Fear of failing as a writer

Source: Shutterstock

Happy Halloween, dear readers!

As you’ll already be aware, this month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking fears. I’ve already blogged about a couple of mine previously — during our 2014 Haunting Halloween blog hop, I shared a scary (and true) story of the last time took part in a seance, and talked about my fear of unstoppable, invisible death such as plague or nuclear fallout.

So now I have to choose from one of the two things that truly terrify me. One I’m still going to nope out of (something happening to my son), which leaves the other.

Fear of failure.

It’s not quite the imposter syndrome that Lauren blogged about last week, although that’s part of it. I know that whenever anyone from work congratulates me on a book release, I always downplay the accomplishment. I’m an indie author, and I think I’m still subconsciously hankering for the validation of a big contract — even though I know that’s silly and that actually completing six novels is still a pretty big deal.

It’s more that, this year, I have written barely a word that wasn’t a book review or a blog post. I did finish the last little bit of False Awakening in January, and I spent quite a bit of time doing edits on that to get it ready to publish … but original words? Almost none.

What if I can’t write anymore? What if I’ve forgotten how?!

I’m actually feeling ashamed right now, typing these words. Like I’m sharing a dirty secret. Because — even though I know it’s silly, even though I know I’m being overly harsh on myself — if I don’t write, doesn’t that make me failure as a writer?

So that’s my fear.

My problem isn’t writer’s block, I don’t think. I described it to a friend as “writer’s ennui”. Frankly, I think I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing, and trying to return to match fitness (such as I ever had) is so daunting it’s causing all my anxieties.

I am working to overcome it. I’ve been plotting out a new book — a steampunk fantasy, which is a new genre for me — and the world-building has really slowed me down. (Urban fantasy was way easier.) In the meantime, I’m trying to write a short story at the moment, for a local anthology that has a call out for submissions. Even if I don’t get selected, it’s all about building my writing muscles up again.

So there you have it. My embarrassing, paralysing fear.


While I’m here, I’m going to be cheeky and wish a happy book birthday to one of our former Aussie Owned and Read bloggers, K. A. Last. Her newest release, the delightfully creepy The Lovely Dark, comes out today. You can read my review of it here.


Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author — she is an author, she’s sure of it. She even has five books on sale to prove it.

Halloween Reads for Cowards

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Image via Pixabay

October means ghosts, ghouls and all things ghastly for those who enjoy Halloween. So this month on Aussie Owned and Read we thought we’d tackle the frightening and scary in all its different manifestations.

I confess, I’m not a fan of scary. I won’t be lining up to see the new remake of Stephen King’s IT. Ever. I’m more of a Ghostbusters kinda girl. You know, where the ghosts and ghouls are tempered down with quirk or humour (and a dose of Chris Hemsworth). So here’s a list of Halloween ‘horror’ novels for scaredy Kats like me:

  1. The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher by Doug MacLeod (Penguin)

Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher Cover

Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plenitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.
A very black comedy set in England in 1828, The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher shows what terrible events can occur when you try to do the right thing. ‘Never a good idea,’ as Thomas’s mother would say.

I read this wacky Aussie historical when it was first published seven years ago. It’s got its share of the macabre but it’s not exactly scary. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well as gross bits. Not one for the squeamish, but heaps of fun.

2. The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner (Allen & Unwin)

The Dead I Know Cover

You wake in the middle of the night, your arms and feet pinned by strong hands. As you thrash your way to consciousness, a calm voice says, ‘Steady. We’re here to help.’ Your mind registers a paramedic, a policeman, an ambulance. You are lying on the lookout at Keeper’s Point, the lookout Amanda Creen supposedly threw herself off. And you have absolutely no idea how you got there.

Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep. He has dreams he can’t explain, and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him – his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up.

The Dead I Know is an intense psychological thriller, but it also fits a Halloween theme nicely because the protagonist Aaron works in a morgue. Interestingly, it’s not the dead people who he needs to be afraid of most.

  1. The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinx (Allen & Unwin)

The Reformed Vampire Support Group

Nina became a vampire in 1973 when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun either, because her life is so sickly and boring.

It becomes even worse when one of the other vampires in her therapy group is staked by a mysterious slayer. Threatened with extinction, she and her fellow vampires set out to hunt down the culprit. Trouble is, they soon find themselves up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to being a vampire than meets the eye?

I love me a good vampire spoof and this book delivers. Not only does it provide a hilarious alternative addition to the vampire genre, it’s got romance and action to boot!

  1. Gap Year in Ghost Town (Allen & Unwin)

Gap Year in Ghost Town

The Marin family run a two-man operation in inner-city Melbourne. Anton has the ghost-sight, but his father does not. Theirs is a gentle approach to ghost hunting. Rani Cross, combat-skilled ghost hunter from the Company of the Righteous, is all about the slashing.

Anton and Rani don’t see eye to eye – but with a massive spike in violent ghost manifestations, they must find a way to work together.

And what with all the blindingly terrifying brushes with death, Anton must use his gap year to decide if he really wants in on the whole ghost-hunting biz . . .

I am yet to read this, but it looks PERFECT for horror-cowards like me. According to the publisher it’s smart, snappy and funny. And scary. It DOES say it’s scary. Still, the cover alone might be worth the risk.

What are some of your favourite scary – or not so scary – Halloween reads?

 


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN and is definitely more swoony than scary. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Review: ‘Coraline’ by Neil Gaiman

coraline

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring….

In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close.

The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only it’s different.

At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

Neil Gaiman is a strange author to me in some ways. I love his scripts, and his Sandman graphic novels, and those of his other books that I’ve read. But I haven’t read that many of them — and I don’t exactly know why. So when I saw Coraline at my local second-hand bookstore, I snapped it up. (The cover above is the cover of the version I own. There are prettier covers, but it does capture the weirdness pretty well.)

And no, I haven’t seen the movie either. Although now I kind of want to.

I don’t read a lot of middle grade fiction yet. But this has got to be one of the best, surely.

I love Neil Gaiman’s wry humour. It’s — dare I say it — terribly British. I love how clever Coraline is, and how even when she’s scared she manages to be brave. As she said, “When you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.” Wise little girl.

Apparently Gaiman wrote this book for his five-year-old daughter. So either his daughter is also very brave or he’s trying to give her lots of opportunities to learn, because this is a scary-ass book. At the point where Coraline’s other mother offered to sew button eyes onto her as a mark of her acceptance into their creepy family, my own eyes bugged out a little.

There weren’t any plot twists I didn’t see coming. But this is middle grade fiction, which means the twists tend to be a little more clearly telegraphed than they would be in a book for adults. Nothing wrong with that.

There was one thing lacking from the book. Gaiman didn’t often touch on how Coraline was feeling. When she first discovered her parents were missing, it took her a full 24 hours to cry about it. This is partly because her parents are a little remote and she’s used to fending for herself, but I think it was partly a stylistic choice Gaiman made — not to wallow, or let Coraline wallow, in her emotions. Maybe he did it because the content of the story is nightmare-inducing, and if he’d described the taste of fear in the back of her throat, the shaking of her hands, it suddenly wouldn’t have been middle grade anymore?

Or maybe that’s just his style. Like I said, I haven’t read that many of his books. (Stardust was quite similar in that regard, now that I think about it.) Either way, although I noticed the lack of emotion, the extra distance that imposed wasn’t enough that I couldn’t follow or enjoy the story.

If you’re looking for a creepy Halloween read, then I’d suggest Coraline. Who needs to sleep, anyway?

AOaR_4star (3)(and a half)

Cassandra Page is a speculative fiction author who would love to write books half as creepy as Coraline. It’s good to have goals!

Cassandra Page

A Halloween-y book excerpt

Once upon a time, when I was in my late teens, my party trick was seances. I know that sounds kind of weird, but it’s true. We used to improvise an ouija board, use a (clean) scotch glass as the focus, and then have at it. And for some reason, whenever I was touching the glass, it would glide around the board like an ice skater on a rink — even if I wasn’t really paying much attention.

Halloween HopI’m pretty sure my friends thought I was pushing the glass around, although they never accused me of it. And although I wasn’t doing anything deliberately, I sometimes wondered if there was something subconscious going on, because I often “heard” the word reply in my mind as the glass started spelling it out.

During one particularly freaky incident, one of the guys taking part had brought along what he claimed was a Satanic bible. He didn’t tell any of us he had it until afterwards (when he burned it), or we wouldn’t have taken part. It’s not like blood began dripping from the walls or anything — but one of the girls who wasn’t participating and was in the next room claims all the neighbourhood dogs went nuts just before we got scared by some of the creepy answers we were getting and decided to stop. We never heard a thing.

And I never did a seance again.

This cheery little anecdote is by way of telling you what inspired the opening chapter in my new release, Isla’s Inheritance. And here’s the seance exerpt, if you’re curious. (Emma has glasses. So do I. That’s a total coincidence, I swear.)

Have you got a scary story? Blog about it and post the link as part of our Haunting Halloween Hop!

Isla’s Inheritance excerpt

“Okay.” Emma rolled up her sleeves so they wouldn’t trail on the table. She slid the upturned scotch glass so the pentagram was centred within it. “Everyone put a finger on top of the glass.” We did. “Ready?” Without waiting for a response, Emma tilted her face towards the ceiling. “Is anyone there?”

Nothing happened.

“Is anyone there?” Emma asked again. She didn’t seem worried. I glanced at Dominic, whose face had fallen.

“Is anyone there?”

The glass began to inch along the surface of the paper, picking up speed as it slid towards the YES. Tamara gasped, going white under the makeup; that pale, she looked like a porcelain doll. Emma smiled, enjoying her moment. The guys watched with wide eyes.

“Welcome.” Emma smiled. “What’s your name?”

IslasInheritance-CPage-MDI studied the glass in its nest of fingers as it spelled out D-A-N-I-E-L. My eyes narrowed, searching for the whitening around the fingertips that would indicate someone was pushing the glass. Was that why Emma had turned off the light—to hide the tells?

“Hello, Daniel.” Emma smiled again. “Daniel’s my spirit guide,” she added in an aside to the rest of us as the glass slid across to HELLO.

I watched with a frown as the others asked questions of Daniel: where he was born, how he’d died, that sort of thing. I didn’t pay much attention; I was busy trying to see how the trick was being performed. It was a normal scotch glass and, if anyone was pushing it, they were being discrete. Emma was good.

Finally, she looked around the table at us. “Daniel can act as our intermediary to the afterlife, protecting us from evil spirits. Do any of you have relatives who have passed over that you’d like to contact? A grandparent or anything?”

“My grandpop’s dead, but he was an old bastard.” Kurt laughed. “I don’t want to talk to him. Besides, your Daniel wouldn’t let him through if he doesn’t like evil spirits.”

Tamara shook her head; Dominic turned to me. “Isn’t your mother dead?” he asked softly.

“Yes.” I looked away. I’d never known my mother. She’d died giving birth to me. But I didn’t like the idea of turning her into a parlour trick.

Dominic saw my hesitation and looked sheepish. Emma brightened, though. “What was her name?” she asked.

“Melanie,” I said reluctantly. “Melanie Blackman.”

“Hey, we don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” Dominic said.

“It’s all right,” I said. It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter.

“Melanie Blackman, are you there?” Three times Emma repeated the call, and, as before, the glass didn’t move until the third time.

NO.

“No?” Emma looked surprised—which was itself surprising, given she was the one moving the glass. “Melanie Blackman, are you there?”

The glass circled away from the word and back again, rattling across the paper.

NO.

Obviously that wasn’t meant to happen. “Daniel, are you there?”

There was a long delay while I imagined a sheet-covered ghost handing over the receiver of a telephone. YES.

“Why isn’t Melanie Blackman there?”

It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter. But I still held my breath as I watched the glass spell out the reply.

S-H-E [SPACE] I-S [SPACE] N-O-T [SPACE] D-E-A-D.

Cassandra Page is a young adult urban fantasy writer who loves a scary story. Details of her latest release, including obligatory buy links and so forth, are here. You know, if you’re curious. *shuffles feet*

Cassandra Page

Haunting Halloween Hop

Twas a dark, dark night in a dark, dark wood … Or was that a house? Either way, Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s time to get your scare on and join our Haunting Halloween Hop! We’re sharing the creepy cheer and we’d love you to play, too!

Halloween Hop

Yes, you too can be a part of a very freaky blog hop simply by following these three easy steps:

    1. Draft your post on Halloween, ready to go live either October 31. Your post? It’s to be what makes you scared. Is it a scary book? A scary movie? Scary weather? The creepy guy looking over your fence right now?*
    2. Join our Linky List (below).
    3. Visit all the other blogs on the hop and see what gives everyone else the night terrors. Hey, you could even meet a ghoulishly fun new blog in the process!

We’ll be doing shout-outs on our social media to those who sign up to, in order to try and help spread the scary, scary love.

And if you don’t have a blog, we’d love to see your scary thoughts in the comments of our post so we can hear your spook-spiration!

So, what are you waiting for? Join the fun and draft up today, then add your post to the list when it’s live. Don’t forget to share the thrills …

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 *NB: Aussie Owned & Read takes no responsibility for/is not affiliated with any creepy guys doing any creepy fence-looking. That’s a promise.

Poll: What’s Your Favourite Creepy Character?

Halloween is right one week away today, and with it comes a host of spine-tingling, gut-wrenching, fear-inducing characters that will invade our books, our telvision sets, and occasionally, our houses (depending on the level of trick or treat in your local street).

In Australia, this isn’t the big holiday it is in the US. Some people do trick or treat, and people are starting to dress up more, but possibly as soon as ten years ago, Halloween was not a well-celebrated holiday at all.

That’s not to say we Aussies haven’t accquired a healthy taste for all things horror and paranormal; we love to be scared and enchanted by creatures beyond the realm as much as the next person.

Photo: Big Stock Photo

Photo: Big Stock Photo

But what we want to know is, how about you? What scary creatures are YOUR favourite to read about?

Let us know, and don’t forget to join our super creepy Halloween blog hop here.