Are you unique enough?

I don’t know if other author’s experience this, but it is something I think about – especially after reading a lot of Tweets by agents and publishers that talk not about an author’s books or works but the author themselves.
One agent I happened across openly admitted that they where not seeking any type of unique work, they where seeking a unique type of person, and an author had to fit a mould. Is that my problem, I don’t fit a mould?

In today’s heavily visual, heavily marketing, heavily social media focused society I’m not surprised that publishers seek author’s who have a sell-able face, but not just a sell-able face, but a sell-able identity. Somehow, at some point, I blinked – and identity became this massive, important thing. What is your identity?
Are you unique enough to be an author?
It feels like, today, you have to have some sort of incredible personal uniqueness to win an agent, or a publisher – something that makes you stand out amongst the crowd – instead of your work.
But perhaps I only see one side of the publishing industry online, I would really love to speak to publishers and agents about this – because I find it utterly fascinating.

I am pretty sure it was how I was raised that instilled in me an ethic of believing that my work spoke for me. I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal, it was my work that I wanted to share – not me. I wanted my stories, my adventures, my worlds, my characters to shine for me.

The more I write, the more books I put into print, the more I have this intense desire to fade into the background and just let my world exist for me, to let my work be my voice.

That Gift is Gone

It might surprise people who I interact with online to realise that I actually have very strong opinions about a lot of things, but that I silence myself – I suppose the saying would be I ‘self-censor’. I don’t say what I want to say because I am afraid – I am afraid of today’s society, the mob mentality that has been created due to social media, and because of friends that I love and respect. I would much rather let myself be told I cannot say something, cannot be someone, than loose friends – at least – that is what I keep telling myself.

Because. Well. I highly value the people around me. I consider everyone I communicate with as incredible – because you all are. Humans are incredible. Guys. We made it to the Moon, we have a Space Station, Elon Musk shot a freaking car into space. I can’t wait to see what we get up too.

Frankly, I hate hurting people. I always want to stand beside someone and offer support and be the best friend I can be – I was raised in a family of supporters and listeners and taught to *always* put the ‘other’ first, but this does have a negative, as we have discovered growing into our adulthood, we tend to get trodden on and walked over. We avoid conflict.

I avoid conflict.

I will choose words to make someone happy, to calm a situation, to appease people, to make sure they know they’re important.

It doesn’t help that I am very, very shy, so IRL situations are very rare. If you are one of the few people to have ever spoken to me IRL, congratulations on that achievement of a lifetime.

My mother once called us – my siblings and I – Peacekeepers.

But I don’t feel like I keep peace anymore. I feel like I hide. I hide my true-self behind a mask of smiles and flowery words on a screen, frightened of a world that would turn against me at a moments notice. If I tweet one wrong tweet, retweet one wrong person, if I write a character wrong or NOT include the right-type of character, use a culture wrongly in a book, say anything about my faith – I don’t know – ANYTHING – could get me in trouble. I have no idea anymore – and that is what frightens me.

I am a writer, and I want to write, I want to say things, I want the freedom to use my words and honestly I feel like that gift is gone.

I realise this is a really silly thing to worry about – but – it’s choked me up for a long time now, and I really wonder if the only way to get away from the worry of it all is to just delete Twitter, abandoned Facebook – other than for adorable pictures of nephews – and live free of those shackles?

Does anyone else feel this way, or am I just weirdly paranoid? I hope so. Then maybe I can just get over it and move forward. ūüėÄ

Finishing a Draft

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Last night I stayed up into the early hours, driven by an intense desire to finish Book 3’s first draft. I had left the cafe that morning two chapters away from finishing the novel and I promised myself as I got home, storing away a piece of cake, that I would finish the book no matter what – and eat my slice of cake! (It’s a tradition of my mine to have a piece of cake after I finish a book.)

I didn’t get a chance to sit back down at my computer desk until late in the afternoon, after a walk on the treadmill, by then I was in considerable pain, but I was determined – I wanted to finish this book. I had to finish this book.

Eight hours later I wrote the last words of the Epilogue – “He remained.”

Done. I was DONE.

Book 3: Messengers – standing at 113,081 words – which gives me plenty of breathing room for the second draft and the editing phase. I am very happy about that. It’s the first time I have felt comfortable about a word count.

Book 3 was VERY hard in the planning stages due to the sheer size of the Book and it was only after I decided to cut the novel down the middle – because, technically, looking at the plan it was really two books squished into one – that it started to take shape. I was loathed to cut it – I’m not joking when I say my series is already huge. Cutting the book in half makes my series just another book longer – at this rate I’m going to end up with¬†a Wheel of Times sized series, not that I’d have a problem with that. ^_^

Splitting the book gave me so much more breathing room, I wasn’t confined to a word limit anymore. My panic drifted away and my writing just took off again.

I am really happy with how Book 3 ends. I don’t know if readers will be, but I am – there is a theme in Chronicles of the Children of circles, loops, of following a familiar path but you just keep repeating the same pattern, again, and again, but on a larger scale.
The idea, I suppose, that what has been done has been done before. I always got this feeling whenever I went hiking with my family, the paths we hiked on were so well taken, the eerie feeling that countless people had trekked the same roads before us I could never shake.

So, now begins the next step of the second draft, then hopefully the editing and maybe I’ll have a third book out in print, if all goes well.

Cafe Life

 

As I brush through the fly screen into the quiet atmosphere of the early morning lull, I am greeted with a call “Morning, Kylie.”
I lift¬†my head. “Good morning,” I chime back in reply as I dump my heavy bag on my usual table. A single table, with two chairs, second up from the door, far enough away not to the catch the breeze. I would have preferred a seat by the window, in the comfy chair, but I loathed taking up two tables and four chairs for hours at a time – just for me and my laptop, didn’t seem proper, you know.¬†

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The new owners of my cafe – my cafe, funny that, it’s away’s been MY cafe in my head, even though, technically, I don’t own the place – anyway – the new owners are delightful, cheerful and always up for a chat. I still haven’t managed to figure out their names yet, but considering it took me several years to learn the names of the previous¬†owners, I’m not to fussed, it will come in time.

I have been told to find another place, to move on – time and time again – but I am a creature of habit, someone who loves familiarity. Perhaps it isn’t a good thing, perhaps it is, perhaps I am stuck in a cycle that circles around and around, I do not know, but I love the comfort that comes with knowing a place and the people within it, and watching the world change gradually, year by year. I have seen women marry, new born children grow up, start school, all from my seat within this cafe. I’ve talked with war vets, listened to their heroic tales take me to Germany, England and to the skies within planes, or the fields of Africa, all while mulling over a cappuccino.¬†

My cafe is like the TARDIS. 

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It can transport me anywhere. Through the people within it, that share the magical place with me. 

Before the previous owners left one of the patrons painted a painting that now hangs in the cafe. When I first saw it, I just smiled, thinking; “Oh, that’s lovey, they put in some of the regulars…” I was a little sad, as I couldn’t see myself in my regular spot so I thought I must not have been included.¬†
Silly me.
Silly, silly me.
I was standing by the counter one misty winters morning and the painting had been hung on the wall nearby. As I was waiting for my turn, something caught my eye and I started laughing. It was me. There I was, sitting towards the back of the painting, wearing my black coat, my beanie, with my laptop and my  books. My eyes grew damp and my chest tightened. Was this what I looked like in the eyes of the other patrons?
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen Рmyself Рin a painting. 

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Perhaps this sounds ridiculous, or maybe it’s just me, but I feel, almost as though I have become part of a mythos, that is gradually being crafted, day after day, year after year. A mythos that is our incredible little pocket in the world. And here I am, sitting it, writing stories of other worlds. Isn’t that just the most delightful thing.¬†¬†

 

 

Trying to Inspire Hope

So recently I have been struggling with a lack of motivation to continue writing.
It isn’t so much that I don’t want to write, or to create – it’s just that I haven’t been getting much ‘joy’ out of it lately. It has become a real slog to get through. The imagination hasn’t been flowing.

I’ve been asking those questions, “Why? Why do I do this…?” – “Do people even care for my story?” – “What is the point of all this work?”
Those questions have been circling my mind over and over.

And I’ve been trying to remember the childlike innocence and wonder in which I first went into writing with. The obsession, the excitement and the passion that fuelled me and the late nights I would spend writing. To do so, I have tried to remember…
I’ve tried to remember what inspired me to write this long epic.

When I was a little girl I had a dream:
I stood upon the verge of a bottomless canyon. Pieces of earth would collapse into the abyss from the rumbling ground, and I had to kept trying to steady myself. Not just against the shaking earth, but the roaring of an intense wind ripping across the land behind me. The side I stood upon was green and lush, blanketed by a forest and mountains rising up yonder. Across the yawning canyon, as wide as several streets, a golden ocean of sand awaited me. The sun was just cresting the horizon, sparkling on the dunes. I recall that standing on either side of me were two young men, and yet I had no idea who they were, for I had never met them, but I woke relieved by their presence and in such awe of my dream that I wrote it down in my journal.
It was this dream that eventually led me to the creation of the world of Livila, the Borders that divided the Lands. What I was seeing became Border between Pennadot and Utillia. The two young men being Zinkx and Daniel. Their appearances haven’t really changed from when I saw them in that dream.

Chronicles of the Children is an epic about good vs. evil.
About being broken to the point that all hope is lost, finding yourself so entirely defeated that you desperately desire to give up, and yet, you don’t.
You just keep trying.
Because you don’t know how to do anything else but try.

As I’ve been staring at the blank pages in front of me while attempting to write Book 3, I’ve thought about the character of Sam and just what it is that he experiences in Book 3 and I think I better understand — going through my own despair — the motivation Book 3 has been lacking. I’d forgotten about what the book is supposed to represent in the series.
It’s a book about being broken.
So badly broken.
But picking up the pieces regardless, and still moving forward.
Every word I write should reflect that.

I think, if I continue to remember that…
I’ll get back on track.

 

A lot of Art

So I have a lot of art to do in the next couple of months.
Like.
A LOT.
As in, I am going to be in front of my computer every day just doing art. That’s it. Art.
This isn’t a problem. I am really happy to be doing art, it just feels a little overwhelming to be staring at a list of illustrations I need to get done for my next novel and wondering…ah…whoops…deadline.
DEADLINE.

Did I mention DEADLINE.

Hah. Hah. Oh boy.

I should be doing art right now.
But instead I am currently writing a short novel I hope to submit to a company here in Adelaide. I’ve always wanted to write a ‘family survives a disaster’ novel and I figured this would be a great opportunity to write that one book I’ve always, really, really wanted to write. It’s only 40,000 words. I can write that in like…two weeks, but, the topic requires a lot of research.
Maybe I can get my brother-in-law to help. He’s good at research…

Anyway, where was I, ah yes, ART.

So, if you’ve ever picked up the paperback versions of KEY and Protectors you’d know they’re illustrated. I really love illustrating fantasy novels. I think it adds another dimension to the story, and it’s fun.

Right now my amazing editor and I are working on the first book in the currently titled ‘Northland Rebellion’ series that fits in between my main ‘Chronicles of the Children’ series. We’ve almost finished the editing. Very exiting.

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Here is the half-title page. I’ve been a bit worried though…Jarvis is ‘another boy’ and in an industry that is increasingly looking for female protagonists I don’t know if featuring him on the first page is a good idea. I thought, maybe, to change it to one of the female characters – in which – this book has many.
But I think I’ll leave it as it is, as the title page I am working on balances things out.

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I’m trying a different style for this book – different from KEY and Protectors. I wanted to go for a more painted style. I don’t know how it will print, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. Here is Khwaja Denvy and Ki’b. For this book – I would have to say Khwaja Denvy is the ‘protagonist’.
I actually wrote this book for Lance.
Lance was an elderly gentleman at the cafe I write at. We would talk whenever he visited, and he told me stories about his time in WWII, growing up as the son of a German father and an English mother. He marvelled me with his energy and vitality despite growing old. We laughed together, we cried together. He was the first man (other than my father) to ever call me beautiful. Every time he would see me he would tell me, ‘You are so beautiful today. Why, if I was a young man, I would marry you.’
I never got the chance to tell him how much those words meant to me. How much those words blessed me. I learnt so much from him.
His favourite character from KEY was Denvy. He considered himself to be Denvy. Lance died before I was able to show him even the draft of Orphans and Outcasts, and I’m actually a lot more emotional about it then I thought I would be, now that I’m coming up to releasing the book.
So I guess that’s why I chose to focus on Denvy as the ‘hero’. Because I saw an interesting story in telling things from the point of view of an older character, thanks to my time with Lance.
Denvy just happens to be a giant-cat alien…

Not the right type of Fantasy

When I was much younger (in my teens, just starting my writing journey) I used to be down right terrified of agents and publishers. To me they were the great gods of the industry and I was a pimply, cubby little girl who had dreams far to big to ever achieve. Then, gradually, over the years, I actually got to interact with editors within the publishing industry and I found them to be so kind, so helpful, always willing to give me advice and cheer me along in my dream.
The two years I spent with my novel being considered by Penguin Australia was the best two years of my life. I learnt so much respect for the industry from just those two years and the editors I interacted with and while, in the end, my novel never made it through the acquisition stage I went away feeling like I had received the greatest gift of all:

Belief in myself.

I was about twenty at the time, I had very little self-esteem, and my illness was just beginning to take root, and for a girl who began her life being entirely unable to string words together because of her dyslexia, finding belief in herself was the solid foundation I needed to carry me forward.

I owe Penguin Australia and those editors so much for those few years. While I am sure I would have found my way eventually, just having words of encouragement from those I considered the greatest of the great rooted the oak tree I was growing into.

Years later, I am still trying¬†to find my place within the publishing industry. If anything, I have watched the industry change rapidly around me into something that has terrified me even more than I was once terrified of agents and publishers. I now find myself in limbo. I neither know how to step forward, nor backward, I cannot got up, nor down, nor around. I am…just…here, a voice amongst many.

And that leads me to the interesting journey I have been taking over the past year and a half. Agents. Here in Australia we don’t have many agents, and they usually work side-by-side with publishers, so it can be quite difficult to actually find an agent. It’s a bit of a catch-twenty-two. You can’t submit a manuscript to an agent unless you’ve been accepted into a publishing company, and you can’t submit a manuscript to a publishing company unless you’ve been accepted by an agent. This greatly amused me. I spent quite awhile laughing in my office when I finally realised the little circle that had formed.

Its who you know. Or. You pay something like $900 for a pinch conference and I do not have that cash lying around anywhere. That’s a lot of money…

I’m not complaining, really I’m not – I’m amused. I don’t tend to get upset about these sorts of things and whine, I simply laugh how interesting the tight box I find myself in truly is. When I was a starry eyed little girl, dreaming of becoming the best science fiction and fantasy author EVER I never imagined I would be in my office wishing I had $900 for a five minute pinch. That would never have even crossed my mind!

So, I had to start looking outside of Australia and that has been…interesting…
Twitter is a great source for writers, its dangerous, Twitter, but once you learn how to navigate it and not get eaten alive it can be fascinating to discover what’s going on in the writing world. Thus I started searching for agents to submit to and that…is where…I found…my problem.

I don’t write the right type of fantasy.

Current count of rejections stands at fifteen. Some agents have been really lovely and told me why, which is really considerate of them – and the reasons, once more, have really amused me.

Some have told me that my writing style is to old-fashioned. My apologises, I actually speak a little old fashioned as well (just ask my family.)

Others have told me they don’t like the fact that I have a male protagonist. (Should have had my female protagonist open the novel…would that have worked?)

My biggest sin, apparently, is that said male protagonist *saves* female protagonist – and I will not even begin to rant about this issue. I could write an ENTIRE blog on this issue alone and how unfairly I feel, as someone who is chronically ill, the idea of being saved¬†and being a damsel in distress is being demonised in society today. Because you know, right, you know it’s okay to ask for help, you know it’s okay to need help to get out of a situation that is out of your control?
Well, apparently not. 

I could go on, but I think the picture has been painted.
My fantasy is not the right type of fantasy.
It does not fit the populist ideals.

Perhaps I still live in another era where writing was an expression of just myself, and I did not have to pretend to write something to get published.
I will still write the fantasy I want to read. That was the whole reason I started writing when I was a teenager in the first place. I found myself craving a particular type of science fiction and fantasy, and I could not find it anywhere, so I started writing it for myself to fill the void.

That void might have become larger.
I might be shouting into something so huge, so vast it now engulfs me entirely that I will never be heard but I at least still have a voice in which to shout. To that I am grateful.
I still believe in myself.

Write on.