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New Year, New me? Pffft, who are we kidding?

New Year, New me? Pffft, who are we kidding?

Hello everyone, disorganised me again here giving you an update and wishing you all a happy new calendar new year… Being the Pagan I am, Yule marks my New Year… January 1st is just when I need to change all the wall calendars to the new ones people have sent me. What can I say? I’m a holiday non-conformist, meh!

So, anyway, I have been thinking over this post for a while and was all ready to turn it into a massive bitchy talk about people going so insane over the “Curse that is 2016”. Seriously, it was turned into a farce in the end and, well, what I had to say on the matter would have just been a spew of negativity. Now, I don’t know if it was my Zoloft kicking in, or a change of heart… But I decided there’s enough negativity and meanness on the Interweb already… It didn’t need me adding to it.

Instead…. As much as I loathe them as I feel they are so fake and insincere (when written by some people) I am going to do a sort of new (calendar) year’s resolution.

Though I do warn you now that it’s not so exciting as I pretty much plan to just keep on being me. Some may say that’s just lazy, but I see it continuing with my perfectly imperfect persona. 😉

I will say, this picture seen on Facebook the other day really does sum up the short version of my new (calendar) year’s resolution. And, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in these wishes too! 😀

new-years-resolution

The longer version would be this – I plan to keep being me. Keep writing as an author, reviewer and freelance blogger. Keep up that food porn on Instagram. Get back into making, baking and cooking all my own food. Keep acting up to embarrass my kids – fart jokes and other female bodily functions are doing the trick right now… Just keep being ME.

Like for a lot of people, it was a tough year last year. My step-grandfather passed away, I hurt my back and was left couch bound for months – meaning house, Hordes and hubby suffered. My health has plummeted and I’ve put on 30 kilos in under 12 months and my Doctors are still trying to figure out why. My husband was made redundant, I had to drop out of my studies and all in all we had some downers.

I mean, 450,000 people died in Syria – 50,000 aged 12 and under so I can’t say we had the worst year in the world. But our first world problems still caused our little pocket of reality to tilt on its side and go to shit for a while.

But we had some positives too. Friends got married, others welcomed new life and a new baby into the world. My reviewing site took off a little and I have been receiving a whole stack of free book and kitchen appliances. Big name publishers came to ME to review, rather than the other way around. When I was studying, I was averaging Distinctions to High Distinctions. Heck, my blog post on here outing myself as a depressed housewife on Zoloft got me a lot of (hopefully positive) views and comments. See – look for the positives.

Both my daughters were assessed for Giftedness – both now confirmed. My younger daughter is “twice exceptionally” Gifted, meaning she has a learning disability with it. So, three kids, all on the spectrum to some extent, all needing me to be their centre as they learn to be themselves and accept themselves for what they are as they grow. Middle Horde (Miss 9) has started into the mental aged teens as her older sister did at that age. Eldest Horde is about to turn 12 while holding down the maturity of an 18 year old with a 10 year old’s emotions. Yes, and by the way I hate the label “Gifted” as it makes it sound so positive and wonderful. It’s not… but that is for another blog on another day.

Back to me and my calendar year ahead. Well, as it has been decided for me that I can’t work right now  – as my children need me as their primary carer more – I am focussing myself more on what I feel I do well – write.

I will do my best to get back into weekly blogging for my four blogs (this one included), I have a lot to keep up on with my reviewing – yes I am still small fish, but gaining interest from others so now is the time to work my butt off.

Plus I have three more books in my Other World series to finish as well as several other WIP stories to nail down and get sorted out before see if anyone wants to publish them.

For any publishers reading this (who haven’t fallen asleep yet) they are a cosy crime series set here in the Adelaide Hills, a dystopian YA urban fantasy set in a world where global warming is not only real, but has bitch slapped everyone – it starts in Antarctica, it has penguins and sort of reminds me of Mr Flibble. 😉 And finally, my kids have me writing a series about tweens who go on school excursions and are left behind…. And the adventures they get up to. Firstly I am setting them in places around Adelaide I can go to and research… but if anyone wants me to say, do one for the Smithsonian or something, please feel free to send me tickets and money for accommodation. My kids will need to come too as they are my researchers. 😉

And, on top of all the reviewing, blogging and authoring – I will be continuing in my studies, figuring out what the heck is wrong with my back and my health and doing my best to make my little pocket of reality a lot happier, healthier and prosperous than last year.

I can’t change the world, I can’t help slow the fact 1 person dies of rabies every 9 minutes or that there are over 100,000 homeless here in Australia right now… but I can try and make a difference here in my own home. I can think positive, share that positivity with others, and remind people how awesome they are and how important it is for them to be alive.

I can continue to donate my time, money and no longer needed (but still good) items to charity. I can ensure we continue to eat well, cut down on what goes into landfill and teach my children to love and respect themselves as well as others.

I can’t cure the illnesses of the world; I can’t stop the wars… But I can make a stand as to how we treat the people around us and just pray that kind gesture is as infectious and spreads out to others.

I can’t stop the mass extinctions happening to animals, I can’t fix the Great Barrier Reef nor the over polluting happening in our world. But I can try and buy things second hand – re-use what already exists rather than allow it to go to landfill. I can be water wise and try to avoid plastic packaging. I can continue to buy, shop at and support local… and when that’s not possible, buy from those ethically and environmentally minded.

I can’t sustain the world… But no matter what happens to our income (and the fact we have none right now) we will continue to support those who still have less than we do. I will still think of others and donate what I can. I will still be thankful to have what I have as I am still a rich, blessed and extremely lucky person to have a house, family, food, clean drinking water and free medical aide if needed – all right here when others, even fellow Australian’s, don’t have these things. I will still protest against Australia’s disgusting treatment of refugees.

I may not be able to change to world, but I can seek the positives, make a difference in my little spot and be proud of knowing I have done my best. I can continue with my random acts of kindness, my smiles at strangers (even if they think it means I’m insane) and my desire to turn even the dullest moment into an overly sarcastic giggle for others to read.

THAT is my long new (calendar) year’s resolution.

Just remember, don’t feel small things can’t make a difference. I mean, just look at what one tiny tissue can do to a load of darks in the wash. 😉

Until next time,

Janis.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2017 in Update on my Writer Life

 

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Mental Illness – End the Stigma.

Mental Illness – End the Stigma.

Me being me I am a little slow on joining in the whole mental health awareness week on my blog. But I have been active with it on my personal Facebook page and had such success with a post there, I decided to post it here too.

How was it successful? Well, you will see I openly talk about my level of mental illness and invited others to do the same. I got some amazingly heartfelt and truthful responses (both out in public and in private) and feel blessed to have the friends that I have. I am not about to share their responses here… but would be interested to see if anyone else wants to join us in being so out there and open to help end the stigma on mental illness. Please note that this is a post about ENDING the stigma and so all comments that are deemed negative and inflamatory will be deleted. My blog, my rules. 😉

My post started with the following pic. Unfortunately I can’t reference it correctly as it came from another friend’s timeline. So I will just say this is not my picture, I did not create it and all kudos and credit goes to the actual creator – they are awesome!

depression

And, yes, I totally agree with the words at the bottom and it got my usual oppinionated ranty self going and so I came up with the following. I am not ashamed of it, I will freely post it and be open and honest as I am who I am and in my life right now I just happen to need antidepressants.

***

Be truthful to who you are. Mental illness is an illness not just a state of mind you can snap out of.

Diabetics aren’t told “Just don’t eat cake”. Cancer patients aren’t just told “you shouldn’t have smoked” even when they never did…

So it pisses me off when I am told I don’t need antidepressants as a nice walk in nature and a good sleep will fix all that ails me. I have a chemical imbalance inside me. I fought using antidepressants for over a decade as it was deemed the “lazy” way out. I tried diet, exercise, karmic retribution, hobbies, crystals, aromatherapy, belief, sleep, sex, laughing, gut health and all the rest. I ended up making myself obese with comfort eating – and am still fighting this issue today and trying to stop it damaging all of me permanently.

So… hi, my name is Janis and I take antidepressants. I am currently on 25mg of zoloft a day and may soon need to up that as it’s now only just taking the edge off the dark despondancy that consumes me, rather than lifting me out of it, making me want to get out of bed, get dressed, eat, interact, not drive me car into a tree and all the other “fun” stuff I go through. I have “mild” depression and anxiety. This doesn’t mean I’m a little blue, it means I don’t want to curl into a ball and wait for the darkness to consume me every single waking moment of every day… just half the time.

I am a better person on zoloft, I am a nicer parent and I can actually see my life is important and worth putting on those big girl panties for and getting on with it.

Depression is a bitch – big black dog. Anxiety is a rabid, nasty, vicious black dog. These are my dogs. Your dogs will look, feel and act differently so don’t judge me on how you feel. I don’t judge you.

But I will try and help to remind you how awesome you are, how important you are and how you ARE worth it.

#endthestigma

Until next time,

Janis.

These memes help me get through my days as they help me keep it real.  

 

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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

 
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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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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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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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