Does it make you come alive?

I was listening to my best friend S talk about her Army volunteering over the weekend and how much she was loving learning all the new skills that come with that area. When she talks about the Army her face lights up and she smiles. It's obvious and beautiful to see.

What makes you come alive?

I replied, "Sounds like the Army is to you like writing is to me, it makes you come alive," without recognizing what I'd said about myself until much later, when I was lying across my bed updating Instagram (and isn't that a job and a half as an author!) I'm super happy for S that she's found this hobby that makes her come alive and for inadvertently realizing that writing is what does it for me.

I've been writing since I was five but I've had a lot of hobbies in between. Usually they fell by the wayside quicker than you could blink. Like the time I decided I was obviously a budding jewelry designer, stocking up on beads and steampunk supplies at Spotlight. I designed some pretty enough pieces but used the wrong glue or couldn't figure out how you actually made a necklace. My pieces were never sold and I only ever wore one or two myself. Making something was both fun and calming but lets face it, ya girl was never cut out to be the next Swarovski.

Not having learnt at all from the jewelry escapade I thought I'd try my hand at making brooches. I love the Erstwilder acrylic designs and figured I could make my own. I found a company who laser cut for you and sent off a design - the Anti Possession symbol from Supernatural. I figured that fans of the show would leap at them and I'd soon be patting pots of money. Naive, Em, naive. Gluing the backs on brooches takes forever, especially when you're huffing in E6000 at the same time. No-one told me you're meant to wear a mask with that stuff until after! When I finally did get them ready for sale Supernatural fans did buy the majority of them but the brooches pages on Facebook remained resolutely unimpressed with my effort. Brooching is a tougher social crowd than Mean Girls, no word of a lie. Unless you're one of the popular peeps your brooches are going to fall on stony ground. It's also possible to fall from your lofty perch above us mere mortals, I've watched it happen!

Next I assumed I'd become a business owner, opening an Etsy store where I'd sell vintage jewelry and clothes. These were mostly finds from my thrifting and I spent ages finding out how to craft descriptions for my pieces before I learnt that marketing on Etsy is expensive and dependent on their hard-to-understand algorithm. On top of that, they take a larger cut than EBay. My little business lasted a year before I finally let the shop lapse. I was never going to be the next Mary Portas.

From Etsy I went to EBay and this was more popular. In fact, I still do have my EBay hobby but it'll never develop into a full time business. Again it's mostly thrift finds and sometimes they sell like hotcakes, sometimes the same products sit for weeks with no movement. The piecemeal nature of it left me looking for something else.

I came back to writing after spending ages watching vintage sci-fi shows and reading tons of vintage sci-fi authors like Asimov, Silverberg and Heinlein. A germ of a story started to bop about in my head and I decided I'd try to write it. My first published novel HUMAN NATURE had been written a couple of years ago at university and I'd had a long break from writing. I bought a novel writing workbook from Etsy and settled down.

Things snowballed faster than I ever thought. I read articles on how you should market yourself as an author as early as possible and decided I'd start while writing ARCHANGEL ONE - my work in progress. Instagram welcomed me with open arms and I quickly found the #writingcommunity. Having little conversations about writing and seeing how other people wrote helped me work on my own. ARCHANGEL ONE became a story that is so visible in my head it often plays like a video and I'm just typing furiously to try and catch up with them. Maeve became my girl and I'm half in love with my own hero (shouldn't we all be?)

The thing is, it makes me feel alive. If I'm stuck somewhere I don't like then I think about how good it will be to sit down later at my laptop and peck out a few words, or I start daydreaming about what scene comes next in my novel. Learning how to market my books and build a presence online through Instagram, blogs and Facebook has been so fascinating and I'm loving everything new that I learn that I can add to my skill base here. Just like S, writing makes me feel alive.

I think there's a lot of people in life who don't have something that makes them feel like this or if they do then they ignore it, push it aside. Maybe they think they'd get made fun of or like it isn't a serious hobby.

 I'm here to say to you, if you love it, do it.

If it makes you come alive or you smile while you're thinking about it, do it.

If you don't know much about the hobby you want to pursue then grab a notebook and write down what you want to learn. Then go ahead and learn it! I didn't know a lot about how to market myself or how to create a following for your writing.

Life is far too short to go through it wanting to do something but being scared of other peoples' opinions.



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How to combat Nanowrimo guilt

Face of a Champion Nanowrimo Non Finisher!

Preptober is in full swing and we're eking ever closer to Nanowrimo! How are you holding up?

I love Nano because it gives you that added push to write your novel. You have other people there to support you and everyone has the same goal. It adds a lovely social dimension to writing your book and you can join in a whole host of fun activities like writing springs or live feeds.

But it also comes with Nanowrimo Guilt, a term I've coined for that vague panic that sets in when you miss your first scheduled day writing. Once you have it, the NG is super hard to shake. It can hamper your progress and in some cases make you throw in the towel.

Trust me, I know what I'm talking about here. 

You are looking at a consistent Nanowrimo Non-Finisher!

You spend October planning, world-building, Pinteresting an aesthetic and all those other lovely prep tasks that go with your novel. Then November hits and the pressure is suddenly on. Now you have to sit and make those reams of paper and files into something concrete. No longer can your airily tell people you're going to be a writer, darling. Now it's time to put fingers to keyboards and actually write something.

You have a word counter from Etsy, an app on your phone and your Facebook writers group all with the set target of so many words per day. Nanowrimo is usually 50k for the month but really, you can set any target that you like. You sit down for the first day with your target in mind and the words appear on the page. Easy! Nothing to it. Keep this progress up and you'll have a finished book sitting on your laptop in just over a month! Well done you lovely old thing, you.

This streak might last a couple days, a week or if you're really lucky, until the second week. For me I've never got past the end of the second week. Then all of a sudden life pops up. You get tired, you get an invite, there's a con on, there's a family thing happening, you get sick, the kids are grizzly, work gets tougher and you have technical issues out the wazoo.

 A day goes by without anything appearing on your page. Never mind, you can catch up tomorrow. Only tomorrow goes by and life is still manic. No words appear on your page. Never mind that either, look, we can do a writing binge at the weekend. But you're so tired on the weekend that all you do is sleep, maybe spend time with your family - as long as they don't ask you how your novel is going. Before you know it a week and a half has passed and you've written nothing.

 The goal you set seems impossible now, you're so far behind in your word count. You calculate how many words you'd have to write a day and the figure is so high you squeak and tip a little vodka into your coffee.

But everywhere on Facebook there are successful Nano-ers. They're hitting their writing goals without any issues, somehow easily meeting the life tasks that tripped you up. People are completing Nano early even, with cheeky Insta photos of "THE END" written on manuscripts. You however are still stuck with twenty pages and a vague worry that you've got the crisis point of the book ALL WRONG.

What do you do?

If you're me, you throw the towel in and leave all the Nano/Writer groups so no-one can see your shame. You hide your planning or tell yourself that you will eventually write this novel, you're just really more of a marathon runner than a sprinter. The NG sets in and you tell yourself that you're not even that, heck, you're not even on the athletics track at all! Will you ever finish a novel? Will Nano somehow find out that you never finished and send you out an email telling you to stop calling yourself a writer?

Hush now.

Listen close.

We're making new plans this Nano and we're banishing this Nanowrimo Guilt forever. Get out your Bible, your incense, your sage, whatever you want. Salt the doors and windows. Call a Winchester.

If you fall behind this Nanowrimo with your word count, you don't throw the towel in like you used to (are you listening, Self?) You readjust the goal. 50,000 is unachievable in the time you've got left? Alright, let's make it 30. 20. 10 even. Whatever you think you'll be able to manage. That's your new expectation, your new goal. You're still in Nano, you're still in the running.

What matters is getting the words down on the page, setting a routine and sticking to it. Whether it's 5 or 5000 words on a page in one day, you still wrote something and you know what?

You showed up.

You showed up when it was tough going and life was pounding on the door. You got words down, you kept on creating a world and telling the story in your head. That's what the world needs more of - - more stories, more creativity.

You are much more likely to keep going with Nano if you readjust your goals and realise that yes, life has gotten in the way and kicked your butt. You're going to keep going and show life that yeah, bring it on. Nothings stopping me.

And as for the "guilt and shame" you get when looking at everyone on Facebook happily documenting their progress?

Stop that.

You aren't seeing what's going on behind the Instagram shot.



Ps. What are you working on for Nano? Drop me a line and let me know! I'm working on a new urban fantasy novel - SONS OF EARTH. Angels, Nephilim and forbidden romance - what's not to love? Well, in forbidden romance, I guess, quite a lot but anyway - whoever let the truth get in the way of a good story! 

Book Review: Fractured Flame by Erin Embly

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Fractured Flame by Erin Embly for review, just check out how beautiful this cover is!

Here's the blurb:

I’m not an assassin witch, I swear…

But one bad day at work as a Guardian was all it took to make everyone think I am.

Darcy Pierce—infamous, soulless, lethal. Betrayer.

It’s all good, though. I fit right in at my new job as the magical bartender in a supernatural strip club, where no one cares about a girl’s deadly reputation as long as she has a nice rack.

Only now I’m being stalked by a schoolgirl bully who breathes fire, and her hot dad keeps trying to get me to touch his dusty old book. I’m used to men trying to trick me into touching things, but this is a whole new level of creepy.

I’m almost grateful when the assassin who framed me comes back for round two…

Except I’m not the only one in danger. My new friends at the club are the ones under fire now, and I can’t fail them like I failed before.

Once a Guardian, always a Guardian, right? That’s what they always told me, even when I ran, and I still don’t know if they were right.

Whatever I am, it’s personal now, and I have a hot-blooded killer to hunt.

Fractured Flame is the first book of Firebird Uncaged, an urban fantasy series containing action, snarky humor, mythical creatures, rogue witches, Aztec gods, swearing, and some slow-burn romance.

With a blurb like that, how can you not snatch it off the shelf? Or virtual shelf, if you're Kindling it. *sneakily taking notes to write own blurb*

I feel like Urban Fantasy is one of those genres that has the potential to be over-saturated and to make a book stand out, it has to have that extra something. Fractured Flame definitely has this and has it in spades. I can see this getting optioned by Netflix somewhere down the line as it reminds me of Supernatural. Not so much the story content as this is definitely a female centric book but the sucks-you-in-what-is-sleep-anyway content. This was definitely a book that I binge read and actually emailed Erin asking when she was going to write another 500 pages. The supernatural worldbuilding is done so well that you can easily see Dean & Sam working away here, though I think they'd meet their match in Darcy Pierce.

One major win for me is the strong female protagonist Darcy. She's not your run of the mill heroine, not the kind who needs saving and not the sometimes overfilled trope of "I have a lot of trauma and I'm a battler." Don't get me wrong, I love that trope, my own protagonist Maeve is a chick with a ton of trauma battling away but again I think you have to have that little pop extra to make sure that your protagonist doesn't get lost. Darcy is this kind of extra. Her trauma is cleverly revealed in chunks, making you thirst to know more of her backstory. Its cagey and close to her chest, which is exactly the way Darcy plays her cards.

Darcy has found a new job and a new life that she's happy with until of course life comes to kick her in the teeth. Her friends are in danger, there's hot alphas everywhere - not all of them are good guys - and she has to come to terms with her own past and the world around her. She's finding out about new areas of  magic she had no clue about and having to do it fast. There's no time to catch her breath and it makes for a rollercoaster of a read, probably explaining why I tore through it!

Every single time she seems to have it worked out the rug is whipped from under her and Darcy's desire to win against all odds is tested. She has this nightmare of failing again as she thinks she failed as a Guardian hanging over her head and it adds a beautiful touch of pathos to all of her interactions. Her internal monologue is beautifully developed and gives you just enough each time to think, "Dammit Darcy!"

Oh the slow burn romance though! Think the best fanfiction you've ever read, you know you have one. The one you save on your phone and read late at night. The kind of slow burn where you're like "Is this evvvvvvver going to happen or what?" This is the same kind of slow burn romance and I have no doubt will have the same kind of followers that those fanfictions have! You are so invested in this romance that at times it can be so frustrating when it just doesn't happen already, but frustrating in the way that you just have to keep on reading to find out.

Fractured Flame is a book that you'll love, race through and then come back to again. If you're like me, you'll sneak read it when you're not supposed to and go to bed thinking about it.

If like me, you're already a fan then you can read the first two chapters of Fractured Flame here

It's also available for pre-order over on Amazon here

Let me know what you think!

Writing routine

I always wanted to be one of those writers who have a perfect writing routine. Someone who writes every day, writes pages of words that don't need editing every day, someone who is consistent and dedicated.

2 out of 4 isn't bad right? (Sounds like one of my high school maths tests!)

Fix your writing space up just the way you want it, you're the one who has to be in it!

It took a long time to create a consistent writing routine for me and an even longer time to stop comparing myself with those perfect routines. Someone elses' routine won't work for you because they're not you and vice versa. Shake off some of that Writer's Guilt, which is like Catholic Guilt but ink-stained, and let's create something that works for you!

Morning or night?

What time of day do you feel most productive? I'm a night owl, something about that deep silence that falls when everyone else is asleep helps me write. I tuck myself up with my laptop, whatever tipple is taking my fancy that week (right now it's salted caramel vodka and lemonade) a playlist and a scented candle. 

But if you're not a night owl then this time of day will feel like hell to you. Maybe you're a morning person who wakes early every day? Maybe mid-morning brings a break in your world and you finally have time to sit and write. 

Schedule days off

When I first started writing ARCHANGEL ONE after a long break in writing books I assumed that I needed to write every day or I'd lose my 'writer badge.' I tried so hard to write every single day but when I eventually fell off the wagon, the guilt slammed in. You don't have to write every day to be a writer. 

Schedule yourself days off to refresh yourself doing whatever you like. I like to schedule days off writing during mid-week. At this point I'm usually dog-tired from work and just want to sleep. I make sure to have days where my evenings consist of binge watching something, reading a book and getting as early a night as I can. Like I said, I'm a night owl so sometimes even those nights end up late! 

Get rid of distractions:

So it's one of your writing days and you've picked your best time of day. You sit down at the laptop and...immediately get distracted if you're me. I have to pick the right playlist obviously and this takes time. When you do pick it, then I have to skip that song...then that one. I have to just check Facebook, upload something to my Author page, check my Instagram - why have my followers gone down again - scroll through my feed, better share a photo. It's so easy to get distracted and before you know it an hour's gone and no words have appeared on the page. 

Make sure you have your playlist picked before you put your butt on your chair. I created a specific playlist for each book and set it going as I sit down. Turn off your data on your phone so you can't be tempted to just check Facebook or Insta. Set specific times of day to share something on your Insta, which will also help with your Insta boosting. Make sure these are not your writing times! Ditto with your Author page. Disconnect your internet from your laptop so it's just you and that blank page. 

These all helped me settle into a regular writing routine and hopefully they help you too! Don't feel guilty if you don't write every day - whether you do or don't, you're still a writer.