Life in isolation

I’d love to say that writing is moving along faster with the requirement to shelter in place. Truth be told, the state of the world is more than a little distracting. Are you finding that to be so, gentle readers?

When I’m balancing my time, I regularly get 750 to a thousand words at a time. My average is around 1500 words a day for words I can keep. Looking back over the last few weeks, the numbers are there but the quality is not.

Today I decided to lighten up. It’s okay to be disturbed by the loss of freedom, hugs, and time spent with friends. It’s sad, that’s understandable.

It feels like the right thing to do is outlining, making plans for future writing. Soon enough I’ll return to the novel with renewed energy.

I am well and safe. Be safe out there, and mind how you go.

Life after death – true love

What is there to say when you have experienced ‘happily ever after’? When the song is done, the stage is cleared, and the players move to other roles? Raven Bond died peacefully on November 21st; we were married for 27 years, and together in spirit before that and forever after. We were married three times, the first by a civil authority, the second in a magical event where we pledged our vows, and one last time on his death-bed. It is not over. It is not done. Love is forever.

“You must have an amazing life, you hear me?” he wrote in his death letter. It was, appropriately, in a file called ‘death letter’ where I could find it easily. “I will be with you forever, even though I don’t have a body,” he said, and “I feel more for you than words can express.”

I feel the same way. He had the gift of unconditional love, and I found myself the recipient of that regard every day. Does that mean he was a saint? No. He was as gloriously flawed, as full of doubts and baggage as any other. His spirit though? That was as brilliant as a star, as courageous, as full of fire and hope and humor.

It is three months since he left the world of form. The body held the spirit so lightly, it was as if he were tethered by will alone. In the last year, we embraced the moments, one by one. We held hands and watched silly movies. We petted the cats. We invented characters and wrote books. Always together.

I traveled around the world to be with him, from Sydney to Seattle so long ago. We kept traveling towards each other all that long while, finding new countries, new worlds in the intersection of our wonderful romance.

I am surrounded by my friends of the heart, by extended family, and by those who called him friend, love, counselor, healer and teacher. He touched so many lives. Wherever he is traveling now, I’m certain he is being and becoming exactly who he is meant to be.

Raven told me a story about time, about being now. He said that if something happened, and that was now, even if that event was a long time ago, then that now is still Now. It comforts me to think that we are meeting for the first time, at Ancient Ways in the heat of summer in 1987; we are holding each other in the kitchen the morning that he died; we are celebrating life on a beach in Hawaii, and in some when, we are meeting and making love in other bodies. We are entangled, and that’s a good thing. We are now.

It is as if he has stepped into another room, yet his spirit lingers with me in between particles, suspended like motes in the glitter of stars, in reflected sunshine, in a dark obsidian mirror. I wrap his cloak around me; it keeps me warm at night.

Having been touched by true love, having lived within it, the embrace lingers.

We will meet and know each other again.

And yes, my love. I will have an amazing life.




Writing for picture books

Writing for picture books is so different to writing other kinds of fiction. The stories need to be both shorter (750 to 1000 words) and more direct. The sentences are short. Each scene needs to stand alone, but also requires a hook to get the page to turn. Usually that’s some kind of question.

Dialog moves the story along, with more show and less tell in every scene.

Determining what drawings to create takes a different kind of effort too. Will it be a scene, with the place as character? Will it be one of the characters who is speaking in the scene? As I’m doing my own illustrations, quite a bit of time was occupied with drawing, watercolor, creating a style for the kids books. I wanted something that was organic, dreamlike, playful, yet not too serious. Not cartoon-like, but naturalistic. Yet I wanted the color of dreams and magic to play in the illustrations. The animals needed to be ‘in the environment’ with gestural color and movement. All parts of the challenge.

At first, I thought of hiring an illustrator, however, am glad my sweetie talked me out of that idea. Getting back into sketching has been its own reward.

However, the challenge of structuring a few short sentences per page, with a maximum of 32 pages in the book has been a learning curve. More about that as I work through the steps to get it into print. Meantime, the kindle version is done. Onto the ePub and print versions next.

Writing journey side trip


Billabong Flats: The Big Race – Story and images by Ria Loader, copyright 2016

As we write, sometimes the journey sometimes takes a bit of a side trip; that happened to me about three months ago. I was writing the ‘how to kindle’ book and got side tracked by a creative adventure. It started when I was writing the chapter on formatting for kindle. I wanted to show the difference between unformatted text, and how it looks when you add a bit of structure such as Chapter Heading, first paragraph with no indent and subsequent body copy. It happened that I needed a couple paragraphs of story to use for that section. Out of nowhere, the start of a children’s story sprang to mind and I scribbled it down. That began a side journey that has involved a lot of steps.

Unformatted text
The Big Race
The wild bush animals gathered at Billabong Flats, a place where everyone has fun.They met in the shade of the big gum trees.They would race to the big hill and back. Emu was there, along with Magpie and Kangaroo. Wallaby and Cockatoo, Possum and Flying Fox were there too.
End of unformatted text

Didn’t mean to procrastinate finishing the kindle book, though that’s been on hold while I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind. Finishing the story fragment above has led to learning about kids books, taking up drawing again, and writing a dozen kids stories. Sometimes, as an author, it feels like you are just along for the ride.

The place?
Billabong Flats, an imaginary place in the Australian Bush.

The characters?
Australian animal friends – Kookaburra, Koala, Kangaroo, Echidna, Cockatoo and Flying Fox, Dingo and Brolga and all the critters that run, swim, jump and fly.

The idea?
A place where everyone gets along and has fun.

The challenges?
Those of friendship everywhere. Things are lost and found, curiosity leads to new discoveries, new homes need to be found, visitors become neighbors and scary monsters are avoided or defeated, friends are supported in times of loss, and adventures and fun is had along the way.

The images?
After searching through thousands of photographs, it came down to around 200 images as inspiration. From that. pen and ink drawings were embellished with watercolor and digital brush work.

The web site?
It felt like the stories needed their own web site, so I started one at When friends said they wanted images of the characters, I began to set up some materials for Billabong Flats Art on Cafepress. The first image, of KoalaDreaming is ready. I’ll be asking folks who join the Billabong Flats mailing list to vote on which story and which character I put up next on cafe press. I have images of many of the animals ready to go.

The first illustrated children’s book?
It is called Billabong Flats: The Big Race. It will be out on amazon in a couple of weeks.

Write faster by identifying writing patterns

A chum of mine at work asked how I manage to get so much written. I write specs, emails, documentation and how-to guides at work; I write novels, short stories, game outlines, nonfiction at home. Each of these pursuits has a different focus, however, there are some things in common.


  • Everything has a particular audience
  • In each case, there is a specific goal for the writing
  • Every kind of writing, for me, has a subject
  • There is always a beginning, a middle and an end
  • The writing is less about me than about the topic

Identify common writing patterns

Identifying common elements in a particular type of writing helps me to write more quickly. Until I know the audience, I can do research, but it is not time to start the email, the document or the story. When I have worked out who I am writing to, then it is easier to work out what needs to be said.

The pattern for documenting a meeting decision

When I am documenting a decision from a meeting, all I need to do is

  • state the problem we identified in the meeting
  • outline the various positions on the topic (pros and cons)
  • make sure there is an image or sketch to illustrate the cases,
  • summarize the decision and follow up actions.

Simple, right? Knowing those steps, I make a quick set of headings and start putting bullet points under each area.

Let’s look at another kind of writing and figure out the patterns that apply – blog posts for example, as that’s what I’m doing here.

Pattern for writing a blog post

  • Which blog am I writing it for – that tells me the audience
    (based on the theme of the blog)
  • The goal is to write an article that people will enjoy, one that shares actionable or thought-provoking information about some aspect of the theme
  • The subject should be descriptive and have key words
    The subheadings should also have key words to help people find the article, without being ‘click bait’ or too catchy
  • I work out what I want to discuss and say that in the first paragraph
    The meat of the article should discuss the main elements to consider
    I ought to recap at the end and summarize – or not, depending

I’m working out the patterns for each of the types of writing I do, and will be putting it all together in a short guide.

What are some of the patterns you’ve noticed in your own writing?


An accidental novelist, or was I?

You could say I became a novelist by accident. Sometimes the best things in life happen when you’re not quite paying attention.


Previous writing was non-fiction or articles, with the occasional interview or editorial thrown in for fun. However, NaNoWriMo, the national novel writing month, sneaked up on me and challenged me to have a go at it.

Along the way, I encouraged Raven to do the same thing. However, he already had one novel written. NaNoWriMo was his excuse to try a slightly different genre (murder mystery) while he kept me company.

Nowadays, I can hardly imagine life without plots in the background, characters whispering about new adventures, and the lure of words. I am quite caught by the writing bug and expect it will never again let me go. Every day, there is some new plot or sub plot that springs to mind. I have been parking the non-fiction for the while, however, over the summer I plan to get a couple of the how-to books out of the way. They’ve been calling to me from the back of my mind, demanding their own attention.

Time to dream, perchance to solve a plot or two whilst sleeping.