Sunday, April 9, 2017


Even when you suspect it might come, it has way of getting a kick into your guts before you have time to put up defences. My latest rejection arrived just as I’d finished uploading a lovely selfie of my husband and me at the airport on the way to a concert in Napier to see the Dixie Chicks. The email came in on my phone. I was excited to hear from my agent. But before I could arm myself, the blow of his ‘they don’t want it’ hit me. Hard. Followed closely by the hot blanket of disappointment.

I had been mindful during all of this past week that a shadow of waiting was hovering in the scary rooms of my mind: rooms I have labelled ‘Doubt,’ ‘Poor self-esteem,’ ‘Billy no Mates aka No one loves you and you will never be good enough.’ Those rooms have plenty of boxes of disappointments.

What did I do? Told hubby, who worried. (He got his tissues from his pocket – he is an old hand at this). Then I contacted a couple of writing buddies. They too have trod this well-worn writing/creating path of hill tops and troughs and said just the right things. No dismissing the disappointment but an acknowledgement that rejection ‘sucks…and blows.’

On the plane, an hour later, I thought about the others in my writing life who may also be affected by the sting of this rejection. Firstly, my agent who got the news before me so he’s had to sit with it longer. (We probably mutually hate having to be the cause of letting each other down. I feel bad that I’ve failed him; he probably feels a bit like that too but I would hazard that, just as I would tell him not to be silly, he would say the same to me.)

Secondly, my beta readers who have given up lunchtimes to sit around school desks to enthusiastically discuss and argue the merits of why Charlie must, should, could say/do/believe something. I feel I have let them down, too.

Finally, fellow writers who look to me as a beacon of hope. As an exemplar of how persistence and hard work get you there in the end. I hate having to show them that, no matter how many times there are wins, there are always gut dropping losses.

Currently, many of my students are working on assessments. Some of them are doing everything I’ve asked of them, and I know they will do well; some of those still won’t gain the mark they want. One or two have not paid attention in class, have not been engaged with the learning, and/or have clashed with me. And yet, despite this, will do well with little study or effort. Most writers I know confess to holding a small seed of resentment toward people like this who seem to do little toward the hard, physical labour of constructing a beautiful narrative and yet everything they touch blossoms and wins ‘best in show.’ My attitude toward these writers, like those students of mine who succeed in spite of me, is to acknowledge that not everyone has to struggle to achieve success. That natural ability is a gift. Lucky them.

Thankfully, I’ve been around the traps long enough to eventually wear each publishing rejection with pride. I’ve only ever had one novel ‘accepted’ straight away. Every single novel, bar Bastion Point, has garnered at least one rejection. Some of these initially ‘rejected’ novels have gone onto be best sellers and win awards. I remind myself that a rejection slip is no measure of my worth or the worth of my characters. They are in good company. So am I.

Thank goodness for writers like Chuck Wendig who provides 'comic' relief for such times. Read his post on dealing with rejection. Warning about language because it IS Chuck.

It still hurts. I gave my very best and I love what I wrote but someone else did not love it as much as me. I don’t yet know the details why but that won’t change things now. I will do what I tell my writing students to do – write it down. Use my words to make sense of my feelings and thoughts and then share it with the world. Oh, and keep writing my novel. It’s a good one. Promise.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Birthright is (re) born!

I'm very pleased to finally announce that, Birthright, the third installment of A Crown of Blood and Honor, is available in both kindle and paperback editions.

You can go here (US folks) or here (Aussie folks) or here (UK folks) to get your own copy.

It's been a long wait for some and I share your frustrations at having to wait for 'the next episode' in a story. I suppose that's why I like watching Netflix programs which allow me to go to the next episode without having to wait a week - or, like a number of really good series (Stranger Things, Glitch, for example) having to wait until the next series is finished being filmed before we get to see even the first episode.

The cover of Birthright is beautiful (as are the covers for books 1 and 2) and I hope it is as warmly received internationally as it was here in New Zealand in 2013.

Although some of the characters still linger in my mind (Bree and Henry in particular), my writing time is now spent other worlds with other (as delightful) protagonists.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Waiting for news

I'm not sure how I survive being a writer because a great deal of time is spent waiting for news of some kind: of reviews for the latest novel, editorial feedback on the current novel, rankings on lists of already published novels, whether you've got an award nomination or been successful for funding, or the results of a submission to a new publisher. Currently, I'm waiting for news of almost all of the above.

I think I'm one of the least patient people I know, ironically given this writing lark, and I'm not easy to live with. I do not enjoy this waiting period and I try not to put my life on hold as the news filters back because once the work has left my hands, it is out of my control.

I have two daughters. Grown up now. At home, during their childhood, there were occasional tantrums and arguments and comments of 'I can't stand you!' shouted around the house.
I always apologized to them for my behavior afterwards. 😉
Don't feel sorry for them. They gave me back attitude twice as tough many a time.

I worked hard, however, to ensure that they presented themselves to others with their best behavior - not insincere but with a genuine kindness, a willingness to work hard, and a desire to help others. They may not have kept their rooms tidy but they were always helping out in the wider world. People said nice things about them. I did not find raising daughters (especially intelligent, articulate, strong willed and big hearted daughters) easy. But I worked damn hard to learn how to be a good mother and learn how to mother them both. Didn't get it right all the time (see tantrum comment above) but the determination to do the very best by them has paid off. They survived childhood and are now (mostly) independently making their way in the world (though me taking them shopping trips to buy underwear is still allowed, apparently).

I think my relationship to my stories is very similar. I apply the 'bum glue', read books about writing and language, read great stories by great writers, talk to writer friends, go back and work and re-work my writing. When my girls were young, I ensured that before they left the house, they were wearing tidy clothes,  had eaten a good meal, been reminded of manners, and their faces were free of smeared marmite.

That checking to make sure everything is the best is can be is what I do with my story: I pat it on the bottom and send it out into the world to be judged.

This Wednesday, 1st of Feb, my new novel, My NZ Story: Bastion Point, is out into the world.
In a few weeks, the third novel in my international edition of A Crown of Blood and Honour, will become available.
By May, I will know the results of all the other things I am waiting for. I tell myself that I've done the very best work I am capable of and now it is out of my hands.
And, while I wait, I might as well write.