Tag Archives: writing

The Fictional Mother

This was first published in an essay collection, also called The Fictional Mother, which I released as a bonus reward for my patrons in May 2017. You can access this collection and a whole bundle of other e-books, along with other rewards, by pledging $1 or more to my Patreon every month.

Spoilers for Season 5 of Buffy, Seasons 3 & 4 of Once Upon a Time.

Potentially triggering discussion of cancer diagnosis & treatment as well as maternal deaths in fiction & real life. Take care of yourselves.



(Don’t panic)

In 2016, I was diagnosed with a low-grade skin lymphoma, after a biopsy on my forehead. It was surgically removed.

(Seriously, don’t panic)

One year and a second positive biopsy later, my cancer was officially graded as ‘recurring’ though this was also matched with more comforting words such as ‘indolent.’ After a second round of invasive tests and scans during which I learned that my body finds contrast dye physically repellent (literally) I am now facing down a month of radiotherapy. This, I have been assured, is very boring and has a high success rate for curing specific cancers. Over the last year, I have lurched between times of extreme anxiety about my health and my future, moments of cautious relief, and even twinges of guilt that this is such a small health crisis compared to those of others.

(Everything’s gonna be OK)

Yep, I actually feel guilty that my cancer is so discrete and treatable. How’s that for imposter syndrome? This time around, though, it feels a lot more real than it did last year. And every time I explain to people how extremely small and treatable and really no big deal my cancer is, it feels like I am thumbing my nose at fate. So. There are a lot of feelings.

(On a related note, hey, if you have the chance to get regular check ups at your local skin clinic, why not go do that? Tell your friends!)

Back when we were waiting for the original diagnosis, I thought a lot about my daughters, and my mind kept being drawn to Disney movies. The possibility of dying (it’s horribly easy to leap from ‘cancer’ to ‘dying’ in a single panicked second, especially if you’ve been Googling all the words your doctor uses without context) becomes a whole different kind of scary when you are a parent.

(Spoiler: I’m not currently dying except in the sense that I am, apparently, mortal.)

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Emerging from June Victorious With Mermaids

So, that was a month, then.

Quite a month.

With Twelfth Planet Press, I raised $24,000 on Kickstarter to make an extraordinary book! I feel so blessed at the support we received for Mother of Invention, it feels like such a step up in ambition and achievement for Twelfth Planet Press and for me personally. It was huge.

Also in July, I did a bunch of radiotherapy. Which was… not fun, though more of a scheduling nightmare than anything. The people at the hospital were fantastic, my time waiting around for appointments was minimal (my time circling the hospital car park definitely not minimal), and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it was going to be. Still, 20 appointments in one month! So in addition to everything else going on, I had side effects to manage – some pain, some hair loss, a whole lot of crankiness & skin irritation – and the thing I didn’t quite expect, an overwhelming exhaustion that hit me in the early afternoon every single day that I had treatment. I’ve never taken so many naps in my life. Thank goodness for supportive spouse, helpful friends/family and mostly understanding children. (when I say mostly I mean one was hugely understanding and the other… didn’t completely meltdown every single day about Mummy unavailability but made her Concerns Heard)

I also worked several weeks at the university, travelled to Melbourne, won a couple of Ditmars, attended a high tea, read some books, managed to keep up with at least some of my soccer team manager commitments, was dazzled by Wonder Woman, wept over Doctor Who, and kept up weekly instalments of my fiction podcast, Sheep Might Fly.

Our current serial, The Bromancers, turns out to be a lot more novella than novelette – we’re not even halfway through! So there’s a lot more writing than I was counting on, and I didn’t get much of that done at all in June. Roll on Writing More July.

As well as Writing More in July I’m back working on stuff for the Patreon – sending out Random Post, a Backstage Pass, and the first of the EXCLUSIVE stories to Patreon backers at $2 a month and above. If you’ve been thinking about signing up to support me via Patreon this is a really good month to do it, and you also get access to the many ebooks produced so far including the Castle Charming stories, Fake Geek Girl stories, and the Musketeer Space novel.

I’m also going to be working on my next book (a children’s title!), reviewing more Justice League, attending more soccer matches, surviving yet another 2 weeks of school holidays, and so on. Life rolls on.

BACK TO JUNE. Because the final thing I did in that supremely epic month to celebrate all my trials, tribulations and damned hard work was to get my mermaid hair, which I am ridic pleased with even though I can’t personally see most of it, which means I am constantly flicking it to try and see it in my peripheral vision.

It makes me so happy. It’s so PRETTY. I officially like my hair more than I have in a very long time.

Mermaids are awesome. I recommend them highly.

Writing Fast, and Furious, and 50,000 words

PrintEvery year I tell myself I can’t/shouldn’t rely on the special NaNoWriMo magic to get my deadlines done. Because, you know, what are the odds that I’ll manage to write 50K words in a month every single year?

And yet. Every year that I genuinely make the effort, it comes off well.

If I could do NaNo four times a year, I would. But I’ve tried the alternatives and really, it only works in November. Which is crazy, because November is a terrible time for writing. In Australia it’s the end of the university year, not the middle – I have an annual two week job that overlaps with NaNo. There are so many other things that tend to collide – this year it was the coverage of Jessica Jones for Tor.com. Next year it will be something else. In 2009 I’d just had a baby, it was crazy to even try…

But the secret it, it’s always a bad month for writing. I have kids, I have commitments, I have all manner of things that leap up and demand attention. My email inbox is enough to make anyone cry.

NaNoWriMo works for me, and it works mostly because of a combined magical cocktail of pressure and obligation. The words get written. They get written fast. And (here’s my own personal secret) they get written good.

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The Contents are on the Table

Uncanny_Issue1_FINAL_large1-340x510Several exciting Tables of Contents were released in the last week, that I’m invested in one way or another.

Uncanny Magazine #1 is available for purchase now! Some free content has been released on the blog this week and some will go up in December. But you can read the whole thing now as a complete ebook.

Featuring new fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Max Gladstone, Amelia Beamer, Ken Liu, and Christopher Barzak, classic fiction by Jay Lake, essays by Sarah Kuhn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Christopher J Garcia, plus a Worldcon Roundtable featuring Emma England, Michael Lee, Helen Montgomery, Steven H Silver, and Pablo Vazquez, poetry by Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sonya Taaffe, interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley, Deborah Stanish, Beth Meacham on Jay Lake, and Christopher Barzak, and a cover by Galen Dara.

All of that plus two podcasts!

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The Shape of 2013 (how it was)

I wasn’t going to do one of these this year. 2013 has been a bit of a crazy, scattered blur in many ways. But then I read my 2012 post and was so pleased I had noted things down for future reference. And then I remembered that I won a Hugo which is, you know, quite extraordinary and belies my general impression that I spent most of this year chasing a 4 year old and recording podcasts.

I did totally spend most of this year chasing a 4 year old and recording podcasts. It was a family and friends sort of year, occasionally punctuated by books, short stories and a whole lot of Doctor Who. There were hospitalisations and dramas, all of which are (KNOCK FREAKING WOOD) behind us now. ( I still don’t feel I’ve properly caught up after my pneumonia bout back in September! If I owe you an email, please remind me) It was a tough year in many ways, and a stupidly slack year in others.

Mostly, we came through it intact.

Here are some good things that happened to me:

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Devoured by Book

So the blog has been a bit quiet of late and bound to continue so. Shhh! I’m writing a book!

NaNoWriMo is doing what it’s kinda supposed to do, as far as I’m concerned – it’s kicking me back into habitual writing. I’ve been struggling all year with time shrinkage and my various parental etc (so much et cetera!) responsibilities, and not getting much of anything done. But I gritted my teeth and started this 6am thing (most days). The fact that it started working early on did, of course, spur me on. Funny how success tends to be encouraging!

Slowly, slowly, I’m remembering how to write books. More specifically, how *I* write books. I tap into my barely-veiled addictive personality, I challenge myself, and I turn up to the damn chair. So far, so good.

The first time I did Nano, I blogged nearly every day. Not only those damned wordcount bars, but reflections on what I was writing, and how I write. The second year (which was 2009) I blogged everywhich way, including possible typing with my ears. Words poured everywhere because I was writing WITH a three month old baby, and the more fiction I wrote, the more I wanted to blog as well.

I suspect that won’t be happening this time. I’ve been giving a lot of attention to my blog lately and now having great fun with the enormous secret which is the book I can read and no one else can – the one I’m writing!

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Things To Be Excited About (Writing and Parenting Edition)

I missed out on the fun & professional inspiration of Genrecon this weekend, which would normally have been pretty depressing, but I got to hang out with my snuggly family and watch a bunch of black and white Doctor Who which was quite a major consolation.

In any case, without a convention to kickstart the last quarter of the year into gear, I have to find my own inspiration!

Firstly, I’m super excited by the first Twelfth Planet Press crowdfunded book, with Julia Rios joining Alisa as editor. This is Kaleidoscope, a book devoted to contemporary fantasy for YA readers which reflects the diversity of the world we live in. I’m writing a story to submit to that (as well as a bunch of other books) right now, with four deadlines between now and December. Eek!

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Insert Strong Male Protagonist Here

ned-stark-needs-a-hugKate Elliott writes about strength, and writing “strong” characters, and how that ties into our societal preconceptions about the definitions of female vs. male strength. It’s a great post, and I highly recommend it.

There have been many additions in the last year to the conversation about strong female characters in SF/comics/movies and the problematic idea that ‘strong, female’ is so often defined as ‘acts in a traditionally masculine way while having a great rack.’ It’s a good conversation, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, even though it feels like there isn’t a LOT left to say once you’ve read Kate Beaton’s take on the trope.

Kate raises a really interesting question, though, of the perceived strength of male characters. How far can we get from traditional masculine behaviour before our (male) hero starts to feel, well, not heroic enough? Why is it that so many beloved, ‘romantic’ male lead characters actually behave like arseholes?

What kind of role models are these heroes?

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Burnout and Recovery: When Publishing Hurts Writers

please look after this bookThis post by Kameron Hurley on how she dealt with the burnout that comes from writing a series (itself an exhausting thing, especially towards the end) for a publisher who has let her down in many ways.

It’s not a post you see very often. Authors still tend to feel vulnerable about airing their bad experiences in public, worrying that this lack of solidarity will get them a bad reputation in the industry.

But keeping quiet can be more damaging. Not just to the other writers you fail to warn, but also to your own sense of self, and to your writing. If all writers talk about is the good experiences, we are not only letting each other down (by pretending everything is rosy) but ourselves.

We’re not always the hardbitten hacks we pretend to me – even the toughest of us do have at least one layer of self conscious, self-doubting fragile snowflake, and one bad experience can make it incredibly hard to pull up our boots and keep working like nothing has happened. Our business is emotional, and that can take a mighty toll on the work itself. Which SUCKS BEYOND BELIEF.

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How Does She Do It?

I love this picture. It basically sums up everything I’ve ever written about writing/mothering.

I came across an old post of mine, Writing While the House is Messy, and it sparked off a whole lot of recent thoughts I’ve been having about writing and parenting (specifically mothering which carries an emotional baggage and social expectation with it that is particularly weighty).

It’s school holidays, a shorter summer than we’re used to now that Tasmania is finally going to the four terms system. And what I should be doing is what I have done most other holidays, which is relax, read books, enjoy my kids without wanting to strangle them, and not put pressure on myself to MAKE WITH THE WORDS, MADAM.

But no, this summer I am writing. Not one thing, not a big pressing deadline (that’s for next month!) but I decided that I needed to put something on paper this January, to start as I mean to go on for this year. It’s now the 2nd of January, the first day that my honey is back at work leaving me with the two girls, and it’s already been a balancing act.

I always forget about the cleaning. There’s so much more of it in the holidays, because they’re here ALL THE TIME, and plates get dirtier, and clothes tear through the mud, and oh the toys, the toys get everywhere. Shoes are always underfoot, partly because Jem likes to stand in whichever shoes are closest (the more outlandishly big on her tiny feet the better) and tromp them from room to room until she can leave them in the perfect place to be tripped over later.

The detritus of Christmas is still partly with us – not just the tree and many of the more recently unwrapped gifts, but scraps of paper and plastic, stray ribbons and gift bags. Half open packets, and empty stockings. Sure, I could have tidied it all up by now. But frankly, I’ve BEEN tidying it up since December 25th, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any neater.

I swear, the walls pump out glitter and stray hair elastics across the carpet whenever I step into another room.

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