Posted in Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Everyone Should Write – Yes, I’m Talking To You

It’s a strange concept, or at least it seemed like one to me when I first heard it talked about with some of the amazing authors in the sapphic writers community. But most authors (and I argue all good authors) are readers. They will read more books than they will ever manage to write. If every reader wrote, there would still be more books wanted, more books being read than being written.

But this can sometimes be hard to imagine as the plethora of books and TBR piles and new releases can seem overwhelming at times. And I suppose it also depends on what you write. It’s taken me a long time and I’m still settling into my happiest writers niche. Just to clarify, Sapphic Speculative Fiction is totally my writing jam, but even that has many genres and sub genres beneath this umbrella.

I’m finding there are more out there then I originally thought and this has been so exciting as a reader, and truly terrifying as a writer. It’s worried at the back of my brain. But while reading one of my favourtie sapphic sci-fi authors this morning, I had an epiphany of happiness for the writer in me.

I belong to many different reader groups. There are often multiple recommendation requests a day. I cannot think of a single request that asks for something opposite to what the reader has enjoyed. More often than not the requests going along something like this:

I just finished [insert title and author here] and loved it. I’m looking for more of the same.

Let me just repeat that here: LOOKING FOR MORE OF THE SAME.

That’s right. We readers may not always want the same genre or trope for every single book we read, but often WE DO go back and forth between what we love most. Myself, I will mix up what I read, but then I often go back and revisit the same genres and tropes. They are my favourites for a reason.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking, yes that’s all well and good but how could my writing ever compare to [insert your favourite book in your writing genre]. Here’s a revolutionary concept. It doesn’t have to compare. What you love about a book, another reader might find annoying and the worst part. You will always be your harshest critic with your own writing. That’s why it’s such a great and vital idea to have beta readers, editors, and a plethora of others whose opinion you value and who aren’t afraid to tell you both their loved and not so loved parts.

And no-one, not even yourself, can write the exact same story twice. So, don’t let that snide little negative nelly voice in your head stop you from loving your own stories.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Why I Write

I haven’t blogged a lot lately, and mostly because I haven’t felt like I have enough ‘content’. My thoughts have begun with a lot of ‘What am I teaching you wonderful readers? I need to do more learning the craft so I can help.’ and it spiral from there. It’s been a stressful thought pattern.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend and fellow author and I just about burst into tears, As we spoke the conversation came around to story telling and how sometimes we forget that’s why we are doing this in the first place. Not to have all the technicalities right, not to know how to market, not to network. Yes, these things are important, but they are often overshadowing my thoughts and peaking my anxiety.

Then last night I had an interview with a publisher (Eerie River Publishing – go check them out) to highlight me as one of their authors for PRIDE month, and some of the questions were an oomph to the chest.

Ok, world. Yes, I get it. Time to remind myself of the roots and reasons.

I have at times forgotten why I write in the first place, so I’ve decided to make a list of the top reasons I write:

To tell stories
To escape – for me and my readers
To represent and minimise isolation
To create the stories I couldn’t find growing up

While learning about writing will always be important to me, I’m not sure any of that knowledge will mean anything if I forget the reasons for why I write in the first place.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

Posted in Life Adventures

The Squirm in your Guts

Today I was given another reminder of the importance of following your gut, your instincts, whatever it is that makes you balk or cringe back from something. That thing that you can’t pinpoint a justifiable finger to but you know, you simply know you are not comfortable.

As I’ve gotten older (dubiously wiser) I have found myself over and over again trusting that squirm in my guts.

Throughout my life I’ve been told to ignore my feelings; stop being hysterical, you are paranoid, you can’t even way why … and the list goes on, until I started to believe that these things were all just in my head and everyone else was right.

I think we are not nearly so different, so evolve away from our instincts if only we allow ourselves to listen to them. I’m not saying that following these instincts will have you avoid all the bad you might encounter in this world, but having followed mine more and more over the years, I have seen bad situations avoided.

I am so glad I have consciously followed my instincts this year, even when it might have been considered socially uncomfortable or harder to go against the stream.

I am so grateful for the trust I’ve given myself.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Publications, Writing Adventures

Pinch Me

It’s happening. It’s really happening.

After a tumultuous start to the year: authorly, personally, and healthily, things are turning and I’m slowly unfolding myself from the assumed crash position.

When I pulled Cold As Hell from its previous publisher I was so disheartened. I knew it was the right thing to do, for many reasons, but still all my hopes and excitement about getting my own publication out into the world were set alight and left to burn to cinders. I had resigned myself to have it be tucked away in the bottom drawer in my mental filing cabinet.

And yet, here we are. *insert a SQUEE of excitement*

The work that has gone into creating a richer and more dynamic and delicious tale has been well worth the wait.

I can honestly say I am in love with Cold As Hell. I cannot wait to hold it up with pride and a Cheshire grin. and I really hope others enjoy Adie and her adventure and discovery, scratching past the surface of OpenFields.

To get your own copy, preorders can be found here.

Be safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

OK to be bad

This has been a huge mindset shift for me. It’s taken a lot of years but once I embraced it, the world opened up.

I didn’t know what it is exactly that has changed, I just know that in the last few months, my fear became the annoying buzz of a mosquito in a dark room instead of the roaring dinosaur it used to be. I found I was taking chances, putting more of my work out there and really embracing the learning of this wonderful writer’s craft.

Turns out, all these blocks I had in place came down to one thing … the misconception of perfectionism.

Fear of not being perfect at something stopped be from trying at all. I didn’t want to attempt something and realise I was BAD at it, worst of all let other people know that I was BAD at new things, any things. But like everything, to get good you have to start by being bad.

This isn’t an easy thing. If you struggle with the fear of criticism for your less than perfect wonderful self, this is a HUGE hill to climb.

I am sure there will be times where it rears its ugly head again. I’d like to think I have overcoming it once and for all, but that’s not usually how these things work. And that too is OK.

At the start of April a friend reached out, a friend who always signs up for NaNoWriMo with me most years and bails within the first week, and told me about escapril. A poetry daily challenge for April. I know as little as six months ago I would have balked at considering this challenge. Putting my writing out there every single day for a whole month … writing a poem every day to a prompt? No thanks. It’s one thing to do NaNoWriMo and input the word count you’ve done that day … but it’s an entirely different thing to put the actual words you’ve written out there.

Turns out, I’ve gotten a lot better at being bad.

And it turns out some of the poems aren’t too shabby. And each day that I manage to do the goal, I feel a little more confident in trying. A little more OK to be bad.

If you’re interested in checking out the prompted poetry of Escapril you can find them on my instagram account neenauthor.

The daily prompts for Escapril 2021

Do you struggle with perfectionism?
Have you pushed yourself and found a way to accept being bad at something?
I’d love to know

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Australia, Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

My Pros and Cons of being an Introverted Writer

You may or may not know this, but writer’s, predominantly, are introverts. It might be hard to believe if you’ve ever walked past a group of writers who are chatting excitedly, laughing, and beaming like different versions of the joker. You might even have seen online versions of these gatherings (usually written in comments where the banter comes out). Or perhaps you know some of the more extroverted authors … they aren’t myths, I know right!? But I promise you, I have friends who fit this category. When I first met them, it took awhile to lift my jaw from the floor and stop staring wondering if everyone else saw them. Was it true, they actually got recharged from other people? But as time moved on, I came to realise they are just as awesome.

I however, am NOT one of those extroverted authors. It’s true, I can be loud and chatty and even outgoing, usually around other authors. We tend to bring it out in each other, as we talk about shared passions and projects with people who just get it. But this does not automatically equate to introvert or extrovert. I learnt very young how to mingle and do the small talk thing. BUT,
do I like it? No.
Does it recharge me? No.
Do I need a plethora of alone time to recharge after a social engagement? Oh yes indeed.

For an author, this can be troublesome, to say the least. Not everything may relate to every author, or even every introverted author, but here are my latest struggles with being an introverted author:

  1. Being extroverted does tend to be the more accepted way of being in the overall society I live in. It is the skill set that people are expected to work toward, to attain.
    Example: Being quiet at a gathering you may have heard or even said something like this in the hopes of making someone feel more comfortable. It’s a really sweet sentiment … ‘It’s ok, you don’t have to be shy, we won’t bite.’ … the problem is, I am often happy just watching. I’m not being shy, I’m just being me. (creepy undertones of people watching may or may not be present). This does also implies that there is something wrong with being shy, and perhaps even that I might be the one to bite … 😉 ok, that last bit might just be me enjoying the quirk a little (horror and dark fantasy author after all). This is not to say that extroverts aren’t great to have around, or quite wonderful people. Without many of the extroverts, it might end up being quite the quiet party (secretly hopes I can pull my book out of my bag and read without weird looks). But it is something I overthink and worry about when I leave a gathering. Was I being too quiet again? Was I enjoying people watching just a little too much? Or worse, was I awkwardly trying to add to conversations that ended up killing them.
  2. I want people to read my writing. I want to be a known author, even in the smallest of spheres. Why is this a problem? Because to become known, most of the time you have to put yourself out there. And I tell you, I have been putting myself out there a lot lately. And while I’m going slow, enjoying small groups, and baby steps that don’t freak me out too much. Any growth, any spike in attention both excites and downright terrifies me. Conundrum.
  3. Can’t I just let my writing speak for itself? … It would seem not. And as an anxiety ridden introverted creative, this comes with a plethora of issues. The market is filled with books, and authors. (Thankfully – I’m a very appreciative reader). To get out there you must seek out a readership, cultivate reader/writer relationships with strangers and be seen. And try your best not to fan girl when one of your favourite authors starts following your friend, or comments/replies on one of your interactions. I epically fail, often, at this last one.
  4. Learning to pivot (from my previous post) is a skill I am continually trying to rework my brain to accept. It’s not easy, but it’s not beat me yet. When something unexpected happens (and it will, that is life and the nature of the writing career), it takes me a bit longer than other people I know to process and move on, to pivot and side step around the problem and move forward. Recently, when a huge unexpected step back happened (the need to pull/change the publication of my first Novella) every bad thought raced through my mind. Will anyone else pick it up? Will I be seen as a flaky author? Should I divulge more for the reasoning? How do I stray professional and reassure potential readers that this was unexpected and also, for myself, unavoidable? I was very lucky, I have had many friends in the writing world and community reach out and help me find my way through. But it was very draining, and the time I used to recover is not something I always have.

Note: My Novella WILL see the light of day, it is currently with two potential publishers and if it does not suit them for genre/themes/timeframe I will look at getting it out there in other ways. I am in love with this story, and it’s evolution of both story and writing with the help of incredible feedback and editing.

But here is the good news – Being a writer (actually doing the writing) is such a brilliant career for an introvert:

  1. Alone time. Writing is a solitary activity. The main part of being a writer, is writing … shocking I know. Oh, I know all too well it’s not always easy, but being allowed, being expected even, to do it alone is a wonderful freedom. It allows one to create without having your energy drained by the need to socialise as well. I personally thrive on my alone time, and I have it on good authority from many writers I know, that they do as well.
  2. Thinking. Writing is a deeply thoughtful process. Yes, it’s true there are times where it feels like the words are flowing without much conscious thought. Ah, but the subconscious never stops. And introverts are quite well known to be deep thinkers. Here is a study I found about the way introverts and extroverts think. It’s a little heavy and technical in parts, but well worth the read. While I would hazard it is not complete and focuses on old studies, I did come away with this: The researchers believed that this finding showed introverts to be more sensitive to incoming information, and also to expend more mental effort by analyzing those stimuli more deeply and carefully. We also take a while to respond as we thinking a whole train station full of thoughts before we settle on a response.
  3. Being online. This can be a bit of a two sided coin. But in the current state of the world, where more things are turning to online interactions, introverted writers (and introverts as a whole) may find themselves far more visible, without the uncomfortable expectation to appear at conventions and speak on panels, to engage in real time. Not that these things aren’t also happening online, but there is more flexibility to be present without being as drained. For me, this is a win most of the time. Yes, a social activity online can leave me drained, but I’m already home, I’m already comfortable and, I’m still allowing readers to get to know me. An added bonus of the rising need of online presence is suddenly I’m not limited to the readership of my fellow Aussies. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an Australian, and much of my writing is set and influenced by this country and my experiences in it. However, I have had one on one conversations with authors who had previously seemed in a completely different universe, not just in a country far far away.
  4. People Watching. All those times I sit back and observe the crowd, I am observing more than just the people’s words and body language, I am observing the sounds and smells that envelope us, the way the light lays around, the sway in the nearby trees. All this observing helps to create richer worlds and writing. At least, I feel it does, I mean it must, mustn’t it?

If you are an introverted author, and struggle with any of the above, just know you are not alone.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Writing Adventures

Pivoting, Saying No, and knowing that’s OK

Pivoting … I had never heard it in relation to writing until quite recently. A lot of writers and podcasts I listen to, The Creative Penn, Lesbians Who Write, and Writing excuses are the top three, often discuss this need to be able to pivot.

Recently a lot has been happening. A lot of changes, both good and bad, and a lot of things moving forward in my writing Career. I’m sitting here smiling with a happy shiver just thinking that. My Writing Career. It’s exciting, and thrilling. It’s a surreal feeling but I know that I really am on the path I want to be on. So, why am I also feeling that heat in my chest, that first sign of my anxiety sneaking over that wall, with a too happy and cheeky smile?

Am I ungrateful for wanting to stop the runaway train? Am I not cut out for the long road? No.

It’s quite a normal response, so I’m told. And the more I examine my own thoughts and reasonings the more I know that no, I am extremely grateful and I am always learning and still have that yearning to keep going, in my own time and pace. I am cut out for the long road, because I say so, and I am doing so with my actions.

What I’m learning is how to prioritise, breathe, and discover the benefits of that pesky little virtue called patience. I know I am feeling overwhelmed, I am beginning to recognise the early signs and not wait until I have a melt down. It’s still a juggling act, balancing pushing myself out of my comfort zones, while also making sure that everything is doable.

For me, the long road means I don’t need to do everything all at once. I can slow down on anything moving too fast, I can put things on hold, and when opportunities arise, I don’t have to always or automatically say yes. No has a power all of it’s own. And while I remember feeling that sense of fear, that if I said no, that would be it. No more chances or opportunities. It’s not true.

If you are having doubts, feeling rushed, pushed, or on a runaway freight train it is OK to stop. It is ok to take a step back, and there is a great power in learning to pivot. If you are gnawing on your fingernails, worried about having to say yes to every opportunity remember, not all opportunities are the right thing for every person. Give yourself the permission to run your own path, and go at your own pace.

That’s my work in progress on myself.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Australia, Book Review, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Not a review … as such

I’ve only just discovered the beauty of audio books. I take my time in getting acquainted with change. Usually denouncing the change stubbornly until I finally experience it and become they biggest spokes person.

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of my day listening to my latest audiobook, A Heart This Big by Cheyenne Blue. I’m still only three quarters of the way through, so I can’t really give a full review as yet, but oh how this book has effected me already. It’s one of the first books I’ve read that has made me feel nostalgic in the most beautiful way to the landscape of my childhood.

I’ve read emotional books before, where they tear your heart out. But this book is a new level of emotion for me. It’s so beautiful and refreshing to read about Australia and fall back in love with my homeland. There’s no lying about the dusty landscape or the chicken shit, but the way Cheyenne has captured all the things I love about this beautiful country has me smiling and breathing deeper.

Much of what I myself write I have set in QLD, Australia. Because I love this country. Since I began writing I’ve had the discouragements and the downright statements that setting my writing anywhere in Australia will have me fail. I gave in a few time and took out specific town names, and obvious descriptors, and I have to say I’ve not liked the stories nearly as much. So after awhile I flipped the bird to the nay sayers and have continued to set my worlds obviously in this country. That doesn’t mean I haven’t worried at my bottom lip when I’ve sent a manuscript off with the tell tale names and places. But I’ve fallen in love with many overseas places through the words of others, I would love to one day make a reader want to see this country, or to fall in love with their own country.

A Heart This Big also sent me skittering to the kitchen. There is something so inherent in my childhood about cooking. My mum isn’t a big cooker, but my grandma was – possibly the only positive thing I could say about the woman. I danced around the kitchen with my son while I cooked and cleaned, baked, and chopped apples. The apples were to dry, but the smell sent me back to days where I would be at the farm and wander into the house to smell my Gran’s apple pies baking.

I feel like I’ve always appreciated this country, but perhaps the struggles of my childhood have made me forget how much I loved Australia even back then, and the country girl in me is still alive and well.

Thank you Cheyenne for reminding me that this country is beautiful, and always has been.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Book Club, Life Adventures, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Well that was a week

I’m not sure anyone really expected life to suddenly become perfect but I’m almost certain no one thought 2020 was a shocking calm before the storm. And perhaps it is neither extreme but this first week of 2021 has certainly thrown a spanned in the works.

I don’t want to go into the world at large thing, because we all know the dumpster fire has followed us into the New Year. Locally, we are in a sudden 3 day lockdown, which sounds minimal but I’m not delusional enough to think that after three days life will be great again. Nor will I be shocked if the lockdown is extended, again and again.

On a personal note, things have been a bit rough as well.

Three of the most influential and important women in my life are in dire situations with their health (mum if you are reading this, you are NOT allowed to get sick) one has even been given the devastating prognosis of approximately 6 weeks.

Last night when I learned this I sobbed into my partners shoulder and felt a crushing pain in my chest. I cried myself to sleep and have woken sadden but aware that if I were to let this stop me grabbing everyday and doing what I can with it, she would not only kick my arse but damn what a disrespect that would be. The sadness remains but along with that, I have the memories and light of her being in my life.

So what has 2021 offered so far to help light the rough days ahead. I have finally got this blog up and running properly and have my website good to go. I am working on finally getting my newsletter happening, and I’m so excited about it. I have a short story I am itching to give away to all subscribers and have the most beautiful cover made by the incredibly talented Pamela Jeffs. Her writing is mind blowing and her cover designs (a hobby she says) are truly stunning.

Reading:
I’ve embarked on a very optimistic goodreads reading challenge for 2021 of 100 books. Last year I managed 61 in the end and thought that incredible, but what’s a challenge if you aren’t pushing yourself beyond what you already know you can do.
In these 100 books I’m also working on the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021 created by the incredibly awesome and talented Jae.

https://jae-fiction.com/sapphic-reading-challenge-2021/

I’m aiming for the dragon level 1 badge (1 book from each 50 categories) AND the bonus unicorn badge (10 of the 12 category). If you want to up your reading challenge and embark on some sapphic reading, and perhaps find new authors and categories then go take a look. There are many levels of badges, for all levels of readers.

I finished my first book The Queen’s Blade by Natasha Rose and am almost half way through Hotel Queens by Lee Winter. Both books are featured on the Les Fiction Book Club Facebook group this month. There will be author interviews, Q&A’s, and discussion at the end of the month. I’m also hoping to get some quick video reviews done as well.

Writing:
I finished my first full draft rewrite of Gargoyles, a dystopian novella I’m hoping to submit to a publisher by the end of February.
I’ve almost finished my last read through of The Void for the Publishers deadline of the end of the month.
I have also, with the help of my lovely partner, set up a writing space in our office. It’s so pretty and exciting.

New writing space .. Not yet finished but well on its way

So I hope you are all staying safe, and I’d love to hear if you’re doing any reading challenges this year, or any other challenges you are embarking on in 2021.

Be safe
Be brave
Be kind

Posted in Writing Adventures

Writing Retreat

I recently went on my first ever writer’s retreat. It was a simple three person unprogrammed trip away in a cottage surrounded by trees and the sound of birds.

It had been many years since I spent a night away on my own. With 2020 being what it is, there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to do what we wanted. However, things came together beautifully and I spent three days in the company of two other amazing Aussie authors.

By the end of the weekend I had written over 6000 words, had two uninterrupted nights sleep and discovered how relaxed I can be around like-minded and talented human beings.

It’s been an eye opening adventure on many fronts, and I hope to be able to do such retreats often in the future.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave