Signing off for now

Hello there! Long time no speak! As you may have noticed, I’ve had trouble making time for my humble blog lately. It’s always in the back of my mind, but I have such limited time for me these days that blogging never makes the top of the priority list. If I tried to blog regularly, it would be at the detriment of my current writing project, which isn’t getting much attention as it is.

So, after much contemplation, I’ve decided to put Cally Jackson Writes on ice for a while. I have decades ahead (I hope!) that I can spend blogging, but I will only be the mum of a little one for a short while, so I’m going to make the most of this time by unplugging. Don’t worry – I don’t plan to disappear from the online world completely. I’ll still read my favourite blogs (I read them regularly, but I don’t always comment), and I’ll update you on my work-in-progress via my Facebook and Twitter profiles.

I absolutely love the writer-blogging community and look forward to contributing to it more in the future. But for now, I’m going to focus on being Mackenzie’s Mum. :-)

For those who are interested, here are some shots from our recent family photo shoot!

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Cancelling the next Writers’ Campaign (+IWSG)

I'm a platform-building campaigner badgeUnfortunately, I’ve decided to cancel the upcoming Writers’ Platform Building Campaign. As you may have noticed from my previous posts, I was super excited about hosting the Campaign, but I’ve had a bit of a crash back to reality this week. After several weeks of waking only once a night, my baby, Mackenzie, has decided to return to waking three to four times a night. She’s also entered a stage of separation anxiety, meaning she often cries if I walk even a metre away from her.

As a result, I’ve realised that as much as I WANT to, I just don’t have the time to run a Campaign at the moment. I need to be investing my time in my baby, not on my laptop. It’s a simple case of my enthusiasm getting the better of me. I’ve got heaps of time to think but not much time to actually DO, which means I’m constantly coming up with exciting ideas but don’t have time to follow through with them.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

Apologies to everyone who was looking forward to the Campaign. :-( I hope you understand why I’ve made this decision.

I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to connect the dots on how this fits with the Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). I’ve used this as my post for IWSG because I wouldn’t mind some virtual hugs from my fellow writers – I still really wish I COULD run the Campaign, I’m just trying to make a grown-up decision and put my family first.

One thing I must say – the more I planned for the Campaign, the more I realised how much goes on behind the scenes and my already-mammoth appreciation for Rach Harrie continued to grow. Rach, you rock!

Your turn

I have a question for other writers/bloggers with children – how do you balance your writing/blogging with parenthood? Was there an age where you found you got more “you” time back? Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving being a mum and I’m more than happy to be spending my time singing Old Macdonald to my little girl; I’m just interested in hearing about others’ experiences.

 P.S. 

Here are some recent photos of the cherub who’s keeping me from Campaigning. :)

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Personal, Writers Campaign, Writing

Cover reveal: The Faerie War by Rachel Morgan

 

The fate of the faerie world is in her hands…

 

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How amazing is that cover? I think the orange works perfectly. Although it’s pretty, like the other covers, there’s something intense about it too, which works well given it’s about a war. (Props to Morgan Media for another awesome cover design.)

I cannot WAIT to read this book. I loved the first two in the Creepy Hollow series (as you can tell by my reviews). Lucky for me, the release date for The Faerie Prince is only a couple of months away (October), so I’ll get my hot little hands on it soon enough! :)

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Filed under Writing, YA fiction

More info about the fifth Writers’ Platform Building Campaign

Firstly, welcome to my new digs (i.e. my self-hosted blog). I’m pretty sure everything is working as it should be, but to make sure I’d really appreciate if you could please fill in the tiny little form below. It only has two questions – your name, and how you first saw this post (e.g. email, Bloglovin, Feedly etc). I want to check all my feeds are still working! :-)

I'm a platform-building campaigner badge

Now, onto the topic at hand. I’m getting super excited about hosting the next Writers’ Platform Building Campaign in September. I have a feeling it’s going to be epic.

For those who’ve been Campaigners before (and also for new Campaigners), I thought you might like to know how Rach and I are planning to structure things this time around. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please feel free to let me know in the comments. If you missed my announcement post about hosting the next Campaign, it would be a good idea to pop over and read that one before reading the rest of this one.

Groups

One of the biggest aspects of the Campaigns is the groups. As regular Campaigners know, after you’ve signed up to the Campaign overall, you then head over to the groups section and pop your name down in one or more groups. The idea is that you become bloggy buddies with the people in your group/s by visiting their blogs and commenting regularly throughout the Campaign (and forevermore, if you find bloggers you like!).

Past Campaigns have had both large groups and small groups, and we’ve done a bit of brainstorming about what we think works best. This year, groups will have a maximum of ten Campaigners. Hopefully, this will allow group members to really get to know each other as it will be manageable to support all of your group members throughout the Campaign. Campaigners who have time to support more than ten people will be welcome to join more than one group.

One of the biggest ways we support our fellow group members is by subscribing to or following their blogs, so make sure it’s easy for people to follow/subscribe to your blog by having all of your options easy to find in your sidebar (for example, follow by email, RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Google Friend Connect if you’re on Blogger etc).

As per tradition, there’ll be groups based on genre/category (such as fantasy, young adult, new adult, romance), but there’ll also be ‘mixed bag’ groups for Campaigners who want to connect with others outside traditional boundaries. Groups for newbie bloggers have been really well received in the past (I know, because I was in one once!) so we can’t go past having those again as well.

Campaigner Directory

A new addition to the Campaign will be a Campaign Directory, which will list each Campaigner, their blog address, writing genre/s and/or category, Twitter handle, location (country and state/province – completely optional), names of any published books, and where they’re at with writing (e.g. just starting out through to several published books). That way, if Campaigners are interested in connecting with others at a similar stage (or in the same location), they can!

Prizes

As I said in my previous Campaign post, there will be two awesome Campaigner Challenges and, hopefully, oodles of prizes. We’ll be streamlining the prizes this time to make it easier administratively and also to make sure winners get prizes they want/need.

What do I mean by that? Well, before we were writers, we were readers, so I’m assuming we all like books. Thus, all of the prizes for this campaign will be books – e-books, hard copy books and vouchers for books. This means no manuscript critiques etc. Don’t get me wrong, critiques are extremely valuable, but you have to be at a particular stage of writing to make use of them, which may not be the case for our Campaign Challenge Winners. But we can all never have too many books to read!

Your turn 

What do you think of keeping groups to ten Campaigners only? Are there any other groupings you’d like to see? What are your thoughts on having a Campaign Directory? Do you think it will be useful? Is there any other info you’d like to see included in it? And what about the prizes – would a big pile of free books be your ultimate reward? Rach and I would really love to hear your thoughts so please don’t be shy in commenting!

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Filed under Writers, Writers Campaign, Writing

FYI: I’m changing web hosts

My dear little blog is growing up and I’ve decided to move it from wordpress.com to being self-hosted. This will give me access to some extra features that I feel are necessary to take Cally Jackson Writes where I want it to go (to the moon!).

If everything goes according to plan, the transfer should be seamless and my wonderful subscribers won’t notice a difference. But if things go skewiff, I’ll be in touch to let you know how you can re-subscribe. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen! I just thought it wise to mention it in advance in case something goes wrong. Thanks for all of your support, and see you on the other side! :-)

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Breaking news about the next Writers’ Platform Building Campaign!

I'm a platform-building campaigner badge

Did that headline get your attention? I bet it did! You may have seen that the wonderful Rachael Harrie (Rach Writes) recently posted the following:

Guess what…I may have some exciting news (of the Campaign variety) to announce shortly, so stay tuned!!!

Well, I’m thrilled to join Rach in sharing that news with you…

The next Writers’ Platform Building Campaign will be taking place this September, and it will be held here on Cally Jackson Writes.

Excuse me for a moment while I:

SQUEEEEEE!!!!!!

How did I come to be hosting the next Campaign? Well, Rach has been taking a much-needed break from blogging for the last few months. I dropped her a line recently and told her how much I missed the Campaigns and offered to host one on her behalf. She agreed. Simples.

Rach will still be involved every step of the way. I’ll just be coordinating all of the work that will (hopefully!) make the Campaign a smashing success for all involved.

What’s a Campaign?

For those who aren’t familiar with the Campaigns, here’s a bit of background info.

The Writers’ Platform Building Campaigns are a way to link writers, aspiring authors, beginner bloggers, and published authors together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms. Almost 500 Campaigners took part in one of Rach’s last Campaigns so that gives you an idea of how popular they are!

Campaigners are people who genuinely want to meet others, pay it forward, and make connections with other bloggers. This therefore gives you a pool of bloggers (some starting out, some established) who you know are in the same position. You can make friends, find critique partners, get support in your writing etc etc – basically, it’s up to you.

For those bloggers who are just starting out (and even those who’ve been blogging for a while), a Campaign gives you a head start in finding other like-minded bloggers to connect with. And as an added bonus, Campaigns are also a lot of fun. If you’re interested, you can read more about the Campaigns Rach has held previously.

What will be involved in this Campaign?

This Campaign will be similar to Rach’s previous ones (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!).  Campaigners will join groups based on writing genres (and a few other things), and there will be two Campaigner Challenges for everyone to take part in. Here are some key dates for you to make note of:
  • 1 September: registration opens and the campaign begins!
  • 7 September: registration closes and no more entries accepted (so don’t be late! ;-))
  • 9-13 September: first Campaigner Challenge
  •  23-27 September: second Campaigner Challenge
  • 30 September: Campaign ends

I’ll also run a Campaigner Noticeboard every Friday, where Campaigners can announce book launches, blogfests and anything else they’d like to share with other Campaigners.

I’ll provide more information about the Campaign over the next few weeks and will be canvassing for volunteers to help out, but in the mean time, get excited and spread the word. The Campaigns are back, baby!

Are you as excited as I am? 

Let me know in the comments if you think you’ll take part in the Campaign. Any early offers of help will also be greatly appreciated!

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Filed under Writers, Writers Campaign, Writing

J Matthew McKern in the HOT SEAT

Yes, that’s right, folks. It’s time for another scorching  HOT SEAT interview. Today’s victim willing participant is J Matthew McKern, otherwise known as Matt. Matt is very special to me. He designed the cover for my first novel, The Big Smoke, capturing the essence of the story in a way I could have only dreamed. So I figured, what better way to pay him back than by burning his toosh! :D

Let’s get started… 

J Matt McKern

Gday, Matt!

What genre(s) do you write, Matt?

Young adult & middle grade. 

Tell us about your current WIP, I Didn’t Go Looking for Trouble, in 25 words or fewer! 

A road trip adventure starring a sixteen-year-old picker and a six-inch-tall sprite trying to save the family home from being repossessed by the bank.

[CJ: Haha, sounds like fun! However, compound adjectives such as 'sixteen-year-old' are not one word, which means you've used 28 words. Guess I'll let you off this time... ;)]

Well, I could have said that it’s about Willy Storey, a girl with an independent spirit. All her life, all she’s known is antiques. Every summer since her mother died, Willy has traveled the midwest with her father buying antiques to resell at the family store. When the bank comes after their family home after Willy’s father is disabled in an accident, Willy takes matters into her own hands. She goes out on the road in her dad’s beat up old pickup truck to try to save the family business. But it’s going to take more than luck to succeed, it’s going to take a little bit of magic. Visiting small town midwest, Willy discovers something else that catches her by surprise, a devoted friend who might be able to lead her to treasure rumored to be hidden in a picture frame somewhere in Iowa.

[CJ: Yes, that would have been way more than 25 words!]

Most of us write part time. How do you spend your time when you’re not writing?

In my day job, I’m an Art Director, creating publications for the healthcare market. 16+ years now!

[CJ: So you've been in  your current job for the same length of time your main character has been alive. Don't worry, that doesn't make you old or anything... :P]

Tell us a little about your writing process.

I begin with a scenario and strong characters. I definitely plot things out well in advance, but I find myself deviating from the path on a regular basis. One way or another, it’s all about the journey. 

[CJ: Sounds a bit like my process, actually!]

Coming from a fine-arts background, I believe I possess a very visual sensibility. I’m sure this will lead me into world-building projects in the not-too-distant future. But it’s the characters that engage me. Taking them apart and putting them back together again is what keeps me up late and wakes me early in the morning. It is my hope that the resulting combination results in stories that are impossible to put down. 

Who or what are your biggest writing inspirations?

My golfing and fishing partner, Patrick Carman, is right up there. It’s definitely a plus to know someone who’s lighting the way. Going way back, Steven King was key to showing how to flesh out a world. For quirky characters, I’d say John Irving’s work was an inspiration. In the world of middle-grade fiction, Ingrid Law has been a recent favorite.   

[CJ: You lost me at golf. ;)]

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?

Finding time to do it all without short-changing my family. I love to write on vacations, which has both upsides and downsides.

[CJ: Ah, yes. I know the feeling of not wanting to short-change the family. Especially now I have a bambino!]

Time for the HOT SEAT questions!

Hot Seat

*Insert scary music here*

If you were given a glimpse of the future and knew nobody would ever read your writing, would you continue to write?

I would. I’m definitely one of those people for whom creative endeavors are a way of life. 

Finish this sentence from Willy Storey’s perspective:

Willy: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the death of my mother, though I suppose in some ways I’ve always tried to pick up where she left off, trying to keep things from falling apart.

[CJ: Aww. Very sad...]

Now finish the same sentence from your own perspective.

Matt: Something from my past that I’ve had trouble getting over is… the fact that my college professors failed to even attempt to illustrate the synergy between creativity and business.

[CJ: Okay... I'm intrigued. Why does that still bother you?]

Well, most of the blame should fall squarely upon my shoulders, but if I could go back and do it all again, I’d double-major. At the time, I felt what I’d describe as a cultural difference that I wouldn’t even imagine trying to bridge. If you’re talented and creative, don’t assume that someone will be there to provide a path to financial viability. You should learn at least a little about how to manage your own career. [Stepping down from soap box]

[CJ: Haha. Soap boxes are always welcome. Just make sure it doesn't get too close to the HOT SEAT or it might catch fire! ;) ]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’d like to hear more from Matt, check out his website or like him on Facebook

I Didn't Go Looking For Trouble cover

Available now!

If you’d like a turn in the HOT SEAT, let me know in the comments and I’ll schedule you in for a buttocks burning. :D

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IWSG: I’m a tortoise, not a hare

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

“Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!” Alex J Cavanaugh

It’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) post. Actually, in all honesty, I’m a little behind time. The official IWSG post date was yesterday, but I figure better late than never, right? And funnily enough, that’s quite a good intro to this post.

There are so many writer-bloggers that have me in absolute awe. People like IWSG Creator and Ninja Master, Alex, who comments on a bazillion posts a day and is just about to publish his third book. People like RaShelle Workman, who has independently published countless novels over the past few years and sold 300,000 copies in the past 12 months alone. People who participate in NaNoWriMo (where you write an entire 50,000 word novel in the month of November).

I’m not one of those people, not even close. The thought of NaNoWriMo is enough to send me into a corner of the room, rocking and muttering incoherently. My first book took me 11 years from first thought to finished product. When it comes to writing, I’m a tortoise, not a hare.

Sometimes I’ve wished I worked faster. I’ve wished I could be one of those people who churn out words at a feverish pace. But that’s simply not me. I have occasionally tried to make myself work faster, but it’s always ended up stressing me out and actually slowing my progress.

Now that I have a daughter, I have even less time to write so who knows how long my next book will take to complete. But you know what? That’s fine. Because I love writing and I’ve decided I’m okay with being slow. It’s like the literary equivalent of this:

Lapping on the couch

I may not be writing fast, but I’m still writing. Some people may write 50 books in their lifetime, I may only write five. And that’s totally okay with me. :-)

How about you?

When it comes to writing, are you a tortoise or a hare?

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Filed under Insecure Writers Support Group, Writing

Rest in peace, Peter (Rabbit) Lehmann

It’s a sad time for our family right now. My grandfather, Peter Lehmann, passed away yesterday (28 June 2013) at 82 years of age. Known as the ‘Baron of the Barossa’, Peter lived an extraordinary life. He entered the wine industry when he was 17, and over the next 30 years, became one of Australia’s leading winemakers and most loved personalities. There are plenty of articles online about that side of Peter at the moment, such as: The Australian article and Herald Sun article.

But I wanted to reflect on who Peter was to me – never ‘Granddad’ as he wasn’t a fan of that title; to me, he was always Peter Rabbit. We lived in different states, so most of my memories of him are from the many Christmases my family spent in the Barossa, full of amazing food and (as I got older) wine. I remember playing countless card games with him when I was young and I’m glad he never let me win – I had to earn success.

As I grew up, our relationship matured into mutual love and respect, and both he and his wife, Margaret, have a very special place in my heart. I’m sad that he didn’t get to meet his first great grandchild in person, but happy that technology let him ‘meet’ her on screen.
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Both he and Margaret read The Big Smoke (my first book) and said it was ‘a damn good read’.  It felt wonderful to get such great feedback from two people I admire and respect so much.
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Tonight, to honour Peter, my husband, Mark, and I decided to open a bottle of Peter Lehmann wine that’s been maturing on the shelf for years – a 2002 Mentor. It’s been a long time since we’ve had to use a cork screw. Mark had a bit of trouble with the cork, and when he finally got it out, red wine sprayed all over him and the kitchen.
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“Looks like Peter had the last laugh,” I said. And I could honestly imagine him looking down on us at that moment, having a good chuckle. He always had a great sense of humour.
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Here’s to you, Peter Rabbit.  You’ll be dearly missed.

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Book review – 11.22.63 by Stephen King

Blurb

11.22.63 by Stephen KingOn November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas. President Kennedy died, and the world changed.

If you had the chance to change history, would you? Would the consequences be worth it?

Jake Epping is an English teacher from Lisbon Falls who discovers an extraordinary secret: the storeroom in the local diner is a portal to 1958. Leaving behind a world of iPods and mobile phones for a world of Elvis, big American cars and Lindy Hopping, Jake sets out on an insane – and insanely possible – mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

It is a haunting world of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life – a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

My thoughts 

This is the first Stephen King book I’ve read in more than a decade, and I picked it up because it has some similar themes to my current novel-in-progress. I’m not a huge fan of horror, so haven’t enjoyed the books of King’s I’ve read previously (It and Kujo), but while 11.22.63 contains some horrific scenes, I definitely wouldn’t call it a horror. It’s more alternate history/time travel/dramatic fiction.

I found some of the passages about Lee Oswald a little boring, but that may be because I’m Australian and not really interested in the true historical aspect of the novel, more the concept of changing a major historical event and the impact that would have on the present. I was disappointed that the book didn’t spend more time on the consequences of changing the past.  I’d expected a reasonable amount of time to be spent back in 2011, showing us how JFK’s continued presidency changed the world (especially considering the blurb played up this angle), but of a 735 page book, only 35 pages covered the consequences of Jake’s changes.

However, I really enjoyed Jake’s narration and found him to be a very relatable character, despite the unique circumstances he found himself in. I was totally engaged by his and Sadie’s love story, and the scenes of Jake as a teacher (particularly the effect he had on his students) stood out as highlights for me. I thought Sadie was brilliantly crafted. Out of all the characters in the novel, she was the most three dimensional, and I really rooted for her and Jake to have a Happy Ever After (what can I say, I’m a romantic at heart).

Although I didn’t quite get what I was looking for with this read, I still thoroughly enjoyed it overall.

My rating: four stars

How about you?

Have you read 11.22.63? If not, do you plan to? What’s your favourite time travel book?

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Filed under Book review