2021: the Year of COMPLETE

A grid of jigsaw puzzle pieces with a black border. In the centre, one piece is not attached to the puzzle, but instead is sitting slightly off centre. There is black in the empty space. Above this is in the word Complete in upper case white text on a black background. Below the out-of-place puzzle piece is "Twenty twenty-one" but all one word, also in white on a black background.

In 2020, a few writer friends and I all chose a word to be our theme for 2020. I’ve decided to do that again this year. I have so many unfinished projects I want to return to, so it makes sense that my 2021 theme word would be Complete.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the coming year. I’ve used the same categories I used last year; I found them to be quite a helpful breakdown.

A shot of a desk with a notebook, phone and laptop. The laptop is open and there are hands resting on it, but we cannot see the rest of the person.


  • Complete Facing the Music draft 2

I’ve been thinking about this WIP a lot lately, and I think I finally have a way forward with it. My problem has been that I have been cramming too much into it, and I never really knew what I wanted it to be.

So I’m paring it right back. I’m going to revisit the Snowflake Method of outlining, and see if that helps me figure things out.

  • Draft two Drosselmeier Industries sequels

I have two in-progress drafts, but I think I’m going to nearly scrap them both and start fresh. I’m really hoping to complete the series this year.

  • Complete two other projects from the incomplete WIPs list

This is a long list, I can tell you that! Some are short stories, some are probably closer to novella length. Some are only outlined, some I’ve started the first draft, and some others are probably nearly finished. So I’ll revisit that and see what strikes my fancy.

A woman sitting at a desk, looking at a large-screen computer.


  • Publish Drosselmeier Industries sequels ebooks
  • Publish Drosselmeier Industries combined paperback
    • cover design
    • formatting
    • social media graphics
    • marketing

Given the length of the DI stories, it made no sense to publish separate tiny paperbacks, but I do want to put out a combined edition in hard copy for those who prefer that to ebooks.

  • Add back matter to already-available ebooks
  • Re-launch A More Copmlicated Fairytale
    • new cover design
    • formatting
    • social media graphics
    • marketing
A light bulb in the centre of a blackboard. In chalk, six lines lead off from the light bulb. At the end of each line is a circle, like the light bulb is sparking new ideas.


  • Read four books on self-publishing and other indie author business, e.g. Dave Gaughran.
  • Continue doing Bryan Cohen’s free Amazon ads courses (one is starting this month!)
  • Complete IngramSpark’s self-publishing courses that I didn’t get to this year.


  • Set aside regular time (monthly? fortnightly? Still TBC) to work on Amazon ads.
  • Post at least two writing-related photos on Instagram each month.
  • Re-work newsletter on-boarding sequence and keep up with monthly newsletters.
  • Research book swaps, giveaways, etc, to engage more readers.


  • Learn to tap dance!

I’ve been saying for years I’d like to learn! I’ve found a studio. I’ve got shoes on order. This time, it’s happening!

As expected, this is a pretty ambitious list. I didn’t reach all my goals last year and that’s fine. I may not (probably won’t) reach them this year. But it’s always good to have something to aim for.

Let me know what your 2021 goals are, either in the comments or in a link to your own post. Best of luck this year, whatever you are aiming for!


What I Achieved in 2020

When I posted my 2020 Writing Goals on the first of January, Australia was basically on fire. My city was shrouded in smoke, as were others, and N95 masks had sold out across the country. At the time, we thought it couldn’t really get much worse.

March 30 was my first day working from home. Things changed so quickly that month. I am incredibly fortunate to live not only in Australia, but in a region that has barely had a COVID case in the last few months (at time of writing, we currently have 1 active case – an overseas arrival in quarantine).

was back to working in the office pretty much full time by the end of August, and our public spaces re-opened not much later.

Instead of going through all my 2020 goals and giving myself some kind of pass/fail grade, talking about whether I succeeded or not, I decided to just make this a post of the wins I achieved in the last twelve months.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with my 2021 goals.

What I achieved this year: 

For the most part (apart from one deviation in early May), I managed to avoid the temptation to stress myself out by signing up for word count challenges.

I submitted 3 short stories to 4 different places. This was my first time regularly doing this, and reworking stories as I went, making them better all the time.

I reached a point where I considered the first draft of my big WIP, Facing the Music, as completed as it was going to be. There’s still lots of work to be done on it. 

I participated in Bryan Cohen’s Five Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge three times, with varying degrees of completion due to external factors. Amazon ads require a fair bit of on-the-job learning so I’ll be continuing with these courses. 

I also completed Ellie Marney’s self-publishing course. It was great to work with an author I’m a big fan of and get her insights!

Armed with the knowledge from these courses, I went ahead and published Operation: Sugarplum as its own ebook in the lead-up to Christmas. And I scored such an awesome cover!

I performed a light edit on A More Complicated Fairytale and have got it ready for reformatting and re-publication next year.

I started a mailing list. It’s pretty small fry at the moment but I’ve read some books on mailing lists now and I have Plans for it in the new year. 

And I registered emilywrayburn.com and had my beautiful author photo shoot

On the non-writing front, I was also privileged to still be able to participate in the local theatre scene. I played two roles in The Thornthwaite Inheritance: the Musical. I will admit that Zoom rehearsals through the period of March to May were incredibly tedious, but I’m immensely grateful for the friends I made throughout this process. 

could beat myself up about the things I wanted to achieve and didn’t, but there’s no point to that. 

Please share your 2020 reflections with me, either in the comments, or with a link to your own posts. I’ll be back here tomorrow with a list of 2021 goals nearly as ambitious as this years!

Take care. xx

#FlashFiction – “Not the Last”

Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:

“If you only had one day to live, what would you do with your time?

I can’t decide whether to save the world from impending doom or go get froyo.”

My story is not so much a “one day left to live” as “one day left on Earth” but I had fun with this fro-yo addicted guardian angel.

Not The Last

I have approximately sixty minutes left on this Earth and I am wasting them dithering over frozen yoghurt flavours.

It’s the small things, you know? The Almighty sends you down here for a century or so to keep an eye on a few good souls and then in the second half of the twentieth century, they develop fro-yo.

And look, I’d argue it’s an important decision, all right? It’s the last one I’m ever going to have. I mean, sure, up home I could just pull one out of the air whenever I want, but it won’t be the same. I can’t even remember when I started getting fro-yo to mark significant milestones in the lives of my assigned souls, but at some point it became tradition. It has to mean something.

And so that’s why I’m dithering, because it’s my last day on assignment and so in a way, this one has more meaning that any of the others because it’s the end of this era.

All right. Mango. I’ve always really liked mango flavour. It’s one of my favourites. So a scoop of mango and a scoop of… okay, what goes really well with mango? Coconut? But on the other hand, I’d really like chocolate.

Maybe I should get two? Yeah, why not?

“Hi, I’ll get a double scoop mango and coconut, please,” I say, still casting my eye over the other flavours to decide on my second helping.

The cashier starts to scoop out the mango when a massive clap of thunder startles her, making her nearly throw the scoop over her shoulder.

“Jeez,” she says. “I didn’t know there was going to be a storm.”

There’s not. She can’t see him, but an Archangel has joined me in front of the counter. He’s giving me an ice-cold stare, scrutinising me as though judging my worthiness for… whatever has warranted this visit. I bow my head and turn back towards the counter. Staring back might be seen as disrespectful or something and I don’t want to risk an Archangel’s wrath literally an hour before I’m supposed to step back through the Pearly Gates.

“Your help is required,” he finally says, and I’m trying to work out a way to reply without the fro-yo attendant thinking I’m weird for talking to myself. I settle for turning slightly and raising my eyebrows in acknowledgement.

“Was there anything else?” the attendant asks, oblivious, as she hands my fro-yo over.

“Um, no, that’s it, thanks,” I reply, pulling out a card and hastily paying. I grab my fro-yo cup and a spoon and make a hurried retreat. The Archangel follows me. Once outside, I pull out my phone and hold it to my ear as we begin walking along the pavement.

“All right, what’s going on?”

The Archangel stares at me for a moment. “What are you doing?”

“Making sure everyone who can’t see you doesn’t think I’m crazy. So what’s going on?”

I can’t eat the fro-yo when my phone is in the other hand. Dammit. Should have thought this through.

“There have been increased signs of demonic activity around the world. We’re enlisting every angel that’s currently earth-bound to help investigate.”

“I’m supposed to go home today. In –” I look at the phone screen – “forty-seven minutes. And now I have to help with demons?” Apart from the fro-yo, I was looking forward to heading home.

“Are you an Angel of the Lord or not?”

“I’m a guardian angel! Not one of you fire and brimstone types.” I motion to his armour and the sword glowing at his hip. He gives me that stare again. I am possibly crossing the line. Maybe should ease back on the snark. I’ve been around humans too long. Surely that’s a sign I shouldn’t be sticking around any longer.

“You don’t have a choice in this matter.”

I had a feeling that was the case. “How long will it take.”

“As long as it takes.”

Well. Righto then.

I give up on the phone and put it away, ready to dig into my mango and coconut. I guess this isn’t my last fro-yo after all.

My Author Photo Shoot!

So most of the photos I have of myself are connected to the local theatre productions I’ve done over the years. I’m usually wearing makeup and contact lenses. Which is all fine, but theatre!me is quite a different vibe to author!me.

This year I met Stephanie, who is still in high-school but already has an eye for a good shot. Now that we’ve finished the musical we were in, I asked her if she’d be keen to help me with some more author-y style photos. I picked her up this morning, and away we went. She’d delivered them by afternoon tea time!

What do you think? I’m incredibly happy with how they turned out!

2020 Writing Goals – October Check-in

A photo with a phone, computer keyboard, headphones and a notebook and pen. The text reads "2020 Writing Goals"

At the start of this year, some writer friends and I chose a word as the theme for the coming 12 months. Mine was LEARN.

I’ve definitely been learning. And now we’re on the downhill run towards the end of the year. In some ways, it feels like the months have dragged on beyond belief, and in other ways it feels like it has flown by. So it’s time for a last look at goals, what I’ve achieved and what I’m still working on, before that final check-in at the end of the year.


  • Don’t sign up for any challenges with arbitrary goals, e.g. word count goals

Still doing fine with this. People are starting to talk about NaNoWriMo and I am not even the slightest bit tempted.

  • Submit stories to four anthologies or short story competitions

I’m still sitting at 3/4 for this goal. I do have one last WIP that it would be good to finish and send out before the end of the year. We’ll see. I did conclude a while ago that if I’m only going to complete either the short stories goal or the Facing the Music goal below, this one would probably be more likely.

  • Finish the first draft of Facing the Music

I made a spreadsheet with one-sentence chapter summaries ages ago. I mentioned it in my mid-year writing update. In fact, I think I did it around Easter. And I said that I was pretty much at the point where I would start looking at it as revisions/second draft ready. And I haven’t touched it since then.


In my initial 2020 Goals Post, I had a list of courses I wanted to complete this year. I’m not going to list that here because I haven’t really been doing those. That said, I have

I am intending to participate in Bryan Cohen’s 5 Day Amazon Ad Profit Challenge this month. I completed this in April and have been sprucing up A More Complicated Fairytale to better benefit from the lessons I’m learning here. I was going to participate in July

Ellie Marney’s self-publishing boot camp is coming up in a few weeks as wlel.

I’ll have to have a good think about how to work these other goals into my schedule.


  • Give A More Complicated Fairytale some love. 

I was reformatting this a while ago, but progress stalled and I’ve only returned to it in the last few weeks. It’s getting there slowly. I’m hoping to get a decent chunk of revisions and formatting done on the upcoming long weekend. Then I need to work out what the next steps are.

  • Self-publish Operation: Sugarplum as an ebook once Christmas: Australis exclusivity period ends.

This is happening! I have a cover on the way (can’t wait to see what it looks like!). I’m reading over the story just to make sure there aren’t any typos (shouldn’t be – it was in pretty good shape to go into Christmas: Australis). I’ve registered it against an ISBN. Watch this space!

  • Compile short stories that don’t get accepted elsewhere into my own collection (if some do get accepted, maybe this could be pushed out until other exclusivity periods end).

This is very much a work in progress that will extend into next year. But I’m keeping it here to remind myself.

So what to aim for over the last three months of the year (how are there only three months left of the year?!). I need to not push myself too far. I’ve been so busy. And I’m having a bit of a time with work. So here’s my plan:

  • Publish Operation: Sugarplum ebook and all that entails (book description, etc.)
  • Finish editing/formatting for new A More Complicated Fairytale (if I get it republication-ready by the end of the year, that will be a bonus!)
  • Finish and submit one more short story.
  • Complete courses as they come up.

That’s it. I’m hoping there’ll also be a few more flash fictions on this here blog but I’m not holding myself to that too hard.

Snippet er… Sunday? – September 27, 2020

A small spiral0bound notebook being held between a thumb and forefingers. The text on the cover of the notebook reads "Snippet Saturday"
Snippet Saturday

Yes, I’m leaving the graphic up even though it has the wrong day on it. Soon I’ll get back to regular Saturday posts. 😂

I got some lovely responses to my flash fiction on Wednesday, so thank you for that!

Apart from flash fiction, I’ve spent the last week getting back into my edits and formatting for A More Complicated Fairytale. If all goes to plan, I’ll be relaunching this before the end of the year. There are definitely parts I’d like to rewrite properly, but I’m trying not to change it too much from the version people have already read.

This blog didn’t exist when I was writing the book, but I did share a lot of excerpts back over at A Keyboard and an Open Mind. I don’t know, I might repeat myself here, but it’s been that long, I doubt anyone will remember.

In this scene, Prince Felipe is causing mischief, sneaking off to blend in with the commoners rather than attending a royal function.

He jumped the last couple of feet to the ground and raised the hood of his cloak over his head. As he began walking away, he recognised the blonde maid who was working in the garden. He often chatted to her when he was out like this. He gave her a friendly bat on the arm as he passed. She started but then grinned as she turned and saw who it was.

The prince turned so that he was walking backwards and returned her grin. “Send them in the wrong direction for me, won’t you?”

“As always,” she replied.

“That’s my girl!” Prince Felipe waved and then turned around and broke into a jog towards the rows of tents and pavilions ahead of him. He slipped between two of them and wove himself in amongst the anonymous strangers on the other side, becoming part of the crowd.

I hope you enjoyed this one! Talk again soon!

#FlashFiction – “The Longer You Stay…”

Hello all. I know, I know, it’s been a month since I last posted anything here. Apparently my brain can only cope with one creative pursuit at a time and for a while, The Thornthwaite Inheritance: The Musical was taking up all my creative brain space. Doing an original musical was a new experience, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to pursue it. Not to mention that meeting my castmates and hanging out with them, both in rehearsal and outside of it, is pretty much what has got me through 2020.

The show closed last Friday, and then the weekend was spent packing things away and after-partying. Then on Monday, it was like a switch was flicked in my brain. Writing mojo was back. I just had no idea what to write (though I’ve been working on a few things).

Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications (who I also met thanks to Thornthwaite) posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:

“What are you doing here?!”

“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!”

“It’s my funeral!”

I came up with an idea almost immediately, and couldn’t wait to get away from work so I could start working on it. The following story is the result. I did a quick proofread but it is basically a first (and only) draft so please forgive any weirdness on that front. It’s a sort of bittersweet ghost meet cute, which feels rather on brand for me. 😄 I hope you enjoy!

The Longer You Stay…

The girl can see him, which is Jake’s first sign that she’s different to everyone else in the chapel.

“Who are you?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?” she retorts. “Isn’t there a heaven you should be getting to?”

Jake gestures to the crowd and the coffin on the raised platform at the front. “It’s my funeral. Thought I’d check it out, you know? See who showed up?”

The girl’s expression shifts almost instantly to sadness. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”

 “How do you know my name?”

She smiles, but her expression remains melancholy. “You haven’t changed a bit since Year Ten at Dickson Valley High.”

Jake takes a step towards her. He’s still not quite used to the weightlessness of being a ghost, and he travels slightly too close. He’s only a few inches from her face now, but he takes the opportunity to study her features before stepping back. Finally, a name comes to him.

“Mel Shepparton?” 

“The one and only.”

“You died eight years ago.”


“And now… what? You spend your time hanging around funeral homes?”

“Not all the time. Sometimes I just… get a feeling that there’s someone here I should show up for.”

“A feeling?”

“Did you know I had a massive crush on you when we were at school?”

She grins. Jake doesn’t know how to respond. They might technically be the same age, but Mel still looks like the teenager she was when she died. He hasn’t really thought about her in years, and now here she is, declaring that she once had feelings for him five minutes into the conversation.

“Sorry,” she says, sensing his discomfort. “I’ve embarrassed you.” She swiftly changes the subject. “Have you tried walking through a wall yet?”


It’s like she knows he hasn’t worked up to that yet. Despite being aware of his incorporeality, Jake has spent the first week of his afterlife trying to avoid situations that would remind him of his new state. Trying to walk without hovering above the ground has been challenge enough.

Mel has moved to the door at the back of the chapel. She’s standing there, waiting, one hand extended to him.

“Come on,” she says. “It’s fun.”

Slowly, he moves to join her at the back of the chapel. When he turns back to look at the crowd one last time, he realises he’s missed a fair chunk of the service. His mum is at the lectern, speaking about what he was like as a kid. His dad is with her, his arm around her shoulders. He hands her a tissue when she stops speaking due to the tears.

Jake feels something on his arm. When he looks down, he sees Mel’s hand there. Huh. So ghosts can touch other ghosts? They just can’t touch anything else. He looks up and meets her expectant gaze.

“The longer you stay,” she says, “the harder it will be to leave.”

Jake looks at his mum again. She’s composed herself and is speaking again, this time about how he ran away from home when he was five, but came back when he discovered the corner store was closed after dark and he couldn’t get the lollies he wanted.

Jake swallows. Mel is right, he realises. He can’t stay here, trying to cling onto his old life. He takes hold of Mel’s hand. She grins.

“Ready?” she asks.


With a lurch, she pulls him into the air and through the solid wood of the chapel door. For a second, Jake doesn’t know which way is up. Then he’s tumbling out the other side. Mel is waiting for him a little way down the path. He doesn’t try to walk this time; instead, pushes himself through the air and catches up with her in a second.

“This is just the start,” Mel says, a smile lighting up her face. She takes his hand again, and Jake let’s himself be pulled away.

Snippet Saturday – August 29, 2020

A small spiral0bound notebook being held between a thumb and forefingers. The text on the cover of the notebook reads "Snippet Saturday"
Snippet Saturday

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a month since I last updated here. I thought for a while that I was going to get back to my novel, but then I spent several weeks thinking about that and not having the energy to do anything about it.

I had thought if I were only to manage one 2020 Writing Goal, then “Finish the draft of the novel” should be it. But now I’m thinking maybe “Submit 4 short stories” is more doable.

So a week ago, I scouted Literarium for some places I could feasibly submit to, did some brainstorming, and now I’m working on a short story called Quiet for The Voyage Journal. I read a number of the stories on there when I was sussing out their style and I encourage you take a look! There is some really great YA short fiction on there.

The premise of Quiet is that my two main characters both hear others’ thoughts, whether they want to or not, but when they touch, it cancels out the power. I haven’t figured out all the world-building just yet, but the main issue is that any kind of magic/supernatural ability is unwelcome and children discovered with these powers are called witch-children. That’s where this paragraph comes in.

The circus is supposed to uplifting. A sign of hope. Look at the brave witch-kids putting on a show. Finding their way in their world. Making something of themselves. People will part with their money to gawp, but would any of them think about giving a witch-kid a job? A home? Would they spare a glance if they saw the same kid on the street?

Circuses and dragons really do seem to be all I’m writing about this year. I’m glad I have them both on the list on my homepage. 😂

I hope you enjoyed this one! Talk again soon!

Snippet Saturday – July 25, 2020

I’m scheduling this post because I’m running around a bit today – my birthday party is this afternoon! My birthday is actually tomorrow but I have a rehearsal for the musical I’m in… which will probably mean extra cake and stuff, and honestly, I love rehearsing… but also means there’s no opportunity to get together with a group of good people. Hence today.

I’m fortunate in that I’m able to get together with good people, and I am very grateful for that fact.

GIF description: Audrey Hepburn accepting an Academy Award. She is wearing a sleeveless floral, white dress. She says “I’m truly, truly grateful and terribly happy.”

But anyway, enough about that. Here is a snippet from my current untitled WIP. The dragon, Nanorae, has just unceremoniously dumped Gwen, the witch, onto her back so they can fly to where they need to be. Gwen is less than pleased.

“Rae, what are you doing?” Gwen shouted against the wind, struggling to find purchase for her feet anywhere along Rae’s scaly back. She eventually sat each foot in the space where Rae’s arms met her torso. She clamped her eyes shut. No way was she going to watch the village rapidly disappear below her. The air became colder and she shivered, trying not to let the involuntary movement loosen her grip on Nanorae’s neck. How high up were they that the temperature had changed that much? She didn’t dare open her eyes to check.

Rest assured that they do manage to reach their destination unscathed, but Gwen has to spend a few minutes getting the feeling back into her arms and legs, which were gripping Rae so tightly they all went numb.

I was hoping that I would have a first draft of this story knocked out by the end of this week, but that hasn’t happened for various reasons. I’m hoping another week at most, as my timeline’s pretty tight by the time I factor in beta readers and the like. Entries close August 31. This week is pretty quiet, so fingers crossed, but I can only do my best.

Talk again soon.

Snippet Saturday – July 11, 2020

Hello everyone!

I hope this week has treated you well.

The last few weeks I’ve been stressing about a short story competition. Protip: don’t enter a competition where you have to pay the sign-up fee before you find out the theme. It wasn’t a massive sign-up fee and I could have just let it go, but I wanted to submit something to justify my money. That was back on June 3, and I have finally submitted it today.

In celebration, here are the final lines from “Sign Me Up”, a story about three Russians trying to save some dragons:

“Is it always like this?” Natasha asked, breaking the silence.

“Like what?”

“Loud noises and flares and dragons trying to kill us even as we’re trying to save them?”

Mikhaila grinned. “Pretty much. You up for it?”

Natasha looked down at her hands. They were shaking now the adrenaline was wearing off. She looked back to Mikhaila and returned her grin.


Next week, I’ll return to the story I shared from last week. There will be more Gwendolyn Gummesh and stinky magic for you to enjoy!

Until then!