Kirstie Olley

Mother/writer/gamer Kirstie Olley is president of Vision Writers group and author of many quirky speculative fiction stories that have been competition winners, Aurealis Awards finalists, and honourable mentions in international competitions.

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Another month another writers’ group meeting. We had a great one with both of last month’s newbies returning for round two, and a couple more newbies making their first appearance. Though a lot of our veterans were at the retreat there was still a lot of great feedback given on the submitted pieces and of course I’ve posted my ‘meeting takeaway’ piece of advice on the Vision Writers website.

Giving Your Reader Setting Up Front

 

 

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The goals I set at the start of July were

  • Mudgerwokee edits – did two rounds with the editor and now all I should have to do is wait for the release in November
  • Help promote the release of the anthology Tales from The Sunrise Lands which contains my short story Hanabi to Kitsune(Fireworks and Foxes) – I did the social media, blog post, newsletter, and updated my website to include the book page. I still have another blog post I want to do about kishotenketsu story structure, which I used when writing Hanabi to Kitsune, I’ll get to that soon ;p
  • More Vision Writers work – did some website housekeeping, lots of little stuff like adding links in the sidebar to give easy access to the writing prompts and meeting lessons. I got the spine width for the cover of the print version of Darkest Depths off to our cover designer, wrote a promotional piece for the group to be featured on the Writers Group Convention website and a different one for the new version of the QWC website. I also did some more behind the scenes work too.
  • Edit and appropriately name ‘Kitsune In Spaaaaaace’ – edited as best as I can manage by myself and ready to receive the editorial critique in September, complete with new title: Not Human, Not Alien
  • Commence and ideally complete edits on Written By The Stars novel – I did the first three chapters, but honestly I only spent two days this month on it because everything else ended up prioritised. I really need to buckle down harder on it.

There were a decent number of new words written this month, a total of 10,500. I wrote the first draft, edited and submitted to my group for critique a YA magical realism short story Dressed For Success(5,100 words) about an asexual succubus who dreams of working at the daycare her father did before he passed away. It’s choc full of LGBTQ characters, sarcasm and snark, and involves a heist to steal something from a special exhibit at the Brisbane museum. I hope it sells to the anthology I wrote it for, but if not, I’m sure it’ll find a good fun home.

I finished a first draft of a short story called Mermaid In A Jar (4,200 words) about a starving artist left to care for his 8 yo niece by the wintry ocean for a few days and a discovery they make. It’s in dire need of editing though as I change tense repeatedly, which happens whenever I try to write first person past tense, I always slip back into present tense ;p

I also started the first draft for Nothing Charming getting 1,270 words down, not much, but certainly better than zero. Looking at my plan for the series, each of the stories gets progressively longer until we hit novel length for one.

On the learning side of things, I finished reading Save The Cat Goes to the Movies and read Randy Ingermanson’s How to Write A Novel Using The Snowflake Method. I also binged on the whole first two seasons of Writing Excuses (I started listening at season 9 a few years back, and was too lazy to manually download the older seasons until now).

My goals for August are:

  • Focus on editing Written By The Stars
  • Finish Nothing Charming first draft
  • Edit/revise Dressed For Success with group’s feedback and submit
  • Self-edit Mermaid In A Jar and submit to group for critique
  • Apply for SAF grant
  • If the cover comes back in time, get the proof and – if time – maybe even do the print run of Darkest Depths print version.

Stretch goal(because miracles can happen):

  • Commence edits/properly title ‘Skeleton Romance’.

 

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Tales of the Sunrise Lands has just released from Guardbridge Books and one of the stories in this cool anthology is mine: Hanabi to Kitsune (which translates to ‘Fireworks and Foxes’).

The story follows Mayu, a high schooler in current day Japan. In traditional high schooler style she has a crush on an upper classman (notice me senpai, notice me ;p ). She’s managed to catch his eye once at a fireworks festival, but she’s determined to do it again, even going so far as to steal a beautiful yukata from her grandmother’s attic. What Mayu doesn’t realise is her act of theft will result in mythic consequences.

I  had a lot of fun with this one. I got to show off some of my knowledge of kitsuke(the art of kimono fashion), kitsune and a cavalcade of yokai, and got to come up with two more awesome Japanese names complete with matching and meaningful kanji (if you don’t know what I mean but are curious check out this old post on the complexity of Japanese names). I also played around with kishotenketsu story structure, though the end result can be viewed in both a three act way as well as a kishotenketsu sort of way(more on kishotenketsu in a later post).

You might also notice Mayu’s love interest is called Arima-senpai. My beagle, Arima, recently passed away, and though this story was written and submitted long before that, I can’t help but feel it’s a beautiful little tribute to him.

If you’re a fellow Japanophile I hope you’ll check out the anthology. You can find it on Amazon, or buy it directly from Guardbridge Books(if you can, buy it from Guardbridge, it helps support this awesome and ever-growing small press).

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I’ve posted another writing prompt on the Vision Writers website. This time I’ve come up with some lines that could be opening OR ending lines and am challenging/hoping to inspire you to pick two lines, make one your start the other your end. Head over to the Vision Writers site to check it out.

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We came back from the weekend away to bad news this week; our beagle Arima had passed away.

Arima was the son of our first dog, Ezri, and like his mother was a pedigree beagle (yep, papers and all). I can remember the day they were born, twelve and a half years ago. T-J and I were so nervous and Ezri probably just wanted us out of her face while she paced and nested and did her thing. We stayed up all night, but the puppies didn’t come till the next morning (I seem to be cursed/curse those around me with long labours ;p).

Arima was named for one of my favourite manga heroes: Soichiro Arima from His and Her Circumstances/Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou.You might be sensing a pattern or anime-derived pet names.

While all the other puppies had homes to go to Arima didn’t, but I was only too glad to keep him with us. Because Arima was bred to perfect breed standards – ideal black saddle and all – we always intended to put him in a show one day, but then next thing you know we have kids and then he has grey hairs and the time passed.

Unlike his namesake Arima was always a mischief. He was a master escape artist (as multiple fees from the local pound when they found him before us can attest), and loved breaking into the house to track down any unattended food. He was also almost always the one to start up a howl, and if you didn’t stop him soon all three dog were howling, then every dog in the street!

The last Christmas we had at our place we served the ham up on a platter, left it on the table to go get the rest of the feast only to find Arima and his mischievous little pack escaped from their area and up on the table scoffing the ham. At least someone had ham that Christmas ;p

In his entire life I don’t think he ever spent more than a whole day away from his mother (actual mother, not me his fur-baby mother ;p ), and even then only because one or the other of them was at the vet. When his brother, Porthos, came back to live with us they became an inseparable pack, which made walks more difficult since leaving anyone behind resulted in endless devastated howling(trust me, we tried many times, particularly after our children were born). I barely have a photo of one of the trio without at least one of the others photobombing. Their pack also includes our cats who were never chased or heckled even once that I noticed.

We’ll miss our little boy and it’s evident his pack still misses him too.

the pack sleeping on top of the table because Baron the cat was ‘hogging’ the dog bed beneath (Arima is the one looking at the camera)

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photo by Fabrizio Russo

After another great meeting of the Vision Writers Group yesterday I’m all excited by having three brand new members show up as well as several recent newbies come back again. I also LOVE it when newbies are hungry for and appreciative of our feedback. It always makes me so happy 🙂

Once again I’ve done a ‘meeting takeaway’ post over on the Vision Writers blog about my favourite piece of feedback given. This time the advice was on how to make unlikeable characters more relatable. Check it out

The Unlikeable Ones

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Ha ha, I forgot to do my May goals round up and with it list my June goals, but I’ll run them down and their success(or not) here together.

  • Do some beta feedback for people who’ve betaed for me – this was a bigger job than anticipated. I betaed two entire novels; 170,000 words. It took almost all of my May
  • Complete my self edits of Mudgerwokee and send it on to my editor for the professional edits – done and sent. Contract is signed, just waiting for the edits to come back sometime in July/August.
  • Fix my damn shift keyI haven’t fixed it really, apparently it’s beyond repair (or reasonable cost to repair). I’m currently circumventing the issue by plugging our desktop pc’s keyboard in.  All up I preferred the duct taped laptop to the no shift key laptop ;p
  • Finalise the print version of Darkest Depths for Vision Writers group – price comparison done, so then I had to check and tweak our file to meet the company’s specs. Now all that’s left is figuring out how many copies each person wants and getting the payments together, then upload and print.
  • Finish revision on Glass Slippers – I got a little bit further, figuring out what sort of story it was going to be, therefore which feedback to use, but didn’t really start much pen to paper/fingers to keyboard work.
  • Start writing the first draft of Nothing Charming – frankly, I didn’t touch it 🙁
  • Recommence submitting my short stories that are ready – I submitted Foxworth to the Writers of the Future contest, and a couple of works published last year to a ‘Years Best Australian Fantasy and Horror’ anthology, but came up against the wall due to the fact I don’t have many more short stories that are polished enough for sale or are of a saleable length. I’ve been writing a lot of novelletes/novellas(10,000 words+) lately, and they aren’t as easy to sell to traditional markets
  • Clear up the Vision Writers Group Boards – there was a lot of information up there from various stages in the groups life. 21 years is a long time and a lot of changes have happened in many aspects of the group, but old data kept popping up and confusing newbies. I’ve gone through and checked almost all files on the board and updated any that needed it. It took almost a week, but I did it!
Harley & Xander hard at work on her birthday presents

June was a little lacking because the first week was devoted to organising Harley’s Moana-themed birthday party (which was awesome, I made kakamora cookies, Tamatoa cupcakes, and a Moana Dolly Varden-style cake, and she was so cute in her Moana party dress), and then I splashed my arm with oil frying up Xander’s favourite fish. The splatter burns were mostly on the inside of my arm, meaning typing and using a mouse would rub my burns on they keyboard/desk. I popped blisters by refusing to give up though, because each month I seem to be afflicted with *something* which limits my productivity.

In July my goals will be:

  • Mudgerwokee edits when they come in – the editor said they should come in during July or August, but it’ll be top of my list when it lands in my inbox
  • Help promote the release of the anthology Tales from The Sunrise Lands which contains my short story Hanabi to Kitsune(Fireworks and Foxes) – I’m super excited about this one because my story will be the first in the anthology!
  • More Vision Writers work – including some tidying of the website, updating links, getting and keeping the ball rolling on the print version of Darkest Depths, and writing a promotional piece for the group to be featured on another website.
  • Edit and appropriately name ‘Kitsune In Spaaaaaace’ – I backed a cool project on Kickstarter and one of the bonuses was a short fiction critique to be given on a piece of mine in September, so I need to have something polished for that
  • Commence and ideally complete edits on Written By The Stars novel so I can get some beta feedback to finally allay my worries about the novel and get it ready for submitting to agents.

 

And now for my mid-year check up on my yearly goals.

  • Publish at least three more of my Retailored Fairy TalesGlass Bones just came out and is an RFT, and Groundskeeper has been sold but may or may not be published this year (depends on the publisher). So I have one, maybe two so far. I was originally planning on doing the Charming stories, but I want to have several prepared so I can release them relatively close together. I don’t want to publish anything that’s not ready yet, and with my current pace, I might not be able to produce the right quality, as such this one *may* get bumped. It’s certainly one of my lowest priorities
  • Finish first draft, complete edits, and get to beta readers ‘Skeleton Romance’ (also give it a real title ;p ) – first draft completed, but stalled on edits partially due to self-doubt (I really need to kick my paranoia in the ass I think, but it’s not so easy as it sounds)
  • Continue writing and traditionally publishing stories  – well under way, Glass Bones is already out, Hanabi to Kitsune will be out later this month, Mudgerwokee is due for release in November and Groundskeeper is sold. I do need to put some more effort into writing shorter stories for traditional publication though.
  • Continue learning – I’ve been to a Joanna Penn panel, listen to at least six different podcasts on writing and publishing every week, have gone through an online course and am going through a long to-read list of writing books (currently reading ‘Save The Cat’) so this goal is going just dandy.
  • Continue being an awesome president of Vision Writers Group – I always worry I’m not doing enough on this one, but I’ve been working on the print version of our last anthology, updating the membership files on the board and website, writing promos, getting our book in catalogues and new members have been coming in and not always running away so I’m not failing dismally at least.
  • Write at least three more Retailored Fairy Tales – this is what I’ve been lagging on most, though it’s the thing I want to do most – isn’t that weird…
  • Complete a novel (as in to the point I can resume submitting to agents) – this is probably the most important. I currently have no polished novel out there ‘doing the rounds’. I need to focus on this which is why you’ll notice on my July goals list is the task of finishing edits on Written By The Stars and getting it out to beta readers.

So I’m not cutting any goals just yet, but I am reorganising what’s at the top of my list and what’s at the bottom. I also need to buckle down a bit harder. Pop some blisters if I have to because I need to get moving! Let’s do this thing!

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Another month another writing prompt over on the Vision Writers website, check it out to get your creative juices flowing.

Writing Prompt: Wrongly Accused

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My goals and their results for last month were:

  • Help promote the release of the anthology WARRIOR (which contains my latest short story: Glass Bones) – newsletter, blog, social media. Even made my mum read it ;p
  • Revise Glass Slippers – started, but this is a bigger job than anticipated. I’ve compiled all the feedback, but I need to analyse what I really want the story to be, so I know what to include and what to not, then figure out all the hows  (I’ve started some of that, but still more to do)
  • Revise Charming Rivals – did not even start this
  • Begin the first draft of Nothing Charming nor this
  • Finish the first draft of Light In The Deep – completed the first draft yesterday (by the skin of my teeth) at 10,800 words
  • Do a bunch of research on tension – I read a bunch of articles, read (and re-read) some sections in writing books on it, and read a couple of novels touted by others as good examples of the use of tension. Overall I think I’ve got a much better grasp on it, but I’m still struggling with how exactly I broke the tension in the scene this problem was brought up in ;p

Considering I was up against school holidays, floods and funerals, toothache and toddler tantrums, a swollen arm and my shift key won’t work (no kidding, after the latest toddler attack on my laptop neither of my shift buttons work.  At all, I’m either using caps lock or copy and pasting symbols from other documents ;p ), I think I did pretty damn well.

This month I need to:

  • Do some beta feedback for people who’ve betaed for me – this might be a big job, or small, depending on how much feedback the stories will need. I guess I’ll just have to see.
  • Complete my self edits of Mudgerwokee and send it on to my editor for the professional edits
  • Fix my damn shift key. No seriously you have no idea how maddening it is writing without one
  • Finalise the print version of Darkest Depths for my writers group so we can finally get this up and happening
  • Finish revision on Glass Slippers
  • Start writing the first draft of Nothing Charming

Those last two are really going to depend on how much time the first goal ends up taking up ;p I’m also hoping to face just a little less adversity this month – but you can never count on that ;p

I also have a stretch goal of putting some of my old short stories that are long since out of their contract period up for individual purchase, but we’ll see how things go.

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Another writing prompt over on the Vision writers blog today. i hope you have fun with it 🙂

Writing Prompt: Tongue Twisters To Life