Elyora: The Novella That Keeps on Giving

…or how I got caught in the best kind of time loop.

I’m sitting at the outside table beside the pool and thinking it’s a fitting place to write this blog post about Elyora. After all, I penned quite a lot of my novella here, escaping out of the cold of the house and into the bearable winter sun outside across June and July of last year.

Elyora’s news is two pronged, but perhaps I need to back track a little given Christmas preparations subsumed much of the original news regarding it.

JUNE – DECEMBER

I wrote Elyora during the Rabbit Hole in June last year. Review of Australia Fiction picked it up for inclusion in their Rabbit Hole special edition. I was thrilled at the time and buckled down, under the auspice of emerging editor Lesley Halm (of Island Magazine), to tidy up the ugly manuscript in a somewhat mad time frame.

In mid December, after more crazy time-framed revisions, including some very badly timed speed vomiting and the worst case of self-doubt ever, Elyora was released via the Booki.sh platform alongside five other short stories.

In her editorial Lesley wrote:

Each of these were stories that came out of Down the Rabbit Hole. One is even as long as the 30,000 word goal they were trying to achieve. Don’t let that daunt you. “Elyora” by Jodi Cleghorn is a thrilling, unashamedly Australian supernatural thriller, which makes Jodi look like the love child of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. You will be amazed that Jodi wrote this story in three days.

When I read this I almost vomited. What the hell was Lesley doing saying stuff like that? She couldn’t put my name in the same sentence as Gaiman and King, much less say it was anything like theirs. It was too much. I think that was part of the reason I stayed so quiet about Elyora when it came out – that people might read the editorial and expect more than they were ever going to get!

JANUARY

Sean Wright interviewed in January and in preparation for the interview I sent him through a bunch of my work, including Elyora. His feedback shocked me and yes, at the time I thought he was ‘just being nice’. After the interview he urged me to send Elyora to a paying market, it was not only good enough but I deserved some recompense.

FEBRUARY

On a whim I contacted a friend who is a commissioning editor at a relatively new digital press in the UK. I worked with Richard several years ago and it seemed to be as good a place to start as any, if I was going to seriously consider sending Elyora beyond the shores of Review of Australian Fiction.

In less than 24 hours I had a please send it through. A day later I was asked for a bio and a synopsis. A day after that I was told the manuscript was definitely a good fit for what they were publishing. I just had to do two things:

  • Think up a new name
  • Include a new beginning that made it easier to sell via the digital platforms it would be for sale on

I had a revised manuscript, with a new name and new 1000 word beginning, back to Richard by Monday. Tuesday it got the nod at acquisitions and I had a contract in my inbox by bedtime. That all happened in six days.

Within a fortnight from first touching base with Richard it was signed, sealed and delivered and I ventured out into the world with the good news Elyora had found a digital home with Endeavour Press* as River of Bones**.

BACK TO ELYORA

http://lisahannett.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/aurealis-awards-finalist-for-web.jpgThursday morning I woke to a congratulatory email from Jo Anderton, saying we were finalist buddies and I WAS going to the awards night, wasn’t I?

The Aurealis Awards and me have a bit of a history of missing each other at vital moments, and it seemed it had happened again. This time because I had gone to bed early.

My hands shook as I sought out the press release and found I was a finalist in the short horror section alongside Rob Hood, Kaaron Warren, Felicity Dowker and Jo Anderton. Several days on and I still can’t believe Elyora is there, listed alongside stories from Rob, Kaaron, Felicity and Jo. Really?

I’m not sure when it will sink in. Or when I’ll feel it is a worthy inclusion. I still feel like a beginner on so many levels. The skin of the editor isn’t quite shucked off yet.

With an award nomination and a publishing contract in hand, all I really can think of is all the hard work, of the weeks of darkness when I opened multiple emails to Lesley to withdraw from the Special Edition because it was all too hard, that my writing sucked, the story was terrible and it had all been some kind of terribly mistake. And how I felt so very alone without my usual group of beta readers (and how it was too long to hassle Dan Powell with again – just to prop up my floundering self belief).

Elyora, regardless of what happens next, will always be the ugly duckling that ran on jet fuel, the story that showed me when push came to shove, I was able to rise to the challenge, even when holding a vomit bucket!

*The fact that I’m being published by a press with the same initials as eMergent’s, has not gone unnoticed!

**Release date and cover art to follow shortly – though I have seen draft artwork and it is  amazing!

Accidentally Post Marked Piper’s Reach

…or how I came to hold the hearts of others in my hand.

When I started work as an editor I thought it was all about the words on the page. Perhaps it was the nature of the projects I was working on, perhaps it was the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears I ground out of authors to get the best story possible, perhaps it was just circumstances or the fact that eP’s unpublicised motto has always been ‘life happens’…but I quickly found editing was more than just words on a page. I became privy and confidante to much of what went on in the lives of the authors I worked with. Things they didn’t publicly talk about as versions of their world fell down around their ears.

I always said I was there – an open door policy for email or Skype. I held whatever was told to me in a sacred trust. Over the years I’ve travelled death, disability, unemployment, depression, illness, relationship break ups and family problems (to name a few) with authors, but on the flip side I’ve been able to rejoice as babies were born, new relationships blossomed and careers took off.

UNEXPECTED MISSIVESIMG_3408

Like embarking as an editor, I was perhaps a little naïve about what writing Post Marked Piper’s Reach might actually entail further down the track, or under the obvious layers of ink on paper. When we started writing it was all about me: finding a writing niche again, rediscovering my love of writing and doing it with someone I trusted and admired. Letting it all play out in a medium I missed.

The first email that arrived was a bit of a surprise, as one of our readers opened up to share their experience of the one that got away. I should at that point have had an inkling of what was to come.

This morning another email arrived. I’m not sure how many that brings us up to now, but there have been a few since April last year.

It is humbling to be entrusted with these very intimate stories of love lost, of regrets, of yearning, guilt and wondering. The pull of the past and the question ‘what if’ is powerful. In these emails are best of times and the worst of times, the best of humanity and the worst of it. The memories are still vivid, feelings raw despite the time elapsed.  The writers tell of their own piles of paper and ink held together with faded lengths of ribbon, decaying sticky tape and disintegrating rubber bands. Letters accidentally stumbled upon, letters purposely found again.

Like Ella-Louise and Jude’s letters, the emails received are filled with songs, lyrics that echo across decades with such resonance they are accompanied with the sting of tears when I read them. A lot of the time these lyrics could be pulled straight from one of Ella-Louise’s letters. There are confessions of playlists from that time, of music hoarded to be played across the strings of badly mended scars.

Each email throws up new questions about how Ella-Louise and Jude respond and react to each other, of the mysteries of the past, present and future. Most recently themes of resurrection and motivations for stirring sleeping dogs are in the emails as Ella-Louise and Jude ponder the same things. If I ever have moments of doubt, or question the authenticity of Ella-Louise and Jude’s narrative, I only have to turn to these missives to know it nails it in the most confronting of ways. It’s why our readers react the way they do.

A RESPONSIBILITY BORN OF INK

I understand with deepening compassion and empathy and intrigue, the public response our readers have to each letter. And those whose stories I know, I want to crawl through the screen to their desk, or where they sit reading the letter on their phone or computer or the pages they printed out, on the bus, in a cafe or on their couch and give them a hug each week.

See, it’s not just Ella-Louise and Jude’s hearts we hold in our hands.

This charges us with responsibilities beyond just throwing words at a page and doing it with a degree of finesse (and legibility). The responsibility doesn’t lie just in writing authentically (ie. we’ve said many times, there will not be a happily ever after for these two regardless of the outcomes of their affair) and avoiding falling into the needs of our readers, to have the ending they didn’t get in real life, to stay true to our characters. The responsibility extends further: to be there to offer sanctuary for those tossed upon their own retrospective storms as they read the letters. To hold a space, bare witness and sometimes, to just be there at the other end of an email.

One day, when it is all over, perhaps I’ll take up Ella-Louise’s pen and dip it in the ink of my own story and let those who have written to me know I understand. I so absolutely understand.

 

Destruct the Distraction

…or how discipline and austerity became my new best friend!

It’s a no brainer: I’m happiest when I am writing and when I have written. My close friend Amanda says she always knows when I’ve been writing—apparently my eyes twinkle!

Yet I allow things to keep me from writing.

CHOKING

I’ve struggled to find the writing mojo this year. Behind the scene I’ve been consumed with family issues—the sort that wring you out and then come back for seconds and thirds. It’s no surprise I haven’t been writing on one level. But once upon a time, writing was the most successful form of escapism I had.

Last year I wanted the whole body, alternate consciousness experience of writing. And I got it—especially with POST MARKED: PIPER’S REACH, but with everything I worked on from ELYORA to  short script adaptations.

I haven’t been able to recreate the same experience or even feel a flutter of the same energy for my current WIP.

THE FIRST PROBLEM

Since the start of February I’ve been trying to work on the first novella in the BYRTHED series (the poorly named, Sylvie’s Story). I started writing it in 2009. I promised I would return to it in 2010, 2011 and again in 2012 (though I at least did some plotting, character development and wrote a short story set in the world last year). I’d liken it to the pointless act of breathing into a long-dead corpse if it weren’t for the success I had last year picking up ‘cold-case’ stories and not just finishing them, but pushing them through to publication.

SYLVIE’S STORY is tough going for a number of reasons. I’ve never had to build a “big world” for a long work. While I continue to believe (as a pantser) the hard yards of world building occur in the second draft, I have to have some idea of the world my characters are traversing. I have some idea of the worlds above and below Rosslin but it has been slow going watching the world unfold through Sylvie, Joseph and Sophie’s eyes.

The process has been amply supported by Rob Cook who has sent through articles on futuristic worlds and he really groks the world I’m trying to write. If not for Rob I may have thrown my hands up in the air and decided it was all too hard. Especially when I realised I had the wrong voice, perspective, tense. Talk about getting it wrong—really wrong!

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH…

I promised I would keep turning up to the page until something happened. I read this inspiring Order to the Chaos of Life by Isabel Allende several weeks ago at Brain Pickings. I’ve steeled myself to the fact it’s hard in the beginning and turning up to the page will eventually provide a breakthrough. A little Dory voice in my head sings: just keeping swimming, swimming, swimming.

Last week I changed the POV and sparked a little momentum but there were so many other more (temporarily) fulfilling things to do…like mop the floor!

THE SECOND PROBLEM

Last week Dr Kim Wilkins publicised a Writing Resilience survey. I opened it, started answering the questions and the full destructive nature of my social media interaction (ie. distraction-cum-interruption) hit me. It’s not just Facebook and Twitter; an incessant (and unnecessary) compulsion to check email is a close second. I’m the consummate creator of interruption and disruption, especially when I’m floundering.

I jokingly said to a friend last week I needed another Rabbit Hole—to be sequestered away with nothing but writing (believe me, the Rabbit Hole gets mighty boring after an hour of not writing).

So I emulated the Rabbit Hole to the best of my ability this morning, coupling the leaving of the house with the leaving behind of my phone: no Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging—just me, the computer, my manuscript and the old iPod cranking out  time-tested writing tunes.

https://i1.wp.com/sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/s720x720/31923_534065923292482_1655884587_n.jpg

AN INTERESTING OBSERVATION

In 2003 I was in my second year of uni and I was the kind of student who made over-achievers look like slackers! Dave and I were shacked up in a two-bedroom townhouse and there was a little bit more money hanging around than there had been the year previous. This meant I could keep a packet of Tim Tams in the fridge downstairs during assessment hot spots. When I hit a tough bit in an essay or prac report, I’d go down, grab one biscuit and usually, that was all it took to unknot my brain and for the words to follow.

This morning I slowly sunk into the opening section of the novella. It took almost half an hour to thump the opening paragraph into submission. As soon as the words refused to comply, when the concepts broadsided me, I reached into the front of my satchel for my phone.

My phone has become my Tim Tams.

The thing is; the Tim Tams were only ever intended as a micro break for headspace. Diving into social media is not that, it is the most insidious type of distraction.

It takes 20-25 minutes to regain pre-interruption focus. Ouch! When I add up the number of times I’m ‘distracted’ or ‘interrupted’ in a single morning, ‘squirrel’ becomes the sound of nails being hammered into the coffin of progress.

HABIT FORMING

21 is the number of days experts say is optimal for habit forming. So for the next 21 days I am committing to one hour of distraction free writing in the morning. This means turning the internet off if I’m home, leaving my phone at home if I am going out, and slowly weaning myself off the ‘phone as safety blanket’. (Just in case you are wondering, I’m not taking up Tim Tams!)

When I finished writing this morning my blood was warm again. True, it had taken longer than the hour I had budgeted for, but at the end I had 948 almost brand new words. Better than that, I just wanted to keep writing (dang that midday appointment!)

The thrill of a story unfolding infused me. And still does.

The novella feels do-able now.

What are your major distractions to writing? How do you deal with them? Especially when writing is tough going?

Author Update #1

Happy Dark Moon. This is the first of what will hopefully be a semi-regular round up of my writing plus the writing and projects of those around me.

A MONTH OF POETRY

February was #postitenotepoetry month. I came out of the month with just under 40 poems—well ahead of the ‘dared’ 28. Unlike the “29 Days of Haiku” last year, I loved every minute of #postitnotepoetry. It became an unexpected and very welcomed outlet for a lot of difficult stuff I faced behind the scenes.

PODCAST

During the January heatwave, I sat down in my air-conditioned writing room to chat with Sean Wright for his Adventures of a Bookonaut podcast. I’ve done a few interviews (including on 4ZZZ) but this was the first time I’d been interviewed as a writer, and it was so much fun. The glowing feedback from Sean came at just the right time, as I sat poised on making the BIG decision to spend a year away from editing and publishing to write. It was also on Sean’s insistence that I sent ELYORA out into the big wide world.  Which brings me to…

ELYORA

My horror novella, published as part of Review of Australian Fiction’s Rabbit Hole special, is out in the wild. It has a brand new beginning, new title and hopefully a new home with the prospect of some financial return. Fingers crossed for good news in the next couple of weeks.

ONE SMALL STEP: AN ANTHOLOGY OF DISCOVERIES

Fablecroft’s next anthology ONE SMALL STEP: an anthology of discoveries is now available for pre-order. The all female anthology will launch at NatCon/Conflux next month. Looking at the ToC, I still pinch myself…that “Firefly Epilogue” sits alongside stories of some of my favourite authors.

FIRST TO A HUNDRED

A story idea for a piece of flash fiction, spawned by Adam’s commentary on cricket and tennis over summer, grew in one afternoon to a 5000 word story (in one sitting – making it the one easy story afforded a year – in the second week of my creative year!). “First to a Hundred” will be my entry in the Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. In a quirk of narrative, the story steps aside from weird spec-fic I’m used to penning and is instead a YA coming-of-age story set on a Victorian beach in the late 1980’s. It’s the story that made all the important men in my life cry!

BIRTHPUNK

I have started on my set of six interlocking birthpunk novellas. I’m currently working on “Sylvie”—the original story that inspired the entire concept of birthpunk. With so many debates going on around the world about women’s corporeal rights (ie. Rights to choose what happens to their bodies) it would appear this is the year to be writing about a world where women’s corporeal rights have been stripped away. Where the Government controls all aspects of fertility and reproduction.

It is hard going at the moment, getting my head around the world building, with some extra distractions going on behind the scenes. The enormity of what I’m attempting weighs heavily on my confidence, despite the small, but dedicated cheer squad who keep telling me it’s awesome and I can do it. I’m hoping to have the first novella completed in the next fortnight.

POST MARKED: PIPER’S REACH

Adam and I have reached the point where we’re acknowledging the end is nigh. But if you think either of us has any idea how it ends, you’d be wrong. It’s not going to be in the next couple of letters, it might be even longer than a few more after that, but it’s definitely on the horizon.

I might not know how it’s going to end, but I do know what I had in mind for the ending this time last year, has been somewhat gutted by the unravelling of events in the last 12 months. There has been discussion that it will end where it started…with a letter from Ella-Louise. We’ll see.

Adam and I are planning to gift print copies of the Christmas Special as a chapbook, accompanied with Jude’s mix tape from 1991. We’re compiling a list of fans and supporters. If you have been a lurker, now would be the time to out yourself.

AROUND THE TRAPS

Joanne Anderton’s debut short story collection, THE BONE CHIME SONG is available for pre-order through FableCroft. I can’t wait to see what is between the pages and looking forward to getting a signed copy at NatCon.

Jessica Bell released her novella The Book in last January and followed up with a short story The Hum of Sin Against Skin last week.

Chris Chartrand unveiled Worth A Thousand Words podcast last month. It is wonderful mash up of photo prompts, writing, podcasting and interviews. I’m currently gestating a story for submission. I’d love to hear something I wrote be narrated by Chris.

Maria Kelly’s story “Parker’s Pygmallion”, a twist on Shaw’s concept, won the Phi Theta Kappa Florida Regional award for Best Short Story—Fiction.

Nicole Murphy released the yearly anthology from In Fabula-divino mentoring project yesterday. It contains a bunch of truly awesome stories, including S.G. Larner’s “Regret” (definitely one of my favourite stories of Stacey’s!)

Emma Newman’s BETWEEN TWO THORNS, the first in the Split Words Trilogy was released by Angry Robot in late February and my copy arrived on Friday. You can purchase at the following locations: UK Edition – US Edition. Em was also the featured author at SFX magazine’s Issue 233 with a corker photo that had Angry Robot’s Marc Gascoigne nominated Em as the next Doctor!

Dan Powell was joint winner of the Carve Esoteric Prize (2013) for “Storm in a Tea Cup” and his short story collection “Looking Out Of Broken Windows” is short listed for the International Scott Prize for Short Stories. You can read an interview with Dan here on the Salt Publishing website about the collection.

Sean Wright sat on the other side of the interviewing desk with Emma Raven of E-book Revolution talking about a bunch of things from attending local writing events to the best use of Twitter and and Goodreads.

Sylvie #MarchMonologue

March is the month of monologues. I’m using monologues as character development for the six characters of my birthpunk novellas. Here we see Sylvie, a young midwife, who wants to escape the world she no longer fits, alone in a darker, starker, more dangerous landscape.

One. Two. No…it can’t be. But yes…there it is: the second heart beat. How easy it would be to miss it behind its sibling.

Keep a straight face. Hold it close and work out what twins mean here where all the talk is of a chosen child. A child. Just one.

If you want one, you, glaring down at me, which one do you want? And what will you do with the other? I have never lost a baby. I don’t plan to. Not out here where there is nothing but death pressing in through every crack and crevice. Death might be your handmaiden but it is not mine.

The girl’s fingers are hot, wrapped around my cold ones. Always so cold, especially under Daniel’s hand in the back of the car. His hand jerking away from mine. Rejection, betrayal or survival? Or my will to push him away.

Doesn’t matter now. You’re far away Daniel. So far it doesn’t beg thinking about. I close my fingers around this girl who needs me. I squeeze hard enough to assert my presence, my belief in her ability to birth twins, but not too hard. I’m only here to support, not to control…not like the woman around us. Those who hold us against our will.

I’m so awfully afraid. But you are afraid too. Terrified.

What have I done?

I can’t…

The crone looks at me.

A piercing glance and the hairs on my neck bristle like a cliché. Everything is wrong about this. About her.  About the girl. This room and me in it.

Where is Sophie? Is she safe?

If only my beeper worked. I’d be able to let her know I’m still here. I promised her I would be there. And I will. I will Sophie. You believed in me. And I believe in you. I don’t go back on my word. I know you are scared. I’m scared too. If only the beeper worked. I could ask for help.

The crone looks at me, her gaze penetrating me like a rusty metal blade. Violent and deadly.

The pinnard is heavy in my hand. Not as heavy as the sentence I let go as I struggle to work out what to do. The words catch in a choking cough as though I’m not meant to say anything. They bounce off the crumbling walls of the room.

The crone nods. Oh my Goddess, she nods. And I have time.

The cold, sharp air… ahh, after the closed, stinking interior of the birthing room it’s a relief. Colder than the water I’ve just asked to bathe under. Colder than the glare Marcus, the man could as easily undo me as save me, gives me when I tell him what I want.

Are you for me, or against me? Tell me?

Your back is the only answer I get because, I can’t ask. The black cotton sticks in weird contours that defy anatomy.

One foot after another, after another, in the dusty tracks, leading me away from that building.

Lead me anywhere, away form there, deeper into the Dead Zone. It makes no sense, but I trust you. I shouldn’t, but I do. Keep me safe please, Marcus. Please.

I need to get back to Sophie. I gave a promise and I will do anything to keep it.

PS: Happy 500th post here at 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky!

Interior Monologues in Writing

The internal/interior monologue is possibly one of the least used points of view these days. An internal monologue is something associated more with the soliloquy of the theatre than a stand alone piece of literature.

“Points of View: an Anthology of Short Stories” is published in sections based on point of view.  The editors James Moffet and Kenneth McElheny say an internal monologue is like ‘overhearing someone’s thoughts’. They suggest three different scenarios which facilitate an internal monologue:

  • the narrator is reacting to his immediate surroundings – the monologue tells the story of what is going on.
  • the narrator presents their thoughts as memories – the monologue review past events and connects them with present ones.
  • the narrator’s train of thoughts are neither a record of the present nor a recollection of the past – the monologue is purely a reflection, and in itself, the story.

While few short stories are compromised entirely of a monologue, many writers use this point of view in a limited capacity. Stephen King’s “The Shining” utilises the internal monologue–in tiny snippets, rather than in large slabs–delineated from the rest of the narrative, through the use of brackets.

He closed his eyes and all the old phrases began to parade through his mnd, it seemed there must be hundreds of them.

(creaking up not playing with a full deck lostya marbles guy just went looney tunes he went up and over the hig side went bananas lost his football went crackers nuts half a seabag)

All meaning the same thing: losing your mind.

“No,” he whimpered, hardly aware that he had been reduced to this, whimpering with his eyes shut like a child. “Oh no, God. Please, God no.”

Monologues also appear in the guise of diary entries and letters, which perhaps are more palatable to a reader for large slabs of introspection.

Two stories in Chinese Whisperings: The Red Book are excellent examples of the use of diary entries as monologue pieces. Paul Servini’s uses the diary entry to good effect in his story “Discovery”, juxtaposing the assured, business-like Elizabeth, with her less secure inner self.

What now?

The last ten years of my life have been spent trying to forge a career in business. Yet, it was more than a career at stake. I was looking for an identity after Robin. I found it. The cost was high but I paid it willingly because it made me into someone. I needed that. So I closed my eyes and went for it. Today, someone opened my eyes and I recoiled.

Is this really what I’ve become? And is there any way out?

Jasmine Gallant’s “Not My Name” is told entirely through diary entries. Her narrator’s deteriorating mental condition is expressed in the confusion of the tenses – his memories are told in the present tense and his every day observations in the past tense. He alternates between observing the mundane now and the terrifying past.

I am so cold—huddled at my little desk, pounding on this keyboard— I feel the breath rush out of my lungs, freezing the air in front of me. A coffee sits beside me, its warmth leaks away. A cigarette smokes lazily in the ashtray. Rings drift to the ceiling like a young girl’s hair. Stray books and clothes have a life of their own and come to rest wherever they find space in our small, cramped living room.

Why do I write these things?

These things of no importance?

While internal monologues give us an unparalleled intimate view into a character’s life, thoughts and feelings, it is a fairly limited approach not to mention a biased one.

Interior monologues can also be tough to articulate authentically. Blair Hurley of The Creative Writing Corner, says the challenge with writing interior monologues is two fold:

  • thinking often does not occur in grammatically correct sentences. We don’t think in big words. Our thoughts are often broken and disjointed. Authentic-sounding interior dialogue needs to capture the essence of this, however…
  • if we are too authentic and accurately capture what thought is really like, we end up with an  incomprehensible quagmire of text.

Hurley says for a monologue to be touching and effective it needs balance.

While I wasn’t a great fan of Dorothy Parker’s “But the One on the Right” she does strike a working balance between cohesive expression and the sporadic, randomness of thought. It was just a shame I didn’t really care too much about the situation in which her protagonist finds herself (I’m not one for whinging which forms a fair chunk of the monologue.) Having said that, it comes with an excellent ending and a good example of how one might include direct speech into an interior monologue.

We all like a challenge don’t we?

March’s writing challenge is to spend 10 minutes writing a simple interior monologue. How easy is it to replicate your thoughts or the thoughts of a character in an authentic manner, but also allowing the reader ‘in’? A bit like trying to transpose Shakespeare into text speak?

This blog post first published on the Write Anything website March 1st 2010

Welcome, the Serpent!

serpentpendant

Ox starts a new lucky life cycle in 2013. Finally your hard work is rewarded. ~ Susan Levitt

I wrote a few weeks ago how it was hard to let go of the Year of the Dragon and here I find myself almost a month into the new year hanging back on the welcome. Well here goes, welcome year of the water serpent!

Like the dragon, the serpent is not demonised in eastern traditions. The serpent is a goddess, heroine and healer in the ancient myths of China. The year of the Serpent is a powerful year for rebirth and transformation in all areas of life. I’m an Ox and the Serpent Year comes with auspicious tidings, melding effortlessly with what is set for the Sagittarius, Aries and Virgo triad in my chart.

Consolidate

My theme for this year is: consolidate.

A quick flick through the dictionary turns up the following definitions:

  • to strengthen, solidify
  • bring together separate parts into a single unified form
  • to discard unused or unwanted items and organise the remaining

This year I’m setting aside business to concentrate on writing*. It’s time! The conversations I had in the lead up to the making this decision, and several things I’ve read since, all point to this being the right time (especially to bite the bullet and develop my idea for the sub-genre of birthpunk) to do so.

It’s the year to bring together all the skills, experience, lessons and connections I’ve made in the last five year and put them to work for me. Time to shed one skin and grow a new one.

Breaking Down Consolidation, The Year Ahead

Last year I just wanted to fall in love with writing. This year I want my writing to:

  • continue to push boundaries
  • reach a larger audience and,
  • begin to reap financial rewards for the creative investments.

It’s where the early blush of romance gives way to the practicalities of sharing your life with someone, for life! Where you take stock of your individuals lives and see what needs to be done to bring those two lives together in a permanent way.

With this in mind I’m focusing on these key projects/areas:

  • complete Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and do what is required to sub it to a publisher
  • repackage ELYORA for submission to a new publisher, as well as develop a feature-length script for it.
  • write the first draft of six interlocking #birthpunk novellas (aprox 180,000 words)
  • write at least one short story a month (with a view to overseas submission)
  • make one pro sale
  • strengthen and extend my network (including keeping in regular contact with my close writing colleagues)

In addition to writing I have con and festival panels in April (IronFest and NatCon), I’m presenting an editing and critiquing IQ seminar in May, am listed as a mentor with the QWC and have a podcast with Devin Watson in the works.

The Year of the Serpent is a slower paced year and I can already feel it. The list of things I’m setting out to do may seem huge, but in comparison to other years, it feels rather short! There is less pressure, I’m not working for others, I’m working for myself.

I’m shedding the skin that helped to nurture and develop many new writers and launch and grow a publishing house. This new writerly skin feels a tight, but I’ll suck in my stomach and not fling my arms around too much…until it feels and moves like a second skin.

What skin are you willing to shed this year, so a new one may grow?

* eP will go into moth balls for between six and twelve months to undergo it’s own metamorphosis. More on the eP website shortly about this