It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.
Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)
Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.
It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.
I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.
So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!
The practice of leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence, often referred to as preposition stranding, has long been considered to be “against the rules”. Generations of teachers and grammarians have condemned it as a grammatical taboo.
That isolated, lonely preposition, separated from its noun, is known as a terminal preposition, and may also be described as danging, hanging or stranded.
Albeit with the best of intentions, this was drummed into me as a child, so I simply accepted it and tried to avoid doing so in whatever I wrote.
As I got older, though, I came to realise that it’s something we do very naturally in speaking. In fact, avoiding it in spoken English can make what one is saying seem very formal and stilted.
When I was in high school, one of my History teachers told us a story about one of Winston Churchill’s famous comebacks. On receiving a correction about finishing a sentence with a preposition in the draft of a speech, he responded, “This is nonsense, up with which I shall not put.”
As it turned out, it probably wasn’t Churchill who first made the joke. I don’t know if he ever did, despite numerous and varied attributions. It has also been attributed to various other people, and there are variations on the line that was said to have been delivered, so it’s hard to know who said what, and when.
Either way, the story demonstrates that the rule is actually a bit ridiculous.
So where did this rule come from? And is it something we still have to abide by?
Back in the 1600s, a grammarian named Joshua Poole developed some principles about how and where in a sentence prepositions should be used, based on Latin grammar.
A few years later, the poet John Dryden, a contemporary of John Milton, took those rules one step further when he openly criticised Ben Johnson— another great poet— for ending a sentence with a preposition. Dryden decreed that this was something that should never be done. Nobody bothered to correct or oppose Dryden, and Ben Johnson certainly couldn’t because he had been dead for years, so Dryden’s strident and public protestations popularised the principle into a rule. Over time, strict grammarians and pedants began to actively oppose the practice, and the rule became widely accepted and firmly established.
Ironically, despite all the wise and clever plays, poetry and essays written by John Dryden, it was his consistent complaint about the terminal preposition that became his most enduring legacy.
Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, calls it a “cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late… be kept true to their name and placed before the word they govern.” Fowler goes on to assert that even Dryden had to go back and edit all of his work to eliminate the terminal prepositions in his own writing.
In the last century or so, people have become progressively less fussy and worried about it, but some still seem determined to cling to the rule no matter what.
I advise my students that in formal writing such as essays, speeches, official letters and submissions, it is best to avoid the terminal preposition just in case their reader is someone who might judge them for it. Any other time, in keeping with standard spoken English, they are free to use their prepositions wherever they feel most natural and make the most sense.
Nobody in the 21st century is going to naturally ask someone “On which char did you sit?” rather than “Which chair did you sit on?”, nor will they say “I wonder for whom that parcel is intended” Instead of “I wonder who that parcel is for.”
In the 21st century, that really is nonsense up with which we do not have to put.
It seems that I haven’t just dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to blogging regularly, I’ve gone and lost the jolly thing. I last saw it a couple of weeks ago, when it bounced a couple of times before rolling away through some very prickly bushes and falling into a seemingly bottomless hole.
The thing is, life since that drafted virus unleashed itself on the world has been tumultuous.
I could tell you I haven’t written anything, but that’s not true. I have written some really great lessons and three entire new units because what I had planned (and written) previously wasn’t going to work in an online learning environment.
I could tell you I didn’t have a quarantine project, but that isn’t true either. I’ve had two, both of which happened by necessity rather than design.
Project One: reinventing my career Initial Observations: Teaching from home is a whole lot more work than it sounds. All that extra time online is very tiring. Final Observations: Challenging and exhausting, but enormously satisfying. Most students engaged really well. More positives than negatives. Verdict: Aced it.
Project Two: supporting my father as he spent a couple of weeks in hospital before transitioning into residential aged care. Initial observations: Lots of phone calls. Mountains of paperwork. Huge emotional adjustments. Further Observations: Decisions are hard, even when you actually have no choice. Emotions are hard. Being on one mental and emotional roller coaster while your dad is on a completely different one can only be dealt with by hanging on for dear life and completely faking any appearance of knowing what you are doing. Verdict: Aced it. Especially the part where I looked like I knew what I was doing.
It should also be mentioned that these two significant challenges occurred simultaneously. I didn’t have time to scratch myself, much less spend any more personal time online than I did.
So really, I’ve achieved far more since mid-March than is apparent from my nonexistent output of either blog posts or fiction.
I admit that I have seriously contemplated walking away from writing and/or blogging. Even while considering that, I knew that was the stuff of emotional and mental exhaustion, because I still have ideas and plans bubbling away in the back of my mind. I am not ready to quit, and I would be letting myself down if I did.
I will get my mojo back, even if I’m not sure when that might happen.
There is massive irony in authors complaining that they can’t reach readers or find an audience while failing to list their books on a site where readers will actively look for books in their genre.
Sure, BookBub began as niche marketing, but it has very quickly become mainstream to the point where it’s becoming as popular among readers as GoodReads. There are good reasons for that: BookBub is very user-friendly, well organised and easy on the eye. Sharing a book from BookBub to other social media is straightforward, achieved simply by clicking a couple of buttons.
As a reader and reviewer, I’m always dismayed when I read a great Indie book and find that I can’t review it on Bookbub because the author or publisher hasn’t listed it there.
Not only are those authors missing out on free promotion, they are overlooking a place where readers flock to find something new to read.
As an author, I love BookBub.
When readers mark one of my books as “Want to Read” all their followers see that. When readers review or recommend one of my books, everyone sees that.
I get a weekly email that tells me how many profile views, recommendations and new followers I’ve had that week. And it’s completely free to be an author on BookBub. You don’t have to pay for promotion there if you choose not to: that’s totally optional.
If you’re an author and your books aren’t on BookBub, that’s something you should probably fix sooner rather than later. Unless, of course, you’re happy with lower visibility and fewer opportunities to reach readers. That’s a choice that is entirely yours to make.
Why Indie Authors Should Have Their Books on BookBub #IndieAuthorsBeSeen #IndieBooksBeSeen #authorlife #bookmarketing #IndieAuthors #BookBub
I suppose most people are superstitious about something, but for me, this one is a matter of perspective.
My fictional black cat, Friday, leapt into existence on a Friday the 13th. From that first creepy story, he grew into a creature with a mind of his own — like all cats, really— and a killer sense of justice that springs into action whenever someone is behaving very badly. With a twitch of his tail, magic happens and horrible people get what’s coming to them in the most macabre ways. It’s all very satisfying… but of course, punishing people fictionally is like that.
I so wish Friday was real. There are days when I wish I had someone like that to deliver a dose of poetic justice to someone who particularly deserves it. “This looks like a job for Friday!” has become a catchphrase between my best friends and myself, which comes in quite handy at those times when you can’t express how we feel about someone or a situation as honestly as we might like to.
I don’t really believe in luck, and I certainly don’t think certain days or black cats are bad luck.
I enjoy Friday the 13th because it reminds me that sometimes great things grow out of chance ideas. And, it’s fair to say, it beats most Mondays hands down.
Friday appears in Curious Things and Curious Times by Joanne Van Leerdam. Widely available in all online stores in paperback and ebook.
Two years ago, it was my town threatened by bushfires. It was my community losing homes, livestock, and family farms. Now, it feels as though half the country is burning, or has already burnt down.
The horrific and disastrous bushfires this summer have triggered so many feelings and memories. I remember how gut-wrenchingly awful it was then, and cannot comprehend the exponential scale of the current catastrophe my country is experiencing.
Like then, I have friends who have lost everything except the few things they managed to take with them as they evacuated. My heart breaks for them, but I am so incredibly thankful they got out when they did.
I feel so useless. It seems as much as one donates and supports and cries and prays for an end to the fires, it never feels like enough.
Add a few layers of grief, empathy, and occasional despair, and you get something of an idea about how many Australians are feeling at this point.
I wrote this poem, and a number of others, in the aftermath of the St Patrick’s Day fires of 2018. It seems an appropriate poem to post at a point where a large proportion of eastern Australia is either on fire, has burnt, or is blanketed in acrid smoke.
It is a recollection of an actual conversation among locals in my town back in March 2018, and bears witness to the resilience and the empathy of Australians in the face of adversity.
This poem is included in ‘Smoke and Shadows’. All profits from the sale of this book between January 1 and June 30 are being donated to ongoing bushfire relief.
Like any year, 2019 had some great moments and some wonderful memorable have been made.
Among my favourite memories are performing in Monty Python’s Spamalot! with the amazing Camperdown Theatre Company, weekend escapes camping by the beach with our closest friends, my bestie and I kidnapping each other and running away for a day or two at a time, and my own production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor TM Dreamcoat. I had three new books published, and am very proud of each of them.
I am incredibly thankful for good friends, for those who believe in me, and for the encouragement I have received from both friends and strangers. I am blessed to be loved as fully and enthusiastically as I am.
The past year has also left some scars that, while they may fade with time, will never truly heal. I do not wish to dwell on those, especially here. Even so, I will say in no uncertain terms — and not for the first time — that cancer, chronic illness, liars, backstabbers, and two-faced people can all improve the world by disappearing and not coming back.
Here’s to closing the door on what has passed, and welcoming new beginnings and opportunities in the year ahead!
Christmas is just around the corner, but these gift ideas would work just as well for birthday gifts, or just to say “keep going!” when the writer in your life needs a little encouragement.
Notebooks. Bookstores, stationers and newsagents carry a range of different notebooks to suit any budget. There are beautiful notebooks available, from leather bound journals to new-fangled clever notebooks that enable your device to take a photo of a note and import it into Evernote or OneNote as a fully editable note. You can get plain, dotted or lined pages, so there are plenty of options. Any writer, journaller or blogger is going to enjoy using a notebook given out of love.
Things to write with: the gist of a nice pen shows you respect their craft. However, so does the gift of a pack of their favourite ball point, gel or felt tip pens in their preferred colour ink. Some writers use a favourite brand of pencil.
Sticky notes. The humble sticky note is a fabulous tool for planning, plotting, sequencing, tracking character trajectories, and keeping track or writing ideas. There is a huge range of colours, and sizes available, but there is also quite a range in quality. Sadly, the cheapest ones tend to lose their stick rather quickly. A range of lined and plain notes in various sizes and colours, and some page flags and place keepers might be just the ticket.
A gift voucher from a stationers or office supply store is basically a free ticket to a treasure hunt In writer’s heaven. Some people shy away from vouchers as gifts because they seem impersonal, but a writer will think this is a perfect gift.
Coffee or Tea. Writers seem to thrive on coffee and tea. A gift of freshly roasted beans or a favourite blend of tea will always be appreciated. Vouchers or gift cards from a favourite barista or coffee shop will likewise be welcomed by anyone whose writing thrives on caffeine.
Writing snacks. Fuel their writing with a box or basket of their favourite chocolate, nuts, candy, pretzels and trail mix.
Writing time! Often, writers are limited by the demands of life. A voucher that promises uninterrupted writing time while you mind their kids, walk their dog, cook dinner for their family or clean their house for them is a great way to show your love and appreciation for them. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose this option, you need to keep that promise or you will have a very sad reader on your hands!
Book promotion credits. One of the things that authors often struggle with is having the time and resources to promote their books. A gift of book promotion for a month or more is sure to be well received and very much appreciated. Book Squirrel offers a range of promotion options tailored for Indie authors at very affordable prices.
I’m just going to say it: I’m comfortable with the label of nerd.
More specifically, I’m a Nerdius scientifica.
Being a nerd is more accepted nowadays, what with our bulging brains and chiselled knowledge. And the reality is that us nerds have a lot to offer, like research skills.
Writing requires a lot of research and writers generally fall into two categories in this regard: those who need to learn how to research, and those who took up writing to justify those dodgy topics they’ve researched. This post will hopefully help the former. But if anyone does want to know how much slack rope you need to hang someone correctly from your homemade gallows, I have a spreadsheet calculator for you.
I stole am reblogging a post from Writer’s Digest with a few of my own comments.
Ernest Hemingway said writers should develop a built-in bullshit detector. I imagine one…