Cover Reveal! Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales

Hello everyone! I’ve got something a bit special today. For the first time in quite a while, some of my writing is going to be in a book! That you can buy!

Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales brings together eight stories that reflect the Australian experience of Christmas: it’s summer here in December and we spend the 25th at the beach or under the air conditioner, gorging on seafood and lemonade.

Over the past few months, I’ve got to know some fantastic other Australian writers via our hashtag #6amAusWriters, and I’m super-proud to be included!

There’s something for everyone in Christmas Australis, whether you are a fan of contemporary stories, sci-fi, fantasy, or even steampunk!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here it is!

The fabulous cover was designed by Cassi Strachan at Creative Girl Tuesday. Thank you so much, Cassi!

The contributors are V. E. Patton, Darren Kasenkow, Emily Wrayburn (me!), Lyn Webster, Andrew Roff, Natasha O’Connor, Madeleine D’Este and Belinda Grant.

My story is called Operation: Sugarplum, and it’s a modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker. Here’s a bit about it.

Clara gets more than she bargained for when she plays a new virtual reality platform with boy-genius developer, Max Drosselmeier.

Suddenly virtual characters are coming after her in reality and the only way to stop them is to play the game to the end…

It’s a bit of this:

Combined with a bit of this:

To great effect if I do say so myself. 😉

You can find out more about the other stories on the Amazon Page.

You can pre-order now by clicking the button below for the special pre-order price of $3 US, before it bumps up to $3.99 US on release day, November 11.  And don’t forget to add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf!

#ROW80 Update – 16 October

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.

I shared my goals post last week but due to various things, never actually shared it anywhere. So here’s a link.

So how did I go on this first week?

The plan: 

Brainstorm Beauty and the Beast retelling from beginning to end.

Result: 

Ehhh… Yeah, kinda. Actually, I got myself all angsty about this and so there were a couple of days where I didn’t write at all.

I can actually see myself making the same mistakes I’ve made before. I have discovered that I work best when I have a small cast of characters and not too many scenes. With Operation: Sugarplum, my breakthrough was realising I could ignore a whole section of the original story and still have a recognisable retelling of The Nutcracker.

I think that’s what I need to do with Beauty and the Beast. A “beast” of some kind who asks a question every night and is told no, possibly invisible servants… enough to give the gist, and then put my own spin on it.

This morning I started outlining to see where that takes me, rather than trying to figure everything out in a brainstorming session. The change of tack was good, and I feel better about it now.

Coming week’s goals: 

  • Outline the Beauty and the Beast retelling.
  • Expand the outline for the Sleeping Beauty story (fill in additional scenes , add more detail)

The Sleeping Beauty story outline has not even been typed up yet, so I’m sure it will evolve as I get it onto the computer.

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

See you next week!

#ROW80 Belated Goals Post and An Update

Now that WIPpet Wednesday is no more and I am sharing WIP excerpts on Sundays, I thought perhaps I might be able to find the time to rejoin ROW80 properly. ROW80 is short for A Round of Words in 80 Days, and you can read more about how it works at the ROW80 site.

Round 4 started last week, I think? And I intended to have a goals post ready and everything, but last week got busy. I talked a little in my September 01 post about how I wanted to work on shorter works for the rest of the year, because I needed some distance from my novels. That is still my plan, though what I intend to work on has changed slightly.

I mentioned in that post that I had completed Operation: Sugarplum for an Aussie Christmas anthology. Another contributor put the idea in my head to write some sequels, and I’ve got at least two in the works. I’m thinking maybe a series of five novellas might be nice? I also signed up for NaNoWriMo to write them. I’m not really aiming for 50k, unless they end up being longer than expected. I just want the community and incentive.

So! With that in mind, I’m going to set out some goals for the next six weeks or so. Bearing in mind I generally sit down to write for between half an hour and an hour every day at 6am. So that is when I’ll be doing this stuff. The dates aren’t fixed, of course, and things will probably overlap, lead into the following time. But it gives me something to work torwards!

Oct 10 – 13

Brainstorm Beauty and the Beast retelling from beginning to end.

Oct 14 – 20

– Outline the Beauty and the Beast retelling.

– Expand the outline for the Sleeping Beauty story (fill in additional scenes , add more detail)

Oct 21 – 27

– Expand the Beauty and the Beast retelling (fill in additional scenes, add more detail)

Oct 28 – 31

– make any last-minute additions, complete any of the above not already done.

– set up Scrivener file/s.

– make some graphics/aethestics.

– If all else fails, make Pinterest boards. 😂 (It has recently been brought to my attention that Pinterest has updated and improved in the years since I last used it and now I am actively resisting it again).

***

Nov 1 – 30

– Write, write, write!

– Stop and brainstorm again when necessary. Include it in the word count.

– Stay hydrated. Don’t stress about word counts.

– Attend one writing group or NaNo social event each week.

***

And after that, who knows! I’ll write something about that closer to the time. See you all soon!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 02 – 29 September 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.

Thank you for the warm welcome last week! I can tell I will enjoy being part of this community! I’m once again sharing from my modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker. Max is introducing Clara to the new virtual reality system his company has been developing.

He turned back to the suite in front of him.

“This is the Veritas,” he continued. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Clara smirked and raised her eyebrows. “You called your virtual reality platform ‘truth’?”

Max seemed pleased that she had known the meaning of the word. “I liked the irony,” he said and motioned to one of the lounges. “Have a seat.”

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

See you all next week!

#WeWriWa // #8sunday 01 – 22 September 2019

*pokes head in the door*

Hello?

Since I decided to retire the WIPpet Wednesday blog hop this week, I was looking for something similar where writers share excerpts from their WIPs. Weekend Writing Warriors seemed to fit the bill. I’m 14 hours ahead of EST but I’m fairly confident I’ve got the timing right.

For WeWriWa, writers share 8-10 sentences from their WIP for from a current writing project, published or unpublished. Then we visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support.

Lately, I’ve been sharing from my current Christmas WIP, Operation: Sugarplum. I thought I’d continue in that vein. This story is a modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker, with virtual reality games taking the place of physical toys. It’s in revisions at the moment, and will be included in an upcoming Australian Christmas anthology called Christmas Australis. Watch this space for more info on that!

You can see the excerpts I’ve shared recently via the WIPpet Wednesday tag.

This scene is early on in the story. Clara has wrangled an invitation to the Drosselmeier Industries Christmas party to meet developer, Max Drosselmeier.

“Through that way, Ms Steele,” [the security guard] said, pointing to a large set of double doors. Behind it, Clara could hear music and chatter. She pushed open the door and entered a dim room. There were musicians on a stage up the far end, but the music was intended clearly for atmosphere. There was no dance floor and the players kept the volume low.

There were Christmas trees dotted along the walls, with sparkly baubles and loads of tinsel. Sprigs of mistletoe dotted the corners of the room and formed the centrepieces on the tables. The tables were tall and had no seats, but empty glasses were already being left on some of them as guests went to mingle elsewhere.

Since description is generally not my strong point, I invite any all comments you may have. Looking forward to meeting you on your own blogs!

#WIPpet Wednesday – September 18, 2019

Hello and welcome to WIPpet Wednesday, a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP that somehow relates to the date.

This is a bit bittersweet but I’ve come to a decision regarding WIPpet Wednesday. Our numbers have been dwindling for a long time, and for a while now it’s been three of us at the most participating. There are plenty of perfectly valid reasons for this of course, and I am not holding it against anyone. Half the time I don’t even end up posting anything lately.

But all that is to say that I’ve decided to wrap up the official blog hop. After this week, I will close the linky. My first WIPpet Wednesday post was six years ago, back on my old blog, on March 6, 2013. I’m not sure when I took over hosting from Kathi Schwengel, but ever since then I’ve had a weekly alert in my phone for 8pm Tuesday night, reminding me to set things up for the following day.

There are other similar blog hops out there, and I plan on investigating those. I encourage anyone here to do the same so we can keep sharing and encouraging each other.

Operation: Sugarplum banner showing a castle morphing out of a phone.

This is kind of cheesy, but since this is my last WIPpet (by that name, anyway; I’m sure there will be other excerpts shared on the blog), here are the last few lines of Operation: Sugarplum. It’s only 17 sentences, not 18, but that’s close enough. David is Clara’s younger brother. Marie is their mother.

Marie returned with glasses of wine on a tray and handed them out. Max held out his glass and Clara clinked hers against it.

“Merry Christmas,” she said.

“I got you a Christmas present,” Max said, leaning down to retrieve a gift bag that sat near his foot. Clara looked inside and saw a stuffed toy rat. She let out a loud laugh and pulled it out to show people. Her parents and brother looked confused. She shrugged.

“Kind of an inside joke, I guess,” she said.

David looked between Clara and Max, his expression envious. He’d already been jealous that Clara had met Max and he hadn’t been able to. A burgeoning friendship was possibly the last straw.

“You two… have inside jokes now?” he asked.

Clara gave Max a small smile and he smiled back. She nodded at David.

“Yeah,” she said. “Something like that.”

Thanks for all the love and support over the years! And I hope I’ll still see you all around. 💜💜

#WIPpet Wednesday – September 04, 2019

Hello and welcome to WIPpet Wednesday, a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP that somehow relates to the date.  To join in, simply click the blue linky up there to the right.

It’s been a good four years since I last send my writing out for feedback. When I think about it that way, it really hits home how long I’ve been working on a things without ever finishing them.

But I’ve received some really helpful and supportive feedback on the first draft of Operation: Sugarplum, which is my submission to the #6amAusWriters Christmas anthology. I remember one lot of feedback for A More Complicated Fairytale was delivered in such a way it made me cry (yeah, not using that beta reader again), but all the feedback I’ve been getting this time has given me warm fuzzies and made me exclaim, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”

There’s still a few people who haven’t sent their thoughts yet, but I’m going through and putting comments in where changes need to be made. There are going to be a lot! But it’s fun! I feel a little bit under pressure to have it ready by the end of the month, but I’m hoping to take a couple of days off in a few weeks anyway, so I can do some really solid work then.

Also it’s possibly become the first in a series. I wrote in my September outlook post on Sunday that I am going to spend the rest of the year working on shorter form fiction. Operation: Sugarplum is around 10k (might be 12-15k by the time I put through all the changes) and I imagine the follow-ups I have planned would be about the same. I’m actually… outlining?! *shocked gasps from the crowd* At this stage, there will be at least two more stories with these characters. So watch this space.

Operation: Sugarplum banner showing a castle morphing out of a phone.

For this week’s WIPpet, I have 4 sentences from Operation: Sugarplum. If you remember from previous excerpts in June/July, Max Drosselmeier (boy-genius video game developer) invited Clara to join him to test out the new virtual reality platform his company is developing.

When they reached their floor, Max led Clara down a corridor of stark white walls and doors. Some of the doors had individuals’ nameplates, while others had department names.

“How are you with VR?” he asked as he swiped his staff pass on a door. “Have you played much?”

Clara shook her head. “I don’t know anyone with the equipment. I’ve played a couple of times when they’ve been demoing in shopping centres, that kind of thing. But that’s it.”

Max nodded. “This one has not been demoed in a shopping centre. In fact, you’re the first person outside of Drosselmeier Industries to get a look at it.”

To be honest, I just wrote myself a note asking why Max would be showing a complete stranger this top-secret project. I’m sure I can think of a reason, or at least address it and hand-wave it.

And with that, I will leave you and talk to you soon!

 

 

Sunday Summary – 01 Sept 2019 – The Remainder of the Year

Here we are at the start of September and the year is 2/3 over. And with all the things I crammed  into the first 8 months of the year (a musical, a play, my final uni subject, and a trip to the USA), I feel like I’m only just reaching a point where I can have a rest.

I’ve also written a lot. A lot for me, anyway. I don’t have the exact figures, but I reached 90k on one WIP and I don’t think I would have been much past 20k on it by the end of 2018. And I wrote a 10k novella in two weeks in early July.

The 10k novella, Operation: Sugarplum, is for a Christmas anthology and I’m actually really happy with where that’s at right now. But the WIP, Facing the Music… I wrote 50k on that last year and then started it again and wrote 90k and now I feel like I want to start again… again.

I have realised I need some distance from it. I’m taking at least a month or so but I’m tempted to leave it be for the rest of the year. Instead, I’m going to focus on some shorter WIPs, and try to write a submission-worthy pieces. At the moment I have my eye on

I’ve also been going through my short stories folder, where there’s a lot of abandoned material. I’ve identified a few that I feel are worth a re-visit. The Christmas anthology has made me realise I could have a lot more of my work out there if I just go for it. I need to let myself write things and really work on them and polish them up, rather  than getting blocked by a blank page at the outset.

So that’s my plan. Four months of short stories, then back to the novels in the new year. I think I might re-visit Memories and Magic (remember that one?) as well as Facing the Music and see how I go.

Wish me luck!

#WIPpet Wednesday – August 21, 2019

Hello and welcome to WIPpet Wednesday, a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP that somehow relates to the date.  To join in, simply click the blue linky up there to the right.

I am back from travelling the USA for three weeks and am now trying to get back into my old routines. I have managed to get up and do a bit of writing work each morning so far this week, though at the moment, that mostly involves re-working the outline for Facing the Music again.

The more I thought about the changes I was planning to make, the more I was getting overwhelmed with it. I am honestly not that brilliant at epic, sweeping plots and this one was getting complicated. So while we were waiting in Santa Cruz for our Greyhound bus to take us to San Francisco, I started brainstorming what are the key elements of the story, and I think I’ve pared it back to some basics.

So since I’m in more of a figuring out stage, that makes it hard to figure out what to share for WIPpet Wednesday this week. But I managed to find something from the early chapters that will stay much the same. This is after Ria has first been thrown out of home with the Mind Magician brand burned into the back of her neck. Another Mind Magician is putting her up for the night, so she plays a concert piece for him.

“It was my mother’s favourite piece when I was a child,” he said. I nodded.

“It’s many people’s favourite. Is your mother still alive?”

Nicholas shrugged. “I suppose not. She sent me away when she discovered my ability.”

It can suck to still love someone who has treated you badly. 😦

I would love to hang around but today was my second day in a row of waking up an hour and a half before my alarm (the jetlag is not quite beat yet) and so it’s an early one for me. See you all soon!

 

 

 

P. S. If you’re keen to see what I’ve been reading, check out my WWW Wednesday post on my other blog.

#WIPpet Wednesday – July 10, 2019

Hello and welcome to WIPpet Wednesday, a blog hop wherein writers share an excerpt from their current WIP that somehow relates to the date.  To join in, simply click the blue linky up there to the right.

Bit of a heads-up for regular WIPpeteers. Next week I will be around to reset the linky, but after that I will be travelling for  three weeks. I may remember to delete the previous week’s links or I may not. Regardless, the linky will remain open and you can add subsequent links. Just don’t be surprised if there are a couple of weeks’ worth there for a little while. Not sure if I’ll end up posting a WIPpet next week or not, so I wanted to bring this up now.

On the writing front, I have finished the first draft of Operation: Sugarplum! Six years this has been swirling in my head, hoping for completion, and when given the right prompt, it poured out of me in two weeks. It needs some tweaks, then I’m going to let people read it while I’m on holiday.

I also had some thoughts on Facing the Music today. I was madly texting myself on my lunch break so I don’t forget. They’ll require some pretty dramatic changes to how the story looks at the moment if I want to implement them, but I think they would be really good and make the story stronger. I’m almost tempted to just write an outline for the ending as such and then come back to it after our trip, rather than trying to finish a first draft when I’m going to come back and make a lot of changes. There is a lot that will stay the same, but I think there will be more conflict and tension in the relationships between characters if I make some of these changes. I was also thinking last month that I’m going to change Ria’s magical ability slightly, and widen the scope of what she can do. It will work better for the story that way, too.

For this week’s WIPpet, I have 10 sentences from Operation: Sugarplum. Clara asks about Max’s username when he logs in on his work computer.

“Nutcracker? What’s that about?”

A small smile appeared on Max’s face. “Family trip back to Germany for Christmas when I was four. Since there were bowls of chestnuts all along the table, I figured they were for eating. But no one told me I couldn’t eat them straight from the bowl. Mum swears I nearly broke my jaw, but I think she’s exaggerating. Though I did break a tooth. Ever since then, she’s called me ‘little nutcracker’. I use it for this kind of thing so that my work’s not immediately identifiable. You know, if my laptop got stolen or something.”

Those of you familiar with the original Nutcracker story might remember it was the Nutcracker’s jaw that got broken by Marie/Clara’s (the name depends on whether you’re reading the book or watching the ballet) brother, Fritz. This is one of the little Easter eggs I snuck in.

 

 

 

P. S. If you’re keen to see what I’ve been reading, check out my WWW Wednesday post on my other blog.