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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

 
4 Comments

Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Writing

 

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I’m on tour with Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My!

So it’s been a week since Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! was let loose into the world and so far so good. In the mean time I’ve not been sitting there waiting for the money to roll in as, well, that’s not how it works for an emerging Author and not what I set out to achieve. I write as I enjoy it and I share my stories in the hopes others will enjoy it too. And, so far so good! 🙂

What I have been doing this week is a virtual book tour with Bewitching Book Tours, and I’m loving it! I highly recommend any emerging Author wanting to get their books noticed (whether paper or an eBook) to invest in a virtual book tour. And I highly recommend Roxanne at Bewitching Book Tours if you’re writing in the paranormal or urban fantasy genre.

Yes I know a virtual book tour doesn’t physically take you anywhere and it’s not as glamorous as being able to swan in and out of a book store smiling for pics and signing autographs… but let’s face it fellow emerging Authors – that isn’t going to happen for the majority of us, no matter how good our books are.

Don’t poo poo the virtual book tour as it is a fantastic way to get exposure to your work. Throw in a give-away to entice the readers and you can double your following of fans on social media. Now you have their attention though, it is up to you to keep it. The tour has done its magic and it’s now time to do your own.

A virtual book tour is definitely a worthy investment – if you find the right one that best matches your work – and shows your book off to far more people interested in that genre than an ad on say Facebook ever could. Go the virtual book tour! 🙂

As for me, what am I doing on my tour? Well, below you will find my schedule. I technically should have blogged about this last Monday when it started but my sharing and caring hordes have passed on a couple of different winter bugs to me and so I’m a little behind in my asset shaking. Still, the links to where I’ve already been are still valid so please feel free to go check them out. Not just for my work but for the other awesome Authors out there shaking their assets just as hard.

My tour schedule:

September 1 Guest blog
Mythical Books
http://www.mythicalbooks.blogspot.ro/

September 2 Spotlight
Cassandra M’s Place
http://www.cassandramsplace.com/

September 3 Interview
Pembroke Sinclair.  
http://www.pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com.au/2014/09/isis-vampires-and-ghosts-oh-my-by-janis.html

September 4 Spotlight
3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy,Sissy. Too!  
http://3partnersinshopping.blogspot.com/

September 5 Spotlight
Deal Sharing Aunt
www.dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com

September 8 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books
http://www.lisasworldofbooks.net/

September 9 Spotlight
Jodie Pierce’s Ink Slinger’s Blog
http://www.jodiepierceauthor.blogspot.com/

September 10 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm 
http://www.roxannerhoads.com/

September 11 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books
http://www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com/

September 12 Guest blog
The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
http://www.creativelygreen.blogspot.com/

September 15 Interview 
Bewitching Book Tours Magazine
www.issuu.com/bewitchingbooktours

September 16 Top Ten List
Darkest Cravings
www.darkestcravings.blogspot.com

September 17 Spotlight
Deal Sharing Aunt
http://www.dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

September 18 Spotlight
Soaring Eagle Publicity 
http://www.soaringeaglepublicity.com/

September 19 Interview
Eclipse Reviews
http://www.totaleclipsereviews.blogspot.com/

September 20 Spotlight
Cover Reveals 
http://coverreveals.blogspot.com/

September 22 Character Interview
Author Karen Swart
http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/

September 23 Spotlight
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews 
http://saphsbookblog.blogspot.com/

September 24 Top Ten Comfort Foods
Review
Cabin Goddess
http://www.cabingoddess.com/

September 25 Spotlight
Share My Destiny
http://sharemydestiny.blogspot.com/

September 25 Review
Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock
http://www.pratr.wordpress.com/

September 26 Spotlight
CBY Book Club
http://cbybookclub.blogspot.co.uk/

September 29 Guest blog
VampChix
http://www.vampchix.blogspot.com/

September 30 Interview and review
happy tails and tales 
http://magluvsya03.wordpress.com/

**Please note: I have been having difficulties with WordPress actually REMEMBERING the links in the list. I have added them repeatedly and they work… and then they stop working. It is a WordPress fault. So if a link is not working, please just copy it and paste it into a new browsing window. Sorry about this, but as said – this is a WordPress fault.

There you have it, my virtual book tour. I hope to see you around the sites and there is always the option for you to come and say hi to me on my Author page on Facebook or to tweet me on Twitter.

I’ve really enjoyed the interviews and blog posts I’ve done so far and I send out a big thanks to Roxanne and all the people who opted in to host me on this tour. You are all awesome and emerging Authors appreciate your help… well, this one does anyway. Thank You!

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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How did I become published? Really? You really want to know?

Now, I know for a fact that this is a subject I researched a lot when trying to become an Author. I read blogs, FAQ, publishing sites and googled my little fingers off trying to glean just that little bit of extra magical info out as to how to make it happen.

And since becoming an Author I’ve had people asking me to pass on the sage advice I obviously found in my research. Unfortunately all this does is cause a hunted look to appear on my face and for me to think (occasionally, possibly even say aloud): “Oh God! They’re actually asking me as if I know! What do I say? If I say the wrong thing it’ll all be my fault!” and similar panicked thoughts along that line.

Yes I am a published Author, but no I don’t know if I have any good advice to give you. But I will give it a go and allow you to make of it what you will… as long as what you make of it isn’t to steal it as your own work and put it up elsewhere. Yes, I’ve had it happen. Aint being an online Writer grand?

The basic advice I would give is research the subject for yourself (heaven help you if reading my blog is part of your research 😉 ) and never be afraid to ask questions. I will also add that if you really want to become an author, don’t take the rejections personally and just keep trying. Then again I’m a terrible example as, despite being ignored by all the major publishing houses and all literary agents I approached, I got offered my first publishing contract within four months of starting to pitch my first book. And I got my second offer within four days of pitching my second book. Seasoned, clever and well known authors I sometimes chat with tell me this is a sign I’m a good Writer. I, personally, see it as a sign of being very bloody lucky! 😉

I fear I am maybe glossing over this all a bit too much, I tend to when I really don’t feel I should be seen as an expert. So will try and break it down to the following:

 

  • Look at your work
  • Consider your audience
  • Research – other people’s work, publisher’s and/or literary agents, the lot
  • Use common sense
  • Never be afraid to ask or try
  • Realise only the very lucky make it big with their first book

What do I mean? Here’s the waffle version of these points:

Look at your work

Now I don’t mean painstakingly read and edit it every single time you work on it. I honestly feel if you do that you’ll never get it finished and the most important thing to know, when seeking to be published, is to approach publishers with a finished manuscript! This isn’t a ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ moment. This is a ‘look at me, here is my complete work, love me’ moment. Keep the overall formatting simple (most places seem to like double spaced Times New Roman in twelve point font size – but do check their preference first). Don’t go for super duper fonts hardly anyone has heard of, intricately curved chapter headings or over the top page layouts. From my time as a technical document writer I can tell you that it doesn’t matter if it is a one hundred thousand word masterpiece or a one page instruction on how to change a password – keep the formatting simple! And finish your work before running over the words with a fine tooth comb.

That’s right, once the manuscript is finished, that is the moment you take to edit and proof it. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes as well as consistency and flow. If you’re using something like Word all those red, green and blue squiggly lines under your work can be annoying, but they have a function too. I will always investigate why Word seems to feel the need to add squiggles. Sometimes they are incorrect as it just isn’t used to you using it to write a story… but I’ve found eighty percent of the squiggles were saving me from looking an idiot. Oh for that last twenty percent! *sigh*

If you can, find a friend who is an avid reader and ask them to critique your work. This catches a lot of issues the squiggles didn’t. And please don’t be a diva to their feedback. Constructive criticism is your friend and there to help you become a better Writer.

Consider your audience

When you go to pitch your work, you really need to consider who it actually is you’re writing for. Is it a Young Adult audience? If so, are you sure the work is at a level suitable for them? Do you really know what Young Adult is or do you just have a vague idea? If you pitch your work but aim it at the wrong audience, you will fail as the publishers do actually know what that audience is and what they would like. Just like with feedback from your friend, don’t let your ego get in the road here.

Research – other people’s work, publishers and/or literary agents, the lot

This is a little like considering your audience. You really need to set out at being an author with your eyes open and research what it is to become one. Look out for the pit traps such as ‘vanity press’ sites. These are places that pretend to be a publishing house and will eagerly look at your work, accept it and then list the thousands of dollars you must pay them to make it happen. I believe vanity press sites are slowly fading out as self-publishing grows… but sadly some are just changing their spots to now appear to be a friendly eager group happy to help you self-publish… and then list the thousands of dollars this will cost you.

So, thinking along the ‘buyer beware’ line of things – Writer’s beware! If it looks too good to be true, as with pretty much everything on the internet – it is!

Other things to research are other already published Writers. See how they write, how they lay out the story, how it is formatted and so on. No, not saying attempt to write just like them, hell no! Be yourself at all times is my biggest motto. But do look at how it is done in published books to ensure your writing style is true to the saleable format. Because when it all comes down to it, becoming an author means becoming a seller of your wares. The best part about this line of research is all you really need to do is read. How good is that? And, yes, if you don’t already know this… the best way to be a good Writer is to be an avid Reader.

Why do you need to research all this? So you know how to sell yourself and your work… which is what being an Author is all about. You don’t want to sell, stick to being a Writer. Want to be an Author? Time to sell, sell sell! And to do this you need to know what publishers are looking for, what types of things they publish, how they want your work submitted to them, and so on. Some publishers only accept pitches on certain days of the week or month, you need to know when this is to ensure your pitch is at least seen and not rejected as you obviously didn’t research their prerequisites.

The thing to remember is that publishers, like literary agents, have to be very strict with what they ask for. This is because there are millions of us Writers out there, we outnumber the publishers – just like we do the literary agents – and they are there to make money… not help us achieve our dreams. Sometimes they do help us, but that’s only when we’ve learnt to sell ourselves juuuust right and they can make money from us too.

Use common sense

Yes I know the saying common sense is not so common anymore, but do your best. Using common sense is basically required to sift through all the information you’ve gathered via the other points I’ve made. Research it all, look over it all and use common sense as to what you will then do with this information. I mean, if you’re like me, you will have read a lot of conflicting information… Sort through it and take from it what best suits your needs. Remember – there are millions of people out there trying to get published and seeking advice on how to make it happen. Therefore, in typical human nature, there are nearly just as many out there who will try and make money from those wanting to get published.  Common sense is, if you have to pay for advice… is it really worth it? I wouldn’t pay to learn how to write or get published unless I was interested in one of those university degrees, or what not, in creative writing… I’m not, I am self-taught instead. And I’ve gotten a lot of good free advice from Writers and Authors alike, so just think before you do anything. Find what fits you as you’re the person who knows you best of all.

Never be afraid to ask or try

I know a lot of people don’t like my cynical attitude when I say ‘How will I know I’ve failed if I don’t at least try’ but it’s the truth. If you don’t try, and aren’t prepared for the possible rejection, you will never know and never learn how to do it better the next time. They’re not wrong when they say we learn from our mistakes.

This goes for competitions, pitches to publishers, enquiries to literary agents – try your best, and don’t take their rejection as the end of it all.

A perfect example of this is when I first started pitching my first book. After all my studious research I decided to pitch to a literary agent before I went to the publishers. First person I sent an enquiry to replied to me within a day. Asked for a bio, synopsis and sample of my work.

Now, I thought I had studied it all and you know what? I had no clue as to what a synopsis should look like. How green was I? In a mad panic I googled and got conflicting answers. As I had to get this information back to the literary agent ASAP I turned to twitter for help. And a twitter friend (who I had just discovered was also a Writer) Ann Cleeves stepped up to the plate and coached me through it all. With her prompting I gathered more information from the agent as to the length and detail of the synopsis. Ann also talked me through the dos and don’ts of synopsis and away I went…

I was rejected at the second hurdle by the literary agent as, despite my skill at writing, my work was not in a tone that they felt they wanted to represent. Their words, not mine.

So yes I was disappointed as I had such a quick flurry of interest… only to be turned down as quickly as I was picked up. This has happened to me several times now by publishers, newspapers, Writing groups, the lot. To me, it’s all part of the dance. And I have learnt so much from these experiences simply because I wasn’t afraid to ask or try.

Heck, another example is with my second book. From what I had learnt pitching my first, I sought out independent publishers more than the major publishers and what an ego boost it was to not only get two offers, but one within four days of starting my pitch. If you don’t know, you’re lucky if you even get a rejection within a month of pitching, let alone being accepted so quickly. I tried; I succeeded and actually didn’t go with that publisher after all. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but because I decided to go with the offer from Hague Publishing as I was already signed to them with my first book. But I wouldn’t have had this good experience if I’d been too afraid to try after all the bad moments.

Realise only the very lucky make it big with their first book

Although I never expected to make a lot of money out of my first book, I was arrogant enough to think it should have been snapped up by one of the major publishing houses for being so good. Yes, I do cringe over that now as yes it’s a good story… but come on! It got the attention it deserved and earns me the brownie money I crave. I do wish it would sell more often as I do believe it’s a great story… but I’m happy with the attention I’m getting from it so far. It’s a first book, it’s an eBook of commercial fiction and I’m a no name who’s a Writer and not a Salesperson. Realise this could pretty much be me summing you up when you get published.

I’m not saying don’t be afraid to dream and aim high – I still pitched to the major publishers. But don’t go all diva and angry when you get rejected. And never turn down considering a legitimate offer from a smaller publisher. A break is a break! Don’t pout  when your work makes a pittance. You just need to try harder, work harder on your next book and keep at it.

One thing to remember if you’re becoming an e-published author is this: You’re earning more from your royalties than paper authors do on their first book. Seriously, author friends of mine (mostly via twitter) like Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe and Michael Jecks all became authors in the age of only paper. An era where an author got between three and five percent of the sale of a book as their royalties. Me, as an e-published author, I currently get about forty five percent. No, that doesn’t make me a gazillionaire as my book is only sold for five dollars or under and I’ve maybe sold forty of them… do the maths. Per quarter I have been able to just scrape together enough for my brownie and hot chocolate but now all my friends and family own several copies I’m sure that amount is going to drop. 🙂

Becoming an Author isn’t instant fame and fortune for the majority of us. Some very, very lucky writers win the literary lottery and make it big first time… but that is a minority. The rest of us just get the privilege of being able to call ourselves an Author and then get on with our normal lives.

But don’t be disheartened by this, oh no… A very sage Writer (yes one I’ve mentioned a few times in this post) sat with me over coffee one day and said it’s better when you start small, keep at it, keep adding the books to your name and slowly get there. You learn the ins and outs of being an Author, of publishers, the lot. We absorb it over time and grow and get better. Those who do get lucky and get the major book deals for their first books start at the top end of the scale and then must work their bums off to stay there. The rest of us just keep plugging away at it to climb to the same rank.

And what happens to these Author starlets who make it rich, spend all their royalties and advancements on houses and cars and things but then fail to make their next book do so well? They are dropped like hot cakes and next to no one in the publishing world wants to meet their eye from that point on. They plummet well below where we struggling brownie seeking Authors are and then need to relearn everything and start all over again while carrying the weight of their instant success and sudden failure around with them.

This is why I am happy just aiming for brownie. 😉

Okay, so there it is! All my wise and sage advice on how it was I became an Author. Someone with a published book, who still struggles to pay the bills, is rarely ever recognised in the street and has only ever been asked for my autograph by a well-meaning friend. Hey, as long as those who read my book (soon to be books plural!) and enjoy them as much as I want them to… and I get my brownie money – I am honestly happy. I did it, I achieved my dream, I learnt it is an awesome thing to be… While really not making me any different than how I was before. I highly recommend anyone who wants to be an Author to become an Author. And I do hope my advice helps… even if it is once more the type of advice to take and do the total opposite of for success. 😀

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Writing

 

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