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GISHWHES

So I have just done one of the most amazing things I’ve ever participated in. Why am I posting about this on what is primarily my writing blog? That’s easy, because writers need to experience new things and sometimes step away from the books to clear out the head.

What is GISHWHES? I got asked that a lot over the last little while. In short it is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen. It was created by an actor as, I believe, a way to do silly things, help charity, change lives and create community. It grew beyond his wildest expectations.

I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years and so made my mind up that I was going to do it this year no matter what. (Sadly they have said this is the last year, hopefully, and I know I’m not the only one hoping this, they will reinvent it next year). I met someone who had done it before and was happy for me to join her team, a fact for which I was incredibly grateful, as having someone with experience is a good thing.

The best way to do this is to set out to have fun. Teams can be local or international, the competitive teams are international due to the fact challenges have to be done in a variety of locations, though you don’t need to do all the challenges.

Sure I’m a competitive person but I kind of figured first time out let’s not go in thinking you’re going to win. I’m glad I didn’t because that meant I could really focus on what I wanted to get out of it and that was fun, charity work I’d been meaning to do (good intentions however are not as effective with me it turns out as a deadline – that could be the writer in me), and push myself out of my comfort zone.

Now I’m no stranger to pushing my limits and my comfort zone, I am not a sporty person yet I’ve done two Tough Mudders and a Spartan race, both so far outside that zone that Wondered at my sanity. This was a little different and a whole lot sillier. The most insane thing I did was buy an inflatable couch, take it to the beach on a choppy, stormy day and try to surf on it and I did it, I actually got to my feet.The Unicorn Mafia (1).png

I also sat in my hammock in a storm, complete with hail, whilst drinking wine and reading, I wrote a 2000 word essay on the best way to fall pregnant for the 10th time (something I have no experience in, nor any intention to have happen) and then published via twitter at 140 characters at a time. I designed and made silly items, I held up signs of support and strangeness and annoyed my kids. I also got the opportunity to help the homeless and support a women’s shelter, two things that I have been paying lip service to doing for longer than I care to admit.

This event that lasted only a week had me up late at night researching, creating and cursing. It had me up early on my days off doing things I never would have dreamed possible. It has given me a few regrets, I really wish I’d been able to pull off a ballet troupe having a bar fight and bikies on a bouncy castle, and I wish I’d received a response from the cancer support organisation, but you can’t have everything.

What did I get from it though, I’m sure people wonder. Also an easy answer. I got to push myself into places I’ve never been before and it is always good to get yourself out of the rut we often don’t realise we are in, it can bring a refreshing to our lives and allow us to get back into the ‘normal’ with a greater understanding of ourselves and a revitalised attitude. I gained a sense of satisfaction of achieving things I set out to do and from helping others less fortunate than myself. I made friends locally and around the world and became part of a community of people who understands that in unity lives can be changed.

I take from this last week a joy, satisfaction and some incredible memories. I was so tired by the end but I didn’t care. Near the end my hubby said he could see me crashing, and that had nothing to do with cars, or tiredness but to do with the fact I’d interacted with so many, I am not by definition a people person, and so I have spent considerable time, when not at work, over the last few days with my head in a book, someone else or my own. I have a clearer head and a passion to get some more tasks done and write more from the wonderful world I have created in my head. I feel refreshed.

Would I do this again? In a heartbeat. I long for another chance because I think having done it once I have a better understanding of what is required and what I can achieve. Thank you The Unicorn Mafia for allowing me to be part of your team, you’re amazing.

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Why Conventions?

It is just past that time of year again and I have just volunteered for two weekends of convention work. I get asked all the time if I get paid to do these. The answer is in the word volunteer. A volunteer does not get paid.

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So why then do I spend all this money and time to volunteer six times a year all around the country. There are people that say I wouldn’t do it unless I got something out of it. The answer to that is of course I do. The problem is they mean something financial or in product and I don’t.

Here is what I do get out of it in the clearest and simplest terms I can; I get friendship and family. I also get jet lag, excessive tiredness and con flu and yet I still keep signing up.

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I’m going to elaborate on the positives for a minute though. In doing these conventions I have made some of the best friends I have. I work in a high pressure environment, it’s a job I love don’t get me wrong but there isn’t a lot of place in it for geeky conversations. The people I work with accept that part of me but mostly they don’t understand it, not like my convention family do. Also for me conventions are personal and I try to keep a lot of my personal out of my work. My con family allow me to embrace that part of my personality. They accept that geeky, nerdy part of myself that loves fantasy, sci-fi and so many things pop culture. These are the people who get my one off random quotes, they are the people who break into Disney songs with me. They are the ones who understand when I say I don’t like people, or I just need space. So many of us have levels of anxiety or introversion, so we understand it in each other.

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I have a lot of fun on these weekends but I also work very hard. All the people I work with, work hard on these weekends and sometimes for very little gratitude. Sometimes convention goers are really rather rude to volunteers, I’ve seen it in person, I’ve read it in comment threads. I’ve been sworn at and abused (in my case I barely notice it because of my job, but most people don’t deal with that sort of behaviour on a daily basis).

There has also been a whole surprising group of people whom I’ve met and have added depth to my convention experiences, regular patrons. I get plenty of smiles, hugs and compliments from the faces I have seen again and again. We rib each other, laugh with each other and sometimes cause people to look us us weirdly with the way we interact because I am a volunteer and they are paying customers. Guess what, we don’t care, and we don’t care because on one level we understand each other and we have formed a relationship solely through the fact we often see each other at these conventions. (Thanks to Scott for this memory – though I still wonder why you would want me in your pic, how ever flattering it was to be asked.)

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I have to add that in all this craziness and hard work I am privileged to have some really awesome stories of the wonderful people I’ve met and maybe I’ll put some of them in another blog post sometime. There was the Carrie Fisher line, the Peter Cullen kiss, push ups, being knighted and being given the title Evil Kylie but like I said, maybe better kept for another time.

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On these weekends I spend hours dealing with thousands of people as part of an awesome team. Then I crash. Here is the thing most people don’t understand. I am largely an introvert. So many people don’t really understand what it means to be an introvert. I can do well in social situations, I have no trouble performing in front of people and a can manage a crowd, however by the end of the day I am exhausted, totally peopled out. The less people I have to deal with the better and the friends I travel with during this times are much the same. It is not unheard of for us to talk until food arrives, then not say anything till the food is gone, go back to where ever we are staying and go to our separate corners and not speak. An introvert is energised by alone time, not people time.

I love my convention times, in some ways I need them, they are 180 degrees removed from my working life. Afterwards though there is always a crash. The crash is the come down but it is also necessary because I need to re-energise myself and I do that by being by myself.

Convention time is over for the next 5 months and I will now get right back into working on book two of the Oparna Legacy for those who care.

 

In-Love-with-a-Fictional-Character.pngThis is something I have done since I first began to devour books. When I was younger I wanted to be George from the Famous Five.

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When I was about twelve I had a huge crush on Atreyu from The Never Ending Story, I balled my eyes out when Artax died in the Swamp of Sorrows.

0133735_42657_MC_Tx360.jpgLater various characters from Feist’s Midkemia filled my imagination. And who wouldn’t want Reilly’s Scarecrow to be their significant other or at least friend. I was never the sort to be swept off my feet by Mr Darcy and the love I felt for characters was mostly familial. I wanted them to be my friends. When I lacked friends in the real world I never lacked for them in my imagination. I would retreat from the teasing and hurt by venturing into other worlds;

Narnia, Crabapple Farm, River Heights, Kirrin Island, Ancient Egypt and the list goes on. I went on adventures with Pug and Thomas, Reepicheep, Tasslehoff Burfoot, solved mysteries with Nancy and Trixie.

Nancy-Drew-vintage-image.jpgAs I got older my tastes changed, but how I read and why I read didn’t. Mother would be a great laugh to hang with, in fact an afternoon spent with Eve and Roarke, Mother, Mercy, Adam and various surrounding players would be my idea of wonderful. On another day, Beka Cooper, Keladry, Annabeth, Caroline and I could all sit down over a civilised cheesecake and chocolate and right all the wrongs in the world, what a glorious day that would be.

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It’s okay if you don’t know a lot of these names that’s your loss, but then you may have a list of names I wouldn’t recognise and that is fine too. Just like in real life we all like different people, so we are all drawn to different characters and stories.

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Characters fill my head, mine and others. I often find them easier to relate to, less likely to cause me grief in any way. It was in these characters that I found acceptance to be me, as silly as it may sound. If girls, and women, such as these, who don’t comfortably fit into a mould, can have friends, family and success, then maybe I could as well. I never felt I fit, not really, but I did with my fictional friends.

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Writing my own stories in some ways has been an extension of this love affair. I never set out to write Evayn as she is now, as the character she is becoming (see what I did there?) She started in fact as what my husband lovingly, or laughingly, referred to as, my naked amnesia chick. Holy heck she has come a long way. (There may be spoilers ahead but only little ones.) Now I know her so well I know when she will roll her eyes, bite her lip or bottle up all that is bothering her. I know that holding steel in her hand calms her and helps her think. I know the dragon in her confuses her and she struggles to embrace that fully, in a way she never struggled with that she inherited from her father. I know her dark places. I’ve been there with her and want nothing more than to be with her at the end of this adventure we are going on.

There are many characters in this world I’ve created whom I’ve become attached to. Some I’ve shed tears over and others I want to slap, I hope that means I’ve done a good job with them because those are the feelings I get when I deal with real people.

Reading led me to writing. Reading has always been a central part of who I am. For me it is something that provides a break to life and all the crap that can be found in it. I willingly say I rarely read non-fiction or literary work. I read to escape not to be reminded of that which actually surround me. Reading has given me people to love and despise without the need to actually interact with people, (and I am a person that a sometimes struggles with being around people). It is also a refuge and that is part of the end result of falling in love with a world and its characters. I have read some books over and over and yes even over (sometimes to the point of the book falling apart). Those books are my safe place to go. There are times when I want to close out the rest of the world and curl up with an old friend, it is like a safety blanket, warm, cuddly and comfortable. Safe.

As a writer I want to write a story people like, a character people love and if I can create a world that people want to return to then that would be my idea of success.

Though lots of book sales would also be an acceptable definition.

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Social Media and Writers

OMG I can’t believe that happened.

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No this isn’t about Deadpool, by I needed a pic to show how some things make me feel.

Social media has made some amazing things possible. I was feeling frustrated and angry one day so I went to a writer whose work I love and asked for advice. Part of me didn’t expect a response but they got back to me, I may have squee’d. Today I thanked a writer for the gift their books gave me and they got back to me with thanks.

This post isn’t going to be about how to use social media to promote your author platform, this is about using it for interaction with others and how some authors do it right.

When I was growing up you could join fan clubs for popular kids books, you could even try to write to writers through publishers, there was no guarantee that your letter would get to them, though many did get responses.

Times have changed. Some say social media is bad, it causes isolation and negatively impacts people’s ability to interact one on one. Yes it can certainly do that. It can give you the feeling of interacting when in fact you are building a wall around the real you, a false persona to project to the world at large. It can also be a very useful tool.

When I was still involved in children’s bookselling, I used social media to connect to people in the publishing industry and authors. I built a network, and it is a network that still serves me well even though my career trajectory is very different and books (writing and reading) no longer provide my primary income.

Authors, or at least some, are quite willing to interact with readers.

With all the rigmarole that went on regarding my publisher I reached out one day to a favourite author. Now I was down and desperate, I just wanted to get it out of my system to someone who I thought would understand my frustration. Sure I hoped for a response but there was a part of me who realistically believed that would never happen. She did, and Tamora Pierce you have no idea what a boost it was to me to read your considered response of advice and encouragement.

I have favourite books, yes that is plural and I cannot nor would I want to, make that list down to one. One of these books is Kenny and the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi. I love this book so much I have an image from it inked onto my skin.

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I shared the above pic with Tony and he liked it. That wasn’t the only interaction I’ve had with him. One day I messaged saying I knew he sold prints of some of his work and I wondered if he could tell me where I might be able to buy one from Kenny. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what would happen next. He asked me my address and sent me this ink sketch. It holds pride of place in my office. It to offers incredible inspiration, on those dark days I can look of it and hold onto the thought ‘never abandon imagination.’

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These are not my only interactions. Marianne DePierres had a small afternoon tea with some fans one afternoon that I was invited to, and I went out for a catch up with Michael Pryor when he was in town doing signings and school talks. Both of these authors were more than willing to listen and offer snippets of advice and encouragement.

Today I felt the need to thank Raymond E Feist. I was thinking of doing something really silly, and even as I thought of it I knew it was silly. Authors don’t really want you hitting them up on social media to read your book or promote your work. Think about it. What an imposition. It puts them in an awkward position. How do they let you down without in some way coming across as a dick? So I talked myself out of such a stupid action and instead thanked him for his influence on my life. He responded, immediately. I was kind of gobsmacked.

Here is the thing though. Here is where social media gets tricky. These people you look up to, do not know you. For the most part any way. Sometimes you get lucky and actually strike up a relationship, friendship or mentorship. Mostly though they are just words sent in response to something. Oh I wish I was friends with any number of these people but they have their lives and I have mine. I’d like to think though that knowing they have done something that has helped or been memorable to an aspiring author and fan, would be a positive thing.

 

After The Fact

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So what now?

It’s a big thing. You don’t realise just how much energy you expend just before hitting that submit button. I mean you know it’s your main focus but you don’t realise just what that will mean once you’ve done the deed.

And once you’ve done that deed you can feel a bit flat, at somewhat of a loose end.

The thing about writing is it is very personal. You pour so much of your time and in some respects yourself, into what you write. You want to have a good product, but the thought of putting it out there into the world can be quite terrifying. Once your book is live the terror doesn’t go away. In some ways it increases. What if no one buys it? What if people don’t like it? It can be a dark place to find yourself and for a creative person, who may be prone to moments of depression that can be a rough thing.

If you are lucky enough to have gone the traditional route then there is not a lot you can do once it is out there. You just have to trust in your work and your publisher to get that work out there.

If you have self published electronically then it is all really on you. Which means on some level you put some of that pressure on your friends. That is a difficult thing to work through. Friends and aquaintances want to support you and so they say all the right things. It makes you feel good to read or hear that support, until you go to your author log in and realise of the 100 people who said ‘awesome’ and other mutterings of support, only 20 people have actually put their hands in their pockets to support you.

So where does that leave you as an author who has perhaps spent years working towards this goal?

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Well you get over it. You get over yourself.

If you haven’t figured out by now that you need to have a thick skin to be in this industry, then you are either naive or not been in or around the industry for very long.

It isn’t your friends fault they don’t read, don’t like the genre you’ve written in, or that they prefer a paper copy. When it comes right down to it you can’t make someone read. You also can’t expect others to actually pay for something they have no interest in. The numbers are hard to deal with. That’s all they are though and realistically selling twenty copies to people who genuinely like the story you’ve put out there, makes it all worth it. It just doesn’t pay your bills.

Sure I won’t say no if someone buys it and doesn’t read it. And I’m more than willing to remind people that for an amount similar to a large coffee you can support a writer. I also like to let people know that for such a meagre amount the writer gets more money from the electronic sale, than they would if you had spent 4 times that amount to purchase their book.

A story that sells thousands is all author’s dream, or at least I guess it is, but it is just that, a dream, and dreams like that are usually ones you work towards, they rarely happen overnight. Reality is a lot harsher but we need to take hope from the few who put their money into your pocket and embrace your characters the same way you did when you formed them from your own precious time, (and sometimes your blood as well).

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The dream may happen in the future, but it is going to take forward action for that to happen, so you can’t let the funk post publication get to you. You need to just pick up your pen, or your keyboard and just keep writing.

If someone knows how to make my story of a kick arse girl who works hard and becomes a kick arse woman with a drive to seek justice and an ability to fight for it, get out there and become an overnight sensation, then please feel free to make that happen. (I’m also fine with movie or tv series offers as well.)

Otherwise if you’ve just swung by here to read my musings in this moment, then welcome, and if you’d like to check Becoming out, then please follow the link.

Contact

So a lovely person suggested I do a couple of things to help me navigate these early steps that seem so rocky. One I did straight away, added the link to the previous post, I’d left it out to try and be inclusive but that really was rather silly, people are more than capable of getting themselves to from one site to another. Then I realised I’d already half done the other suggestion. I have in fact set up a dedicated author email address, the only place I’d posted it though was my Author page on Facebook, which was rather an oversight, so thank you for pointing it out.

So if you want to engage please feel free to contact me through: therealkyliecalwell@gmail.com

And We Are Live.

So today is the big day. I have been so nervous about this, I’m not going to lie. Writing a book is one thing. Putting it out there for others to read, like, love, hate is totally another – it is so nerve wracking.

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Book one is done, it is out there and people can buy it through Amazon – you can go to different country sites as well, (also my surname has no D in it, remember that)

I never really wanted to self publish, I still like the idea of a physical book in my hand, and maybe one day I will go down the print on demand path. For the moment though, this is what I think will work best for me.

Letting go of that part of the dream was hard. I worked for so long on making it happen. It was even within my grasp. A tough pill to swallow when something you’ve put so much into is ripped away from you. Still you just go on, what else can you do? Well you could give up but why would you. Once upon a time with limited access to money that would have been your only option, write for yourself and give up on the dream. Anyone who is not famous and has tried to get a book published will know it isn’t the easiest thing. Like all things it happens easily or miraculously for a few, for the majority it is a hard slog.

I am now obsessively staring at my computer for updates and comments, which is a fallout of the nerves. I think it would be the best for me to walk away from it for a while. Good thing there is always the next book to work on, and some short stories. A writer’s passion is never really completed I don’t think. There is always something else to write.

Also, I’m taking someone to the theatre for a matinee showing this afternoon, that will be a good way to distract myself.

So to sum it up. My book is out, go to Amazon and buy it, support the nervous wreck I am. Then join my author page on Facebook and let’s talk, but keep it civil, us authors tend to get depressed you know.

Thank you for your support.

Cover Reveal

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I am so stoked today as I get to show you all the cover for my first book. I am so thankful for the artistic people in my life whose talents have made this possible. The artwork was done by Rob S who by the way is an awesome tattoo artist, and the cover was put together by Peter B, who put all the elements together way better than I ever could have.

I have also started an author page on Facebook, look it up and follow my antics. I will also shortly be uploading some short stories to Wattpad.

The game is totally afoot now.

Countdown

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So here is the way things are.

The contract I signed didn’t amount to much in the end because a couple of weeks after telling me editing was starting on my book, the publisher announced he was closing up shop. No heads up, nothing. In fact just before the general email went out I’d been messaging him about cover design.

That was a bitter pill to swallow. It is hard when something you’ve worked so hard for falls apart in your hands.

images.jpegThen I had to decide what I was going to do. Getting an agent is damn near impossible, getting a publisher as difficult. So then there is a third option, one that is much easier these days and a great deal more profitable than it used to be.

The last option is the one I have settled on. So I’ve taken steps to ensure I do this as well as I can. I swallowed my fear and paid for a professional edit. I had someone doing some art for me and I decided that was going to be my cover art.

Stage one then complete with those decisions made.

Stage two, the editor got back to me in a more than timely manner and the feed back was pretty good all things considered.

Stage three, work on the edits from my end. This is turning into a series of levels. A few big edits and then a few smaller ones. The big ones have been done and now it is just some final tweaking. I have also picked up the art I’m using and it is now in the hands of a graphic designer who’s putting the other touches on for me.

I have it planned. Really I do, or at least that is what I keep telling myself. I will do the final edits. Use the art to get promotional stuff printed up. Contribute to a website where people discover new authors and then get up the courage to hit send on the publishing site.

I want this to work. I really want this to work. Despite that hunger it’s still a scary thought.

Stay tuned.

So Many Thoughts

I have so many things spinning around in my head.

Some times it is so confusing in there. There are so many stories floating around at times. It’s difficult to focus on just one. So right now I’m working on a couple of things. First edit of book two is a current big red mess. Well the first 100 pages at any rate.

My other project I’ve not touched whilst I’ve been on leave. Instead I’ve worked on knitting and sewing projects. Creative is creative after all. I quite like doing creative things with my hands there is something incredibly satisfying in it. It is just something I don’t do very often anymore as I have so many things going on.

It can be a very full schedule when you’re a wife, mother, full time employee and a writer. Oh there is also my convention habit.

I love my life, mostly. I guess I just wish things would happen faster. I wish I was already published, I wish certain other things had gone my way and a few other things were different. Things that I don’t need the world to know but that would make my life a little easier.

Part of the problem with the internet is it is so easy to over share. I could complain about the things that have gone wrong, the problems I have, but ultimately what would be the point? Complaining online won’t solve my problems. It may be cathartic in the moment but what can it possibly achieve? It won’t fix anything, it won’t make anything go away. I don’t understand why people do it.

Whining doesn’t help in anyway. You know what does help? Getting on with life. Doing what you are good at. Fix your sights on the goal, pick yourself up out of your pity party and put one foot in front of the other. That is how you get to where you want to be.

Life for most of us is not about the quick fix, it is about the long journey. Sure there are lucky people in life, those for whom things come easy. For the rest of us we work at it. We take one step after another, stopping to recharge, refocus and step again towards that goal we hold so dear.