TA – DA!

I have often wondered whether this day would ever come. I watched the years go by, with no indication of a result. Oh, I had little victories: several short stories sold and published; a few non-fiction articles; a regular spot in a satirical magazine for a few years; bucket loads of reviews published and, finally, a self-published book of which I was proud. But still, the big one eluded me. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I’ve written several novels but couldn’t get anyone willing to take them on. I have been ignored by some big names in the publishing world; not even a “no thanks” email. Others were very encouraging. “We like your style. We love the story. Your characters are interesting. But, you don’t suit our list/We don’t think we can sell this/No thank you.” I’ve been told by an agent that they were excited by the book and were passing it on up the food chain, only to find out – about six months later – that particular agent had left the agency and the group no longer dealt with fantasy. I’ve been asked to rewrite a book to change it from adult to young adult, but when I did that the agent told me it was “too young” and the publisher told me it was “too adult”. I’ve been told by a publisher, who specialises in authors and stories particular to my state, that “true stories don’t sell”. Even though, that’s their speciality. When I finally scraped some of my husband’s money together and self-published, I had trouble selling enough books to make it worth while. It’s really hard to do it all on your own. (Okay…it’s difficult for me.) But now – finally – I can announce that I am under contract!  A traditional publisher, Stone Table Books, has signed me up. They’re going to publish Dragon-friend (book 2 in the series: The Flight) and also do a reprint of Beast-speaker (bk 1). They will be launched together, later this year. That’s because I haven’t finished book 2 yet. That’s right! They signed me up for two books on the strength of my writing in the first book. Amazing! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone believe in my work. Someone who is willing to back me and support me, and push to get my work in print. When I was first offered the contract, I admit it: I cried. I still find it all a little surreal. Is this really happening? What’s the catch? Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I see the new covers, done by a proper illustrator. Perhaps I’ll finally believe it when I’m sitting at the book launch, signing copies. And, if it’s all a dream, then WOO HOO! Dream...

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The mouse invasion of 2017.

A few weeks ago, The Old Boy and I woke up on a Thursday morning, to a home without the Internet. We called the provider, who agreed to send a technician out. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t arrive until the following Tuesday. 5 days without the Net! Aaarrggghhh! So at first sparrow fart, on the Tuesday morning, the technician arrived. The Old Boy made him welcome. I mumbled something, trying to appear civilized, even though I was suffering from a mix of Internet-Withdrawal and Getting-Out-Of-Bed-Far-Too-Early Syndrome. (You know, if I could manage to be polite in those circumstances, then surely Mr Trump could have made more of an effort to welcome Angela Merkel. Just sayin’.) Surprise! A mouse had been chewing on the cables. I mean, what kind of deprivation and starvation are our mouse population undergoing that they went straight past the left-over dog food, in favour of plastic? Problem solved. Internet back on. Mouse traps set.  Everything was back to normal in Computer Land, Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday. Thursday morning we woke up to a mouse neatly trapped, and no Internet. The little blighter had done it again! We called the provider. The technician couldn’t come until the following Tuesday. A cold shiver ran down my spine. I got the shakes. I didn’t know if I could do it again. The Old Boy got an old mobile phone, filled it with data (I’m winging it here, as I am a techno-idiot) and we used it as a “hot spot”. I’m sure all you computer nerds will know what that means. From my point of view, it meant that I could occasionally send and receive emails. I’d get everything written and ready, before turning the phone on. And, usually, I’d have to get the Old Fella to remind me how to do it even though he said it was “simple”. (Insert emoji face with tongue poking out.) We caught another mouse. We watched more TV and read a few books. We played games on our ipad. We waited…and waited… Tuesday morning, slightly later than sparrow fart but still ridiculously early, the technician arrived. Oops! He’d forgotten to plug the hole through which the rodent had crawled. We didn’t know it was there, hidden inside the box where the cables came into our house. Sneaky little beggars, aren’t they?!! Once more the Internet is functioning in our house. Hallelujah! And, so far, so good. No more mouse bodies to dispose of, so perhaps they have given up. Perhaps they’ve moved next door. Perhaps they’ve found an easier food supply. Perhaps they’ve died of malnutrition. So many unanswered questions. So many mysteries.        ...

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Mrs Cranky Pants

I’ve recently finished draft #1 of the novel I’ve been working on and it’s now with a couple of readers. I have no idea where to send it, once it’s ready for submission, as it’s a bit of a hybrid – which are no-nos in the publishing world. I’m making progress with bk #2 of the Beast-speaker series (Dragon-friend). However, I’m not romping along because I’ve yet to hear whether a certain publisher will take it or not. The CEO is hesitating because of the graphic and confronting content, which is hard to avoid when one is writing about child soldiers. The indecision and uncertainty is a tad stressful, which leaves me a bit cranky. Also, I know I have very little power to change the craziness that the world is descending into, therefore I need to exercise what little control I do have. I’m just going to say it… Your = belonging to you. You’re = a shortened form for “you are“. Yore = long ago; eg: there were knights and dragons in days of yore. Yor = … This word doesn’t exist. Definitely = certain; take my word for it; eg: I’m definitely going to the game. Yes sir! Defiantly = waving a fist in the air; saying or doing what I think even though you told me not to; eg: I went to the game defiantly, even though the Taliban threatened to kill us if we did. Quiet = barely a sound; eg: It was so quiet, I could hear my heart beating. Quite = absolutely; eg: I am quite certain, or = fairly, to a certain degree; eg: it’s quite warm today. I hear you cry, “Who cares if we mix these words up?” ME! I care on behalf of the English language, which is dying from a thousand cuts every day. I care on behalf of decent communication and clear speech. I care because I think language is important. Otherwise, let’s all just go back to grunting at each other, while waving a leg bone from a T-Rex in the air. If you are a writer, or editor, or both, please check your spelling and grammar before hitting Post when writing on Facebook. I agree that not many people do it; in fact, it’s a chat site so the rules are relaxed. However, if writing is your profession I want to see you do it well, even on the internet. I find myself hesitating to purchase books written by people who don’t seem able to spell or parse a sentence correctly.  And, I’d never think of sending my manuscript to an editor who makes simple grammatical mistakes. It’s not a good look. You might think this makes me a literary snob but…that’s the way it is. Okay, my rant is over. I’ll get back to writing books that, probably, no one will get to read even though they have excellent spelling and grammar....

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Kids and their stories.

I’ve finished marking all the submissions to the children’s writing competition. The courier has collected the very large box, reinforced with kilometres of tape because I re-used the box they sent me. Now I await the short listed entries, so I can go through the process again, but on a smaller scale. (Oh frabjous joy, calloo callay!) I have learned a lot about story writing. Here are the main points:- Your story should always have a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t kill off the person telling the story. Never, ever, finish your story with “…and then I woke up and it was all a bad dream”. Never! Write appropriately for your market. The contestants were writing for children aged 6 – 9 (a first reader). Unfortunately, stories about 18 year olds, blasting their way through enemies, friends and zombies, aren’t really suitable. If you’re writing about fairy princesses, make them do something interesting. Give at least one of them a bad attitude. Fairies that don’t do anything other than twinkle and float around gardens with unicorns, is not a story. Make sure the ending fits the rest of the story, and is a proper conclusion. Don’t write about kids who are homeless and on the run from the police, (an interesting story and I’m with you so far) and then you realise you’ve nearly used up your word limit so an alien suddenly wipes them all out. Don’t strew huge, obscure words throughout the story. It’s obvious you can use a Thesaurus but hardly anyone, other than adults with an obsession for crosswords or scrabble, will know what you’re talking about. So, how have you all been? I’d like to report that things are a bit cooler here in the Great South Land but, quite frankly, we’re all singed beyond repair. If we were steaks, we’d be well done; so well done, you’d throw us out and eat the chicken instead. (And this from a person who likes their steak well done!) I gather my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are still digging their way out of massive snow drifts. I’d sympathise but, quite frankly, from where I’m sitting (under the overhead fan), that sounds delightful. Our Prime Minister thinks we should turn from renewable energies and use “clean” coal. I assume that’s coal that’s been washed before use. There are many things I could say about that but I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s been sizzling hot in Canberra, so I could assume his brain has been fried. Then again, he’s been in a right bad mood ever since Mr Trump hung up on him – he even yelled at sweet Mr Billy Shorten in parliament – so, I blame Trump!...

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2017 already!

Hello, readers! I expect some of you have been wondering where I was. Had another bush fire swept through my neighbourhood, forcing me to camp out in a hotel/motel somewhere? Had I partied too hard during the festive season and consequently had to spend some time in rehab? Had the cancer gone a bit berserk, sending me off to hospital? No, no and no. I just couldn’t be bothered. Oh, I gave you all the occasional thought – I really should write another blog – but then I’d think, Nah. I’ve had a similar approach to the Christmas tree. It’s still sitting in the corner of the front room, blinking its cute little lights at me. I think it’s a tree-version of batting eyelashes. “You can’t turn me off. Look how sweet I am.” I haven’t been doing nothing; just mainly nothing. There’s a difference. Yes, there is! Don’t argue. I’ve been madly scrambling to finish the first draft of a new book. It’s nearly done. It’s a faux year-long diary and I’m up to the end of November, so it’s not long now. I’ve also been reading five books to review for Good Reading Magazine. I sent them off yesterday and the relief was palpable. I have a box (a very large box) of entries to a national children’s writing competition, sitting on  the dining table. (I’m one of the judges.) I’m supposed to have them all marked and returned by the end of the month and I’m already having nightmares about it. I saw that one of the entries had the number 930 on it, and it wasn’t the last one! Then there’s Beast Speaker book two to finish. Some of my readers are becoming a tad insistent about it. All I can say is, Sorry, sorry, sorry. I promise I’ll get my butt into gear. It’s just that once you stop, it’s really hard to get going again. And, it’s hot and I’m tired. And, did I mention that it’s hot? I was going to write something chirpy, hopeful and upbeat about a brand new year stretching out before us but, I’m feeling more grouchy than optimistic. We’ve had a number of new years now and we still seem to keep doing the same old junk only, each time, we crank it up to a new level. Thankfully, there are still plenty of unsung heroes and angelic personalities who have their sleeves rolled up and are in there, boots and all, doing their best to lift the load and help their neighbours. Where would we be without them? Keep on keeping on, you champions! You’re an inspiration to the rest of us, and a challenge to keep our lanterns held high. I’ll be lifting mine up any time soon. Did I mention that I’m hot and...

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