I've become a fully certified [or perhaps that should read 'certifiable'] internet shopping junkie. It all started off so simply, so seemingly harmless but isn't that always the case? Are not the stairs descending into Hell paved with good intentions? And let us not forget that oh so popular excuse of 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'.
For me it started with doing internet surveys to earn a little extra pocket money. I never expected it to make much nor did I have any idea down the pathways full of temptation I now find myself traversing. You see the thing is, once you've done one survey for one company it's almost like you've lit up a neon sign above your head with one company after another knocking on your door - virtually speaking.
More survey sites offering more and more rewards and then you start to reap the benefits - you get your first gift card or PayPal deposit and you're positively giddy with this 'free' money you've just been given. Never mind the fact that at most you'll accumulate enough points for a twenty dollar card or deposit - twenty free dollars is twenty free dollars.
And that's when the shopping starts. Certain sites recommend other sites all of whom are vying for your precious money. There are 'exclusive' boutiques offering huge discounts of 80 and 90% and it all seems so incredibly wonderful. They promise free shipping or a per cent per dollar off the total or entice you with extra's 'free of charge' but at the end of the day you have to, one day, ask the question - what am I really buying here?
I've gotten some truly great bargains, all paid for with survey money, including jewellery, lingerie, top quality brand cosmetics BUT I've also got more than a few duds. Because you can't see, feel and experience the item you're taking a chance that the description will be accurate. As a result I ended up with a travel mug shaped like a camera lens that leaks, a beauty package offering eyelash extensions that gave me a horrendous allergic reaction and most recently the cordless LED desk lamp that I was so looking forward to has turned out to work only part of the time and even then you can barely see by its' light.
It's not really any different I suppose to purchasing items from TV promotions - I've bought more than a few of those myself but that's another story. I think the problem [if it exists at all outside my own mind and impulsiveness] is that the internet is soooo easy. And if, you're like me and earn rewards through surveys, then purchasing these things on the internet almost seems like you're getting it for free. I dare not sit down and calculate just how much physical money I might have been able to transfer from my PayPal account if I actually stopped shopping - it would almost certainly give my wallet a heart attack.
Anyway, that's my confession and it does feel good to come clean. Now I can go and spend my latest round of
I watched a documentary recently 'explaining' how we never actually landed on the moon. They made some good arguments and they also made some very silly ones. Whether or not mankind ever landed on the moon or not it did get me thinking about all the different conspiracy theories, urban legends, myths and monsters there are in the world today.
I studied Ancient History at University so I'm familiar with the many ways that ancient man used myths and legends to explain the world around them. Typically they created religions with pantheons of gods who were responsible for all the myriad things they had no understanding of at that time. Things like lightning, drought, many diseases and anything else that was beyond their comprehension were all easily explained by one god or another. Being in the favour of the gods brought good things and when bad things happened they were obviously not in the gods' favour and so would perform rituals and sacrifices to turn things back to their favour.
After watching a few episodes of 'Conspiracy Theory' I quickly realised that we, a supposedly sophisticated and highly educated people, are still doing very much the same thing as our ancient ancestors. And I began to wonder why that was the case. Could it be that human beings, as a species, like to have secret histories, conspiracies and even legends, myths and monsters? Do we, on some as yet undiscovered level, need to have a 'hidden' world?
Just stop and think for a moment about the sheer number of conspiracy theories, urban legends, myths and monsters that are debated today on a regular basis by highly educated, rational people. The moon landing was faked, JFK was assassinated by the Mafia, Area 51 is hiding alien craft from the crash at Roswell and perhaps even living (or dead) aliens, and these are just the tip of the iceberg of conspiracy theories. Urban legends like organs stolen from living people, Satanic cults sacrificing babies and all the myths and legends of Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster - I could literally go on and on.
You may personally believe some or all of these things. There's more than one that I believe to be true despite the fact that there is no real, empirical evidence to prove beyond doubt any of these things. I guess I just find it interesting that as far removed as we may be from our ancient ancestors we still share many of their traits. After this many thousands of years I think we can safely say that creating these stories is an inbuilt part of the human psyche. I for one, would be very interested to hear what myths are told as truths in another thousand years or so.
If you've been in the writing game for any length of time then I'd be willing to bet there were moments when you suffered from what is usually termed 'writer's block'. It's happened to me, more than once. I find myself staring at a blank screen almost as if I were willing the words to appear on the paper by magic. It's not that the words aren't there. Like most writers I have a seemingly never ending cast of characters in my head who are all clamouring for me to tell their story.
So if the muse is still there, if the characters are still calling to you then how could you suffer from 'writer's block'? That's when I began to wonder if maybe, what we're experiencing is not actually a 'block' but a brief existential moment of doubt. Are we, perhaps, listening to that tiny little voice in the back of our minds who so frequently tells us 'you're no good', 'you're just fooling yourself', 'no one will want to read that' etc instead of listening to the characters in our minds that we want... nay, we need to share with the world?
I'll confess I've always had a tendency in my life to 'over-think' things. You may be the same. The problem is, at least for me, that I think that also spills over to my writing. I over-think it, whether it's a scene or a chapter or even a whole novel idea, to the point where I've stopped listening to the characters and started listening to my own self-doubt. And so sets in the dreaded 'writer's block'.
Now I'm not suggesting that I have any answers. If I did I'd probably be famous by now :) What I do have though is a suggestion. The next time you begin to feel that dark, heavy blanket of 'writer's block' stop for a minute and ask yourself one simple question. Do you really have nothing to say or are you actually just wondering if you have anything that anyone wants to hear?
I won't make any promises but it's gotten me through more periods of 'writer's block' than anything else I've ever heard suggested. Just tune in your mind, like a radio, to your characters and your muse, instead of your own self doubts. I think you'll find that puts an end to writer's block for good :)
I used to hear this expression from the adults in my life a lot as a kid and I could never quite figure it out. Of course now I'm one of those dreary adults and have caught myself using the same expression many times. These days I know what it means - which is basically that if things start to go wrong they often keep getting worse. The problem is today that I work as a writer for a living and as a consequence I really think about words. Why do we use them? Where did they come from? And, maybe most importantly, why is the English language peppered with these odd expressions and strange turns of phrase?
Perhaps other languages also have the same odd expressions or word usages but I'm not familiar enough with any of them to say one way or another with any certainty. It would be quite interesting to find out though. English is, though, my native language and it seems to be rife with odd ways of saying things. Then if you add in all the 'old wives tales' you get a very colourful language indeed. Maybe that's the reason we do it - after all the human animal is essentially a very creative creature. We crave originality and variety yet at the same time we tend to fall into patterns of speech and behaviour and more often than not many people complain of 'falling into a rut'.
As a writer I use language very differently depending entirely upon the intended audience. When I'm writing my books for example, particularly the fantasy novels and short stories, I use an almost medieval manner of speech with few cliché's and none of our every day metaphors. In my most recent novel, The Jenny Factor [coming soon], set in the 21st Century I am able to use much more colourful language and include many of our every day expressions. Yet even in those two comparisons there are even more differences. In a fantasy novel you have to 'world build' or create an entirely new world for your characters to exist in. This requires more description and subtle explanations of how that world and its' people work and operate. In a modern novel you don't have to explain to the reader how the world works - they live in it so too much description would take away from the story rather than enrich it. When I write flash fiction or children's tales, again, the writing and words used for each much be very different.
I could go on endlessly about the differing ways of writing but the nuts and bolts [caught me], as it were, of my point is that the English language offers an enormous array of different manners of speech and writing. It is precisely because we have that huge scope of choice that our choices become so important. It would be, for example, completely bizarre to use certain ways of speech in certain circumstances. If we're at the coffee shop chatting I'm definitely not going to use the formalized and medieval manners of speech that I use in my fantasy novels. But then neither am I going to use the clipped and edgy manner of speech that I use in writing flash fiction or a mystery/thriller. It simply wouldn't be appropriate.
So I guess, at the end of the day [yep - you caught me again :) ], what I'm trying to say is that in truth I believe we are very lucky to have the variances of speech that is offered by the English language. And furthermore, these variances are in an almost constant state of change with new expressions, new slang and new venues for different types of speech. I would never write 'lol' in any of my published works or while speaking personally with someone but use it all the time in text messaging, FaceBook chatting etc. And I'm very happy I've got it to use, along with all the other odd and colourful expressions we have - no matter how odd they may sometimes sound. :) [My mother, for example, hated the expression 'I'm going to jump in the shower' - she would always point out that no one actually jumps into a shower.]
As a professional writer, words and language are the tools of my trade. And just like any other tradesman I have to use the right tool at the right time. As a person however I'll keep using cliché's, odd expressions and 'old wives tales' because they keep conversation flowing easily and let's be honest, they're fun and everyone knows what they mean. And so, as we used to say when I was a kid although it has now fallen completely out of use - I'll catch you on the flipside :)
Ever since I pressed 'publish' on my first truly ready novel I've been asked this question numerous times. And, do you know what? I'm still not sure of the answer. Obviously I can speak only for myself and let you know things that other writers have said. It seems, however, almost universally agreed upon that the majority of writers are born that way.
I honestly cannot remember a time in my life when I didn't want to write or tell stories. They were just 'there' in my head. Call them imaginary friends or future characters but there are some 'people' I feel I've known all my life. Some of them have made it to paper, some are waiting their turn but all of them are in my head.
It's kind of funny that a writer's mind could easily be mistaken for a mental illness. I hear voices - that is to say I hear characters talking in my head. I know them as intimately as I know my own husband. I could tell you exactly what they looked like, what their family background was like, their hopes, fears and dreams - but none of them are 'real' until I finally pin them to paper.
Likewise I see 'visions' - that is that certain scenes play out in my head, I can see different characters interacting. I see their triumphs, their despair, I see their friendships and lovers. I see it all in my head and it doesn't go away until, again, I finally pin it to paper.
I'm sure by now you see what I mean when I say a writer's mind could be easily confused with the mentally ill. And maybe, in a way, it is an illness. I'll admit that there are times when it almost feels like a fever - if I don't write down the things I see and hear it will just nag at me until I do. I'm like an addict - I can't stop. Not that I'd actually wish for things to be any different. I love writing. I love being a writer and now, I love it even more because people are reading the things I write.
So I guess at the end of the day, the answer to the question of whether writer's are born or made is probably that they're born that way. I've read many interviews etc where other authors have spoken of their need to write, their characters taking over. All things I've said and felt myself. So, if you're out there and you feel a story inside you - let it out. You'll never get any peace until you do ;)
I'm certain that practically everyone has heard the parable of the Scorpion and the Frog so bear with me while I repeat it for the few who don't know it.
"The land is flooding and the only way out is to cross the river. A scorpion says to a frog "take me over the river on your back please" and the frog replies "I can't. You're a scorpion and you'll sting me". But the scorpion pleads his case by saying "I wouldn't do that because then we would both drown. Trust me and take me over the river on your back." The frog can see the logic in the scorpions argument and agrees to take the scorpion across the river on his back.
Half way across the river the scorpion stings the frog and they both start to drown. The frog cries out "Why have you done this? Now we'll both die?" and the scorpion replied "Sorry, it's my nature."
It sounds silly but it really represents a very valuable, important lesson that all of us must learn at some time in our lives. The simple fact is that human beings can pretty much be divided into two groups - scorpions and frogs. Life can be very, very hard for frogs - it's their nature to be helpful, kind and giving. This means they often get hurt and sometimes, a lot of times, they get hurt very badly simply because there are scorpions amongst us.
The scorpion is a 'what's in it for me?' type of person, while the frog is a 'what can I do for you?' type of person. Thus you can see how easily a scorpion can take advantage of a frog. They are also, by nature, very credible chameleons who do not show their true colours immediately and can easily pass for a fellow frog - to push that metaphor to the limit :) - thus they can use and abuse other people until finally the real frog realises he's been stung. And that hurts.
These people will act like your best friend [or lover, room-mate, neighbour etc] and they will, initially, seem incredibly believable. Depending on how good these people are at disguising their true nature they can fool you for a very long time - slowly but surely bleeding you dry emotionally, financially or otherwise. And when you finally feel the sting and realise how you've been used the pain and hurt is quite devastating.
We all instinctively want to believe the best in people. If we're a frog - it's in our nature. Unfortunately not everyone is worthy of trust or respect or love. By no means is it a bad thing to have a generous and giving nature. To want to help people, to want to have relationships - these are good, wholesome desires. What we do have to learn, eventually, though is to be a little more discerning about other people. I don't mean we should become cynical - that only means that the scorpions amongst us have won.
Instead just watch people's behaviour and really listen to what they say. All people, no matter what our nature, ultimately give ourselves away. Our real attitudes, thoughts and desires will be shown in the things we say and the way we behave. Having a little protective shell around your heart will go a long way towards helping you to not only recognize the scorpions but to avoid being hurt by them. And always remember - you can never change another human being, you can only change yourself and the way you choose to respond.
So to all my frog friends out there - be careful who you give your heart to and keep an eye out for scorpions both for yourself and for the other frogs you love :)
As most of my regular reader's know I have been a diagnosed bi-polar survivor for most of my adult life. Although treated and medicated there are times when the bi-polar becomes a little more prevalent in my world than perhaps I would like it to be and certainly more than those around me would like it to be. During those times I go back into talk therapy to help me past the bump in the road and every time I do I always swear it will be the last time... until next time :)
In one way or another I think most of us have been in situations where we swear that it will be 'the last time' and will 'never happen again' ... until the next time rolls around. If life has taught me anything it's that you really can never say never again.
I was pondering this thought last night and I began to think about change. Many of us want to do it, maybe everyone at one time or another wants to change some habit or vice or flaw in their character and we will swear to 'never do XYZ again' only to find that we have slipped straight back into our old habits/vices/flaws when put into certain situations.
This doesn't mean that we should give up though. If you truly have something in your life that you want to change then persevere - yes, you will undoubtedly fall back into that habit or behaviour but you can, over time change yourself. In fact, as you go along life's highway you will very quickly learn that the only thing you ever can change is yourself.
And the best part is, that sometimes, when you realise that you can only change yourself, you might suddenly find that your relationships with other people or your attitudes to certain situations also change dramatically. For example, I no longer view my occasional need for talk therapy as something to be ashamed of or something that should be 'the last time ever' but rather as part of the tapestry of my life that makes me who I am. So now I no longer feel prey to the negative feelings associated with needing therapy and as a consequence I've become a much happier person who, ironically, has much less need for therapy.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is not to despair if 'never again' becomes 'one more time' - you don't know what the future holds and it's probably easier all round to just accept that most of the time you can 'never say never again' :)
I get to be Queen For A Day as I talk about The Next Big Thing. I’ve been tagged by fellow author Traci Hohenstein who writes terrific suspense novels with a wonderful female sleuth. I’m supposed to tell you about my next book by answering the following questions, and then I have tagged five other authors who will tell you about their Next Big Thing. Let’s get started!
What is the working title of your next book?
The Jenny Factor
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have a much loved cousin who would use a similar phrase to describe a friend of hers. The xxx 'factor' explained this particular person's penchant for exaggeration and their general 'flakiness' in life. I loved the phrase and the character of "Jenny' was immediately born... then I just had to figure out what to do with her :)
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Charlize Theron as Jenny and Beth (identical twins). Robert Patterson as David, a young David Spade as Byron, Keira Knightly as Tameka and a young Robert Downey Jr as Dayne.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When Jenny Halloran goes missing only her identical twin Beth believes she is in danger but can Beth find out what really happened in time to save her sister from a fate worse than death?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self - Published. I love the freedom of being Independent.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Approximately ten weeks.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I can't really think of another missing person storyline involving identical twins. This is quite a departure for me as I usually write fantasy fiction.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Firstly my cousin. We've always been close and we spent a fabulous couple of months doing the rounds of local 'carnivals' [we call them 'shows' in Oz]. That involved long hours on the road, long hours working our booth and long hours spent together. I had a ball but through the course of that time the storyline for 'The Jenny Factor' was born. I put it on the back-burner for a long time but now I feel the time is right for the novel to see the light of day.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think the identical twins make for an interesting plot device but I think the most interesting aspect of the novel is the sheer wondering. Did Jenny disappear? Is she really in trouble? If she is, how on earth does Beth know this with such certainty?
Like most people I've had some ups and downs in my life. Things have not always gone according to plan. When I first left school, at the ripe old age of 15, all I wanted was to earn some money and party, party, party. Which I did. I landed myself a full-time job at the local McDonald's which offered the benefit of shift work - something very appealing to a teenager.
I didn't earn much but at the same time I didn't have a lot of expenses. I was living at home, had no debt and could easily spend my cash on clothes, my hair, nails and, of course, partying. And boy did I know how to party. Although I was underage I began hitting the local nightclubs [and there were plenty to choose from on the sunny Gold Coast] where I would drink [I DO NOT ADVOCATE THIS BEHAVIOUR AT ALL] and dance all night long.
In those days I had so much energy that I was able to work all day and party all night and still survive on almost no sleep - no wonder I get so tired these days ;) I had a big group of friends who, like me, were only interested in drinking, dancing and pulling all-nighters. We had a ball. But after a while that lifestyle began to lose it's attraction. I never had any money by the end of the week and my hangovers were monumental. More to the point though was that my life was really going nowhere.
So I went back to school. I had always hated school but I decided to just grit my teeth and bare it. Sure enough in only two short years I secured a High School Certificate. Yippee!!! Now, surely I would be able to get a better job. And, sure enough, not long before I graduated I was offered a position as a news-agency manager at a small store right on the beach. It was great. Even though the job meant very early starts it also promised weekends free and I had plenty of time in the afternoons to shop and hit the beach.
But it still wasn't enough so at twenty I enrolled in a Diploma course in Book-keeping and Secretarial Studies. That put me on a great path career-wise and I began landing really good, well-paying jobs. I bought a brand new car, travelled and, now that my partying had slowed down, had more money than ever. Didn't last though. When I was 30 I was diagnosed with Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and could no longer work on keyboards/computers as I had been doing. I lost my job and, because I had never planned for the future, eventually I lost my car and everything else I owned. I was 30, bankrupt and could see no job prospects on the horizon. Furthermore that was the time when my Mother began to get really sick. In the end I became her full-time carer.
It was pretty devastating to me at that time. I thought my life was over. No job prospects, no money and no hope. Mum convinced me to try University. After some soul searching I applied, sat the relevant tests and was accepted into the University of Queensland. Once again taking Mum's advice I studied Ancient History - not in hopes of any particular job but simply because I had always loved history. To my surprise and delight I excelled at Uni and graduated at the top of my class.
I still worked odd jobs or part time whenever Mum's health allowed but Uni had become my primary focus. Life seemed to be getting back on track.... then, out of nowhere, a silly, chance accident left me with three herniated discs in my lower back. Suddenly my life was all about pain. I could no longer work and struggled to take care of Mum. I was forced, to my great shame, to take a Disability Pension in order to survive.
I was 35, no job, no money, no prospects, no future. It didn't seem as though life could get any worse. Once again, however, my beloved Mum came to the rescue with a solution. I had always wanted to be a writer, had always made up stories and poems, why not devote my life to that? The thought was stupendous, terrifying and strangely attractive... I had an income, albeit a small one, that I could survive on so why not use my time by writing?
I took Mum's advice and some help from my dearest friend and finally, after all my twists and turns, I became the one thing I had always wanted to be... a writer. I was able to publish my books and guess what? They actually sold. People liked them. I started to get some good reviews and saw sales keep increasing. Suddenly I didn't care that circumstances had forced me onto a Disability Pension - instead I was grateful to have the chance to write as much as my back would permit.
So I finally learned that it doesn't really matter if your plans get way-laid... that's almost guaranteed to happen in some form or another. What really matters is what you do when plans change. As long as you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off - you're still going in the right direction. Onwards and upwards my friends :)
Human beings are essentially social creatures, that's why we're born into family units and seek out relationships with others. We need the company of other people. Basically you gotta have friends. The difficulty with relationships though is that all people have their own agenda in life, their own way of doing things, their own, firmly held, opinions and beliefs. Finding someone with compatible agendas etc can be difficult enough when searching for a partner in life but it is sometimes even harder when seeking out friendships.
No single person can fulfill all your needs as a person, that's unrealistic and unfair to the other person. Therefore you need to have multiple people in your life. I love Robbie, my husband, with all my heart and I'm fortunate in that I can talk to him about anything but I also sometimes want someone else to talk to or hang out with - it makes me a richer, more rounded person.
I consider myself to be extremely blessed in my life. I have a wonderful husband, a fantastic, loving family, and a wide circle of friends. I am well aware that many people do not have those things. One of the greatest of modern diseases is loneliness. Feeling lonely or isolated is not limited to those who are single or even those who are perhaps in unhappy partnerships but can affect anyone at any time.
There is an art to making friends and there is also the constant risk of rejection. Rejection is a humbling experience as I'm sure every one knows. Yet the simple truth is that not every person we reach out to will want to have us in their life. It's also true that you can very easily make grave mistakes when you extend the hand of friendship.
Some people may initially seem to be your best friend in the world. Only after a period of time do you find out that their agenda is vastly different from your own. There will be people who use you just as much as people who will reject you. What once appeared to be a promising friendship can easily degenerate into becoming bitter enemies and the truth is, that hurts.
Like practically everyone else on the planet I've been rejected by potential friends, lovers etc. I've been used and abused by people I thought I could trust. I've had my heart broken and my feelings hurt. I'm just like you. If you're living and breathing then at some point in time you will feel the sting of rejection or the pain of being used. It's how you deal with it that really matters.
Obviously you can't change anyone, be they lover, family or friend. The only person you can ever really change [and even that's very hard] is yourself. It is in my nature to be a very giving person, I tend to love with all my heart and yes, I often lead with my heart which is a bad move. As I've grown older I've tried to be a little wiser about who I extend the hand of friendship to but that doesn't mean I don't still sometimes get burned.
I like myself the way I am and don't want to become cynical and possibly lead myself into isolation. So I continue to reach out to people. Sometimes it works and I've developed incredible friendships, many lasting decades, but sometimes it doesn't. At the end of the day, to quote Barbra Streisand, 'people need people'. So I'll continue to be a loving and generous person and hopefully recognize those who would take advantage of that before I get in too deep and end up getting hurt. After all if you want to live a full and rich life there's nothing else you can do but be open to people.