It is Australia Day 2020. January 26th is a contentious date, because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet―the first European settlers who arrived in Australia in 1788.
Of course, by commemorating this date, Australia ignores that in 1788 we were already populated by hundreds of nations of Indigenous Australians forming the world’s oldest civilisation.
This post isn’t about whether or not we should change the date of Australia Day, although we should. This post is a love letter to my home, my country, my Australia.
My Australia is the person at the tram stop who sees that you’re lost and gives you directions with a smile. My Australia is the person at the party who draws the introverts into conversation, and makes sure everyone is heard. My Australia has a hearty sense of humour―often bawdy, always self-deprecating, and sometimes a defence mechanism.
I am fortunate enough to be enjoying an ARC of this exciting debut fantasy novel by K.M Allan, whose website, subtitled Writing Advice from a YA Author Powered by Chocolate and Green Tea, is one of my favourites.
And now I get to do a cover reveal, too!
So, without further ado, here it is!
Isn’t it gorgeous?
This is Book one in the Blackbirch Series and it will be released on the 17th of February 2020. Pre-order details will be released soon. In the meantime, you can add the book to your Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf by clicking here.
So, once you get past that amazing cover, what’s the story about? Glad you asked.
Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.
Brilliant cover, creepy, fascinating story – what’s not to love? Don’t miss out on this one.
I like doing reading challenges, but because I already have so many Writing Goals for this year, I was hesitant to take on a really difficult or time-consuming one. I needed a challenge that isn’t too challenging, if you know what I mean. But also I didn’t want to cheat and choose one that didn’t take me out of my comfort zone at all.
My goal is to create categories that are challenging and personalized, yet not too difficult as to be extremely limiting or frustrating. I stuck with 12 categories to keep it realistic and accessible to people with less reading time than myself!
A book that’s been on your shelf for more than a year
A book with a non-human narrator
A book with a month in the title
A book you heard about on TV/Radio/a podcast
A book set in the state you live in
A romance novel
I can already see that #6 is going to be the most challenging for me. I already have ideas for #3, #4 and #10. As for #2, I’m already reading one of those! I’m excited! And I’ve designed a Bingo Card for myself, because that’s more fun than a list.
Are you participating in any Reading Challenges this year? Have you designed one? Let’s talk in the comments!
I’ve made a decision: this year, I’m going to start treating my writing as a full time career. Meaning, I’m going to start taking it seriously, spend the time and work towards some goals. Disclaimer: this is not financially courageous on my part – I’m not leaving a paid job. I am fortunate enough to be retired and supported by superannuation. But it does feel exciting nevertheless.
So 2020 will be a Year of Words. I’ve done the title page in my journal, so now I have to follow through, or it will mock me for next 11 months.
I was partially inspired to take this decision by the Writing Goals section of Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife, which I’m currently reading.
If you have goals, you immediately know if you should take advantage of an opportunity. You can easily recognise when an opportunity is not for you.
This resonated with me. There are so many things I could do as a writer, but it feels like it’s time to focus on what’s important to me, and goals are a way of defining that.
So, I have made a 5-year plan and a 1-year plan. Here is the plan for 2020, broken into 3 sections: Writing and Publishing Goals, Engaging with other Writers, and Engaging with Readers.
publish Book 1, Greenhaelan, in February
draft, revise and edit Book 2, Skalsinger
publish Skalsinger in November
outline Book 3, Charm Shaper
write 6 short stories and enter them into the Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction competition
write 2 other short stories
submit best short story to anthologies/ magazines
write and publish 24 blog posts
attend 6 local author events at my library or bookshop
attend 2 larger festivals/conferences
actively engage at these events
support other writers on Twitter, WordPress, Goodreads, etc
offer beta reading to at least 2 other writers
write a review for every ARC and newly published book I enjoy this year
launch author website and mailing list
grow mailing list to 50 this year
recruit launch team
engage with readers on social media
garner 50 amazon reviews for Greenhaelan
do at least one author interview in any format
Some of these are completely doable, some will stretch me a lot, and the rest depend on other people and are to some extent out of my control. But I wanted to be ambitious and dream big.
In all of this, there is still the human element. The simple truth is: no one reaches all of their goals, and no one has the inhuman ability to stay on task all the time. But making the attempt to articulate your dreams in this way means you will accomplish more than you would otherwise.
Booklife, Jeff VanderMeeer
So, here’s to my new career! Fellow writers, what are your goals for 2020? Let’s do this together!
2019 was an odd reading year for me. For much of it, I felt an unusual reluctance to read at all. It wasn’t a complete reading block, a slump I suppose. 2019 was more a Year of Writing than a Year of Reading, to be honest. I’m thrilled that I managed to create and sustain a regular, extended daily writing time, and that as a result, I now have a full novel buffed and polished and ready to be published next month, but I can’t deny it has taken a toll on my delight in reading, and that’s a bad thing.
But I hate to miss a goal I’ve set myself, and so I made a heroic effort in December to reach my Goodreads Challenge of 85 books for the year. I did it by the skin of my teeth and by counting a few individually published short stories (which Goodreads allows, but which still feels a little like cheating).
So, if anyone besides me is interested, here’s the breakdown of what I read in 2019.
Number of works:
14 full-length non-fiction books
3 stand-alone short stories
1 picture book
Crime/Thriller/Detective: 27 (33%)
Science Fiction: 18 (21%)
Non-fiction: 14 (16%)
Fantasy: 14 (16%)
Romance/Historical Romance: 5 (6%)
Literary Fiction: 4 (5%)
Other: 3 (3%)
3.77 / 5
3.77 isn’t a bad average rating, and it shows that my reluctance to read didn’t stem from the reading quality of the books.
The most interesting thing to me about these stats is how much genre fiction I read, compared to general or literary fiction. An overwhelming 91.8% of my fiction choices! I relate this back directly to my reading slump. Crime fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy are my comfort reads (not that they’re always comfortable, but I hope you know what I mean). And yet, my average rating for the few literary fiction novels I read was 4 / 5, higher than my general average. Speaking of high ratings, here are my 5-star books of 2019.
5-star reads: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
An eclectic mix, and it’s nice to see 2 books on writing in there.
So, what’s ahead in 2020? Enough of reading slumps and sticking to comfort reads! 2020 is going to be a Year of Writing AND a Year of Reading!
I’ve already started making a list of general and literary fiction I am excited to get to. And in the interest of quality over quantity, I’ve set my Goodreads Challenge to only 52 books, so I won’t feel the need to rush.
I’ll still be reading Crime, Science Fiction and Fantasy, but aiming for a more equitable split between genre and other fiction. And I want to read more non-fiction writing guides.
How about you? How was 2019 reading-wise? And what are your plans for 2020?
Release date: 4 December 2019 (pre-orders available now)
CREEPY AND WONDERFUL…
I’ve just finished reading an ARC of The Flower and the Serpent by Madeleine D’Este and I am still feeling blown away.
The story is set in a high school in Hobart, Tasmania, where a group of students are rehearsing for a production of Macbeth. The dark history of the play is well-known, and D’Este’s setting – on school grounds haunted by past evil – plays perfectly against it. Imbued with a sense of creeping menace, the novel is genuinely frightening at times, but the characters are never overshadowed by the horror.
And it is the characters that shine so brightly here. Each has their own voice, their own hopes and fears, their own shadow and light. Every character rings true, from ambitious, driven Violet to shy, self-effacing Lila. Practical Holly and logical Angelika are a delight. And the teacher, Mr Ravenswood, is such a brilliant creation. With every character, D’Este forces the reader to look beyond surface judgements, to the true depths of the human heart and soul.
Which is not to say the plot is unimportant. It’s a fantastic story, that twists and turns in surprising ways that are never gimmicky. The climax had me on the edge of my chair, and it totally delivered.
Bottom line: if, like me, you love Macbeth, you’ll adore this. If you despise Shakespeare and all he stands for, you’ll love it anyway.
My first cover reveal! And this one is especially thrilling for me because I’m one of the authors!
Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales brings together eight stories that reflect the Australian experience of Christmas: a summer celebration, typically spent at the beach or under the air conditioner, eating seafood and tossing down icy drinks. But even under the bright Aussie sun, darkness might be lurking…
Over the past five months, I’ve spent many early-morning hours with a group of wonderful Australian writers via our Twitter hashtag #6amAusWriters. My first thought, when they invited me to submit a story to this anthology, was: “But I’m a novelist! I’ve never written a short story, and I don’t know if I can do it.” To be honest, that was also my second and third thought. But my fellow #6amAusWriters were having none of it. They persuaded me to try, and I am so glad they did!
Like a good box of Christmas chocolates, there’s something for everyone in Christmas Australis, whether you are a fan of contemporary stories, sci-fi, fantasy, noir or even steampunk. I’m proud to be included in this amazing collection.