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Another story idea niggling away at my brain I thought I would share.

Hello readers! Yes, I am possibly being overzealous by saying that as a plural – but I live in hope! 😉

I have had a busy year adjusting to online university and adding it to my juggle of house, hordes, health and husbane… but I think I’m getting there at last. And no, that is not a typo… it is meant to read husbane – he understands the humour in my turning him into the bane of my life. It’s a term of endearment, just like calling my children demonic hordes. Honest.

So anyway, university is going well… I’m still awaiting the final grades for my first study period, but rumour has it I’ve passed with some reasonably good marks. Let’s hope that rumour is true or BOY am I going to look an idiot on here when I have to retract that later!

I’m, unfortunately, not learning a heck of a lot of new stuff from my units yet (possibly why I am achieving such a good grade) as these core units are just rehashing stuff I already know but couldn’t prove I knew so that I could skip it and get on with the degree. I’m sure my grades will plummet as soon as I hit a unit that isn’t all about writing… which these ones are. I will admit know I really suck at argumentative essays. Yes I can write and yes I can argue (in the critical thinking sense of the word as well as in the ‘losing my cool’ sense of the word) but I can’t seem to write and argue in an analytical manner. The positive to this is I chose a rather interesting topic (to me) to research and argue upon… so I gained something from it all the same.

And, can I just say, letting an Author – who loves to research – loose on a universities databases is like letting a kid loose in a lolly shop! Or giving me carte blanche at Red Cacao. 😉 Wow! I freely admit to being side tracked on numerous occasions during my research hour and wandering off to find things more beneficial to my Other World series than to my essay on creating a zero waste clothing and textile consumer.

Seriously, if you’re an Author and love to research – get thee to a university database! It links you to libraries and documents all over the world for FREE and boy is it a load of fun! For those not able to do this, Google Scholar is passable, but Trove here in Australia is waaaay better! Heck, even I’m in their database!

But I digress, I was here to post about my latest story idea I would love to see fellow Writers and Authors play with. Heck, if I could organise myself more I would turn it into some sort of little online festival thingy. But as I have nothing to offer as a reward, who is seriously going to attend? And cue the crickets loudly chirping in a big old empty room…. Now!

This story idea was, as usual, fuelled by a recent news article I happen to catch on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) News. There is going to be some kind of scientific get together here in Australia (yes, I am so good with the technical words, I know!) And, so, this science gathering will be here to talk about the issues we are having regarding a lot of junk littering space within the Earth’s orbit. Loads of smashed satellites and all sorts of other things and it’s growing larger and more dangerous simply because the more things we put up there, the more likely they are to be smashed up by the space junk already up there… and therefore create more space junk. You know? The whole cascade effect thingy.

It’s gotten so bad that the folk on the International Space Station have frequent alerts where they have to go seal themselves off in a heavily protected area of the station and wait out an imminent collision with some junk and then assess the damage it has made and ensure their station is still intact.

Please note – this is all true and I’ve not even started on the fiction side yet!

The reasons the science boffins are gathering here is to try and figure out a way to clean up the space junk as it’s gotten so bad our international astronauts can’t do space walks anymore as the risk of being whacked by orbiting satellite bits is just too great. It was predicted that in only a very short space of time (I think they said several years but my mind goes fuzzy on dates) we won’t be able to use the space around our planet as it will be so filled with junk nothing can be up there and not be hit. Say goodbye to all our satellites boys and girls, this is how serious it is.

Won’t someone think of the Enterprise?!

Okay… with me so far? All of that is true and the facts as gleamed from this news interview.

What did I then immediately think of? A nano-technological plague of course!!! Duh!

Who else can’t imagine a story where they fix the space junk issue by sending all these metal eating nanobots into space to clear away the junk? They were supposedly programmed to only eat the space junk but… dun dun daaaaaaa…. Something goes wrong and anything made of metal up there is on their menu.

So we won’t be getting satellites back anytime soon, we start to technologically de-evolve and all thought of space travel is currently on hold until we find a new building material. Paper? Plastic? Ceramic? Oh the ship designs could be glorious!

And cue the international disaster that means the planet is quickly becoming uninhabitable and the only place we can go is up and….. there’s the story idea.

I would dearly love to play with it myself, but I have my Other World series to finish, my murder mystery series to get going and my NA urban fantasy about global warming to get off the ground…. Add to that the kids stories my kids have been nagging me to write and, well, I just don’t have enough time in the day.

So I am handing yet another awesome story idea out into the interweb and want you Writers and Authors to do me proud! Write me a 5,000 word short story on it and I will publish the best one on my Author blog – full credit, ownership and rights to be kept by the Author. No plagiarism, no stealing others ideas and no selling my idea on. Remember, I do accept decent hot chocolate as payment if you can’t scrape together enough money to actually pay me when you turn it into a million dollar movie idea. 😉

Maybe one day I will sit down and write a story like this myself… sustainability, zero waste and how to make rocket ships… Oooh, that does sounds like an AWESOME title!!! Maybe we should do an anthology? Who’s with me? 😉

Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Janis.

 
 

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So, where DO I get my ideas from?

So, where DO I get my ideas from?

Hi everyone, I’ve decided to share exactly what I mean when I say ‘Life inspires me’ when answering the question in the title of today’s blog post.

I personally feel this is the most common question set to Writer’s by those who don’t have an imagination so fierce it is crawling about in their brain like ants. Or maybe that’s just me and actually a scalp issue I need looking at? 😉

Some people simply appear perplexed I am able to make up stories out of seemingly nothing and I just want to set the record straight and give some examples of where I do get stories from to try and encourage others to have a go at writing them!

So, where do I get my stories from? I’m a watcher. I like to watch life go past, analyse it, pocket snippets and thoughts of it away for later. Yes, I am that introvert in the corner of a busy room simply watching and listening and storing data… And I would like to see a Writer who isn’t!

I remember taking a friend (and well known author I’m not about to name drop) for a wander through the Stirling markets here in the Adelaide Hills. The street we wandered was lined with oak trees and when I pointed out that the name of the street was Druids Avenue – I could see that data spark in her eyes, almost watch it being store away for use later… I could see it as this is how I see the world too. Everything has potential as a story idea.

Sometimes it’s a simple one liner – see my creations of ‘Dodo Radio’ in Bonnie’s Story (well, in the blog posts and possibly in any sequel I may write). I was just having a 140 character chat with another Author friend via a certain piece of social media and we were discussing the differences between radio in Australia versus the UK. I would kill to have radio like BBC4 here! Well, not literally kill, but strongly hug at the very least – and I am a big lady after all so kill… meh, I digress. 😉

Yes, Australian radio and it’s lack of a spectrum as vibrant as radio in the UK had it described as ‘Dodo Radio’… which then led me off on train of thought that had me create the Dodo radio explained in one of Bonnie’s blog posts. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say life inspires me.

I also find news headlines inspire me. I can’t say the entire article does, and sometimes I don’t even bother reading that part… but a simple one line can spark that creative fire in my brain. Though in the case of the two examples I’m about to give, I did read the articles… and then turned them into things they weren’t meant to be.

Now, with these examples, I would dearly love to see some new and eager Writers take the story and run with it. I can’t publish it, I can’t pay you for it, but I can (hopefully) inspire you to use it… or at least see how easy it is to pluck a story idea from the normal every day.

And so, here we go. Where do I get my story ideas from? Well, this is where…

Recently, while browsing the ABC news on my phone (as I do first thing in the morning before getting up) I read through an interesting article about how they are thinking of introducing a fish herpes to the Murray River as a way to combat the horrible pest species of carp that has been destroying it for decades.

What really got my imagination cogs going was where they talked about all the testing they would need to do first. I thought, fair enough; don’t want to wipe out all fish in the Murray with this disease. But my little grey cells sparked into life when it was mentioned they were also testing what this disease might do to humans… not only those exposed to the water, but those who ate foods grown in the area and watered with this diseased water!

Yes, the italics symbolise how exciting this whole concept was to me. Why? Oh, come on, who else doesn’t think pandemic explosion from food contaminated by something in its water supply? Just think of the speculative fiction ‘what if’ you could make from this! It could be your common garden virus or Ebola like thing wiping out the country and causing a dystopian lifestyle for some Young Adult to explore… or it could cause mutations or, dare I say it, be the catalyst for that zombie invasion so many people are jokingly prepping for. The possibilities are endless!

Now, please note I am not saying that the actual fish herpes virus would cause this at all. Hell no, I’m pretty sure the scientists are going to thoroughly test it first… and half of it is just fiction in anyone’s book. But I hope you can see what I mean about how something harmless I read in the news can be turned into some pretty interesting reading for someone else. 😉

Another recent example is (again with the ABC news first thing in the morning) a giant supernova, brighter than anything they’ve ever seen has just caught the attention of scientists and has them re-writing some of the info they thought they knew on supernovas. Nothing too exciting for we non-scientists, right? But there is a line in the article where they say “perhaps it’s not a supernova at all” and, well, they may as well have waved a red cloak at a charging bull with that line.

Yes, they did go on to say it might be a lot of other actual, real life sciencey stuff… but half my brain wasn’t listening any more. It was already off on another speculative fiction ‘what if’ journey with opening lines such as:

“At first they thought it was a new type of Supernova appearing in the night’s sky. But by the time they realised it was an invasion, it was too late…”

Yes, that is indeed how my mind works. I seriously can’t take it anywhere without that sort of thing happening.

And that boys and girls, is how I take life and get inspired to write what I write. Yes it’s not ‘True Crime’ or ‘Literary Fiction’, which most people say is what life inspires… no, life  – in the right set of hands or mind – can inspire any Writer of any genre to do what they do best: Write.

I guess it means Writer’s don’t see the world in the same way as others? Maybe another reason we need to wear badges so people realise we’re creating new worlds around us while walking down the street and watching a leaf casually blow across our path. We take in everything, we store everything, we feed everything into our imaginations and turn it into the most interesting compost in which we grow some pretty amazing things.

Heck, that paragraph alone could even be the start of a story too. What do you think? Have a go; I’d love to hear how it turns out. But you owe me a hot chocolate and brownie if you make it into a block buster novel. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2016 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Okay, so there was a little artistic license used on the grammar in the title of this post, but I’m hoping you get the gist?

I’ve decided to dedicate a blog post today to try and raise awareness for those clever writers new to the whole ‘contributing online’ thing.

Why? Well, because I used to be green and eager and willing to agree to some pretty stupid terms and conditions – as long as my work appeared online. It had meant I’d made it in some small way… right?

Well, in most cases – wrong!

If you find a site willing to allow you to ‘blog for them’ – beware! I get invites to such things a lot. More so in recent months since my reviewing site has started to get some hits. Blogging for other people can sometimes mean more negatives than positives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes blogging for someone else can be a good thing. I’ve done ‘Guest Blogger’ segments for places, and my reviews are often popping up on the social media sites of authors and publishers alike. But the big difference to that sort of blogging for others is the work is recognised as mine. Can you see how serious I am about possession? All that formatting for a four letter word – yes it does mean I have my serious face on!

When I am a guest blogger, a guest reviewer, a reviewer, etc. – the post and all rights to it still belongs to ME, the author. Most of the time I’m not paid when work is shared on someone else’s blog. Well, not in money. I get paid in other ways. If I’m being a guest blogger, it’s usually as a way to expose my work to a wider audience and encourage them to come visit my own blog or buy one of my books. If my reviews are shared, I’ve been paid by being given the item to review. Whether it be a book, block of chocolate, candle or a slow cooker. I get it, I read, eat, light or cook with it – I keep it. Sadly not all books I review are like this… but I’m working on that. 😉

What I’m trying to say is – in these cases – what I have written is acknowledged as being mine (whether it’s good or bad writing) and I have been rewarded for my efforts.

That is good blogging for free.

The bad blogging for free I’m trying to warn new Writers about is sites that invite you to come and post for them, but anything you post will belong to them and they can do with it, share it and use it for whatever they like and not have to share any of the money it may gain them with you. You’ve gotten nothing out of the deal. In most cases your name is even removed as they now legally own the work and so don’t have to even advertise who wrote it. It’s theirs, not yours. You might know it’s yours and show it off proudly to your friends and family… but if someone was to do an internet search on your name to see where you’d been published online – it wouldn’t show up. You would gain: no exposure as an author, no credit for work contributed, no financial gain – NOTHING!

Heck, if you’re okay with this as long as you know it’s your work – go do it, knock yourself out. Have fun with it.

Me, on the other hand, I’m past that part of my career. I’ve been writing for other people where my work has become their Intellectual Property as part of my contract to them. I did that for almost twenty years as an ITC Guru. Then again, I was paid for my work and even if it wasn’t mine to take with me when my contract ended… I’d still earnt cash in hand for the effort. I now work for myself and the only person I don’t expect to pay me for my writing is Myself.

 Now, I’m not trying to sound cocky or arrogant here, I’m trying to spell it out for Writers out there that their work is worth more than they realise. If you spend time out of your day writing something rather than going off and having a ‘real job’, you need to gain from that writing. Whether it be exposure, some kind of positive reward or even – shock horror – actual money, you still deserve it and people shouldn’t ask you do write for them for free.

Even the sites that ‘allow’ you to keep your name on work you post for them… take a long hard look at what they’re getting out of the deal. Is getting an article online that has your name on it but gains you nothing else really worth it? What is that post now being used for? Are the people you posted it to now using it to gain site traffic and therefore ‘pays per click’ to their site? In most cases they are you know, and therefore they should be paying you a percentage.

Just because it’s a ‘mere thousand words’ on a website – you still deserve payment. Whether it is a one off payment, or an ongoing percentage fee as royalties, you should be getting it. And by a one off payment, I do expect to get a decent amount. You’d be surprised what the actual, legal, going rate for a Writer’s work is… Maybe go check it out over at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and see. You might be shocked at how much your work is really worth. As, according to ASA, you should get about $350!

And why is a writer’s work worth more than what people are willing to pay? Because the people offering to pay think writing is just putting words together. If they are even bothering to offer you money at all! But if you look at the time that goes into being a writer and put a per hour salary on it… it makes sense. I mean, it’s not as if most of us can write and be getting on with the rest of our allotted tasks. Me, I fit writing in around my Haus Frau duties… it’s why I’ve automated as much of my domestic duties as possible. I have a machine to wash the clothes, another to clean my dishes, yet others to bake and cook foods without my presence. Heck, I even have a robot to vacuum my floors. Basically, I do this to spend more time at my job. I used them when I was a contractor heading off to an office to earn a salary. And I use them now to give me the time to be sitting here and writing this before I have to go get my kids from school and continue on with my tasks as unpaid and underappreciated house drudge… erm, I mean Haus Frau. Sounds more posh when I say it in German and don’t spell it out for you, right? 😉

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is writing takes time. It takes time away from other things we could or even need to be doing… and so we deserve to be paid for that time.

As an author I get paid for the time I’ve spent writing a book by my Publisher doing their damnedest to then sell it. I get royalties. As my Publisher has put time and effort into my book, and also need to be paid, they get part of my royalties too. If I was to have an agent, they too would get part of the royalties as their payment. See, they expect to be paid for services rendered… why is it people don’t expect the same from a Writer?

I could go off on my usual rant about you don’t expect a hairdresser to cut your hair for free, or a café to hand over that hot chocolate and brownie for nothing… Why is a writer any different? We’ve put in time and effort to provide the service of ‘putting words together’, so pay us damn it!

Okay, if I go on I feel I would start repeating myself… plus it smells like the cake I’m baking for my Hordes as I’ve been writing this is about ready to come out of the oven. And as I’m yet to get a machine that will take the damned thing out of the oven and put it on a rack to cool, I’m going to have to go and do that. So it means I have run out of time to write. Still, I will be paid in cake for the services rendered so I’m not complaining. I make a pretty tasty cake.

But I do hope you, the new and still a little green around the ears Writer get what I’m trying to say? You are worth it. Your writing is yours to own and a service you are providing. Think about this before giving it away for free.

If you’re okay with giving it away for free, or for the exposure it brings, go for it. If you’re happy taking twenty dollars for a piece of your work to be published in a magazine, that’s your call too. But I would seriously look at that magazine first, see how much they sell for, how many people buy it and then decide whether they truly can’t afford more than the peanuts… or if they’re taking you for a ride. I’ve dealt with both. I’m more than happy to submit my work to a small time indie magazine for that amount… I’m really being paid in exposure and a few dollars. If it’s a large scale magazine, which take ownership of your work and pay a paltry sum (I’m looking at you Reader’s Digest) – I’d walk away now.

What I’m really trying to say is look into it all first. You’re clever (of course you are, you’re a Writer) so just take a look at the positives and negatives that may arise from giving away your work. Sometimes giving it away for free is a good stepping stone, but please PLEASE don’t turn it into your career.

Finally – yes cynical me is perfectly aware there are some places that will just take my blog posts off of my blogs and flog them as their own. It is copyright infringement; they do not have my permission and are often caught and dealt with. Those who aren’t… well I’m a strong believer in Karma and I know she’s an even bigger bitch than me and know one day she will ensure I get payment. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

cake and DOR

My PA sprung trying to cut the cake I was baking. My cake, he didn’t write the blog post. 😉

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2015 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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I’ve finished my latest manuscript!

Hello everyone, yes I know I’ve been a rather slack blogger this year, but I have had some simply fantastically colourful excuses that I’m not going to share. Quite frankly it’s boiled down to ‘life’, ‘kids’ and all the usual stuff that we all go through so why write about it? 😉

I will, however, let you know I’ve finally finished book two in the Other World series – There’s no place like hell. And as I’ve just shipped it off to my publisher and I start contemplating whether they will indeed give me the first refusal I’m contracted to give them the chance to have… I think over a short prose I wrote last year. It really does sum up what I went through when I was first seeking publication and, to some extent, what I will be going through if I have to pitch to any new publisher.

Now, I’ve decided to share the short prose for two reasons. One is because I find it so apt to how I’m feeling right now. And secondly, it’s the piece that may or may not have caused me some issues with a publisher late last year when they may or may not have published it without my permission. Dedicated readers of my blog should understand all that. 😉

Yes I could still submit this story out to others… but it’s already been published and, although a public apology and retraction was given from the publisher in question, I don’t think many other places will want it, knowing there are a few paper copies of a book out there that contain it.

So, don’t lament over lost work, celebrate me sharing a free story with you. The publisher in question did the right thing in the end, paid me for my work – which I promptly donated to charity but hey – and I’ve moved on. Life is like that, so take it for what it is… and enjoy this story. All you budding authors out there might relate and, hopefully, laugh at yourself if you too have acted like this!

 The rejected Writer, you think you’re the only one?

By

Janis Hill

So, you’re a Writer with the capital ‘W’ to show you’re dyed in the wool, serious ‘breathe therefore you write’ Writer. That’s how serious you are about it all. And look, your manuscript is completed! You’ve polished it and proofed it and even had some well-meaning friends critique it and say how good it is.

Awesome! And now what?

That’s right; it’s time to start pitching it to the publishers as they’re also going to love it. I mean, you’ve spent, what? A year, three, five, ten at writing it? But it’s now done and ready to hit the bookshelves in the top ten lists, right? And so you think up all the publishing houses you know, you Google your heart out and make the list bigger and start. You pore over their submission pages, cursing the ones too snobby to be into your genre. But those whose submission criteria you can meet, why they’re about to be your new BFF as you burst into their lives with a submission that is simply going to blow them away. So you work hard at the cover letter, being modest but truthful at just how awesome a Writer you are, do the best synopsis that allows your story play out like a movie before them and attach all the bits that need attaching, blow it a kiss and submit it away.

Then what?

Well, you’ll now be in the gut wrenching, finger biting zone of the publisher’s waiting period. As in, if you don’t hear back from them within a week, a month, three months – whatever it is their page says – you’re just not going to hear back. But that’s not going to happen to you, these guys are you’re new friends, you’re now following them on Twitter and Facebook awaiting them to announce to the world you’re their next big thing.

Or, you’re in the other party where you know they will reply to you one way or the other… but are still going to follow them via social media as, what if they introduce you to the world before sending you that big bucks contract? Am I getting close yet?

Either group you’ve submitted to, they’re going to have you checking your email at every opportunity. If it’s the first group you’ve submitted to, as that deadline gets closer you get more anxious. Those tricksters, making you wait until the very last moment before they send you the congratulations email and contract. Deadline comes… deadline passes. You give them a few more days, just to take the international time zones, weekends and public holidays into consideration. No news, meaning a silent but solid ‘thanks but no thanks’.

And what would they know anyway, right? It’s not as if they’ve published anyone decent in years! Definitely not your sort at all, and definitely the wrong place to showcase your talent. I mean, look at those boring tweets and Facebook posts they’re making about those other Writers? Those Authors. As if their stories are as good as yours. Who needs them? Unfollow them now as they’re just dragging you down.

And yet, getting no news can often be the softer blow. It’s the letters that are sent back explaining exactly why you’re not seeing a big fat pay cheque anytime soon that really hurt. They say meaningless things like:

“Your tone is not one we feel would suit our audience”, “Unfortunately we’re not the Publishers for your level of work”, “Currently we are seeking something for a wider audience than the one who would read your work” and so on.

Oh, the pain, the agony, the absolute rudeness as they attack your work and your ability so cruelly. Ignore those well-meaning friends telling you not to take it personally, of course it is personal! It’s a slur against you, your work… your literary baby! How could they? Why would they? Obviously they just didn’t look properly and if only they’d just give it another look.

Now there’s a thought! Just do a new cover letter, re-tweak the synopsis and send it in again. They’re not going to realise it’s the same piece and this time they’re just going to love it! They were so busy last time, and your letter just wasn’t quite right and so it accidentally slipped through the cracks. It’s okay, they have to make a living and sometimes these things happen. Better follow them again on Twitter and Facebook to ensure they notice you this time, recognise your name from that slush pile and really give it a good read. And then back to the wait, the turmoil, the silence…

And so the cycle goes on…

Does this sound like you? Don’t be embarrassed as this was actually me when trying to get my first book published. Yes we are all ego and arrogance, we all have our diva moments. I feel it’s all part of the dance we take to help us turn from that Writer into an Author – note the capital ‘A’. Is it worth it? If you want to be an Author, then yes it is. Just don’t take these rejections to heart and let them get to you. Yes we will all have our little tanty and curse the publishing world as a whole. How dare they, don’t they realise who we are and just how clever our writing is?

Just remember, there are millions of very talented Writers, just like you and me, out there and we outnumber those publishing houses at probably thousands to one. And they are out there to make money, making you some too is just something that happens as a side effect. It’s not personal, it’s business and that is what being published is all about.

Don’t give up, have your diva moment, curse them to the four winds. Have your comforting chocolate biscuit or beer or whatever. And then pick yourself up and start that dance again. Who knows, you may find it’s all worth it in then end.

As for me? Well I danced my way into becoming an Author with an indie publisher. After a matter of months from the start of my pitching, through the mass of rejections, I got my first publishing contract. This encouraged me to write some more. My second book went through the usual round of rejections with the major publishing houses, but was also offered a contract within four days of pitching it. I also go multiple offers.

My best advice? Learn from your mistakes, refine and retune how you pitch. Listen to advice rather than feel you don’t need it as you’re such an awesome Writer. Accept the rejections and move on to find someone else. Aim high, but never underestimate the small, indie publishers as a foot in the door is a foot in the door.

Most importantly, keep reading and keep writing.

***

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
 

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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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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

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Writing

 

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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

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Writing

 

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