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So, where DO I get my ideas from?

So, where DO I get my ideas from?

Hi everyone, I’ve decided to share exactly what I mean when I say ‘Life inspires me’ when answering the question in the title of today’s blog post.

I personally feel this is the most common question set to Writer’s by those who don’t have an imagination so fierce it is crawling about in their brain like ants. Or maybe that’s just me and actually a scalp issue I need looking at? 😉

Some people simply appear perplexed I am able to make up stories out of seemingly nothing and I just want to set the record straight and give some examples of where I do get stories from to try and encourage others to have a go at writing them!

So, where do I get my stories from? I’m a watcher. I like to watch life go past, analyse it, pocket snippets and thoughts of it away for later. Yes, I am that introvert in the corner of a busy room simply watching and listening and storing data… And I would like to see a Writer who isn’t!

I remember taking a friend (and well known author I’m not about to name drop) for a wander through the Stirling markets here in the Adelaide Hills. The street we wandered was lined with oak trees and when I pointed out that the name of the street was Druids Avenue – I could see that data spark in her eyes, almost watch it being store away for use later… I could see it as this is how I see the world too. Everything has potential as a story idea.

Sometimes it’s a simple one liner – see my creations of ‘Dodo Radio’ in Bonnie’s Story (well, in the blog posts and possibly in any sequel I may write). I was just having a 140 character chat with another Author friend via a certain piece of social media and we were discussing the differences between radio in Australia versus the UK. I would kill to have radio like BBC4 here! Well, not literally kill, but strongly hug at the very least – and I am a big lady after all so kill… meh, I digress. 😉

Yes, Australian radio and it’s lack of a spectrum as vibrant as radio in the UK had it described as ‘Dodo Radio’… which then led me off on train of thought that had me create the Dodo radio explained in one of Bonnie’s blog posts. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say life inspires me.

I also find news headlines inspire me. I can’t say the entire article does, and sometimes I don’t even bother reading that part… but a simple one line can spark that creative fire in my brain. Though in the case of the two examples I’m about to give, I did read the articles… and then turned them into things they weren’t meant to be.

Now, with these examples, I would dearly love to see some new and eager Writers take the story and run with it. I can’t publish it, I can’t pay you for it, but I can (hopefully) inspire you to use it… or at least see how easy it is to pluck a story idea from the normal every day.

And so, here we go. Where do I get my story ideas from? Well, this is where…

Recently, while browsing the ABC news on my phone (as I do first thing in the morning before getting up) I read through an interesting article about how they are thinking of introducing a fish herpes to the Murray River as a way to combat the horrible pest species of carp that has been destroying it for decades.

What really got my imagination cogs going was where they talked about all the testing they would need to do first. I thought, fair enough; don’t want to wipe out all fish in the Murray with this disease. But my little grey cells sparked into life when it was mentioned they were also testing what this disease might do to humans… not only those exposed to the water, but those who ate foods grown in the area and watered with this diseased water!

Yes, the italics symbolise how exciting this whole concept was to me. Why? Oh, come on, who else doesn’t think pandemic explosion from food contaminated by something in its water supply? Just think of the speculative fiction ‘what if’ you could make from this! It could be your common garden virus or Ebola like thing wiping out the country and causing a dystopian lifestyle for some Young Adult to explore… or it could cause mutations or, dare I say it, be the catalyst for that zombie invasion so many people are jokingly prepping for. The possibilities are endless!

Now, please note I am not saying that the actual fish herpes virus would cause this at all. Hell no, I’m pretty sure the scientists are going to thoroughly test it first… and half of it is just fiction in anyone’s book. But I hope you can see what I mean about how something harmless I read in the news can be turned into some pretty interesting reading for someone else. 😉

Another recent example is (again with the ABC news first thing in the morning) a giant supernova, brighter than anything they’ve ever seen has just caught the attention of scientists and has them re-writing some of the info they thought they knew on supernovas. Nothing too exciting for we non-scientists, right? But there is a line in the article where they say “perhaps it’s not a supernova at all” and, well, they may as well have waved a red cloak at a charging bull with that line.

Yes, they did go on to say it might be a lot of other actual, real life sciencey stuff… but half my brain wasn’t listening any more. It was already off on another speculative fiction ‘what if’ journey with opening lines such as:

“At first they thought it was a new type of Supernova appearing in the night’s sky. But by the time they realised it was an invasion, it was too late…”

Yes, that is indeed how my mind works. I seriously can’t take it anywhere without that sort of thing happening.

And that boys and girls, is how I take life and get inspired to write what I write. Yes it’s not ‘True Crime’ or ‘Literary Fiction’, which most people say is what life inspires… no, life  – in the right set of hands or mind – can inspire any Writer of any genre to do what they do best: Write.

I guess it means Writer’s don’t see the world in the same way as others? Maybe another reason we need to wear badges so people realise we’re creating new worlds around us while walking down the street and watching a leaf casually blow across our path. We take in everything, we store everything, we feed everything into our imaginations and turn it into the most interesting compost in which we grow some pretty amazing things.

Heck, that paragraph alone could even be the start of a story too. What do you think? Have a go; I’d love to hear how it turns out. But you owe me a hot chocolate and brownie if you make it into a block buster novel. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2016 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Okay, so there was a little artistic license used on the grammar in the title of this post, but I’m hoping you get the gist?

I’ve decided to dedicate a blog post today to try and raise awareness for those clever writers new to the whole ‘contributing online’ thing.

Why? Well, because I used to be green and eager and willing to agree to some pretty stupid terms and conditions – as long as my work appeared online. It had meant I’d made it in some small way… right?

Well, in most cases – wrong!

If you find a site willing to allow you to ‘blog for them’ – beware! I get invites to such things a lot. More so in recent months since my reviewing site has started to get some hits. Blogging for other people can sometimes mean more negatives than positives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes blogging for someone else can be a good thing. I’ve done ‘Guest Blogger’ segments for places, and my reviews are often popping up on the social media sites of authors and publishers alike. But the big difference to that sort of blogging for others is the work is recognised as mine. Can you see how serious I am about possession? All that formatting for a four letter word – yes it does mean I have my serious face on!

When I am a guest blogger, a guest reviewer, a reviewer, etc. – the post and all rights to it still belongs to ME, the author. Most of the time I’m not paid when work is shared on someone else’s blog. Well, not in money. I get paid in other ways. If I’m being a guest blogger, it’s usually as a way to expose my work to a wider audience and encourage them to come visit my own blog or buy one of my books. If my reviews are shared, I’ve been paid by being given the item to review. Whether it be a book, block of chocolate, candle or a slow cooker. I get it, I read, eat, light or cook with it – I keep it. Sadly not all books I review are like this… but I’m working on that. 😉

What I’m trying to say is – in these cases – what I have written is acknowledged as being mine (whether it’s good or bad writing) and I have been rewarded for my efforts.

That is good blogging for free.

The bad blogging for free I’m trying to warn new Writers about is sites that invite you to come and post for them, but anything you post will belong to them and they can do with it, share it and use it for whatever they like and not have to share any of the money it may gain them with you. You’ve gotten nothing out of the deal. In most cases your name is even removed as they now legally own the work and so don’t have to even advertise who wrote it. It’s theirs, not yours. You might know it’s yours and show it off proudly to your friends and family… but if someone was to do an internet search on your name to see where you’d been published online – it wouldn’t show up. You would gain: no exposure as an author, no credit for work contributed, no financial gain – NOTHING!

Heck, if you’re okay with this as long as you know it’s your work – go do it, knock yourself out. Have fun with it.

Me, on the other hand, I’m past that part of my career. I’ve been writing for other people where my work has become their Intellectual Property as part of my contract to them. I did that for almost twenty years as an ITC Guru. Then again, I was paid for my work and even if it wasn’t mine to take with me when my contract ended… I’d still earnt cash in hand for the effort. I now work for myself and the only person I don’t expect to pay me for my writing is Myself.

 Now, I’m not trying to sound cocky or arrogant here, I’m trying to spell it out for Writers out there that their work is worth more than they realise. If you spend time out of your day writing something rather than going off and having a ‘real job’, you need to gain from that writing. Whether it be exposure, some kind of positive reward or even – shock horror – actual money, you still deserve it and people shouldn’t ask you do write for them for free.

Even the sites that ‘allow’ you to keep your name on work you post for them… take a long hard look at what they’re getting out of the deal. Is getting an article online that has your name on it but gains you nothing else really worth it? What is that post now being used for? Are the people you posted it to now using it to gain site traffic and therefore ‘pays per click’ to their site? In most cases they are you know, and therefore they should be paying you a percentage.

Just because it’s a ‘mere thousand words’ on a website – you still deserve payment. Whether it is a one off payment, or an ongoing percentage fee as royalties, you should be getting it. And by a one off payment, I do expect to get a decent amount. You’d be surprised what the actual, legal, going rate for a Writer’s work is… Maybe go check it out over at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and see. You might be shocked at how much your work is really worth. As, according to ASA, you should get about $350!

And why is a writer’s work worth more than what people are willing to pay? Because the people offering to pay think writing is just putting words together. If they are even bothering to offer you money at all! But if you look at the time that goes into being a writer and put a per hour salary on it… it makes sense. I mean, it’s not as if most of us can write and be getting on with the rest of our allotted tasks. Me, I fit writing in around my Haus Frau duties… it’s why I’ve automated as much of my domestic duties as possible. I have a machine to wash the clothes, another to clean my dishes, yet others to bake and cook foods without my presence. Heck, I even have a robot to vacuum my floors. Basically, I do this to spend more time at my job. I used them when I was a contractor heading off to an office to earn a salary. And I use them now to give me the time to be sitting here and writing this before I have to go get my kids from school and continue on with my tasks as unpaid and underappreciated house drudge… erm, I mean Haus Frau. Sounds more posh when I say it in German and don’t spell it out for you, right? 😉

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is writing takes time. It takes time away from other things we could or even need to be doing… and so we deserve to be paid for that time.

As an author I get paid for the time I’ve spent writing a book by my Publisher doing their damnedest to then sell it. I get royalties. As my Publisher has put time and effort into my book, and also need to be paid, they get part of my royalties too. If I was to have an agent, they too would get part of the royalties as their payment. See, they expect to be paid for services rendered… why is it people don’t expect the same from a Writer?

I could go off on my usual rant about you don’t expect a hairdresser to cut your hair for free, or a café to hand over that hot chocolate and brownie for nothing… Why is a writer any different? We’ve put in time and effort to provide the service of ‘putting words together’, so pay us damn it!

Okay, if I go on I feel I would start repeating myself… plus it smells like the cake I’m baking for my Hordes as I’ve been writing this is about ready to come out of the oven. And as I’m yet to get a machine that will take the damned thing out of the oven and put it on a rack to cool, I’m going to have to go and do that. So it means I have run out of time to write. Still, I will be paid in cake for the services rendered so I’m not complaining. I make a pretty tasty cake.

But I do hope you, the new and still a little green around the ears Writer get what I’m trying to say? You are worth it. Your writing is yours to own and a service you are providing. Think about this before giving it away for free.

If you’re okay with giving it away for free, or for the exposure it brings, go for it. If you’re happy taking twenty dollars for a piece of your work to be published in a magazine, that’s your call too. But I would seriously look at that magazine first, see how much they sell for, how many people buy it and then decide whether they truly can’t afford more than the peanuts… or if they’re taking you for a ride. I’ve dealt with both. I’m more than happy to submit my work to a small time indie magazine for that amount… I’m really being paid in exposure and a few dollars. If it’s a large scale magazine, which take ownership of your work and pay a paltry sum (I’m looking at you Reader’s Digest) – I’d walk away now.

What I’m really trying to say is look into it all first. You’re clever (of course you are, you’re a Writer) so just take a look at the positives and negatives that may arise from giving away your work. Sometimes giving it away for free is a good stepping stone, but please PLEASE don’t turn it into your career.

Finally – yes cynical me is perfectly aware there are some places that will just take my blog posts off of my blogs and flog them as their own. It is copyright infringement; they do not have my permission and are often caught and dealt with. Those who aren’t… well I’m a strong believer in Karma and I know she’s an even bigger bitch than me and know one day she will ensure I get payment. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

cake and DOR

My PA sprung trying to cut the cake I was baking. My cake, he didn’t write the blog post. 😉

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2015 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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I’ve finished my latest manuscript!

Hello everyone, yes I know I’ve been a rather slack blogger this year, but I have had some simply fantastically colourful excuses that I’m not going to share. Quite frankly it’s boiled down to ‘life’, ‘kids’ and all the usual stuff that we all go through so why write about it? 😉

I will, however, let you know I’ve finally finished book two in the Other World series – There’s no place like hell. And as I’ve just shipped it off to my publisher and I start contemplating whether they will indeed give me the first refusal I’m contracted to give them the chance to have… I think over a short prose I wrote last year. It really does sum up what I went through when I was first seeking publication and, to some extent, what I will be going through if I have to pitch to any new publisher.

Now, I’ve decided to share the short prose for two reasons. One is because I find it so apt to how I’m feeling right now. And secondly, it’s the piece that may or may not have caused me some issues with a publisher late last year when they may or may not have published it without my permission. Dedicated readers of my blog should understand all that. 😉

Yes I could still submit this story out to others… but it’s already been published and, although a public apology and retraction was given from the publisher in question, I don’t think many other places will want it, knowing there are a few paper copies of a book out there that contain it.

So, don’t lament over lost work, celebrate me sharing a free story with you. The publisher in question did the right thing in the end, paid me for my work – which I promptly donated to charity but hey – and I’ve moved on. Life is like that, so take it for what it is… and enjoy this story. All you budding authors out there might relate and, hopefully, laugh at yourself if you too have acted like this!

 The rejected Writer, you think you’re the only one?

By

Janis Hill

So, you’re a Writer with the capital ‘W’ to show you’re dyed in the wool, serious ‘breathe therefore you write’ Writer. That’s how serious you are about it all. And look, your manuscript is completed! You’ve polished it and proofed it and even had some well-meaning friends critique it and say how good it is.

Awesome! And now what?

That’s right; it’s time to start pitching it to the publishers as they’re also going to love it. I mean, you’ve spent, what? A year, three, five, ten at writing it? But it’s now done and ready to hit the bookshelves in the top ten lists, right? And so you think up all the publishing houses you know, you Google your heart out and make the list bigger and start. You pore over their submission pages, cursing the ones too snobby to be into your genre. But those whose submission criteria you can meet, why they’re about to be your new BFF as you burst into their lives with a submission that is simply going to blow them away. So you work hard at the cover letter, being modest but truthful at just how awesome a Writer you are, do the best synopsis that allows your story play out like a movie before them and attach all the bits that need attaching, blow it a kiss and submit it away.

Then what?

Well, you’ll now be in the gut wrenching, finger biting zone of the publisher’s waiting period. As in, if you don’t hear back from them within a week, a month, three months – whatever it is their page says – you’re just not going to hear back. But that’s not going to happen to you, these guys are you’re new friends, you’re now following them on Twitter and Facebook awaiting them to announce to the world you’re their next big thing.

Or, you’re in the other party where you know they will reply to you one way or the other… but are still going to follow them via social media as, what if they introduce you to the world before sending you that big bucks contract? Am I getting close yet?

Either group you’ve submitted to, they’re going to have you checking your email at every opportunity. If it’s the first group you’ve submitted to, as that deadline gets closer you get more anxious. Those tricksters, making you wait until the very last moment before they send you the congratulations email and contract. Deadline comes… deadline passes. You give them a few more days, just to take the international time zones, weekends and public holidays into consideration. No news, meaning a silent but solid ‘thanks but no thanks’.

And what would they know anyway, right? It’s not as if they’ve published anyone decent in years! Definitely not your sort at all, and definitely the wrong place to showcase your talent. I mean, look at those boring tweets and Facebook posts they’re making about those other Writers? Those Authors. As if their stories are as good as yours. Who needs them? Unfollow them now as they’re just dragging you down.

And yet, getting no news can often be the softer blow. It’s the letters that are sent back explaining exactly why you’re not seeing a big fat pay cheque anytime soon that really hurt. They say meaningless things like:

“Your tone is not one we feel would suit our audience”, “Unfortunately we’re not the Publishers for your level of work”, “Currently we are seeking something for a wider audience than the one who would read your work” and so on.

Oh, the pain, the agony, the absolute rudeness as they attack your work and your ability so cruelly. Ignore those well-meaning friends telling you not to take it personally, of course it is personal! It’s a slur against you, your work… your literary baby! How could they? Why would they? Obviously they just didn’t look properly and if only they’d just give it another look.

Now there’s a thought! Just do a new cover letter, re-tweak the synopsis and send it in again. They’re not going to realise it’s the same piece and this time they’re just going to love it! They were so busy last time, and your letter just wasn’t quite right and so it accidentally slipped through the cracks. It’s okay, they have to make a living and sometimes these things happen. Better follow them again on Twitter and Facebook to ensure they notice you this time, recognise your name from that slush pile and really give it a good read. And then back to the wait, the turmoil, the silence…

And so the cycle goes on…

Does this sound like you? Don’t be embarrassed as this was actually me when trying to get my first book published. Yes we are all ego and arrogance, we all have our diva moments. I feel it’s all part of the dance we take to help us turn from that Writer into an Author – note the capital ‘A’. Is it worth it? If you want to be an Author, then yes it is. Just don’t take these rejections to heart and let them get to you. Yes we will all have our little tanty and curse the publishing world as a whole. How dare they, don’t they realise who we are and just how clever our writing is?

Just remember, there are millions of very talented Writers, just like you and me, out there and we outnumber those publishing houses at probably thousands to one. And they are out there to make money, making you some too is just something that happens as a side effect. It’s not personal, it’s business and that is what being published is all about.

Don’t give up, have your diva moment, curse them to the four winds. Have your comforting chocolate biscuit or beer or whatever. And then pick yourself up and start that dance again. Who knows, you may find it’s all worth it in then end.

As for me? Well I danced my way into becoming an Author with an indie publisher. After a matter of months from the start of my pitching, through the mass of rejections, I got my first publishing contract. This encouraged me to write some more. My second book went through the usual round of rejections with the major publishing houses, but was also offered a contract within four days of pitching it. I also go multiple offers.

My best advice? Learn from your mistakes, refine and retune how you pitch. Listen to advice rather than feel you don’t need it as you’re such an awesome Writer. Accept the rejections and move on to find someone else. Aim high, but never underestimate the small, indie publishers as a foot in the door is a foot in the door.

Most importantly, keep reading and keep writing.

***

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
 

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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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