Patreon free sample

I’m currently publishing a gossip and news magazine set in an alternate universe. I don’t currently have a full time, regular job so I’m advertising for new patrons.

If you join up, you can choose how much to pay each month and the different tiers get you different rewards. If you sign up for $5 a month you get two stories or articles a month, background information and photos of my cat.

Before you sign up, here’s my free sample article so you can get an idea of what to expect.

Near Death Experience Thwarted by Family Vampire

A young local woman diced with death recently when a home invader surprised her one night. Alice, 23, was alone in her West Goldmarsh house, enjoying a cosy night of Netflix and bread rolls shaped like hedgehogs when the invasion happened. 

Alice had planned a peaceful night in. The young school teacher, known to her community as a warm, happy woman, is often to be found at home on weeknights. Police speculate this knowledge was useful to the intruder.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Alice said. “One moment I was chilling with my breadhogs and then next there was this woman there with a knife to my throat. I froze up, this was just like the case my true crime podcast covered the other week, but in that one, the invader had killed the victim. I didn’t want to be a victim!” 

For a tense moment it did look like she’d be the victim. “The intruder was behind me, so it was hard to see who or what it was, but I definitely got the feeling it was an older, white woman,” she said. “You know, the kind of person who would ask for the manager over something like a missing packet of free ketchup.” 

It was then that her terrifying ordeal became something out of a movie. “There was a noise upstairs, and I thought that was strange because I typically live alone, but then Count Vanya came down the stairs and I thought, I’ve never been happier to see my uncle, never been happier that he’s staying with me. He swooped right across the room and bit the intruder in the neck. He also took her outside and I don’t know what he did then, but there was no body,” Alice said.

Count Vanya, Alice’s Uncle, lives with the frightening but ultimately misunderstood condition of vampirism. Vampirism affects roughly one in twenty and manifests as a horrifying transfiguration of the body into one of the undead. It’s also accompanied by a curse which makes the diseased individual crave the living blood and flesh of unaffected people. Some say one of the symptoms of the disease is to make the infected stronger and more resilient, but these claims are not proven by scientific research. Vampirism infected individuals tend to avoid densely populated areas, since the “Vampire hunts” of the late sixties and the following “Undead rights movement” failed to gain much traction. 

Alice’s Uncle Vanya, she reports, lives abroad much of the year, and only attends family gatherings such as births, deaths and marriages. “It was just dumb luck he was there,” Alice said. “He must’ve known my sister was about to give birth. After the incident, we had a really nice baby shower and he gave the new baby a teddy bear. It’s a really high quality one as well, not one of those cheap Kmart stuffed toys.” 

Alice’s sister, Annabeth, was quick to shut down any speculation that it was unsafe to have a vampire near her newborn child. “You should have seen him with the baby, it was very sweet. He was so gentle. He was doing this thing where he waved the teddy bear at the baby and made a little growly noise. The baby loved it, just giggled and gurgled the whole time. Couldn’t take their eyes off him.” 

Although little is known about who the intruder was, or the purpose for the invasion, Alice doesn’t feel afraid in her neighbourhood. “Uncle Vanya has agreed to stay with me for a while,” she says. Smiling, she continues. “It was a terrifying ordeal, but ultimately, it brought my family closer together.” 

Alice is bravely returning to watching Netflix tonight, after taking what she calls “a couple of days off”. 

Uncle Vanya was unavailable for comment. 

Check page 43 for Alice’s hedgehog shaped bread roll recipe! You’ll literally die from cuteness. 

  • Peachy Buncheeks reporting 

If you’d like to read more This Unusual Life! Please sign up to my Patreon every little bit helps 🙂

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The All About YA Podcast

I’m lucky enough to have been invited to sponsor the All About YA Podcast episode two. In this podcast the brilliant authors Mariëlle and Ashley, talk about writing for the Young Adult market and reading YA books too.

They’re just starting out, but they really know their stuff. This episode is largely about the definition of Young Adult fic – is it a genre? is it a category? what are the common threads?

I really enjoyed the listen and I recommend you give them a listen 🙂

Watch on youtube

Check them out on facebook


Writing by not writing

Sometimes not writing is part of writing.

I know that sounds counterintuitve, but it’s true. Recently I spent a hard core month writing as fast as I could. I was very in the zone, and I got a lot of progress done, which was awesome. However when the month was up, I was somewhat burned out.

I gave myself a couple of days off, and agonised over not getting more words written. I mooched around the house, watched Netflix and beat myself up about not being productive. looked at my stack of ‘how to write’ books and realised I could be doing something more constructive than agonising.

So I gave myself an official Learning Week.

I spent some time each day doing the following:

  • Reading books on how to write
  • Doing the Judy Blume Masterclass online
  • Reading articles I’d been putting off
  • Doing the writing assignments from Judy Blume in longhand
  • Researching how to be a successful indie author online
  • Reading novels for fun

It was really pleasant – I love learning, especially when it’s stuff I want to learn. I wouldn’t have had the same amount of fun if I were learning accountancy, for example.

Anyway, over the course of the week some cool things started to happen. I had new ideas of how to solve some of the plot problems in the end part of my novel work in progress. I had new ideas for possible new novels. I had ideas for blog posts and bits of dialogue.

I also learned about marketing myself and self-publishing, which was the aim, but even while taking time out to work on a patchwork quilt (not even learning!) my sub-conscious through up an idea of how to make a scene better.

Sometimes, when you’re working constantly on something you’re too close to it. You can’t necessarily see the problems or the solutions to known problems because you’re putting all your time into getting it done.

When I stepped back a little and allowed my brain to do other things, I solved those problems. For example, I woke up at two in the morning and realised I had to change Point of View for a climactic scene. Like, ridiculous timing but such a good results.

I definitely recommend giving yourself dedicated time to learn, and I’ve actually kept it up with a couple of hours a few times a week. I figure it’s time away from writing, but it’s upskilling and it’s giving my brain some time to process problems.

Recommended reading, based on what I’ve learned stuff from reading. (Didn’t get all of them read this week…)

Unleash the Beast by Steff Metal

Emotional Craft of Writing by Donald Maas

Write to Market by Chris Fox

On Writing by Stephen King


On Writing

There’s a wonderful movie called I’m Your Man and it’s a documentary and a recording of a star studded tribute concert to Leonard Cohen. It’s got some incredible performances. But it’s a movie I come back to when I want some encouragement or inspiration for writing.

Having spent all of April in a frenzy of writing a lot, or nothing at all, and putting a lot of pressure on myself either way, I’m in day 2 of relaxation – stepping back and examining what I’m doing a little bit, and trying my best to be kind to myself. So, I’m watching the movie.

Here’s my favourite quote from it, and maybe my favourite quote about writing ever:

You don’t have all the time in the world, I say to myself, you know how long it takes you to get something done. So you gotta run through at least ten versions of this thing. So you have to write down what you’re going to abandon, see how it works in the whole thing and then throw it away. And then throw it away. ~ Leonard Cohen

I love this for a few reasons, but the first one is that it doesn’t play with the idea of the perfect first draft, or even that writing is easy. It acknowledges that it is work, and you have to write the garbage in order to throw it out. This quote tells me to not judge, to just write, and when it’s done, then look at it. Then chuck out what doesn’t work and then to write it again. Obviously this is somewhat easier in song form than it is with an 80k word novel manuscript, but the idea is the same.

If it is your destiny to be this labourer called a writer, you know that you’ve go to go to work every day, but you also know that you’re not gonna get it every day. ~ Leonard Cohen

There’s another good one – this idea that you have to work at it consistently, that you can’t expect it to be easy or fun all the time.

Some people make doors, carpenters. Some people cut hedges, some people are plumbers or doctors and nurses. Leonard Cohen is a songwriter, he goes to work at that. You don’t get a sense from him like ‘oh I woke up one morning and this beautiful song, there it was, freshly painted. With him, he goes ‘no, no… I hate to wait a lot time for that one’. ~ Bono

Writing, and especially, getting to something good in your writing, takes time. Time and work.

I have to keep reminding myself of these things, because I’m sometimes seized with a horrible impatience to get everything Done and Out There, but that’s not necessarily how it works.

Balance these ideas with the Agile idea of the Minimum Viable Product, or getting something out there which is Good Enough, is another mind bender. Nothing can ever be perfect, so I know I can’t keep reworking things forever. I can throw away parts ten times and twenty times, but at some point I have to say “good enough” and put it out into the world.

If you get stuck in endless rewrites, edit, perfection, then you are giving yourself the excuse to never show it to anyone, and therefore neither succeeding or failing. Perfect isn’t a thing, but good enough is. It’s knowing your definition of good enough that’s the real trick. I’m trying to learn it at the moment.

So yes, watching this movie is an education and an inspiration, and it has some brilliant music in it it too. I’m interested to hear any thoughts you have on inspiration, letting go, working at something and knowing when to let it go.


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.


Website & Blog: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/

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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!


Motivators – how to make yourself write

This motivator post is based around the things I’ve found to help me churn out words/edit pages, etc. I’ve had a few people say they’re impressed with my momentum, so… here’s a couple of things which motivate me.

First off, and one I didn’t think was that unusual until my friend saw it was my desktop background and started laughing. Idris Elba asking if I shouldn’t be writing.

I used to have this picture printed out and stuck on my wall in my last flat. He’d stare me down and get me into writing. Partly because he’s intimidating and partly because he’s Stacker Pentecost in Pacific Rim and I want to do what he says. So much respect for that character.

Anyway, it’s my desk top background since I moved out of that flat. When I restart my computer or when I close all my windows, Idris Elba is there to refocus me.

Another option is to motivate yourself with a reward. This is especially useful when there’s something you really want, like to go to a movie or eat a cake, or whatever. Something you’re yearning for. NB: Don’t deprive yourself of food, coffee or bathroom breaks though, negative motivators will probably damage you in time, being as they are, based in fear, and will form negative associations with writing.)

So, say I have a whole day ahead of me and I really want to go see a new movie. And there’s a good session in the early afternoon? Perfect. I’m allowed to go to the movie as long as I achieve X thing: 1000 words, 20 pages of editing, whatever needs doing. Then I want to get that stuff done so I can do the fun thing. Sounds pretty easy, right? It is, as long as you can find something you want which is enough.

Think of rewards that would work for you, proper treats and experience which will feel like a reward.

Some other motivators I’ve found really compelling:

  • Really hating my day job. This is a bit of a horrible one. It involves me being so aggressively unhappy that I’ll do anything to get out of having an office job, which is in fact very motivating to write and plan. But I can’t recommend it.
  • Giving myself a deadline. And this could be deciding to enter your work in progress into a competition, or promising it to a beta reader by X date. It’s better if you’re somehow accountable
  • NaNoWriMo – this used to be a one month a year deal, but now there’s Camps in April and June which are just as motivating. The website also allows you to set your own challenges any time of year: word counts, time frames, etc and it gives you a nice little graph of your progress.

Got another good motivator? Please share it in the comments, I’d love to hear it 🙂