Pause. A short stop can change your journey for the better.

Take a temporary break or rest.

At this time of year things seem to really speed up.

Work. Family. Social events. They hit a crescendo at Christmas time.

If you’re anything like me you have set an ambitious list of tasks that need to be finished before Christmas, so when it gets to Christmas you can take a break.

But the problem with this approach is you can burn yourself out preparing for a break, and when you do get to the break it doesn’t feel like one at all.

This is why you need to pause every now and again.

Pausing from a long project or intensive period can be critically important.

Taking a short break can actually make your work more effective as it allows you to re-energise, regroup and unpack anything that’s been troubling you.

It enables you to see the wood for the trees.

And if you are looking for a relaxing and carefree Christmas break, then take a moment to pause…pause right now…today.

‘Pause’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my . 

Getting My Drive On For the Week

I don’t think I’ve ever had a significant issue with drive.

Driving as in motor vehicles in my younger days perhaps—for the record I’m an ‘Excellent Driver’ now—but never motivation.

Drive: a determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need….an ambition to achieve something.

Sure I occasionally have my bad days when I’m less motivated than others, but on the most part I’m fortunate enough to have drive.

I am curious though. What exactly gives me the drive—especially on a Monday morning, under the weather from a sinus infection and a long list of tasks for the day—to just get on with it.

A person’s motivation is a combination of desire and energy directed at achieving a goal. It is the cause of action. Influencing someone’s motivation means getting them to want to do what you know must be done. (U.S. Army Handbook, 1973)

It seems that drive comes from desiring something enough and taking action that you believe will satisfy that need or want.

I think drive takes passion and a certain leap of faith.

You have to passionate about what you want and believe you CAN make it happen—that the universe will provide if you create positive energy and action. 

This requires you to believe your needs are important and that you deserve those needs to be met. It takes a feeling of self-worth. It takes a belief that the world isn’t against you, despite any prior experiences to the contrary.

Sure lots of factors come to play when it comes to drive.

There’s beliefs, values, interests, fears, health, mental energy and conflicting priorities, so it’s never going to be simple.

Sometimes Mondays kinda suck! Sometimes other days, weeks or months kinda suck.

But even on the tough days, my belief that tomorrow may be my day, is stronger than the fear that “I’m not going to satisfy this need”.

So on the kinda sucky days, start doing something today, start right now, no matter how small that action is. That’s drive. And you never just now…you might just get exactly what you desire.

‘Drive’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .  

The New Me – Flash Fiction

New. “Today is the start of the new you.” My mother’s words are an earworm burrowing into my mind. What’s wrong with the old me?

In the mirror she stares at me, daring me to defy her. My inner voice screams to defend the current me. My mother flashes me a Sale of the Century model smile, and I stay silent. I’m 37 but the child in me is eager to please.

My mother had arrived on my doorstep an hour earlier after I had ignored her last nineteen messages. She had even taken to posting ‘there’s nothing as strong as a bond between a mother and daughter’ style posts on my Facebook timeline.

“I thought you were dead,” she had said.

“I’ve been busy with work.” I was a merger and acquisitions lawyer. I worked long hours but I loved my job. A point lost on my mother.

“If you didn’t work so much, Tom wouldn’t have escaped to the desert.”

I take a deep breath. “I’ve told you, Mum. The break-up was a mutual decision. Tom had a great job opportunity in Dubai.”

“Maybe if you made more of an effort…” Her eyes went to my unwashed hair, pulled into a low ponytail, before landing on my leggings and Ugg boots. “You could get some style tips from your sister.”

I groan, readying myself for the great list of achievements. A muscle under my mother’s eye twitches momentarily, and then the mask is back. “Married and two children, all before the age of 32.”

“There’s still time…” My voice is a strangled whisper. How is it that I can bring CEOs of multi-million dollar companies to their knees, yet this woman can still render me a self-doubting mess?

My mother’s eyes flash in triumph. “I have a present for you.”

The ‘present’ was an appointment with my mother’s hairdresser, Rhonda – a woman whose 80s poofed hair was reminiscent of Spike from Degrassi Junior High.

As Rhonda’s scissors hover, I open my mouth to protest, but my mother is prepared. After all, this was premeditated torture. 

“You do want to do something before it’s too late?”

I give a dutiful nod and in one fell swoop my ponytail is dropping to the floor. In no time Rhonda has transformed me into an eerie mash-up of Hillary Clinton and Sharyn Osbourne. It is my mother’s haircut.

My mother beams at me. “Much better.” She trots off to the counter to make a show of “treating my daughter – she’s had such troubles you know.”

I feel a fury buried deep within me begin to rise. I am watching myself from afar as I reach out for a set of clippers. My hands seem forged in steel as I run the clippers through the side of my hair, leaving a trail of bare scalp. I can see my mother in the mirror flapping like a dying fish, and I keep shaving. “You’re right, Mum. This is the start of the new me.”

Writer’s Note: This story is pure fiction. My mother is amazingly awesome – she told me to say that : )

Defying The Odds with Dystopia

We’ve all heard the big names; Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and James Dashner. Thanks to their wildly successful novels and blockbuster film adaptations, these authors are the ones to look to when it comes to dystopian fiction. Over the past few years, this particular genre has skyrocketed in popularity among young adults and they can’t seem get to enough of it.

Guest contributor, and dystopian fiction fangirl, Elka Van Eden, explores why teens are so obsessed with the end of the world.

It’s Our World

There’s nothing like immersing yourself in a new universe, yet with dystopian fiction, this world is our own. The concept of this particular literature style is not only to entertain readers, but challenge them to consider deeper societal and moral issues, present within the real world.

Dystopian novels have a strange uniqueness and familiarity about them, which is what makes them so immensely intriguing to readers. Previously, dystopian novels tended to target an adult audience who were presumed to have a greater understanding of how the world works. Classic dystopian novels like A Clockwork OrangeAnimal Farm and 1984, while read in some high school English schools, are heavily skewed towards adult readers.

Lois Lowry’s, The Giver (1993), is credited as the first dystopian novel written from a teenager’s perspective and since then, almost all dystopian fiction is written in this style. It is one of the leading factors that has allowed this genre to grow and become as well-known as it is today.

The characters in the stories, just like their teen readers, have to deal with highly relatable concerns and problems, including friendship, family, betrayal and death. As well as this, dystopia is like a drastically flawed version of our own society, leading teens on the path of real world issues. These direct comparisons to today’s world, give the readers a shared moralistic goal of preventing the horrors that the novels illustrate, just like the fictional protagonist.

Dystopian novels also provide adolescents with an escape from our social norms and standards, to a more fast paced and exciting environment, even if it the dystopian world is eerily similar to the world we live in. Today’s young people are surrounded by threats of terrorism and a 24/7 news cycle where social justice issues and violence are the main headlines. It’s little wonder, the books that teens are drawn to echo the times they are currently living in.

Teenagers love for the dystopia has been alive and thriving for years and is not only re-awakening their imagination but allowing them to address problems within our own civilisation. The real question is, will this genre continue its popularity, or slowly disappear from our shelves to become just another fad in literature?

Why not pick up a dystopian novel and decide for yourself?

My Top 5, Young Adult Dystopia Picks

 Due to dystopia finding its way into mainstream fiction, you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy this genre. Here are some dystopian novels I believe stand out from the rest.

  1. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

This action-packed trilogy has got it all. Corrupt governments, a deadly disease, crazy powers and rebelling youths, it really is dystopia to a tee. This month marked the release of its all-star film adaptation, which is a definite must-see.

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government ‘rehabilitation camp’. She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.”

  1. Slated by Teri Terry

If corrupt governments weren’t enough, try corrupt teens… with no memory. This story really does embrace real world issues and provides an almost simple solution. The puzzle throughout this trilogy really does get you hooked.

“Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost forever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance – as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?”

  1. The Call by Peadar Ó ’Guilín

Set in Ireland, this novel is a take on classic folklore but with a dark and gruesome twist that keeps you guessing. Imagine The Hunger Games, but instead of only one group of kids a year having to go, every single teen has to go at one point.

“Imagine a world where you might disappear any minute, only to find yourself alone in a grey sickly land, with more horrors in it than you would ever wish to know about. And then you hear a horn and you know that whoever lives in this hell has got your scent and the hunt has already begun.

Could you survive the Call?”

  1. Vitro by Jessica Koury

While this isn’t exactly a reflective future of our own, this novel takes a look at science when it goes too far. A handful of interesting conspiracies and twists, along with a villain whose motives are entirely believable, make the novel captivating.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists charter pilot, Jim Julien, to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for.

In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.”

  1. The Silent Invasion by James Bradley

This soon-to-be series, really is classic dystopia. A disease sweeps the nation, and the main characters do whatever they can to find a cure. Despite being a relatively short novel, the plot really is unpredictable and unique.

“It’s a decade from now and the human race is dying. Plants, animals and humans have been infected by spores from space and become part of a vast alien intelligence.

When 16-year-old Callie discovers her little sister Gracie has been infected, she flees with Gracie to the Zone to avoid termination by the ruthless officers of Quarantine. What Callie finds in the Zone will alter her irrevocably and send her on a journey to the stars and beyond.”

5 Tips For Writers to Boost Creativity

Creativity: Is it Innate or Acquired?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Even if you only have 5 or 15 minutes to write at a time, for that short period be focused on the writing and nothing else.

As you can see creativity is something you can definitely boost and nurture with a few simple techniques. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get creative.

Need to Edit Your Novel? Here’s How to Do It

So you have finished your novel. First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Finishing that first draft of your novel is no mean feat. But while it may be tempting to send it off to an agent or publisher right now, your novel isn’t likely to be ready.

The stark reality of first drafts, is that they are drafts, which means they inevitably need editing.

At some point in time you are going to need some fresh eyes on your work, but the first step is to edit your own work.

The Three Stages of Editing

The final edit you conduct is what is called proofing to spot any typos or grammatical errors.

Beta Readers

While it may be tempting to approach family and friends, they do not always make the best beta readers.

Good beta readers are usually avid readers of the genre you are writing in, so can provide informed feedback about how to improve your novel.

Other useful beta readers are people experienced in writing or editing and are passionate about the craft.

It’s always a good idea to give your beta readers some specific questions to keep in mind when reading your novel.

  • Were you hooked from the start? Did you want to keep reading?
  • Did the story hold your interest? If not, why not?
  • Did the following feel vivid and real to you?
    • The setting
    • Characters
    • Dialogue.
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Do you have any other specific comments you’d like to add that would help improve this story?

Change the font type of your manuscript with every round of edits

Let it sit for a while

Don’t overdo it

Use editing apps

Upcoming Marketing Workshops

I’m super excited to be delivering more workshops over the next two months. One is a FREE Social Media for Writers workshop and the other is Build Your Author Website in a Day.

Social Media for Writers – FREE Workshop

On Saturday 4 May I will be at Helensvale Library on the Gold Coast facilitating a FREE 2 hour workshop on social media for writers.

Whether you’re an aspiring or established writer, this workshop will teach you how to use social media to enhance your writing career and/or author platform.

Discover the variety of platforms available, what type of content to post and when, how to create and schedule great content, and the secret to getting more followers and keeping them engaged.

Build Your Author Website in a Day

On Saturday 8 June I will be back at the Queensland Writers Centre delivering Build Your Author Website in a Day.

You will walk away from this workshop with a published website.
Create an online presence for your writing and author brand, whether you’re just starting out or already published. No technical or website experience needed. At the end of this workshop, you will have a live website.

I look forward to seeing you there : )

7 Things You Need to Know to Conquer Social Media

Marketing and social media are surrounded by a lot of misconceptions and myths which can mean the difference between failure and conquering your online presence.

Here are my top tips for how businesses and (aspiring) authors can avoid the biggest rookie mistakes when it comes to social media.

1. Don’t like it….’say’ you like it

You probably have heard that engaging with other people is key to your success on social media, and what you’ve heard is right.

Liking other people’s posts and comments is a great way to build a network of supporters and people interested in your work.

But ‘liking’ content will only get you so far.

When you see something you really like on social media, something that resonates with you, then ‘say’ you like it. It’s far more effective to add a comment expanding on why you like it.

This is likely to get you more engagement and appreciation than a simple ‘double tap’ or thumbs up will get you.

2. Numbers don’t count…unless they are the right numbers

Many social media users can get hung up on the number of followers and likes they get, but here are a few things to consider.

On some platforms, particularly Twitter, you may find it reasonably easy to get followers – sometimes without even trying. But when you drill down to look at those followers, how many of them represent your ideal target audience?

While the number of likes are one indicator of engagement levels, they can also be skewed. There are bots, particularly on Instagram, that automatically like photos. Even if that’s not a problem you’re experiencing, as we said above, double tapping or giving a thumbs up is a quick way of engaging in social media content but also can be an indication of ‘low investment’ in your content.

Real engagement is measured in terms of the relationships you form with your followers, through conversations.

3. Automated posting is okay…as long as you back it up with engagement

These days there are loads of options to automate or schedule your social media posts, but this is considered passive posting, unless it is coupled with engagement.

What I mean is, you can’t just set and forget when it comes to social media. This kind of posting is the equivalent of going to a party, announcing loudly to the room who you are and what you’re doing, then walking out again.

No one is interested in a party guest, or social media user, who only wants to talk about themselves. Real engagement comes from two way conversations.

It’s absolutely okay to use automated or scheduled posting for some of your posts, but you also need to take the time to monitor and check your feed and engage in other people’s posts, as well as respond to users who engage in yours.

4. Followers will find you…only if you are looking for them

Unfortunately social media on the most part is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’.

Sitting back and waiting for people to find you and follow you, will limit your overall number of followers but also the kind of followers you get.

The best way to increase your follower base is to consistently search for social media users who reflect your ideal audience and post content you like. You can use hashtags or the built-in search facility on social media platforms to find accounts relating to topics you are interested in.

What you will see is that a lot of the time you will get follow-backs and you are building a targeted community of people who resonate with you.

It’s best to do this very regularly, rather than in one big burst. This way you can keep your follower/follow back ratio in check and you won’t exceed any follow limits.

5. Always follow people back…unless…

One of the most effective ways of getting followers is to follow back those people who follow you.

Generally I follow back people who follow me unless:

  • They say they are The Rock, Prince Harry or some other celebrity that they clearly are not.
  • The user does not have a profile picture.
  • The bio is riddled with mistakes or information that doesn’t make sense.
  • The follower is clearly unrelated my areas of interest, and I’m not even sure why they followed me. I find this is often a bot that has followed me, looking for a follow-back. Soon after, bots just as often unfollow you, even if you liked them back.
  • They haven’t posted recently or at all.
  • Their profile and/or bio contains offensive material.

I’ve gotten pretty good at screening followers, and a quick glance at their profile and/or bio usually determines my follow-back.

I do sometimes find out that an account I am following doesn’t turn out to be what I expected and I immediately unfollow or even block if needed.

That all being said, I generally follow-back and try to do so in a timely manner (within 2 days of a follow).

6. Be the most interesting…listener

You should never set out to be the most interesting person on social media.

That doesn’t mean you should strive for boring. It means you should be yourself. Show the best version of yourself, but at the end of the day, be authentic.

But that is not the most important thing to take from this.

On social media it’s vital to be ‘interested’ rather than ‘interesting’.

Be a listener. Ask people about themselves and their content? Start conversations not a one-way showcase of how amazing you are.

7. Post exactly what you’re thinking…within reason

We all have issues, people and topics we feel strongly about but it doesn’t mean we have to vent all of them on social media.

Sure if there is something you really believe in or is highly relevant to your work, that you feel compelled to share, even if it may upset some people – then by all means go for it (as low as it’s not unlawful or defamatory to do so).

Generally, I choose to avoid politics and rants, as well as anything really personal. If I do share something potentially controversial, I usually share something from a credible third party rather than just ‘my opinion’. I also choose not to show images of my child, unless his face can not be identified. That’s just my personal choice.

Where possible I will share content that has a positive angle to it, where action is being taken to right a wrong.

For me, it’s important for people to feel inspired, interested or entertained by my content, rather than angry or outraged.

Of course for some people it is important for them to share their authentic voice in its full glory, and I support this. In fact I follow a lot of people with very strong views.

In any case, there are always consequences for posting on social media. Even the most innocuous posts can rile up a person in the most unexpected way, resulting in them making nasty comments on your account.

When this happens, you can ignore it, politely and professionally respond, or block the person if necessary. It’s your call.

Bonus tip for aspiring authors

To finish up, I’d like to share this tip for aspiring authors. Generally, the writing world is a very supportive one and even highly successful authors are happy to engage with their followers.

Don’t assume that just because someone is famous or a best selling author that they won’t be interested in you or your content.

Take the time to engage in their content and you may be surprised to find…they’ll engage right back.

To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this, .

3 Things Every Girl Can Learn from Hermione Granger

It may very well be the biggest debate of the century, or at least it is in some circles of writers and readers – is Hermione Granger a Ravenclaw or not? The Sorting Hat faced the same dilemma, spending nearly four minutes trying to decide which house to place Hermione in, before finally settling on Gryffindor.

Ravenclaws prize wit, learning, and wisdom. It is the home of nerds and bookworms. So it’s not unusual that writers and readers after completing many of the available Sorting Hat quizzes online find themselves placed in Ravenclaw – I’m no exception; apparently, I am 60.5% Ravenclaw, 32.8% Hufflepuff, 6.3% Gryffindor and just 0.4% Slytherin. While I would love to claim Hermione as one of my Ravenclaw sisters, my Gryffindor peers may feel a little differently about that.

Rather than spending time diving deep on this topic and trying to resolve this ‘great debate’, I think we can all agree there are several things we (us girls in particular) can learn from Hermione, regardless of her house.

She loved learning

Hermione’s love of books was very clear. Her free time was spent in the library seeking information on spells, potions, and plants that would come in handy in times of need. Strong women value learning and invest time in it. Books aren’t just about passing exams, they are about gaining knowledge and growth.

She stood up for herself and others

Whether she was fighting off scary mythical creatures, punching Draco in the nose for taunting her, or fighting for the rights of the poorly treated house elves, Hermione knew the importance of standing up – not just for herself but for others as well. She doesn’t condone injustice. She doesn’t act like that it is none of her business. She stands up for what she believes in and for those without a voice. She is not afraid to call out a wrong – she overcomes fears and uses her intelligence to try and bring the injustice to an end.

She wasn’t ashamed of her knowledge

Hermione used her wit and knowledge to get Ron and Harry out of trouble countless times. In class, she was always the first to answer questions. She studied, she gained knowledge and she wasn’t afraid to let it show. She doesn’t play dumb just to fit in. Her knowledge helps her stand apart in many positive ways.

Hermione Granger taught us that a strong woman doesn’t sit around and wait to be rescued. She doesn’t play the victim. She invests in herself, she understands what is important to her, upholds her values, and she is comfortable with whom she is.

Hermione teaches us all that it’s okay to let intelligence shine and to be comfortable speaking out about things you believe in.

Strong female characters like Hermione are at the core of my fiction writing. To stay in the know about my writing projects and to receive regular writing tips and articles like this,

Emulate. Why you should and shouldn’t emulate other people.

There are loads of people I admire.

There’s Jane Austen for writing, David Bowie for creative genius, Jamie Oliver for businesses that achieve good, Seth Godin for marketing nous….the list goes on and on.

At times I thought I may try and them. Imitate their success in some way.

The problem though with emulating someone else, is you’re not being yourself!

You have to believe in your own brand and abilities to succeed.

It’s very hard to succeed or be happy when you’re trying to be someone else.

It’s okay to admire other people but not envy them.

It’s okay to adapt and apply something that resonates with you, make it your own, but not to copy it.

It’s okay to follow another person’s success, but not to run the same race as them.

You are running your own race. Strive to improve, learn from others, find role models that resonate with you, but don’t try and emulate them.

I’m never going to be Jane Austen, David Bowie, Jamie Oliver, Seth Godin or any of the fabulous people I admire.

I’m going to be me. And I’m good enough. No….I’m perfectly imperfect just the way I am, which is perfect.

‘Emulate’ is today’s word out of the jar. Read more about my .