About Jamie

Positivity, writing, roleplaying, film making, craft, art and laughter. Currently blogging the Australian Empire magazine's top 500 films of all time and writing fiction.

Darling (1965)

Darling
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Frederic Raphael
(number 260)

I had no idea what this was going in. In actuality it’s a movie about a woman, a model, who’s absolutely determined to get ahead in her career. She does this in a string of love affairs, being rather ruthless about cheating on her partners, moving around and up and ignoring her own feelings.

Diana: Oh it should be so easy to happy, shouldn’t it? It should be the easiest thing in the world. I wonder why it isn’t?

It’s an amazing time capsule of the sixties. In black and white but utterly sparking with kitten heels, go go dresses, fashionable suits and beehives. Julie Christie is charming as Diana, bored to death of things staying the same for more than five minutes, beautiful and with that gorgeous low voice.

Homosexuals exist in this movie! They’re creepy ! But they’re there! Well. The creepy ones are in Paris. There’s a very nice gay photographer in Italy who’s actually a decent person so that’s good. Apparently no homosexuals in London though.

And the french have whacky parties where everyone strips and puts on other people’s clothing and then they all are horrid to each other. Oh those swinging sixties. I have no context for if this is realistic for the society at the time.

Does it make me love the people? This is a tough one, really. I mean I’m definitely on Diana’s side, but she’s also a bit of a jerk. Like, it’s hard to really worry about her or hope that she finds happiness. I really don’t like Robert, which is I think, a lot of the point of him. He’s an asshat, but his actions do make sense after what she’s done to him. But I don’t like him. The other men (maybe aside from Miles) are barely present much of the time – which I’m sure is an intention of the script.

Bechdel test: Yes, a couple of times. Although mostly what we see is Diane talking to men, there are a couple of scenes. When she’s in the baby shop with her friend and she speaks to other named women at a dinner party.
Best line:

Diane: Do you have parents? I can’t imagine you with parents.
Miles: I do, two of them.
D: Imagine if.. it took three
M: it took three?
D: sexes. To make a child.

State of Mind: I did get bored part way through. I feel like there’s an edited version one could make, cutting out 30 or 45 mins and it’d be tight and entertaining. As it is I like as a time capsule, and it’s so refreshing to have a movie off this list which is entirely about a woman and her story. I’m not sure about if I’d watch it again, the ending is not exactly a happy one and it’s a little too long, but overall an interesting film.

Watched movie count

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Guest post: Ideas – The Beauty, Carnage, and Mayhem by Leigh Hunt

When Jamie asked me to write a wee guest post, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because that particular day I was brainstorming. The ideas were flowing like I was a unicorn farting magical glitter, and I just couldn’t stop them coming. It was glorious. I was on a creative high.

You see, I’m one of those people who have these huge, enormous ideas. I have zero problems generating the carnage, I just have a problem finding the time to write them. And when new shiny ideas hit me, there is nothing I like more than to immediately start exploring them. So I do. Even if I’m in the middle of something else – because if I leave them, I might lose them.

So the other day, while I was painting my loo room, I was listening to music. The lyrics starting fuelling my mind with creative strands, and the next thing I knew, I was standing there with a paintbrush drying in my hands, looking vacantly at my loo. Dreaming of a world not yet created. (Don’t judge me – at least I wasn’t USING the loo!)

I finished painting as quickly as I could, jotted some of the key themes down in my trusty notebook, and promptly forgot about it. The next day I was driving to work and the same song came on, and there I was again – thrown right back into this imaginary world. I don’t even remember the drive to work, because my mind was so busy living in this shiny unwritten place. It’s damn dangerous when I go into this mode while driving. (I’m pretty sure whatever excuse I gave to law enforcement would result in a straight jacket and padded room.)

I arrived at work, and boom. Out the trusty notebook, along with some post-it notes, and I started writing the ideas down. It was like throwing a deck of cards down, and picking them up in some semblance of order.

Meanwhile, a little voice inside of me was saying, ‘FFS woman, you’re in the midst of writing one of the greatest damn dystopian series you’ve ever come up with, and now you have ANOTHER one?’

Yep. My inner bitch was trying to tamp me down – squish the idea into nothingness so that I can focus on my current series. She’s quite ghastly once she gets her rant on. But then I started talking to my editor. And she was encouraging this shiny new idea, which forced me to manage that inner bitch, and get this sorted.

So, the idea of the world is now written. It’s just notes at this stage, and I’m letting it percolate for the next twelve months. I know the key characters. I know the world. I know what darkness resides in it. I know the situation. I know that I want to write this four book series.

But I also know that it still needs time.

Over the years of writing, I’ve discovered that I should not just jump at the new ideas. In order for me to find their depth, I need to let them rest, and develop like a photo in a dark room. Those ideas need love and nurture and thought. They need threads woven in, personalities introduced, and the story arc extrapolated.

Also, if I give in to my inner magpie and always write the shiny new things, I know that I will never finish writing anything of beautiful consequence… and isn’t that every writer’s goal?

It’s easy to chase ideas down rabbit holes in the midst of the creative chaos, but those ideas need time. If we let ideas percolate, it means that they get the space and attention they deserve, and will therefore be better for the reader. Hopefully.

Leigh K. Hunt is a reader, writer, mother, and designer from New Zealand. She has a weird obsession with books like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pride & Prejudice, and adores Thrillers and Dystopian novels. To say that she lives in her own dreamy wonderland is an understatement.

Leigh has written a number of thrillers surrounding an assassination team, but has now turned her focus on producing a new thrilling dystopian trilogy. When she’s supposedly adulting, Leigh works full time, is a mother to a gorgeous but very lively five-year-old, and thinks she’s a DIY queen – with dreams of turning her cookie cutter 80s house into something that resembles French farmhouse.

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Avatar (2009)

Avatar
Directed and written by James Cameron
(number 145)

I remember when I first saw this movie… there was so much hype around it, so much talk. I managed to avoid spoilers, went to see it at the Reading Courtenay Central 3D cinema and I was blown away by how beautiful it was and how well the 3D is used. I remember being quite disconcerted coming out of it that I could walk on the ground and it didn’t light up in beautiful colours. I also remember a few of the people I saw it with were complaining about headaches and eyestrain. It was a divisive movie, mostly I think of it as Fern Gully in space. The Pocahontas parallels are very clear as well, with the ‘native girl’ showing the ‘white saviour’ what nature is about and how it’s all interconnected, etc.

Unsure why this is so high up on the list… I mean, it is beautiful and groundbreaking in terms of visuals, effects and integration of 3D but there is so much missing in the film. Like… heart. It’s pretending to have heart, but I don’t feel it when I watch it. I see the beauty no problem at all.

One thing that really stood out as something that bugged me on this watch through was that the Na’vi are a patriarchal society. There’s really no supportable reason to have them organised that way. The feminine Na’vi are clearly as strong and vicious as the masculine ones, so you can’t argue like with humans that the men are the better hunters therefore the protectors. (Which isn’t even a particularly true or good reason but still.)

They don’t have a reason to be patriarchal, except for lazy writing so that we as viewers can go ‘oh they’re just like primitive us’ and feel sympathy. Show me a truly alien society, like the ones which morph from mammal-ish to trees in Speaker of the Dead*, or just… have a society where gender isn’t an issue at all, or where there is no gender to the aliens or… just freaking anything aside from another patriarchal society where the man gets to choose the woman once he’s proved himself worthy. (Vomit)

In fact with the importance of the Gaia substitute/ World tree /Earth mother goddess you’d think it’d make logical sense for it to be a matriarchal society.

I find the first half of the movie fine, a bit stupid but watchable, interesting enough. The world building makes engaging watching and getting to know the characters. Once the movie becomes one big war of guns vs alien creatures I find it harder to pay attention or to care particularly. I’m well aware of how little patience I have for action sequences now, and it makes me leery of a lot of the movies still to go on the list…

I’m also getting pretty weary of man- centric movies, where all the characters who matter are men – where the story is about his experiences with the world and women are an afterthought. I think it’s a real flaw with this top 500 list actually, that it’s so heavily weighted towards men’s stories – it’s a predictable flaw, given the magazine I got the list from and let’s face it, movie making in general.

Does it make me love the people? Eh. I guess yeah, I care about the scientists – Grace and Norm, and Trudy’s cool even though I’m generally pretty afraid of Michelle Rodriguez. Sam Worthington does a pretty okay job as Jake, he’s likeable enough… but I get so bugged by the ‘white saviour’ storyline, it’s so been done before and is no longer interesting to me.

Bechdel test: We have Ney’tiri, Grace and the excellent Trudy but they only talk to Jake or to other men, never to each other.

Best line:

Neytiri: Don’t thank. You don’t thank for this! This is sad. Very sad only.
Jake Sully: Okay, okay. I’m sorry. Whatever I did, I’m sorry.
Neytiri: All this is your fault. They did not need to die.
Jake Sully: My fault? They attacked me! How am I the bad guy?
Neytiri: Your fault! Your fault.
Jake Sully: Easy. Easy…
Neytiri: You are like a baby. Making noise, don’t know what to do.

State of Mind: Thank goodness that’s over.

Watched movie count

*Excellent book by Orson Scott Card, sequel to Ender’s Game

Guest post: The Myriad Curse by Dan Rabarts

I remember a time, he said, trying to make himself sound older and wiser than he really was, when I’d sit down to write and have no idea where to start or how this fragment of time I had scratched out of the universe solely for the purpose of putting words on paper might best be put to use. A lot of this precious time was spent staring at the white, trying to dredge up ideas or characters or even just sentences, in an effort to feel this was something I could do. Then I wrote a novel, and put it in a drawer.

Along came children. Those precious hours I had scratched from the belly fat of Grandfather Time suddenly seemed a long way off, all that effort wasted on a doorstop. So I wrote another novel, or rather three more novels, and put them all in the drawer. It’s quite a big drawer.

Then I found my stride with short stories, and the first story I ever wrote had legs and gave me the kick in the pants I needed to write more. In there somewhere, I wrote another novel, but it was the shorts that kept me moving. That novel’s not in the drawer. Not yet.

Short stories were a lifeline. After all the effort of writing enough dark epic fantasy to sink a pirate ship, and really having no idea what to do with it or how to turn it into an Elixir of Fame and Fortune, in short fiction I had now found a medium I could do something with. Something people wanted to read.

When you find a barrel rolling off the sinking pirate ship, you grab hold, right? Save yourself, you filthy buccaneer.

Morning after morning, night after night, I sank into the couch and lost myself in fragments of lives and worlds, the hopes and fears and mysteries of places and people unseen, just long enough to touch on their world, leave it a little more bruised, a little more broken, like the fingers of a cruel god grazing the hearts of the innocent. Such power I held.

While adrift upon this dark and tempestuous sea I joined forces with another reaper of words, and together we harvested not just our own stories but also those of others, and from this grave union were born two anthologies and a novel, nay a series of novels, brought to life by a pair of characters who refused to be left in a drawer collecting dust.

It goes without saying that I owe where I am right now to Lee Murray, my fellow pirate, to whom I remain eternally grateful, but also to the stories that led me there.

And so I sit here, and I still face a white page. And while that has not changed, everything has changed. Instead of the vast Sea of WhatthefuckshouldIwrite, I now stare into the black, many-faceted spider eyes of the Myriad Curse, and twitch against her ropy bonds. This is utterly more terrifying than the emptiness of Not Having Any Good Ideas. It is the hell of having so many things started, so many stories in the mix, long and short and yet to define themselves, some contracted for delivery, some just taking up room in critical parts of the workings that they need to be vented so other things can breathe, that knowing which to even tackle next is the soul-killer. It robs the will to work on anything, because there are so many things clamouring for attention.

So I do nothing, unless someone is screaming for it. What used to be a spontaneous, creative burning of energy, a determination to scale some indefinable pinnacle, becomes a pressure to meet a deadline. This is not a problem until the moment you realise it’s what you’re doing and that yes of course it’s a fucking problem. What comes next for our dear victim, so afflicted by the curse of scraping against the sharp edges of almost being able to pretend they’re a real writer, with a real shot at success if they just keep at it?

Writer therapy, of course.

Wind back the clock, before The Path of Ra, before The Crooked Mile, before Crucible, before the drawer novels. Before the short films and the attempts at writing screenplays. Before these things, there was poetry that grew out of free writing. Words that were written for no-one but me. Words that fell out of me like cold black stones, wet with what drowned inside me, written while I sat on chittering trains, dark Wellington nights rolling by the rainswept windows. Poems written on coffee breaks, or in bedrooms late at night to the bitter swill of heartache, which I totally understood before I even turned twenty, I swear. If my short stories were fragments of other people’s pain, then my poems were raw splinters of my own. They existed for no other reason than to slake my need to get out what was in.

Late last year Lee and I delivered Teeth of the Wolf, the sequel to Hounds of the Underworld, to our publisher Raw Dog Screaming Press. I’d had a hell of a year, and with wrapping up the novel I was at the end of my creative energies going into the summer break. I had stories I could be working on. I had another novel I needed to complete edits on. But the thought of taking work away with me on holiday was too much. The Myriad Curse grinned down at me, venom gleaming on its fangs. What to do?

My family gift me with writing notebooks every year. I made sure I had one with me all the time while we were away. I would beat the Myriad Curse, even if just for a few weeks. I would wind back the clock. I set myself a simple enough challenge: Write every day. Something new. Complete nothing. Write free, for myself alone. Start a new story, but run out of time in the day? Leave it. Tomorrow, write free. Whatever comes. Poems, maybe, for sure, but there are no rules. Some days, a couple of lines, some days, three or four pages. Some of it meant nothing, some of it hurt, some of it was the sun and the rain of being far from the day job and surrounded by people who love me. It wasn’t the subconsciously sculpted meanderings of twenty years ago, and it wasn’t without its precious, jagged scars, but it did what it needed to.

It broke the Myriad Curse.

Reminded me, in the end, that they’re all just words, sentences, and that not everything we write needs to be finished. Literature is, well, littered with the ruins of our abandoned children, built on their bones. They are the wreckage driven before the storm, which some bastard pirate ship is surfing.

Free writing is the antivirus. Plagued by so many projects you can’t focus? Write more. Write nothing in as many words as you need to say it. Write up a storm. Because at the centre of every storm there’s an eye. That calm is where we find our peace, even when it’s screaming at us from all sides, staring us down with its glassy dead eyes and glittery fangs. The curse is the storm is the sea, and we can beat it by playing its own game against it. All order came out of chaos, so maybe sometimes we just need a little more chaos in our lives. Write free, write for you and you alone.

I remember a time, he said, when the white page was the enemy, the tyrant, the curse. That will never change. What defines us is how we face it down.

——

Dan Rabarts is an award-winning short fiction author and editor, recipient of New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent in 2014. His science fiction, dark fantasy and horror short stories have been published in numerous venues around the world, including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, StarShipSofa and The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Together with Lee Murray, he co-edited the anthologies Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, winner of the 2014 SJV for Best Collected Work and the 2014 Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work, and At The Edge, a collection of Antipodean dark fiction, which won the SJV for Best Edited Work in 2017. His novella Tipuna Tapu won the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction as part of the Australian Shadows Awards in 2017. Hounds of the Underworld, Book 1 of the crime/horror series The Path of Ra, co-written with Lee Murray and published by Raw Dog Screaming Press (2017), is his first novel. Find out more at dan.rabarts.com.

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Toy Story 2
Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon and Lee Unkrich
Written by the above and a bunch more people as well. Gotta love these committees of writers.
(number 187)

Unlike the first movie which is about dealing with change and accepting others, Toy Story 2 is about growing older and moving on (or refusing to). At the start Woody has a crisis over a ripped arm and Andy’s mother saying that toys don’t last forever. He imagines Andy giving him up and vanishing into a trash can. The allegory with Wheezy is very close to the whole putting a loved one into an old folks home kind of thing.

When he is stolen by Al for a collection he initially does try to run home all the same, but it’s easy enough for Jessie and Stinky Pete to convince him that there’s another possible life for him, now that he’s past his best. The character study of Jessie and Pete is pretty fascinating actually. She has claustrophobia and something like bipolar as well, she has a very intense grin and very wide eyes. Pete is, of course, extremely disturbed by the years he’s spent sitting in his box, watching other toys get purchased.

Bullseye is a silent toy, which is kind of unusual, all the other animal toys can speak, but I guess it simplifies the script some. The relationship of Woody to Jessie and Bullseye is a little disturbing, because he’s the central character in their mythos and also in the movie it kind of reads like obsessive hero worship. They only exist around him, which… makes sense in terms of them as toys but less so in terms of characters.

It’s a reversal of the first plot of Woody trying to bring Buzz back. Instead Buzz is leading some of the other toys to rescue Woody. I remember seeing this for the first time and loving the sequence when they’re crossing the road under road cones.

I still love the sequence of Woody getting ‘cleaned’, it’s sad – because the name on the bottom of his boot gets removed, but it’s a very satisfying wee bit anyway. Something about watching a job well done, watching something get fixed and cleaned, it’s nice to watch.

There’s a little nightmare moment in the toy store when Buzz is attacked in the Buzz Lightyear aisle and forced into a box. The camera zooms out, showing him just one amongst hundreds of identical toys, screaming for help with no way of getting himself free. If that’s not horror then I dunno what is.

I know Jessie’s song ‘when she loved me’ is about a girl and her doll but the lyrics aren’t specific, it could work very well as a song about a lesbian break up. The song has a horribly sad feel to it, about endings and loving someone even when they’ve moved on. Jessie is left by the side of the road, watching in horror as Emily drives away. It’s a heart tearing moment of guilt, because haven’t we all had precious toys that we have let go of as we grew? What if all of them felt that way?

I feel like they were stretching a bit far when it comes to the scope of the climax and the action sequence with the plane. I mean, it’s a movie about toys which walk and talk but I feel like it stretches credibility to have them driving and diving out of a plane’s cargo hold. It’s a small complaint though, especially when the end is so sweet.

Does it make me love the people?

Bechdel test: In this installment we have Jessie, Bo Peep and Mrs Potato Head, then Tour Guide Barbie but at no point do they talk to each other. There are also human girls and Andy’s mom but they again, only talk to men.

Best line:

It’s gotta be this, right?

Emperor Zurg: Surrender, Buzz Lightyear. *I* have won.
Buzz Lightyear: I’ll never give in. You killed my father!
Emperor Zurg: No, Buzz. I *am* your father!
Buzz Lightyear: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

State of Mind: Lovely movie. Still makes me cry every time. And feel guilty about my old toys. And want to hug them. And my news ones. Emotions. (PS. you’ll have to wait ages for my review of Toy Story 3 due to its spot on the list.)

Toy Story

Watched movie count

Toy Story (1995)

Toy Story
Directed by John Lasseter
Written by John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Joe Ranft, Joss Whedon, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (phew)
(number 105)

– this review has sat in drafts since 2014 –

What the Hell, Joss Whedon? Who knew?

Toy Story was the first all CGI feature film, and the first film to be made by an at the time unheard of studio called Pixar. It’s easy to see why this film has a spot on the list with being those two firsts.

I remember going to see this movie in 1995 when it first came out, at the Hoyts on Manners Mall. It was a big enough event for me and my friends that we also went to KFC for lunch and I got a special edition Toy Story bucket souvenir thing. I remember us all being totally blown away by this movie. In a lot of ways the 90s were a sort of rennaissance for animated films, we had Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King and this.

The story is an excellent buddy film and features awesome voice acting from Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the two lead roles. Their sincerity sells the characters, it’d be a hard film to buy into. The story is similar to that of the Velveteen Rabbit which made me feel horribly guilty for not treating my toys with an equal amount of love and attention. This movie made it a bit worse I think, since it shows the toys feeling sad if they’re being neglected and Woody is so jealous of Buzz.. The guilt. The supreme guilt.

The animation of the human people is a bit on the ropey side, but the animation of the toys and the landscapes has held up well. I watched this on Blu ray on the new big HD tv that Wayne moved in with and it looked shiny and really good. I haven’t watched any of the Toy Story movies since the third one came out and broke my heart, and y’know, that’s coming on this list… all three of them are on the 500 list, although 3 is in top 100 so I won’t publish the review of that one for a while.

The movie also reminds me of The Brave Little Toaster, which has a similar amount of toy/object guilt and there’s also the whole creepy mutant toys Sid makes which are like the bizarre electrical goods in Brave Little Toaster. There’s a matching level of menace… I don’t know if you’ve ever seen The Brave Little Toaster but it’s fantastically traumatic and good.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is full of characters with real emotions like jealousy and compassion. It’s hard not to be able to relate to Woody’s fear of losing someone he loves so much, and the fear of the change to his lifestyle. And then there’s Buzz, so sure that he knows exactly who he is but then finding out that what Woody has been saying is true and he’s not what he thought he was.

Buzz’s self esteem dive is pretty relatable too.

The existence of Sid’s experimental toys are a bit of a moral lesson as well. Woody is terrified of them, calling them cannibals, but they are ultimately friendly to them. They demonstrate how you shouldn’t judge people by how they look or their circumstances – which is a great non-xenophobic/non-racist/non-ablieist message depending on how you read them. But this is also problematic because none of them talk at all. They interact with Woody and Buzz but only with noises and gestures, they are entirely without a voice. I guess the rest of the message past ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is deemed to be irrelevant? I don’t know.

Bechdel test: No, there are female characters: Hannah, Bo Peep, ‘Mom’ and Sid’s mom but none of them are in the same scenes as each other.

Best line:

Buzz: You are a sad strange little man.

and

Woody: There’s a snake in my boot!

and this…

State of Mind: I find it kind of sad making/hard to believe that all the other toys were so convinced Woody was evil. I mean, they did see him push Buzz out the window but the idea that your old friends could just turn on you like that is a bit chilling. On the other hand it’s a really lovely story and a good entertaining movie. Plus happy feels right at the end.

Watched movie count

Guest post: Self Publishing 101 by Joanne Dannon

I self published my debut novel in late 2015 without much understanding of how self publishing works. Sure there is lots of information on formatting and uploading your book to the online retail channels but the other important stuff, on branding, marketing etc…is harder to find.

I’ve written a number of articles on self publishing and the one piece of advice I re-iterate is, learn how to self publish before you chose to self publish.

There is so much wrong information and poor advice readily available on social media and the Internet. As writers, we spend so much time learning our craft. We read “how-to” books, we write, we join a writers’ group, we go to conferences, we learn. We master the art of writing a good book. And then what?

Your book maybe picked up by a reputable publisher, hooray! They will edit and format your book, give it a cover and sell it through their channels! Brilliant!

But for other writers, this road of publication may not be the right one for them. This is what happened for me. I had spent 9 years learning my craft but for a number of reasons, I chose to go down the self published route.

Are you a hobby writer or a career writer?

There is no right or wrong answer on whether you are a hobbyist or not. But it’s good to know, for yourself, and so you know where to direct your focus on.

If you are a hobby writer and just want to see your books in print, then this information may not be relevant for you. Hobby writers love writing, love creating their stories and seeing them published. But don’t want to focus on the business side of writing.

This post is aimed at the writers who are business focused and want to make a career out of their writing.

But I’ve heard self publishing is easy?

Yes and no. It’s not hard to upload your book to the online stores but it’s very hard to sell your books to people who don’t know you, develop your brand and earn a living from your writing.

Self publishing 101

Before you can be published, you must be able to write well. You must have spent the time learning how to create a good story with believable characters and a compelling story line.

While you learn to write, you can think about your brand and who you are. What genre do you write? What are you hobbies? What do you like to do?

Using me as an example. I’m a contemporary romance writer and read (predominantly) contemporary romance. I love romance movies, reading, being with family, going out with friends, cooking and eating.

My brand revolves around these things. I post pics of myself out and about, some of the foods I make, my books and things I like. I don’t talk about the craft of writing because the people I’m sharing with are readers, not writers.

It’s important to focus on one genre to start with. That’s not to say that at a later stage you branch out and write different genres but when you’re a new writer, you should stick to the genre you most prefer.

You should get a website, a blog and be on social media every day. Even if you don’t post everyday, you should be liking and commenting on other authors’ posts. Be social.

I keep my personal life separate from my work life. I don’t talk about politics or issues that may cause division. Why? Because my readers are from different walks of life and all have their own opinions. I don’t want to upset some of my readers because of my views.

This issue is heavily debated by authors, and still a contentious issue.

My opinion, keep your views to yourself and focus on your writing and building your brand.

What do I talk about?

Just because you’re not yet published doesn’t mean you don’t have things to talk about. You can talk about the latest inspiration for your book, or a fab book you recently read, or movie you watch. Where possible, link it back to writing and what you write.

This will be one of the building blocks for defining who you are as a writer.

Do I need a mailing list?

Again, another hotly debated issue. I say yes, although when I first started I didn’t see the value in it.

Newsletters/emails to your readers is the best way you can connect to your readers. Forget Facebook and social media, you want to be able to communicate directly with readers.

It takes time to learn how to create and send a newsletter out. And I recommend you do this early on as it will give you practice on using the mailing system (eg MailChimp).

But I’ve only got friends and family on my list?

You’ll find most writers start out with under a hundred subscribers, who are mainly your family, friends and fellow writers.

But these are the people who love you and want you to succeed. So use them to practice with and get into the habit of sending out a monthly newsletter. It doesn’t have to be long but it should be friendly and a way for your readers to learn about you.

How do I get more subscribers?

There are many ways, some good and some not-so-good. There are plenty of people and companies that will promise you so much! Beware!!

Group promotions are good but getting a large list of subscribers who may/may not realise they’re joining your mailing list will be a headache. Mailing companies like MailChimp are very strict when it comes to spam.

I participated in a promotion and received a list of 1000 subscribers who had been genuinely acquired. However, after uploading the list to MailChimp and contacting these subscribers with a welcome email, I was forced to delete them all. Despite my proof of the promotion, upfront terms and conditions, MailChimp made me delete all the names and email addresses. It was awful.

The best way is to give away a free book in exchange for an email address. I was horrified when I first learnt of this. A book? A whole book that’s been professionally edited with a cover? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

Why should a reader buy your book? There are plenty of great books on Amazon (millions), why pick yours? You’re an unknown author, why read yours?

Giving away a copy of your writing gives readers an opportunity to discover you, read your writing and see if they like you.

Some readers will take the free book and leave. Don’t worry about them. You’re looking for genuine readers who will love your books and become super fans.

You don’t have to write a massive book, a novella is fine. But it must be professionally edited with a quality cover. This is your “business card”, it tells readers who you are.

Editing is expensive.

Yes, it is. But if you expect a reader to pay for your book then you need to give them quality.

Do not publish an unedited book. This will haunt you. Some readers can be mean. You publish a poorly edited book and you will have those bad reviews attached to your book, forever! Don’t do it.

If you can’t afford editing, then you can’t afford to self publish. That’s the brutal honesty. Self publishing is expensive.

You need quality editing, a professional cover and your book formatted. Don’t sell yourself out because it looks like the easier option.

Should I self publish?

Only you can answer this. Apart from the cost, I spent between $400 and $800 USD per book, to publish, you need to dedicate time and effort in building your brand, marketing and advertising your books.

As a side note, many traditionally published authors also do this. But as a self published author, you have to do everything yourself.

If you’re a go-getter, detailed focussed and able to multi-task, then this may be the path for you.

KU or wide?

There are pros and cons for both options. Do you put all your “eggs in one basket” and go with the Amazon option of Kindle Unlimited (KU)? Or go wide with all the online stores?

I started wide as I was advised this was the best option. In hindsight, I wish I’d been exclusive to Amazon. Why? Because I write romance, most of my readers are in the US and most read via KU.

What’s so good about KU? Romance readers can read a ton of books for $10 per month. It’s also a good way for readers to try you out. They can read your book for “free” and see if they like you.

Many authors don’t agree with Amazon’s pricing structure of page reads but for me, I’ve made money from thousands of page reads.

My advice to new writers is to take or at least consider the KU option. There are lots of options available to you (like free days), to promote your book and get new readers.

Remembering, there are heaps of good books and authors out there. It’s not easy getting your name and book out to readers.

There are many authors who love iBooks and they are popular in Australia. Look at authors in your genre and see what and how they sell their books.

Final words of advice

There are plenty of companies that offer to promote you and your books, for a price. Be very mindful of them. Some deliver, many do not.

I’ve seen some of my author friends spend thousands of dollars for little return.

Before joining group promotions and PR companies, do your research. Ask around. There are plenty of fantastic Facebook groups where authors share their knowledge and help each other out. Ask.

You will make mistakes. I’ve made many. But I go back, fix them and move on. This career is not for the faint-hearted. You have to be disciplined and focused to be a career self published author.

Courses I would recommend are by Marie Force, Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson and Nick Stephenson. There are other reputable ones, but these I know are good.

Wishing you all the very best. I love being a self published author, it seriously is my dream job.

Happy writing, Joanne x

~~~

Multi published, award-winning Australian author, Joanne Dannon, writes to give her readers the experience she loves to savor–indulging in a sigh-worthy-happily-ever-after, being swept away from the everyday by diving into a delicious romance novel.

Joanne is a happily married mother of two heroes-in-training who loves spending time with friends and family. She can be found on Facebook and her website chatting about reading, writing, cooking, vintage-inspired dresses and all things romantic.

Find her here:

joannedannon.com
facebook.com/joannedannonwrites
instagram.com/joannedannon_writes/
goodreads.com/author/show/14156702.Joanne_Dannon
youtube.com/channel/UC3E1Pb5cymxz8ecxJCEIlnw
pinterest.com.au/joannedannon/

Her latest romance launches in time for Valentine’s Day, details below:

Falling for the Best Man

When the love of his life is his brother’s bride-to-be…

It was love at first sight when app developer Jonah Randall met Kaylah, but he’s crushed when he discovers she’s already dating his brother. When he’s asked to be the best man at their wedding, should he speak up, or forever hold his peace?

Lifestyle hacker Kaylah Westwood’s engagement brings her a step closer to the kind of life she’s dreamed of, full of love and family. Her fiancé is a good guy. It’s a shame it’s his brother who’s the one who makes her pulse rate skittle.

Jonah would never betray the brother who’s always been there for him. With just two days to go before the wedding, can he let the woman he loves marry his brother? But when Jonah confesses his feelings to Kaylah, a mind-blowing kiss has her rethinking her commitment. She thought she’d fallen for the right man. But is he the best man for her?

Exclusive to Amazon, Kindle Unlimited readers can read for free.