

Apart from flash fiction, I’ve spent the last week getting back into my edits and formatting for A More Complicated Fairytale. If all goes to plan, I’ll be relaunching this before the end of the year. There are definitely parts I’d like to rewrite properly, but I’m trying not to change it too much from the version people have already read.

This blog didn’t exist when I was writing the book, but I did share a lot of excerpts back over at A Keyboard and an Open Mind. I don’t know, I might repeat myself here, but it’s been that long, I doubt anyone will remember.

In this scene, Prince Felipe is causing mischief, sneaking off to blend in with the commoners rather than attending a royal function.

He jumped the last couple of feet to the ground and raised the hood of his cloak over his head. As he began walking away, he recognised the blonde maid who was working in the garden. He often chatted to her when he was out like this. He gave her a friendly bat on the arm as he passed. She started but then grinned as she turned and saw who it was.

The prince turned so that he was walking backwards and returned her grin. “Send them in the wrong direction for me, won’t you?”

“As always,” she replied.

“That’s my girl!” Prince Felipe waved and then turned around and broke into a jog towards the rows of tents and pavilions ahead of him. He slipped between two of them and wove himself in amongst the anonymous strangers on the other side, becoming part of the crowd.

I hope you enjoyed this one! Talk again soon!

#FlashFiction – “The Longer You Stay…”

Hello all. I know, I know, it’s been a month since I last posted anything here. Apparently my brain can only cope with one creative pursuit at a time and for a while, The Thornthwaite Inheritance: The Musical was taking up all my creative brain space. Doing an original musical was a new experience, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to pursue it. Not to mention that meeting my castmates and hanging out with them, both in rehearsal and outside of it, is pretty much what has got me through 2020.

The show closed last Friday, and then the weekend was spent packing things away and after-partying. Then on Monday, it was like a switch was flicked in my brain. Writing mojo was back. I just had no idea what to write (though I’ve been working on a few things).

Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications (who I also met thanks to Thornthwaite) posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:

“What are you doing here?!”

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!”

“It’s my funeral!”

I came up with an idea almost immediately, and couldn’t wait to get away from work so I could start working on it. The following story is the result. I did a quick proofread but it is basically a first (and only) draft so please forgive any weirdness on that front. It’s a sort of bittersweet ghost meet cute, which feels rather on brand for me. 😄 I hope you enjoy!

The Longer You Stay…

The girl can see him, which is Jake’s first sign that she’s different to everyone else in the chapel.

“Who are you?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?” she retorts. “Isn’t there a heaven you should be getting to?”

Jake gestures to the crowd and the coffin on the raised platform at the front. “It’s my funeral. Thought I’d check it out, you know? See who showed up?”

The girl’s expression shifts almost instantly to sadness. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”

 “How do you know my name?”

She smiles, but her expression remains melancholy. “You haven’t changed a bit since Year Ten at Dickson Valley High.”

Jake takes a step towards her. He’s still not quite used to the weightlessness of being a ghost, and he travels slightly too close. He’s only a few inches from her face now, but he takes the opportunity to study her features before stepping back. Finally, a name comes to him.

“Mel Shepparton?” 

“The one and only.”

“You died eight years ago.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And now… what? You spend your time hanging around funeral homes?”

“Not all the time. Sometimes I just… get a feeling that there’s someone here I should show up for.”

“A feeling?”

“Did you know I had a massive crush on you when we were at school?”

She grins. Jake doesn’t know how to respond. They might technically be the same age, but Mel still looks like the teenager she was when she died. He hasn’t really thought about her in years, and now here she is, declaring that she once had feelings for him five minutes into the conversation.

“Sorry,” she says, sensing his discomfort. “I’ve embarrassed you.” She swiftly changes the subject. “Have you tried walking through a wall yet?”

“No…”

It’s like she knows he hasn’t worked up to that yet. Despite being aware of his incorporeality, Jake has spent the first week of his afterlife trying to avoid situations that would remind him of his new state. Trying to walk without hovering above the ground has been challenge enough.

Mel has moved to the door at the back of the chapel. She’s standing there, waiting, one hand extended to him.

“Come on,” she says. “It’s fun.”

Slowly, he moves to join her at the back of the chapel. When he turns back to look at the crowd one last time, he realises he’s missed a fair chunk of the service. His mum is at the lectern, speaking about what he was like as a kid. His dad is with her, his arm around her shoulders. He hands her a tissue when she stops speaking due to the tears.

Jake feels something on his arm. When he looks down, he sees Mel’s hand there. Huh. So ghosts can touch other ghosts? They just can’t touch anything else. He looks up and meets her expectant gaze.

“The longer you stay,” she says, “the harder it will be to leave.”

Jake looks at his mum again. She’s composed herself and is speaking again, this time about how he ran away from home when he was five, but came back when he discovered the corner store was closed after dark and he couldn’t get the lollies he wanted.

Jake swallows. Mel is right, he realises. He can’t stay here, trying to cling onto his old life. He takes hold of Mel’s hand. She grins.

“Ready?” she asks.

“Ready.”

With a lurch, she pulls him into the air and through the solid wood of the chapel door. For a second, Jake doesn’t know which way is up. Then he’s tumbling out the other side. Mel is waiting for him a little way down the path. He doesn’t try to walk this time; instead, pushes himself through the air and catches up with her in a second.

“This is just the start,” Mel says, a smile lighting up her face. She takes his hand again, and Jake let’s himself be pulled away.

Snippet Saturday – August 29, 2020

A small spiral0bound notebook being held between a thumb and forefingers. The text on the cover of the notebook reads "Snippet Saturday"
Snippet Saturday

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a month since I last updated here. I thought for a while that I was going to get back to my novel, but then I spent several weeks thinking about that and not having the energy to do anything about it.

I had thought if I were only to manage one 2020 Writing Goal, then “Finish the draft of the novel” should be it. But now I’m thinking maybe “Submit 4 short stories” is more doable.

So a week ago, I scouted Literarium for some places I could feasibly submit to, did some brainstorming, and now I’m working on a short story called Quiet for The Voyage Journal. I read a number of the stories on there when I was sussing out their style and I encourage you take a look! There is some really great YA short fiction on there.

The premise of Quiet is that my two main characters both hear others’ thoughts, whether they want to or not, but when they touch, it cancels out the power. I haven’t figured out all the world-building just yet, but the main issue is that any kind of magic/supernatural ability is unwelcome and children discovered with these powers are called witch-children. That’s where this paragraph comes in.

The circus is supposed to uplifting. A sign of hope. Look at the brave witch-kids putting on a show. Finding their way in their world. Making something of themselves. People will part with their money to gawp, but would any of them think about giving a witch-kid a job? A home? Would they spare a glance if they saw the same kid on the street?

Circuses and dragons really do seem to be all I’m writing about this year. I’m glad I have them both on the list on my homepage. 😂

I hope you enjoyed this one! Talk again soon!

Snippet Saturday – July 25, 2020

I’m scheduling this post because I’m running around a bit today – my birthday party is this afternoon! My birthday is actually tomorrow but I have a rehearsal for the musical I’m in… which will probably mean extra cake and stuff, and honestly, I love rehearsing… but also means there’s no opportunity to get together with a group of good people. Hence today.

I’m fortunate in that I’m able to get together with good people, and I am very grateful for that fact.

GIF description: Audrey Hepburn accepting an Academy Award. She is wearing a sleeveless floral, white dress. She says “I’m truly, truly grateful and terribly happy.”

But anyway, enough about that. Here is a snippet from my current untitled WIP. The dragon, Nanorae, has just unceremoniously dumped Gwen, the witch, onto her back so they can fly to where they need to be. Gwen is less than pleased.

“Rae, what are you doing?” Gwen shouted against the wind, struggling to find purchase for her feet anywhere along Rae’s scaly back. She eventually sat each foot in the space where Rae’s arms met her torso. She clamped her eyes shut. No way was she going to watch the village rapidly disappear below her. The air became colder and she shivered, trying not to let the involuntary movement loosen her grip on Nanorae’s neck. How high up were they that the temperature had changed that much? She didn’t dare open her eyes to check.

Rest assured that they do manage to reach their destination unscathed, but Gwen has to spend a few minutes getting the feeling back into her arms and legs, which were gripping Rae so tightly they all went numb.

I was hoping that I would have a first draft of this story knocked out by the end of this week, but that hasn’t happened for various reasons. I’m hoping another week at most, as my timeline’s pretty tight by the time I factor in beta readers and the like. Entries close August 31. This week is pretty quiet, so fingers crossed, but I can only do my best.

Talk again soon.

Snippet Saturday – July 11, 2020

Hello everyone!

I hope this week has treated you well.

The last few weeks I’ve been stressing about a short story competition. Protip: don’t enter a competition where you have to pay the sign-up fee before you find out the theme. It wasn’t a massive sign-up fee and I could have just let it go, but I wanted to submit something to justify my money. That was back on June 3, and I have finally submitted it today.

In celebration, here are the final lines from “Sign Me Up”, a story about three Russians trying to save some dragons:

“Is it always like this?” Natasha asked, breaking the silence.

“Like what?”

“Loud noises and flares and dragons trying to kill us even as we’re trying to save them?”

Mikhaila grinned. “Pretty much. You up for it?”

Natasha looked down at her hands. They were shaking now the adrenaline was wearing off. She looked back to Mikhaila and returned her grin.

“Absolutely.”

Next week, I’ll return to the story I shared from last week. There will be more Gwendolyn Gummesh and stinky magic for you to enjoy!

Until then!

Snippet Saturday – July 04, 2020

In the interests of trying to blog with some kind of regularity, I am implementing Snippet Saturday. Not to be confused with Snippet Sunday, which is a fairly popular blog hop. I’m not good at blog hops; it’s better for me to just do my own thing. I can schedule a few of these at a time, meaning I hopefully won’t get behind.

To start, here are the opening lines from my new short story:

The entrails reeked of magic. Gwendolyn Gummesh grimaced as she poked the innards with a stick.

“And you really didn’t smell it?” she asked the dragon standing next to her.

I’m having fun with this story at the moment. I’ll have a bit more for you next week.

Happy 4th of July to my American friends, and Happy Saturday to the rest of you. Have a great rest of your weekend.

2020 Writing Goals – Mid-year Check-in

A photo with a phone, computer keyboard, headphones and a notebook and pen. The text reads "2020 Writing Goals"

At the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

With everything that’s gone on in the past few months, I’ve been doing a fair amount of learning, not just about writing but life in general. Learning how to make work from home, well, work. Learning how to deal with two of us working from home and therefore being in each other’s space a lot more than usual. Learning how to fit creativity in around added stress levels (there has been a lot of ebb and flow).

Here we are at the halfway point in the year. In some ways, it feels like the last six months have dragged on beyond belief, and in other ways it feels like it has flown by. But it’s definitely a good time to check in on the goals I set myself at the start of the year.

Writing

  • Don’t sign up for any challenges with arbitrary goals, e.g. word count goals

Okay, I briefly did sign up for one. In April? No, I think it was May. It was a 500-words-a-day challenge, and I managed it for a little while but ran out of steam about halfway through the month. I’ve been doing a lot of “authoring” (what the #6amAusWriters group calls any non-literally-writing writing business) this year, so making sure I don’t get caught up in challenges has definitely bene important.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’ve just got beta reader feedback back on what will be my third submission for the year. This will be going to Globe Soup’s 2020 Summer Short Story Competition. I signed up for this because I was feeling uncreative, and thought that the push of having to pay the sign-up fee before finding out what country was the theme for this year might have given me a good push. It turned out to be a country I know nothing about, so I don’t think the story is my best work. But still, it’s something I wrote. The results come out on July 22, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on a short story for the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, which are run by Sisters in Crime Australia. The rules are that all authors must be female-identifying, as must the main character in the story, and the story must involve a crime or mystery element of some sort (they are a crime-writing organisation after all). There’s a cross-genre category, so I am trying my hand at a fantasy mystery involving a stolen dragon egg.

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I guess I need to readjust this goal. I sort of consider the first draft finished, even though it isn’t complete. I made a spreadsheet with a short summary of every scene and the characters involved a little while ago. I realised I had a lot of filler scenes, and a lot of the plot has changed in my mind since I wrote the first draft. There didn’t seem to be much point in writing the ending and pretending I’d made all those changes before I had.

So once I finish my Scarlet Stiletto submission, my plan is to come back to this. I’m going to go back through the original spreadsheet and make a new one, getting rid of unnecessary scenes, adapt the ones that need adapting, and then start working on new content. Eeeeee!

Learning’

  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.
  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses (there are three and all take under 2 hours to complete)
  • Complete self-publishing course on Australian Writers Centre.
  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

Given my spiel at the top of this post, it’s a shame the active learning goals I set myself have fallen off the radar a bit. To be honest, I’d completely forgotten these goals.

Having said that, I did do Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge in April and I intend to participate again in July. This was why I was hoping to have A More Complicated Fairytale re-organised by July (see below). I have updated the blurb in the lead-up to the current challenge, so we’ll see if that affects sales.

I’m still booked in for Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp, which was rescheduled to October, but I’ve still got no idea whether that will be offered online or whether I’ll be expected to travel down to Melbourne for it (and whether I’ll be willing to make that trip if it comes to it).

I’ll have to have a good think about how to work these other goals into my schedule.

Publishing

  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I have registered with Thorpe-Bowker and have an ISBN assigned to A More Complicated Fairytale so that I can publish it outside of Amazon. I had plans of doing that in July but with July upon us, that might not happen yet. I need to finish re-formatting the paperback and still commission a cover before I can start publicising it. Still, progress is progress!

In the process of reformatting it, I’ve also been reading it for the first time since it was released in 2016. There are scenes I’d entirely forgotten! While I am sure that I could write the same book but better with the skills I’ve learned in the intervening time, I’m sticking to just lightly editing it. I don’t want to change it too much from what people have already read, but wow, past-Emily used a lot of weak and filler words!

  • Self-publish Operation: Sugarplum as an ebook once Christmas: Australis exclusivity period ends.

I’m actually intending to do this around Christmas time. Maybe late November or even early December. I could do a Christmas in July type release, but I think actual Christmas would be better. I’ve also got a sequel in progress that I’d like to have ready to go not too much later, maybe January/February. Fingers crossed I have that one ready by then.

  • Compile short stories that don’t get accepted elsewhere into my own collection (if some do get accepted, maybe this could be pushed out until other exclusivity periods end).

I said in my January 1 post that this goal would depend on a number of things such as whether any stories got accepted, how many I actually wrote, that sort of thing. At the moment I don’t really have enough for a collection and if I’m planning to get back to novel-writing after my current WIP, then I think this will have to wait a while. I can have it as a long-term goal.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Looking over everything now, I think I’ve actually had a pretty decent six months writing-wise. Given everything that’s going on in the world, it would have been easy to never pick up the metaphorical pen at all.

Here’s hoping for another six months of fair-to-decent progress and some finished WIPs!

Writing Update – 18 May 2020

Does anyone else feel like time is passing at twice its usual speed lately? I don’t know. I’m finding it all very confusing, and I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since my last post!

I’ve been doing some work on the A More Complicated Fairytale book description. When I was doing Bryan Cohen’s five-day Amazon Ads Profit Challenge last month, I realised how lacking my description was. There were no stakes at all! Nothing to make a reader smash that one-click purchase button! While I learned a lot in the April challenge, I’ve signed up to do it again when it runs in July, meaning I’ve got until then to get my re-launch ready.

I don’t know whether I mentioned here that I bought my first ten-pack of ISBNs recently, too? That certainly made me feel all professional author-like! Previously, AMCF has only ever been published through Amazon, so I just used the Amazon-supplied ISBNs. But now that I’m taking it wide, I need to look after that myself.

I’ve been also been adding words to my as yet untitled sequel to Operation: Sugarplum. I’ve realised that my antagonist is rather… un-antagonistic, so I’ve had to have a bit of a think and up the ante on this one.

Here’s an excerpt I posted on Facebook last week. A glitch in the game means Clara has woken up inside a non-player-character (NPC) in the virtual reality fairy tale game.

Max’s mind raced. He couldn’t wake Clara up outside the game. Almost like she was in an enchanted sleep… and here she was, in a Sleeping Beauty character, awake and walking around, as though the curse had never happened.
They’d been swapped.

Oooh

Last but not least, I’m prepping my May newsletter to go out in the next few days. If you’d like to sign up, click here. You’ll get a free short story in the mail. 😉

That’s it from me for now. I’ll talk to you soon.