Oh, For Five Cents

I had hoped to be further along in my NaNo prep by now, but…

October has, yet again, not been a kind month to me. Although I am pleased to say I am now a certified trainer. (Not that kind of trainer.)

Sadly, in the space of a week (well, 8 or 9 days), my house was burgled twice. Between that and travelling for work, my life has been in a state of near constant upheaval. My desk at home, which I was so happy to have finally gotten clear of stuff is, once again, covered in stuff. I’m choosing to look at this as the perfect opportunity to re-arrange the office, and maybe get some filming space set up so I can finally get my YouTube channel going. Maybe.

There have been some interesting and exciting developments in my writing life, but nothing that I can really talk about yet. Watch this space.

But if were being totally honest… Right now, I don’t feel much like doing anything, least of all NaNo. But I’ve committed to having the completed draft of 19 in my alpha reader’s inbox by 23:59 GMT+2 on 30 November, so I don’t have much of a choice. I have no idea how I’m going to motivate myself, but there it is.

If you’re doing NaNo, I want to wish you the very best of luck. May your plot be plentiful and your pen never run dry!


Taking the Pressure Off

I feel like, recently, all my posts basically say the same thing. Either “I wrote a book, please buy it”, or “I’m struggling, I’m tired, I’m depressed”. I’m not going to be doing very much more of the first, and in an effort to combat the second I’ve made some decisions.

My calendar is full of commitments. Aside from work and family things, there are all these challenges I take part in. I think when I took them on I thought ‘any practice is good practice’, but now there’s just too many things happening and I’m missing deadlines, stressed out, and miserable. Not to mention that keeping up with these things is keeping me out of finishing 19.

Obviously, I can’t drop work and work commitments from my schedule. They’re what keeps the lights on and my dogs in kibble. Likewise family. When the wheels come off, they’re the ones who’ll be there to help.

So. October’s Furious Fiction has just passed. Yes, I entered, and I’m happy I did because it will be my last one for the foreseeable future.

Wishful Inkers… I love this project. I believe so strongly in the reasons behind it. But every new issue fills me with dread. I need new content for it, and the blank page just lies there, refusing to be filled. The new issue will be out soon, and it will contain some work from me. But it will also be my last one for the foreseeable future.

And then there’s Deadlines for Writers. I haven’t submitted a short story for it in I don’t even know how long, but every month when deadline approaches (this month’s happens to be today) I find myself panicking. It’s not motivating me anymore. The poetry side is still working quite well for me, but I think even there I need a break.

I haven’t really been very good about keeping up with my Facebook and Instagram lately, and I think I’m going to drop them from the rotation too. Obviously I’m keeping the actually pages/accounts, I just won’t be actively trying to generate content there. As always, if you want to get in touch with me email or Twitter are the best bets.

And the YouTube channel is on indefinite hold. I have some ideas for what I want to do with it and I can’t wait to get started but, unfortunately, there are some roadblocks which are pretty insurmountable right now.

I’m hoping that this will be temporary. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get most of the other big items off my plate by the end of the year and I can come back to the smaller things – because they did make me happy once. But I’m not promising that I will.

Sometimes, things are useful to us only for a short time and then we need to move on.



it’s not the big days that get me
that stop me where i stand
choking on memories
and streaming tears
it’s not the birthdays
it’s the random
ten past three
on a tuesday afternoon
when someone says something
does something
makes something
so unbelievable
that i feel i have to share it with you
and i remember
i can’t
the punch in the gut of
not being able to call and ask
how much milk goes in this sauce
and the sudden realisations
of how long its been
since i last heard your voice

There’s only 20 days left until Silk Flower Goodbye goes live, so I thought I’d share one of  the poems here as a little taster. I hope you enjoyed it!

If you’d like to get your hands on a free copy, I’m running a bit of a competition over on my Twitter page (@inkandsage) where I’m giving away 1 digital copy of Silk Flower Goodbye every day between now and 2 Oct! All you need to do to enter is look out for the post tagged #20DayGiveaway and answer the day’s question. Couldn’t be easier! Today’s (Day 1) question just went live a few minutes ago!

And if you’d prefer not to leave things to chance, you can always pre-order a copy by following this lovely link here!

Let’s Talk about Rest, Baby

There’s a rather prevalent idea in the writer community that you need to write every day – and that if you don’t write every day you’re not a “real writer”. I used to believe that. I don’t anymore.

I understand it, in principle. Making writing a habit means that you don’t waste time waiting for the muse to show up. Writing every day means you have more words (even if they’re bad ones) to work with. And let’s throw in a bit of the 10,000 hour rule, too – the more time you spend writing, the closer you come to expert status (if such a thing exists).

I don’t disagree with the idea on a fundamental level, but I think it is a bit unrealistic. It bases itself on the idea of the solitary writer, in a bubble, separate from the world. It disregards the absolutely irrefutable fact that life happens. And believe me, life does happen. Illness, bereavements, moving, job stress, other commitments… it happens.

So here’s my suggestion. Rather than write every day, let’s say write every day you can. Because when your mother has just passed away, your husband is lying in the high care ward, or you’re just plain exhausted because life, telling yourself you’re not a real writer because you haven’t written today is the opposite of helpful. You make it harder for yourself to deal with what you’re dealing with, and harder to come back to writing with an open heart.

There’s not one writer in the world who hasn’t experienced some sort of upheaval in their writing life, and often that means non-writing days. Maybe one or two, maybe several. Maybe even a couple of weeks or a couple of months. But during that time you are still a writer.

So I’ve been resting this week because last week I was really full-on. I had my usual 8-5 but I was also assisting with the local dance school’s big production. It was a week (and a bit) of early mornings and late nights, buckets of stress, and very little sleep. When the exhaustion finally hit me on Monday night I decided that it was okay to take this break.

And when I start writing again (tomorrow) I, and my writing, will be all the stronger for it.

But Sage! I hear you cry. What about Silk Flower Goodbye?

Fear not, gentle reader. I received some wonderful feedback from my CP, and I’ve been chipping away at the edits just a few minutes at a time. I plan to finalise those, and my front matter, this weekend and have the final file uploaded sometime next week, so I can start looking at *GASP* paperback options.

Pre-orders are still open for the ebook and I’m strongly considering putting the price up after release, so now’s your chance to get it for a mere 1.99 USD (or equivalent in your territory). Current count is 9 and I would really love to get to 15 pre-orders.

Thanks to the lovely Robyn Sarty for mentioning Silk Flower Goodbye in her August newsletter. If you like historical fiction, you can find her at robynsarty.com

Here’s what she said:

Silk Flower Goodbye is a poignant, beautiful, honest, and at times, whimsical look at life, loss, and love.

Friend, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Do something good for yourself today – whether that’s taking a nap, going for a long walk, or indulging in the hot beverage of your choice. Take care of yourself.

A Bit of a Ramble

This week’s post was meant to be the last part of MSUM, on readability and simpler sentences, but I’m just not feeling it. I suppose I could have just skipped a week but I know if I do it’ll be harder to post next week – so you get a rambling, word jumbled, brain dump post instead. Aren’t you lucky?

Life-wise, things are going okay. Rocky in patches but not as rough as it has been. Mr Sage is doing well. The pups are doing well. I’m… doing less well but still well.

It seems like I’m finally getting to where I want to be in my day job. It’s more work and more mentally challenging, but also more fulfilling. I’m generally happier overall. Of course, that doesn’t erase my depression or anxiety but it helps.

I haven’t given as much attention to my writing lately as I would like. But that’s just life. I think I’ll be able to focus a bit more once I have the final file of Silk Flower Goodbye uploaded. That should be around the middle of September, depending on when I get the notes back from my CP.

And speaking of Silk Flower Goodbye… With 38 days to release, my pre-orders are as follows:

Amazon – 3
Apple – 1
Kobo – 1
Total – 5

I don’t think that’s bad given that it’s poetry, which generally doesn’t sell terribly well to begin with. And taking into account that I haven’t done any advertising (simply because I can’t afford to) and virtually no marketing (1 blog post, 1 newsletter, and a post each on FB, Twitter, and Insta), I think it’s really pretty good.

I’d like to get 15 pre-orders, though. It’s a totally arbitrary number but an achievable one – if I actually make an effort with the marketing. So let’s start here: PRE-ORDER MY BOOK!

Er… maybe something a little less agressive?

If you like poetry, and have $2 to spare, and want to support me, please would you pre-order my book? You will have my unending gratitude, and little gold star next to your name in the Great Cosmic Register of Good People*. If that has swayed you at all, please click the link down below:


I am still planning to have Number 19 finished by 30 November (I keep wanting to type 31 November… help!) but then there will be extensive edits. If at all possible, I’d like to have that ready for publication around Easter 2020. If I decide to self-pub. Which I’m still not decided on…

On the blog menu in the coming weeks: MSUM Part 4, writing with mental illness, and a side-by-side comparison of a short story pre- and post-feedback – stay tuned if any of that interests you!

I hope that you’re having a wonderful day (or night) wherever you are. Do something nice for yourself, even if that’s just taking 10 minutes to have a nice cup of tea.

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually have any control over the Great Cosmic Register of Good People but if it helps at all, I think you belong there.

3 Things I Know To Be True

Mr Sage and I had Chinese for dinner the other night. The deliciousness was, of course, finished off with a fortune cookie each. Mine read: Opportunities multiply when they are seized. For the first time in a very long time, possibly ever, I found myself agreeing with that tiny scrap of waxy paper. So much so that I’ve been carrying it around in my phone case ever since. It got me thinking about some other things that resonate, and I thought I’d share them here.

1. Opportunities multiply when they are seized.

I spent much of my young adulthood unemployed. There were a lot of factors at play in that, but possibly the biggest one was that I had no experience. You know the story – everyone does. I did, eventually, manage to get a job as a shop assistant and everything changed. In a matter of months, I was being invited to apply and/or interview for other jobs about once every couple of weeks – and on one occasion by a company that had previously rejected me, not even bothering to respond to my application. I seized the opportunity that was in front of me and dozens more sprouted from it.

2. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

My mom told me this on more than one occasion. I think she got it from Oprah, but Google tells me it was first said (or written) by the Roman philosopher Seneca. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly lucky person. I’ve entered plenty of raffles, lotteries, and tombolas in my life, and I have won exactly 3 times – a Lunch Bar, a jar of cookies, and a BB gun which was promptly confiscated as soon as my mom found out about it. (But not before I managed to shoot my little brother in the backside. Sorry, Alex!) Luck is not my friend.

Skill, knowledge, and preparedness, however… Well, given the right opportunity, that’s a winning combination. Just ask 9 year old Sage, who won R10 (enough for a whole, full-sized Magnum!) for an essay on “Why I love my library”.

What I’m saying is luck isn’t so much about luck as it is about being prepared for the opportunity when it comes along.

3. Success is what you decide it is.

If you’ve been anywhere near the self-help section of a bookstore in the last quarter of a century, you’ve definitely heard of the 5 Love Languages – the idea that everyone experiences and expresses love in one of 5 ways: gifts, time, words, service, and touch. (I’m super simplifying here, but you get the idea.)

I think the same is true of success – everyone has a different idea of what it is. For some people success is how much money they have. For others, it’s all about who they know and how popular or well-known they are. There are all sorts of other ways to define success. It’s easy to get caught up in someone else’s idea of what success is – but if you measure yourself with someone else’s yardstick, you’re bound to come up short. I know, I’ve spent pretty much all my adult life feeling like a gnome.

So now I have my own definition of success. It’s not a huge, global thing. It’s small, and personal, and mine. Every day that I do something towards my dreams, I’m a success. Every time I get out of bed when I don’t want to, I’m a success. Every session I end with more words than I started with, I’m a success. I am successful. And you know what? So are you.

And now I think I’m going to go buy a lottery ticket with the number on my fortune. Wish me luck! ;P

MSUM Part 3 – Passing on the Passive Voice

Welcome to Part 3 of “My Stories Under the Microscope” or “MSUM”, where I run 13 of my short stories through Hemingway and take a closer look at the results.

This time it’s all about the passive voice.

First, let’s have a (maybe not so quick) refresher. If you don’t need a refresher, feel free to skip to the next heading!

Passive voice is when the subject of your sentence is being acted upon instead of doing the acting. For example:

“Sage ate the last burger.” is active voice.
“The last burger was eaten by Sage.” is passive voice.
“The last burger was eaten.” is also passive voice.

If you need a trick to help you identify passive voice, try adding “by unicorns” to the sentence (you can replace unicorns with whatever you like, mythical creatures, cryptids, kaiju…) – if it still makes sense, it’s passive voice. “The last burger was eaten by unicorns” = passive voice. [I take no credit for this trick, it was taught to me by my good friend and writing buddy, Robyn Sarty. Thanks Robs!]

The passive voice sentences are completely valid but they do feel a bit limp. The action has already taken place. It has been acted, it has gone to the great theatre in the sky, it is an ex-action. And if you caught that reference, we are destined to be the very best of friends.

In narrative fiction, generally speaking, we want action that is strong and direct. We want boom-boom, not womp-womp.

Passive voice does have its uses: anywhere where the action is more important than the actor (sorry, theatre buds), we want to use passive voice – think historical accounts (“The war was won.”), legal documents (“The motion was denied.”), scientific reports (“The results were recorded.”) etc. It can also be used to avoid or deflect blame. This is a particular favourite trick of politicians.  It acknowledges the action without stating who is responsible or what the solution or follow-up action is.

Remember: both active and passive voice can be used to great effect, but active is generally considered stronger for narrative fiction.

Now that we’re all caught up, let’s take a closer look at my work and the results from Hemingway.


As with adjectives, the “allowable” is proportional to the word count of the piece. Again, it’s not an exact formula but it works out to be roughly 2% of the word count per piece. Looking at the graph, I don’t seem to be terribly guilty of this particular “problem”, but let’s take a closer look at one of my more passive pieces. 

This is an excerpt from Landslide:


If we rewrite the passive “Everything was covered in a haze.” as active “A haze covered everything.”  we get a stronger, more present sentence. I’m kicking myself for not having written it that way in the first place, but if I had we wouldn’t have this example to learn from.

“They couldn’t be returned now.” would also be more impactful in the active voice: “She couldn’t return them now.”

So far, so good. It seems we have a pretty solid case for active being better than passive.

But now take a look at the third highlighted section: “They were ruined.”

This is a great example of a passive sentence which is not improved by being rewritten into active voice, for two reasons. The first is that, while “The rain had ruined them.” is a perfectly good sentence, it is also less simple and less punchy than its passive counterpart. The second is that the active version does not make sense when read with the following sentence: “Like she was.” 

This post has turned out to be about 3x longer than I intended it to be, so I’m going to wrap it here and say that I’ll be back soon with MSUM Part 4 – simpler alternatives to complex sentences. I’m also working on a post about writing with/around mental health issues and/or chronic illness, a topic requested by another dear friend, Richard Bat Brewster.

Stay awesome!