Facing 2023

As we stood in the Plaça Catalunya this year, grapes in hand and waiting for churchbells to chime, it struck me that once again, I was celebrating New Year’s Eve upon an unknown shore. Ten seconds to midnight, the crowd started counting down, ten, nine, eight. And then, at midnight–

Nothing. The fireworks were a dud.

But that didn’t change the fact that — for me and my partner, at the very least — something tremendous had shifted.

Often the biggest changes sneak up without warning. One moment, everything is calm, the next, the storm has come. Caught in the rage and fury of it all, we can do nothing but try to keep our footing and stay afloat, steering blindly through the lashing rain, the towering waves, and the darkness. It is only when the winds have calmed and the fogs have cleared that we can lift our heads, trace the stars, and see where we’ve ended up.

Now, well into February, I’m finally taking stock of all those goals I set at the very beginning of the year — and now I can actually start to map my path towards them. So if you’re curious about what’s going on in my writing life for 2023, read on!

2023 Works in Progress

A Lullaby of Stolen Stars

YA Fantasy Novel

Her voice brings death.

Growing up in the Sphere of Nilaya with no one but her fussy Caretaker, Rael, for company, 16-year-old Song yearns for a life beyond the wild and lonely shores of her island. All her hopes lie with Lanthir Navarre, Nilaya’s only visitor, and the last surviving member of the Cantor Order — gifted warriors who protect the Verse from monsters — or so he claims. He alone holds the key to taming Song’s dangerous power.

But when Lan disappears and a mysterious boy shows up on Song’s island bearing the dire warning that Lan is in danger, Song soon learns that more than the fate of the Cantors lies in her hands. Because there’s a monster lurking at the edge of the Verse, and Song’s voice may be the only thing that can unleash it — or finally put it to rest forever.

Writing is rewriting, as they say, and I’ve been steadily working on a complete reimagining of my YA novel the Shape of the World. Though the current novel starts in a similar place as the original version, A Lullaby of Stolen Stars is darker, more intense, and far tighter than Shape ever was. I’ve currently finished the first rough draft and am patching up the holes to be able to send it to my beta readers by the end of February. From there, we’ll see how intensely I need to edit before I’ve got something I’m happy with.

The Well and the Garden

Adult Fantasy Duology

The war is over. The invaders won.
For Elder Myrai, Queen of Sangeon, the arrival of invader ships in the Farisles’ skies signals the end of days. It is only through an unexpected alliance that Myrai is able to stay the hand of the Brummen colonisers and establish peace.

The Queen is dead.
Twenty-five years later Myrai’s daughter, Talih, is set to inherit rulership of the Farisles from her father, the Brummen Crown Governor. But when Myrai dies under mysterious circumstances, Talih’s status is thrown into question, as the Brummen move to place one of their own in her mother’s stead.

Long live the Queen.
But Talih won’t go down without a fight. Delving deeper into the secrets surrounding her mother’s untimely death, one thing becomes clear: Myrai’s spirit has come back to haunt. And everyone knows the dead only return when there’s unfinished business to take care of…

So I started this project as part of my NaNoWriMo last year, and it’s something that I haven’t really attempted before — namely adult fantasy. And I do mean proper epic adult fantasy — at the moment, I’m about halfway through the first book, and already it’s 60,000 words (not including all the gaps I still need to fill in), which means the full first book is going to be a real nice, hefty one. Once I’m done putting LoSS together, I’ll be scrambling to compose the second half of book one, using a second NaNoWriMo to finish it up by the end of the year, hopefully. Fingers crossed that I don’t get lost in the weeds.

My Substack

And finally, I’ve started a Substack to try to organise some of my writing life outside of the novels. You’ll find my editorial newsletter on there starting next month, with writing tips, exercises, and opportunities, as well as updates on my books, writing, and editing availability, if you’re interested. And if you want to support me through the platform, paid subscribers will start receiving a serialised version of A Murder of Crows once I’ve got everything set up!

And that’s what’s on my plate for this year, along with a buffet of short stories that I hope to be submitting soon. What are you all working on at this point, and how is it going for you? Would love to hear about your works in progress and what you’re excited about down in the comments!

December ’22 – Beyond the End

The last three months have been chaos. Illness, moving, wedding planning… I went back to Malta at the beginning of December to take care of my dad while my partner spent two weeks packing up our house to be ready to move. We spent Christmas on the Rock, and now, the day before New Year’s, we’re finally settled in our temporary flat in Barcelona.

There’s a tradition in Spain to eat twelve grapes for the twelve chimes of midnight. Some people also make twelve wishes, one for each of the grapes, each representing one of the months of the year.

I’m going to admit that for me, on balance, 2022 felt like a year of disappointments. Looking back, there have been some amazing things in 2022 (going freelance, moving to Barcelona, finalizing our wedding plans), but with the struggles that came before those changes and the lingering illnesses throughout the year, at this point, it’s hard to feel much more than exhausted.

But that’s the good thing about New Year’s. It gives you a chance to look back and plan your course forward. And when I look forward today, I feel hopeful. So ahead of trying to wolf down 12 grapes when the clock chimes midnight on 2022, here are my wishes for 2023:

  1. I wish for more joy in my creative life, by reingaging with my writing and fully investing myself in the process, not just the product.
  2. I wish for more connections with creative people — writers, editors, artists, musicians — and to find inspiration in the people that surround me.
  3. I wish for a continuing sense of comfort and security with my partner, even as we move our lives to a different country.
  4. I wish for personal growth, by finding a way to be more present in my relationships with friends and family.
  5. I wish for a better awareness of myself and more confidence to do what I know is right.
  6. I wish for balance and health: in my body, in my mind, and in my spirit.
  7. I wish for more connections and community.
  8. I wish for more abundance and joy.
  9. I wish for new friends…
  10. For new adventures…
  11. And for everyone to find whatever it is that makes them feel connected and whole.
  12. I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Monthly Roundup



  • Rings of Power
  • The Dragon Prince: Mystery of Aaravos


  • A Lullaby of Stolen Stars (YA Fantasy Novel) – Rewriting
  • All the Pretty Little Lies (Autofiction Short) – Submitting
  • Invasive Species (Speculative Short) – Editing

September ’22 – Into the Whirlwind

It feels like only a few hours ago that I was posting about celebrating my birthday in Devon. Yet an entire month has passed since then, and I’ve hardly had time to breathe, nevermind write. We started off the month with another bout of Covid — this time it was my partner who went down with it, which kept us in Devon a bit longer than we anticipated.

As soon as we got back home, though, I ended up with a monstrous cold that made work and writing and general concentration extremely difficult. I recovered just in time for us to head back to Devon — this time to celebrate the wedding of one of my partner’s close friends, who was marrying his childhood sweetheart. Even beyond the endearing lovestory behind it all, It was a beautiful ceremony… accompanied by three days of almost non-stop partying. We swam in a heated pool under the stars and slept in a tent in what felt like zero-degree weather.

Which of course meant that as soon as we got back home (again), I came down with yet another cold (AGAIN!). I’m only now starting to find my feet again, after the whirlwind of celebration and sickness that has been September. It’s left very little time to write — or even stay on top of work, though I’ve at least managed to meet the two major deadlines I had this month (even if only barely).

As for the rest of it… Well, there are many things I would’ve liked to achieve this month. There are many things that I would’ve preferred to be doing than lying ill in bed, struggling with the snot and the coughs and the tissues. But sometimes we need rest, and it’s okay to take that time to heal. No matter how full-on life is, we need to know what to prioritise and what we can let drop, and when worse comes to worst—

Sometimes you really do just need to take a break.

Monthly Roundup

Latest Instagram

Fiction and Prose

  • A Lullaby of Stolen Stars (YA Fantasy Novel) – Rewriting
  • Dear Evergreen (Experimental Short) – Composing
  • All the Pretty Little Lies (Autofiction Short) – Editing


  • Rings of Power
  • She-Ra (rewatching IN SPANISH!)
  • The Sandman


Dragon Age Inquisition Soundtrack (epic? why yes)

August ’22 – On Waiting

Today is my birthday. As I write this, I’m sitting at a kitchen table in south Devon, celebrating with my partner and his family.

August was a month of maybes. Between job uncertainty with my partner, a bout of depression, rising living costs and everything else, I found myself wondering what the future could possibly hold for us, whether we would be able to survive. For a few weeks at the beginning of the month, things looked terribly dire. I found myself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But then a new opportunity turned up for my partner, and after a flurry of interviews, he landed a shiny new job in a shiny new city — a brilliant opportunity for both of us. We would be able to make a fresh start, go on a brand new adventure together. In less than two months now, we’ll be flying out, packing up our stuff to be shipped out of the country and leaving behind the house we’ve lived in for the past two years.

Two whole years. It seems like it’s been longer than that, but looking back on it now, I realize a lot of that feeling comes from the fact that Nottingham, for all the fun and friends we have here, has always felt more like a waiting room. We came here in the middle of the pandemic because London had nothing left for us. Living here allowed my partner to build his career in the games industry, and allowed me to start building my business. We made some great friends, but for all that…

It was never going to be the place we stayed for the rest of our lives. Nottingham was never the goal. Nottingham was a place to live and work and love while we waited for better things.

And now, at least a few of those things have manifested. So here’s to new opportunities and new horizons. Here’s to building new friends and new foundations. Here’s to Barcelona!

It’s amazing how quickly your life can change, even when you feel like all you’re doing is waiting.

Monthly Round Up

Fiction and Prose

  • A Lullaby of Stolen Stars (YA Fantasy Novel) – Rewriting
  • All the Pretty Little Lies (Autofiction Short) – Editing
  • We are Made to Bloom (Adult Fantasy Short) – Submitting


  • The Sandman
  • She-Ra (rewatching IN SPANISH!)
  • The Good Place


Closed on Sunday (For that Lo-Fi work ambience)

That Expat Girl’s Guide to Writing a Novel | Part 2: The First Draft (1)

Whenever I find myself in a new city — whether I’m planning to stay there for a while or only stopping by for a few hours or a couple of days — the first thing I make sure to do is get lost. Wandering through the streets of the city center and poking my head down any alleyways that look interesting, what I’ve found over the years is that pure exploration is by far the best method of getting to know a place.

Something similar could be said of my first drafts.

For me, as a gardener / pantster, my very first draft is an exploration and a prayer. In this post (and the next couple in this series), I’m going to give you some tips for constructing that all-important first draft of a novel. With 5 novel-length works under my belt (some of them closer to publication than others), I hope that my experience might help you find your way through the tangled maze that is writing the very first draft of your very first novel.

If you’ve read my previous post in this How to Write a Novel Guide, you should already have a few ideas and images floating about and a few thoughts on how those pieces of inspiration connect and intersect. Now all you have to do is put all of those ideas together in a first draft.

Easier said than done.

How you write: Roughs vs Firsts

There are actually more like two phases to constructing the first draft of a novel. The rough drafting phase involves getting your ideas down on paper in their most raw, unvarnished form. Much like artists doing gesture sketches and life studies before they commit their next masterpiece to canvas, the rough draft allows us to explore our ideas and flesh them out before the actual scene-writing and chapter-building.

For some, this may take the form of an intensive planning phase, where every plot twist and character flaw is noted down in excruciating detail (perhaps even using an excel spreadsheet or two to help organize). For others, the boundaries between rough drafting and first drafting may be less defined — you may waver back and forth between these two types of drafting as you work your way towards constructing a first complete draft.

However you work, remember that the rough draft is for your eyes only. It’s made up of all the raw ideas and unvarnished words that your brain spits out in the throws of inspiration, most of which will probably make sense only to you. Meanwhile, the first draft — while still not a fully fledged, ready-to-publish novel — is far more organized and probably makes a fair bit more sense when read from start to finish.

How you move from raw ideas to rough words to readable first draft depends a lot on your particular writing style. To steal the words of George R.R. Martin, some writers work more like architects, while others are more like gardeners. Perhaps, instead, you’re more familiar with the terms planner and pantster, or ‘outline’ vs ‘discovery’ writer — but no matter what you call these two modes of writing, figuring out which one you are will only ever help you nail down your writing process.


Pantsters, discovery writers, gardeners — some of us simply can’t be bound by outlines and spreadsheets. For gardeners, there’s no real boundary between the rough draft and the first draft. This is how I work, and I know that, for me, part of the thrill of writing comes from discovering aspects of my characters and plots that I never would have expected.

If you find that you can’t be bothered to write out scenes once you know exactly where they’re going, or that a plot outline never works for you once you arrive at the critical points, you may be a gardener. By far, my favourite part about writing in this mode is that most of my writing time is simply spent hanging out with my characters, letting them teach me about themselves in their own way. It’s far more of an exploration than outline writing, and you have unequaled freedom to incorporate new ideas and inspiration into your draft as you find it.

That said, writing as a gardener can make it too easy to get lost in the woods. Once that happens, finding your way out of tricky story twists and compounded plot holes may end up demotivating you more than inspiring you. Also, once you’ve gotten through the first draft, you may find your developmental and structural edits to be somewhat more intensive than our architect comrades.

Practical Tip: Stay organized! Even if most of the thrill comes from exploring new and unknown territory, it still helps to have some idea of the expanse you’re planning to venture into. Instead of scene-by-scene outlines, try coming up with minimalistic plot maps such as seven point structure, the main points on Freytag’s pyramid, or even simply knowing the ending first. And when you find out new things about your characters, make sure to keep track of all your discoveries by compiling character documents.


On the other end of the spectrum, there are architects, planners, or outline writers. For this sort of process, a clear delineation between rough draft and first draft is paramount. Much of the heavy lifting of character creation, plotting, and worldbuilding ends up being done long before a single complete sentence touches the page.

If you find you can’t even begin to write a scene until you know exactly what it’s leading up to, you’re likely an architect. I must admit, I’m slightly jealous of your ability! By planning out everything beforehand and using your rough drafting phase to outline exactly what happens at every point in your novel, you’re saving yourself time and heartache later on in the process. You’ll know early on whether a concept needs major reshaping before you’ve waded too far into a complete first draft, and you can’t use the excuse of not knowing what happens next to procrastinate on getting that draft done.

Of course, things don’t always go to plan, and novels can sometimes feel more like living breathing things than an outline gives them credit for. For architects, it can be difficult when all your meticulous planning leads up to a scene that ends up falling flat — or worse, dully predictable. You may also find it hard to let your characters breathe on the page, especially when they start acting more like real people, with quirks and desires only partially under your control.

Practical Tip: Don’t let the surprises throw you! It’s impossible to predict every single issue and detail that is going to crop up in a novel-length work. That’s why people read novels and not novel outlines. Surprises are part of the fun, and if you find that your characters want to go in a different direction, then let them lead the way, at least for a little bit. You’re not required to include the resulting scenes in your draft, but you never know how they might add to your final product.

What a First Draft is and Isn’t

In essence, your rough draft is a version of the story that you tell yourself, before sharing it with anyone else. It’s used to pin down the bones of your story, and get all those raw messy bits down on paper so you can see what you can do with them. Meanwhile, the first draft is a more organized version of those rough ideas. Your first draft should be readable from start to finish — but it will be far from perfect. There will always be several drafts to go before you can turn that first raw manuscript into a finished book.

This all goes to say that there really is no WRONG way to write a first draft. No matter what, so long as you’re getting the story down and moving forward with your words, you’re building a foundation for a successful novel.

A Practical Exercise to Get Started

In the next post in this series, I’ll be talking more about what you need to get started writing your first draft, whether you’re more architect or gardener or somewhere in between. But for now, if you’ve had an idea burning in the back of your mind for a while now, my biggest piece of advice would be to just get started by simply freewriting about your story idea. If you’ve never used this mode of writing before, you can find a guide on my editorial blog. Some prompts to use if you want to use your freewriting to build a novel:

As our story begins…

My protagonist/antagonist was born…

More than anything else, my protagonist/antagonist wants…

At the heart of this story is…

The scene I want to write most is…

This is the image I can’t get rid of: …

That fateful morning…

At the very end…

Bits of what you write now may or not make it into your novel’s first draft — perhaps only a single line or image may be worth keeping. But remember that no writing is ever wasted. In the next installment in this series, we’ll look at more exercises to get you off to a running start with your novel’s first draft, no matter whether you’re an architect, gardener, or something in between.

Until then, feel free to share your novel ideas in the comments! I’d love to hear them.

July ’22 – On Purpose

It’s been a whirlwind of a month, July, and I’m going to admit: I’ve been struggling.

I’ve been struggling with my health, with my work, with my stories. There were moments, in these past few weeks, where it felt like it was all just too much to deal with. There were days when I wanted to give up.

It’s at times like these when we start to question why we keep going. Why do we keep throwing ourselves into the whirlwind? Especially for those of us who are writers, what is it that makes us get up and face the blank page, instead of simply doing something, anything else? Especially when, so many times, it feels like we’re just shouting into the void?

For me, I’ve realised this month, it comes down to the urge to make myself heard. And I have a feeling that it’s the same for a lot of you as well. We write because we have something to say. We write because filling the page is easier than facing the emptiness. We write to find the meaning in our lives — and it’s our urge to share that meaning, in the hopes that others might see it, and understand it, and perhaps even benefit from it, that makes it all worthwhile.

So keep writing. Keep making yourself heard. If you have to shout into the void, then shout as loudly and as meaningfully as you can. You never know when someone might be listening.

June ’22 – On Holidays

“Do you even know what a holiday is?”

Confession time. I’ve just come back to the UK from a couple weeks in Malta. The Boy and I are hoping to move there soon, and so, even with work deadlines approaching, we decided to fly out and see whether we could sort out our accommodations and get the ball rolling.

To be fair, we both had to work for most of our time there, but there were at least a couple days that we’d put aside for proper holiday time. Even then, the Boy would find me on my laptop late at night, writing, editing, proofreading after coming home from the beach — or worse, sitting in the sun, scribbling down novel notes on the beach itself.

As far as I’m concerned, “A holiday is a block of time when you put aside the things that are urgent in order to focus on the things that are important.”

The Boy tells me that my definition isn’t exactly universal.

Fair enough, but I’ve never been comfortable enough to simply stake out a block of time for… what, exactly? I can’t imagine a holiday where I’d do nothing; my default is always to be writing, writing, writing — until I get too tired to form proper sentences, at which point I switch over to reading.

So yes, even on holiday, I was focusing on making progress with the current project: my first foray into adult fantasy and (judging by my current wordcount) my first truly epic novel. It’ll take a lot more holidays before I manage to finish the first draft, but to be honest, I’m rather enjoying the work.

And maybe that’s all that matters.

May ’22 – On New Adventures

Believe me, I am still alive… but boy, has it been a while. And it’s been a lot as well, but I suppose that’s the nature of life, to barrel on heedlessly while we cling on for dear life.

That said, I’m going to try to keep this blog updated more regularly, but part of the chaos that has recently ensued is actually a good thing. You see, I’ve taken the plunge. I’ve done the deep dive. I’ve unlocked a new level. No more 9-5 (or really, as it more often was, 7:30 to 6pm or 4am-2:30) for me.

I’ve gone freelance!

Check out my shiny new website. And I’d love it if you followed me on my (super) professional twitter.

I’ve always done a bit of editing and freelancing on the side, along with my writing, but due to a number of factors, I’m finally able to make it my main gig. And I hope you all will join me on the journey. For now, I’d just like to share a little something that I’ve posted over on my editing blog, just in case any of you were wondering how many drafts go into a published novel.

The answer is many.

In any case, I’m still praying for some good writing news, which always seems to be just around the corner, but never shows. When it does, you guys will be the first to know. For now — I’d love to know which draft you’re on in your writing journey, and whether any of you have had any good news lately? Can’t wait to hear it!

December – On Almosts

Dear 2021,

It’s been a while. We had such high hopes. Yet here we are, at the end of you, sitting amongst crumples of wrapping paper and the leftovers from Christmas dinner. And really, all I have to say to you right now is:


It’s tempting to blame Covid for the strange, unsatisfactory gappiness of this year — but if I’m being honest, the most frustrating thing about you, 2021, is that you’ve been a year of almosts and near misses. So often I’ve come closer than I’ve ever been to grasping everything I’ve been working towards — only to have it snatched out of my fingertips.

The worst blow came at the beginning of the year. The novel that was shortlisted for three competitions (including two awards at major publishers) died on sub. This was the novel that got me my agent, and while we got a lot of positive feedback from editors, ultimately no one wanted to offer on it. And so, The Shape of the World has gone onto the back burner. It’s especially painful, considering that just over a month ago, I and the other Shortlistees of the Rivers of London Award were invited to Gollancz’s London offices for an intro to publishing day.

Meanwhile, a couple of my short stories have been making it into the final rounds of decision-making with a string of pro-rated magazines. And yet, still, again, ultimately, none of this has resulted in a single sale.

I’m going to be honest, some of this is difficult to think about, much less write about. Almosts are hard. They can be devastating, to have come so far and worked so hard, only to be told, once again, still, that it’s just not quite good enough. And perhaps it would be easier to write off 2021, in the same way that we all had to write off 2020, but we have to draw the line somewhere. And to be fair, there are some good things that happened this year:

For one thing, as you’re reading this, I’m putting final touches on the submission draft for my new middle grade project about diaspora kids, monsters, and the worlds we see in mirrors. For another, I’ve started the first, rough drafts of the book that is the book of my heart. These are small magics, but they are precious.

Finally, outside of the writing world, the Boy and I have officially gotten engaged. We can hardly wait until next year to gather all our friends together and celebrate everything we want to build together.

In a year full of setbacks and almosts and not-quite-theres, I find it important to remember this: nothing at all is guaranteed. So much of this industry, of this life, is out of our hands, subject to whims and luck and ephemeral happenstance. Ultimately, the only thing we can really do is take ownership of the things that we can control: the effort we invest in our work; the people we choose to spend time with; the moments we pay attention to.

So, my lovelies. Here I am, wishing you all the best of the last dark days of this year. And I hope, in the days to come, that you write more, write passionately, and treasure the people you love. Our time is always too short.

Be good,


August – On Recovery

My, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I suppose it’s been a mad month so far. A mad few months, actually, seeing as July came with a lovely little bout of COVID, which (in my humble opinion), rather takes the cake.

Yes, I was double vaxxed. Yes, I did (and am continuing to) wear my mask in public places. And yes, I still managed to catch the Big-C, which not only knocked me out flat for about a week, but also gifted me the lovely lingering effect of debilitating fatigue. At least the timing was ideal — my symptoms cleared up and we were released from self-isolation a full week before our planned trip to Brighton. But even now, some month and a half after the illness has passed, I can’t go a full day without collapsing into bed around 9pm.

But so it goes. I suppose it may have been a bit overly-optimistic of me to expect to be fully healthy while juggling shifts at the bookshop and a 30k Camp Nanowrimo, never mind edits for my current MG WIP.

Speaking of which, with or without the post-viral fatigue, Adderix Charms Takes on the Human World is now approaching the end of it’s second major draft, and I am having a lot of fun stitching the pieces back together. This edit required some huge, major structural changes. Time lines were up-ended, motivations were undone. All of that means that the ending is still a bit of a mess, but day by day, it’s starting to come together. I think with another month’s work, I’ll be able to start looking at the scene and line-level of editorial things, hopefully to be able to be out on sub with it by October/November.

In any case, August has only just begun. Let’s see what it brings.

Last Month’s Reads: Wise Children | The Gilded Ones | A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue | Insurrecto