Tag Archives: Australian arts

Emphasising the Australian voice with a short story.

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

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

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

I’ve accepted it and moved on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy… Hopefully.

Benvolio’s lament.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Writing


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First chapters, like first impressions, are important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

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


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Why is the Australian voice silent in writing – why can’t it be heard?

Hello everyone! Yes I have been silent for a while as April is apparently a really busy month for me. What with birthdays, school holidays and my old laptop finally giving up the ghost with a puff of smoke and some sparks. That means the imp has escaped, by the way, and your laptop is now a doorstop. Trust me, I work in IT. 😉

Add to that me going over the first edits of Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! with a fine tooth comb before sending it back aaaaannnnddddd yeah, I’ve been busy. But I’m back and full of some hopefully good blog ideas. Yay!

In this post I want to talk about why major publishers are more interested in a narrative that sounds American or British and how Australian writers are encouraged to not sound Australian in their writing. It is one of the biggest brick walls I have come across that I just don’t understand.

In my most tactful and polite manner I’m asking: Why the hell can’t I write like an Australian? I am one! What is so wrong with teaching the world how we sound in our writing? They seem to like our actors!

No, not going to go all venty and carry on. Remember, that is why I have a Facebook account. I’m just really frustrated over the fact that we must remove what makes us us and be a clone of another country before anyone will read our work.

When I discussed this with friends from others countries, a really good point made was that they have a certain accent in mind when they read and don’t want it to sound all Australian. It is a very good point. Though I would like to point out that when I read all I get is either British or American voices in my head as that’s all that’s out there. Why must Australians put up with these accents while the other countries can’t be open minded enough to put up with ours? Are we just more accepting of other cultures and their voices?

Another point made was because they don’t understand our dialect or slang terms. And, sorry, but that isn’t going to work with me. Growing up, if I didn’t understand a word in a book I looked it up in a dictionary. And in this age of Google, you can find a meaning for almost everything. Plus, I know friends who have read something I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook that was a term they didn’t understand (I think I said something about ‘chucking some hot chook on a damper bun’). What did this friend do? Did they unfriend me as I was too hard to understand? No! They googled the words and soon realised I had put some hot cooked chicken onto a bread roll. *Gasp* A-maz-ing!

But obviously not everyone wants to open their mind or use the intelligence we all have (yes we do, don’t doubt yourself) to figure this out. They just want to read. Though why they are reading if not to open their mind to new ideas and possibilities is beyond me and I will just stop there before I sound too catty. 🙂 But I will add that I will shortly be posting a blog entry about how idiot proofing the world is just creating bigger idiots unable to think outside the box. But let’s not spoil this theme right now with another.

So! Here I am an Australian author who is adamant to write with a distinct Australian voice. From what I’ve picked up from various panels of ‘those in the know’ – publishers, agents, authors, etc – what I am doing is a big no no and I won’t ever get anywhere in this world as an author. These experts say that no one wants to hear the Australian voice in books… So the reviews saying that they loved my ‘fresh new voice from Australia’ are wrong. Please don’t tell the reviewers that, as I love what they had to say about my book. 😉

Now, those who follow my blog will know I’m a cynical cow and honestly do find the statement “The Audience is not interested in hearing the Australian voice” is like a parent who doesn’t like vegetables and who rarely eats vegetables lamenting that their child doesn’t like to eat vegetables and that they have no idea why.

Meaning – they don’t like the idea of an Australian voice, so they don’t expose their audience to it. And as their audience is not asking for book with an Australian voice – because they’ve never been exposed to it – they therefore don’t want to read anything in that said style.

I freely admit I could be wrong here and there has no doubt been hours and hours of research done on this topic… but I would ask exactly when that was. In the last year? The last five years? The last ten? As we all know how static and staid the publishing world has been in that time – note sarcasm.

Isn’t being Australian a big thing in the arts right now? Doesn’t the world just love our actors, our television shows and movies, our musicians and our designs? But apparently our writing style is not the done thing, so let’s just slip into that cookie cutter mould people expect books to be like and crack on with the good old British strictness and American candour. There’s no place for we Australians in books – nothing to see here so move along. 🙂

I do hope people see the humour I am trying to thread into this post.

A previous post I did on Halloween touched on the whole complaint of Australians not wanting to be American clones… at how we should simply embrace our multi-cultural background and run with all the traditions it brings. We are a multi-cultural place, despite what certain minorities – and politicians – are showing the world. We do accept other cultures ideas and customs and it’s probably why we don’t make a fuss that what we read is rarely written in the Australian voice. As our voice has the many tones and inflections of other cultures. But! Touching on the ‘clone’ issue, sales aside – shouldn’t Australian publishers (and Australian branches of international publishers) be looking at enforcing our culture through our writing? Just a thought people.

All in all I really do write simply because I enjoy it. And am very lucky to have found an Independent Publisher proud of the Australian voice that happens to feel my work is good enough to publish. I don’t write for the popularity, simply to earn enough to buy some good chocolate. So I can’t really complain.

However I will play the mum card here and say I am disappointed that my book loving children are starting to use the American spelling of words and use American slang rather than Australian – as that is what they are exposed to when they read. Why can’t we mix that multi-cultural passion up a bit and introduce the world to our voice? As I say to my kids: you never know if you will like it or not if you don’t at least try it first.

Australian publishers – think on that. Just saying. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO


Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Writing


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