Suburban Book of the Dead an awards finalist!

The finalists for the Sir Julius Vogel awards, New Zealand’s science fiction awards were announced last Sunday. Here’s the longlist.

The Suburban Book of the Dead is nominated for Best Youth Novel! I’m absolutely over the moon that it got to the short list. My little book, a nominee! I’m so pleased and honoured.

The awards are voted by the Science Fiction society and awarded at Geysercon on Queen’s Birthday weekend. (Friday 31st May – Sunday 2nd June 2019) 

If you’re local, I highly recommend attending Geysercon. I’ll be appearing on a panel or two, and paperback copies of Suburban Book of the Dead will be available for purchase at the book fair all weekend.

Click the cover to be taken to the book on Amazon. It’s also available on BookDepository and the Hutt based indie bookstore Writers Plot Readers Read


How to form a Daily Writing habit

I’m trying out graphics, not sure about this one tbh

First and foremost, a daily writing habit doesn’t work for everyone, so if you’re setting out to make one for yourself know that it’s okay if you don’t write every single day. You can have break days, and you can have break weeks, and all of that is good and normal.

I’ve had some luck using a project like NaNoWriMo, where there’s a community and a special website where you can track your writing for each day, you have a goal and the site shows you graphs of your progress. That can be very motivating! But NaNoWriMo only runs once a year, and CampNaNo is a couple of times more. So although those are great short term options, if you want a proper habit it’s probably not what you want to start with.

Instead, make a deal with yourself to really do this. I’ve recently come to the realisation that people make time for the things that really matter to them. You hang out with your most important friends, you spend time on the most important piece of work. If you want to create a piece of writing every day you have to make it a priority. No more ‘I just can’t find time’ excuses, if this is important to you, you’ll make time for it.

Where do you find the time?
– wake up an hour early and write then
– your lunch break
– as soon as you get home from work
– after dinner, instead of watching TV

Okay, so I’ve made the time, what do I do now?

Set a goal for how many words you’re going to write each day. It might be a certain word count, or a certain number of pages, or just ‘more than a couple of sentences’. Your goal is yours to determine.

Staring at the blank page can be a terrifying thing. I know that. There’s a couple of options I can suggest:

  • Plan first. I’ve never traditionally been a planner, I was a ‘pantser’ which for those not in the ‘biz, means ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ writer. Don’t do this, if you’re just starting out. Make a plan, use some beat sheets, or write down the ideas you’ve had, what things you want to cover, make a mind map, have something to go on.
  • Freewriting. Just start writing with no agenda or judgement. Don’t worry if it’s meaningless drivel or just you writing ‘I don’t know what to write and I feel silly’, you just do it. Write whatever random stream of conciousness comes to you. The point isn’t the output itself, but the act of writing. The more you do this, the easier it becomes, and it opens up something in the creative centers of the brain.
  • Two projects at once. This is a controversial one, but one I learned off Lauren Graham. Have two projects on the go and switch between them whenever you get bored. If you write longhand this is easy enough to do, with two books open. If you write online as I do, have two tabs open. In fact, as I write this I am multitasking with my current novel in another tab and a roleplaying game scenario in another. Although that’s more than two projects so… ignore that.
  • Recount something. Just write out a dream you had, or an outing you’ve been on, or a memory you treasure. Anything you can just start into and keep going until it’s done.

Whatever you choose to do, do it one day, then make sure you do it again next time.

Then what?

I can’t give you a magic trick, or foolproof technique which will turn you into a daily habit writer. Because it’s entirely up to you to do. But I want to assure you that if you do want to do it, you can. You just have to want it, make time for it, and then get going.

Other tips:

  • If you’re writing online and finding yourself distracted
  • Something like 750 words can be a really good way to ‘earn’ badges by updating each day.
  • Find a check in buddy or group, where you can check up on each other or encourage as needed
  • Carry a notebook, or use a notetaking app to capture ideas as you have them. I can’t tell you how many brilliant ideas I’ve had which are gone forever because I thought I’d remember them on my own
  • It’s okay if you miss a day, and actually letting yourself off the hook for a day or longer can be very energising. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t perfect. You can always pick it up again when you have the brain space

I hope this has been of some help, please comment if you have any additional tips or ideas !


Summer Writers Series: an interview with Anne Barwell

Please welcome Anne to my series of Guest Posts where I’ve posed deeply serious questions to some awesome writers. My questions are in bold.

Thanks for hosting me, Jamie.

Who are you and what have you done with the Real (your name)?

I’m Anne Barwell, and I write MM fiction across a range of genres.  So far I’ve written historical, fantasy, and contemporary, with a dash of SF.  In my day job—under another surname though my sooper secret writing life is more like an open secret as people keep introducing me by my writing name—I work in a library.

I have three grown children, five grandchildren, and a cat who is quite convinced my house is run to suit her.  Good thing she’s cute.

If you had to describe yourself in terms of a soft drink, which would you be and why?

L&P as it’s a very Kiwi drink.  Seriously, though, I don’t tend to drink much of anything fizzy but I like this one because of its unique mix.

What got you into writing?

I wanted to read something and couldn’t find it, so wrote it myself.

Why do you write now?

I have a lot of stories to tell, and I want to be able to share them.  I also have characters clamouring for their stories, and I need to get them out there.


What’s the earliest story you can remember reading and loving?

So many as I was an avid reader, so I can’t remember the earliest, so I’ll list the ones I remember very clearly from that time – which was a while ago now.   The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Wyndcliffe by Louise Lawrence, Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, Hugh Walter’s Chris Godfrey series, and I loved Andre Norton, and Robert Heinlein’s YA stories. And Narnia.

What’s a book you remember reading as a teenager and absolutely loving?

There were several of those too so difficult to choose.  The Lensman series by EE Doc Smith,  Wild Talent by Wilson Tucker,  Love of Mother Not by Alan Dean Foster, and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin.

What are you reading right now?

I’m just finishing off Earl of Huntingdon by N.B Dixon which I’m loving – it’s the third in the series, and a retelling of Robin Hood, with Robin and Will together.  Then I will be diving into The Rising by Morgan Brice.

I always have two books on the go as I read during breaks at work with a hardcopy – that one is Bye Bye Baby by Fiona McIntosh.  I got hooked on her books with a standalone fantasy, and since then she’s only written historical romance. I’ve read all of those as they’ve come out and love them.  This one is one of her early books originally written under another name and republished this year. It’s a mystery detective, and I’m enjoying it as much as her others.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf that you think might surprise people?

The Alienist by Caleb Carr.  I read it and the sequel when they first came out, and loved them so much I needed my own copies.

I often get surprised comments when I read mystery detective at work as I’m more known there as an SF/fantasy reader.  I read across a lot of genres, and if mixes genres, all the better. If something looks good/interesting, I’ll read it. I don’t care what genre it is.  

What book would you like everyone to read?

That’s a difficult one, but I think I’ll have to go for The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. That’s the book that hooked me on celtic mythology and everything Arthurian.

Are you a stop reading at the end of the chapter, mid chapter, or just whenever reader?

I try to stop reading at the end of a scene, but that doesn’t always work, especially when reading at work.  I also tend to read the end of a book first, even mystery detective, so find ebooks a bit frustrating as I have to read those in order.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

I’m taking this question to mean books that have inspired me to write.  The Dark is Rising, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and when I discovered Morgan Brice’s Badlands series last year, my reaction was yes! This!

How do you organise your personal library? (alphabetical, dewey decimal, what’s your system?)

If I had more shelves and space it would be dewey for the non-fiction, and alphabetical for the fiction, and as I don’t….  I try and group authors together, and roughly genre which is difficult as I like to read books that cross genres. Non-fiction by subject, and as close to dewey as space will allow.  I work in a library so doing it any other way makes me twitch.


Creative writing in primary school, what did you write about? Can you remember any stories?

I always used to write far more than I needed to.  I remember designing a futuristic house and writing about the family who lived there.  

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

I take time out to smell the roses, and look around me.  If I need a break from everything, I’ll read as it reminds me why I write.  

Is there anything you’ve seen passed around as writing advice that you really disagree with?

Write what you know.  If we all stuck to this, there would be no historicals, no fantasy, and no SF.  If you don’t know something that’s what research is for, plus we’re writers so use your imagination to fill in the rest.

Do you believe in a divine muse, and if so, what’s yours like?

Not so much divine, but I definitely have a muse.  He’s a gay guy who is stubborn, pushy, and I swear strategically organises the other characters behind my back.

What does your physical writing space look like?

I write at my dining room table – I live alone so it’s a perfect workspace as I don’t use it for meals.  Being next to the kitchen it also means I can multitask and cook/bake while I’m writing. I use a laptop rather than a desktop.  To my left is my diary, and four magazine racks which are divided into each of the books I’m working on, book reviews, and general.  To my right is my pencil/pen etc holder, a note cube, a small set of pull out drawers with other bits and pieces, and my note book for the RWNZ stuff as I’m contest coordinator for them.  And of course a coaster for my cup of tea.

Are you more a ‘write drunk, edit sober’ Ernest Hemingway, or a ‘shut the door, eliminate all distractions and write for a set amount of hours’ Stephen King? (or another famous writer’s approach, add in your own)

My writing routine is make a cuppa, and turn on the radio. I always write with background noise although when I get in ‘the zone’ I’ll completely zone it out.   I used to write a chapter then edit, now I’m writing straight through with plenty of [insert whatever research here], and editing later. It’s upped my output considerably as research tends to lead down long rabbit holes.  I also try to set a certain amount of time in a day to write without going near facebook or whatever. Although in saying that I usually have a chat programme open so am chatting at the same time although the person at the other end knows there will be long gaps in our convo.

Open up your skeleton closet: can you tell me about an abandoned project of yours which seemed awesome when you started but you’ll likely never return to?

Back in the day when I was writing fanfic, I wrote a Gundam Wing/Stargate crossover. I loved that story, but unfortunately with lack of time and needing/wanting to focus on original stories now, I doubt I’ll finish it, despite knowing how it ends.

Any advice for anyone looking to start writing?

Read heaps.  Make time for writing, rather than giving it the time left over as that will never happen.  Write often, at least 5 out of 7 days a week as you’re allowed a weekend, even if it’s just a few hundred words.  And don’t give up. Your stories are important, uniquely you, and need to be shared.


Star Wars or Star Trek?

I have to choose? But I like both for different reasons….

Hogwarts or Narnia?

Narnia.  *whispers* I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan, and never finished the series.

Ideal holiday, price and time no concern, where would you go?

A writer’s retreat somewhere surrounded by nature, but with good company and a good internet connection.   I’d also love to visit the UK and see all that history at some point.

If you could plan perfect meals for a day, what would each be, and would you snack?

As I work three late nights I tend to plan most of my meals and well in advance.  Breakfast tends to be fruit toast, porridge and a cuppa. Lunch something salad like, whether it be a sandwich or a wrap. Roast vege salad – yum.  Dinner nothing too heavy. I love stir fries, curries, and grilled meat with loads of veges on the side.

I don’t do a lot of snacking, and tend to reach for a piece of fruit if I’m hungry, although I am partial to a piece of caramel slice or cheesecake if I want to be decadent.

Imagine you won one of those ‘grab a cart and spend five mins in a store’ competitions. Which store would you want to win it for, and what goods would you be shoving in the cart first?

I’d probably go for a grocery store and grab a hoarde of non-perishables so I could then use that money to buy other things I want which I’d then have time to browse and get exactly the right item.  Five minutes wouldn’t be enough for those – which would be books, CDs, DVDs, clothes and electronics as my inherited stereo is on its way out.

Imagine you’ve had your best ever year, what photos would you have from that year?

Of fun times with family and friends, and gorgeous scenery from places I’ve been.

What’s your favourite quote?

Magic is science we don’t know about yet – Arthur C. Clark

Weirdest hobby you have, other than writing?

I wouldn’t call it weird, per se, and I don’t call writing a hobby – it’s more like who I am – but I play violin in  a local community orchestra. I have a background in music as I taught it for ten years, and it’s part of my degree, so it’s how I keep my hand in, plus it’s good social interaction. I still dabble at piano but it’s a much more solitary thing now I don’t play in a music group anymore.

I also belong to a SF club.  We meet once a month and discuss what we’ve read and watched, plus get together to watch movies etc.


Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand.  She shares her home with a cat with ‘tortitude’ who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though Kaylee may be winning.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes.  She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards.  She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.


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fiction, writing

Void breath

Breathing to re-anchor myself. To make myself more human and less void. Breathe in, breathe out.

I need less aether in this skin. My skin.

Some days it takes longer than others. A disruption to my routine will certainly cause the human-ness to disappate, the myriad confusions of the universe rush in instead.

This openness to the void is usually not much of an issue. Not too big, not too bothersome. But if I have to get up at 4am to check into an early flight, or if I get wrapped up in excitement at a party, or playing a video game and stay awake to late then it rears up.

Any day I forget to eat.

If I get sick with a fever.

If I run into an ex unexpectedly.

There are warning signs: a slight nausea where my stomach should be, a prickling in my fingers, or a tingling up the forearms. The feeling that something in my spine is out of place and wants a good crack. My eyes dry out, my throat scratches, the corners of my mouth crack painfully.

When these things happen, even one of them, I get irritable.

It’s best not to speak to me.

This is for your own good, you understand. Anything that sets me off in this state could trigger… well. I don’t exactly know what it triggers. I don’t know what would happen. I’ve always been able to control it.

Breathe in, slow, controlled.

Even the time I woke up halfway through the process. My heart fluttering somewhere around my left ear and my being feeling such affinity to the infinity. The void filling me and threatening to do something worse, something more…

Breathe out, longer than I breathed in for. Control the rate of expulsion.

If I couldn’t breathe my body back into the completeness who knows what might happen. But something in me continues to chase the void away. To return to the anchor of the flesh and breathe. In and out.

Breathe in

Breathe out


This is a short piece I found in an old notebook from 2015. I rather liked it, so I updated it and now you get to enjoy the existential horror of anxiety. You’re welcome.


Suburban Book of the Dead giveaway

I’m giving away paperback copies of my book…

Enter now and be one of three lucky people to win a real life copy of my YA ghost story, The Suburban Book of the Dead!

I’ll ship internationally, and I’ll sign the copy for the winner if they choose. There will be three winners, who will get one book each.

I will contact the winners on March 31st, and if I don’t hear back from any winner within three days that prize will be redrawn.

Entering will sign you up to my newsletter, but I promise I’ll only use it to contact you when I have a new project or exciting news. No spam.

Enter here, via Kingsumo


A new thing – Patreon

A chance comment on a friend’s facebook post led me down a strange path. The path to a brand new porject and a brand new platform for my fiction.

I’ve started a Patreon page. I’m thinking it’ll be my generic “I’m a writer” patreon, but to get people interested I’m starting off with a specific project.

Introducing: This Unusual Life!

Imagine if the Royal Family were all fey from another dimension, ruling over human kind with an iron fist, but royal watchers are still a thing. Or what if the really over the top “I married a werewolf!” stories were legitmately true?

This Unusual Life! is a story told tabloid newspaper style, influenced by Welcome to Night Vale, The Daily Mirror and those amazing magazines with “True life” stories of drama, death and misplaced children. It’s a gossip magazine in an alternate universe!

By backing my patreon, for as little as $2 a month you get exclusive access to the stories as I write them. There are higher tiers as well, where you can pay more and get more from me. Extra stories, pictures of my cat, and even recieve handwritten postcards from me in real life.

If this sounds like your jam, please go to my patreon page and back me. There’s a free sample story on the page and you can see my very lofi intro video. I’m excited about this new venture, and I’m hoping you are too!


Travel blogging made easy – 8 tips which will streamline your process

Last year I managed to write a blog post for every day while I was on my honeymoon in Japan. You can read it here, if you missed it, or you’re new, or if you want to re-read.

How did I do it? How hard was it? Well, it was hard, but I did a few things to make it easier on myself. Here are my tips for making it easy on yourself and making a travel blog that people will tell you they enjoyed irl*! (*Results may vary)

Consider the blog, and your audience: My driving motivator to write a travel blog was to keep Anna’s grandmother informed of our travels. As it turned out, a lot of our family and friends also wanted to read along. So when I was writing the blog, I considered the kinds of things they wanted to know: were we having fun? what are some weird things we saw/did? what have we learned about Japan? what are some big cultural differences we’ve experienced which aren’t obvious from the outside? Those questions are guidance for the kind of content I wanted to put on. I went pretty straightforward travelogue style, but for a different audience maybe I would’ve concentrated on budget, savings or hidden gems. I don’t know. The point is, having this content direction in mind makes it easier when you come to write.

Gardens at Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

Adjust as you go: Based on comments on the blog, and on social media as I shared the blog posts, I could see what people were most responding to. For example, my audience liked to read descriptions of food, and see pictures of said food, and have details about how it’s eaten. Fantastic, I dedicated more blog space to the food.

Notebook bullet points : You don’t want to be sitting down to blog and then have to gather your thoughts. Instead keep a notebook and pen with you at all times, and make little notes on things you want to remember. You can, if keen, make the notes as you go – in subways or as you eat lunch. I did this a little, but more often I’d be doing this as a precursor to blogging. I’d open my travel journal and write a bullet pointed list of the stuff I wanted to remember.

Make use of liminal spaces: If you’re moving around a lot, you’ll probably have some time in trains, buses or other transport. You may also have some half hours or longer waiting for buses, trains or other transport. These dead zones are a great time to whip out your notebook and make some notes. Or take some photos or just reflect on the kind of thing you want to put in that day’s blog.

Late at night or early in the morning: Don’t try and carve out time in your day just for blogging. The purpose of your trip is to explore and have fun, after all. Blogging is a side project after those things. Keep your focus on fun, your traveling companions and experiencing everything. With that in mind, the best times for me to blog were first thing in the morning or after dinner when we were back in the hotel. Just before sleep meant I got some nice tipsy blog entries in, which is always fun for the reader.

Pictures say a thousand words: obviously you do want to wow people with your gorgeous prose, your descriptions of experiences, and the way things made you feel. But don’t waste time describing something you got a good photo of. Videos are great too, and allow people to feel like they’re there with you. Stick photos in, people love travel photos, and it saves you time.

Dotonbori, Osaka

Have fun with it: You’re the first audience for your content, so make sure you’re writing and publishing things which interest you. If you’re enjoying yourself, and enjoying the blogging that will sparkle through and make your posts engaging.

…Or stop: Controversial I know. But if your blog becomes a chore, and it’s bringing you no joy, just stop updating. People can tell if you’re just updating out of a sense of obligation, and the posts won’t read well. They’ll feel forced and dull. If you don’t enjoy it, just stop. You can always post thoughts and feelings once you’re back home. Also, no one’s going to tell you off for not blogging every day. People expect that you’re busy traveling, and will forgive you for a missed day or two, or delayed posts from once you’re home again and are rested and are able to take some time to craft the content nicer.

So that’s my advice, a travel blog is a lot of fun and I certainly got a lot of lovely comments from people who enjoyed reading along. Plus, it’s awesome to be able to read back through the posts and relive all your memories.