RSS

Tag Archives: being a writer

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

 
1 Comment

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

New Year and New Career… Of sorts.

Hello everyone, yes I’m finally writing a new blog post rather than just re-sharing something I wrote for someone else some time ago. All the same I do hope you enjoyed them, especially if you didn’t get to read them where they were originally published.

And so here I am, back to blogging and trying to figure out what to write. So I decided to share what it is I plan on doing this year, as it is a new career of sorts.

As some know, I’ve just spent nearly the last twenty years in ITC Support (Information Technology and Communications)… Yes, I did stuff with computers including dealing with people who had broken them, forgotten how to do something, wanted to buy something for it or had accidentally opened a nude picture in their email and now infected the whole company with a virus. Fun times :-/

There were a few reasons why I’ve given this career up, the biggest one being my chronic sinusitis being so bad these last few years I can no longer work in an air-conditioned environment without getting a sinus infection every few weeks. And how many ITC based jobs are there outside of an air-conditioned environment? No, I couldn’t think of any either. So you can see, I needed a career change.

Another reason for the career change was my children, my demonic hordes. I wanted to be home for them and we could just scrape through financially – most days – with my being a stay at home mum and there to ferry them about to the various things they needed. Orthodontist for the eldest, ophthalmologist for the middle child and a whole damned dictionary of ologists for my youngest due to the myriad of delights he’s been through in his young life. Being diagnosed as a child with High Functioning Autism (Asperger’s in the old lingo) merely the most recent.

Who needs a ‘real job’ when you have the fun of being a Haus Frau/ drudge, baker, horde wrangler, gardener, zoo keeper and so on?

Add to that the magical moment of becoming a Published Author (note the capital letters as it’s such a big thing to me) and, well, I decided on a career change last year as I was determined to be a better Writer.

Sadly this didn’t go to plan as I tried to juggle being a Writer with being the afore mentioned Haus Frau with all the duties that come with it and failed at being a Writer miserably. I feel the jury is still out as to how I went as a Haus Frau too, but let’s not go there. House, children, the fact I make 80% of what we eat from scratch… all of that simply got in the road and every time I was meant to have a ‘writing week’ I got side tracked into doing more Haus Frauing. I was, indeed the supreme Empress of Procrastination as I barely got a literary thing done! Some tell me ‘oh but you got another book published’ but most of that work was done the year before and my work was merely in a holding pattern. As a writer, I did bupkis.

Actually I may be being a little hard on myself as I did learn a few new tricks of the trade when it comes to writing and being an Author. I learnt a lot about how to negotiate a deal and even more about the legal system, copyright infringement and who the best people to talk to about the miss-use of intellectual property were. I learnt about image branding, how to use social media to shake your assets in a better manner and how to register my own domain and start building a website… which I will start flogging to you when I get it up and running a bit better. 🙂

So possibly not a total waste? No, not really as all the things I learnt – mostly through trial and error – last year has helped me come up with what I plan on doing as a career this year. And what is it? I’m going to become a full time Author.

Don’t give me that look! It’s really not as odd as it sounds, while still being a lot different to what I was doing last year. No, it doesn’t mean I’ll be playing a lot more solitaire on my laptop and hanging out at cafes as much as possible… but I’m not going to rule that out either. 😉

What I mean- my interpretation of – being a full time author is to simply focus on my writing, my image, the whole social media deal and especially the website. Although I will still be working from home and still have my hordes needs to contend with, I’m not going to juggle a day on day off Haus Frau and Writer schedule like last year. No, I am going to be an Author. This, to me, is more professional than being a mere Writer. As it means I can be more focussed on getting my name known, my books sold and so on. I will treat it like a full time job and will do my best to ignore the Haus Frauing unless it’s outside of ‘being an Author’ hours.

I do foresee the house getting messier, the garden becoming even more weed riddled and all in all finding my weekends and evenings filled with doing all the Haus Frau things I usual have all week to do. But! I want to be a full time Author. I want to get my name out there through my blogging, through reviewing, through my multi media accounts. And so my family is aware they are now on the backburner as I give this life a go.

What do I plan on achieving this year? Well, I don’t expect to become a sudden and instant success where the money will be rolling in and I can stop hiding the bills under the couch cushion until I have the courage to look at them. No, we’re still going to be poor and struggling… but I’m going to be writing!

I have one manuscript There’s no place like Hell to finish and send off to my publisher to see if it makes the grade. It’s not going to be published this year as I missed the deadline, but I’m still hoping it will be published next year.

Add to that I plan on writing two more full manuscripts (of 100,000 words or more) to prove I’m serious about writing. One will be my first book in a cosy crime series I plan on setting here in the Adelaide Hills. The second manuscript I want to complete… well, it might be another in the crime series, it might be another in the Other World series… but it could even be one of the many other stories in my head that is yelling at me to write it down. I won’t know until I make enough room in there to think by getting these other two manuscripts out on paper.

Besides writing, I plan on reading. A lot. As I personally feel one of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to read the works of others and see how they do it. You might see where you’re going wrong; you might see where they could have done with a better editor. But reading opens the mind and often helps my own ideas flow and come out on paper easier than they would if I simply focussed on them alone.

One of the ways I plan on reading ‘a lot’ is by becoming a reviewer. Yes I know, this is signing my own death warrant as there are a lot of authors who don’t take well to constructive criticism and try and do all sorts of nasty things to ruin your name, reputation and so on when you give them a bad review. But seriously, those sorts of people should go back to writing for pleasure, not for public examination. Because I can assure them now that if I don’t like something, I’m sure there are others who won’t either. You need to put your big girl panties on when it comes to being an Author and take the bad reviews with the good. Try and learn from them, find the positive and put it to work in your further books. Only low grade authors (note the lack of capital A) resort to hate mail, spambots on twitter and the usual immature meanness I’ve seen pop up when friends, who are reviewers, ruffle the wrong feathers. Being a bully makes you into an ugly person, not matter what you do. Just saying. 😉

So I’m going to be hitting NetGalley pretty heavily this year and checking out books in different genres that take my fancy. I will do my best to read these books, review them with an honest opinion and, hopefully, even learn from them. I will also be using Goodreads a lot to display my reviews as well as adding them to this blog… until I get the review section of my website up and running.

And speaking of my website… Yes, being a full time Author also means I will be working hard on establishing myself on my own website through blogs, reviews, comments and so on. For now I will be using my existing blogs (I have three) but I will slowly be moving them over to the website. This is part of the whole image branding I’ll be working on. As, I hate to break it to you, but if you want to be an Author, you need to have an image and you need to get it out there and noticed. If people like your brand, they’re going to take an interest in your work. If they take an interest in your work… that could mean a sale. And as a sale could mean another salted caramel hot chocolate for me… Image branding is very important to me.

Now I mentioned three blogs didn’t I? Am I glutton for punishment? No, I don’t think so. You see, there are really three parts to my life right now and that is ‘Being a Writer’, ‘Being a Foodie’ and ‘Being a Haus Frau/Mum’. And so they are currently separated into three different blogs. This blog is my Author blog. I have a Foodie blog where I wax lyrically about my weird food tastes and the fun things I get up to with nut flour. My third blog is actually my oldest blog. It’s my Dairy of a Haus Frau and is where I go on about being a parent, the antics of my hordes, home and garden. Yes, I do blog about my life… possibly in the vain hope I can make it sound less boring than it really is… who knows for sure. 😀

Add to the gluttony for punishment and I’m starting to do commissioned blog posts for others. I don’t charge peanuts though. No, I’m asking for cashews as I prefer them a lot more. I’m also looking into some freelance writing for other people’s websites and blogs and all in all it is just more writing to add to my schedule. We won’t go into the possible archivist role I’ve volunteered for. What can I say, I’m insane.

Another part of my image branding is getting known and noticed on social media. And, hopefully, for saying nice things and not by having another vent about society, politicians and bad drivers. I tweet, I’m on Facebook, I do loads of food porn on Instagram, I even pin the occasional thing at Pinterest. I’m out there trying to be seen, trying to look interesting enough to entice people to look at my books and buy them.

And that is how I plan on being a full time author this year. Loads of writing, loads of asset shaking, a bit of IT dabbling and plenty of excuses to read other people’s work.

Wish me luck; I’m going to need it. I mean, I have a good feeling about it all and feel I’m freed up more to do it now all my hordes are at full time school… but this is only my third day in the job so maybe the glamour hasn’t worn off yet. Watch this space and let’s see what happens.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I do like vampires, honest.

The following blog post was originally written as a guest spot over at Fangtastic Books as part of my Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! book tour in September last year.

Please go check it out, and all the other wonderful articles, blog posts and author interviews on Fangtastic Books. I have to say, it was one of my favourite sites on the tour and a place I keep visiting even now for updates on things.

Yes, still in holiday mode so still mostly rehashing my work. My Hordes go back to school at the end of January and so you can expect new posts from me then. Still, this is a great post… even if I do say so myself. 😉

I do like vampires, honest.

In my latest book Isis, Vampires and Ghosts – Oh My! I have portrayed vampires in a less than pleasant light. I’ve taken them right back to the beginning when they were pure evil and just out for their own pleasure from other people’s pain. I even took a little artistic license by stating they were created as an after effect of people killing a demon. As that demon died, its own coiled Darkness and evilness was released and tainted the blood of its vanquishers, turning them into the vile vampires my protagonist is out to kill.

Some people have told me this shows I don’t like vampires nor appreciate their finer points. This isn’t true, there are some vampires I really do like. See Queen Betsy from MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead and… series. I love her. Yes she gets on my nerves at times, but she’s still a great vampire and a Queen of them too. She is vain, blonde, obsessed with shoes and a randy little minx… but still a gorgeous character and proof you can be a vampire and still be nice, mostly.

Then there are the vampires in Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series. Another perfect example of a well-rounded species. Either born with the vampire virus and therefore a living vampire, infected with enough of the virus to become a lesser, turned vampire. Then there are the top of the food chain – someone who was born a living vampire who has died and spent a lot of time being undead. Some are relatively good – despite their need to follow their vampiric urges – and some are not so good. They are a well thought out species and done in such a way they are truly believable. Plus sultry, sexy and elegant without needing to sparkle.

Heck, movie wise, I’d even give the thumbs up to the Lost Boys vamps. I watched it as a teen, wasn’t obsessed with it like some I know, but found them an acceptable portrayal. What me, fussy?

Are there vampires I don’t like? Well, yes. There are the ones that seem to be trying to take over the world one virgin at a time. The teen heart-throb types that sparkle and would look more at home in Disneyland than Transylvania. Don’t get me wrong, these vampires obviously work as they do have their fans… but they are just not for me. The origin and soul of a vampire is in pure evil and darkness, and this doesn’t just mean smouldering good looks and a bad boy leather jacket. They can’t be changed and made better and I’m pretty sure they can’t be cured. Maybe I missed that memo?

But please, don’t take my judgement as the law. Vampires come in all shapes and sizes and you need to find the one you prefer. Hey, if the fang fits and all that!

Would I write about vampires again? Probably, but I would again push the boundaries and go against the current vampiric norm. In fact I already have written about a different type of vampire, a psychic one. Actually I started writing this story some decades ago and have since lost it. Isn’t that always the way when you move out of home, get a job, a life, have kids, etc? Still, one day I would like to find it… or simply start writing it all over again.

So what is a psychic vampire? I can’t say all psychic vampires are like mine, but here’s what I did. A young woman (early twenties) was raped outside a nightclub and was left mentally and physically traumatised. She then moves back to her home town to be with her parents and slowly rebuilds herself and her faith in mankind, seeing her rapist was never found. Slowly she finds the moods of a crowd around her affected her in ways it never used to. She was almost able to feed off of it and soon found actual food no longer necessary. And despite her now dislike of crowds, due to her trauma, she finds herself drawn to them nightly to ‘feed’.

As the story progresses she starts to have physical flashbacks. As in, finds herself in parts of the past and how her home town used to look. Long story short she discovers she’s pregnant from the rape and the child conceived through evil is causing these changes in her. To give birth to it, what will it be and what will happen to her? And, yeah, that’s all I pretty much had figured out and had started writing. I do feel it would be a little different to write these days as I was eighteen when I started it. That’s *cough* twenty years ago now.

How would you create a vampire? Twinkly and new style or go old style and the spawn of hell? Will they feed off blood, emotions, virgins, strawberry smoothies? Do they need to be surrounded by gore and humping, writhing over-sexed bodies to be a good read? And are they the protagonist or the villain? This is why a vampire can be a fun thing to read or write as, quite frankly, there are just so many different types to choose from.

Until next time,

Janis Hill. XXOO

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 28, 2014 in Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,