I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to come up with a blog post that people might find interesting, that won’t get me into trouble or trolled, or isn’t about my dog’s gastrointestinal reactions to the new dog biscuits we’re giving her (it can get quite ‘atmospheric’ in my study at the moment). I could write about my upcoming new book, but I want to save that for the next post. So, here’s a summary of the other things that have been going on at my writing desk lately.
I’ve completed three courses with the Australian Writers Centre: Copywriting, Content Writing, and Freelance Writing. I’m not quite sure where these might take my writing, but at the very least I’m hoping to get some more guest blog post gigs. I’ll let you know how that goes.
I’ve recently returned to my old website on Weebly. I’d moved to Wix and gone for a darker look, but the cost of renewing was more than I was willing to pay. Weebly had a good deal, and my website has had a revamp and is up and running. The bonus to returning is that my old blog is still there, so I get all of that back again! I did think about going to WordPress, but every time I’ve tried WordPress in the past it’s made me cry with frustration. Weebly is better. Weebly doesn’t make me cry!
I’ve been starting to gather more information about the FBI in preparation for re-writing the book I wrote last year. I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a new series I’m planning and I’m pretty excited. I’d love to go on a rant about the accusations being flung the FBI’s way right now, but I’m going to button my lip. I’ll let my stories do the talking.
That’s about it for now. Don’t forget—if you’d like to pre-order a copy of Focus, let me know! You can find out more about it HERE.
I started this year with a promise to myself to slow down. It was going to be a hard start to the year on my day job front (I wasn’t wrong there!) and I had to look after myself. So I let the blog go to nothing much, and late yesterday I realised that I have let all of my social media fun go as well. I don’t know if it was because of being busy in other areas, or whether it was plain forgetfulness, but I woke this morning feeling as though I haven’t written much for a long time. Sure, I’ve been editing, but that never stopped me writing other stuff before.
I never stopped before because for me, writing is soul food. It allows me to escape inside my head and let the inner me out. I’m always happier when I’m writing. So why have I stopped? Well, there’s the work thing, though that is settling down, and I wanted to get my next book ready for publication. Okay. Hmm even so, there was time for writing, but nothing happening… In my mind I keep returning to my blog. There are lots of reasons why I stopped putting up regular posts, but the expectation I put on myself to blog each week or fortnight kept me writing. And it wasn’t only blog posts. I wrote micro fiction and short stories, too. Maybe I’m not suited to the drifting, taking it easy on myself life I’ve allowed to develop. I think I need structure to thrive.
One thing I love about my time in the RAAF is the structure and lack of drifting. I like routine, and I like rules and boundaries. It gives me freedom. I know that can sound kinda weird, but it’s the truth. When I know where I stand, I can roam freely within that structure—freedom with support and a strong base. And I believe that’s where my writing wheels have fallen off—lack of routine, and no deadlines.
That routine and deadline thing is now back in effect (gulp). I have to push myself to get back in the habit of writing. It may be hard to do, but if I stick to my routine things will get easier. I have some ideas already of topics: the FBI, crime, forensics—just the usual stuff that grabs my interest and relates to my writing in some way. They may not interest everyone, but they interest me. And if nothing grabs my interest that week, then I’ll share news from the writing side of my life.
Okay, now the boring stuff. I will link each blog post to Facebook and Twitter and I will put up something on Instagram to remind you (though no link—you’ll need to navigate to my blog on your own due to how Instagram works). You can also subscribe to my blog and get each post delivered to your Inbox. If you choose this option, you will only get blog posts and nothing else, and there will be an unsubscribe link on every email. If you’d like to subscribe, use this link to do so.
One other thing—if you have a question or want to suggest a blog topic, contact me and let me know! I’d be more than happy to write about what interests you.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. I appreciate the support!
This week I had a good idea, a dilemma, and a rethink.
First the good idea. The package I have for my website comes with the ability to set up an online store. There are a few issues with this—I can’t have postage or tax calculated during the order process as my plan doesn’t reach that far. I could upgrade—for about US$300, but I can’t quite come at that. I’m not that keen to have a fully functioning store. I could set my prices to include postage and only sell to Aussies, but what if someone wants to purchase more than one book? The postage would be cheaper for that, but there’s no ability to deal with it. Good idea, but what to do with it?
(Stick with me, there is a point to all of this)
Then there was the dilemma of web hosting and emails. I currently use a different company to host my website (HostGo) than the one I use to create it (Weebly). I could change the hosting over, but then I would have to move my emails over and to be honest, there were a few people on the community board who were having issues with the email package offered. I imagine there are many, many more who aren’t, but I’m wary of problems. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! So why did I want to move the hosting over? Because of SSL, the security side of my website. I needed it enabled (and thought it was, but no) and switching the hosting over would make that an easy process. It’s a long story and I won’t bore you.
Time to rethink. I had a look at my current orders page and it seems to offer and say all I need it to. I don’t get a lot of my sales via my webpage, so why change it? I was, and still am, considering offering other things such as coffee mugs and library/tote bags. Perhaps I will still use the store that’s in my package. All of this can be thought over and decided later.
The SSL can’t wait though.
One of the great things about Weebly are the instructions they have available. There was an option to get your hosting people to change some settings and enable the SSL. I thought I’d done that—I’m not that tech savvy, so maybe it was something else I did. So, I decided to work it out myself. The instructions were clear about what I needed to do, so I took a deep breath, logged into my control panel, and gave it a go. I had to change the DNS settings (actually, I had to find them first!) and add a couple of A records (no, I don’t know what that all means) and then wait up to 48 hours to see if it worked.
My point in all of this? I had to go way out of my comfort zone and have faith in myself to do something to resolve an issue. I didn’t rely on anyone else, I didn’t ask my webhosting company (or my tech savvy son) for help. I read the instructions and nutted it out. And was successful.
And all it took was belief and a bit of confidence.
Is there something you want to do, or need to do, but haven’t because you’re lacking faith in your abilities? Maybe you should give it a go. Believe in yourself!
Do you ever want to say ‘to heck with it’ and just walk away from things? Life can be hard and discouraging. You know what you want, but there’s that wall in the way. The end goal is there, but you can’t work out how to get around/through/past the obstacles in the way? You can’t even really tell what the obstacles are at times. There’s a vague name that groups a whole lot of stuff together and you can’t sort it out to even begin to find a solution. Or someone offers advice that you know you can’t take.
I’ve been sitting at my desk in the study, browsing through Pinterest, looking for an answer to a question I can’t think of.
Yep, I’m trying to write. I can feel the urge to write—sort of—and I know what I can write, but it’s just not coming. Okay, let’s be honest. I could make myself write. I’ve done it before, more times than I can remember. Tonight? I opened the file, re-read the last few paragraphs, thought about what could happen next, and then stared at the screen for ten minutes before shutting it down and opening Pinterest.
I want to write, but not at the moment. I could make myself…and round I go again!
My characters are waiting for me to get on with it and tell their story. The characters in the next book are starting to put ideas in my head. And yet here I am writing about not writing, instead of writing. I procrastinate, thinking about how easy it would be to churn out the books if I was a full-time writer. Wondering how I could possibly find a way to do that. Ponder other income sources that would enable me to quit full-time work and become a writer with a side-business. Not that I would do that, because I have too many responsibilities and, quite frankly, the thought of giving up my nice, secure job terrifies me.
Back to square one. And I still haven’t added a word to the story I’m working on.
Ever wondered what it can be like to write?
Don’t get me wrong—I love writing. I love the incredible feeling I get from creating. But like everything else, there are ups and downs. That’s reality. And there’s always tomorrow. I will, in the end, get myself going. I always do. In the meantime, I will to ignore the frustration and cut myself a little more slack.
Time to check out YouTube.
Post script: Since writing this post there has been progress on the story. Not a whole lot, but it's happening.
I know people change as they make their way through life and sometimes the changes are more noticeable than others. Recently I made a comment to a friend about the changes I’ve seen in myself since I began writing. The change I talked about was how I pay more attention to people’s word choices. I seem to pick up on nuances by noting the choice of words they use. Not always a good thing as at times I wonder about what they mean when really it’s just a sentence and I’m reading more into it because of a word they used. I have to be careful how I interpret things and not become paranoid!
The conversation got me thinking about other changes I see in myself that I attribute to writing.
Man, have I allowed myself to give into my natural introversion! I’ve positively avoid social gatherings and I’ve had to push myself to get out and mix a little more.
Being bloody-minded (not literally - I mean the slang version!)
I’ve always had a stubborn streak and now I employ it even more. If there’s one thing about the writing life that has got up my nose it’s being told what I have to do. At first I listened to the advise and even tried to follow it at times, but now I do what I want, when I want, and how I want, and only seek advise when I need it. Even then I will listen and then go my own way!
This is a big one. I believe in writing from the heart and with passion, and because of this I have allowed my sensitive side full reign. This is great when I’m writing, but not so great when it comes to dealing with the real world. It’s not something I can just turn on and off, so things can get a little emotional at times. I refuse to squash it. It’s a part of me. I just have to deal with it as best I can.
Changing my mind
This is part of the creativity—letting myself change my mind about what I want to do and not beat myself up over it. I am quite goal driven and often have pushed myself to complete something before I start something new. This still happens, but when my mind craves a change, I will leave something mid-project and move onto a new one. Let’s be honest. I turn 50 this year and I don’t want to waste time doing something I’m not ‘feeling’ at the time. So I hit save, and move on.
It’s been a wonderful journey so far, with plenty more to come. If there’s one thing to note about the changes—that’s a real positive—it’s that all my research into crime and murder hasn’t changed me into something…a little more sinister. I’m still nice!
I’d just like to say right from the start that I won’t be discussing politics in this review. I know some people think this book is all about Trump, but it isn’t—by a LONG stretch (and no, that’s not a joke relating to Comey’s height of 6ft 8”). This book is about being true—to yourself and what you believe is right. It’s about loyalty and integrity, and how none of us get it right all the time. And it’s about consequences.
I bought this book because of my writing. As many of you will know, the White Rose series main characters of Warren and Beth are closed tied to the FBI and the organisation plays a large role in the stories. The highlight of my trip to the USA last year was standing outside the J Edgar Hoover building—the FBI Headquarters. The FBI has come to mean a great deal to me. The recent attacks and accusations directed at the FBI have left me conflicted (read my blog post on that here). Comey was the Director when I started writing and he would pop up in my social media feeds, and I grew to like and respect him—without really knowing too much about him, I’ll admit. Because of these factors, I was interested in what he had to say in the book.
James Comey only spent three years as Director of the FBI. He has previously worked as a lawyer, in the US Attorney’s Office in Southern New York, and became the Deputy Attorney General. During this time, he tried to prevent, or limit, the use of torture by US organisations, which is written about in the book. Unfortunately, his objections were overruled. He left the Department of Justice to work in the private sector until Barack Obama nominated him as the Director of the FBI in 2013.
The book takes us through Comey’s early days, telling the reader about the moments and people in his life who have inspired him, and those, who by their dishonesty and lack of integrity, have strengthened his resolve to do the opposite. He talks about family, the loss of his infant son, and his own dilemmas, faults, and bad decisions. This I found to be interesting—the book isn’t James Comey telling everyone how wonderful he is. It shows the good and the not-so-good. No one is perfect, and Comey is very open about this. His life experiences have guided him to be truthful and transparent, to act with consideration and within the law, to be an ethical leader.
When Comey commenced as Director of the FBI he laid out five expectations he had of all who worked there: to find joy in their work, treat everyone with dignity and respect, protect the ‘reservoir of trust’ (the goodwill and trust built up by those who have gone before), work hard, and fight for balance in their lives. He was concerned that the expectations of the job and the employees drive would lead them to work long hours and ignore what was important – the people they loved and who loved them. As a family man (he has five kids) he firmly believes in maintaining work/life balance.
The book is called ‘A Higher Loyalty’ which neatly sums up Comey’s attitude to his role with the FBI. The FBI is an independent organisation and has no political affiliations. It has to stay separate to protect the integrity of the work it does. He makes it clear that the Director of the FBI works for the USA, not for the President, and it is to the USA that he gave his loyalty, not the President. I would like to note here that Comey worked with the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, and his opinion didn’t vary for any of them. The chapters dealing with the 2016 election and the investigation into the Clinton emails really show the complexities of the job and the fallout that can come from making a hard, by right decision (don’t judge until you read it, please).
There is so much more in the book than what I have mentioned. Yes, there are detailed chapters on Trump, as there are on Hilary Clinton, the Martha Stewart case, dealing with the Mafia, and more. I learned a lot from this book and I know I will read it again so I don’t forget those lessons.
There is a quote from the book I would like to share:
“I don’t love criticism, but I know I can be wrong, even when I am certain I am right. Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticise me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty. Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgements or perspectives, are a danger to the organisations and people they lead.”
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by James Comey
What is ethical leadership? How do you do what is right instead of what is politically expedient? How do you maintain loyalty to the values of the institutions you have sworn to protect, the values you have dedicated your entire life to upholding, even if that loyalty comes at your own personal expense?
I recommend this book to anyone interested in ethics, leadership, learning from life’s lessons, and US politics through the eyes of lawyers and law enforcement. It is a book for reading and considering what is said, not politics.
What a couple of weeks it’s been. I’ve launched a book that also completed a series and enjoyed a blog tour with The Code (thanks to everyone who joined in!).
So, what happens next?
Good question. I went back and looked over the goals I set myself for 2018 to realise—with quite a bit of surprise—that I’ve already met them! I’ve sent The Code out into the world, Writing Roundup is going along nicely, and I’ve done a course on book cover design. Not what I expected to find.
In which case, what DOES happen next? Perhaps I should put more effort into my reading list. Or maybe I should write some short stories with a view to publishing the anthology I want to do. Perhaps I could take a break from writing (as if!). I have a book awaiting editing and one I’m working on as well that could be next. Or maybe start a new story? The more I think about it, the more possibilities come to mind.
I guess taking a break is off the list then, or at least a complete break. I do feel the need to step back a little and give myself some space. Launching The Code was more emotional than I anticipated, and I also worry that if I push myself I risk taking the fun out of writing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing it’s that I need to do what feels right at the time. If I’m not writing from the heart, with excitement and joy, then it won’t work. I can push myself, and have done so in the past, but it doesn’t yield the best results (that translates to ‘requires a lot more editing’). It’s not worth it.
The conclusion? I’m going to take a few days to think and consider in an emotional way the options I have. One will stand out—one always does—and then I’ll be off writing again.
For those who missed out on the great posts that made up the book tour for The Code, here are the links, starting with a lovely review:
https://www.facebook.com/SJsBookBlog/May 6 (and on GoodReads - see below)
And the rest:
A simple post this week for several reasons I won't bore you with.
I've posted some photos from New London and the museum outside Submarine Base New London, the setting for The Code. My visit there last year was wonderful - joyous and to a degree overwhelming. To see the place I'd written about and where my characters live really was indescribable. We didn't have much time there, and as you can see the weather wasn't the greatest for sightseeing. I saw enough to be content with my descriptions.
For those who have read the first two books in the series, I hope you can see the characters here the way I could.
I’ve always loved Facebook. It’s given me the chance to connect with old friends and overseas relatives, plus those closer to home. I’ve also made lots of friends in the Australian and international writing community, something I would never have been able to do otherwise.
Facebook isn’t so friendly these days. There’s the data mining issue that has become big news in the past few days and then there’s the news feed issue. I’m not referring to the algorithm and its effect on Pages, but my personal news feed. Facebook has decided it knows what my important posts are and puts them at the top. I prefer to see the most recent first, and I can change my feed to reflect that. And I do. Every. Single. Time. As soon as I move off my news feed, Facebook changes it back and I can’t stop it happening. Sigh.
I’m not taking my Page down nor am I going to reduce my posting on it. For all its current flaws I still love Facebook. I’m going to be adding to it instead—with Instagram.
I’ve always loved Instagram too. I’m a visual learner and love images, and now I’m going to focus more on using them. One of the beauties of Instagram is the ease of sharing between it and Facebook. By using Instagram more, I’ll be using Facebook more, too.
Will that mean there will be more posts on my blog as well? I don’t know at this point in time. If there is one thing I’ve learned about writing, social media, and blogging, it’s that it is all fluid and can change (and will!).
A reminder about my newsletter. The next one will head out on March 31st with an exclusive look at my new book, and yes, there will be free chapters to read! Interested? You can sign up using the form on this blog, or here.
It’s a topic that’s been on my mind over the last week or so. I’m preparing for the launch of my next book and it’s a real goodbye scenario—it’s the third and final novel of the New London books.
The series is wrapped up and I’m happy with the way things ended, but it is the end. I have no plans to write about the characters ever again and I feel a little sad. I know I can write about them at any time I want to, but when a story’s done, a story’s done. They will go on to lead their fictitious lives and I will meddle with another lot of characters fates instead. They no longer need me, or I them. I guess it’s hard to let go, just like friends when they choose another direction and you part, or the end of a particularly wonderful holiday. I’ll miss them.
There is also a large element of satisfaction. I have written a complete series—not a small thing to achieve. The New London books were unexpected. I knew I’d write Seeing Red, but I was adamant it would be a single, stand-alone book with no sequel. Adamant! And then come that scene in my head of Andrew sitting in his study and getting a call for help from Nell. So much for adamant. I wouldn’t have missed the journey with these characters and there are no regrets.
The final book will be coming out late April and I will make announcements and reveal the cover and story-line closer to the date. Stay tuned!
If you would like the news before it goes public, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter, Writing Roundup.
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