Tag Archives: Writing

Letting the fizz out of the bottle (or, about my new WiP)

At the Brisbane Writers Festival a couple of years ago, I saw Anita Shreve, author of 16 novels,  speak about her books and the writing process. I’ve never read any of her work but I enjoy hearing about others’ creative processes so I knew I’d get something out of the session regardless.

I remember that when she was asked about her current project, she said that she never speaks about what she’s working on because she’s afraid of ‘letting some of the fizz out of the bottle’. She said (and I’m paraphrasing) she’s always afraid of speaking about what she’s currently writing because she feels like it’s an unopened bottle of soda, and if she spoke about it, she’d let out some of the fizz, and so if she spoke about it too much, the story would go flat. A quick Google search shows me that she uses this answer whenever she’s asked  (for example, The Washing Post interview and WOW! Women on Writing interview).

I find this logic fascinating, because my mind works quite differently. When I have a new story idea, I want to tell everyone about it, and I have to physically stop myself from blathering on to anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest. I actually gain more enthusiasm or ‘fizz’ from sharing my ideas and hearing others’ thoughts about it.

I’ve shown quite a bit of self restraint to not post about my current work-in-progress yet. What’s that? You’d like to hear about it? Oh, okay. Why didn’t you say so earlier?! It’s a young-adult time-travel romantic drama. Think Time Traveler’s Wife crossed with Back to the Future. It’s in the very embryonic stages at present. I’ve got a lot of ideas that I’m very excited about – enough for a series – but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make them work… oops. See, there I go. Give me an inch… 😉

Back to the subject at hand, I wonder if it’s an introvert/extrovert thing? Do all introverts keep their ideas in the bottle and all extroverts share the fizz around, or is it not as cut and dried as that?

What do you think?

Are you an extrovert who manages to keep your WiP ideas to yourself? Or are you an introvert who forces yourself to brainstorm with others? Perhaps you’re like a friend of mine who chooses not to share his ideas because he’s concerned someone will steal them. Or maybe you have different reasons altogether. So do you share, or not? Why, or why not? I’m keen to hear from you.

P.S. For those keen for a Mackenzie update, here’s a video of her trying her first food. So far, she’s not a fan.

P.P.S. My work-in-progress novel shall henceforth be referred to as ‘The Fizz’, because I’m yet to come up with a title I like any better!

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Filed under Creativity, The Fizz, Writers, Writing

IWSG: sales slumps (and a bub update!)

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Hello there! Long time no speak! Can you believe it’s MARCH? Crazy, right? And being the first Wednesday in March, that makes it Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Considering this group exists so: “Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak,” I decided to share my latest sales figures and have a good moan about them.

When I started this post, I thought my sales had slumped big time. You see, I log into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) every so often and check my sales figures, and for the past couple of months, I’ve been disappointed with what it’s told me. Why? Because I’ve only sold four books via Amazon all year. Four! Way less than I was hoping for, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been bothering to check Smashwords and its affiliates because the lion’s share of my online sales have always been with Amazon, but I thought I should check before I wrote this post. So I did, and what I found surprised me. Apparently, I’ve sold 45 books via Apple in 2013. Pretty cool!

HOWEVER, I’m not convinced those sales are actually from this year. I think they’ve probably only been reported this year, so they’re not 100% proof of continuing sales. Either way, I’m thrilled those sales have occurred at all. That’s 45 more people who’ve read my work and hopefully enjoyed spending time with my characters, and that’s what it’s really about for me. Of course, I’d love for sales to go gangbusters so I could quit my day job and write full time, but writing will continue to be a big part of my life regardless of how much money I make from it.

Considering sales have stagnated on Amazon, I’m toying with the idea of dropping the price to 99c. I figure, it can’t hurt my sales (since I’m not making any via that channel anyway) and it could push the book up in the rankings, giving it more visibility. What have I got to lose? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on this idea.

And in other news…

For those who are interested, baby Mackenzie is growing at lightening speed (out, not up!) and is a very demanding but adorable little girl. Here are some recent photos and a video!

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

First post for 2013: Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Wow, can you believe it’s 2013? Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and I’m now 38.5 weeks pregnant!!  For the last Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, I spoke about being worried that my novel, The Big Smoke, will disappear into a cloud of oblivion when bub comes along and I stop promoting for a while. I got some lovely comments on that post, including a great reminder from Cherie Reich that the book will be around for a long time, so it always has a chance to find its audience. That’s the beauty of online retailers – there’s always a chance for your book to become the next ‘overnight success’.

So, to be honest, I’m not nearly as concerned about my book’s sales over the next period as I was a month ago. I’ve done a fair bit of promotion since I launched the book, and hopefully, sales will continue to bubble away on their own now. If not, I won’t be losing sleeping over it – because I probably won’t be getting that much sleep anyway! Not with an infant to care for! 🙂

Here are some photos from Christmas of the bump…

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I’m hoping not to disappear completely from the blogosphere once bub arrives. But rather than posting regularly, I’m hoping to spend my online time  hanging out at your blogs and continuing to follow and support your journeys. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for everyone!

Also, I’d like to open this blog up to guest posts from my regular followers – no point in a good blog staying silent! So if you’d like to guest post on the amazing Cally Jackson Writes, let me know and I’ll get my people to talk to your people! 😉

Your turn

How was your Christmas and New Years? What’s occupying your mind at the moment? Any insecurities? Would you like to guest post on Cally Jackson Writes?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Personal, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

IWSG: Where to from here for marketing The Big Smoke?

Last week, I posted about the top ten lessons I’ve learnt since I independently published my debut novel, The Big Smoke. Tonight’s post will be about what my next steps are for marketing /getting the book out there. Where does the Insecure Writers Support Group fit in? You’ll see!

Advertising at QUT

Over the past few days, I got very excited about the possibility of putting advertising material (bookmarks) into the welcome bags of first year students at Queensland University of Technology, which is the uni where The Big Smoke‘s two main characters study. I was even more excited when the uni said they’d give me a discount due to the book’s connections with the uni and my poor artist status.

However, after some long conversations with my ever-pragmatic business partner (aka husband Marky), I’ve come to the disappointing conclusion that it’s not a smart investment right now. You see, even with the discounted rate, it would cost me about $600 for the advertising fee and production of 5000 bookmarks.

Just to break even, I would need to sell 600 e-books or 110 paperbacks as a result of the advertising, which would require a conversion rate between 2% and 12%. Although the audience is pretty targeted (first year uni students), there are still going to be a lot of people in that audience who wouldn’t be interested in The Big Smoke. I’d say at least 60% (wild stab). So is a 2-12% minimum conversion rate realistic? I’d love to find out, but unfortunately we’re not in a position to risk $600 on it right now.

This doesn’t mean advertising at QUT is completely unachievable though. They do have some cheaper options such as putting up posters on campus, but I’ll need to do similar sums to those above before I know whether they’d be a good investment either.

Local magazines and newspapers 

I’ve got some feelers out at the moment for reviews/interviews in local magazines and newspapers, which I’m hoping may generate some interest. It’s early days in this area though so I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.

In saying that, thanks to my awesome dad and his “connections”, a teen magazine called Orbit on the Sunshine Coast has advertised The Big Smoke (for free!) and are giving away two copies of the book to readers. I believe their latest edition is out now but they haven’t uploaded it online yet. Here’s what the ad looks like:

Orbit Ad for The Big Smoke

Hopefully it sparks the interest of some sunny coast teens!

Review competition – idea still bubbling away

Some of you might remember a competition idea I mentioned a few weeks ago, where people who review The Big Smoke go in the draw to win a $50 book voucher. At the time, I said the reviews would need to be on Amazon, but now that I’ve learnt you have to purchase something from Amazon before you can leave a review there, I’m thinking that Goodreads reviews would be a better option.

As I said initially, reviews would NOT have to be positive. Any considered review of 100 words or more would be eligible to win. However, I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this idea because there’s a risk that people could perceive I’m paying for positive reviews. I’ve actually emailed Goodreads to get their thoughts on the competition idea (I value the connection they provide to readers and wouldn’t want to upset them), so I’ll let you know their response when I get it.

Goodreads giveaway and advertising

I’m currently holding a giveaway of two copies of The Big Smoke on Goodreads, and it does seem to have slightly increased my e-book sales (or it could be a coincidental increase). To support the giveaway (and promote the book more generally), I’m also running an ad on Goodreads, which I set up using their beta self-serve advertising system. At last count, 405 people have entered the giveaway, and there have been 205 “views” of the ad, none of which have resulted in a click through. From what I can tell, a “view” means that the ad has appeared on a page that someone is looking at, but you have to actually scroll down the page a little to see the ads, so I’m not overly worried about the conversion rate at this point. You’re only charged per click through, so if the ad tanks, at least it will be an inexpensive failure!

Here’s the ad and the targeting options I’ve chosen. I’d be interested in any feedback you have.

Goodreads advertisement

Book bloggers

I’ve provided review copies of The Big Smoke to 12 book bloggers / bloggers who occasionally review books, and so far four of them have written a review, all of which I’ve previously quoted. I’m hoping that the other bloggers have been too busy to read the book yet (as opposed to them having read it and hated it) but will get around to it eventually and contribute their opinions to the reviews slowing stacking up. I want to continue to identify book bloggers who might enjoy The Big Smoke because I believe that opinion leaders play a big part in the overall success or failure of books, and the best way to make opinion leaders aware of the book is by telling them about it myself!

And how does all of this relate to the Insecure Writers Support Group?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It totally relates, trust me. I’ll explain right now. As you can see from the points above, I’ve got a lot of ideas and plans in progress for marketing The Big Smoke. Putting these plans into action takes up a lot of time, which is all well and good at the moment, but there’s also the slight matter of being 34.5 weeks pregnant. In less than six weeks time (or thereabouts), my priorities are going to change dramatically and I’m going to have, let’s face it, absolutely zero time to progress any of these plans. How long that will last is yet to be seen, but I imagine it will be at least three months.

I’m ridiculously excited about becoming a mum, but part of me is worried that all the work I’m doing now will equate to very little if I drop off the planet from a marketing and social media perspective. Will my sales figures dry up? Will I have to start from scratch when I’m finally ready to re-enter the marketing realm?

I’m concerned about all of this, but it’s important that I remember what I set out to achieve when I decided to independently publish The Big Smoke. I never expected to achieve massive sales (dreamt about it, yes; expected it, no), I just wanted to share my story with people who were interested in reading it, and hopefully touch a few readers along the way. And you know what? I’ve done that.

I’ve also learnt an amazing amount already, which I plan to put to good use with my next book. So if everything comes to a halt because I stop actively promoting The Big Smoke for a while, that’s okay. It’s been a great experience regardless. And who knows, maybe little miss Jackson will be an absolutely perfect baby who is more than happy for me to spend a bit of time marketing and writing while she sleeps peacefully… 😉

Your turn

What are your thoughts about my marketing plans? Do you have any feedback on the Goodreads ad? What do you think will happen for The Big Smoke when I drop off the radar for a while?

PS You can find out more about the Insecure Writers Support Group at Ninja Captain Alex’s blog.

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

The top ten lessons I’ve learnt since indie publishing The Big Smoke

Today marks one month since I independently published my debut novel, The Big Smoke, so I think it’s a good time to give you an update of how it’s going and what I’ve learnt so far.

I’m sad to report that I’m yet to overtake 50 Shades of Grey in terms of self publishing success – but I live in hope ;-). As you would imagine, one month ago, I had some expectations about how my experience of independent publishing might go, based on what I’ve read about others’ journeys (both the stellar and not-so-stellar). Some of those expectations have been met, others haven’t. Here are my top ten learnings so far, in no particular order.

Learning 1: despite what everybody says, your e-book sales will not necessarily outpace paper book sales (at least not initially). 

Pretty much everything I’ve read has said that e-book sales are where it’s at for independently published books and that paper books are a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘need to have’. This hasn’t been the case for me.

So far, I’ve sold a total of 162 books (told you I’d be honest!) and 78% of those have paperbacks. Of my e-book sales, 75% have been through Amazon US. The rest have been through Smashwords (8%), Apple (8%), Barnes and Noble (3%), Amazon UK (3%) and Amazon DE (3%) . I’m yet to sell any books from Kobo, Diesel or other Amazon country sites.

However, this trend may be short-lived, considering almost all of the paper books I’ve sold have been to friends, family, acquaintances and friends of friends and family. If The Big Smoke is going to be commercially successful, it will need to spread beyond this circle, and I still think that’s more likely to happen online than through paper book sales. I’ll keep you posted as things progress…

Learning 2: a big online book launch doesn’t necessarily equate to big online sales.

As my regular readers know, I put a fair amount of effort into my online book launch. I held a blogfest which included a reasonable prize ($20 Amazon gift voucher) and had a 15-stop blog tour which included interviews and guest posts on a variety of topics. I have no idea how many people this tour would have reached, but I imagine it would have been quite a lot.

But as you can see from my figures, it didn’t produce mountains of online sales. Why? There are probably a number of reasons for this. Here are some that spring to mind:

  • Most people who read blogs are other bloggers, and while we all want to be supportive, we hear about so many books, we can’t possibly buy them all.
  •  The blogs I posted on were all over the place in terms of writer genre (for example, I posted on blogs that primarily discuss science fiction and fantasy, while The Big Smoke is contemporary realism). If I was looking at things purely from a marketing perspective, I’d say this wasn’t the smartest move.

I don’t regret doing my blog tour by any means because I love the writing blogosphere and get so much out of it other than sales. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences with the people who have supported me since I started this blog. Next time I launch a book though, I will have different expectations about what a blog tour might achieve.

Learning 3: don’t rely on advertised shipping times

Apologies to those who have read about this already in interviews I’ve done, but it’s too big of a learning not to share here. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced on my self-publishing journey so far involved having to confront the possibility of having a book launch with no books. Createspace’s website says that you can ship books to Australia within three working days, but when I tried to place my order on Tues 16 October for my book launch on Sat 27 October, the estimated arrival date was Wed 31 October. Um, excuse me?! I knew that the three working days didn’t include printing, but I didn’t think that printing could account for the extra seven working days Createspace was saying it would take for my order to reach me.

I sent an e-mail to Createspace explaining the situation, and they essentially said there was nothing they could do because they don’t guarantee timeframes for wholesale orders. What the?! Where exactly does it say THAT on your website?! Panic stations!

And, of course, because Australia and America’s time zones are so different, I received this email at 2 a.m. Naturally, I woke Mark (my husband) up so we could try to figure out what to do. We discussed postponing the launch, trying to find a local printer who could print the books within the timeframe, going ahead with the launch without the books (Mark’s crazy idea), but eventually we discovered that if we placed several orders of smaller quantities, it would bring the delivery date forward to Fri 26 October — the day before the launch. Cutting it very fine, but that was our best option. So, at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning, we placed four orders and went to sleep. One of those shipments arrived on Fri 19 October and the rest arrived on Mon 22 October (much earlier than Createspace predicted). Crisis averted! Thank goodness!

The lesson? Don’t rely on advertised shipping times. Be on the safe side and order as soon as you possibly can.

Learning 4: book stores finalise their Christmas purchases in late October to early November. 

In mid-November, I approached a number of book stores in my local area to see if they would be interested in stocking The Big Smoke. They all said that they’d finalised their purchases for the Christmas period well in advance, and they asked me to come back in January.

This means that, unfortunately, I’ve missed out on the casual bookshop browser choosing to buy The Big Smoke for a Christmas present. Obviously it’s hard to know whether all stores work to the same timeframe but I thought I’d share it in case you’re interested in publishing independently around the Christmas period in the future.

Learning 5: the waiting time to get into local libraries (in my area) is 6-12 months.

Another time-related learning. When I approached my local council library last week, they told me that they have one reader who assesses every book to see if it’s suitable for their shelves and that the waiting time can be 6 to 12 months. I’m assuming this is only for independently published books (can’t see them holding back best sellers for 12 months!), but had I known about this earlier, I would have approached the libraries as soon as I received my first shipment of books.

Learning 6: Australia Post is ridiculously expensive compared to similar services. 

As some of you know, I’ve set up an order form on my blog for Australians and New Zealanders to order copies of The Big Smoke. One of the reasons I did this was because I thought it would be a lot cheaper for customers if I had books shipped to me in bulk numbers and then I mailed individual orders within Australia/New Zealand. However, would you believe it costs $13.50 to post one book from Brisbane to New South Wales (a neighbouring state), while someone in New South Wales can order my book direct from Amazon US for $9.98 shipping. Where is the logic in that?!

Granted, if someone orders it direct from me, it will get to them faster and I will get more royalties, but it still seems pretty nonsensical to me. So now I only recommend people purchase the book direct from me if they would like it signed or want it in a hurry (or they live in Brisbane and can collect it from me).

I’m interested to know whether this is similar in other countries or whether it’s just an Australian thing (I wouldn’t be surprised because we’re pretty expensive compared to other countries for a range of products and services).

Learning 7: You can get a refund on an e-book seven days after purchasing it from Amazon. 

I don’t understand the logic behind this one either. I think it’s good that Amazon has a return function because it’s easy to accidentally purchase an e-book with their one-click functionality, but I don’t get why you would give people up to seven days. If you were so inclined, you could read an entire book and then ask for a refund. You certainly can’t do this from a physical book store or practically any other store I can think of. Even if you didn’t like the book, is that grounds for a full refund? After all, you can’t go to the cinemas, watch an entire movie, and then ask for a refund because you didn’t like it.

So far, eight purchases of The Big Smoke have been refunded. This concerns me. I’m very happy with the content of the book so the only reason I can think of (other than people buying the book by accident or being cheap and nasty) is that my marketing material (cover, blurb etc) is giving people the wrong impression of the book, so their expectations aren’t being met when they start to read (you’d think the lengthy free sample would alleviate this, but perhaps not everybody looks at that).

If you have any thoughts about my marketing material or other theories on why people might get a book refunded, let me know.

Learning 8: casual readers are much more likely to rate your book on Goodreads than write a review on Amazon.

Initially, when readers told me how much they enjoyed The Big Smoke, I would thank them profusely and ask them if they would be so kind as to write a review on Amazon. While a lot of people said they would, few actually did.  From what I can tell, there are two main reasons for this:

  • To write a review on Amazon, you must have purchased a product from Amazon in the past. This may be common in other parts of the world, but apart from those with Kindles, not that many Australians have bought Amazon products. I didn’t realise this initially because I have a Kindle and even before then, I’ve bought books from Amazon to feed my reading habit.
  • Writing a review on a site like Amazon can be confronting for people who don’t regularly post online. Those of us with blogs don’t really bat an eyelid over it, but if you’re not used to writing stuff that is available for everyone to see, it can be a little intimidating.

Recently, I’ve changed from asking people to write a review on Amazon to simply rating the book on Goodreads. Here’s an example of my reply to a comment on my Facebook author page:

“Woohoo! So glad you enjoyed it! If you have a couple of seconds, it would be awesome if you could rate it out of five on Goodreads. You can sign in instantly with your Facebook account. I’d really appreciate it! 🙂 http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16037996-the-big-smoke

That is so much easier and so much less confronting for people, so it’s no wonder they’re more inclined to do it. I’ll definitely continue to take that approach from now on. 

Learning 9: Getting low ratings without reviews is frustrating 

While we’re talking about Goodreads ratings… The Big Smoke has received a few two-star ratings in the past month (four two-star ratings out of a total 27 ratings No one-star ratings so far!). I know that people have different tastes and so I always knew to expect some not-so-favourable reviews, but I hate not knowing why someone didn’t enjoy my work. What was it about the book that didn’t click with them? The characters? The plot? The overriding themes? My curiosity overwhelms me and I have to stop myself from writing them a message to ask. (I’m assuming that wouldn’t be cool…)

Learning 10: I’ll never get sick of hearing people say how much they enjoyed my book.

Okay, so this one isn’t too surprising, since I probably would have guessed before publishing that I’d continue to enjoy hearing from people who like my work. Who doesn’t? But still, it’s nice to know that the warm fuzzy an unprompted reader compliment gives you doesn’t diminish after you’ve received a few of them. I think it’s pretty safe to say that comments like this will always bring a smile to my face:

Thanks for a great read. I have really enjoyed “The Big Smoke”. Loved the Characters (even the not so nice ones!) and I even had a tear in a couple parts of the book. Well done!  [This comment was made on my Facebook page by someone I went to school with twelve years ago and haven’t seen since.]

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So there you have it. My top ten learnings from my first month of having an independently published book on the market. If there’s anything I haven’t covered that you’d like to know about, please don’t hesitate to ask. I know many of you have been curious to hear how it’s all going and I’m more than happy to share. 🙂

Next week, I’ll post what my next steps are for marketing The Big Smoke so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Your turn

Does any of what I’ve learnt surprise you? Did you know that you can get a refund from Amazon up to seven days after you purchase an e-book? Any thoughts on why people might be getting a refund on The Big Smoke? Are you surprised that my paperback sales are currently outpacing my e-book sales?

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Filed under Marketing, Publishing, Self publishing, The Big Smoke, Writing

The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest: my post! So many memories…

In the third stop of my blog tour, I’m guest posting on Rebecca Enzor’s blog about revising after contradictory beta reader feedback. Make sure you check it out!

And in the fourth stop, I’ve been interviewed by Bailey Kelsey over at Bailey is Writing! She’s got some awesome questions so make sure you drop by and read it!

Blogfest badge

As you probably know by now, I’m holding a blogfest called ‘The Year I Turned 18’ to celebrate the release of my debut new adult novel, The Big Smoke (in which the two main characters both turn 18). Posts can be about anything from that year – something momentous that happened, what your hopes and dreams were at that time, diary entries, anything that comes to mind. 

And this is MY post for the blogfest, all about the year I turned 18.

With my dad at my year 12 formal on the night after my last day of high school.

In preparation for this post, I pulled out my diary from 2001, excited to take a trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, I discovered that the vast majority of my diary is totally boring! I’m not quite sure why I decided to record monotonous events in such ridiculous detail, but I did. I shan’t bore you with those parts! Here’s a quote from early in the year while I was still waiting to find out which university I’d be getting into:

‘Sometimes you’ve got to wonder whether dreaming is that great if it sets you up for a fall. But I can’t possibly think that, because so much of my life is taken up by dreaming. But the dream world of mine and reality are so different. Will they ever be similar? Probably not, but I’ll still keep dreaming. Something’s got to keep me going, doesn’t it?

Why can’t I just be satisfied? Why?? I have so much which I probably take for granted, but on the inside my emotions are constantly see-sawing. Can’t you just balance, please? I don’t even know what I’m bloody complaining about. But maybe that’s part of the problem. I DON’T KNOW.’ 

How’s that for turbulent teenage hormones? 😉 And here’s a bit more:

‘Life just isn’t what dreams are made of. At least, not my dreams. The one thing that really scares me is, what if Billy [ex-boyfriend] is the best thing I’m going to get in life? What if it’s all down hill from here?’

Cheery, wasn’t I?!

A bit later after those entries, I discovered that I’d got into the course that I’d been dreaming of – drama at QUT. Unfortunately, I didn’t really write about it because I was too busy writing page after page about this random boy I obsessed over for two weeks. Teenagers! 😉

But getting into QUT meant a move away from my country home town to Brisbane (sound familiar?!). Here’s a diary excerpt from the day before I moved:

‘Kate [a close friend] just left. She slept over last night. We both cried today because it will be the last sleep over we ever have here, like this. It’s really just starting to hit me now. I’m moving out of home tomorrow. TOMORROW. As of tomorrow I’m supposed to be responsible and mature enough to look after myself. No more Mum and Dad to remind me when I’ve forgotten something. If I’m going to eat healthily, it’s up to me to buy myself fruit and vegetables. If I want to have clean clothes, I have to wash them myself…

It’s weird, I can’t wait to do it [move out], but then in other ways I don’t want to leave at all. I’ve been throwing out all of my old posters, and it just feels like the end of my childhood….’

Here’s the posters I was talking about:

My bedroom wall

My bedroom wall

And here’s me at my new home in Brisbane:

Outside my home in Brisbane

Outside the Brisbane share house

My room in the share house

My room in the Brisbane share house

Sometime later, I wrote this entry about my first trip back home:

‘I really enjoyed going back home to visit. It was really good to see Mum and Dad that night. However, the person that really affected me was Jack [my then seven-year-old brother]. I went down to him in the dirt where the pool used to be. The way his eyes lit up when he saw me almost brought tears to mine. He hugged me so furiously as well. It was really nice to hang out with them on the verandah, like usual. Mum even cooked roast lamb for tea… Jack was mortified that they made me do the dishes. I miss him so much! 

It was fairly cold with the air conditioner on, so I went to get a jumper out of my room. It then hit me that my room no longer held my belongings – they were all in Brisbane. Dad laughed because he realised what I’d gone to do. It made me feel quite sad though, standing in my room with none of my old stuff in it.

Mum and Dad said that in some ways, it felt like someone had died. I know exactly what they meant. It reminded me of when Kerry [a friend] changed schools at the beginning of year seven.  When the rest of us talked at lunch time, I could feel her absence. The conversation seemed to be missing an element that Kerry had provided. When I realised she’d never be back to fill that gap, it truly felt that, in a sense, she had died. 

But I was back. Back listening to Mum and Dad argue, and Jack being told to be quite and sit on his chair… ahh, home! 

A couple of months later, I wrote this poem:

The morning after…

As I sit, waiting for the train
I look through murky eyes
God, I feel like hell today
But I guess that’s no surprise
At a place called Cannon Hill 
Wherever that might be
I don’t really even care
It means sweet nothing to me
The only thing that matters now
Is getting home to bed
Hopefully that will calm
The throbbing in my head

Bits and pieces of the party
Are floating through my mind
People drinking Bourbon and Rum
Or whatever they could find
When I arrived at the party
There were only three people I knew
But as the night progressed
That number slowly grew

Watching a bunch of people 
I’d never met before
I could tell who were friends
And who wanted more
A couple at the party
Were quite saddening to view
She flirted with all his friends
And there was nothing he could do

By the time my accompniants left
I was feeling quite at ease
I’d made friends with everyone
Even the girlfriend tease

Crashing at a bloke’s house 
That I barely even knew
Seemed quite fine and natural
What else was I to do? 

As I awoke the next morning
My stomach let me know
That my fun was definitely over
It was obviously time to go

An expensive taxi trip later
I’ve still got to bus and train
On the wrong side of the city
When even thinking’s a strain!

But despite my current seediness
And having to wait around in the rain
I know that come next weekend
I’ll probably do it all again. 

Towards the end of my first semester at uni, I had a very short romance with a guy I worked with at Eagle Boys Pizza. My diary says this:

‘Well, I broke up with Ben, so that’s over. Somehow, everybody at work found out about us, so we’ve been the topic of constant conversation and jokes ever since. It’s interesting between us though because we’re still friendly, but what happened between us is always present. I’ve actually been dreaming about him recently, but it’s not really him. I mean, it’s him physically, but personality wise, it’s someone else. I guess it’s my made-up Mr Perfect’s personality – someone I unfortunately haven’t had the pleasure of meeting!…

Mum and Dad have supported me so much lately with all of my uni fears and struggles. A few nights ago, Dad drove all the way to Brisbane and took me home because I just flipped from the stress and thought I was going to drop out of uni. Mum and Dad both totally supported me and allowed me to consider it at home that night. The next day, when I had decided that I at least wanted to finish the semester, they helped me do what I had to do to get back on my feet. 

They also helped me when I slacked off with studying for my only exam and then totally panicked for fear of failing it. They helped me get my head together and study for it. Dad called me every two hours while I was home to see how I was progressing and to keep me motivated. It was so insane though. I just let myself get into a mess and I hid in it because I was so scared and so unprepared to do anything about it. I just wanted the situation to go away and not to deal with it.”

That was the last diary entry I wrote for more than five years. At the end of that first semester, I returned to my country home with my tail between my legs. Although I didn’t realise this at the time, it was a classic case of big fish/small pond to small fish/big pond syndrome. At my country high school, I was the best at drama. In my uni drama course though, everybody had been the best at high school, and now all of a sudden I was only mediocre. Poor little teenage Cally couldn’t handle that!

So I dropped out of acting. Interestingly, I couldn’t go for long without a creative outlet, so I turned to writing instead. And I decided to write a novel based around a lesson that I felt I needed to learn  myself (which you may have picked up on from some of these excerpts). The lesson was this: getting a boyfriend wasn’t the answer to finding happiness; I had to do that on my own. Those first ideas were the seeds that grew into what we now  know as The Big Smoke!

My 18th birthday

My 18th birthday (with my brother, grandma and father also in the photo)

Ready to hit the clubs

Ready to hit the clubs

Before the year was out, I met the guy (at the Pig N’ Whistle pub) who would become my next serious boyfriend. A very cute boy called Mark… who is now my husband of eight years! And to think that 17-year-old Cally was so worried that her most romantic days were behind her! Kind of makes me smile now… 😉

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the roller coaster that was the year I turned 18 (Note: I’ve changed some names from my diary entries to protect the innocent!).

If you’d like to read more posts for the Year I Turned 18 Blogfest, visit the Linky List!

And don’t forget to visit Bailey’s blog and Rebecca’s blog for my interview and guest post!

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Filed under Blogfests, The Big Smoke, Writing

Less than a week till The Big Smoke book launch!

I can’t believe that The Big Smoke launch date has come up so quickly! I’ve got so much planned that I’m beside myself with excitement (and perhaps a touch stressed as well)!

Book launch

The first big event is on this Saturday 27 October –  my real-life, physical book launch! About 60 people are coming, and all of them have supported the creation of The Big Smoke in some way, whether they’ve been beta readers, members of my novel writers group, or good old friends and family cheering me on from the sidelines.

The launch is going to be pretty casual but I do have a few things planned, including some readings from the book, a question-and-answer session, and a giant cake with 11 candles – one for every year it’s taken me to produce the book!

Blog tour

Then, next Monday, the craziness really begins! Monday kicks off both my blog tour and my blogfest. From Monday 29 October to Monday 12 November, I’ll be guest posting or being interviewed on a different blogging buddy’s slice of cyberspace. Here’s the line-up:

  • Monday 29 October – Michael Offutt – mental illness in fiction
  • Tuesday 30 October – Rachel Morgan Writes – character interview with Seb
  • Wednesday 31 October – Rebecca Enzor – the joys and frustrations of beta-reader feedback
  • Thursday 1 November – Bailey is writing – interview about writing The Big Smoke, self publishing and my characters’ most irrational fears
  • Friday 2 November – Melissa Maygrove  – interview about my inspiration for The Big Smoke, my writing space and my advice for new writers
  • Monday 5 November – Seeking the Write Life – the best writing-related decision I’ve ever made
  • Tuesday 6 November – Steph Bowe – using real experiences as a platform for fiction
  • Wednesday 7 November – Charity: My Writing Journey – the soundtrack to The Big Smoke
  • Thursday 8 November – The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective – the link between romance and happiness in fiction
  • Friday 9 November – Laura J Moss – interview about my road to self-publishing
  • Saturday 10 November – Laura Howard: Finding Bliss – ‘six questions’ interview about the writing lessons I’ve learned and my top three favourite books
  • Monday 12 November – Arlee Bird: Tossing it Out – is it possible/advisable to write from the point of view of the opposite sex?

In case you’re wondering, I haven’t actually finished writing all of these posts yet – that’s partly where that ‘stress’ I mentioned earlier comes in! But I’m thrilled to be appearing on so many wonderful blogs and to get the opportunity to share my thoughts on so many interesting topics. I hope you’ll follow me around the blogosphere and visit the awesome bloggers who are hosting me!

Blogfest

Most of you would have already heard about this by now, so I’ll keep this part brief.  To celebrate the official launch of The Big Smoke, I’ll be hosting a blogfest called The Year I Turned 18 from Monday 29 October to Friday 2 November. Seeing as both Ceara and Seb (the two main characters) turn 18 throughout the story, I thought it might be fun for us all to post about the year we turned 18. All entries will receive a coupon to download an e-copy of The Big Smoke from Smashwords for 99 cents (down from $4.99) and will go into the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher.

I decided that my badge for the blogfest was a bit boring so I snazzed it up a little. Here’s the new one:

To find out more about the blogfest, go to my The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest post.

Total craziness!

… So yeah, there’s a bit coming up in the next few weeks. Oh, and did I mention I’m 28 weeks pregnant?

Babymoon on Fraser Island

My dear husband Mark is getting a little antsy about when we’re going to get the nursery sorted, and I keep saying, ‘after the book launch’, so I can’t see things slowing down for me for a little while. But you know what? I love it! Can’t wait to share this crazy ride with you!! 🙂

How about you?

What are you up to? Which blog tour post are you most looking forward to reading? Are you already sick of hearing about The Big Smoke (I hope not!)?

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Filed under Blogfests, The Big Smoke, Writing