Category Archives: Promote & Publish

albinism disability Jo Jo Moyes

Dear Jo Jo…

I emailed Jo Jo Moyes recently. I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed reading Me Before You, but more importantly, that I loved the wonderful way she portrayed her character, Will Traynor (and by that I mean bringing a leading man with a significant physical disability into mainstream fiction).

Of course, Jo Jo is not the first writer to do this. Many authors, myself included (with Will ‘Wheels’ Travelli in my 2013 debut novel House for all Season), have included character traits that are not deemed as ‘the norm’ for their male/female romantic fiction couple. By not following the traditional/safe route when it comes to creating characters readers love, authors do take a risk. Some of you might be shaking your heads in disbelief, but I received two scathing comments about my Will being in a wheelchair (anonymous Good Reads type comments). They sure were a blow to this debut author. But I picked myself up and I’ve since written three more books, each time ensuring there is a character in the story who refuses to be defined by their physicality.

As I found out, even Jo Jo was heavily criticised by disability groups who felt the portrayal of her Will portrayed a negative view of life for those living with quadriplegia.

In my 4th novel, The Other Side of the Season, I have both a leading man who suffers incomplete paraplegia, and Pearl — a person with albinism. The idea for Pearl came to me after reading a Ramp Up interview with Dr. Shari Parker. A fierce advocate, Shari (along with others) are striving to change the way people with albinism are perceived by the broader community. (This perception often influenced by movies/TV.) With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better place to add weight than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. They can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

With the pen being mightier than the sword, there’s no better way to weigh in than in our fiction novels. If thoughtfully done, novels (and movies) can tackle ‘different’ respectfully and kindly. Sensitively and accurately portrayed, characters can be a starting point for opening dialogue on various subjects and provide a safe place in which to learn.

But . . . “Let’s get the facts straight,” as Shari Parker says in an interview. “In popular culture, people with albinism are often depicted as evil or supernatural.” [She] wants to set the record straight about the condition and remind others that widespread inaccuracies about albinism should be challenged wherever they appear.

I totally agree, but is Hollywood getting the message? According to an online source: “…from 1960 to 2006 there were 68 films released featuring an evil albino, with 24 of these appearing between 2000-2003. In comparison, there were only a handful of movies with albino characters that were sympathetic in nature, and many of these characters were used primarily for comedic value, ie: giving the characters stupid nicknames and making repeated gags about their skin condition.” And these movies were not small. They were significant in terms of box office success. (eg Including The Da Vinci Code and Cold Mountain.)

Incredibly, as recently as 2013, The Heat (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy) included largely negative, inappropriate, and even a few disgusting one-liners that ridicule a character cast as an Albino. This sort of depiction only serves to reinforce misunderstandings, societal prejudice, and discrimination. And don’t think it’s only crime/cop shows. In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the main antagonist, named Rudy, is cast as the albino Baryonyx who is vicious and vindictive, unlike the other dinosaurs. Okay, so every good story needs conflict and a great antagonist and it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes.

Easy for the writer, perhaps. Hurtful for those being portrayed.

It’s not hard to write well-rounded, emotionally complex characters with disabilities who are not defined solely by those disabilities.

I like to challenge myself as an author—be it character, setting or structure—to make my stories stand out. This, along with and Shari’s interview, is why I decided to create Pearl in The Other Side of the Season. And I’ve received so many lovely messages from readers about her (and her relationship with Jake). She was intended to take on a secondary role, but like Alice in Season of Shadow and Light (also mean to be a secondary character when I wrote her in), readers have warmed to Pearl, even asking me to give her a story of her own. I don’t like using the word disability. I prefer the word extraordinary—and Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

I don’t like using the word disability and I don’t play up differences. I prefer to use the word extraordinary to describe some character traits. Pearl certainly is that—making her special, while still portrayed her as a regular girl.

And in case you’re going to ask . . . I found a list on Good Reads that has 395 books listed as being a romance with a disabled (substitute ‘extraordinary’) hero/heroine.

Have you enjoyed a story that has an extraordinary character? Let me know.

My choice is most definitely the  Jo Jo Moyes novel, Me Before You. I do intend seeing the movie soon, but for now, I am very happy to let Jo Jo’s beautiful characters and the imagery her words created linger a little longer in my mind.

Meet Will in House for all Seasons

Meet Alice in Season of Shadow and Light

Meet Pearl and David in The Other Side of the Season

 

Life as Jenn #rovingwriter

So there I am writing a big story at my tiny desk, when I hear the squeak of excited voices outside the caravan door. I pop my head out and see two women in a huddle. They’re pointing.
‘Hi,’ I say, slipping into my shoes. ‘I’m Jenn. Nice day!’
What transpires makes my day very nice indeed.

The women have seen my lawn sign shoved in the ground and guess what?They love my books. So there I am, in my uncoordinated Crocs, socks, shorts and T-shirt and feeling absolutely fabulously famous. We talk, they buy a book (they didn’t know my fourth one was out) and I sign it. Word spreads and soon I’m selling more books. (Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than taking an afternoon walk around the van park and hearing multiple new readers call out, “Just up to where blah does blah.”) There are definite positives to being Jenn, #rovingwriter. (There are also negatives. I’ll get to that).

The important message is, the only reason those ladies knew who was inside the caravan is because I told them. I have my name EVERYWHERE—and it works. (All I need now is the T-shirt!)

I’ve probably worked harder on marketing since hitting the road. And it’s the nicest kind of promo because I’m away from the computer and face-to-face with people. My response is also less awkward when someone asks what I do for a living. (It’s only taken four books!)

Since hitting the road I’m learning to be brave and make a noise (because squeaky wheels get attention. Facebook will tell you that!)

  • Every van park office, every small town coffee shop waiter gets a signed bookmark that says ‘thank you’.
  • Once set up on site, my first stop is the laundry. Travellers leave books they’ve finished in the laundry and those books need bookmarks!
  • Most caravan parks will display my Camp Kitchen Book Chat flyer, inviting fiction lovers to BYO wine for a bookish happy hour.
  • When I know where I’ll be well in advance I contact local bookshops and libraries. In Coonabarabran (this year I did a NSW mid-west tour, en route to a Mudgee Readers Festival gig) I visited the library. As I was only in town a couple of nights I hadn’t arranged a formal event, but I asked if they had a book club, and could I leave them some bookmarks? Guess what? The book club was meeting the next day and I was invited to gatecrash.

Apart from the Mudgee event itself, Tamworth was a tour highlight. Not only did my library event garner lots of attention, I scored the promotional trifecta: print, radio and a spot on the local TV news with a film crew visiting the caravan. (And I got to catch up with Len Klump—friend/reader extraordinaire.) See the media my NSW tour achieved HERE or View the TV News footage.

Why to I do all this?

So I can keep my name out there 365 days a year. (The norm in traditional publishing is a six-week (from release) publicity campaign.) While the publisher supports me with posters on my self-designed tours, I arrange the events and secure media exposure. (Cursor over for captions)

As you can see, so far I’ve knocked over the north-west of NSW (catching up with author friends along the way) and as I write this I’m making my way around Victoria in much the same way: bookshop signings, library talks, catch-ups with writing friends. (Friend me on Facebook to know where I’ll be next.)

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

So, is the #rovingwriter life all positive?

No. There are just as many frustrations, especially when Telstra makes you pay in blood for pathetically slow and mostly intermittent mobile data ($110 / mth for 20 GB!); or running out of laptop battery when the words are flowing and the solar panels don’t have enough charge. (We just bought a generator, because if you think 24 feet of caravan is small, try sharing the space with a cranky writer with a flat battery!) Although, I confess, de-stressing is not too difficult.

While I dreamed of hitting the road, my four-book contract gave me the nudge I needed and it’s fitting that I call myself Jenn, #rovingwriter. I love the roving life and Gypsy is the character from my debut novel, House for all Season, and she once dreamed of running away with the circus.

I appreciate not everyone can sell, or give up, everything to live in a caravan. But that shouldn’t keep you chained to your desk. Get out and find ways to make a noise in your community. If you have caravan parks, drop bookmarks into the laundry regularly. My car signage works a treat, too, with people tooting and waving madly. (I assume they’re adoring fans and not giving me the finger because I’ve inadvertently cut them off in traffic.)

So if you do see Jenn the #rovingwriter in your travels, please wave.

 

(Republished from RWA Hearst Talk Feb 2017) And if you are a writer and not yet a member of Romance Writers of Australia, I highly recommend you think about joining.

How to buy a book when it’s not in stock.

You might have guessed already, but with so many new authors being published, and established authors putting out a new book each year — ie more fabulous books to read — this readers’ boom can be the author’s bust. Therefore I thought the topic worth sharing.

Book retailers have limited shelf space so they are unable to stock every book all the time. Many books sell out and are not always replaced — even the big sellers, like House For All Season, for example. It was #5 best-selling fiction debut in 2013 but you’d be hard pressed finding a print copy because retailers have had to make way for all the other great books coming out.

So how do you buy a book when it’s not in stock? (And you know about it from the author’s backlist (that little list of titles inside the front cover.)

ASK.

Walk in, or ring, or email your retailer and they’ll order it in for you. (You want to read it. They want to sell it, and the author wants to know you enjoyed it.)

Same goes with the library? Does the book constantly have RESERVES on it? Maybe they’ll buy in another copy. Is it only in print only and not accessible as an ebook for you to borrow? There’s an option! How can you make it happen?

ASK.

Walk in, or ring, or email your local library. Librarians love to help readers.

Too easy really! There’s always Aussie online retailers of PRINT books with massive warehouses, so try Booktopia and Boomerang Books.

Yes, you may need to be patient while the order is processed, but you know good things do come to those who wait.

Now, can you help me spread the word? Oh, and let me know how I can get an ice cream when I am about 100 km away from a shop!

I have my own book shop!

What about sending a book to a special person (or yourself!) I’ll sign it, wrap it, and post it directly to them (or you). (But best you order before the end of November to guarantee delivery by Christmas.)

I must admit, getting my book shop online (and fighting with Pay Pal) drove me nuts and added to my grey hair count, but the doors are open at last and in time for Christmas.

So cheers everyone!

Let’s go shopping.From the country fence FB

 

 

Author Rachael Johns – a letter to my 17 y.o self

Dear Rach

I know you’re heartbroken right now, but don’t waste your time or money (on tissues) crying over that boy you accidentally dumped. You’ve already spent four years lusting after him and that is far too long to be chasing a boy who to be blatantly honest… is just not that into you. More fool him! But don’t worry, one day you’ll appear on breakfast TV show, Sunrise, and thank him for breaking your heart. That heartbreak is the reason you start writing in a couple of months and although you don’t know it now, writing is your calling. It’s what you were born to do.

BUT, I recommend NOT transferring from a primary school teaching degree to a writing degree. If you don’t want to do teaching anymore, take some time out and get some life experience or do another degree that you’ll actually be able to use in the big bad world. I suggest library studies, women studies or criminology – basically anything but that writing degree because it is an absolute waste of time. You don’t learn anything except that you do not want to write poetry or literary fiction.

You know how you love Bridget Jones Diary? That’s the type of book you want to write. Don’t be ashamed of it. Read as much as you can get your hands on. Try an odd romance as well – I think you’ll find you love them. Oh and while you’re at it, join an organization called Romance Writers of Australia – it might save you a lot of time and you might end up taking less than fifteen years to get published.

But don’t obsess about writing – just enjoy it. You’ll put in the hard yards and you’ll get there eventually. In the meantime, read more and don’t be such a prude. Date more boys, have fun and don’t stress so much about your body. You are NOT fat and starving yourself isn’t cool!

Soon you’ll go to England and meet your dad and your half-siblings for the first time. It will be both wonderful and heart-wrenching. Try to spend a little more time with your older sister – life takes her much sooner than it should and you’ll regret not getting to know her better.

Oh and stop dreaming up lots of lovely girls’ names for future daughters – there are only boys to come!

See you in the future.

Love your older self! xox

rachael-photoartofsecretsfinalcoverABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer the rest of the time. She rarely sleeps and never irons.  Jilted (her first rural romance) won Favourite Australian Contemporary Romance in 2012 and she was voted in the Top Ten of Booktopia’s Favourite Australian Author poll in 2013. The Patterson Girls won the 2016 Romance Writers of Australia RUBY Award and also the 2015 Australian Book Industry Award for General Fiction. She lives in the Perth Hills with her hyperactive husband, three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training, two fat cats, a cantankerous bird and a very badly behaved dog.

Rachael loves to hear from readers and can be contacted via her website – www.rachaeljohns.com You can find Rachael on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/RachaelJohnsRomance/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/RachaelJohns)

Latest book – THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS – Grab your copy now!

[bctt tweet=” What advice does author @rachaeljohns give her 17 y.o self? #LetterToMyself https://www.jennjmcleod.com/blog/a-letter-to-myself-author-list” username=”jennjmcleod”]

 

 To see the list of authors taking part in this letter-writing blog series: CLICK

Wanting to honour the lost art of letter writing through this blog series, I also opened my fourth novel with a character writing a letter. And not just any letter. It’s a story — perhaps the most important he’ll ever tell.

The Other Side of the SeasonReady for a sea change

Life is simple on top of the mountain for David, Matthew and Tilly until the winter of 1979 when tragedy strikes, starting a chain reaction that will ruin lives for years to come. Those who can, escape the Greenhill banana plantation on the outskirts of Coffs Harbour. One stays—trapped for the next thirty years on the mountain and haunted by memories and lost dreams. That is until the arrival of a curious young woman, named Sidney, whose love of family shows everyone the truth can heal, what’s wrong can be righted, the lost can be found, and . . . there’s another side to every story.

BUY now from Amazon, KoboiTunes, or

Booktopia

 

A Birthday Bog! Err, I mean BLOG!

Yes, today was my birthday and The J was in top form this year, promising me I would do things I’ve never done before, so…

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My property sit near Yeppoon (QLD).

I woke to this… Our first property sitting job in a beaut little spot near Yeppoon, Qld.

 

 

 

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Clancy, Wilbur, Paddy and Lacey said g’d-neigh Jenn! Happy birthday.

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Birthday cuddles from this cutie – Coco is a sweetie.

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Then we were off! First stop – the dump point (where we…. you know?)

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And a pub lunch in Yeppoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped by Big W and left pressies with my books for five lucky shoppers!

I stopped by Big W and left pressies with my books for five lucky shoppers!

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She went all out when it came to a birthday card.

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And birthday bonus… Vinnies was having a sale!!

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I didn’t really have to cook my own dinner. This was purely about me wanting to be in every photo today. Now… I’m told to expect one more treat tonight. If it happens I’ll add it to Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/JennJMcLeod.books/

 

Jenn’s #WriteRoundOz Book Tour – NSW

The long way to Mudgee Readers Festival – a big literary event in a small town.

Mudgee 2016 opening drinks

Opening night: with organiser Portia Lindsay

And what fun! From opening night drinks and mingling with *warning: name-dropping ahead*: Kate Forsyth, Charlotte Wood, Jane Caro, David Dyer, and more) books and bookish types took over the pretty streets of Mudgee, where every second shop is a cafe and every second person a book (or wine) lover.

Officially, I was there as a presenter and I talked ‘Books With Heart’ with Amy Andrews, Alissa Callen and Charlotte Nash (about how the heart finds its way into all sorts of books: fiction, memoir, medical, sporting stories, even . . . cook books!! A robust cab sav is required in such instances! That’s ‘offal’ I know! ) We stuck mostly to fictional hearts: hearts that flutter, bang, burst, pound, race, tear, rip, break, swell, jump, thump, beat, bleed and skip and love, hate, ache, sigh, melt, palpitate, sink, shatter, somersault, radiate, glow, embrace, adore and feel. We discussed how hearts talk to us and betray us; become our weakness and our strength; and make us spontaneous and (according to the character in my next book) sometimes makes us wait.

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Laughing about serial killers in the outback!

Then, for something a little different, I had a few laughs with Candice Fox about outback serial killers and psychopaths. In fact I asked Candice for her thoughts on the most effective means of warding of potential psychopaths from my caravan door while free camping. I offered her a list of strategies:

  1. Leave out a pair of size 11 work boots and an empty box of bullets?
  2. Set up a chunky dog chain and a big, empty dog bowl—the words STILL HUNGRY visible on the bottom?
  3. Or a sign that tells the truth: “Beware – two angry, menopausal women on board?”

(Yes, she thought #3 might work, too.)

While the welcome was warm (the atmosphere too) the temps were a tad chilly. (Minus 2 over night.)

Despite it being winter, Mudgee was a great destination. But …

Of course my book tour of NSW started well before Mudgee. We took the long road, starting with the launch of book four – The Other Side of the Season – at my home base – The Coffs Coast and after that a whole lot of small towns.

Nambucca was niceCoffs Advocate_2 TOSOTS

May 19, 2016
Author talk: Nambucca Library
Lots of lovely local media.

Coffs Harbour was commemorative The Book Warehouse 2016

May 25, 2016
Library Event/Official Launch
Book number 4 of my Season Collection with more
 great PRINT MEDIA and a book signing at The Book Warehouse.

MOREE was magnificent

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

Catching up with Nicole Alexander and Greg Barron.

July 9, 2016
Library Event and a catch up with Nicole and Greg

DIGITAL MEDIA Moree Champion

and Local businesses got on board.

Big Sky Libraries online newsletter

Moree Plains Shire Council (online)

 Moree Champion (print and online)

COONABARABRAN was a little crazy

July 19, 2016
Only because I gatecrashed the local book club discussion! What fun!

TAMWORTH was terrific

Tamworth crowd

Tamworth crowd

July 23, 2016
Library Event – huge turnout. They made me feel like a star, even without a guitar!
RADIO CHAT ON 88.9 FM (Pulse)
TV News coverage – NBN: NSW Western District CLICK to Play
Articles: PRINT and DIGITAL MEDIA: Northern Daily Leader article and Northern Daily Leader f/u story

DUBBO was adorable (I’m talking meerkats at the zoo!)

August 6, 2016
Book Store/Book Signing: The Book Connection: SOLD OUT of stock!Dubbo phot news 2

PRINT MEDIA (two pages): Dubbo PhotoNews Magazine Dubbo photo news 1

Advertorial mention by The Book Connection

August 7, 2016
Special Author Event: Jenn J McLeod – In conversation @ Red Earth Vineyard (yes, there was wine). (Dubbo retweets)

Meerkat on log

Meerkat with no idea I was a famous author

Dubbo Tweets

Dubbo Tweets

MUDGEE READERS FESTIVAL was amazingMudgee mention

August 13 and 14, 2016
PRINT/DIGITAL MEDIA: : Guardian Festival features Jane Caro and Jenn J McLeod
And pre-event PRINT MEDIA: Discover Magazine
Massive social media coverage by MRF

NEWCASTLE was noteworthy
(I mean, seriously, look at the size of the poster!)

THAT's not a poster...

Now THAT’s a poster…

August 20, 2016
Book signing: Big W, Charlestown (biggest shopping centre EVA!)

 

Back to NAMBUCCA

Elizabeth's Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

Elizabeth’s Turning Pages on 2NVR Radio

August 25, 2016
RADIO interview: 2NVR Radio – Elizabeth’s Turning Pages.

So, there you have it.

 

 

 

And home in time to remember Mum on her birthday and share Father’s Day with Dad.

Oh, and by the way… If you are into stats, we did around 3,200 kms and fed the beast about $650.00 in diesel. While it was a great experience and fun, I do hope my tour helped to get my name out there and I found some more lovely readers. Word of mouth is the best compliment. (Have you told someone today about the last great book you read?)