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The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 3 Book Three

One novel is now a post-apocalyptic series.

Welcome to Part 3 of how I wrote a post-apocalyptic fiction series: from one novel to three novels in three years.

Let’s recall the first five stages:

  1. An Idea
  2. A Short Story
  3. A Novel
  4. A Rejection
  5. An Acceptance

If you need a full recap of how it all started, check out this post.

And then three more steps:

  1. The Sequel
  2. A Plan for Book 2
  3. Writing Book 2

If you need a recap of how I got to Book 2, check out this post. Now we’re up to Book 3.

The Ruined Land cover
The Chronicles of the Pale #3: The Ruined Land

Stage 9: The End Game

I admit that deadlines are good for me. I love writing inside a time frame. But remember, I’m a bit weird – I loved exams. Adrenaline = inspiration for me.

Broad Plain Darkening raised a lot of questions that I couldn’t wait to tackle. So many issues that I wanted to resolve. Imagine me rubbing my hands together in glee.

Once again, I needed a plan.

Strangely, my “plan” looks almost like a maths problem. How does it work?

Notes in a book
Example page from my TRL (The Ruined Land) notebook
  1. You’ll notice very few words. The story was in my head. These are just reminders so that nothing got left out. Sticky notes for my brain.
  2. Chapters are important. They need a starting point, an action or change point, and some sort of conclusion – one that leads to the next chapter, or one that closes the action and allows the next chapter to tackle another aspect of the story.
  3. Chapter length is important. That’s what the numbers are about. I’m moving scenes around to ensure that each chapter is a similar length.
  4. The first page of this notebook is dated Oct 19th, 2018. Three years ago today! That means that I was deep in writing Book Three while waiting for the edits to come back for Book Two.

Editing and writing at the same time: heaven!

Editing is such a satisfying task. You wrestle with what comes back; you suddenly see what doesn’t work. Then you scratch your head over how to make this or that point any clearer. You laugh at your hilarious typos (the runted land LOL!) and in your imagination, you high-five the editor at the brilliant saves.

Once again, working with Odyssey Books suited me down to the ground.

So within two years of launching The Pale, and inside 12 months of launching Broad Plain Darkening, I was back at Readings Carlton, surrounded by well-wishers, thrilled to introduce my new book to the world.

The Ruined Land was born, and my idea for a novel is now a post-apocalyptic series.

Stage 10: The Series in a Box

The Chronicles of the Pale is now a complete entity. You can even buy it as an ebook box set:

The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series

The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series available as an ebook
The Chronicles of the Pale Complete Series available as an ebook

Seven-piece Essential Toolkit for Writing a Series

  1. follow up your good starting idea
  2. create characters to care about … ones that YOU care about
  3. expect a great deal of work writing your idea into the first novel … possibly years
  4. refrain from killing your characters too early – but be prepared to kill them at the right time
  5. keep tweaking and submitting until you find a match
  6. be responsive to your publisher’s needs
  7. treasure the publisher who believes in you and your work

What next?

I have a dozen ideas for short stories set in the world of the Pale, but it’s no use planning a short story collection (working title The Chronicles of the Pale #4: Before and After) until I actually write those stories.

Jotted words in a notebook – useful as they are – do not turn themselves into publishable writing. And I also have in mind the possibility of a graphic novel or an animation. So a lot of work to be done first, but the world of the Pale now has to wait on edits for my current projects.

In the meantime, watch out for my next novel

How to Survive Your Magical Family

which will be out in time for Christmas. More news soon!

Coming soon
Coming soon: How to Survive your Magical Family

Taking Baby for a Walk: terrifying thriller – a review

taking-baby-for-a-walk

Taking Baby for a Walk is a terrifying new novel

by Australian writer Kathryn Gossow. Kathryn writes across genres (yay! a fellow genre-hopper!) and I’ve previously reviewed her mythical fiction book Cassandra.

Her new entry into the realm of Australian rural noir is pitch-perfect.

The Story:

Neglected five-year-old Bree-Anna decides to walk into town to her friend’s party, wheeling her precious doll Baby in a toy stroller. That’s easier than getting her older brother to take notice, or waking her mum up after a big night.

It’s hot and humid as small town Queensland builds up to Christmas, and Bree-Anna is easy pickings for a sociopathic misfit. Kidnapped, terrified, locked in and beaten, with her beloved Baby imprisoned in a suitcase on top a wardrobe and so, so far out of reach, Bree-Anna has nobody to rely on but herself.

In so many ways, that’s always been the case.

My Thoughts:

The pacing in this thriller is awesome. You won’t be able to put it down.

We meet Bree-Anna’s family and the rest of the townspeople of Stinky Gully, named for the small Queensland town of Fernvale, formerly called Stinking Gully, in the Brisbane River valley, about 60km west of Brisbane.

Stand-out characters Eloise and Jake get dragged into the mystery, while Bree’s mother Amber struggles under her loss.

This is a dark story, especially because Bree is only 5 years old, but the story – unfortunately – well within the realms of reality. I was reminded of true life cases that have haunted me for years.

Scared
Don’t read it alone at night

 

 

This book would make a fantastic TV series – real Australian noir with loads of atmosphere and a few well-defined, strong roles. Bring it on! I can even assign roles … although lovely Aaron Pederson is possibly a bit old now to play Jake. But put Aaron in any terrifying thriller and I’ll watch it.

What is most refreshing about this story is Bree herself.

What a character! Bree’s five year old voice rings very true, and so does her growing reliance on herself, her inbuilt resilience and instinctive resistance to every horrible aspect of her life. Bree is a fighter, courageous without being rash, and readers can’t help but be drawn into her battle for survival.

No spoilers.

Take a deep breath. Be courageous. Be inspired by Bree-Anna and Baby.

Read this now.

And if you know anyone who likes mystery, thrillers, and suspense, this is the perfect Christmas present you need for them!

Taking Baby for a Walk by Kathryn Gossow

Booktopia

Odyssey Books

The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 2 Book Two

Once upon a time, a single idea became a novel, and a novel sparked a series.

Welcome to Part 2, where I cover the big picture of how I moved from a stand-alone novel to a post-apocalyptic fiction series: from one novel to three novels in three years.

Let’s recall the first five stages:

  1. An Idea
  2. A Short Story
  3. A Novel
  4. A Rejection
  5. An Acceptance

If you need a full recap of how it all started, check out the previous post.

Stage 6: The Sequel

It took a little while to get my head around the possibility of more novels in the world of The Pale. A whole series of post-apocalyptic fiction? But hey! The world was all there, the characters created, and a trajectory beckoned. Plus the world always needs more books with talking animals.

All I needed to do was pick up where I left off, right?

It’s not that easy. Something I found quite testing was to check and re-check my built world, to ensure the consistency of both stories. Remember that I’d invented a highly-detailed setting, with too many characters, too many places, too much that was too clever by half (including an over-clever calendar)? Well, thanks to me being such a smarty-pants, there was too much in my head. I had to match the published version of my world, not the one teeming in my brain.

Hmm, did I mention this particular detail before? I kept asking.
I told myself: probably not.

Can I include it? I thought: Yes, but…

Can I do without it? Answer: YES!

The thing about world-building

It so happens that I know a lot more about the back-stories of the characters than will ever be published.

And that’s the way it should be. I am the iceberg. The published work is the best fraction of it.

Readers really only want to know what’s happening NOW.

They want ACTION. And they want EMOTION. They want RESOLUTION.*

*Beware generalisations. Some readers like the long way round a story

Readers don’t want to know about the hours I devoted to googling baby names as I tried to make my cast diverse and interesting. They don’t want to know about my failed attempts at tracing maps of Tasmania and putting Pale-style names in tricky terrain. And they especially don’t want to hear me arguing with myself about just how evil I can make the villain without turning science fiction into horror.

Stage 7: A Plan for Book 2

Take one ambitious time frame, add a thriving cast, lots of conflict and then make the world explode. Or at least cause the ground to shake.

I’m a pantser by nature, but I needed a plan. More, I needed – for the first time in my fiction writing – to create lists and signposts. I discovered that writing a series is like writing a thesis: there is more material than you can keep in your head at one time. You MUST be organised.

A character list was easy enough, and here it is. I also asked for it to be included in the printed book, because many readers like to refer back as they’re reading.

A map! Fortunately, I have very talented people in my family – they’re so creative, this lot! – and @bernardjmaher listened carefully, coped with my scribbled diagrams, and voila! a map.

Territory and city map ThePale
Territory map for The Pale

Stage 8: Writing Book 2

The deadline was good for me: six months to the first draft – remember that the first novel took several years to gestate.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. My method is to write a lot, and then edit, edit, edit. Then I add, subtract, rearrange and polish.

Characters from offstage demanded to be heard – for example, Helm, the lost tribesman. He’d always been there as Feather’s missing father, but he insisted that he had a much bigger part to play. More talking animals wanted to be heard, and many of the villains began to flex their muscles. Dystopia is like that!

Back and forth with editing. It was so much better this time around. I was more relaxed about strangers’ eyes on my imagined world, and more confident in my choices. I mus say that working with Odyssey Books has been amazing – truly life-changing.

Amazingly, within a year of launching The Pale, I was back at Readings Carlton, surrounded by well-wishers, thrilled to introduce my new book to the world.

Broad Plain Darkening was born, and my idea for a novel became a post-apocalyptic fiction series!

The Chronicles of the Pale #2: Broad Plain Darkening

 

Next time, I’ll talk about how Book 3 rounds out the series, and test out whether there’s more to come from the world of The Pale.

 

 

 

The Ten Stages of Writing a Series: Part 1 The First Novel

The Chronicles of the Pale series

This month is the second book-iversary of my dystopian fiction series The Chronicles of the Pale.

I’m very proud of these books and still very much in love with them.

But how did this love affair with talking animal stories begin?

Today I’m letting you into the ten hidden stages behind the Chronicles.

Stage 1: An Idea

Ideas comes from everywhere. I can’t stop them.

This one began with a dream in 2014. We were shut inside a gated compound while outside, crying babies were dying from exposure. We couldn’t get out, but my dog Dinny (an ancient and beloved German Shepherd) snuck out and carried the two babies into safety.

German Shepherd Dinny
German Shepherd Dinny, the original model for Mashtuk

From small kernels of inspiration, a big story grew.

Dogs had to feature!

Stage 2: A Short Story

The story of the babies left to die Outside was too good to lose, especially during the height of the worldwide refugee crisis. The wise and compassionate canini Mashtuk and Zelie, the heartless humachines, and fully-human Hector appeared in my head.  I wrote them into a story and submitted it to progressive journal Overland. My first ever short story acceptance!

Man-machine-dog-Illustration
Man-machine-dog-Illustration from Overland #215

Man/Machine/Dog‘ is available online.

If you’ve read The Pale, you might like to see where it started.

Stage 3: A Novel

After the story was published, an indie publisher contacted me because my Overland bio said that I was writing a novel about these characters.

Ahem.

I hadn’t started, but I immediately began. Ideas came too fast and the novel grew too long, but I submitted it within six months.

Stage 4: A Rejection

Sadly, The Pale Version 01 didn’t make the grade. The novel was BLOATED with too many characters and dozens of subplots, and falling over itself with over-complex world building.

While the feedback was positive, the novel needed severe editing.

Stage 5: An Acceptance

More time passed. I took a good hard look at my manuscript and pruned a few thousand words. Some of the off-cuts were old favourites: names for every (and I mean every) minor character, a newly invented calendar based on the many seasons recognised in indigenous cultures, and a subplot involving flashbacks to the time before the Great Cataclysm…

Then I sent the new manuscript to my dear, dear beta readers. Their ultra-valuable feedback (thank you – you know who you are!) resulted in more tidying…and THEN

I sent the manuscript off to another indie press looking for new authors.

The Pale cover detail: Mashtuk
The Pale cover detail: Mashtuk

About three months later, and email came, asking if The Pale was still available.

Yes! I shrieked. Yes, yes, yes!

(Thank you Odyssey Books!)

 

What next?

Oh, my. Having a novel published was a lifelong dream come true.

I fell onto a steep learning curve. Working with fiction editors challenged me, but I could see that every discussion, every point, made my work better. A wonderful cover artist sent me concepts, and I jumped with delight on the one with the city and the canini – of course, it’s Mashtuk!

I’ve talked about launching here, and I can still remember the wonderful feeling. The Pale sold some copies. Readers contacted me and asked about the characters and what happened next? The characters gambolled around in my head.

And the publisher said: is there a sequel?

Next week, I’ll explain how I got from a single dream to a three-novel series … and perhaps a set of short stories in genesis.

The Pale
Chronicles of the Pale #1: The Pale

 

Australia Reads!

Kitten and question

Do you love cats? Do you love reading?

Yes of course!

Do you like hearing yourself read? Hmm, not so sure 🙂

This happened to me this week:

I recorded a reading for Australia Reads

And I read … the first chapter of my forthcoming book HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR MAGICAL FAMILY

Kitten
If you love kittens, you’ll love How to Survive Your Magical Family

You can hear this sneak peek in Episode One of Australia Reads from Australian Book Lovers

For the celebration of Australia Reads this month, our friends at Australian Book Lovers (ABL) gathered together over 4 HOURS of free stories from Australian authors.

I’m thrilled to take part and even more excited at the opportunity to promote reading.

With thanks to all the fabulous Australia Reads Ambassadors in every state, and especially to ABL for including me 🙂

Check out the fabulous titles! I’m very pleased to see fellow Odyssey Books authors Phil Hore and Lachlan Walter among the list.

Here’s the all-important link:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1718602/9185906

And here are the

Show Notes:

From ABL: To celebrate Australia Reads and the Australian Reading Hour, we’ve put together an audio extravaganza of truly spectacular Aussie authors reading from one of their amazing stories! So tune up the ears and ready the imagination for the following wonderful audio treasures –

The Link in case you missed It:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1718602/9185906

 

Keep an eye out for more news about

How to Survive Your Magical Family

Love is in the … anthology

Crown Affairs

Do you like romance?

If you’re keen on a little HEA (happily ever after) in these locked down times, maybe a peek into this romantic anthology is just what you need.

Crown Affairs: royal entanglements of steamy proportions , from US publisher Paramour Ink, is now available in both Kindle and paperback editions in Australia:

 

Scandal, love affairs, tales of relationships that go against the odds and more can be found between the sheets…pages…of Crown Affairs, steamy tales of love among royals.

From olden time romances to modern royalty trying to escape the paparazzi, there’s something for all romantic types in this anthology from Paramour Ink.

Keep a fan handy, because things can get a little hot…

 

Watch out for my story “An Unexpected Arrival”. Poor Crown Prince Felix didn’t plan for his mistress and his betrothed to visit him at exactly the same time…

Stories in this anthology are from Lynn Yorke  (Author), Chisto Healy (Author), Clare Rhoden (Author), Lana Trick (Author), Alice Mollihan (Author), S.O. Green (Author), Dorian J. Sinnott (Author), Jodie Francis (Author), and Matt McGee (Author)

Dragons and other magical inspiration with Vonnie Winslow Crist

Dragon Rain cover

Born in the Year of the Dragon, Vonnie Winslow Crist is author of Dragon Rain, Beneath Raven’s Wing , The Enchanted Dagger, Owl Light, The Greener Forest, and other award-winning books. Her speculative fiction appears in publications in Japan, India, Australia, Spain, Germany, Canada, the UK and USA. She also has more than 200 poems and 1,000 illustrations published. Believing the world is still filled with magic, mystery, and miracles, Vonnie strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing and art.

Welcome, Vonnie! Can you tell us what you find inspiring?

Vonnie: First, thank you, Clare, for inviting me to contribute to your blog.

Vonnie Winslow Crist
Vonnie Winslow Crist, author and illustrator

As for inspiration, I find everything inspiring! Believing stories help us learn from the past, embrace the present, and prepare for the future, I write lots of stories. So I need lots of inspiration. Myths, legends, folklore, and fairy tales are important to understanding people and their fears, familiar networks, societal structures, and core values, so I use them for inspiration. To be honest, they are the beginning place for most of my fiction.

How about some examples from your new book, Dragon Rain?

Vonnie: In the story, “Veil,” I used the song, “Long Black Veil,” and Appalachian folklore as the inspiration. My favourite version is performed by The Chieftains with Mick Jagger singing lead. Here’s the link if you’d like to take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F-4rY4g4Do

In my story, the woman who said nothing and let an innocent man hang travels back in time to change the past with the help of a dragon. But there’s a terrible price she must pay.

Another example is my inspiration for “Bloodguiltless.” First, I stumbled across the word, bloodguiltless, which means someone who is not guilty of murder. Not long afterwards at my doctor’s office, I read a magazine article about some of the folkways and superstitions of the nest gatherers who collect swallow nests to make bird nest soup. When I got home, I added in a pinch of Native American folklore, set the story on a distant planet in the far future, and began writing. In my story, instead of collecting birds’ nests, the nest gatherers are collecting the nests of tiny dragons. Unfortunately, the nest gatherers become greedy and break a taboo.

Then, like all rule-breaking in legends and myths, there are consequences.

Speaking of swallows (which are a favorite dragon snack), my inspiration for the first story in Dragon Rain, “Weathermaker,” is Chinese lore about dragons. I included not only their weather-making abilities and growth from snake to dragon, but also milk as a means to lure a dragon. Since the story is set in modern times, I decided rather than just milk, the main character would honour and lure the dragon with yogurt and mozzarella cheese sticks. May, the protagonist, happens to be an artist and mentions some of her art materials. With my art background, this was an easy way to connect with May and add richer details.

Beneath Raven's Wing by Vonnie Winslow Crist
Beneath Raven’s Wing by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Though each of the 18 stories has an unique inspiration, I’ll only mention one more tale. The final story in the book, “Dragon Rain,” was inspired by not only the legend of a dragon living beneath the city of Krakow, but also by the tale of St. George and the Dragon. I’d noticed in paintings, and again when I gazed at the statues on the front of a cathedral in Basel, Switzerland,

The dragon St. George killed was a baby!

That small detail certainly diminishes the dragon threat. So I told the story from the point of view of the mother of a brood of wyrmlings. Her mate was slain in a cave beneath a city so his family could escape. Since George wasn’t the only saintly dragon-slayer, I added in Theodore Tiro, Demetrius of Thessaloniki, and a group of soldiers in pursuit of the dragon family. I also had the mother dragon entertain her brood with stories of their great ancestors (dinosaurs to us) as she does her best to save her children. Alas, not all of the wyrmlings make it safely to the Seihan River. Which is when the reader learns what dragon rain really is.

Every story in my 4 collections and my fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, began with folklore, fairy tales, legends, and myths. I also use those same things as inspiration for much of my poetry and illustrations. Speaking of illustrations, I’m sharing a couple for your readers to enjoy.

Vonnie is also an illustrator
Vonnie is also an illustrator

Thank you so much Vonnie. That’s so fascinating.

Now enjoy a free extract from Vonnie’s collection Dragon Rain

[From “Magic,” the seventeenth story in Dragon Rain:]

 

Trees had spirits. As did waterfalls, fjords, and even the land itself.

Which was why Oddvar was told to be careful when selecting wood for carving the dragon heads and tails to be mounted on the stems and sterns of his village’s longboats. One had to be careful. Humans weren’t the only beings living in the forests, waterways, and caverns.

Tomorrow, he’d be going into the wilds alone to find the wood for the next dragon head to be carved. His thoughts jumped from one otherworld creature to the next, wondering if he’d encounter any of them on his wanderings.

“Where are you, Oddvar?” asked Farfar Tor as he nudged his grandson with his elbow.

“I’m here,” answered Oddvar with a smile. He paused a second to clear the cobwebs from his mind before continuing. “I was thinking about the soul of the ship we’re working on. Wondering where the gnome who guards this longboat hides when we’re onboard.”

“One doesn’t need to see the otherworld folk to know they’re here,” replied his grandfather. “When the tree used for the keel was cut, the ship-spirit emerged from the tree. Then, he came with the timber to the shipyard. Now, he’s somewhere on the boat keeping the timbers clear of rot and woodworms. But if we should fail to properly construct and attach the figurehead, I dare say he’ll make an angry appearance.”

Farfar Tor raised his bushy brows, pulled his lips down, and glanced sideways at Oddvar.

Oddvar laughed at his grandfather’s grimace before rubbing the last of the oil into the carving of a fearsome drake which graced the bow of the boat. When whittled from a blessed tree and well-shaped, the carving would scare away enemies and ward off evil spirits on both land and sea.

No other local woodcarvers could guarantee this protection. Only Oddvar’s family, because Farfar Tor, like his father and grandfather before him, knew how to imbue timber with the magic of dragons. The trick, which their family kept secret, was to boil a dragon scale in the oil used for polishing figureheads.

“I think the iron curls we inserted into the wood add a regalness to the drake,” said Farfar Tor as he caressed the arched neck of the dragon.

“And they provide protection for ship and crew from sea serpents, merrow, and kraken when they journey across the waters,” added Oddvar. “Just like our trollkors.” He touched the iron troll cross hanging from a leather cord around his neck.

“Iron works most of the time,” agreed his grandfather, “but be cautious nevertheless when wandering in the forest. Some creatures of the otherworld won’t be deterred by a trollkor alone.”

“You don’t have to worry, Farfar Tor,” he boasted as they climbed off the longboat, “I’m always careful.”

His grandfather answered him with a shake of his head as they hiked back to their house.

***

After feeding and watering the livestock, Oddvar and Farfar Tor locked the barn, then entered their stone, wood, and wattle-and-daub home. The fire crackling in the central hearth took the bite off the evening air. Though the days were still bright, the nighttime chill indicated autumn’s first frost was near.

Oddvar sighed. It was always comforting to return home at the end of the day. He felt the tension in his shoulders vanish when he saw his grandmother’s loomwork hanging at one end of the room and her preparing a meal at the other.

I’m lucky to live with Farfar Tor and Farmor Britt, he thought as the aromas of one of his grandmother’s savoury stews bubbling in a pot and fresh bread made his mouth water. When his mother died in childbirth and his father was killed in a raid across the sea a year later, Oddvar could have been given to another family, sold into servitude, or even left out for trolls to find. Instead, he was cherished by his grandparents.

“Another boat outfitted with a dragon head and tail,” announced his grandfather as he stretched his arms above his head, yawned, then sat on one of the wooden beds running the length of each side of their home.

“I’m sure it looks fearsome indeed,” said Farmor Britt before handing her husband a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread.

Oddvar’s grandmother smiled at him. “Are you ready to whittle and mount the carvings by yourself yet?” she asked as she gave him his supper.

“I think so,” he answered. “I’m going out tomorrow morning to look for a piece of wood from which to carve the next dreki.”

“But not alone!” exclaimed Farmor Britt.

“Yes, alone. If Oddvar is to someday run the business, he must do more on his own,” insisted Farfar Tor. “Now, sit, woman. You need to eat, too.”

***

The sun had not yet risen when Oddvar woke. His grandmother was already up preparing porridge, while his grandfather was carefully placing items into Oddvar’s travel bag.

“I can do that,” he said as he pulled on his boots.

“I know,” replied his grandfather. “But now that packing is done except for the ax, you’ll have time to help me with the animals before you depart.”

Oddvar grinned, slipped on his outerwear, and followed Farfar Tor to the barn. They filled the hay bins, milked the goats, collected a few eggs, then turned the livestock out in their pen—except for their horse, Stig. They left Stig in his stall with extra feed. Then, they attached the harness to the cart. By the time they returned to the house, Farmor Britt had sliced what remained of last night’s bread and ladled steaming porridge into three bowls.

“You’re wearing your trollkor and carrying a knife?” his grandmother asked after breakfast when Oddvar slipped his leather travel bag over his shoulder.

“Yes, Farmor Britt.” He kissed his grandmother on the cheek. “We even tied a small trollkor onto Stig’s halter.”

“Remember, mark your path as you hike…”

***

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Vonnie! More dragons to you.

Want to know what happens next? Here are Vonnie’s links:

Website: https://www.vonniewinslowcrist.com

Dragon Rain (18 dragon tales): https://www.amazon.com.au/Dragon-Rain-Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-ebook/dp/B09BRHMWFV

Dragon Rain cover
Dragon Rain by Vonnie Winslow Crist

Beneath Raven’s Wing (16 dark, raven-filled stories): https://www.amazon.com.au/Beneath-Ravens-Vonnie-Winslow-Crist/dp/B08TQJ8Y45

The Enchanted Dagger (fantasy novel): https://www.amazon.com.au/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182

Owl Light (owl-filled fantasy & science fiction stories): https://www.amazon.com.au/Owl-Light-Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-ebook/dp/B078GB68PX

 

Cinderella is Dead, a review

Cover: Cinderella is Dead

Cinderella is Dead, the fantasy YA debut by author Kalynn Bayron (Bloomsbury), came across my review desk earlier this year.

Here are my thoughts about this upended, fractured fairytale (review first published in Aurealis).

Cinderella is Dead

Cinderella died two hundred years ago. Now an entire society lives by the most extreme misogynistic interpretation of her legend.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia, like every girl in the land, must attend the annual ball. At this event, men choose women to marry, perhaps to replace a wife who now bores them. Girls have three chances to entice a suitor. If they do not succeed in attracting an offer of marriage, their lives are forfeit to the crown.

Slavery, exploitation, degradation, even death:

the lot of the unwed woman in this sorry kingdom.

Hardly the Happy Ever After (HEA) ending that Cinderella’s name evokes.

The story’s promising set up includes Sophia’s impossible same-sex love for her friend Erin, in a world where women are completely subservient. For their families’ sake, they must marry—the higher up the social rank, the better.

Sophia’s having none of it. When her plans to thwart the choosing ball fail, she escapes to the forest and finds two allies. Their mission is to overthrow the toxic patriarchy, and restore the rightful female heir of the kingdom.

As a concept, the retelling of Cinderella’s fairy tale by foregrounding

a dark-skinned, feisty, lesbian teenager is brilliant.

It’s a shame that the promise isn’t fully realised. The world-building is superficial, the romance thin, and the plot gapes with holes—what DID they do with that horse overnight, the one later eaten by wolves?

The writing is engaging, but the book leaves the reader wanting more.

This story could serve as an entrée to a more detailed re-rendering of Cinderella that looks harder at the many dark places hidden within the original fairy tale.

As it stands, Cinderella is Dead plays a single card trick by over-simplifying the battle between the genders. Suited to the younger end of YA, the book deserves a wide readership for its innovative take.

Do I need to see a therapist? Donna has the answer!

graphic: The Magic is in Writing

Donna Bottomley is a psychotherapist and writer, based in Wales (ah, Wales! Will I ever see you again?). As part of her psychotherapy practice, Donna runs an online Expressive Writing group, which sounds just perfect. Expressive writing can be effective in reducing anxiety, apprehension, worry and insomnia.

Donna’s book, released in May, has the intriguing title Do I Need to See a Therapist? In these pandemical (yes, I just invented that word) times, I know most of us have been touched in one way or another by worry, sadness, uncertainty and doubt.

Add feelings of fear and isolation, and it’s no wonder we think about seeking help. Read on for Donna’s comments on why she wrote this book, plus a free excerpt.

I can *almost* guarantee (*because nothing is certain, right?) that you’ll find this chapter very helpful.

Welcome to last Word of the Week, Donna!

I’m so pleased to speak with you. Can you tell us about your book?

Donna Bottomley
Donna Bottomley, psychotherapist and author

DONNA: The idea for this book was to pass on my insights from being a therapist and to also mention a particularly helpful technique for managing emotions that has been a game-changer in my practice over the past year.

Making connections and discoveries is what inspires me. I LOVE research and am on a constant quest to understand what makes us feel and behave as we do. Therapy as a field is increasingly looking beyond merely talking about thoughts and instead bringing more of our physical bodily sensations and events happening beneath the ‘hood’ of the brain into therapy. This includes our sensory worlds. These are an important part of our feeling states. 

I recharge using the sensory stimulation of listening to music whilst moving; preferably in my car but walking in nature can have a similar effect.  I also love the physical act of handwriting and use expressive writing both for myself and in my therapy practice.

I’m also a firm follower of Julia Cameron’s ‘The Morning Pages’.

Oh and I also have a habit of getting lost for hours playing around on Canva!

 

DO I NEED TO SEE A THERAPIST?

Free Book Extract: Chapter 5

Will Talking about My Feelings Make Them Worse?

And if So, What Can I Do to Make It Easier?

I often hear new clients say that they are worried they will feel worse if they talk about their feelings. This belief that emotions are made worse by talking about them keeps people silent. When we are silent, we cannot process our experiences. If we do not process our felt experiences, then we cannot truly learn enough about our own emotions in order to manage them. You wouldn’t manage a sports team by having no idea of the individual skills and abilities in your players. You’d have no control over how a game would play out if this was the case, and it would feel unpredictable and uncertain. It’s the same with our emotions. By suppressing them and pushing them away, we never get to learn enough about our own processes in order to manage them better. Because we don’t know enough about them, we find them unpredictable and we feel out of control if they become triggered. We don’t want to lose control, so we push them away. This avoidance keeps us fearing them, and the cycle continues.

EMOTIONAL SUPPRESSION

As humans we have a natural ability to be able to suppress, repress or express. Sometimes we knowingly suppress, sometimes we unknowingly repress. An example of repression is not knowing that something has bothered you until you later talk about it and feel upset, perhaps saying something like ‘I had no idea that bothered me so much’. This is normal, but do we balance out our natural tendencies to suppress, with setting aside time to process? In day-to-day life I don’t believe we do, because we desperately do not want to get upset. But this emotional suppression has a cost. It can make us feel even less in control of our emotions, and it also has an impact on our physical health.

A study by Gross and Levenson, published in 1997 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, found that when participants were asked to suppress either a positive (amusement) or negative (sadness) emotion, the act of suppressing the emotion produced increased activation in the ‘sympathetic nervous system’ (SNS). The SNS is the part of our nervous system that sets off the ‘fight or flight’ response and gets us ready for action. Along with the release of stress hormones, it increases our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing in order to tackle the task at hand. If this type of activity is prolonged it takes us into a state of chronic stress. So if we suppress either positive or negative emotions this has an effect on our body similar to that that occurs when we are dealing with something stressful.

Book cover Do I Need to See a Therapist
Do I Need to See a Therapist?

Somehow, we have been given the message that it’s wrong, weak or crazy to notice and express our sensations and our feeling-states. But the research is clear that suppression as a strategy for managing our emotional health is not helpful. Peter Levine, in his book In an Unspoken Voice, discusses a study in which emotional suppression was correlated with higher rates of heart disease in men. James Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth’s research into expressive writing and emotional disclosure found a link between poor immune system functioning and emotional suppression (Pennebaker & Smyth, 2019). All of this tells us that if we stop trying to avoid our feelings, we might feel better. But how do we actually do this?

THE ALTERNATIVE TO SUPPRESSION: PROCESSING EMOTIONS 

Notice

This is the first step. It might sound obvious, but it is central to being able to gain mastery over what is happening for you. There is a part of the brain that is involved in ‘noticing’ and in becoming aware of what you experience. You can enhance it, and some scientists would say that you can increase the size of this area through long-term mindfulness practice.

Curiosity

The next thing I’m going to ask you to do is to set an intention to be curious about the sensations in your body that you notice. Maybe you are used to immediately doing something to distract yourself from the fluttery feeling of anxiety, or that quick whoosh of adrenalin. Whatever it is that you notice, how about seeing where the sensation goes if you let it be? Yes, you can distract yourself if you want to, but that isn’t your only option. Could you allow yourself to be like a scientist and be curious about what you notice? Could you try to embrace the uncertainty rather than push it away? The sensations in your body are not going to harm you. You do not need to fear them. If you let them be, they will come and they will go. Like waves on a beach.

When or if you feel angry or anxious, you might also notice lots of thoughts or maybe images flashing up, wanting attention. Your brain will be trying to figure out what’s going on and what to do. That’s OK. Notice what is happening in your body. You do not have to answer the thoughts right now, let them be there. They will come, and they will go.

Observe without judgement

Try it now. Check in with your body. What posture are you holding? What position is your spine in? Is it slumped, or twisting to the side? Imagine straightening it a little bit, and actually let your spine move to where it wants to. Then notice your stomach: are you holding it in? Let it go, let it flop out. Adjust yourself if you notice any twists or tenseness anywhere else. Notice with curiosity and without judgement.

Take a breath in and slowly breathe out, trying to make that out- breath last for a count of six. Do this again, then once more, and now take a big breath in and let it flop out like a big sigh.

###

Oh, thank you so much for that, Donna.

Great advice there. I’m sure we all appreciate this. Now for the entire book – here are the links!

DONNA’S LINKS

https://donnamariabottomley.com

https://dmbtherapy.co.uk

https://instagram.com/donnamariabottomley

Get the book! Amazon: https://amzn.to/3zqhSdj

Calling Australian Book Lovers

Logo of Australian Book Lovers website

Calling Australian Book Lovers

Cooee!

Today I’m excited to host Veronica Strachan and Darren Kasenkow as they tell us all about their inspiring project. Veronica and Darren are the co-founders of Australian Book Lovers and the co-hosts of the popular podcast of the same name.  They’ve created a site that’s brilliant for readers and writers.

Love Australian books? Go straight to their site, sign up for the newsletter, subscribe to the fabulous chatty, engaging, informative podcast. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

What is Australian Book Lovers?

Australian Book Lovers is a platform for Australian and Indigenous authors to list their books, and for readers from across the globe to find them.

About the ABL team:

In between listing books, promoting authors, and recording podcasts, Veronica and Darren are editing their collaborative novel Family Secrets. Book 1 of a new series, ‘Beneath a Burning Heart’, Family Secrets features adventure, romance, and a supernatural twist.

Veronica spent most of her life in the health industry as a nurse, midwife, project manager, CEO, coach, and facilitator. Once she switched her attention to creative writing, she published six books in five years. A memoir, a workbook/journal, and two books in a children’s picture book series, illustrated by her daughter, Cassi. As V.E. Patton, she’s written Book 1 of a fantasy series and a novelette. Soul Staff: Book 2 of her ‘Opal Dreaming Chronicles’, and Chickabella Shapes Up: Book 3 of The Adventures of Chickabella are due for release later in 2021.

Darren appeared on Last Word of the Week earlier this month. He’s an author whose work dances across the boundaries of literary fiction, with thematic elements from dystopian horror, apocalyptic science fiction and existential suspense. His books include The Apocalypse Show, Dust and Devils, See the City Red and The Hallucigenia Project Book One. He’s currently working on the highly anticipated sequel titled Godless, with an expected release date of late 2021.

I’m very excited to talk to Veronica and Darren today about their work and their mission to promote Australian books.

Welcome to 2021 Inspirations

Veronica: Thank you for the chance to post our inspirations to your blog.

Veronica is also a life coach and motivator
Veronica is also a life coach and motivator

What inspired me to get Australian Book Lovers going? Well, if you chat with Darren Kasenkow for more than a few minutes, you are guaranteed to be inspired by his enthusiasm and imagination. We’re co-authoring a book and have chatted regularly over Zoom over the last couple of years. I was getting to know lots of Aussie writers through the Twitter #AusWrites hashtag started by Rebecca Langham (and now assisted by Kevin Klehr) and the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge (Reading more works by Australian women writers).

Both DK and I were doing everything we could as Indie authors to promote our books in the crowded marketplace, and in the midst of COVID-19!!! I can’t help coaching – looking for potential and nurturing it forth, it’s in the blood – and wanting to support other people in reaching for their dreams, in this case Aussie authors! The conversation got around to … wouldn’t it be good if all the Australian authors were in one place… and easy to find and promote. I’m pretty sure it was DK who said,

“We should start a website”

and he came up with the name Australian Book Lovers. As a serial small business entrepreneur, it was the green light to get started.

The continuing inspiration comes from the authors themselves. The podcast is my favourite. It is an absolute honour to chat with so many creative imaginative people and to hear about what inspires them. And then to spend time chatting with my friend Darren about anything and everything writing and reading that takes our fancy. If one of us is feeling a bit flat, it only takes a minute or two to be uplifted by the other person’s energy and enthusiasm.

COVER Dust and Devils
Dust and Devils by Darren Kasenkow

Darren: Thanks so much for the opportunity to be a part of your amazing blog!! And an extra huge thank you for shining a light on great people and artists of all passions – in a world that’s continuously turning upside down it’s a beautiful thing to know beautiful conversations are happening 🙂

As for inspirations behind the Australian Book Lovers website and podcast, my writing, and of course my insatiable appetite for all things that ignite the imagination, I guess I have to say it probably has to do with those truly magical moments of discovery as a kid that held a recipe for transcending time.

The promise of wonder in a new book

is just the same today as it was when my bedtime was out of my hands and a new tale to read was a whole new world to discover and learn from. I love all art and forms of expression, yet books continue to be portals that I just don’t think other mediums can beat (and I say that as someone who loves to explore the technology of virtual reality!).

I write with the hope my story might inspire the same love of literary portals that I’ve been lucky enough to carry with me throughout life’s trials and tribulations, and I love working on Australian Book Lovers with Veronica because it represents the chance of sharing great works with readers who also hold the soul of an inner child filled with wonder and the desire to push their imaginations to the limit! Oh, and I love to peek behind the curtains in life, so interviewing authors and industry specialists is an absolute blast!!!!!

Tell us more about Australian Book Lovers, please!

Australian Book Lovers is a website where Australian authors can list their books for free.

Logo for the Historical genre
Logo for the Historical genre

Each listing allows a cover, blurb, bio, and author pic as well as a buy link of the author’s choice. We have hundreds of books from hundreds of authors listed under 12 separate genres/ages. Each page has its mascot – an Australian animal or bird, usually wearing a quirky piece of clothing or a prop instantly recognisable to lovers of those books. You can see two of our favourites in this blog. We’ve just commenced competitions to name all the mascots. The hundreds of people who subscribe to our newsletter get updates on the latest additions to the website, special features and access to author giveaways. Authors get their books shared with our subscribers and all the website visitors. The website changes almost daily, both in terms of books added and functionality. Very soon we’ll have to add multiple pages for our most popular genres. We’ll be offering listings for short fiction in the near future.

We also co-host a podcast

which currently has seventeen episodes and over 25 hours of writing news, reading news, author interviews, cameos, book readings, chats with industry experts and expert panels.

Logo for Middle Grade books
ABL logo for Middle Grade books

It is so inspiring to chat with authors and industry people about their love for writing and publishing. We were blown away by the support of authors for the podcast and amazed at having 1000+ downloads by our listeners in only three months.

There are times when it’s hard to keep up with demand, as we both have our own creative work and careers, but it is a gift to be connecting Australian and Indigenous authors to new readers, and we love it.

Thank you so much to Veronica and Darren for bringing together Australian Book Lovers through their energy and passion for reading, writing, readers and writers. If you are an Australian author yet to take advantage of the free listing service for your book, do it now! If you love reading books by Australian authors, wherever you happen to be in the world, go straight to ABL for a feast of books!

Those Important LINKS

Australian Book Lovers Website https://www.australianbooklovers.com

Follow ABL on Twitter https://twitter.com/AustralianBooks

Find ABL on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AustralianBookLovers