Confidence was never my strong suit, especially when it comes to writing. Sometimes it feels like the more I learn, the less I know. So now after years of writing and who-knows-how-many classes and courses, sitting down to write a draft fills me with anxiety like you can’t imagine.
Is that normal? No idea. But one way I try to work around it is by staying focused on the most important elements of this blended genre. This weekend, I’m visiting Amber Daulton’s blog to share my approach. Here ’tis:
Throughout my life, I’ve been prone to minor obsessions (and many not so minor), some of which have been finding their way into my writing. I think the best part about being a bit of a hobby junkie is how much one can learn without it feeling like work.
It is work, of course. As they say, we never get to skip eating the shit sandwich, we can only choose the flavour it comes in. But if that sandwich happens to be a flavour we enjoy, then it seems appropriate to count our blessings.
So, here are a few of mine 💜💜💜💜
Did you know that birdwatching is such a serious pursuit, they have a different name for the truly committed enthusiast? I’m definitely more on the casual end of the spectrum, though I do own a pair of binoculars bought specifically for this hobby. In our home, it’s not about snapping photos or filling out a catalogue. We just try to say hello to as many birds as possible when we’re out on a walk. Bonus points if we can identify the species, imitate the bird call, or whip out a fun fact on the spot.
We’ve had odd encounters with our local birds. They can be real friendly once they get to know you, and some just aren’t afraid at all as long as you seem non-threatening. We found an owl in our driveway a couple summers ago, staring at us like we were the weirdos out of place. Once, I sat for ages next to a cormorant who pretty much snubbed me the whole time (tbf he was probably asleep). And then there was that well-orchestrated bird heist…
Anyway, even as just a casual hobbyist, this interest popped up in an early writing exercise. Birdwatchers, an erotic short story, ensued.
Martial arts 🥋
Up until a couple years ago, I studied a shōtōkan-based martial art with my partner and some friends. I originally got into it as mental-health management and body awareness practice, but ended up going as far as a brown-belt grading. Really, it was a “just for fun” grading, as I’d recently graded and was rocking a sprained ankle from something unrelated. A proper brown-belt grading would have flattened me.
I had a love-hate relationship with this sport, but learned so much from doing it. The experience of sparring was especially useful to the work I do now. It’s not the same as a real-life fight situation, and I only ever did it at a beginner level, but it gave me a taste of those on-your-feet things your brain thinks and registers when you’re in the moment.
Most importantly, it showed me the things you don’t take notice of. This dramatically changed my approach to writing action scenes, culminating in the fights that appear inChasing Sisyphus.
I spent my twenties as “one of the bad kids”, frantically making up for a youth squandered amidst strait-laced negativity and toxic conformity. I partied with a variety of goodies, sometimes every night, and today thank my lucky stars that a) it never hindered my ability to work and function, and b) I’m not biologically or psychologically predisposed to addiction.
Ironically, that lifestyle ended up being good for me at the time. It helped me unwind in ways I never knew how to before and helped me think about things with a different perspective. It let me develop some artistic confidence and practice self-awareness under unusual circumstances—both early-days skills I could take back with me to Sobriety City. It’s for this reason that I feel certain illicit substances shouldn’t be outlawed, but studied and regulated with care and pragmatism, and with a body of education developed around them.
I wouldn’t recommend this hobby for everyone—even a short stint of deep research will come with risks—but well, it was certainly a time in my past, and the experiences from it factor a lot into my writing today.
Arduino programming 🤖
For a brief period, I was very into microcontrollers. Arduino, to be specific. I’ve always regretted skipping the hardware units at school, thinking stuff like logic gates and resistance calculations would never come up in my work. Getting into this hobby filled a huge gap in my computer science education, which I’d never missed in my web development career, but definitely ended up yearning for after school.
The obsessive phase for this hobby was short, but I learned just enough of the concepts, principles and vocabulary to develop Celeste’s character for It Starts with a Kiss. Even though it’s a soft sci-fi romance that’s light on the tech, I’m glad I got to write an MC who talks nerdy like it’s normal, not too unlike many of the beloved nerds around me.
How about you? What hobbies scratch your itch right now? How do you feel when you see one of your interests appear in the books you read? If you write as well, what hobbies have played into your work? Leave a comment. Let’s chat ☺️
With Kyanite Publishing officially closing its doors at the end of 2020, It Starts With A Kiss will be pulled from bookstore shelves and online catalogues. If you’ve been thinking about getting a copy, now’s the best time to grab one, as I’m not sure when it’ll be available again after New Year’s.
Alternatively, if you fancy some snail mail from Australia (even though international postage is a bit poo), I’ve got a handful of paperbacks from back when I was planning on going to an event 📚 Just drop me an email and we can chat about it 💌
Thank you, everyone who bought, reviewed, talked about, and talked with me about this book 💜 I hope to share more stories with you soon.
CampNaNoWriMo was a success. And by that, I mean The Dragon’s Den WIP is finally in a usable first draft state. It still needs so much research and revising before it’s even close to becoming a book, but I was very happy anyway and celebrated with a couple of new videogames (tell you about them in a tick).
The Basilica Conspiracy
The Dragon’s Den is book 2 of The Basilica Conspiracy, a sci-fi/retrofuture mini-series that follows the development of Rhys and Adria’s romantic relationship after they accidentally stumble on some business they weren’t supposed to see.
The first book, Chasing Sisyphus, came out in 2017 and while book 2 should have started as soon as book 1 was finished, now that I’ve reached this point in the WIP, I realise I just wasn’t ready to write The Dragon’s Den back then. The story was too complex, character motivations too intense, and my writing nowhere near strong enough to tell the story needing to be told.
But I’m ready now…I think. And after a short break, I’ll be starting the first proper revision of The Dragon’s Den as well as the first draft of book 3, Sins of the Other.
Sunset on a Distant World
…is back on the worktable after almost a year of sitting in a box. There are a lot of problems with the first draft, but a lot of interesting ways to fix them. There is a plan for this book and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you when it’s done.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the revision process for It Starts With A Kiss, as there’ll be more where that came from. “Shop talk” is a new category of content I’ll be sharing in my newsletter and on this blog, talking about writing craft, mindset and “the trade”. I know most of you also write, so I hope you’ll find the information useful in your own creative endeavours.
So, the writing I started “for no reason” ended up as short story, Playing Trades. This 2000-word piece was sent out to my dear readers in the April/May issue of Dot Club, and has since been accepted into Crystal L. Kirkham‘s Where the Sun Always Shines Anthology, coming out soon.
There’s a new microstory going into next month’s newsletter. If you’d like to see it, you can subscribe on my website.
Oh, and I gave up on “MOAB”. About two-thirds of the way through, it stopped feeling right, so back in the box it goes.
Projects (still) on hold
Project D (yep, there’s another unnamed project floating around)
There’s a lot I can’t control right now, but also a lot that I can. Getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day is one of them. Drinking 2L of water a day is another. I still slip sometimes, but for the most part, minding these two things sets me up to be able to do other things. Like exercising and catching myself before I get too emotionally invested in ignorant hot takes on Twitter. Everyone handles stress differently, and where I can help it, I’m trying not to let some stranger’s stress tantrum become the reason I have one too 😅
Other self-care activities that have helped a lot:
Moisturising my forearms… Maybe I have a sensory thing going on, but supple forearm skin seems to be a real mood lifter 🤔
Nice smells. I’ve burnt all my smelly candles, but found a tiny vial of peppermint oil on a cluttered shelf, so we’re all candy cane country this month!
Curating my feeds. Nuff said.
Forgotten Storm by A. R. Vagnetti, after longingly staring at the paperback on my shelf for months.
True Refuge by Annabelle McInnes—I had to stop this one, as the incredibly powerful first chapter moved me more than I was ready for. But I’m ready to come back now.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perfectly Published Perth 2020 has been postponed to 2021. Regretfully, I’ll be unable to table on the new event date, though I hope to pop in as an attendee. Thank you to my Perth readers for your awesome support and encouragement while I’ve been preparing. I’m so sorry to let you down. If you’d like some bookish banter anyway, please always feel free to HMU on the socials 💜
Hey, lovelies! I’ll be tabling at the Perfectly Published Perth #PPP2020 signing event in July. This is a big multi-genre event, featuring authors from around Australia, all gathering at the Perth Town Hall on (hopefully) a lovely Makuru (winter) Saturday.
Come say hi and pick up a copy of It Starts With A Kiss, direct from my hands to yours. I’ll also have limited edition items for sale, which I’ll talk more about on instagram and DOT CLUB over the coming months.
Pre-orders are now open so you can secure your copy ahead of time (closes 10 June 2020). Confirmed early bird pre-orders come with a special gift, just a small thank you for helping me plan my table in advance!
Pia Manning is an author I like very much. She has a seasoned perspective and incisive way with words. Her latest Siren romance came out this year, but I wanted you to experience the Pia Manning universe the same way I did, from her very first book.
Pia has kindly donated to the giveaway prize bundle her debut novel and first in the Star Brides series, Star Brides: Procured. This is still my favourite of hers so far, because the elements of culture woven into her heroine’s experience of leaving Earth gently stroked my first-generation migrant nerves.
But enough about me, here’s what you wanna know about Pia and her lovely book…
JL: Tell us a bit about yourself.
PIA MANNING: I always find this the hardest question to answer. I love making a connection with my readers, but I don’t want to bore anyone. So, I live in the deep, dark woods of NE Wisconsin with my spousal unit, one spoiled dog and three rotten cats. I find I love the solitude and privacy living in the middle of nowhere affords, although it can be damned inconvenient at times. I began writing for real after a number of medical issues forced my withdrawal from the workforce. At the time, I viewed the diagnoses with a jaundiced eye. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a gift I’d truly been handed. Now, I get to do what I love every day.
JL: Tell us a bit about the book in the giveaway, Star Brides: Procured. What inspired it? What kind of world should readers expect?
PIA: Anis Warner is one of my favorite characters. She’s focused, determined, disciplined… Aaand then along comes Commander Dachar of the starship Talat… Procured is, if anything, about moving forward in the face of life’s unexpected transitions. We follow Anis as she struggles to assert herself in an ever-changing alien environment.
When I wrote Procured I was recovering from surgery and learning what that meant for my life. Like Anis, I needed to adapt to the boundaries that now framed my new normal. Developing Anis’s story helped me to realize how lucky I am.
JL: I love the way you characterise Anis as she gets to know Darchar’s culture. How important have you found culture to be in the way couples relate to each other?
PIA: Culture establishes expectations and points of reference for us all. When one half of a couple is thrust into a situation where cultural boundaries have changed and nothing feels familiar, all kinds of chaos can result. Sometimes those misunderstandings are funny, other times limiting and hurtful. There is a lot of negotiating and navigating necessary before they reach their happily every after!
JL: What kinds of things do you feel strongly about that you commit to including in your writing?
PIA: Portraying the unrecognized resilience and intelligence of women from different societies is a stream (Ok, maybe more like the Mississippi or Amazon Rivers) that flows through my books. Women have voices that should never be silenced. My women have no patience with culturally imposed limitations or stereotypes. Anis is a woman who knows what she wants. Is she frustrated at times? Yep. Does she make mistakes along the way? Definitely. But, she always strives to move forward despite every obstacle the Apochian world places before her.
5. So, Star Brides: Procured is the first book in a series. What are the other books like?
PIA: The other two books in the Star Brides universe, ‘The Meat Market’ and ‘Dept. of Corrections,’ explore what happens to society when women are mistreated and marginalized. In other words Karma is a… well, you know.
Both books are also about second chances and redemption. In ‘Meat Market’ our Zuntx warriors return to find their planet in shambles. They and their newly acquired woman, Tamsin, start over on the frontier of a newly colonized planet. The trio are now forced to work together to survive. Before joining her warriors, Tamsin had worked as a very underappreciated and underpaid server. On their new world, Tamsin finds her voice. And the boys find it in their best interest to listen!
In ‘D of C’ Kadir (you’ll meet him in ‘Procured’) returns to Zuntx with former inmate, Janine. Sentenced to a length prison sentence for a crime she absolutely did commit, Janine is in need of a second chance at redemption. Kadir and his warriors are not ready to give up on their home. Together, they dig in to make their menage relationship work and change some things along the way.
JL: What sort of stuff do you like to read?
PIA: My guilty pleasure shelves include erotic romances, murder mysteries- with or without a touch of paranormal, surviving the apocalypse stories, scifi/fantasy and paranomal/horror stuff.
JL: Any parting words for readers?
PIA: Go forth and read! Or write as the mood takes you. Explore, make your mistakes. Just don’t stop moving forward in some way!