Phoenix Fire anthology now available on Amazon!

Phoenix Fire science fiction fantasy short story book anthology

Recently I participated in the not-so-short endeavour of writing a short story for the Phoenix Fire anthology. I will narrate some of my experiences of writing the story eventually, but for now suffice it to say that Pheonix Fire IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON in ebook or print-on-demand format. 

The anthology features eight South African writers from the science fiction, fantasy and horror walks of life, and is sure to be an interesting read. 

So PLEASE go and buy it. Your local author friends will thank you 😉

Fragmented World

I have always wanted to be a Charlotte. And I have always wanted to tell a story. I don’t particularly want to tell this story, but it is the only one I have.

So I have been working – or rather dabbling – on a little side project I like to call Fragments of Charlotte

Writing and working and obsessing and trying to get published has taken its toll on me – emotionally, mentally, and even physically – to the point where I needed to take break from all the seriousness I had imposed on myself.

So I decided to have a bit of fun. Writing for the sake of writing, and nothing more.

I have always had a vampire story tucked away in the fertile soil of my brain, and it grew bigger and more lush as stories like that often do when left in the dark. But I knew that the time for a vampire story wasn’t exactly right, and that the time for a story like this might never be right. The industry might never be right. I might never come across the right agent or the right publisher or the right anything for this story to ever see the light of day. 

And it was exactly this worry that I was trying to avoid. I wanted to just write. I wanted to word-vomit and forget about it. I wanted to not edit and obsess and bite my fingers to shreds trying to create a perfect project that other people would want to buy and sell. I wanted to remove the stress and self-doubt from the creative process. 

And that is how Fragments of Charlotte was born. 

On the surface it is just an obscure little blog with only a handful of posts. On a deeper level … nope, there is no deeper level. It is exactly what it looks like. It is what it is: 

A few words at a time. 

I am aiming to write posts that are no more than bite-sized. About 500 words or so. Nothing that is an investment to write or to read. 

There is no schedule.

This endeavour is entirely deadline-free, responsibility-free and guilt-free. If I feel like doing it, I will. If I don’t, well, then I won’t. 

First drafts forever. 

There is no rule that says I can’t revisit and regurgitate this in the future, but for now the writing is raw and unpolished. I write and I post. There is no editing and obsessing and beta-reading and rereading. There is just writing, and then it is done. 

I will be re-posting Fragments of Charlotte entries here, but you can also visit the blog at – you guessed it – Fragments of Charlotte.

the anti journal

I got this awesome Anti Journal from a friend for Christmas.  So what is anti journaling? Apparently it is “a route to creative discovery, a way of seeing things differently — it’s journaling outside the box”.  Whatever. That’s enough philosophy for today. It’s not as if I need an excuse or encouragement to a) journal, b) get my creative juices on, and c) completely and utterly destroy a journal in the process. So without further ado, I will dive into my new anti journal and see where the journey takes. 

anti journal front cover

I have started this journal with a golden sticker dot flower. It speaks of a certain laziness in me, since those stickers were the first thing I managed to lay my hands on when starting the journal. Or maybe it means I am a thrifty problem solver? Yes, I think that must be it…

golden dot sticker flower

And also this, because some people always have to be told:

anti journal disclaimer

resolutions reviewed

lightbox 2017 let's do this

Happy 2017!

So….it’s that time of the year again. You know, that time when we are all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and not yet worn down by the drudge of an entire year. Right now everything is still fresh and hopeful and we are all certain that we will finally, once and for all, be good people who make the most of our lives. The gyms are filling up and people are suddenly nicer than is natural. Everyone is dead set on being  better. Or being perceived as better, for whatever value of ‘better’ they think is important.

Last year I did a few ‘changes’ instead of new year’s resolutions, so this year I would like to build on that concept. First I would like to assess the success of these changes I resolved to make.

1. I wanted to manage my time better.

This actually worked out somewhat. The 24 hours in a day that we were given always seem a little miserly to me, but that’s the way we are forced to live, so I had to find to work around that. All in all I managed to get a few things done that I wouldn’t normally have. I learned new skills, improved some old ones, and even found ways to expand my social circle. I noticed that there was a period during the dead of winter when time seemed to bunch up and become concentrated, so that a day had all the exhaustion of 24 hours,  but none of the actual time. I fell into a relentless cycle of eat, sleep, work, and Facebook, punctuated by some yoga and horn playing that was near impossible to break. In summer, on the other hand, I can feel the days stretching long and empty, like an endless sheet of paper unrolling ahead of me. There is time, there is space, and there is the motivation to get some shit done.

In 2017

I want to continue on this trend of very carefully balancing work and play, relaxation and meaningful industry, my happiness in the moment  and the thankless slog of working towards achieving lifelong dreams.

2. I wanted to write more.

This one was also partially successful. As declared in my Write a Little bit Every Day post, I started a chart and decided — as the title suggests — to write a little bit every day. The most amazing thing about this approach is that it divides and conquers. Writing a book is daunting, but writing 3 pages is a piece of piss (as my one colleague would say). So this helped me to get of my ass and get some writing done. Not as much as I wanted to, but still more than I would have done otherwise, so that is something to be happy about.

In 2017

I want to write even more. I have a notion that I want to finish what I started (the Sequel to Spadille) and trying out new things (a few short stories) and starting a new and extremely ambitious project (a young adult feminist fantasy saga of at least 5 books). There is no way in hell that I will manage much more than one of these in 2017, but  coming up with absurd ideas and goals is, apparently, all part of being a writer.  

lightbox query like it's hot

3. I wanted to get Spadille published.

Alas, I did not. But I do not consider this a loss or even a setback. Trying to get published is (I have learned) one of the most solitary, thankless, mind-numbing, depressing, soul-destroying, doubt-inflicting, masochistic things that a writer could engage in. And I did it. I jumped into that cesspit of indifference and rejection and emerged on the other side with my self-respect and brainless tenacity mostly intact. I will admit that there was a time when I thought I would drown. That I would sink so deep that there would never be daylight for me again. But I have surfaced and will continue to rise. I will continue to write, and I will continue to try and get Spadille published. If nothing else, a writer needs to be pig-headed in the belief in their own art.

In 2017

I want to get Spadille published.

4. I wanted to blog more.

Haha! How I laugh. I think I managed to squeeze out about 4 posts during the entire year. It was a miserable fail. But it also taught me what I am inclined to and what I have time for. It’s absolutely pointless to waste precious time writing inanities on a blog that no one but my mum ever reads…

In 2017

I will write as many blog posts as I want, and not a single one more. I DO want to redesign the site, though, so maybe I’ll spend some time on that.

5. I wanted to read 50 books.

I read 52. That’s a book per week, so yay me! On the other hand, towards the end, when things were getting a bit tight, my decision of what to read next was seriously influenced by the length of a book, which seems pointless. Reading Anna Karenina earlier in the year put me so far behind schedule that I found myself turning to shorter and shorter books just to keep up.

In 2017

I want to read 24 books. That is 2 books a month – totally doable, and will give me enough time to take on the mammoth project I have been planning for this year: reading War and Peace.

6. I wanted to save some money.

Hmm. This one is hard to tell. I did save some money, but I also spent some money. I did get a clearer grip on where my money goes and where I can cut down on spending, but I feel that I can still improve a lot in this regard. My sister and her other chartered accountant / auditor buddies have the whole budgeting thing down pat, and frequently over-save so much that they end up treating themselves to overseas trips and overpriced phones. To be fair, their salaries are a lot bigger than mine, but still, I think I should try to learn from them.

In 2017

I want to learn how to budget properly.

7. I wanted to improve my horn playing.

Whether or not my teacher would agree, I think I did reasonably well in this respect. I set up a schedule where I practised more often than ever before, and did some public performances that would have been beyond me even a year ago. So, as a person who have no deadlines in this area (I mean, I can improve until I’m dead) and almost no aspirations (apart from improving), and has issues with finding time for all her hobbies, I think I fared very well.

In 2017

I want to continue improving my horn playing.

yoga pants prints blue purple pink

8. I did NOT want to lose any weight or obsess about the imperfections of my body.

Oh God. Where do I even begin? So. What happened was this: I was unhappy with the hours at my old gym, and so, after doing some research, found out that I can get better rates and better hours if I changed gyms. The fact that the new gym offered a bunch of classes didn’t factor into my decision-making process, but turned out to be a life-changing event for me. I have always been keen to do yoga, so jumped at the chance. Then I also tried some Les Mills Body Pump, and was instantly hooked. 

All of these new experiences almost immediately began to have its effects on my body: I could feel myself becoming stronger, leaner, and more flexible.  This new, capable body, grown from outside influences, got me worrying about what I put into it. And so I started paying attention to eating and drinking better things.  Not all the right things, and certainly not all of the time, but enough that it made a difference. It was a slow, steady process. Over the course of 10 months I have lost a total of 8kg. I have built some serious muscle that really redefined my silhouette, and I have gained some great balance and flexibility.

The best part is that some things that have previously bothered me, like restless legs and icky joints and lower back pain, have all but disappeared.   

So I had absolutely no intention of doing anything about my body in 2016, but through series of unforeseen circumstances basically changed my entire life. I have no become the kind of person who loves going to the gym, and who rejoices at a new bulging muscle. Who knew, right? Surely stranger things have never happened.

In 2017

I want to continue this amazing journey of seeing my body grow stronger, while reaping all the benefits that come with increased fitness.

9. I did NOT want to make any corsets.

Succeed! I did not make a single corset. I did make other stuff though, like a winter cape for my sister and some really awesome party costumes. I also had to adjust a fuck-load of my old clothes, as I have lost so much weight during the year, and didn’t want to throw out everything I owned.

In 2017

I want to finish some halfway-done sewing projects, but don’t want to put any more pressure on myself. There are other things going on.

New stuff:

sewing room salmon fabric

10. I want to turn my studio into a creative space.

Right now it’s a dud. It’s a storage room. A place where I hide my creative projects, a place where I retrieve them from so that I can work on them elsewhere.  I want to turn this room into a place that has its own creative energy as a studio and an office, rather than just a spare room that is full of stuff I am not doing right now.

11. I want to learn conversational Xhosa.

This is a toughie. I don’t really have time to make insane commitments like learning a new language, but I do want to give this one a shot. I have a lot free brain-time during my commute, and since I won’t be spending all of it on another 52 books a year challenge, I will be putting some of that time towards learning some new words. I’m excited.

Stuff I really, REALLY shouldn’t be doing, but will probably do anyway:

12. I want to learn (against all logic and reason) how to play the recorder.

Again. I mean, I can’t even with this one. I found my old recorder in a closet and now feel like playing it. There are tons of free apps to help me, and it was easy the first time around, so how hard can it be? It is in complete violation of everything my mind knows and needs to be able to play the horn, and it is going to be a spectacular waste of time, but I think it might be fun. Hopefully it will only be fun for the first few days or so, and then I can tire of it and put this whim to rest before any of my other resolutions suffer. Hopefully.

And that’s all, folks. Here’s to having a great 2017!

the write a little bit every day writing chart

I can’t write 50 000 words in a month. This bugs me, since a lot of people can and do so regularly. Or at least once a year in November during  NaNoWriMo. I sign up for NaNoWriMo most years, but invariable end up writing exactly ZERO words. This is partially because of my very good friends: inertia, self-doubt, procrastination and stuff-that-need-to-be-done-before-writing. But mostly, if I’m completely honest, it’s because I can’t manage 1 667 words a day. 

So I don’t write any words at all. I’m going to fail NaNo, I’m going to have to admit defeat in the dark, late hours of 30 November and confess that I cannot, will not, did not write 50 000 words. So I don’t write any at all. Some years I try, but once I fall behind – which I will begin to do pretty much immediately – the rapidly receding goal posts just serve to discourage me to the point where I close the Word document and walk away from the laptop. 

This is not helping. This is not contributing. The people out there who can write 50 000 words a month and the platforms that encourage them to do so, is not supporting me. The very idea designed to get writers to put words on paper is actually causing me to not write. 

The other problem is that I spent so long revising and editing and learning how to write my first novel, that I have completely fallen out of the habit of writing new material. I have gotten very good at perfecting existing words, but a growing part of me was beginning to worry that I had completely forgotten how to write anything in the first place.

So I came up with a nifty device that will help me write. Not a lot, not for a finite period of time, and not anything in particular. Just words on paper. A few words a day. A few words every single day for the rest of my life. 

I present to you the Write a little bit every day writing chart!

chart for writing word counts, chart for writing everyday, excel writing word count spreadhseet

how it works:

So there is a date column (only half of May of present, since I began in the middle of the month). {Side note to procrastinators everywhere: You don’t have to wait until any point in time to begin something. You do not have to begin any new endeavour tomorrow, or on Mondy, or the first of the month, or next year. You can being right now. I know this concept deeply disturbs the procrastinating mind, but punch through it. Start RIGHT NOW.} (This pep-talk is more for myself than  for anyone else, FIY.)

So there is a date column.

There is a daily word count column for noting the daily word count achieved. 

There is a word goal column. This is as simple as it sounds, and displays my word count goal for every day. I have gotten into the habit of adding a red or a green fill to illustrate whether I have achieved my goal or not. You can see I decided beforehand to write 600 words on weekdays and 1800 per day on weekends. It is a fun feature of this chart that I can actually decide on a different word count for weekends, since I can obviously manage a bit more on those days.

With me so far? Because here is where things get a bit more interesting. Right next to the word goal column there is another little column that seem to feature 1’s and 0’s.  This is the one that really gets to the problem at hand: did I or did I not write today? A 1 for ‘yes’ and a 0 for ‘no’, and this little column tells me if I am, in fact, succeeding in my plan. 

So yes, the daily word goal is somewhat arbitrary. For the purposes of this exercise I don’t necessarily need to achieve the minimum. I just need to open the laptop, open a word doc and get the latest bout of thoughts (and there are ALWAYS thoughts) out of me. So while the word count VS word goal comparison is certainly interesting, the main issue right now is to just write a few words every day

There is also a column for contents, because it’s fun. 

And then at the bottom there are all the totals to give me a very clear snapshot of what I my writing habits were like for the pas month. 

so why 600 words?

You probably noticed that I decided to write 600 words per weekday and thrice that over the weekend. There three main reasons for this:

I can write 600 quality words per day.

This is part of the reason why I struggle with NaNoWriMo’s exorbitant word count. When I feel pressured to write a certain amount of words per day, I find the quality of the writing goes way down while the quantity only vaguely increases. So I have decided to remove the stress from the situation. I will write a small, very manageable amount every day, and so ensure that I make that small amount a good piece of writing.

I have a notion that this can actually save time in the long run as I’ll have less drivel to edit out. And the original words may actually be ones that I can use, instead of having to rewrite everything.

I can do it on the fly.

It takes me about 30 minutes to write 600 words…given that I have the rough idea of what I want to say. So if I split that into two 10 minute sessions, that 600 words turn into something I can actually do during a small break at work. Yes, you heard me, I based my daily minimum on something that I can do on the sly at work.

It’s an appetiser.

600 words is a small enough amount that it’s over before I run out of steam. By the time I reach 600 words I am nicely warmend up and feel like I want to write a few more. This actually has me wanting to write more, rather than leaving me chewing a pencil, desperate to force more words out in the name of a word count.

This is good. No. this is GREAT, since it gives my brain time to plot and plan and make sure the jigsaw puzzle fits together nicely before I write things that are as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

what I’ve learned

Some interesting things have come to light during the few weeks of May that I have been attempting this new plan.  

I love to write.

I mean, who knew, right? This may seem like a no-brainer, but most of the time I actually feel like this George Orwell quote:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

So the biggest thing that I seem to have forgotten is that I love writing. And now that I have been doing a few brand new words a day, I am beginning to remember the fun of it. I have spent so long editing and rewriting and struggling and fighting and bludgeoning Spadille into shape, that I had forgotten the unbridled joy of the first draft.

In fact, I have discovered that I love it so much, that after I have written my 600 words for the day, I am desperate to continue. So desperate that it drives me to distraction and interferes with my work/sleep/life. It may seem horrific, but in terms of creativity, that’s really where you want to be.

So if nothing else, this exercise has reminded me of the that fact that I do love to write. Which is priceless in itself.

Things don’t get lost.

I have many small scenes in my head that deserve to come out. I keep thinking them over and over until they are polished and perfect. Some of these are so polished by now that they are ready to be written down. So what if the filler isn’t there yet? So what if this one scene is at the end of a that I haven’t even started yet? These scenes are ready and I am going to start writing them. Every writer knows the horror of coming up with that perfect scene in the shower/car/store/gym and then losing it again because they didn’t write it down.   

Writing causes more writing.

I remember from the long and painful process of writing Spadille that a lot of the plot fell into place as I was writing. I am a sort of plotter-pantser who likes to have a vague idea of where the story is going, where it will end, but the why and the how of it often only comes once my characters are in the thick of it. For a long time I have been waiting for Ace to crystallise and reveal itself to me, but I remember now that it will only ever be smoke and mirrors, but once I start writing it will start to coagulate into a picture that stands still and make sense. And the clearer the picture becomes, the better I understand where we are going and how to get everyone there: more writing.

It all adds up. 

If I achieve my goals every day it will accumulate a total monthly word count of 27 600 words. This is not impressive by NaNo standards, but it certainly is by mine. That is 27 600 words more than I had the month before, and in three months I will have a brand new first draft. That is not nothing. That is pretty sweet. I can do this. 

the next step

Seeing as this has been an informative, somewhat productive exercise, I will be keeping a Write a little bit every day writing chart every month from now on. I will keep to my 600 words a day ritual, as that seems like an attainable goal at this point. But for those of you doing BuNoWriMo or NaNoWriMo or anything in between, the chart can be easily adapted for your purposes.

If you want to avail yourself of this nifty writing device, you can get your hands on the Excel spreadsheet of the Write a little bit every day writing chart here. Feel free to add you own word count goals and colours. 

happy writings!