Tag Archives: new author

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: , , , , , , , , , ,

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


Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Writing


Tags: , , , , , , ,

We’re getting close to the pointy end!

Yes, only a few weeks to my official eBook launch at the SA Writer’s Centre during Adelaide Writer’s Week. Your invite can be found here.

As cheesy as it sounds, it really is a dream come true to be a part of the festival as well as a book lover going to some of the events. You can even find me in the official Adelaide Writer’s Week program! Look really closely on page 51 and there I am.

In other news, Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics now has a free sample for you to read up on the Hague Publishing Website. There is also the option to pre-order it if you find the sample interesting enough. And I really do hope you find it interesting enough, or why else am I working on a sequel? 🙂

Did you know Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics now also has a Facebook page? Come along and like me there too. I’m a youngest child so I obviously demand attention, or so I’m told.

It can also be found on GoodReads now too. Yes we are getting out and about on the Internet!

I’ve recently also had my first, and hopefully not only, little fifteen seconds of fame too! I have had interviews with two lovely local newspapers and even had a photo shoot for one of them. Both articles, I believe, will appear in editions of their papers The Courier and The Weekender Herald just before the March 2nd Launch. So, if you’re local, keep an eye out. If I can, I will try and offer links to the articles for those who aren’t local, but are still interested. Aw bless you for your interest.

To top all this action off, I’ve received the official flyers and business cards for my eBook from Hague Publishing. And so, will be handing them out liberally to anyone who dares make eye contact. You have been warned. I am a passionate writer and a passionate mother, and as this eBook is like a fourth child to me, I will be parading it about proudly and making you all have a hold.

I will end my blog with a little brag, I know I shouldn’t, but I am mortal. I happened to be lucky enough to get into a Twitter conversation with one of my all-time favourite authors from my teens – Isobelle Carmody. It was all about genres and how you would really classify what a book is today in the ever changing genres that are out there. Like, yes Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics is speculative fiction, but what really is the sub-genre, seeing ‘spec fic’ covers so much? Some have suggested Young Adult (16+) while other even Chic Lit or even Light Science fiction. It really is a good topic of conversation and one I am hoping to openly discuss… once more people have read my work. I am very curious to know. And hey, Isobelle Carmody!!!! If it hadn’t been for my eldest preferring the name she ended up with (long story, not being told here) her name would have been Elspeth!

Well, that’s me done. If you’re going to be in Adelaide on the 2nd of March and need something to do for an hour or so around 6:30pm come and see me. I can’t offer you a free book, but there will be nibbles and I’ll even sign a business card or flyer for you. 🙂

All the best – Janis.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Writing


Tags: , , ,

Any day now… honest!

Not being very good at building suspense, please don’t feel this is a sad attempt to do so, as it’s honestly not.

I just felt like blogging and so here I am. I received the Proof Reader and Publisher massive edit of Bonnie’s Story, pouted a bit at it being nearly 700 words shorter than I thought it had been last time I saw it, and then had a general whinge on online social media at all the red (and blue as they’d both been ruthless) changes.

Still, I knuckled down, spent my weekend ignoring the kids, yelling at the husband to take the kids away so I could ignore them better, and really just went through it all. Thankfully most of it was punctuation changes. I seem to never get my commas in the right place. And, strangely, I seem to have a blind spot for the word ‘that’ and tend to leave it out a bit.

Then there was all the standardising of how things were said. Was it red haired or red-haired? Cow pat, cow-pat or cowpat? Was the dog Mr Doodles, Mr Doodle, or did I really still want the dog? I stood my ground on a few things and removed them from being removed, but generally went with the flow and do hope it makes for a better read. You’ll never know, but at least all your cowpats and red-heads should look in order. 😉

So, Saturday I read it and dealt with all the changes. That night I started re-reading the first 50,000 words I’ve written on my new MS tentatively called Isis, Vampire and Ghosts – Oh My! and then went back to Bonnie’s Story on the Sunday. I found it interesting to chop and change between the two as they’re both written in first person, and yet I’ve done my damnedest to make the heroines as dissimilar as I can. Hopefully Stephanie will turn out just as interesting, but not identical, to Bonnie. I have, however, discovered that in all my stories (these two and Grey currently being reviewed by Hague Publishing) my characters do tend to snort and roll their eyes a lot. I am told it is a trait they have picked up from their creator. As well as the tendency to tell people to go bite them… Oops?

Monday morning, I bid Bonnie’s Story a fond farewell and hoped I wouldn’t be seeing her to be edited again. I could seriously just keep picking at it and changing it forever. But I’ve put my pens down and handed it in at the front of the class and hope it’s all acceptable.

Adding to the total lack of suspense this blog post provides – I have seen the near finished covered and it’s brilliant! Now, I know you think I’m going to say that no matter what as it’s my book cover. But, you know what? I’d give this book a look from its cover, even if I’d not written it. It’s all down to Dean Harkness and his ability to turn my whims, wishes and ideas into basically what I wanted. Woo hoo!

The other important things I’ve done to for my soon to be finished book is I chose the vignettes (can also be known as those curly things you put under the chapter number to make it stand out), wrote an ‘About the author’ that was so very cringe worthy, and did the dedication. All I will say on the dedication is it is to one person only… and if I’ve not contacted you about it, it’s not you. Surprise!

And to put all my family and friends at ease, or worry them more as the case may be, I do hope there will be more books and I will do my best to squeeze in a dedication to you there. Just be nice, as not all dedications have to be. 😉

Okay, so that’s this week’s update. I should find out on the weekend how badly my response to the editing actually was and then move forward from there.

Enjoy and have fun until next time!


Leave a comment

Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Writing


Tags: , ,

‘Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s guide to Mathematics’ is one step closer!

Hello everyone,

So this is my new blog as an up and coming author awaiting the launch of my very first ever book in early 2013 through Hague’s Publishing.

About my new book, well this is what we can share so far:

Bonnie’s Story by Janis Hill

A Blonde’s Guide to Mathematics – when hard maths meets a rolled up newspaper

Meet Bonnie, very much a woman of this century, with a distinctly Australian view on life, who’s handy with a rolled up newspaper.

Bonnie’s story starts when she notices Rogan, a young man, taking photos of street signs outside her house. Upon confronting him, Bonnie is plunged into a world of mathematics and science: a world where she visits the Moon, watches life begin, and learns the true depth of mathematics. A world where Rogan’s friends transport themselves across the globe using nothing more than smoke like algorithms and a picture in their phone. A world where, by using the science of ‘hidden logic’, doors can be created in any repetitive pattern on a vertical surface to connect to the Moon (the hang out for Rogan and his ragtag group).

As her acceptance of her new life and her relationship with Rogan blossoms (assisted by a number of quick trips by Rogan to Belgium for chocolates) she discovers that Rogan’s group is threatened by Sylvester, an outsider, who has the ability to coerce people into doing his will. That is, until he meets Bonnie and is firmly put in his place by her own anger and stubbornness.

What follows is a mad dash around the world for Bonnie and her new friends as they try to escape Sylvester, until the final climatic confrontation on the Moon.

Does it sound interesting enough yet? Well, upon request of a good friend, I will be doing a Q&A on my book in coming days. Then I hope to get some of the timelines for its release posted. For now I can say the cover art is being worked on and we’re booked for the Launch at the Adelaide Writer’s Week on March the 2nd at the SA Writer’s Centre.

What else can I tell you? Well, the above mentioned cover art is currently in its initial stages with the fantastic and incredibly talented Dean Harkness and I’m looking forward to what he can do for Bonnie and her story as I love his work.

Other than that I am awaiting the initial edit (is there going to be a lot of red corrections scrawled all over it?) and working on a few other writing projects (including a sequel to ‘Bonnie’s Story’) in between being a mum, celebrating the Solstice and Christmas and surviving the school holidays with my demonic hordes (AKA children).

This is all very exciting and I hope to bring you more news soon!



Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Writing


Tags: , ,