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This Unusual Life!

Here’s my latest publication. It started as a patreon project, and now it’s a book!

It’s a little bit spooky
It’s a little bit odd
It’s a little bit silly
Even when it’s not

I’ve found it very hard to articulate exactly what this book is – it’s a short story collection, but it’s in the format of a collection of clippings from a gossip magazine from another universe.

It includes gossip about the Royals, who are a family of homicidal fey. Personality quizzes, Horoscopes and letters to the psychic Agony Aunt Cressida Flittersocks. Plus special interest pieces about tweens manifesting superpowers and an expose about family portrait attacks as well as lots more.

In short, it’s what happens when I let my imagine run wild. There’s some horror, some comedy, some pure nonsense and something to make you think. I love it, personally, and I’m sure people who share my love for silliness will enjoy it as well.

Some of the questions to the agony aunts were submitted my users and friends and my dear friend Ellen was an invaluable sounding board throughout the project.

Grab an ebook of This Unusual Life now!

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Guest writers series: an interview with Sam Schenk

I have another author from the Witchy Fiction project stopping by today. First time author Sam!

Hi Sam, and welcome. Please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a professional woman in STEM, the other parent of an autistic gayby, and an observer of human behaviour.  I’m a bisexual Xennial.  I watch/read sci-fi and fantasy (and spend a lot of time on Twitch), play video games, scuba dive, and write as a means to relax.

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

This has changed a lot over the course of my life, if you would have asked 10 years + ago, I would have said a dog or a horse, but these days, it’s probably something small and easy to take care of – like a hummingbird.  That’d be cute and useful!

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

I live in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.  There are a lot of things that are amazing about this city, not the least that it’s liberal and transport accessible.  If I’m honest, my favourite thing is the lack of humidity – because it all gets blown out to sea.

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

I spend a lot of time on twitch and playing video games as escapism, but I find writing relaxing too.  It’s more recognising when I need some time to myself and taking it.  That’s not always easy with Ms. 5 around, but I try to make it work.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? 

I’ve got an obsession with Bass YouTube at the moment – particularly Charles Berthoud.  Check him out, he’s amazing.  I prefer orchestral/instrumental game music or jazz without words most of the time.

What genres do you like to read in?

 My core genres are dystopian fiction and transhumanism, but I like anything with a speculative angle.  I do a lot of beta reading through facebook groups and I’m not selective with what I read there.  I like to think of it as a broadening experience.  I can read anything as long as it makes me think.

What are you reading right now?

Currently ARC reading The Key to All Things.  Early days, but I like the premise.  I’m also going through and rereading Overdues and Occultism, it’s the first soft copy of the Witchy Fiction collab that I’ve been able to acquire.  I love my signed copy ❤

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

I have Gulliver’s Travels.  I know, it’s old, but it’s still one of my favourite books.  The copy that I have I got on my OE trip to Italy, it’s nothing special, but I have some really nice memories of that trip, when I was obsessed with classics and looking forward to visiting Villa Adriana.

What book do you love to recommend to people? 

Daughter of the Forest, by Juliet Mariller.  It’s the only book that I’ve not been able to put down…three times.  She just writes the forest so well – she has a real connection to a type of setting in a way that I wish I had.  Before I moved to NZ, I picked up a hardback copy of her book.  When I realised she was a Kiwi, I was really hoping that I could meet her.  Sadly, I missed my chance at CoNZealand.  I hope there will be another one.

Can you name some formative books for your own writing?

In terms of writing style, I can’t point to any particular piece.  I’ve always loved older characters, and for that I blame tv shows more than books, like STNG and Highlander: the Series.  I always wondered what was going on with the older characters outside even the young adult series I read, and I wrote quite a bit of fanfiction to that effect.

How do you organise your personal library?

I’m mostly digital these days – search engines are my friends.  Most of my physical books I recognise by sight.

Creative writing as a teenager, did you do it?

Definitely.  I started my long term work in progress as a teenager.  Originally, my main character was based on Xena, Warrior Princess, but she’s very much her own person these days.  I still hope to publish it one day.  I did a lot of writing while I was a checkout chick, fanfiction mostly.  I remember a short piece that I wrote around the Go board game which I quite liked.  I have a big bag of receipt paper from those days that I rummage through every so often.

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

Diving is a great inspiration for me.  You really can’t be absent or thinking about work when you’re under the water.  Without a clear aural sense, the world is really different, but for me it doesn’t cause panic.  You move with the current. It makes me feel at peace with the world.  I like to try and find beauty in unusual places, like a plant growing out of a crack in the sidewalk.

Do you have any writerly superstitions? 
I save most of my superstition for dice/cards.

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

I would love to do a travel blog – spend months integrating with a different culture and write down my observations, then turn those learnings into a speculative piece.

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

Be gentle with yourself.  Struggling with writing rarely causes a good result.  If you need time, give yourself time.  My own journey was to incorporate writing into my occupation, even though it isn’t creative writing.  That has given me the space to rediscover the themes that I want to write about, and given me the freedom to fail.

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

Ambient music for sure.  Something that doesn’t have words, or isn’t recognisable to me (eg music from a game I’ve played, or music in a language I don’t know).  I love running bass with interesting alto or tenor riffs.  Lyrics/Treble are the last part of music that I hear, which is unusual for a writer I suppose.  I was a cellist in high school, and still have my instrument.  I’d love to get back to it at some point.

And now, onto your favourites: 

Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland or Westeros? 

To live in, or read? Read, Westeros. I’ve never read the original Peter Pan. With Ms. 5 getting into reading, I may soon get an opportunity!

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

One book – it would probably be some sort of an encyclopedia of useful things for surviving the wilderness. One music album – orchestral final fantasy 7 most likely.
One podcast – hm. It would probably be a go podcast, maybe by BattsGo because he has so much varied content. Guaranteed I will have made myself a go board within a few months to kill time.

What’s your favourite song to sing at Karaoke? 

Kiss from a Rose, Seal.

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?
 I don’t really do that – but it would probably be something from a musical – like Oliver or Les Mis.

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

 I’m not much of a pokemon player – and what I do know is very old school.  Probably Gyrados, Onyx, Machamp, and Charmander as a core with filler of whatever else was good.  I know that’s probably not the strongest team, but they’re the guys that I liked playing with the most.

The weirdest hobby you have, other than writing? 

I do a little bit of streaming on Twitch.  I’m not popular or anything, but I like to talk to people while I’m playing.  I got into it trying to speedrun a puzzle game.

What is your favourite bird?

I’ve always been fond of hawks and eagles. I don’t have a specific one I love, though.


Sam Schenk

 Sam Schenk is a business analyst by day, a mum, writer, and gamer by night.  She was born in Canada, raised in Texas, and matured in New Zealand, where she’s lived for the past 20 years.  She has just released her first publication, A Gap in the Veil, in a collaboration with Contemporary Witchy Fiction.  She loves beta reading, watching great sci fi, and scuba diving when she can get out.

Follow Sam on social media Twitter and Goodreads

Get a copy of A Gap in the Veil on sale now, part of the Witchy Fiction project.

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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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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.

Writers, writing

Guest post: Mariëlle S. Smith on her new release

Thanks to Mariëlle for coming onto my blog to talk about her new release. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader’s copy and it’s amazing, a great book – lots of interesting prompts and self-reflection. Highly recommend this one!

What is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner about? 

52 Weeks of Writing is a journal and planner for writers that will help you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and the goals you’ve set for yourself. Every week, it offers questions, writing prompts, and exercises that are designed to help you dig deep and find out the truths about why you aren’t the writer you want to be yet. 

How is the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner different from everything else out there? 

What’s different is that it doesn’t focus on a specific goal, such as becoming better at marketing your books, or planning your social media channels for the year ahead. 52 Weeks of Writing is all about your personal wishes, needs, and goals. It provides a safe space where you can figure out what it is you truly want (once you stop looking at what everyone else is doing), and how to get there considering the realities of your day-to-day life. We all have different aims and desires and none of us carry exactly the same responsibilities. This author journal and planner will help you focus on your situation and on what you want to achieve in this lifetime. 

Why did you create the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner

52 Weeks of Writing reflects everything I’ve learned over the past several years as a writing coach, editor, and writer. As a writing coach, I know that coaches don’t come cheap and that not everyone has the means to hire one. Of course, no book can stand-in for a human coach, but this author journal and planner is my attempt to bridge the gap between hiring a writing coach and trying to figure it out all on your own the best I can. 

Who will benefit from the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner?

Writers who are fed up with themselves and are ready to figure out once and for all why they keep getting in their own way. 

Get the ebook

Get the paperback

Are you ready to become the writer you were always meant to be? 
52 Weeks of Writing will get you cracking by making you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and goals an entire year long. 
52 Weeks of Writing will help you dig deep by offering questions and writing prompts designed to unravel whatever truths about your writing you’re ready for. 
52 Weeks of Writing will keep you inspired by delivering a thought-provoking writing quote every week. 

  • Do you struggle with setting goals that reflect your daily reality? 
  • Do you want to practise breaking goals down into manageable chunks? 
  • Would you like more insight into your writing habit(s) and figure out why you keep getting in your own way? 
  • And do you want to create a sustainable writing practise that honours your needs and desires as a writer? 

Then the 52 Weeks of Writing: Author Journal and Planner is for you. 

52 Weeks of Writing brings together every lesson Mariëlle S. Smith has learned as a writing coach and writer. Wary as she is of comparisonitis and unhealthy competition, this author journal and planner was designed to help writers develop and fine-tune a practice that works for them. 

If you’re ready to get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be, pick up your copy of 52 Weeks of Writing today. 

About

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, (ghost) writer, and custom retreat organiser. Born in the Netherlands and raised by her Dutch mother and Scottish dad, she moved to the island of Cyprus in February 2019 to focus on her coaching, editing, and writing practice. 

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