Where’d you go, Emily?

So who else is ready for 2020 to be cancelled?

From starting the year covered in bushfire smoke, to massive hailstorms, to job insecurity only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it any wonder that I’ve barely put pen to paper, or that my last post here was February 16?

Any wonder that I was spending more time playing pointless time-wasting games on my phone rather than actually writing?

But! I am in a fortunate position, compared to many others. I still have a job and will probably start working from home 3-4 days a week this week (there are parts of my job I simply can’t do remotely, but at least this way I’ll be able to afford the parking fees and won’t have to take public transport).

I have a wonderful group of friends with whom I’m voice chatting/Zooming a lot, and we’ve been checking in on each other daily. That includes my writing group, and during a voice chat session today, I made myself a spreadsheet with my outstanding WIPs and where I’m at on all of them.

I’ve got my work cut out for me over the next few months, but hopefully with extra time at home, I’ll get through it!

And hopefully soon, that will translate into a bit more of a presence on this here blog, too. Take care, everyone, and I’ll see you soonish.

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 08 – February 16, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

Apologies for my lack of engagement with you all over the last couple of weeks, first not returning any comments, then not being here at all last week. Things have been a bit hectic. I didn’t even realise I hadn’t signed up for last week until late Sunday.

I’ve received feedback from my five beta readers on my submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. Everyone really liked it! But had really useful comments on how to make it even better! In the nine months I’ve been writing short fiction, I’ve found it really interesting how everyone picks up on slightly different things.

I haven’t actually started implementing any of their changes yet, so this excerpt it still from the first draft, and subject to change. In this scene, Tori and Helena have discovered the dragon they were hunting is up and about and has just disappeared through another tunnel in the cave system. They were hoping to find it asleep at the top of its hoard.

“Dammit,” Helena whispered. She looked down at her phone, matching up the passageway with the one on the map.

“Can we follow?”

Helena studied the map a little longer before nodding. “I think so,” she said. “Let’s go straight across and through that passage. Don’t hit anything. Don’t make any noise.”

Dragon hunting is a tricky business.

I’ll see you back here next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 07 – February 02, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. I finished the second draft, thought it was awful, and proceeded to change tack again. And I just wish this was the tack I’d hit on the first time around, because everything is flowing so much better now, but it’s now only three weeks until submissions close, so I’m not going to have a lot of time to get feedback and polish it.

In this scene, the mission to put down the dragon starts going terribly wrong. IT’s mentioned earlier in the story that the guns they use shoot bolts of electricity rather than bullets as dragon scales are impervious to the latter but act as a conductor for the former.

With a screech, it latched onto Helena’s shoulders, pulling her into the air. Tori was still holding Helena’s hand and was momentarily also lifted off the ground before her hand slipped. The dragon rose high into the air, taking a screaming Helena with it.

“HELENA!” Tori ran after the dragon, fumbling to get her gun out of its holster. She flicked the safety switch off and heard the gun begin to hum with electricity. She aimed as she ran, but she knew it was too dangerous to take a shot. If she missed and hit Helena, Helena would be incinerated. And even if she struck true, what then? The dragon would fall out of the sky and Helena would be crushed.

And with that, I will see you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 06 – January 19, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support. I just realised that my last 4 WWW posts have all had a “03” at the start because I forgot I was numbering them. Back on track now. 😂

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. I’ve completely changed tack on this story this week. Where the dragon-egg-stealing was a sport before, I’ve now changed it to a government initiative and this is working better for me. Basically the government take the eggs and destroy them because they’re trying to destroy the dragon breed.

The characters are still much the same, though Tori and Helena’s relationship is on the low-down since there is a department policy of no dating amongst employees. And the rivalry between them and Ada and Jules is much more in Tori’s head than it was in the sport version, as you can see below. Helena’s just told her to stop acting like it’s a competition and Tori’s got defensive.

The thing was, it was a competition to her. Even if there was no official count kept by the department, she would always compare the number of dragon eggs she and Helena collected to the number Jules and his sister Ada had in any given week, month, or year. It wouldn’t matter to her so much if the Havishams weren’t so bloody smug about it all the time. It was the department’s worst-kept seceret that they had been given their positions in the department because their father was a high-ranking politician, but no one could complain because they were actually good at their jobs regardless of how they came by them.

Or at least, they had been, and the habit of secretly competing with them was hard for Tori to break. Now, they were barely seen around the compound and when they were, they kept their heads down. Tori might not have liked the siblings themselves, but she had to admit she’d enjoyed hers and Jules’ verbal sparring. She almost missed it now.

Ooh, mysterious behaviour, I wonder what that’s’ all about… If I ever actually finish this story, perhaps you’ll find out!

See you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 03 – January 12, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

This week, I’ve continued working on a submission for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies. It’s been giving me some trouble, mostly because it requires actual… action scenes. Ew.

In this story, my two ladies participate in a sport wherein contestants in teams of two have to distract a dragon long enough for one of them to steal its egg. In this scene, Ada and Jules Havisham, twins and Helena and Tori’s main competitors, have shown up to be their usual irritating selves.

“Sounds like everybody’s assuming you two have it in the bag this year,” Jules said, tone sceptical. 

“It’s a shame to be disappointed before the competition even starts,” Tori shot back. “But I’m sure you’ll give it a good go.” 

Jules smirked. 

“We’ll see,” he said. He turned to his sister. “Come on. Nothing to see here.” They drifted back out of the green room, leaving Tori and Helena alone again for the moment. 

I was for a while referring to the Havishams as the Malfoys in my head, and Tori and Helena as the Grangers (definitely Grangers, not Potters 🙃). This story has been giving me some trouble this week. I am just not good at writing action scenes, so the actual bit where they fight the dragon and steal the egg… looks amazing in my head. Hate it on paper. Gah. I know I’ve just got to push through it and write something… but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

I was hoping to have the first draft of this done by Jan 15, but we’ll see whether that happens or not. Submissions close February 22, so I want to give myself time to polish it up and have some other people read through it. But at the end of the day, I can only do what I can do.

See you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 03 – January 05, 2020

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

I went on a bit of an unofficial/unintended hiatus from blogging in the last 6 weeks or so of 2019, but I’m back now. I have a lot of goals, which you can read about here. I’ve been writing short stories for the last little while, and I’m still doing that. One of my goals is to submit stories to at least four competitions or anthologies throughout 2020. The one I’m working on at the moment is for Cantina Publishing’s Silk & Steel: An Adventure Anthology of Queer Ladies.

In this story, my two ladies participate in a sport wherein contestants  in teams of two have to distract a dragon long enough for one of them to steal its egg. Helena and Tori are the favourites in this year’s competition. I haven’t written a whole lot yet, so this is from right at the beginning. Helena is nervous, and Tori has been trying to calm her for the last few minutes.

“Hey,” she says. “We’ve got this. There’s a reason we’re the favourites.” She moves her head to catch Helena’s eye. “Right?”

Helena chews her bottom lip again. It’s downright adorable. “Right,” she finally admits.

“Kiss me for luck?”

Helena smiles as she looked up, and that and her kiss is all the luck that Tori needs.

Helena is definitely the silk while Tori is the steel. I’m looking forward to exploring their relationship more. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a bigger project.

See you all next week!

2020 Writing Goals

a new year, and while new year is kind of an arbitrary thing, I admit I like arbitrary new start feelings. It is a good time to look back and look forward. I’ve got some big goals for my writing this year. It’s not just about writing, but about all the other things that come along with it. I’m probably being pretty ambitious with these, but I want to aim big.


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

“Writing” isn’t always literally “writing”, and that’s particularly true this year given all the other goals in this post. My daily writing time is between 6am and 7am, maybe a little later if I can afford to work a short day or something. And if it isn’t already obvious from the other items on this list, there will be plenty of things for me to do other than literally smashing out words in those sessions.

Those things still count. And pushing myself to participate in challenges that don’t recognise all these other facets of writing actually do my process harm.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’m hoping that the momentum I’m currently experiencing for short stories will continue into the new year. Four doesn’t seem too ambitious! I was going to aim for six, but that was before I had the breakthrough with my novel.

Speaking of which…

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I took a four-month break from this WIP after getting too tangled up in the plot and not knowing where to go with it. This turned out to be the right decision, as I suddenly had a breakthrough while out at the circus in early December (the WIP is also set in a circus; there’s a reason I was thinking about it. It’s not that the show was boring).

The most exciting thing about this breakthrough is that I don’t have to change too much of the 90k I had already written. In fact, I’m going to pick up where I left off, and make the necessary changes to earlier parts of the story in the second draft.


  • Listen to two episodes of a writing or publishing podcast each week.

I have a few of these on my list, including Ingram Spark’s Go Publish Yourself and The First Time hosted by Katherine Collette and Kate Mildenhall.

  • Complete Ingram Spark’s self-publishing short courses (there are three and all take under 2 hours to complete)

I think this point is fairly self-explanatory.

  • Complete self-publishing course on Australian Writers Centre.

The courses through AWC are paid but I think this one will be worth it. It’s a self-paced online course. I want to get a variety of perspectives on this industry so that I can find common themes.

  • Complete at least one other short course on self-publishing/book design (e.g. through LinkedIn Learning)

I’ll do some research about what other courses are out there and see what I think. Happy to hear your recommendations! There’s a wonderful weekend-long bootcamp being run in Melbourne in April by self-publishing extraordinaire and wonderful YA author Ellie Marney, which I’m hoping to attend.


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

After having the initial inspiration for this story back in 2013, and finally seeing it appear in an anthology in 2019, I’d love to have it out in the world on its own. This is the main reason I want to really start learning the craft properly.

  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I published A More Complicated Fairytale in 2016. Then I got it into my head that I needed to have other novels finished and published before I worried about any serious promotion, because there’s no point in just promoting one thing. It might have taken me nearly four years, but I’ve rid myself of that mindset. I did a 3-day free promotion in December and I have some more ideas for going forward.

  • 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).

    • Editing
    • Commission cover
    • Marketing plan

I mean, I’m putting this here, but it will depend on a lot of things. What I write, where else it might end up, exclusivity periods at those places, money for other required services for it… If I’m writing on the longer side of short story, then I thought about publishing each thing separately, but that would require more expense in terms of editing, cover, etc. So maybe a collection is the way to go.


(myself and my books)

  • Start mailing list

I already have the MailChimp account set up, so it’s just a case of sitting down and learning the mechanics, then getting the word out. I can’t promise these monthly spiels will contain anything especially interesting, but I’ll try.

  • Set up author website

Watch out for emilywrayburn.com, coming soon! I mean, it’s basically going to be this blog, but I will change up the layout and the other pages and such a bit, and make it more obvious that I have books you can buy. Stuff like that.

It seems like a lot and to be honest, I probably won’t get all through all of this. But it’s a good set of goals to aim for and that’s what I’m doing. Aiming high.

I am yet to work out exactly how I’ll kep track on these. I don’t think I’ll be doing something like weekly check-ins. Maybe monthly? Or maybe something more like quarterly. I’m playing that part by ear a bit.

I know a lot of my writer friends and acquaintances have big years ahead of them in 2020 as well. Best of luck to you all and happy new year!

Sunday Summary – 01 December 2019 – One Month To Go

Here we are on the first of December, and only one month remaining of 2019.

Back in September, I wrote that I was going to focus on short fiction for the rest of the year, and to a point, I did that.

I outlined some sequels to my Christmas story, Operation: Sugarplum, and my intention was to work on those for NaNoWriMo. You can see some of my ROW80 updates as I planned for those. But I don’t know… maybe I hadn’t planned well enough. Maybe Sugarplum isn’t meant to be part of a series. Maybe they sequels need more planning or maybe I was trying to write too much each day.

Whatever it was, I was not happy with anything I was writing. I know that’s typical for NaNo, but having not done NaNo for a few years, this really reminded me why I’d started avoiding it. I already have a writing habit, a discipline, and I don’t really need to force myself to write huge amounts of words to get there. So NaNo got abandoned. Ah well.

Book cover for "South of the Sun"Back to short fiction. Halfway through November, I heard about an anthology being put together by the Australian Society of Fairytales. It’s called South of the Sun and the requirement for this anthology was to contribute something that could be considered an “Australian fairy tale”. I started playing around with some ideas about the bush and drew on my memories of training in our National Parks when I was preparing to trek in Nepal last year.

Next thing I knew, I had a 1500 wod short story about a lost and dyhdrated hiker who is helped back home by a kangaroo that may or may not actually exist. I worked it up a bit, and then sent it off to some friends, who gave some really helpful feedback. I spent this weekend working on a subsequent version that incorporated their feedback and is now 500 words longer (oops!) but still within the limits for the anthology (yay!).

I mentioned back in September that I wanted to come up with something for the Zodiac series of anthologies being produced by Aussie Speculative Fiction. I’m a Leo, so that was the sign I most wanted to write about. I always joke the reason I became a performer is because I’m a Leo and want to be in the spotlight. While I have only made a few notes on my idea for this submission so far, there will definitely be an element of over-dramatic actors who hog the limelight. And you know that it’s bad luck to perform in a theatre with no ghost, right? The Leo volume is not yet open to submissions, so I’ve got a little while to work on it.

And the third thing currently on my list is Once Upon A Hallowed Eve: An Anthology of Romantic Ghost Stories, because I already had an idea that will work quite well here. This is being produced by Once Upon Anthologies, and I love their whole idea of collections of romantic stories set around particular holiday or place.

I said in September I intended to return to my novels in January, but that was when I was forcing myself to take a break and just seeing where short fiction would take me. Now that I have some solid places to submit to and a couple of places with lists of others, I’m thinking I’m going to stay in this region a while longer. My novels aren’t going to run away.

One thing I’ve noticed with what I’ve written over the last six months is that I actually think I benefit from giving my stories an Australian background. I’ve always considered myself a fantasy writer but I do struggle with things like world-building. And of course, fantasy can just as easily be set in Australa as anywhere else. The Australian connection doesn’t have to be strong, but I think it helps me. So that’s something I’m definitely going to bear in mind (might make the novels troublesome).

This post has taken me most of the afternoon to write, so before I risk accidentally leaving it until December 02 to post, I’ll sign off.

How’s your writing going? Are you starting to think about writing related 2020 goals?

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 03 – November 10 2019

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors, where writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished, then visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

I didn’t have much to share through October because I was in the midst of planning a couple of new projects, and not actually writing them. But I’m now doing a casual NaNoWriMo (1k a day) to write the sequels to Operation: Sugarplum, so as long as you excuse the very first draft-y nature, I’m happy to share some more with you. In this scene, Max has told Clara that there’s no room on the guest list but she can come to the launch of the company’s new VR game if she is willing to be on the company payroll just this once. It’s a new kids’ game so there are going to be a bunch of kids attending.

“What exactly would ‘kid wrangling’ entail?”

“Well, just making sure that they don’t eat too much. Break up any fights. I guess we might have to deal with motion sickness if they’ve never played much VR before.”

“So I’d have to clean up their vomit is what you’re saying?”

“No! Well, maybe. I guess just be handy with a sick bag…”

Clara giggled. “Max, I’d love to come.

You can read previous excerpts from this WIP under the Operation: Sugarplum tag.

Also, fyi, Operation: Sugarplum is included in Christmas Australis, an anthology of Australian Christmas stories, and it is launching tomorrow! Grab yourself a copy at the special pre-order price before it goes up to $3.99 on launch day.

See you all next week!

#ROW80 Update – November 16, 2019

Hello, and welcome to a Round of Words in 80 Days – the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then you can find more information at the website.

First of all, a bit of pimping! Pre-order our Australian Christmas anthology! It comes out Monday! It has 8 amazing stories,  including Operation: Sugarplum, my modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker.

Here’s the cover reveal!

We’re having a Twitter launch party on Monday at 7pm Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time… I have no idea what time that is for most of you. It may be small hours but join us if you can using hashtags #ChristmasAustralis and #FrighteninglyFestive.

Blogging fell by the wayside for a couple of weeks.  We’re nearly a week into NaNo now. I’m already making mental notes on how to improve the story in later drafts, and I should probably actually write those notes down somewhere. I’m really hopeful about this series.

I didn’t quite finish my outlines in as much detail as I’d hoped, but I’ve got enough to work with. Some things are changing as I write, but so far it’s mostly following along.

I’m consisitently writing about a thousand words a day, which will not see me win NaNo, but will hopefully see me write my two sequels to Operation: Sugarplum.

Excerpt? Yeah, let’s have an excerpt. Why not? In this section, Max has called Clara to ask if she’d like to help him test his ability to bring VR characters out of their game and into the real world. The Veritas, his VR system, is nearly live, but he’s got a bit of downtime before the launch.

“I’ve taken the next two weeks off. There’ll be a lot of media attention when the Veritas is released, so I want to be, you know, awake for it. Means I’ve actually got some spare time to muck around. And since you already know what I can do, I thought it might be easier if you could help me. Rather than me trying to explain everything to someone else.”

“Look, I’d be happy to. Just… I mean, I don’t want another Rat King coming after me. Can we make sure of that?”

“I’ll be using a game that has no villain yet. Anything I do pull out of the game will be harmless.”

“Famous last words…”

Indeed, Clara. Indeed.

Also, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, come be my buddy!

See you next week!