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Category Archives: Writing

I’ve not given up my day job, but I have started reviewing!

Here you were all thinking my day job was being an Author, right? Don’t be silly… my day job is as a Haus Frau and Horde Wrangler. My night job – and any time I can fit it in really – is being a Writer who occasionally stumbles over the opportunity to be an Author too. 😉

And let me just tell you the Horde Wrangling has been taking up more time than the Haus Frauing… or anything else for that matter of late. Which is why I’ve been so quiet on this blog. Ooops. As much as I refuse to label my son, or dub him as a ‘special needs’ child, getting him into school full time, routines to help him communicate better, socialise better and all the stuff that allows society to deem him as ‘acting normally’ has been taking up a lot of my time. On a little off topic side vent here – what the heck is ‘normal’ anyhow? And why do so many people strive to become it? Such hard work for very little results, in my opinion. 😉 Being normal is so over rated and not something I tend to encourage in any of my kids… but I digress. This isn’t my Haus Frau blog so let’s not waffle on about that stuff.

So, yes, I’ve become a Reviewer (note the capital R as I think it’s a rather important part of my little life). It started out as a way to get my hands on some new books for free and really just a hobby. Somehow, though, it’s twisted itself into my life and become more of a side line entertainment than just reading and writing stuff about what I’ve just read. The results have been mixed so far. I mean, no one has taken my reviews so badly that they’ve spammed me with trolls on Twitter (as has happened to other reviewers I know) and I’ve actually received some kind words of thanks from publishers as they’ve liked my reviews so much. I mean, I have been choosing books I have an interest in, but I have also been openly honest and sometimes brutal with my reviews if I’ve felt they’ve not lived up to my expectations. What can I say? I’m blunt, honest and would rather give my opinion openly than mutter about it behind your back. Possibly not the best thing to be as a Reviewer… but I’m enjoying myself so far so I don’t care! 🙂

And it doesn’t stop at books either! I’ve been asked to review foods, places, and now even kitchen appliances. How awesome!

Again, I won’t waffle about this sort of thing in my Author blog as, really, you’re here to read about my trials and tribulations of being the next best thing in writing… right? Well, keep coming here to read and maybe one day I can get back to you on that one. 😉

In the time being I just want to shamelessly plug my new Reviewer blog here. That way I won’t bog this, or my other blogs, down with the near constant reviews I’ve been doing… plus this new blog still allows me to blog about the reviews. Yeah, that made sense when it was in my head… not so much now I’ve put it down on paper though.

All the same, if you’re interested in seeing my reviews (mostly of books), please go check out Janis’ Journal – Eclectic Reviews of a busy Mum. It’s less than a week old and so rather bare and basic right now. Give it time though! If you’re on Facebook, don’t forget to Like my page about it there too.

Otherwise, stay tuned to what’s happening in my Writing world here. You can also check out my Foodie blog or Haus Frau blog by clicking on their links on the right side of this blog.

What have I been up to in that writing world? Well, not a heck of a lot sadly. See comment on my son. I’ve entered some competitions, got my name in the paper and on radio podcasts a few times and stirred up vague interest around the place with my books. Sales would be nice, but as my parents shouted me to a visit to Red Cacao last week I’m good for at least this quarter. But, seriously, if you want to help me support this gorgeous café, buy my books so I can go visit them more often. 😉

Oh, and I’m on the very cusp of finishing There’s no place like Hell – Book 2 in the Other World series and am in two minds what to do after that. Technically I should finish writing the series as it’s swirling around in my head screaming to get out. But then again, so is my one about empathic vampires, my one about a haunted house that traps traumatic moments in time in each room and my cosy crime series set here in the Adelaide Hils. Add to that the box of stories I wrote as a teen I found recently that I’d love to type up, polish off and see how good a YA Author I was when I really was a YA. Seriously, there is just not enough time in the day to be an Author, Writer, Mum, Horde Wrangler, Foodie and Haus Frau. How to the pros do it?

Still, at least you’re all caught up on what I’m up to. And no, you’re not going to be able to get those five minutes of your life back. 🙂

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
 

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Emphasising the Australian voice with a short story.

I recently entered a competition hosted by Pan Macmillan where they wanted you to write a 1,000 word short story using characters from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

So I did. I didn’t win, didn’t even make the top five. Heck, I didn’t even get a mention. Not that I’m bitter (honestly, no sarcasm there for once) as I went into it pretty sure they wouldn’t even read past my introductory blurb about me and even look at my short story. Why? Because I emphasised my love of the Australian voice and how I’d deliberately used it in my story.

Pan Macmillan don’t like the Australian voice. They publically say this a lot. Actually, what they say is there is no audience for the Australian voice and so they won’t even consider it. Which is rather frustrating, but nothing that causes me to waste too much of my time being grumpy over. This is because it’s my opinion that major publishing houses are out to do one thing – make money. They’re a business, it’s what they do. Sometimes, as a by-product, they publish books and even make smaller amounts of money for other people… but all in all they are seeking things to publish that shine dollar signs for their bank accounts. It’s okay, it’s how the majority of the world works, not just publishing. People tend to only put effort into things that will give them positive results like money and fame. Let’s face it, it’s human nature. Why bother being grumpy over people simply following human nature? Pan Macmillan say there is no audience wanting the Australian voice, therefore no money… that’s fine by me.

I’ve accepted it and moved on.

However, I will not give up on the Australian voice. I’m Australian, and I’m damned if I’m going to write like a different nationality simply to get my work published. I will not, for example, write sympathise with a z. My parents didn’t send me to school for all those years just to know where I was every day. My teachers didn’t spend hair pulling moments teaching me the spelling and grammar of Australian society simply for me to turn my back on it so I can get a bigger royalty pay cheque from a better known publisher.

I’m Australian and I’m bloody well going to write like one too! And no one is going to stop me. Yes it may mean I’m not going to be working for Pan Macmillan any time soon, but hey that’s their problem and not mine. 😉

I’m just happy to have found a publisher who doesn’t have an Australian voice phobia. Then again, as a small Indie publisher they’re also still more interested in getting new authors and interesting new works out there as they are at making money. Hence my love of the smaller publishers and why I now have them higher up my submissions list than I do the major publishing houses. I’ve come to the conclusion the major houses aren’t ready for me yet. And as I’m not into being an Author for fame and fortune, I’m okay with this. They may never be ready for me, bless them. Who cares?! It won’t stop me writing and it won’t stop me trying. 🙂

And with that little waffle I will end with the short story declined, and doubtfully even read by Pan Macmillan. I mean, they could have read it and thought it crap. Fair enough, I’m not saying I’m the world’s best Writer and it could indeed just be a rubbish short story. I usually don’t do short stories and so fully accept it would be no better than doggy droppings. Meh, all the same I enjoyed writing it and those of my international friends (who will rip my work to shreds if they don’t like it) enjoyed it too. And that is all that matters to me. Shite or no shite in the eyes of others, I enjoyed writing so job done!

I can’t save this short story up for another competition as it uses character names from Romeo and Juliet and so there are all those copyright issues. So you’re getting it here for free where you are fully aware it has these character names in it as that was the prerequisite of the competition I entered.

Finally I would like to tip my hat to Mr Baz Luhrmann who’s own Australian voice inspired me in this story. Obviously it’s only the literary world that’s not ready to hear/ read it.

Enjoy… Hopefully.

Benvolio’s lament.

Benvolio wanted peace. Despite not wanting to say out loud that he wanted it ‘at all costs’, the words always seemed to silently add themselves to his thoughts every time he requested it out loud.

The world was a mess, everything was gone and this was his last chance. Peace, at all costs.

And who wouldn’t want peace at the end of year Mantua Ridge Semi-Pro Ballroom finals?

Especially with the incomers from Verona Creek being eligible to take part, since their dance hall had burnt down in last summer’s bushfires.

But peace must be had; it was doing Benvolio’s head in. Thankfully he didn’t have to be the judge for the finals. But as Chair of the Mantua Ridge ‘Having an Active Town Environment’ – he wasn’t best pleased with the committee’s name – Benvolio still had to ensure things ran as smoothly as possible.

And it wasn’t that possible. The two towns had never gotten on, and combining them together in this way hadn’t helped. Although the instigator of the committee, Benvolio had never realised it would turn into such a mess, though should have guessed. All he had wanted to do was hold out an olive branch to the poor folk at Verona Creek after their town burnt down and his didn’t. All he had desired was to show community help extended further down the highway than old Paris’ farm. All he now craved was for the two towns to get along and enjoy a dance amongst the tinsel and mirror balls on this sultry summer’s night. What he instead got was an invisible, but distinct, line down the dancefloor where people decked out in their finest feathers, taffeta and tulle ignored each other as they twisted, glided and shuffled through the dances. Yes there was the occasional scuffle when partners from the two towns met on that line. All mere accidents, of course! Sadly one such accident had left Mercutio with a badly twisted knee and he and his partner Rosaline were out of the finals, sitting dejected on the sidelines; her with an ice pack, him with a beer.

But other than that things seemed to be progressing at a level of civility Benvolio decided was acceptable. There were just the wallflowers to contend with. Both towns had half a dozen ‘fair maidens’ lining the walls, also separated by the invisible line. Some, if Benvolio hadn’t been such a kind soul, would have been better classified as ‘old maids’ but there were some lookers there too. The stand out, of course, was Juliet.

Although barely old enough to meet the eligible age criteria to compete, she was beautiful. Fair of face, slim of figure and budding red lips seeming perfect to kiss… by a younger man, of course! But sadly her strict parents had shunned all offers from dashing young men to dance with her. However, this was about to change! A wardrobe malfunction sent Juliet’s mother scurrying towards the toilets in a flurry of lost sequins and fake pearls, her husband trying to scoop them up in her wake. Juliet was now left unguarded.

Enter Romeo stage right. Well, from the side door at least. He had been outside with some of his mates and hadn’t wanted to take part in the competition at all. But with his mother being Mayor of Mantua Ridge, he had had to at least turn up, and in appropriate dance wear at that. On seeing Juliet alone, a rose amongst a cluster of thorns, he felt it was time to stir things up. Why not have a good time and annoy the folk of Verona Creek?

Paying no heed to the invisible line separating the towns, or even the scowled looks from the local wallflowers, Romeo strode up to Juliet. With a flourish he bowed to her and asked for the next dance, which was about to begin. There was a collective gasp from both sides when Juliet grinned up into his smiling face, snatched his hand and strode onto the dancefloor as if worried he would change his mind.

It was the tango! Benvolio clasped his hands together in fear. He wanted peace; would this dance show all were equal and bring the two towns together? Or be the final nail in the coffin?

Romeo looked out of his depth for a moment; he’d only ever attended ballroom lessons as his parents demanded it. But he’d never really done the tango. And especially not with one so young, flexible and pretty. If he didn’t watch his step, Romeo could see himself leaving with a thick ear and their parents hurling abuse and beer cans across the carpark.

The two strutted, dipped and clasped each other in a rather haphazard manner. Definitely not competition winning style or grace, but they were still turning heads all the same. A Mantua boy with a Verona girl? A Montague with a Capulet! But for Romeo and Juliet it was more than just a silly dance contest. It was their way of thumbing their noses at the two towns and their age old hostilities. With each step they seemed to be saying ‘take that old feud about who had the bigger marrow in 1946.’ ‘Be gone lawsuit over who really owned the cow, long since dead while the lawsuit raged on.’ ‘So what if your town burnt down, we didn’t start it no matter what you say.’ The young couple were in a frenzy of stamping and dipping and stalking until a squawk from the toilet door showed the return of Juliet’s parents.

The spell was broken, the awed silence splintering into muttered insults and threatening looks as the two towns, at last, came together. Sadly it was not in the way Benvolio had hoped.

And as the fists flew and insults burned, out through the side door skipped a rather amused Juliet and her besotted Romeo. From beneath his table huddled a rather sad soul, there would be no peace for poor Benvolio.

 Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Writing

 

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Goodbye, and thank you for the sarcasm Mr Pratchett.

I’m really not one to jump on a bandwagon of “someone famous has died and I need everyone to read how it affects ME.” And that was never my intention with the following post… it started off as a simple thing for me to post on my Facebook Author page, and then turned into the following massive brain dump.

This is not aimed at being an attention grabbing moment for me and my writing or blogging. This is a heartfelt goodbye from a fan who always wanted to meet him, came close but never quite made it. This isn’t about me at all.

RIP Terry Pratchett. One of my all-time favourite authors and a man who taught me that it wasn’t just my mind that kept a sarcastic dialog on the world… and he was brave enough to put it in print!

May he have found the death and peace he wanted… or should that have been Death in the Anthropomorphised way? If so, give Binky a carrot for me.

I am very honoured to have had my work likened to that of his… but even more honoured to own a book he signed for me. Well, for my husband who stood in line on a stinking hot and humid Brisbane day as I was too heavily pregnant and was borderline with pre-eclampsia so unable to go.

Mr Pratchett signed the 25th Discworld book, given to me by my husband on my 25th birthday. (Yes, he is the romantic one in this relationship). The book was The Truth and Mr Pratchett wrote: Dear Janis, it’s all true! TP.

Now I’m sure he did that on thousands of books and that particular one was just a blur in the rearview mirror of life. But it is much cherished and greatly appreciated. Especially as hubby also got my Dad Going Postal and had it signed Librarians Rule – Ook. Which my dad loved and treasures as he’s the sod who got me interested in Mr Pratchett’s work in the first place!

Hubby’s biggest brush with fame with this great author: having another fan ask him to take a picture of him and Mr Pratchett. Mr Pratchett had said: “sure, but no flash.” Stranger’s camera handed to hubby… flash went off. Hubby got a scowl from the man himself. Oops. Still, not his fault but a memory of Terry Pratchett being grumpy with him he can tell his grandkids one day, after reading them The Hogfather at Christmas. 😉

Although I didn’t always like his work (see Nation – too harsh and dark a reality for me while being strikingly truthful) I am very proud to have his books take up a considerable amount of our bookshelves. Yes, so loved we have them in paper form! Some even in hardback! *gasp*

For the last week or so I’ve had a hankering to read his Johnny and the… series again so this is a sign it is indeed time to dig them out, have a read and then pass them onto my book loving children to get them going on a great journey through one of the best imaginations I’ve ever had the honour to see into.

Thank you Terry Pratchett for teaching me that my dark and cynical nature and sarcastic outlook on life was perfectly natural. Thank you for showing me how tongue in cheek and downright blatant mockery of others is acceptable on paper in the right forms. Thank you for Rincewind, the Luggage, Johnny, Masklin and Grimma. And thanks most of all for Granny Weatherwax. My kind of witch and a role model for me as I grow older. Although I’m probably more a Magrat if I do say so myself. I started reading your work as a maiden, now a mother and look forward to it into my crone years.

May you rest in peace and never be forgotten for bringing life and magic back into other’s imaginations.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Writing

 

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First chapters, like first impressions, are important.

What do I look for in a book and why is the first chapter so important?

Well, like most people, a book’s first impression on me is very important. And that first impression consists of three things – the cover, the blurb and the first chapter. Some may say that the author plays a big part, and this can be true… but quite honestly, if the first three give a good result, I don’t need to know who the author is. It often means I’ve just found a new author I like!

Which is the most important out of these three? The first chapter of course! The cover is just to grab your attention. The blurb merely the sales pitch to get you to open the book and read it. But that first chapter is the make it or break it moment. I will freely admit that if my interest is not captured in that first chapter, the book is a failure and gets put on my DNF (did not finish) pile. Admittedly, being the good natured soul I am I tend to give most books the first three chapters before I add to that pile, but that really is only if they pass that first chapter test.

Your first chapter doesn’t have to start with an explosion, big action scene, sex or any of the usual overhyped rubbish. Simply try and capture my mind with it. Sometimes it’s a slow, easy read that twist and tangles itself through my imagination so I don’t even realise I’ve past the first chapter, I’m so engrossed in the story. A good example of this is Mary Janice Davidson’s novel Undead and Unpopular. The opening line of the book is: “There’s a zombie in the attic.” George the Fiend informed me over breakfast.

That one line and how it was casually said got me interested. Then again this is one book in a series I had been reading for some time but it has always stuck with me as a punchy one liner that then goes right into the flow as if you’d been part of the conversation for long before the book started. Your imagination is snatched up and swept along with it and before you know it you’re in the middle of the book – way past the first chapter – and desperate to know how it all ends.

Other times it can even be how the first few lines read. Witty, enigmatic, suspenseful… some kind of emotional punch that makes me want to read on to see the how and why. But I do find if that emotional punch drags on to being a few jabs and a poke, I get bored and wander off.

Saying that, if you’re going to start with a punchy, witty, fantastic first line – keep it going at a good pace. Don’t put all your focus into the opening line and then drone on for the rest of the chapter. This is your make or break moment – show me what you’ve got!

I find one of the best ways an author can do this is to leave the last line of any chapter as a sentence just hanging there seemingly unfinished so that the reader simply must turn the page, start the next chapter and finish what was said.

Katie MacAlister is excellent at this. She always ends her chapters with an enticing sentence that gets that “One more Chapter” mantra going until you’ve found yourself reading until 3am.

I have had similar comments made about my own work and in my first book Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s guide to Mathematics it was the ending of my first chapter that got my publisher interested in publishing it.

Would you turn the page when a chapter ends so casually as: It was then that my world came to an end. Nothing too dramatic, just a sucking ‘pop’, and all I can surmise was left in the street was slowly dispersing smoke from his used Maths.

Actually, a first chapter is very much like a blog post. Start with a snappy title, capture the reader’s attention and keep it so they read the whole thing. They might then subscribe to your blog, they might check out what else you do. But you have their attention and they want to know more. Make it interesting, make it relevant to the title and ensure you make it sound like you know what you’re saying.

So grab a book today, be enticed by its cover, interested by its blurb and enthralled by its first chapter. Before you know it you’ll have finished the book. That is what makes a good first chapter.

Why am I talking about the importance of a first chapter? Because I’m lucky enough to have been chosen to be a judge for Freshly Squeezed in their latest C1Blitz. I get to read a lot of amazing and interesting first chapters to new YA works. Yes, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it…. and chocolate taster was taken. 😉

Head on over to Freshly Squeezed and check it all out.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Book Review, Writing

 

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New Year and New Career… Of sorts.

Hello everyone, yes I’m finally writing a new blog post rather than just re-sharing something I wrote for someone else some time ago. All the same I do hope you enjoyed them, especially if you didn’t get to read them where they were originally published.

And so here I am, back to blogging and trying to figure out what to write. So I decided to share what it is I plan on doing this year, as it is a new career of sorts.

As some know, I’ve just spent nearly the last twenty years in ITC Support (Information Technology and Communications)… Yes, I did stuff with computers including dealing with people who had broken them, forgotten how to do something, wanted to buy something for it or had accidentally opened a nude picture in their email and now infected the whole company with a virus. Fun times :-/

There were a few reasons why I’ve given this career up, the biggest one being my chronic sinusitis being so bad these last few years I can no longer work in an air-conditioned environment without getting a sinus infection every few weeks. And how many ITC based jobs are there outside of an air-conditioned environment? No, I couldn’t think of any either. So you can see, I needed a career change.

Another reason for the career change was my children, my demonic hordes. I wanted to be home for them and we could just scrape through financially – most days – with my being a stay at home mum and there to ferry them about to the various things they needed. Orthodontist for the eldest, ophthalmologist for the middle child and a whole damned dictionary of ologists for my youngest due to the myriad of delights he’s been through in his young life. Being diagnosed as a child with High Functioning Autism (Asperger’s in the old lingo) merely the most recent.

Who needs a ‘real job’ when you have the fun of being a Haus Frau/ drudge, baker, horde wrangler, gardener, zoo keeper and so on?

Add to that the magical moment of becoming a Published Author (note the capital letters as it’s such a big thing to me) and, well, I decided on a career change last year as I was determined to be a better Writer.

Sadly this didn’t go to plan as I tried to juggle being a Writer with being the afore mentioned Haus Frau with all the duties that come with it and failed at being a Writer miserably. I feel the jury is still out as to how I went as a Haus Frau too, but let’s not go there. House, children, the fact I make 80% of what we eat from scratch… all of that simply got in the road and every time I was meant to have a ‘writing week’ I got side tracked into doing more Haus Frauing. I was, indeed the supreme Empress of Procrastination as I barely got a literary thing done! Some tell me ‘oh but you got another book published’ but most of that work was done the year before and my work was merely in a holding pattern. As a writer, I did bupkis.

Actually I may be being a little hard on myself as I did learn a few new tricks of the trade when it comes to writing and being an Author. I learnt a lot about how to negotiate a deal and even more about the legal system, copyright infringement and who the best people to talk to about the miss-use of intellectual property were. I learnt about image branding, how to use social media to shake your assets in a better manner and how to register my own domain and start building a website… which I will start flogging to you when I get it up and running a bit better. 🙂

So possibly not a total waste? No, not really as all the things I learnt – mostly through trial and error – last year has helped me come up with what I plan on doing as a career this year. And what is it? I’m going to become a full time Author.

Don’t give me that look! It’s really not as odd as it sounds, while still being a lot different to what I was doing last year. No, it doesn’t mean I’ll be playing a lot more solitaire on my laptop and hanging out at cafes as much as possible… but I’m not going to rule that out either. 😉

What I mean- my interpretation of – being a full time author is to simply focus on my writing, my image, the whole social media deal and especially the website. Although I will still be working from home and still have my hordes needs to contend with, I’m not going to juggle a day on day off Haus Frau and Writer schedule like last year. No, I am going to be an Author. This, to me, is more professional than being a mere Writer. As it means I can be more focussed on getting my name known, my books sold and so on. I will treat it like a full time job and will do my best to ignore the Haus Frauing unless it’s outside of ‘being an Author’ hours.

I do foresee the house getting messier, the garden becoming even more weed riddled and all in all finding my weekends and evenings filled with doing all the Haus Frau things I usual have all week to do. But! I want to be a full time Author. I want to get my name out there through my blogging, through reviewing, through my multi media accounts. And so my family is aware they are now on the backburner as I give this life a go.

What do I plan on achieving this year? Well, I don’t expect to become a sudden and instant success where the money will be rolling in and I can stop hiding the bills under the couch cushion until I have the courage to look at them. No, we’re still going to be poor and struggling… but I’m going to be writing!

I have one manuscript There’s no place like Hell to finish and send off to my publisher to see if it makes the grade. It’s not going to be published this year as I missed the deadline, but I’m still hoping it will be published next year.

Add to that I plan on writing two more full manuscripts (of 100,000 words or more) to prove I’m serious about writing. One will be my first book in a cosy crime series I plan on setting here in the Adelaide Hills. The second manuscript I want to complete… well, it might be another in the crime series, it might be another in the Other World series… but it could even be one of the many other stories in my head that is yelling at me to write it down. I won’t know until I make enough room in there to think by getting these other two manuscripts out on paper.

Besides writing, I plan on reading. A lot. As I personally feel one of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to read the works of others and see how they do it. You might see where you’re going wrong; you might see where they could have done with a better editor. But reading opens the mind and often helps my own ideas flow and come out on paper easier than they would if I simply focussed on them alone.

One of the ways I plan on reading ‘a lot’ is by becoming a reviewer. Yes I know, this is signing my own death warrant as there are a lot of authors who don’t take well to constructive criticism and try and do all sorts of nasty things to ruin your name, reputation and so on when you give them a bad review. But seriously, those sorts of people should go back to writing for pleasure, not for public examination. Because I can assure them now that if I don’t like something, I’m sure there are others who won’t either. You need to put your big girl panties on when it comes to being an Author and take the bad reviews with the good. Try and learn from them, find the positive and put it to work in your further books. Only low grade authors (note the lack of capital A) resort to hate mail, spambots on twitter and the usual immature meanness I’ve seen pop up when friends, who are reviewers, ruffle the wrong feathers. Being a bully makes you into an ugly person, not matter what you do. Just saying. 😉

So I’m going to be hitting NetGalley pretty heavily this year and checking out books in different genres that take my fancy. I will do my best to read these books, review them with an honest opinion and, hopefully, even learn from them. I will also be using Goodreads a lot to display my reviews as well as adding them to this blog… until I get the review section of my website up and running.

And speaking of my website… Yes, being a full time Author also means I will be working hard on establishing myself on my own website through blogs, reviews, comments and so on. For now I will be using my existing blogs (I have three) but I will slowly be moving them over to the website. This is part of the whole image branding I’ll be working on. As, I hate to break it to you, but if you want to be an Author, you need to have an image and you need to get it out there and noticed. If people like your brand, they’re going to take an interest in your work. If they take an interest in your work… that could mean a sale. And as a sale could mean another salted caramel hot chocolate for me… Image branding is very important to me.

Now I mentioned three blogs didn’t I? Am I glutton for punishment? No, I don’t think so. You see, there are really three parts to my life right now and that is ‘Being a Writer’, ‘Being a Foodie’ and ‘Being a Haus Frau/Mum’. And so they are currently separated into three different blogs. This blog is my Author blog. I have a Foodie blog where I wax lyrically about my weird food tastes and the fun things I get up to with nut flour. My third blog is actually my oldest blog. It’s my Dairy of a Haus Frau and is where I go on about being a parent, the antics of my hordes, home and garden. Yes, I do blog about my life… possibly in the vain hope I can make it sound less boring than it really is… who knows for sure. 😀

Add to the gluttony for punishment and I’m starting to do commissioned blog posts for others. I don’t charge peanuts though. No, I’m asking for cashews as I prefer them a lot more. I’m also looking into some freelance writing for other people’s websites and blogs and all in all it is just more writing to add to my schedule. We won’t go into the possible archivist role I’ve volunteered for. What can I say, I’m insane.

Another part of my image branding is getting known and noticed on social media. And, hopefully, for saying nice things and not by having another vent about society, politicians and bad drivers. I tweet, I’m on Facebook, I do loads of food porn on Instagram, I even pin the occasional thing at Pinterest. I’m out there trying to be seen, trying to look interesting enough to entice people to look at my books and buy them.

And that is how I plan on being a full time author this year. Loads of writing, loads of asset shaking, a bit of IT dabbling and plenty of excuses to read other people’s work.

Wish me luck; I’m going to need it. I mean, I have a good feeling about it all and feel I’m freed up more to do it now all my hordes are at full time school… but this is only my third day in the job so maybe the glamour hasn’t worn off yet. Watch this space and let’s see what happens.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Writing

 

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My children do not fear the Bogeyman, good parenting or bad?

Hi everyone, another ‘re-run’. My hordes go back to school next week and I hope to get back into some serious and new blogging then! Today’s blog post was originally featured and the rather sultry and sensual VampChix blogsite. How could you not like a blog when they describe themselves as ‘Exploring new worlds, one bite at a time’? Seriously, go check them out.

My children do not fear the Bogeyman, good parenting or bad?

Besides being a fan of the supernatural, there is another genre I enjoy – crime fiction. And when it comes to TV crime fiction, it is a rare gem that blends both crime and supernatural together so well. One of these rare gems is the UK TV series Whitechapel where modern day detectives and their flunkies seek out the earthly, sane answers to some pretty weird and gruesome things happening in the heart of Whitechapel… that haunt of Jack the Ripper just a century or so before. It is a great series, shame it was eventually axed, but it was the right blend of spooky, creepy, crime, horror viewing I liked.

My only desire is that they didn’t put it on so late at night when I’m home alone with the kids in bed and all those strange noises outside. Yes, I am a bit of wimp too. But Whitechapel has that right edge that Doctor Who had when I was a child. I’ve not yet watched Whitechapel from behind the couch with a thrill of ghoulish curiosity… but I’ve come close.

So what has this to do with Bogeymen and my children some of you may be asking? If you’re still actually waiting for me to get to the point. Good question, thank you for asking.

The Whitechapel I was watching last week was about the Bogeyman and had the team reciting all threats and warnings they remembered from their childhoods about the Bogeyman and how their parents had used this fear to control them. And I realised something shocking… I’d never used this fear, this threat of the Bogeyman on my own children to ensure they behaved. Was that good, modern day parenting? Or losing some of our verbal traditions and tales?

All is not lost though as it’s not as if my children don’t know about the Bogeyman. Oh, trust me, having me as their mum they know all about all sorts of supernatural folk from the fae to the far out there. Dinner time discussions are about things like this all the time. A good example is the time I explained the after death rituals of the ancient Egyptians. I had them so hooked that night, as I was explaining the role of Ammut (crocodile headed god who weighs the heart of the dead before making judgement), that when I clapped my hands together as the snapping of his jaws… they leapt off their chairs in fright and I needed to check under their chairs for puddles. Yeah, I tell a good story.

So it’s not as if I’ve raised my children in a lack lustred world where what they see if all of what they get. No, I do my best to weave a little magic and unreality into their lives whenever I can. See my eldest’s pen pal – A faerie who looks after horses. Or the fact that the Christmas wrapping elf Bryony comes to see us each Christmas Eve. She leaves a special gift for my kids… as well as a card containing three strips of sticky tape. Magic happens, let it live on in others even if we may have forgotten its touch in our own lives.

Back to the Bogeyman and my children’s lack of fear. They know the Bogeyman exists, along with ghosts, zombies, spirits, djinns, demons and the whole kit and caboodle. But did you know the way to get rid of the Bogeyman is to lift off his hat and laugh at him? That’s what I was taught as a child, if he ever came for me, and it’s what I’ve taught my children too. And now he knows we know how to get rid of him, he doesn’t come here. Knowledge being power and all that.

Ghosts, djinn, spirits? Oh, the secret salt circle we have lining the outside of the house and the iron reinforcements in its very walls keep them out. Oh yeah! Zombies… well, we’ve had a bit of an issue with zombies for a while now with our eldest. But we have found the best fix for them is magical pixie dust. My eldest came up with that solution when she was five and still sometimes needs a little these days when she’s feeling unwell or a little worried. It’s a wonderful cure all I tell you! And it’s amazing what a few drops of yellow and red food colouring gently swirled in full cream milk can do too… if you know what I mean?

Then we have binding circles… my kids play with chalk out on our concrete verandah a lot. As well as the words to dispel demons and, all in all, I’m pretty sure I have some pretty well rounded kids. So they’re not afraid of the Bogeyman. They still believe in him and know he’s out there… so the narrative history will live on. But I don’t use him to scare my kids into being good; I use him to feed their hunger for knowledge.

It’s working too. Eldest, now nine, plans on being the world’s leading expert in Sifaka (a type of lemur – the primate, not Roman ghost). Middle child, seven and a budding artist, is undecided as to whether she’ll be a basic entomologist, a graphical entomologist (one who draws the bugs) or an archaeological entomologist… to study what part bugs played to ancient civilisations. My youngest, aged five and a little… special… Well, right now I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a farmer, a gardener or Sheldon Cooper. He’s five, he has time to decide.

So, should we keep our children in check by passing on a fear of the unknown? Or should we use these old myths to train them into being fearless explorers of the unknown and then letting them loose on the poor unsuspecting world? I know which one sounds more fun to me!

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Writing

 

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I do like vampires, honest.

The following blog post was originally written as a guest spot over at Fangtastic Books as part of my Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! book tour in September last year.

Please go check it out, and all the other wonderful articles, blog posts and author interviews on Fangtastic Books. I have to say, it was one of my favourite sites on the tour and a place I keep visiting even now for updates on things.

Yes, still in holiday mode so still mostly rehashing my work. My Hordes go back to school at the end of January and so you can expect new posts from me then. Still, this is a great post… even if I do say so myself. 😉

I do like vampires, honest.

In my latest book Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! I have portrayed vampires in a less than pleasant light. I’ve taken them right back to the beginning when they were pure evil and just out for their own pleasure from other people’s pain. I even took a little artistic license by stating they were created as an after effect of people killing a demon. As that demon died, its own coiled Darkness and evilness was released and tainted the blood of its vanquishers, turning them into the vile vampires my protagonist is out to kill.

Some people have told me this shows I don’t like vampires nor appreciate their finer points. This isn’t true, there are some vampires I really do like. See Queen Betsy from MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and… series. I love her. Yes she gets on my nerves at times, but she’s still a great vampire and a Queen of them too. She is vain, blonde, obsessed with shoes and a randy little minx… but still a gorgeous character and proof you can be a vampire and still be nice, mostly.

Then there are the vampires in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. Another perfect example of a well-rounded species. Either born with the vampire virus and therefore a living vampire, infected with enough of the virus to become a lesser, turned vampire. Then there are the top of the food chain – someone who was born a living vampire who has died and spent a lot of time being undead. Some are relatively good – despite their need to follow their vampiric urges – and some are not so good. They are a well thought out species and done in such a way they are truly believable. Plus sultry, sexy and elegant without needing to sparkle.

Heck, movie wise, I’d even give the thumbs up to the Lost Boys vamps. I watched it as a teen, wasn’t obsessed with it like some I know, but found them an acceptable portrayal. What me, fussy?

Are there vampires I don’t like? Well, yes. There are the ones that seem to be trying to take over the world one virgin at a time. The teen heart-throb types that sparkle and would look more at home in Disneyland than Transylvania. Don’t get me wrong, these vampires obviously work as they do have their fans… but they are just not for me. The origin and soul of a vampire is in pure evil and darkness, and this doesn’t just mean smouldering good looks and a bad boy leather jacket. They can’t be changed and made better and I’m pretty sure they can’t be cured. Maybe I missed that memo?

But please, don’t take my judgement as the law. Vampires come in all shapes and sizes and you need to find the one you prefer. Hey, if the fang fits and all that!

Would I write about vampires again? Probably, but I would again push the boundaries and go against the current vampiric norm. In fact I already have written about a different type of vampire, a psychic one. Actually I started writing this story some decades ago and have since lost it. Isn’t that always the way when you move out of home, get a job, a life, have kids, etc? Still, one day I would like to find it… or simply start writing it all over again.

So what is a psychic vampire? I can’t say all psychic vampires are like mine, but here’s what I did. A young woman (early twenties) was raped outside a nightclub and was left mentally and physically traumatised. She then moves back to her home town to be with her parents and slowly rebuilds herself and her faith in mankind, seeing her rapist was never found. Slowly she finds the moods of a crowd around her affected her in ways it never used to. She was almost able to feed off of it and soon found actual food no longer necessary. And despite her now dislike of crowds, due to her trauma, she finds herself drawn to them nightly to ‘feed’.

As the story progresses she starts to have physical flashbacks. As in, finds herself in parts of the past and how her home town used to look. Long story short she discovers she’s pregnant from the rape and the child conceived through evil is causing these changes in her. To give birth to it, what will it be and what will happen to her? And, yeah, that’s all I pretty much had figured out and had started writing. I do feel it would be a little different to write these days as I was eighteen when I started it. That’s *cough* twenty years ago now.

How would you create a vampire? Twinkly and new style or go old style and the spawn of hell? Will they feed off blood, emotions, virgins, strawberry smoothies? Do they need to be surrounded by gore and humping, writhing over-sexed bodies to be a good read? And are they the protagonist or the villain? This is why a vampire can be a fun thing to read or write as, quite frankly, there are just so many different types to choose from.

Until next time,

Janis Hill. XXOO

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Writing

 

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Book Hangovers and how best to find a cure.

Hi everyone,

The following blog post was originally submitted as “a sample of my work” when applying to be a blogger somewhere. As it’s been a few months and they’ve not gotten back to me I’ve long come to terms with the fact that’s a big and silent “Thanks but no thanks”. This means I have decided to share it with you all here. Why waste a good blog post, right?

So here it is:

The other day a friend posted one of those ‘funny quotes’ in their Facebook timeline that was about Book Hangovers. It read:

Book Hangover: Inability to start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world.

Now I think the reason I find this so amusing is because I can totally relate to it! That resonating feeling – when putting a book down for the last time – of the adventure continuing on, despite the pages having stopped. The joy of a happy ending, the anxiety of a cliff hanger awaiting its sequel, the sorrow of the final death of a beloved character. It still tingles through you, draws your mind back to it over and over and makes you recoil at the thought of picking up a different book and having to find a new world to enter. How can you be expected to do that? Don’t they know what you’re going through right now? They did it! They won, lost, lived, died, but they are your friends and they are just there beyond dull old reality. How could you possibly think of turning your back on them now and find new friends?

But is there a cure to this painful sensation? I mean, you’ve just bought a great pile (virtual or otherwise) of new books and you were simply dying to read them. You can’t abandon them now just because of a hangover. What is the hair of the dog cure? Does anyone know?

Well, you could go for a walk and try and clear your head. But doesn’t that tree remind you of the one they first met at? And that newfie being walked in the park nearby, did he wink at you… or does he just remind you of that demon in a dog suit who had you laughing so hard? Damn it, this walking is just reminding you of them. You need to try something else.

Real work, be it housework or one of those paid jobs where you sit in front of a computer all day long looking busy. No, that’s no good… as when the boss isn’t looking you’re just going to google who you think would be the best actor to play your character’s favourite role if and when it becomes a film.

You know what I’ve found is the best cure for the Book Hangover? Blog about it, write a review, get all your thoughts about how great it all was down on paper, erm the screen, and it will help you find closure. As, yes, closure is the only cure to this horrible affliction. Even if the book had a happy ending, you’re suffering from loss now it has ended. You need to accept that loss, focus on it, weave it into the best review you can give… and then move on. Set it free, clear your mind and reach for the next book.

Think of it as your homage, your dedication to a lost love, now the story has finished. Think of it as some aspirin and a greasy egg and bacon roll for the soul. Let it cure that hangover… and let’s not stay up til three in the morning with the ‘One more chapter, I can do it’ mantra that you know is just going to leave you with another Book Hangover the next day.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Writing

 

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Why Urban Fantasy?

This post originally appeared as a Guest blog at Mythical Books as part of my Bewitching Book Tours.

I’m doing it as a re-post here today as I’m ‘on holidays’ but still wanted to give my readers something to look at. I hope you like, and don’t forget to check out all the great things over at Mythical Books and Bewitching Book Tours.

Why Urban Fantasy?

 This is a question I’m asked a lot. Not just as a writer, but as a reader. And I can honestly tell you that people don’t like it when you simply answer “Why not?”

Then again, I’m often asked to explain what exactly Urban Fantasy is as sometimes the lines blur between it and other genres such as speculative fiction.

Well, to me, Urban Fantasy is a story set in our world (or a world almost identical to our own) where fantastical things can happen. Vampires and ghosts are proven to be real and will come around and give you a hard time if you keep saying they’re not. Urban Fantasy doesn’t have to be set in the here and now, it can be historical and it can even be set slightly into the future. In some cases it’s set in a time like our own, but with a slightly different history to our own. See Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series and beware the tomatoes. 😉

I think the reason I enjoy reading (and writing) Urban Fantasy is it’s close to real life, but the way we wish it could be rather than the hum drum it really is. That whole ‘What if…’ scenario of escapism through fiction. Where ‘everyday meets the unexplained’, except Urban Fantasy lets you explain it without having to stick to anything as dull as actual reality and proven facts.

When I write Urban Fantasy, I set it in times and places similar to the here and now as I write in the first person narrative and I want my readers to believe the characters more by being able to relate to them. I do obscure technology, times, dates, etc a little to allow some time to pass in the hopes my stories won’t become dated too quickly. But it will happen and, who knows, someone in one hundred years may look back on what I did with mobile phones in Bonnie’s Story – A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics and guffaw at the thought of such technology. Having that fantasy element there hopefully gives me just enough credibility to still allow the story to be believable.

Urban Fantasy isn’t the only genre I enjoy to read and write, but it seems to be the one I’m most comfortable in. I do enjoy a good historical crime fiction story too, ones that were actually written in the times they are set, or ones that are created from researching the era. I don’t mind, as long as it’s a good read and the killer isn’t too easy to suss. And even in some of those there’s a bit of fantasy seeping out, as the unexplained has been with us a long time now. Some stories then go on to explain it in reasonable tones using logic and pointing out the strings and wires used to get the effect, while others happily throw such things as logic in the bin and point out it was a ghost or demon after all. And why not? Demons and ghosts got up to so many fun things in our history, why not let them have their five minutes of fame too?

Why Urban Fantasy? Well, maybe because my imagination has allowed me to never truly grow up and I still enjoy a good fairy tale. Not a happily ever after, not always, but one where the bad guys are truly bad and do gruesome things and there is a good guy there to sort it all out. That play of Darkness and Light I use in my The Other World series. Just because we’re now adults doesn’t mean we don’t like stories about regular people, like ourselves, getting up to all sorts of fantastical things before heading back to work on the Monday. A perfect example of this is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Perfect piece of Urban Fantasy and one I really enjoyed as the ‘What if…’ opened up so many awesome ideas within my own imagination. In a similar vein see Roofworld by Christopher Fowler. I read this story before Neverwhere and so that seed of ‘What if…’ had already been planted. However, Neverwhere sprouted a totally new series of ideas and situations for me to consider. Still, that whole society within our own scenario is one of my favourite ‘What if…’ and probably where my Other World came from.

Is Urban Fantasy just another type of Young Adult or New Adult? Um, no. Not to me anyway. Although Urban Fantasy can be a sub-genre of both Young Adult and New Adult, it can just as easily fit into the ‘Adult’ section of books too. A lot of Urban Fantasy has adult themes, and not simply because it has overly raunchy sex scenes or drips with blood and gore after a misunderstanding between a vampire and a werewolf. Some Urban Fantasy simply has adult themes as it’s about life as an adult. The trials and tribulations of marrying, having a family, losing the family, etc. Youth don’t want to read about all that. That’s still to come for them and so they can’t always relate. They’d much rather the adventure of a young person like themselves doing daring things, getting the cute guy (or girl) and possibly living happily ever after, but with no true commitments in case someone else comes along in the next book. Well, that’s really just a quick cookie cutter approach to some Young Adult and New Adult Urban Fantasy, but you get the idea, right?

What Urban Fantasy books would I recommend? Well, besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, I enjoy something that has a bit of humour and sarcasm in it as well. But that’s mainly because that’s what I’m like. I often have people ask if I was being sarcastic as I use it so often that it does sometimes get a little hard to tell if I’m being serious or not. Some may see this as a bad thing, but meh. 😉

Really, I just say go to a library and check out what they have. If you like a bit of paranormal in your Urban Fantasy, then authors like Kim Harrison, Katie MacAlister and MaryJanice Davidson are highly recommended. For a bit of Young Adult Urban Fantasy, check out Robert Westall or even some of Terry Pratchett’s work. I have to say one of my favourite Robert Westall Young Adult books is Urn Burial though do feel that one is heading more towards Science Fiction than Urban Fantasy. All the same, a good place to start.

What advice would I give to someone who wants to write Urban Fantasy? Read it first. I give this advice to someone who wants to write in any specific genre. Don’t just think you can do it as you’ve heard about a couple of books and seen a few things on the TV, read the genre. I once thought I could write a romance novel. What I ended up writing was quite a good Young Adult story that was an introduction to Romance… but it did not even scrape the sides as to truly being part of that genre. Why did I fail? It’s because I’m not such a great fan of Romance novels and just felt I could write one as I knew how to write without having to read any first. This won’t cut it. You have to research the theme, learn the flow of the story and the tones to use. And you have to have an open mind and a willingness to learn the theme too and not just dismiss it as beneath you. The same goes for Urban Fantasy.

If I wasn’t such an avid reader and prolific collector of Urban Fantasy, the supernatural and the paranormal, I seriously don’t think I could pull it off. Some people already don’t like my idea of the supernatural as I am avoiding the twinkly ‘Disneyfied’ version so common today and going back to the roots of it all. I liked the old stories, the old ways and the old creatures. And so one of my aims with my Urban Fantasy is to bring them back and let the loose in a new generation’s imagination. The origins of demons, the types of soul collectors and reapers, the difference between a ghost and a wraith. This sort of research is how I spend my writing days. And boy am I going to have fun sharing it! 🙂

Until next time,

Janis Hill. XXOO

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Writing

 

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Remembering my childhood and how Cyclone Tracy shaped it.

I will state here and now I was not in cyclone Tracy. I wasn’t even born when it hit. I was born in Darwin two years later and have strong memories of growing up in a town, in an environment, that was slowly recovering from that horrific event.

This blog post is more about how cyclone Tracy shaped my early life and therefore shaped who I am. Even two years after it happened it was changing people, shaping our lives. Actually, it was doing that for many years after it happened. For the first five or so years of my life, people lived in real fear of each and every cyclone that hit. For those who had been in Darwin for Tracy, the memories were still raw and the fear still so real and fresh. For those who had moved into the wreckage, the desolation, the landscape stripped bare by the giant storm, they too were afraid of each new cyclone in case it showed them what it had been like to be in that nightmare.

For those of you reading this and having no idea what I’m talking about, cyclone Tracy was a category four cyclone that hit Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australian on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1974. It was a huge storm, like a hurricane but spinning in the opposite direction, and it destroyed the town. Wiped basically everything out, houses, trees, planes, boats and people. Sixty six people in all died. Fifty three on the land and thirteen at sea. Horribly, most of the fatalities were children… in some cases smothered to death by parents protecting them from the fierce winds and flying debris.

For more factual information on this massive storm, please visit the National Archives of Australia’s official page on the event. As my post isn’t about retelling the horror of an event I wasn’t even there for. It’s about how the recovering Darwin shaped me. Actually, writing this I’ve found some very fascinating blogs and sites that recount Darwin, the cyclone and the rebuild. I highly recommend anyone interested in learning more to google the topic and start reading. There’s some great stuff out there!

So, I was born in Darwin two years after the cyclone that destroyed over seventy percent of the buildings. A lot had changed by then, new buildings had been built, some of the older buildings had been restored and most of the storm debris was removed. I mean, there was still the twisted “three girders” from a house that later became a monument. There were still the trees with parts of people’s roofs embedded in them. Actually, those trees and their shrapnel were still around well into my adult life. They might even still be there, I don’t know, I moved away from Darwin nearly twenty years ago as it had changed from the one I had loved growing up.

And I don’t mean that in a completely negative way… not really. It was inevitable that Darwin would change because the one I grew up in was more a stop gap measure to most, than an actual city. With the threat of another cyclone still red raw in their memories, the houses were built like concrete bunkers ensuring they would survive another onslaught. The landscape was new and barren. Stripped bare by the winds and destruction, I remember Darwin growing up as being a near treeless place. Lots of bare earth and the ability to watch my father drive home from the university (then Community College) from about the half way point as there was no real foliage in between. Being in the tropics that barren earth soon turned green and was swallowed up by fast growing trees like African mahogany and black wattles. But I still remember it.

Cyclone Tracy shaped where I went to school. As the school chosen for my older siblings and therefore me was one of the first schools restored and accepting students when it was time for my sister to go. It shaped how I played at school as I still have memories of the playground the army had built for the children. It was a lot of wooden structures and netting (think army obstacle course) and I still remember burning my bottom on the searing hot slippery dip (slide) as I studied its construction… being made out of forty four gallon drums beaten flat and then welded together. I can’t see my children being allowed to play on such equipment these days, but this was the late 70’s and early 80’s and kids were different back then. 😉

In a lot of ways Cyclone Tracy even shaped my after school care and activities. As some of this time I spent in good old Building eighteen and the then Darwin Community College. My father worked there and was part of the department that tested blends of concrete and other building materials to ensure they were strong enough to meet the new building codes. The building codes introduced after Tracy. Building eighteen was the science building and so my early childhood was one of science and learning the different things like biology, botany, engineering, geology, entomology and all the other “the study of” sciences there. These were people brought to the north to study Darwin after the cyclone. To see how the plants, animals and insects were doing after such a massive shock to the natural world too.

An example of this people may not believe is when green ants came back to Darwin. Yes, green ants! This happened in my life time! This shaped my upbringing too. See, we used to have a Poinciana tree in our front yard and every year it would be decimated by a type of caterpillar we called a looper. I really don’t remember it’s actual name, they were just loopers as they looped along… a bit like the images I’ve seen of an inchworm. So, these loopers would appear in plague proportions every year and wipe out all the Poinciana trees in the neighbourhood. They would get everywhere and were a real pest. Then one year we noticed this strange orange ant with a green bum. We’d never seen one before and they were new to Darwin in the eyes of we new residents in this ever recovering city. They were the green ants. A native ant that had been in that part of Australia for longer than any of us. But I had never seen one because cyclone Tracy had decimated their population so much they had disappeared. This ‘new’ ant had travelled a long way to this lush new world to replace its dead relatives. They had marched north to discover no other tree dwelling ant in their road and they took over. They weren’t a pest, despite our hatred of their giant leafy nests in our road, they were back where they belonged. It had taken them almost ten years, but the green ants returned to Darwin. We didn’t have much of a problem with the loopers after that and our Poinciana even flowered and had a seed pod it recovered so well! Another momentous moment, seeing a Poinciana flower… as it wasn’t something I’d seen before thanks to the hungry loopers.

Having entomologists setting insect traps in your yard and getting excited over discovering a new bug or moth is another memory. Their fascination on life returning rubbed off on me. I think that’s why the little things in life still fascinate me so much. The miracles of nature most people walk blindly past that bring a smile to my face for witnessing.

For people bored of this blog and not getting the point, let me try and explain it better. I grew up in this new, growing and recovering environment. It was the only life I ever knew. As far as I was concerned this was how life was. Buildings the same age, or younger, than yourself. Panic at the first sign of a cyclone. That siren warning to let you know it’s time to go home and buckle down as another cyclone was about to hit. To me, this was normal. Didn’t everyone grow up in science labs, play on old army equipment and watch trees and buildings grow with them? Discover new animals in their yards and watch life explode into existence from a desolate and dirty barren waste land?

The first time I saw a building that was fifty years old – while visiting family interstate – I was in awe. Real, everyday people got to live in such old buildings? Weren’t old building just special places the rich lived in? Or the Government? Yes, fifty years old was old to me! Buildings in my life were the same age as me. You should have seen my reaction the first time I came face to face with stone statues that were over seven hundred years old! Awe was an understatement. Old things were alien to me, as old meant the same age you were… didn’t it?

And so cyclone Tracy shaped my fascination in old manmade creations. From art and architecture through to books and literature… life existed before cyclone Tracy and not everyone lived in a place as old as them with belongings of the same age. Some were lucky enough to live in places decades older than themselves. Centuries even! How lucky were they? And yet they didn’t even seem to realise this.Yes, I was a child and so my views on the world were limited to what I understood, but I hope you can understand it all the same.

Growing up in Darwin itself also shaped me. What I deemed ‘normal’ others see as rather over the top and in some cases insane. A place that had no rain and bushfires for eight months of the year and then four months of cyclones, mild flooding and near constant rain… that’s normal. What do you mean we’re meant to have four seasons? Two is all we needed. Cold, what was cold? Wasn’t that a stuffed up nose that got you off school for a few days? Of course all the food is in the fridge or freezer or tinned and dehydrated. It would go off otherwise! Nah mate, that was just a python, not anything to be afraid of. Yes it was a snake… but there’s a difference between a venomous one and just a python. Yes, termites fly and the air is filled with them at the first rains of the season. Try and not inhale them. That thing on the wall? It’s just a gecko… no, don’t pick it up by its tail! There’s mould on your leather shoes? I hate to break it to you, but it’s March and there’s mould on everything right now, including you! Hell yes the soil can even kill you, there’s a bacteria in it that comes up with the water table in the wet and I really don’t think you should go walking in it in bare feet with that cut you’ve got there.

No, I’m not making any of that up… I really have said it to strangers to the north over my life time. 🙂

And so, realising cyclone Tracy was forty years ago this Christmas… I started to wonder exactly how many people still in Darwin remember it the same way I do. I know of a few, as I still have friends and family there. But when Darwin lost its fear of cyclones and people from the south moved up there, turned their noses up at what the tropics were like and pulled it all down and put up their view of what the tropics should be like… I had to leave. I’d lost my Darwin and an even newer one had been put in its place.

So as much as I love my Darwin… it doesn’t exist anymore. I still call it my hometown, even if the one I remember is no longer there. You can never go home, but it continues you shape you throughout your life and you need to acknowledge your past, embrace the present and enjoy the prospect of the future. My Darwin has changed and gone, but the one that is there now is just as important and I hope they’re never put through another cyclone like Tracy.

Not exactly the sort of Christmas post people usually send out… but cyclone Tracy shaped Christmas for me too… doesn’t everyone have tape on their windows at that time of year? You mean it’s not part of the decorations? 😉

Be safe, remind your friends and family how awesome they are and how loved they are and realise we don’t all see the world the same way as we didn’t all have the same childhood as you. Or even look on the same environment we were growing up in in the same way you did.

Until next time,

Janis XXOO.

Three Twistered House Girders

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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