Working holidays, writing myths, and patrons

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Has it really been more than a month since I posted on this dear old blog? What the hell have I been up to? Well, dear reader, I’ve been enjoying a bit of a working holiday.

I spent a good three weeks undertaking some firsthand research for a long-term non-fic book project, which entailed camping out in the wilderness of Tasmania.

And I’ve been busy pulling together some anthology projects, the first of which is an M.R. James inspired collection of creepy tales authored by some very exciting (several of which are very well known) authors.

It’s going to be a cracking collection, and I’m sure old Montague, if he were about, would certainly approve!

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I’ve also engaged in a bit of crime – watching it on the box, that is – enjoying Murdoch Mysteries (S1 – there’s another 7 to watch, apparently!), and some tense, nail-biting drama in the form of Broadchurch (S2), and Fortitude. All highly recommended.

The latter two series do a good trade in red herrings – more potential suspects than you can poke a stick at, but at least the plots keep you coming back for more.

Of course there have been other casualties during this fallow writing period – most tellingly the garden and the housework. It’s hard to get your work ethic back after several weeks of communing with nature, but one does have to pay the bills.

Speaking of the bills (of which there are many, I think they were breeding under the fridge!) I stumbled across a series of interesting posts about how writers *really* financially support themselves. There is a prevailing belief that most writers just write all day, miraculously making ends meet while churning out moderate to excellent prose.

Well, some do. While others can, largely thanks to inheritances or wealthy patrons (read: spouses or family trusts), plod along and write whenever they please. But most of us work other jobs. I’d urge you to read the many comments and links, and enjoy the honest revelations.

Here’s the post that kicked it all off, Ann Bauer’s “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. It’s refreshing, and it’s raw. And we’re all green with envy, Ann! Your bloke sounds like he needs cloning 🙂

Today, I am essentially “sponsored” by this very loving man who shows up at the end of the day, asks me how the writing went, pours me a glass of wine, then takes me out to eat. He accompanies me when I travel 500 miles to do a 75-minute reading, manages my finances, and never complains that my dark, heady little books have resulted in low advances and rather modest sales.

As for me – yes I do work full-time as a writer, but not for myself. My own writing is largely done on the train each day early in the morning or evening, or on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes it’s churned out during fits of insomnia. But it’s rarely if ever penned between the hours of 9-5. That time, friends, belongs to The Day Job, without which I would not be able to fund much of what I do, including living and eating.

At the moment my independently-published books break even and pay for themselves production-wise with a bit more besides, and I have a trade-published book that presents me with a nice combined ELR-PLR payment each June, equating to slightly less than a week’s pay. Icing on the passive income that is the book royalty.

I write for pleasure, and for interest.

I don’t write for profit – yet – but I’m getting there.

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Short Story Challenge 2014

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Hello 2014!

I’ve decided to welcome in the new year by starting a blog, and setting myself a particular writing challenge – writing a short story a month.

But not only writing a story a month, but having it edited and publishing it via Amazon’s Kindle program. That’s 12 stories in 12 months, ranging in wordage from 2500-7000 a piece – potentially 80,000-odd words or roughly a book’s worth of stories. The other part of this equation involves publishing an anthology of these stories at the end of the year.

It’s a tall order, and perhaps that’s why I’m nailing my colours to the mast now – I need a public platform to keep me honest!

Along the way I’ll be sharing my writing approach, tips and general advice (no tricks – this will be 100% blood, sweat and tears).

I have quite a few other writing projects on the boil this year, but writing short stories on a regular basis (and blogging about it) is all about reforming my writing practises – and setting up some good long-term habits.

As a self-described ‘binge writer’, I’m looking to replace weekly streams of consciousness with structured daily writing.

Working 9-5, my free time is finite, so I will be using mornings commuting and ‘Library Saturdays’ to pen and polish my stories in preparation for publication. Hmmm, that’s a lot of Ps!

Kicking off January is Army Dreamers, my short horror story about a group of soldiers who encounter an ancient and deadly enemy in the Australian outback.

Oh, and did I mention the anthology will be a mixture of horror and fantasy? Well now I have.

Let me know what you think.