Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

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New Release: Groundskeeper in Stupefying Stories v 22

It’s official, my latest short story, Groundskeeper, is finally out.

Groundskeeper is the first story in Stupefying Stories v 22 and is set in my Retailored Fairy Tales world. It focuses on Shena, the groundskeeper for a magic labyrinth.

In the heart of the labyrinth is a tower. In the tower, a princess. Ruling over all, an evil lord. But who maintains that magical labyrinth? Lord Rangatt sure isn’t going to trim all those hedges himself, nor maintain the traps or feed the beasts. That’s Shena’s job, passed down from her father, and she takes great pride in the fact not one prince has made it even as far as the tower. That pride wars with guilt however, and her awareness of how the other townspeople view her. Despite that, change can be a dangerous thing when it involves quitting your job for a powerful warlock, not to mention abandoning your late father’s legacy isn’t easy to do either. What kind of a catalyst does Shena need to finally decide on her fate for herself?

Of course there’s lots of other cool stories in the volume too, so check it out in ebook on Amazon now. Paperback coming soon.

Coming Soon: Groundskeeper

The latest Retailored Fairy Tales story, Groundskeeper, will be released very soon in the upcoming Stupefying Stories vol 22. You can check out the table of contents for it here on the publisher’s blog. If the order is exact it looks like this will be the third time one of my stories starts off an anthology so I’m quite pleased. Also there’s a lot of very interesting sounding other stories I’m keen to read.

Groundskeeper takes place in the same world as Glass Bones, Charming, and The Troll’s Toll. Here’s a little blurb for the story:

In the middle of a labyrinth stands a tower with a princess trapped inside. Many a prince tries to rescue her but the labyrinth is too cruel and none even make it to the tower. This fact is a matter of pride for Shena, the labyrinth’s groundskeeper, but the latest would-be hero has Shena questioning if she’s as evil as she thinks she is.

If you want to be emailed as soon as Stupefying Stories vol 22 comes out, join my new releases newsletter (you’ll also receive a free ebook of my Redlitzer-winning short story Stolen Hearts as a bonus!).

Love Is A Highway

My car going up on the tow truck while I watch from my ride to the wedding

OK, I’m pushing the limits of leeway since the song is ‘LIFE Is A Highway’ and the road I broke down on was a motorway, but shhh.

So I was on the way to the wedding of an old work friend, Brad, and my car broke down ON THE MOTORWAY. Of course I was driving in the fast lane when the accelerator suddenly cuts out so I have to navigate in a rapidly decelerating car across four lanes of traffic to the safety of the shoulder. And naturally by the time I get near the shoulder I also have to cut across and extra lane of merging traffic from the on-ramp (why should it be easy ;p )

You can imagine the fun: a lightly smoking car, me in a fancy dress and heels trying to figure out all the things that have to be done to ensure we are safe, the car is safe, and we still get to the wedding – because I sure as hell wasn’t about to miss Brad and Scott’s wedding ;p

The happy couple

Now here’s a tidbit for my Aussie readers. If you every break down on a freeway/highway/motorway you can call up (in Qld RACQ, in other states I’m not sure) and you get a free emergency tow off the freeway to a safe location for you and the car.

You can also, if you have someone babysitting your kids for the wedding, call them up and beg them to also drive you to the wedding ;p

We missed the ceremony sadly (walked up the steps to the chapel just as the guests came out and started walking down them), but we made it to the reception and had a great time.

June Goals Round-Up 2018 + Halfway Mark Check

In June Harley turned 3, so cue birthday party! She had a fabulous Trolls themed party at the new local park. She had a blast.

The class on writing better body language took up a lot more headspace and time than I’d expected. It was totally worth it, but it also meant nearly all my writing time each day was taken up by it. And with winter hitting here in usually sunny Queensland I can’t even pretend I can breathe through my nose.

Editing T-J’s novel is harder than you’d think. He’s requested I write additions in and he’ll edit them, but his voice is on the other side of the planet from any of the voices I’ve used, and whenever I come across something I have to write extensive explanations of what I mean/why I mention or corrected it. It’s a very clean draft but there’s still lots to do >.<

Because the course and T-J’s novel were my priorities nothing else on my goals list for June got looked at. It’s maddeningly frustrating for me when I see ‘how little I got done’ but i know I still got a fair amount done so I’m trying to not get too upset over it. Plus, when I did my mid-year goal check (which you can see below) I realised I was doing pretty well for the year.

Now for my mid-year goal check!

  1. Publish the Charming For Hire Series: Some progress achieved. I have the first three stories completed and have feedback on them all, just need to implement the feedback on the third one and outline and write the fourth. I want the fourth to be at least finished to first draft level before I work on covers ect to release the first three so I can do a rapid release schedule.
  2. Get beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely: I have the feedback, I just need to implement it ;p
  3. Continue writing and publishing short fiction in traditional publishing markets: I’ve written six new short stories so far this year and while I do need to hurry and get a few stories back out in circulation I’m always careful to do a new edit or at least read-thru and tinker of each story after it has been rejected. I have one story I’m waiting to receive the editor’s changes on before publication in the next month or two.
  4. Take my back catalogue of short stories that are out of their exclusivity periods and self-publish them: Got nowhere so far, but mostly because I’m waiting to get the Charming stories ready so I can release some of these in any gaps in the Charming series’ schedule.
  5. Start working towards creating a monthly fiction podcast: I’m doing plenty of research on this, a microphone is on it’s way. My big stumbling block ATM is whether it’ll be a short fiction podcast (a different short story each episode) or a serialised fiction podcast(one story told in chunks across multiple episodes). Until I know which format I’m going to do I can’t really proceed.
  6. Continue being a good president to Vision Writers Group: No complaints ;p Though we are having some fun with the print version of our most recent anthology which is taking up a frustrating amount of time as I have to tinker over and over again with files.
  7. Complete one of the unfinished novels: I completed the first draft of ‘Key, Clocks, Quests’ in May so huzzah, this one is 100% completed (though KCQ itself still needs to be self edited and beta read before it goes out in the world, but I have a finished draft and that’s what the goal was about).
  8. Continue learning: Listening to podcasts, reading craft books, reading books in my genre, researching markets I want to sell to, researching successful self publishing, researching book marketing, attending webinars, doing courses (the 5 Years to Become a Bestseller course, and Margie Lawson’s ‘Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like A Psychologist’ for two I’ve done so far this year). Also every month critiquing others work. I think I can safely say I’ve got this one (not that I’ll be stopping or even slowing down on this one; I know I’ve still got heaps to learn)
  9. Rewrite Written by the Stars: no progress thus far at all. Too busy on all the other stuff, but I do still have half a year ;p

I’ve broken down all the tasks I need to do for the rest of the year to keep on track with my 5 Years To Become a Bestseller course and my own personal goals and I *should* be able to manage it, though I’ll have to be careful not to get distracted.

My goals for July are:

  • Complete an early stage edit of my husband’s book, I Am Not Liam Neeson
  • Beta-read a friend’s novel
  • Use Beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming to edit it
  • Start using beta-reader feedback on Lovely/Lonely to edit the novel
  • Write at least one new short story
  • Catch up on the reading for my five year best seller course

I’m reading some crime/thriller books right now to help me get more in the headspace for T-J’s crime/thriller, but of course his book is also heavily comedic so I’m struggling to find stuff that’s really like that out there. Any recommendations?

Books I read in June:

  • Surpassing Certainty: Janet Mock’s second memoir, focusing on her 20s. I’m ready for her one about her 30s now (pity she’s not finished living them, I’ll be waiting a fair few years)
  • Feed: at long last, I’ve only been meaning to read this when it was just a single book on its own ;p
  • Deadline: sequel to above
  • Blackout: end of the trilogy to above. Great books if you like the zombocalypse and political thrillers smooshed together
  • Rise: the novella collection, in audiobook hours almost as long as the 2/3 of the trilogy ;p
  • Feedback: because I’m on a roll with this series ;p
  • Beneath The Sugar Sky: back to the home for wayward children(children who’ve been through portals to fantasy worlds) and boy did I love it. Same author as the above books, but sugary sweet now)
  • Attachments: Rainbow Rowell serves me nostalgia, D&D, and awesome characters, but lags a bit on the romance in this one
  • Eleanor & Park: Rowell does NOT disappoint in the romance department this time!
  • The Princess Bride: I’ve been looking for the ‘unabridged’ version for DECADES, I gave in, read this and realised, there’s no abridgement, it’s just the frame story for the book XD
  • The Sleeping Doll: recommended in my Margie Lawson course and a crime novel to help with getting my head in that space for T-J’s novel
  • Roadside Crosses: the sequel to The Sleeping Doll.

May Goals Round-Up 2018

Oh what an eventful month ;p As seems to be my habit I have yet another injury to report, this time spectacularly sprained ankle. Fortunately, unlike my repeatedly injured arm, a sprained ankle is GREAT for writing because it’s the perfect excuse to sit down with your leg elevated and get to typing.

As such, I met my main goal and completed the first draft of ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ at 130,000 words. Obviously there’s going to be some trimming before it’s ready. I have an editing plan set out since I’ve written this draft in stints across the last FIVE years, but I’m following the well-beloved advice of letting the manuscript ‘breathe’ for a while first. This gives me a chance to work on some other projects instead of going into full burnout on the project.

Speaking of burnout I am now 100% sure NaNoWriMo no longer works with my personal writing style. Something about the competition effect of it makes me forgive crappy writing too much(because who cares, more words) and push myself way to hard for the ‘win’. It took me more than two weeks after NaNo was done to write the final 10k words because I felt so burned out, for the first 9 days of May I was only writing 100 or so words a day and those by great force of effort. If I ever say I’m going to do NaNo again, remind me of this moment please.

On the plus side though, I did have that moment of pieces falling together perfectly during the final battle when things I’d been putting in on a whim suddenly converged with one another for a perfect recovery from the blackest moment, enabling my hero to defeat the big bad 😀 I even started writing it with tears of excitement in my eyes!

I started working on T-J’s novel too. It’s an amazingly clean draft for a first timer (and I know what they look like usually thanks to the massive amount of critiquing I’ve been doing over the last six years at Vision Writers Group meetings). Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect – there’s still pleeeeeeenty of notes. Let’s hope my marriage remains intact after he’s read all my comments ;p

On the ‘keep learning’ goal I set for the year as a whole, one of the courses I did was significantly more basic than I’d expected. Anyone who’s listened to the podcasts I have for even one year (significantly less time than I have) would already know all this info, and for free. Luckily I picked it up for a song and got a bunch of bonuses some of which have proved more useful, so I’m not pissed.

Also re: learning I’m still tracking along well with the 5 Year Best Seller course and I attended 4 different webinars, but they were mostly on book marketing, not craft ;p

June Goals:

  • Complete an early stage edit of my husband’s book, I Am Not Liam Neeson
  • Do all assignments in the Margie Lawson course I’m taking
  • Beta-read a friend’s novel
  • Use beta-reader feedback on Lovely/Lonely to edit the novel
  • Use Beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming to edit it
  • Write at least one new short story

Well damn son, I do set me some lofty goals. Especially considering I have Harley’s third birthday party to plan and a house which is, thanks to my sprained ankle and a lovely cycle of colds working through the kids, a little bit messier than I’d like it to be >.> Plus I’ve been invited to an old friend/coworker’s wedding <3 but he knew me back when I was skinny and stylish so I have until September to drop a few dress sizes and look suitably smashing.

For those who want to see what I read through May, these are the books I read:

  • The Red Queen: OMG what a massive book! And that satisfaction of finishing a series you started when you were 14 *ahhhh* at long, long last
  • The Journey: an Obernewtyn prequel short story, might not have great appeal to those who haven’t read the series though
  • The Dark Road: another Obernewtyn prequel short story which confused me, and broke my heart… but I enjoyed ;p
  • Last Dragon Standing: another great ending to a cool series. No disappointment here (except that it’s all over now and I didn’t realise it was the final book when I grabbed it)
  • Artemis: no idea how it took me so long to get to this book considering how much I loved The Martian
  • The Speed of Dark: I loved so much of this, but very mixed emotions about the end, read my review if you need more info.
  • Redefining Realness: Janet Mock’s biography of going through childhood and her teen years as a trans woman.
  • Write To Market: I’ve heard about this book a million times, finally got around to reading it

I also kept up to date with all my favourite short fiction podcasts (Podcastle, EscapePod, Psuedopod(who released a cool 3 part novella this month, definitely check it out if you dig horror), Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, and Toasted Cake). I also found a new one, Glittership which is a queer SF/F short fiction podcast. I’m working thru the available back episodes and loving it.

I’m always looking for good fiction podcasts so if you know any feel free to share them with me. I’m also curious about serialised novels via podcast, but don’t know where to start, so if you know any good fantasy ones feel free to link me 🙂

Writing Prompt: the SUPERmarket

This month’s writing prompt over on the Vision Writers website was born from me reminiscing when my old roomate and i used to go to the local clothes dressed up. We’d go out with our wings on, or in formal gear (the actual dresses we wore to our year 12 formals ;p ) and such. Thinking of that made me think about all the people who need to go to the supermarket despite having extraordinary lives. And thus another writing prompt is born.

Check it out if you’re of the writerly persuasion 🙂

Writing Prompt: The SUPERmarket

April Goals Round-Up 2018

Distraction thy name is Atelier ;p

In April I did Camp NaNoWriMo in an attempt to finally complete the first draft of ‘Key,Clocks, Quests’ (working title). It was the only goal I set for myself for the month. Now, after two NaNo’s, I have managed to get 120k done and am in the home stretch now, only about 10k to go until those two sublime words: ‘The End’.

I’m particularly impressed with the fact I still pulled off a 50k word month since it was not exactly a quiet month. The first two weeks were school holidays, never the most productive when the whole day is full of keeping two kids happy and a house clean ;p We also went to the Gold Coast Supanova (I spotted a Rei Ryugazaki cosplayer and was devastated I couldn’t get a photo with him because I was in line for Peter Capaldi’s signature so couldn’t just run over and fangirl) and I’d not finished Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom from last month, plus Atelier Lydie and Suelle came out in early April here in Australia, so I lost a fair bit of productivity to my gaming addiction ;p

Yet despite all that I still managed write the 50,000 words in ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ and also to edit a couple of short stories and submit them, as well as writing a little scene which will become part of another short story in the near future (fans of Mayu and Yuta from Hananbi to Kitsune rejoice, their story is going to continue after all!)

Throughout April I also attended another three webinars, nabbed a short video course at a great price (I’ll let y’all know if it’s a good one when I finally have the time to sit down and go through it ;p ) and have purchased a course that starts in June that came highly recommended. Of course, I’m still trucking on with the 5 Year Best seller course too.

In May my goals are:

  • Finish ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ first draft
  • Do an early stage edit of my husband’s book, I Am Not Liam Neeson
  • Use beta-reader feedback on Lovely/Lonely to edit the novel
  • Use Beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming to edit it


Books I read in April:

  • Beyond Magenta: like a short story anthology, but of bios of transgender teens
  • The Stone Key: My first reading of the fifth book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles (I quit reading the series as it was releasing so I could read them all in one go once the series was complete, but only just found the time now to finally reread the earlier books and read the new ones now)
  • The Sending: The sixth book in the Obernewtyn Chronicles

Ezri’s Farewell

winking at the camera on her first day living with us

Our house is a little smaller today, as our oldest pet passed last night.

Ezri was the first pet T-J and I took in together (we both came to the relationship with a pet or two but she was our first we got together). T-J had always wanted a beagle and we found a reputable breeder of pedigree beagles and she was looking for a home for an older puppy. Ezri was a year and a half old already when we got her. Her owner had hoped to make her a show dog but she was a little too lively for standing still for inspection. Lively was fine by us though <3

Her original name from the breeder was ‘Mermaid’ but she was called Merry. T-J had always love the name Ezri, and they were similar enough that she transitioned to the new name in no time.

We stayed in contact with the breeder, and one day she asked us if we wanted to breed a litter. Ezri was to the breed standard for tri colour breeds and had the beautiful black saddle and bold caramel, she was beautiful and who doesn’t love puppies. Using the breeder’s connections we found a sire and bred a litter of pedigree puppies who the breeder registered under her name and got us certificates for.

Ezri’s first litter was of five, four tri-colour and one bi-colour. Sadly during the first night the bi-colour passed away, but the rest of the litter thrived, bounding all around our house with wild abandon. The two girls were Darla and Inuki, and the boy’s names should be familiar – Porthos and Arima.

As payment for her help the breeder wanted the first born female, Darla. Porthos went to live with T-J’s parents and we decided we’d keep Arima, who was the most sweet-natured of the pups. We advertised Inuki and found her a good home and gave her owners her papers.

A short while later we had a less well-planned litter which had many complications, resulting in medical intervention. Only one puppy, the first, survived and only because we fought to bring her back, so we called her Phoenix. Phoenix found a lovely home with a big family and we made sure Ezri wouldn’t have to go through that again.

For those not familiar with the breed: beagles are escape artists. We’ve probably paid almost a grand in local pound fees from Ezri escaping and going for walks – sometimes quite long ones, often taking her pups with her. We got into fence disputes with neighbours when fencing was insufficient to keep them in, and sometimes even when it was they’d dig right under. And no, even big walks every day didn’t deter this behaviour in her and the boys youth(though it certainly slowed these last few years). We knew she was getting old one day when we came home and she was lazing in the front yard but the boys were long gone.

Over the years Ezri was the first to go grey. It was funny because while I knew some animals really did fade in colour (black horses going bronze ect) Ezri really went grey (you can compare some of the photos when she was really young to some of the recent photos and you’ll see what I mean) .

When I went through my first pregnancy I hung out with Ezri a lot more, I felt old, fat, and tired too and I think she sympathised – but the boys kept crowding me whenever I went to play so I didn’t go out as much as I’d have liked.

not one of the actual pics of Xander trying to ride, but definitely the first attempt to try and climb on ;p

When Xander was young he tried to ride the beagles (that’s why they have saddles, right?). I think Ezri was the first to discover if she sat down he’d slide off and give up after a while.

Ezri lived to the ripe old age (for a beagle at least) of 16, even out-living her beautiful boy Arima, but leaving Porthos with us still (who came back to us, but thats another story for another sad day I hope is still a long way off).



Writing Prompt: Sliding Doors

Another month another writing prompt over on the Vision Writers blog by me. This time around I’m toying with the alternate histories concept such as the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ used. If you’re a writer seeking inspiration, check it out.

March Goals Round-Up 2018

March was a busy month. I kept picking up extra shifts at work, and with Easter and school holidays at the end you can bet there was no lack of stuff to do.

Regarding my specific goals set for March:

  • Revise and find betas for Nothing Charming: I completed my revisions of Nothing Charming. The story ended up at 40k (almost a full legnth novel) and is now out with beta readers to get the feedback back to me by May 1st (a lot of the readers have already sent it back, but I’m focusing on finishing ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’  as priority next month, so won’t look over it until I’m done that first draft).
  • Continue editing ‘Light In The Deep’ with group feedback and submit final portion for critique: this one got a little derailed. I got some feedback in the second portion I submitted to my writers group which meant I had to look deeper at a few things, and these problems need to percolate for a bit while I try to find the solution. (a bit more on this further below)
  • Choose between ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ and Tucca of The Tides and prep outline so ready to go for finishing in April (Camp NaNo): I did up a super outline of the whole of ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’. I did this so I can finish the first draft on course for the changes I’l make to the start in revisions. It will also help keep me focused when I do those rewrites for the start(hopefully later this year). I even had one of my more experienced writer pals go over the outline with me and refine it – thanks Jake <3
  • Revise ‘Look Skyward’: didn’t touch it sadly. Blame Ni No Kuni ;p

One morning I woke up with a cool short story idea and thus was born ‘Against The Black Knight’ (1,700 words). So, though it wasn’t a goal, I’ve written another actually short short story. I’m very happy about that since I wanted to produce a lot of new short fiction this year. I’ve also been getting back a few rejections, editing with their feedback and sending the stories on to new homes, so I’ve really been rocking the ‘short fiction’ part of my yearly goals this March.

For the second time this year I had Harley in daycare but I didn’t go to my ‘day job’ and instead wrote. I edited a massive amount of Nothing Charming that day. Combined with the results from a similar test I did last month where a wrote and edited to great result. I’m hoping if this contines we might make it a weekly instead of monthly thing ;p

I did a webinar on better book descriptions (back cover blurbs) with Bryan Cohen (who I listen to a lot on his Sell More Books Show podcast) and another on ‘How to Get your First Ten Book Reviews’. I also read two craft books(Write Your Novel In A Month and The Story Equation) and did a course, and scored some notes from another course off a friend; so as far as my yearly goal to ‘keep learning’ went, I did a cracking job too.

In return for his beta-ing Nothing Charming, I gave feedback on a member of my writers group’s novel. It’s interesting to see how my feedback has improved over the years, some of the things I used to miss are easier for me to spot now, and I think I’m getting better at explaining some things. I only hope they enjoy reading my crits as much as I did giving them. I often worry when I do ‘big picture’ crits people will be mad at me ;p It sounds odd, but for example the feedback I got on the second part of Light In the Deep slowed my progress because I had to consider some deeper, overarching flaws. The solutions to some of those problems will probably unstitch some earlier events that I’d thought already edited – but that happens A LOT with really good feedback (not to mention, better to notice it now) but I know it’s frustrating to do these rewrites and I worry people I give that sort of feedback to won’t be as ‘ok, on with the work’ as me.

I also played some Ni No Kuni 2 this month, if you’re curious what I think of it so far you can check out my review. With all the transition memoirs I’ve been reading I also got distracted and went back to check out if an old webcomic I used to read back in the early 2000s was still around: Venus Envy. It was and there were a couple more years worth of strips for me to read. I *may* have re-read the whole thing ;p Like too many webcomics though, it has been dropped without being completed 🙁 I hope she’ll go back and finish it, but since it’s been abandoned a four full years I’m not very hopeful :'(

Books I read in March:

  • House of Many Ways: the final book in the Howl’s Moving Castle series and a great read
  • Valour and Vanity: another adventure-filled addition to this regency romance series (sounds a little oxymoronic I know) but extra points for the fact the storyline doesn’t revolve around actively seeking to tear apart the couple
  • Of Noble Birth: a brilliant conclusion to the series
  • Write Your Novel In A Month: a good ‘overall’ kind of writing book with a lot of productivity tips
  • The Story Equation: the new angles and heightened emotional focus made this a very useful book
  • Quests for Glory (School for Good and Evil 4): When middle grade is so good you don’t care telling people you’re reading it (despite being in your mid-thirities) for yourself not your kids ;p
  • Death By Cliche 2: Wrath of The Con: such pun, much rpg, very lol, wow.
  • Transition: The Story of How I Became A Man: Chaz Bono’s biography of his transition.
  • Being Jazz: another transition memoir, I’ll be reading a few of these over the next month or two, both to help me be a better friends to my growing number of trans friends and so I can write better trans characters
  • Obernewtyn: time to finally read the whole series!
  • The Far Seekers: finding all those layers you missed on previous read throughs
  • Ashling: still loving it
  • The Keeping Place: woohoo, the next one of the series I haven’t read before – excited!

Goals for April:

Number One, All-Encompassing-Focus is to complete the first draft of ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ (and maybe even find it a real title instead of my lame working one ;p ). That’s it. If by some miracle I finish that early, then I’ll work on the beta feedback for Lovely/Lonely and Nothing Charming.

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