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Guest writers series: an interview with Nova Blake

Welcome! Please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a Māori author, mother of three, wife, sister, stalwart badass. I write a bunch of different things under a couple of different names. I love to read, listen to a wide range of music, enjoy close friendships, and am bad at small talk. I have a fascination with dark things and love to be creeped out (by fictional things!). 

If you were to have a personal familiar, what animal would it be?  

I feel like saying cat is cliched, but I do love my cat Luna. I also love dogs, and when it comes down to it, it’s more about the bond between animal and I than the specific type of animal.

Luna

Where in the world do you live, and what do you like most about it?

I live in Aotearoa, but more specifically New Plymouth. It’s a gorgeous place to live – Mount Taranaki is always keeping an eye on us, even though he’s often wearing a cloak of cloud, and we live between him and the sea. Perfection! 

Self-care is very important for writers, tell us how you look after yourself?

By reading a lot. I generally don’t work in the evenings these days unless I have a hard deadline, and I try to take plenty of rest time. As a writer with kids at home, who also has mental and regular health things that contribute to making life hard, that down time/rest time, is vital.

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

Every book has a different playlist, and the playlists can be quite different to each other – so it really depends on the book, or the day or the month. Here’s a link to the playlist I listened to while writing my latest release, Hexes & Vexes. Listen here.

What are you reading right now?

This year has been hard for the old reading with eyeballs thing, so I’ve mostly stuck to audiobooks. At this moment I’m listening to a book called The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf which you’re particularly fond of?

I’ve got a hardcover, signed edition of The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s one of my all time fav books so it’s a prized possession. 

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

I love to go to Back Beach, I find walking in the sand, the wind, the sea refreshing. It clears my mind and helps to untangle plots or make ideas bloom. There is something special about West Coast beaches; they are so wild, untamed, really helps shake things up.

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

I think the one that annoys me most is actually the old ‘write what you know’, people often seem to take and teach that quite literally, and instead of opening writers up it often shuts them down as they don’t think they know a lot. They haven’t done enough etc. But we all know so much. We know heartbreak and horror, we know adversity and grief, we know hunger and the way it feels when we bite into something that’s too hot to eat yet. I think we should 100% tap into the things we know, but we shouldn’t restrict ourselves to only those. 

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?

PBTech… I am a sucker for good tech, and I’d replace all my gear I think! New cell-phone with excellent camera, mouse pad – one of those big ones that goes under your keyboard, new mouse, headphones, even BIGGER monitor/third monitor… lol I am greedy for speedy tech.  

The weirdest hobby you have, other than writing? 

Collecting skulls? If there are dead things around the place I will often move them somewhere safe so that when decomposition is complete I can put the skull in one of my skull gardens (don’t worry, these are small), which would be called succulent gardens if there were no skulls in them, but, let’s be honest – skull garden sounds much cooler. 

What is your favourite bird?

Magpie, hands down. I know they are loathed by so many but I adore them, which is probably why they keep showing up in the books I’ve been writing in recent years. 

Cassie is a writer of mostly science fiction and fantasy, from Taranaki, Aotearoa New Zealand.

As J.C. Hart she writes fiction most influenced by the mythology and culture of the land she lives on. As Nova Blake she looks more to the wider world, drawing inspiration from everything from fairy tales to mythology. In all her books she loves nothing more than exploring the complexities of relationships, whether they be between friends, lovers, family, or enemies.

Read more about Nova/JC Hart on her website here or follow here on Twitter

Get a copy of Hexes and Vexes, on sale now, part of the Witchy Fiction project

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Contemporary Witchy Fiction

As a response to the horror and stress of 2020, through various shutdowns and other fears, a group of Kiwi authors, including myself, banded together to create a shared universe where the stories are kind and cosy, where you can escape for a moment into a place where all endings are happy.

Journey to New Zealand and follow the lives of witches around the country, from the heart of Wellington City to the foot of snow-capped Mount Taranaki, from Dunedin’s historic streets to the coastal settlement of Akaroa. Join our witches as they discover who they are, protect the local rivers and wildlife, untangle mysteries, or find out a little more about the monster under the floor. Accompanied by familiars with claws and feathers and fins, they discover new powers, concoct new ways to support their families and find themselves on the path to love. 

Read about the project here

The first three books are out now!

~*~*~Brand of Magic by K M Jackways~*~*~

An empath witch should be able to keep everyone happy, right?Hazel has put magic and men out of her mind. A break-up meant her own thoughts were bad enough, without sensing everyone else’s emotions too. The ghost in the attic and her sarcastic dog familiar would be way too much to explain to any partner.Instead, Hazel put all her energy into her job promoting the city she loves – Dunedin, New Zealand. And she is pretty good at it, too. When her neighbour, Joel, needs her expertise to save his woodworking business and stop the sale of his family land, she can’t resist getting involved. But the more time they spend together, the more stubbornly locked away his thoughts are.Then her powerful aunt is attacked, and Hazel has to find a way to get through to her and discover who or what is behind it. It seems as if her psychic powers are the key to everything.Can she bear to let magic – and love – back in?
Order here

~*~*~Succulents & Spells by Andi Buchanan~*~*~

Laurel Windflower is a witch from a family of magic workers – but her own life is going nowhere. Living in the damp, sunless side of Aro Valley, she works in a café, unable to produce anything more powerful than the most basic herbal potions. Until, one winter morning, Marigold Nightfield knocks on her door.Marigold is a scientist, but she knows plenty about magic. There are strange things happening in her house, and her future discoveries require careful negotiation with monsters.Laurel can’t walk away from a mystery – and she can’t walk away from Marigold either. But what lies ahead could reveal all of her shortcomings to the woman she’s trying to impress… or uncover the true nature of her power.
Order here

~*~*~Hexes & Vexes by Nova Blake~*~*~

Old wounds are hard to close; especially when someone pries them open.Small towns are full of gossip, and Mia is pretty sure that no one in her hometown of Okato has ever stopped talking about her. Cast off by her best friend, blamed for a local tragedy – Mia had no choice but to run away.Now, ten years later, she’s being dragged back.Something’s wrong with her big sister, Camilla, and her younger sister, Poppy, is panicking. At first, Mia just wants to check in and get out of town again as soon as possible. But when strange occurrences start to pile up, she realizes that there is something more than her perpetual bad luck at play; and the traces of magic she finds in her childhood home suggests that whatever is going on with Camilla could be caused by hexes, too.Mia is determined to find out what’s going on. If she can stop getting distracted by the hunky painter renovating her childhood bedroom, that is. Screw running away again.It’s time to bury the past once and for all.

Order here

… and stay tuned for more books, more authors, and my own contribution to the project. It’s called Overdues and Occultism and it’s on preorder now.

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Guest Post – interview with Naomi Aoki

Who are you and what have you done with the Real Naomi? 

Hidden it in a box somewhere no one can find it… though just maybe one of my pen names is a play on my real name 😊

Where in the world do you live, and what do you like most about it? 

Small town New Zealand… don’t have to go far to see sheep and cows, but lucky enough to live close enough to a biggish city for good shopping.

Self-care, how do you look after yourself?

Read books. Eat chocolate. Watch anime or movies

What kind of music do you like to listen to? 

All sorts. I listen to everything: musicals, eighties pop, ninties grunge, J-Rock and Chinese pop/rock.

Reading: 

What genres do you like to read in? 

These days its any genre followed by the suffix ‘romance’ and the queerer the better. Favourites would be historical and political thrillers

What are you reading right now?

Sam Burn’s Wolf Reborn (Kismet Wolves Book Three)

What’s a book that you have on your shelf which you’re particularly fond of?

‘The World’s Greatest First Love’ by Shungiku Nakamura. It’s a series I’m yet to finish collecting, but has all my favourite tropes/character types in it: Second Chance Romance, Fated Love, Grumpy Character, Stubborn Character.

What book do you love to recommend to people? 

Anything by Anna Zabo (surprise, surprise) but also anything by Tal Bauer.

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

Series and whatever I can fit on the shelves.

Writing: 

Creative writing as a teenager, did you do it? What did you write about? Can you remember any stories? 

Not so much outside of school work, the odd bit of poetry.

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

Walking, reading books, hanging out the washing…. Inspiration tends to strike in the oddest of places often when I’m not really needing another plot bunny… but they really do multiple.

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

Anything that says its a ‘rule’. There are no rules. Writing is an artform and any advice should be seen as a way of refining your work not making it conform to a universal ideal of what a novel should look like. Everyone’s style is different. You should develop the voice that reflects you and not mimic others simply because others do.

If you had infinite time, opportunity and resources, what’s your absolute dream writing project? 

I have an idea for a romance novel that tells two stories interwoven – one from the past and one involving their descendents- set here in NZ. But it isn’t a story I want to rush writing, so maybe one day I’ll get to it.

Any advice for anyone who’s struggling with their own writing? 

Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.

Reading helps you to learn new ways of doing something, opens you up to new ideas etc. Writing… the only bad words are those not written down.

Do you prefer quiet, ambient sound or music while you write? 

When I’m writing a draft I like up-tempo music like Celtic Punk, but when I’m editing I tend to go for something a little slower.

Favourites: 

Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland or Westeros? 

Narnia

If you were stuck on a desert island with one book, one music album and one podcast, what would they be? 

Just Business by Anna Zabo

The World’s on Fire by Man with a Mission

Pokemon: if you were a trainer, what pokemon would be in your team? (you get 6) 

Charazard, Pikachu, Poliwag, Psyduck, Slow King, Far Fetched

Kings: Crime Lords Part One

Kings: Misaki and Kristof are stunned when approached by their Boss to broker an alliance on behalf of the Omori-Vasilev Syndicate with a nearby group. But it was the terms of that alliance—marriage—which shocks them more. Neither wants a relationship, haven’t sought one in years and now they must convince the young heir of the Martel Group to choose one of them.

Dukes: Loyal to a fault, Demetri chose to remain in Ji-Hun’s pay despite the man casting him aside eight years ago. Despite his boss destroying any attempt by Demetri to seek love elsewhere. But will a brush with death change Ji-Hun’s mind?

Princes: Aidan doesn’t want to shoulder the responsibilities of his family’s business. Doesn’t want to have any part in his Grandfather’s attempts to form alliances with other groups through marriage. Desperate to end it, Aidan informs his family that he is gay, but he didn’t count on his Grandfather switching targets. Now Aidan’s world is being turned on its head because of two men.

Link: books2read.com/Kings-CrimeLords

Website

Facebook: facebook.com/mandygreenwoodauthorfacebook.com/naomiaokiauthor

Groups: facebook.com/groups/KiwiAuthorsRainbowReaders

 facebook.com/groups/GreenwoodsGroupies

BookBub: bookbub.com/profile/mandy-greenwood  

bookbub.com/profile/naomi-aoki

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Guest post – Smuggling Science and Climate Change with Octavia Cade

Climate change is an unexpectedly easy thing to look away from. We’re in the midst of it, and the IPCC gives us limited time to make drastic changes that would stave off enormous global changes to our environment, and we are doing not much of anything, really. Sure, there are marches and protests and all sorts, but when something’s this big, it’s hard to encompass.

It’s not made any easier when the data we have is compromised. States quashing and meddling, burying science so that we’re limited in what we know. The Australian government, pressuring the UN to keep impacts on the Great Barrier Reef out of a major climate report, so as not to scare off the tourists. The American government, getting researchers to remove climate change language from their grant proposals, or preventing scientists from speaking at conferences. Who only knows what else is going on around the world, or what our own government is doing… and that’s not even taking into account the information oil companies have been sitting on for decades.

No surprise, then, that there are groups of scientists around the world preserving climate data across borders so that the anti-science hacks of various persuasions can’t get their mitts on it. When I started reading those news articles, I thought: there’s a fantastic story in this! And there was. It started out as a short story, which appeared a couple of years back in Clarkesworld. That story, “The Stone Wētā,” which you can read for free at the link, became the eventual first chapter of my novel of the same name, out April 22nd – fittingly, Earth Day.

The Stone Wētā is a near-future sci-fi thriller, which documents the efforts of a number of scientists to smuggle climate data across borders, and preserve it from the influence of hostile actors. But when this cold war of data preservation turns bloody – and then explosive – this underground network of scientists, all working in isolation, must decide how much they are willing to risk for the truth. For themselves, their colleagues, and their future.    

I’m a science communicator by training, and raising the issue of how we treat climate data – how we treat scientific data in general – is something that’s really important to me. It should be important to all of us. After all, if we can’t trust the information we have, how are we supposed to make decisions that will give us the best possible future? If The Stone Wētā sparks debate on some of these issues, I’ll be really happy. 

Anyway, it’s published by the Wellington-based Paper Road Press. Please take a look!

Octavia Cade is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in science communication. She’s sold nearly 50 stories to markets such as ClarkesworldAsimov’s, and Shimmer. She attended Clarion West 2016, and is currently the writer-in-residence at Square Edge/Massey University.

writing

Writing process? – part six – Publishing preparation

So, this is my step by step for self-publishing. It’s New Zealand based, because that’s what I have experience with. This is the stuff you can do up front, and will make the actually upload process very quick and streamlined when you get to it.

Get yourself an ISBN. In NZ you can get one for free from the National Library here. It’s free to issue but you will need to give them a copy of your book for legal deposit when it’s done, they’ll send the form, etc with the ISBN. Easy!

You’ll need cover art. There’s lots of options here, there are artists on Fiverr and on Facebook. Or you can check the credits on the books with awesome covers and find artists that way, or ask a fellow indie author who has covers you love for a referral. Many, many options. You’ll need to know going in if you’re publishing ebook only or paperback too, because there’ll often be an extra cost for a wraparound paperback cover.

Decide where to publish through. Most authors, myself included, go for Amazon. Amazon is a great choice because it has the widest audience and it has Kindle Unlimited, which is great for certain genre of books. Lots of romance readers are in KU and you get paid per page read, which can be quite lucrative.

You can also go ‘wide’ and publish with Kobo, Apple Books, etc. This is particularly easy if you use an online distributor. I use Draft2Digital for this because they upload books to library wholesalers, which gives me more options to sell. You can also do each website manually, but I like saving time, even if D2D take a little cut of sales.

Write your blurb aka the absolute worst part of the novel creation process. The best advice I’ve seen for this is to look around at blurbs in your genre, which sound interesting. Work out what it is about the blurb which sounds interesting and then do your own version. No copy pasting here, that’s gross and bad manners. Instead, look at what’s grabbing you. Look at what makes you interested, and then draw out the most interesting, hooky things about your book’s plot. I absolutely hate blurbs, but they do get easier with time.

Write your endmatter. It’s up to you what to put in the back of the book. Links to your author social media, links to other books or media you’ve got online, a hook for your next book. A preorder link for your next book, if you’re really onto it. A dedication and a little bio of yourself is nice, too.

Copyright page! Something I didn’t even think of until I was getting my manuscript formatted. You need to make a copyright page to go in the front. There are standard ones you can copy paste online and enter in your own information, dates and ISBN. Just google it!

Register with Payoneer or a similar third party banking/payment service. I like Payoneer because it’s super simple to use, they don’t take much of a fee, and they give you a US and a UK bank account number (among others!) This is great, because if you register on Amazon with a New Zealand bank account number, they won’t wire you any money until you’ve earned past a certain threshold. (I think $100USD). Giving them a US bank account cuts that threshold out, and you’ll get paid a lot faster. They also convert the currency for you when you get paid out.

Register on KDP – assuming you’re going with Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing requires a separate registration/activation from your regular Amazon account. They’ll ask you some tax questions, and you can register your shiny new US bank account number from payoneer with them. Then once they’ve processed your account you’ll get a shiny ‘add your book’ page:

If you’re relatively sure of how long it’ll take you to get everything ready, you could set up a preorder and share the link around. Preorders are great because they give your book a boost on release day. However, don’t set one if there’s any uncertainty about how long it’ll take you to do. You don’t need to upload a manuscript to do a preorder, just a blurb and ideally a cover image. Amazon will give you a countdown for when to upload your manuscript so it’s processed in time.

Okay, I think that’s enough steps for one blog post. Join me again soon for part two: the actual uploading of the thing, and what to do afterwards.

Previously in this series:
Part One – Starting out
Part Two – Characters
Part Three – Actually writing
Part Four – Sticking to it
Part Five – Editing and redrafting