indie publishing, Stariel

Writerly reflections 2020: A year in four parts

So. 2020.

That happened.

How do you reflect on a year where reality became stranger than fiction? Even from the small and personal perspective of my own indie career, the task is daunting.

To make some sort of sense of a year that felt a thousand years and simultaneously only five minutes long, I’ve split it into quarters.

I’ve also chosen to mainly focus on the small good things that happened to me. Quite aside from all the, er, general 2020-ness going on on a global scale, 2020 was my worst year ever in terms of words written, so it’s good to remind myself that wasn’t all it was.

1st Quarter: The Before Times

I publish a book

It’s slightly surprising to remember this because it feels so long ago. But in January 2020, The Court of Mortals released! Bringing my grand total of books published to THREE whole novels!The cover of The Court of Mortals


Also in January, the amazingly talented Chiara Schieder sent me this beautiful fanart of Wyn!!! I think I made a sound only audible to bats when it turned up unexpectedly in my inbox. One of my secret author dreams has been to inspire fanart, and I was tickled pink when it actually! happened!

I felt like a real author!!!

2nd Quarter: Lock-down

A fogbank lies over the weeks between March and May when New Zealand was in Levels 4 and 3 of our alert system. I remember driving out of Wellington on eerily quiet roads, the electronic highway signs flashing: “Stay calm; be kind. Level 4 at midnight.”

It felt like driving ahead of a storm, like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie. I’d never felt dread with such physicality before; a persistent, painful tightness in my chest, the inability to focus, the bewildered surreality of a nation all tuning in each day for the 1pm press briefing.

Autumn is the loveliest time at my parents’ farm, I think, and the dissonance between the golden fields beneath crisp blue skies and the increasingly grim news headlines utterly did my head in. It was also our busiest time of year in my day job, and I was working remotely, but I didn’t get enough done, distracted and anxious as I was, and consequently worked a lot of overtime when we went back to Level 2.

3rd Quarter: Apparently a lot of stuff happened when I list it all out?

In this part of the year, New Zealand slowly returned to normal and the rest of the world largely didn’t. This dual reality continues even as I write this post. I’m grateful for my good fortune even as I worry for my friends and family overseas. Kia kaha, koutou.

Award nominations

I was a finalist in two categories for New Zealand’s SFF awards: The Prince of Secrets for Best Novel and my very own self for Best New Talent.


End of July was CoNZealand! It wasn’t the Wellington-based conference we’d all hoped for, but there was an amazing array of online panels. I even spoke (incredibly nervously) on some!


In August, the first of the Stariel audiobooks was released by Podium Publishing, swiftly followed by #2 and #3. The audiobooks have brought me so so much joy. The narrator, Finty Williams, is AMAZING and has brought the stories to life. Whenever I feel my motivation for finishing the final book flagging, I remind myself that once it’s finished I’ll get to hear it in audiobook format!


My sister made me two cakes this year, one when I launched The Court of Mortals and one when the audiobook of The Prince of Secrets released. Which now means I’m only one cake away from completing the set:

4th quarter: I finally start making writing progress again. Also, a review.

One of the last things that happened in 2020 was a glowing review for The Lord of Stariel on one of the biggest sites for romance reviews: Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I appreciate every single one of my reviews – they’re one of the most powerful ways readers can hear about my books. However, I generally avoid reading reviews for my own sanity. But this one gets a mention in my ‘list of positives amidst the sea of 2020’ not only because

(a) not gonna lie, it was hugely flattering to my ego but also

(b) it made my book sell like hotcakes,

which was extremely exciting to see when I checked my sales report.

2020 was my best year ever in terms of books sold and my worst year ever in terms of words written. I’m still feeling the effects of my lack of writing productivity; I’d originally intended to release Stariel #4 in January 2021, but that isn’t going to happen, due to the glacial progress I made for most of 2020.

I can’t even blame the pandemic. (Well, mostly; it probably didn’t help).

My writing paralysis dates from the Before Times in late 2019, after I finished The Court of Mortals. No matter how many hours I spent in front of the manuscript, endlessly writing, rewriting, arranging and rearranging scenes, the next book refused to work. My panic and self-loathing got fairly dire.

I may write a separate post about what helped kick me out of the spiral, but the good news is that my brain came back online in late 2020 and I’ve been making heaps of progress since. The King of Faerie will release in August, come hell or high water.

Bring on 2021.

8 thoughts on “Writerly reflections 2020: A year in four parts”

  1. I just finished The Court of Mortals and I can’t wait for The King of Faerie! I learned about your books from the SBTB review, and I’m so glad I did. Glad you’re writing and I will try to be very patient until August! I listened toone of the books on audio,and Flinty Williams is awesome. I’ll probably get them all on audio next summer and listen to get ready for the 4th (last?) book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you’ve enjoyed them! Finty is such a great narrator; I’m so thrilled with how the audiobooks have turned out. Yes, the King of Faerie is the last book in the main quartet.


      1. I love your books so much! My only disappointment was the change in narrators for the last book 😦 I really struggled to get back into the story when the voices of the characters I loved so much changed so significantly.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved these books so much – but yeah the change in narrator for the 4th was really upsetting. I’m not sure how much say you have in these things but are you able to talk about why they made that decision?


      1. Thank you! It’s a shame but I guess unavoidable. For what it’s worth, I think it’s partly down to how your writing flows and your voice (which is awesome) and the new narrator doesn’t seem to be able to capture the rhythm. Finty’s narration really pulled it out and fit.

        Narrator gripes aside though, this book series has been such a joy to read and I love your writing. And the story is just so good. I was supposed to be listening with my partner but I’ve not self control so I guess I’ll have to go back and re-listen to all the books again! so thank you and I’m super excited for Marius’ story. Will that also be an audiobook?


    1. I loved the first 3 book the narrator Finty Williams, made the story come to life. I’m currently listening to the last book (The King of Faerie), I find it almost unbearable to listen to due to the change of narrator. It’s like she can’t wait to finish the book. If you have any control I would ask Finty Williams to redo the audiobook . As Fiona Hardingham in comparison is like finger nails on a chalk board, trying to speed read through a book that she doesn’t care for. I would buy the book and read it myself if it was available in that format here. So disappointed!!! As I absolutely loved the first 3 books in the series.


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