Category Archives: Journal

A new season

Today is the first day of spring and was my last day of work. That is to say it was my last day of ‘office work’ where I go in and get paid by someone else to do stuff. Starting tomorrow I’m paying myself, so knowing me I’ll actually end up working longer hours.

So what better way to begin such a journey as attending Aussie Con 4 –the World science fiction convention being held here in Melbourne? I’ve got my highlighter ready to paint my program and I’m hoping a few of the events will have been moved since I last saw them listed so that I don’t have to borrow Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner to attend all the things I want to see.  

I’m going to miss the people in my office, but I am so excited about what is ahead of me now. No more excuses, I have to write, and you can all hold me accountable. So as of hour 5 of my new found freedom I would say it has been a great move. I wouldn’t suggest all of you quit your jobs and follow my lead, but I would say that you should start your savings account so that one day you will have the option. I started mine a year ago. After all, these spontaneous life changes take some planning.

See you at the con!

Xox

Nat

Slipping on genres

I have a bad habit. Well, they tell me it’s bad. I have a tendency to slip between genres, sometimes within the same story. My stories can be spec fic chick lit, or horror-fantasy. What’s worse is that some of my stories stray completely away from spec fic genre altogether and are just plain stories.

The belief out there in writer-world is that writers, particularly new writers, are not meant to do this.

Oddly this ‘rule’ does not seem to apply as much to other artistic pursuits. It is acceptable for a movie maker like James Cameron to come up with a movie about killer robots (Terminator), followed by movie about killer aliens (Aliens) then a love story on a sinking ship (Titanic) and a spy thriller comedy (True Lies). William Goldman writes a western (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and then creates a comedy-fantasy (The Princess Bride) and no-one bats an eyelid.

Even the heaviest of the heavy metal bands have at least one ballad on their album. So why is it writers of books or short stories are told to stay within the box of their first successful publication?

Fortunately the cross-genre novel is starting to get a customer base of its own thanks to novels like ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ (literary science fiction romance) and many of Margaret Atwood‘s books (literary science fiction). However there is still the problem about which shelf to find them on in the book shop or library.

I don’t know what the answer is, but there are a couple of sessions at Aussie Con 4 (which starts this Thursday) that will be addressing this topic, along with about a million other topics. If you haven’t got your tickets or booked your time off work yet, do so now. Aussie Con 4 is the 68th WORLD science fiction convention and it will be a great place for any writer –spec fic, new or otherwise.

So if you see me at one of the sessions, be sure to come and say hello! And let me know what your opinion is of writers who slip through the genres!

Happy writing,

Nat

My story was getting boring

A girl gets up, goes to work and 8 hours later comes home. She gets up the next day, goes to work, comes home again. Not a very intriguing story is it? If I was writing that she would do something interesting, like resign with no job to go to.

Guess what I did? I spiced up my story and handed in my resignation.

I have no idea where I’ll be 12 months time, but I do know that by Christmas I should have a big chunk (if not all) of my completed novel edited, and all those short stories that are begging to be finished will have their wishes granted. I have taken a vow of poverty to breathe life into my characters, and I cannot express how exciting that is!

The wonderful thing about wanting to be a writer is that you are the only person on earth who can make it happen. If you want to be a writer, you write. It also means that no one else can stand in the way of your dream, if you want to be a writer, you write!

Of course, as soon as you start adding on the qualifiers, then you will depend on others a bit more; I want to be a published writer, a best-selling writer, an economically viable writer. But for me, those can wait. Right now I want to be a writer, so that’s what I’m going to be.

So, a girl gets up, writes a book, book gets sent out, publishers read book. Of course I’m a spec fic writer, so the girl would probably then get eaten by a giant spider or start dating an alien or something, but at least she’s doing something different!

The story can go anywhere from here…

Nat

Avoiding Junk

Sometimes I ask myself if Nigeria is the real cradle of civilization. After all, it does seem that all of us have at least one wealthy relative living there, though perhaps ‘had’ would be more appropriate given we only find out about them after their passing, when we inherit their massive fortune. All we need to do is pass on our full name and bank account details…

I have recently been promised fortunes from long lost relatives all over the world. Just today I discovered poor old long-lost-uncle Ali in Hong Kong kicked the bucket and I’m his sole heir (don’t know quite how I managed to shoulder my parents out of the way). Luckily I had my email address publically displayed on my website so they could easily find me to give me the good news. In fact most of my junk email comes from my publically displayed email address.

So how do you make yourself accessible to your readers without drowning in spam (yes, any promised fortune IS spam)? Easy, when displaying your contact details remove things that a computer can read, and replace them with something only a human can read. Put square brackets around the parts of your email address that are not words, and turn those same parts into words:            natalie[at]nataliejepotts[DOT]com –I am sure this is not foolproof, but it will cut out a huge chunk of junk from your inbox.

You are probably wondering why, if I know the secret,  am I still getting the promised fortune emails? The truth is I love these crazy emails, so I haven’t changed my clickable email address on my site. I have a Russian bride email that makes me laugh out loud every time I read it. There is a lot of material in these scams which is begging to be turned into a story, and that quirky almost Yoda-esque English they often use sets off my imagination like you wouldn’t believe.  

Besides, I’m a struggling writer. I could do with a huge fortune! I’d better contact Uncle Ali’s lawyer and find out if there is somewhere I can send a wreath or something.

Happy Writing, and NO you do NOT have a relative in Nigeria, at least not a wealthy dead one that you didn’t know about!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who am I?

Having recently signed up to Twitter I am now getting a nightly dose of publisher and writer ‘Tweets’, the thing is, I’m not quite sure what it’s all about. Let’s face it, when you only have 140 characters to play with you can’t exactly give a preview of your next novel.

Many of the writers I am following talk about what music they are listening to and what they are making for dinner. Is this what followers want to read? And if so, how harshly do they judge a writer on their music or meal choices?

Then it occurred to me; maybe these glimpses into ‘real’ life are just an extension of the writer’s work? Maybe they are all made up? If I tweet that I’m listening to Duran Duran or Adam Ant, not only do I give away my age, but I lose credibility with the younger readers (and probably many of the older ones as well). Should I instead claim to be listening to a cool Indy band? Better yet, make one up!

And when I tell everyone that I’m slipping into the kitchen to knock up dinner, do I admit the truth, that it is tuna mornay again, or do I go for something exotic that makes me look both open-minded and well travelled? Will I offend if I eat meat? If I don’t eat meat?

Do I have to create a fictional version of me?

I’m still undecided about all this, hence my nine tweets so far have related to good articles I have read or announcements that my blog has been updated. I will ponder this some more while I slip into the kitchen to whip up a slime and tofu salad for dinner while listening to this great new Indy band, the philosophical androids. Tweet.

Tomorrow

Recently I have found myself getting into lots of conversations about ‘what you would do if you didn’t have to work.’ I know, for me it is obvious; become FreeCell champion of the world and get a few novels written on the side, but for others it spans from the mundane to the entirely fanciful, but everyone has something they want to do.

The common thread, whether it be learning a new language, a new skill, or indulging in an artistic pursuit, is that they are putting it off until they ‘have time’. The truth is none of us have time other than that which we make. We push so much into tomorrow that by the time we get there, it is full.

This isn’t intended to be a lecture post, but it is an observation that has been really present in my life recently, and it is related to the risk taking I spoke of a few weeks ago. It is easy to fall into the monotony of our lives and lounge there, we do not challenge the status quo often enough. Don’t wait for tomorrow, grab your passion, and make some time for it now.

So tonight I’m going to take that story that has been kicking around in my head and I’m going to put it on paper. So it’s a short post today, because I’ve got to do some writing.

What are you going to do?

Nat

Shameless Self-Promotion

I don’t think there is such a thing as shameless self-promotion for anyone who is serious about selling anything to the public. In a world of tweets, Facebook updates and iEverything it is only with self-promotion that you can hope to stand out from a very noisy crowd. The days of being the reclusive writer who never ventures out are gone. Now you need to understand and leverage off media other than just books or even traditional print.

Here is a great example of what I am talking about:

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This is a book that is being released on July 1st by Kirstyn McDermott from my writers group. I love this idea of a movie-like trailer for a book, and had already scripted one for my own book Paragon (yet to be picked up, so if you are in the market for a post-apocalyptic YA novel, please contact me). Little did I know that people had already carved out careers creating these things!

So now for a little self promotion of my own… I have just opened a twitter account, so if you would like to follow me, please just look for ‘nataliejepotts’ and I promise I won’t tell you when I’m getting myself a coffee or going to bed. It will be writing stuff only!

On the writing front; I have a short story in Aphelion (June/July edition), so read it here for free until mid next month. I also have a flash fiction piece coming out in the Short & Twisted anthology – volume 3, being launched today.

So, now all I have to do is finish building my new website, learn how to eBook my novels and create my book video for YouTube. Hmm I’d better get moving if I want to have something to show you by next week!

Happy writing,

Nat

Facing Fears

Following on from J K Rowling’s excellent speech (see previous post) I have been thinking a lot about taking risks over the last week. It is so easy to look back on the past risks of successful people and dismiss them as being minimal. But the truth is it takes a brave person to turn their back on safe and head into the unknown.

Every time you send out a manuscript you are taking a small risk. You are putting your work out there and seeing if someone likes it enough to publish it. You risk being told you can’t write, you risk being told your story is lame, you risk being told to give up. But these are all very small risks, and if you can’t take these, then you have no place in the world of publishing.

It is becoming apparent to me that these days if you want success in publishing, you need to take bigger risks. You need to fund your own marketing, you need to be prepared to get out there and push your book, you need to become more IT savvy.

I’m ready to take those risks, so to that end sometime before the end of this month I’m going to move my website and blog from my current ‘copy-paste’ templates to a new platform that I design and maintain. So please stick with me, there may be glitches, I may lose all my current content, but keep checking back if you suddenly find that I’ve gone off line. I will be back!

And do stay tuned, I have some exciting big risks coming up and I would love to bring you along for the journey. Life belongs to the brave, and I’m at the point where the fear of everything staying exactly the same has finally outweighed the fear of failure.

So let’s take part in a challenge, do one thing this week that you are afraid of, and please tell me about it. I’ll do something too, and it won’t just be turning off my website template. Let’s be brave together!

Happy risk-taking!

Nat

Taking risks, if Little Chef can do it, so can we;

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Who broke my time-space continuum?

We all partake in a little bending of the time-space continuum now and then; where an hour at work takes three times as long to pass as an hour at home. I was well aware of this phenomenon, but until recently had no idea the extent to which it pervades our lives.  

Nearly two months ago I made the move from part time to full time work. To spice things up my day off each week usually occurred on either a Tuesday or Thursday, which meant I had a ‘mini’ weekend during the week. This addition of quality me time, which always included at least two hours of proper writing, meant my week went for twice as long. It is only now, as I watch five days of my life blur away each week that I find myself asking ‘where the hell has the first half of 2010 gone?’  

This dilemma has sent me to the only place I know to seek answers; Excel. I did some very scientific calculations (complete with graph), and discovered that over a 45 year career, given the above phenomenon, you are only likely to experience about 15 years of life (holidays, public holidays and weekends). That seems like a bit of a raw deal.

Of course shortly someone will pick up one of my novels and I will be able to spend all my time doing something I love (I’m referring to writing, NOT playing FreeCell), but for everyone else trapped in this real life matrix, is 15 years enough? I’ll leave you to ponder that as I start working on my letter to request part time hours again…

Nat

PS I did try to insert my fantastic 3-D pie chart, but even after putting it through Photoshop I couldn’t make it compatible with the blog software, so you’ll just have to imagine it!

Watching ER doesn’t make you a doctor

When in school, our teachers always told us to write what we know –meaning we should write our real life experiences. Having a natural bent towards speculative fiction, I didn’t have much one on one time with vampires, flesh eating nematodes or alternate realities. So I just dismissed this advice as not being applicable to me.

That was until yesterday.

For the first time in my life I went horse riding where I actually got to hold the reigns and tell the beast where to go. Now it is true that horse riding has not starred much in my stories, but I’ve seen enough movies to know they are placid, big, dumb creatures without a thought in their heads, only too keen to do our bidding as our knee clamps and reign pulling dictates. This rule, my friends, is false. It only applies in TV-land.

Mum, if you are reading this, skip the next two paragraphs… I got the trotting bob thing down pat, I was directing my horse like an extra from The Man from Snowy River, it was easy, just as I expected. Then we got to the beach. Turns out my horse did have a mind of its own, and in that mind waves were scary. The waves yesterday were BIG. My horse went from a walk that was barely enough to hint at movement to a full gallop. No, there was no trot and the ‘canter’ thing was completely bypassed. We went from standing still to full gallop in one quick splash of a wave. Did I mention I’ve never ridden a horse before?

Now it didn’t take me long to realise I had lost complete control of the animal and that my fingers were slipping from the death-grip they had on the saddle. And between the blessed moments of logic which told me to take my feet out of the stirrups before I fell off and when I actually went through with the plunge down to the gloriously soft sand, I had the thought that it wasn’t meant to go like this. What was that based on? The rules of TV land!

So now I am bruised, but fully functional, and also aware of three things that I will keep in mind when writing about horses; 1. You can never trust the creature to do what you tell it, 2. You must always be on the lookout for that moment of rebellion, with a plan to counteract it, and 3. When you fall off a horse you do not simply get up, brush down you jodhpurs and pop back up again ready to sword fight or run down some rogue; it hurts and it freaks you out!

So maybe those teachers (and countless ignored-till-now writing books) do have a bit of a point. When you write, if you are basing your logic or assumptions on something you have seen in fictional TV shows, no matter how heavily ensconced in the law of TV land, do some research and find out if it is true. After all, how often do you hang up the phone without saying goodbye?