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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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Remembering my childhood and how Cyclone Tracy shaped it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Janis XXOO.

Three Twistered House Girders

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

 

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De-stress at Christmas rather than distress at Christmas.

Hello everyone, this blog post is one of those annoying “it’s Christmas so we must have a seasonal style post”. Well, sort of. And I really do hope it’s not that annoying too.

Actually, this post came into creation as one of those brain dumps I tend to have on Facebook in my “private” profile. I say private with “” simply because if it’s on the internet or in one of those clouds somewhere it’s about as private as walking down the street. It might not seem like anyone can see you – as you can’t see them – but that doesn’t mean what you’re doing isn’t being monitored. No, not meaning to sound like some paranoid conspiracy theorist, just trying to explain that the internet isn’t as private as some people seem to think it is.

So anyhow, back on this not so private profile of mine on Facebook where I had a bit of a brain dump about how overwhelmed I was feeling about this whole festive season. What with the ever present money pressure most of us feel, kid’s expectations of what’s to happen, messy house, various personal family matters and that whole hypothetical issue with my work and copyright infringements… well, my black dogs didn’t need to be called to my side, they’ve been here lurking a few weeks now.

The brain dump took all of this and tried to explain how I was getting through it all. And the more I wrote the more I felt it would make a good blog post. I’ve extended it and changed it a little from the original “vent” but I do hope it helps some of you out.

And here it is…

This is the first Christmas season where I’ve felt totally overwhelmed, stressed and anti the whole idea of it. I can’t put my finger on exactly what is causing it as I know for a fact there are several things… including my inner black dogs wanting a gift too (me to have a serious melt down). I used to love Christmas, clean house all done up in tinsel and sparkly things, decorations everywhere and the excuse to whip up some of the yummiest meals to then live off for a week or so. Loved it… and now I’m over it and want to skip it this year despite how terrible that would be to my children.

And so, if you’re feeling like me and feeling down and out and wanting to call the whole thing off, this is what I’ve been telling myself to keep going:

The world isn’t suddenly going to come to an end if Christmas is a low key event this year. There doesn’t need to be dozens of gifts under the tree to show your kids you love them. There doesn’t have to be a Solstice feast with dozens of friends simply because it’s what you do every other year. If they’re really your friends, they will understand if you’re not feeling that sociable or festive. True friends will still be your friends. Those that aren’t, weren’t in there for the long haul, their loss.

Please remember: You have a home, food, a family, mostly good health and live in a country free of war and major conflict (if we ignore our politicians). Just let that negativity slide away.

We build up too many expectations of the perfect and magical Christmas… there’s no such thing. They’ve always been a mess and chaos and full of ups and downs, the human brain is just very good at only remembering the good stuff and forgetting the bad.

Go with the flow, smile at the bitchy family comments and snipes and ignore them. That is what family is like, you can’t choose your family but you can choose how to respond to them. Be the better person and don’t bite back.

Remember those who can’t be with you and wish them the best. And think on those who won’t ever be with you for Christmas again and remember the good times rather than feel sad at their passing. I’ve lost part of my extended family this year and Christmas is going to be tough because of it so it’s time to focus on the positive, remember the good and let the bad dissolve away.

Remind your children how important they are, how much they are loved and how these are the greatest gifts you could have. Spend time with them as your gift, rather than pile them high with plastic fantastic gifts that won’t last the New Year. They will remember a day in the park where mummy and daddy played with us more than a broken toy. This year we’ve chosen a new board game together, and plan on spending Boxing Day with just the five of us playing games, watching DVDs and snacking on those ‘sometimes’ foods we avoid for the rest of the year.

Thank your friends and family for being there for you this year… those that have been. I know this won’t work for everyone, but I am basing this on my own internal pep talk so work with me here. Again, think of the positives you’ve had with them this year, the other stuff isn’t worth a space in your head. Mentally rip it up and flush it down the loo. This is the advice I give to my kids and I think it works well for grown-ups too.

Basically – a lot of stressful and high anxiety situations we feel we’re in right now are that way because we let them be. Let’s leave that fight or flight instinct for when we really need it and just focus on being grounded, being ourselves, seeing what we have rather than angst over how we feel it should be… Just enjoy being so very lucky to live in a place of peace, abundant food, clean water and a safe place to sleep.

Did that help at all?

As, you know, for most of us life really isn’t that bad. I know there are some who have a true reason to feel stressed, miserable and alone at this time and so maybe share a thought for them? Possibly even help where you can? Be a shoulder, lend an ear, donate money for a food box to a complete stranger so they can enjoy Christmas lunch too. If you feel money is too tight or you’re too busy for this, don’t complain you have it tough! Because if you have time to moan you have time to donate. Or is that just me? Every true charity shaking their donation cans I’ve been past in the last few days, I dropped some coins in. Gold ones too. The children I sponsor not only got their usual Christmas cards, but I donated a little more to ensure they got something special along with it. Heck, to them getting a mosquito net for their bed was an amazing gift and I wasn’t even trying! Help a friend out who might be struggling to meet commitments. Even if that’s just having them over for an afternoon and subtly send them home with “left overs” so they have some nice treats for later. I love to cook and bake but 80% of what I make I give away. Not because it’s bad and I don’t want it, but because it’s good and I want to share it.

Remember how awesome you are, know you are worth it and even if you find yourself alone this Christmas, just know someone is thinking of you right now. Even if it’s just a total stranger like me sending out thoughts of love and hope to those not with friends and family this Christmas.

Please remember I am one of the biggest, most cynical bitches I know. Why think the positive when the negative is easier and more likely to come true, right? Well no, wrong! And this is one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn this year. In all situations, no matter how bad they are, try and find the positive. As I’ve realised I am a very lucky person to have what I have, despite all I don’t have. I am indeed blessed and I am a lot more awesome than I might think I am on most days. Oh, the “happy pills” prescribed by my Doctor might have helped with this too, but hey. At least I can see it’s true now, rather than just some twaddle being told to me.

No matter what your belief, religion, location, popularity, salary, skin colour, sports preference or shoe size – I am wishing you a safe and happy holidays and hoping the very best for you in the new calendar year. You’re awesome, you’re worth it and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise… even if that anyone is inside your head. They’re wrong.

Be happy, be safe, be proud of who you are.

Until next time,

Janis.

Some of the bunter teller I've made this year.

Some of the bunter teller I’ve made this year.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2014 in More pep talk than writing

 

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My dealings with Independent Publishers.

Please note, this blog post is not about any specific independent publisher, merely based on my personal experience with them as a whole. The good, the bad and the ugly. Though I do mention a good publisher. 😉

In the past I’ve mentioned my adoration for the small, independent publishers simply because it was one of them who gave me my first chance to become published. And it was two indie publishers that offered me a contract for my next manuscript. Something the larger publishing houses didn’t do as they didn’t see a market for my style of writing, my Australian voice and so on.

I still stand by my comments that independent publishers can be great places and all Writers and Authors should take them in to consideration when seeking to have their work published. Whether you’re an unpublished writer, a self-published author wanting to work with someone else or a seasoned pro seeking a new publisher – check out the small, independent ones. There are some really good, professional and well run independent publishers out there willing to work with you and help you get published.

Saying all that, I’ve also had some bad experiences with an independent publisher that came across as anything but professional or well run. I won’t name them simply because one of their final emails to me threatened to sue me for defamation if I wrote anything bad about them.

So I’m not writing about them but instead using a negative experience I’ve recently had with a small independent publisher as inspiration to write this post. The blog will be theories, hypotheticals, ifs, maybes and possibilities. There will be a hypothetical situation given, but who’s to say it’s real or just me showing my skill at fiction?

Now, I can’t confirm I’ve been at the end of a rather unprofessional dummy spit after poor planning on someone else’s behalf caused a stuff up and work to be published without permission… It may just be my perception this has happened. See, having three children I seem to see tantrums in everything these days so my view may be rather biased. People stating they are professional writers surely wouldn’t act in such a manner, would they? It’s merely my perception of things and I could indeed be wrong. 🙂

So, now that we have all that covered, let’s get on with my post.

Congratulations on writing something you would like to get published! It doesn’t matter if it is a piece of flash fiction, some non-fiction prose or a full length manuscript. It’s your work and best of luck with getting it out there to be read. Unless you want to go the competition variant with your new work (something I will cover in another blog post at some point) you’re going to be looking for a publisher. Good luck with that!

The best advice I can give, and have given before is – Aim high and go for the major publishing houses, but don’t discount the smaller, independent publishers. A foot in the door is a foot in the door. However… well, some doors really should be avoided. Don’t stick your foot in there; you have no idea what it might get coated in.

What I mean is – research all publishers before submitting any level of work to them. Don’t just read their blurb on how awesome they think they are, put them into your favourite search engine (Google if you must) and see what results you get. Does this publisher get good reviews from Authors and Writers? Are there any blog sites warning against them? What does your local Writing Association or even Society of Authors have to say about them? Some of these organisations have a ‘black list’ of publishers… or at least a list of publishers with a paragraph of feedback as to what they’ve heard about them.

Just because someone has hung out a shingle saying they are a profession publisher, that honestly doesn’t mean a damned thing. As we Writers outnumber the publishing world thousands to one, there are always going to be those who jump on the publishing bandwagon to make money out of our work, but not actually be that professional about how they do it.

For example, and this is a hypothetical scenario only, a small, independent publisher may advertise to do a book of short stories and ask for submissions. They may then take an overly long time to respond to said submissions, are rather obscure about payment details, schedules, layout and so on. Then demand a response ASAP to get on with it. Writers eager to see their work published may jump at the chance to be part of this and so tentatively agree to proceed in the publication. However, when it comes to contract time and the amount of money actually being offered for the Writer’s work is finally given, along with what rights the publisher then wants over the piece of work, things might not look so rosy. The Writer may decline the offer and ask to be removed from the project. So far so good. However, if the small, independent publisher then accidentally includes the piece in their now published project and, while supposedly apologising about it to the Writer, becomes threatening and insulting and uncooperative…

Well, that Writer might then feel confused, insulted and hurt by these actions. Especially if that small publisher then refuses to pay compensation or give royalties from editions that include the Writer’s work already sold. It may even have that Writer seeking legal advice over copyright and how to protect themselves against the further abuse and threats from the so called professional publisher.

Add to that the Writer may possibly have submitted that work to other publishers under the belief it was indeed unpublished and agreed to legal terms and conditions that stated as much… the legal ramifications that may have ensued from that are worrying. As the new publisher could sue the Writer for lying and for offering work they no longer own the rights to. The original publisher could sue the Writer and new publisher for using the work without their permission. There could be copyright infringement litigations and all sorts. None of which would be the Writer’s fault as they were under the impression the work was still theirs as they had an email from the original publisher confirming their work had been removed from the project.

If they, theoretically, asked the Australian going rate for such work as a form of compensation for such stress and upset, they would be perfectly within their right. For the original, small, publisher to then possibly abuse and threaten them with law suits for doing so or for daring to mention it anywhere… Well, it would almost put a person off writing… if it was true.

Not saying this would happen, wouldn’t it be a nasty world if people treated each other like this? Actually our world can be rather nasty so this possibly does happen.

So just be careful of some publishers, small and independent or otherwise. You never really know what they are like until you look into them a little. If, when doing a search on them, you find nothing… do you really want to risk approaching them? Sometimes it’s worth the risk; see the fantastic relationship I have with Hague Publishing. The reason I couldn’t find a lot on them in my searches is because they were brand spanking new. They also admitted this on their site, which is why I decided to give them a go despite little known about them.

However, if there is a small, independent publisher who say they’ve been around for say five to ten years and you can’t find anything on them in your searches… would you really want to risk working with them? I mean yes, there might not be anything negative said about them… but if, after being around so long there is no positive things said about them either, are they really the best place to contact? Do you simply want to get published? Or are you looking to work with a place that will actually help boost your work to a wider audience and get your name out there more? If there is no positive feedback about them online… are they really that known? Is signing your work to them going to be of any help? Or would it have been better simply sharing your work on your blog? For all you know you might get the same level of attention and sales from doing that.

What I’m trying to say is you know how anyone can be a Writer? Well, anyone can also call themselves a publisher too. Writers beware!

I’m not trying to put a Writer off seeking to be published. That would be like trying to stop the ocean’s tide ebbing or flowing. You’re a Writer, you have that same strong desire we all do to write, have your work read and enjoyed by others, have them talk about it… be published! I’m merely suggesting you try and curb your enthusiasm a little and research the publisher first. I know, I know… trying to stop the tide and all that… 😉

Please realise some ‘Independent Publisher’ – as they will call themselves with capital letters to show their importance – are no better than those old style publishing houses who offer to publish your work for thousands of dollars. They promise you the moon, strut about and claim to be important and wonderful and marvellous… and then turn out to be not much better than a dog turd covered in glitter and just looking to make a quick buck off the unsuspecting.

In some respects, such places really encourage me to try and self-publish as I would much rather do that – and get the unfair stigma that comes with it – than work with them.

I’m so lucky to have found a decent independent publisher like Hague Publishing and I really hope you do too. Just do a little research first so you don’t end up blogging your own hypotheticals.

There has possibly been a suggestion that any Writer who would dare cause a fuss by writing a blog on this subject may be sued for defamation. But as this was possibly suggested by someone who may have also then threatened to share a Writer’s details with others to ruin their reputation… It is possible someone was showing they know how to use irony correctly.

However, this is my post full of maybes, possibilities, theories and hypotheticals. I hope it has helped you out… or at least given you a good read during your coffee break.

Don’t stop writing, don’t stop being a Writer and don’t stop being awesome. See the positives in even the worst situations and turn it into an excuse to write something good rather than do something bad. 🙂

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Writing

 

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