I hope your Christmas was merry and bright, and that your New Year started off with a positive bang or a relaxing sleep-in, whichever you preferred!
What Christmas tales do I have to tell? My family had a great Christmas. I usually take my kids ( and a few tag-alongs) camping before Christmas while our favourite camping spot is bright, sunny and relatively deserted. Luckily, I have a fantastic friend who is always game to come with me!
This year we arrived home on the afternoon of the 23rd of December, tanned, tired and with a terribly-full car to unpack: 4 mountain bikes, 3 tents, & mountains of camping gear. After swimming, biking, mooching around the campfire and cooking all our woodsmoke-flavoured meals , we were ready to relax, but, no! The gear had to be unpacked.
It does mean that Christmas Day itself is very relaxed because everyone already feels like they’ve had a great Christmas adventure! The long summer holidays can be spent doing other fun things, like writing and day trips!
So I’ve been flat out (haven’t we all?) but wanted to let you know that I recently had two articles feature on Holly Lisle’s international writing school blog. Both articles are about The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, a highly successful anthology that I co-edited and Phantom Feather Press (published in 2014).
I’m thrilled to announce that a week ago I was selected as a finalist in the New Zealand Flash Frontier Micromadness literary contest. All entries had to be under 100 words! My flash fiction story of 76 words was selected by judges and will be featured on their Micromadness blog here at Flash Frontier, one of New Zealand leading venues for literary flash fiction.
From June 1 – June 22 the top 22 selected entries will be published. On 22 June, New Zealand Flash Fiction Day, we will read our flash fiction and Micromadness at venues across the country. I’ll be reading at the Thistle Inn Mulgrave St, near the Wellington Railway Station, on National Flash Fiction day, Wednesday, 22 June, along with other authors from 6pm to 8pm.
Enjoy reading Micromadness in Flash Frontier. I’ll send you a link when my story is up.
I was gobsmacked. Speechless. And in tears. Quietly (my friends can vouch that’s not usual for me), I thanked the many people who have shaped my writing – a long list – while tears tracked down my cheeks.
But, wait, roll back. What’s this show of emotion about?
On Sunday night, my book, Dragons’ Realm, received the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Youth Novel.
Internationally acclaimed fantasy author, Juliet Marillier, and New Zealand fantasy author, Anna McKenzie, had both been teaching us over weekend. Juliet was presenting the writers’ awards. I was sitting at the back of the room, tucked out of sight, when the results were announced.
A tear leaked from my eye. Then another…
Faced with such tough competition, it was such a shock to win.
Kevin Berry nudged me. “You have to walk up the front,” he whispered. “Off you go.”
Usually fast on my feet, I was so stunned that I hadn’t moved! Once I got to the front of the room, you could’ve heard a mouse squeak.
Then my ‘thank yous‘ started. And here they are again.
Thank you to every reader who nominated my book Dragons Realm for Best Youth Novel. Thanks to you, my novel got on the shortlist. And thank you to fans who voted for my shortlisted book in the secret ballot.
My amazing publishers, Deb Potter and Blair Polly of the Fairytale Factory, have been imaginative and worked hard to make Dragons Realm the best book it could be. Thank you to Monkey Lab and Clarke’s critique group – my fantastic peers who review my work: Alicia Ponder, Peter Friend, Lee Murray, Simon Fogarty, Charlotte Kieft and Michelle Child. You guys are my tribe and I love your insight, brainstorming sessions and sense of humor!
Thank you to Grace Bridges of Splashdown Press and Chila of Port Yonder Press for awarding me first place in the SpecFicNZ Going Global Award which opened many doors for me. Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray were my first editors on the Baby Teeth project which saw Marie Hodgkinson of Paper Road Press publish my first short story.
Thanks to Alicia Ponder who found me and introduced me to Phoenix Writers, who got Lost in The Museum with me. Geoff Popham deserves a big thank you for his award-winning art. Then there are all the Phantom Feather Press authors who helped make the Best of Twisty Christmas Tales a success. Paul Mannering’s crazy ideas always spark more of my own. Vicki Cunningham is always positive and cheerful. My family is very cool and support my books – Kurt and the kids love riding dragons and cracking jokes. My friends at home, and loyal readers, friends and writers around the world have been amazingly supportive – especially Holly Lisle’s online forum – all my Write a Book with Me buddies. (I can hear you cheering!)
And thanks to Kyle Mewburn, who mentored me and strengthened my voice!!! (Yes, they can hear me in Switzerland now when I sing!) To the many writers whose workshops I’ve attended (Juliet Marillier, Anna McKenzie, David Hill, Fleur Beale, Ruth Paul to name a few). To Joy Cowley, Dave Freer and David Hill for their contributions to The Best Twisty Christmas Tales.
It’s also great to be part of the SSFANZ, SpeciFicNZ, NZSA, Storylines and the Wellington Children’s Book Association.
Is there anyone I haven’t mentioned? If so, thank you too. We all need a tribe, a village, a city… a circle of supporters, friends and mentors.
Talking dragons is one of my favourite past-times. Okay, and reading, writing and flying on dragons too… Whatever, dragons are cool. My middle-grade dragon fiction caught the attention of Lee Murray who has won five Sir Julius Vogel Awards and an Australasian Shadows Award for writing and editing.
I recently appeared on Radio Access in their Writer’s Island program. The discussion topic was anthologies and collections. Three Wellington anthology editors were in the studio, hosted by Deb Potter.
The guests were Alicia Ponder, Blair Polly and me. We discuss how to put a collection together – the submission process, evaluating stories, funding, marketing the books – and lessons we’ve leaned as editors. It was fun to get together at the radio station and interesting to hear the journeys behind each collection.
Our host, Deb Potter, presents Writer’s Island, is a journalist, has completed Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letter’s Masters in Creative Writing program and writes children’s and general fiction.
Alicia Ponder has written for New Zealand’s school journal (a New Zealand educational publication), co-edited The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, and edited Lost in the Museum – a Young Adult collection based in Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum. Lost in the Museum won the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel award for best collection.
Blair Polly is an entrepreneur, the editor of Sweet As, a collection of contemporary short stories (for adults) with a New Zealand flavor. Blair had the good fortune of editing the work of some of New Zealand’s top authors. He also writes adult fiction, children’s interactive stories and children’s adventure quizz books.
I was there as the co-editor of The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales and sub-editor of Lost in the Museum.
You can hop in your boat and row out to Writer’s Island or just check out the podcast below.
I’m excited to announce that my middle-grade novel, Dragon’s Realm, for 8-12 year-old children, will be out in before Christmas this year.
You Say Which Way!
You Say Which Way is a great series of stories in which you choose the adventure you want. These interactive e-books are similar to the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” or “Pick a Path” stories we used to read when we were younger, but even BETTER!
In You Say Which Way there’s a new adventure on every page, and a multitude of cool endings to reach! The choices you make are meaningful and change the outcome of your story. You write your own story with your choices.
Earlier this year, I was contracted by The Fairytale Factory, to write one of these adventures, and it has been a real adventure writing it! My story, Dragon’s Realm, will soon be joining all of these goodies! See these You Say Which Way adventures in the Amazon.com: Kindle Store
Last year I was involved in publishing two anthologies – Lost in the Museum and The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales – which sucked up a lot of my writing time. This year I have some exciting news. I’ve been asked by a publisher to write a couple of kids’ novels for their You Say Which Way series. These are interactive e-books, similar to Choose Your Own Adventure or Pick a Path stories, where kids choose which way the story goes. I’ll have more exciting news about these soon. I am also finishing a kids’ novel and rewriting a young adult paranormal romance that has been on the back burner for over a year. So it’s exciting and busy!
I thought I’d keep everyone up to date on my progress with my new word meters in the sidebar – a cool way to let my readers know what I’m up to. These word meters will be updated as I make progress.
Currently as you’ll see :
Black Belt Bailey – a middle grade martial arts novel for 11-13 year olds – is complete at 38,000 words.
The first draft of Dragon’s Realm – the first of my You Say Which Way adventures – is finished at 42,000 words. This was fun to write and I look forward to receiving feedback from the publisher soon.
Nymphyre is a YA paranormal romance that has been brewing in the background for a couple of years. It was at about 92,000 words, and I’m whittling it down to about 80,000 (currently 87,000 and shrinking.) Written in fits and starts between other projects, this novel needs a through rewrite! I usually write a novel from start to finish, not over two years, so it’s been really interesting to rewrite this, bringing all the scenes into line with how I now want to the story to run. Clarkes’ Critique Group have taken my innocent sentences twisting them with their risque humor, making our local library cafe ring with laughter for hours on end as we chortle over possible romantic twists! Luckily most of these ludicrous suggestions will remain in the cafe – although their sound story-crafting ideas have been steadily worked into the novel. What is it about romance that makes people giggle and come up with silly jokes? Monkey Lab, my other critique group have also enjoyed aping around with the story! Lots of grunting & screeching during those critique sessions – think chimps at the zoo.
Mystic Portal is a project planned for later this year, another You Say Which Way – a mountain biking adventure with a twist! Or several twists, depending on which paths you choose!
My 5 Criteria for a Word Meter
If you’d like to create a word meter, pop by this site to see the one I use. There are many out there, but my criteria were quite specific:
Ability to reflect progress on several projects
Include total word count and names of projects
I did not want the names and word counts to take up too much space on my sidebar, so I decided to have meters with the words and count inside them.
Flexibility with color (I can choose my own)
I wanted to reflect which phase of the writing process I am at with each project , e.g. draft, editing, 2nd draft, rewrite etc.
I have taken many of Holly Lisle’s classes over the past three or four years and have LOVED every one of them. She’s a great teacher, outlining principles in a way that gets me fast results every time. In a few days, Holly will be closing How To Think Sideways, one of her large online courses, for the next year, then only taking registrations for a week each year. To show people how cool her techniques are, you can take her 3 free writing classes right now. But be quick, they’re only open for the next two days.
In her words:
Today, tomorrow, and Thursday (USA time), I’m offering three free writing Mini-Workshops with downloadable PDF worksheets that you can use forever.
These are original, created by me to introduce you to the process of Thinking Sideways.
Today, you’re going to come up with a brand-new story idea you want to write.Tomorrow, you’ll create two great characters who will live in that story.The next day, you’ll write the first scene of a story that will thrill you.
No obligation, no credit card, I don’t even ask for your name. Find out how to set your muse free, and write with joy.
Have a taste of Holly’s work with her mini-classes, just a sample of the great tools she provides in her larger courses. I learn something new every time I revisit one of her lessons – and the first two of these mini-classes have given me fresh insights all over again.