Saturday, 29 September 2012

Being You

“What I am is how I came out. No one’s perfect and you just have to accept your flaws and learn to love yourself.”—Kelly Brooke (

Every day, we’re bombarded by exclamations of, “Just be yourself,“ and “If you don’t love yourself, no one else will,” and blah blah. So why the flood of life-changing gurus and products that promise to transform us into the opposite of what we’ve been all along? Do we even need motivational sayings of the day if we’re supposed to be contented with how God put us on this Earth?

“I hate a movie that will end by telling you that the first thing you should do is learn to love yourself. That is so insulting and condescending, and so meaningless. My characters don't learn to love each other or themselves.”—Charlie Kaufmann

Self-improvement is one thing—it makes you reach your full potential—but a complete pimp up/overhaul…how’s that going to work? We are who we are and as long as we don’t hurt anyone (delve into all of the 10 commandments and that’s all it boils down to) why can’t we just go on living life as it is?

Anjeli Xavier, the main character in The Scarlet Omen has also always felt out of place. She struggles to find herself and the reason she has been put here. Finding out what Fate has in store for her proves to be an excellent ego-booster, but self-doubt constantly plagues her every step. Doesn’t this happen to all of us?

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”—Sylvia Plath

“Almost all the ideas we have about being a man or being a woman are so burdened with pain, anxiety, fear and self-doubt. For many of us, the confusion around this question is excruciating.”—Andrew Cohen (

If we really know who are, without the world constantly nagging us about who we should be, there would be no place for doubt. By being the best that we can be, we find out the good and the bad, finally able to embrace the wonderful and reign in the evil. Mentally sane and healthy people have a conscience—they just need to listen to it.

As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and confusion of so many different writing styles and trying not to plagiarize personality. It’s important to pick up writing tips but to stay loyal to your own style. I’ve gone soaring over a few road bumps of my own on this storytelling journey and I come out every day thinking, “Don’t lose yourself in all this crap, girl!”

“To a certain extent, your writing style-- the manner in which you express yourself -- evolves naturally over time, a combination of your personality, your reading choices, and to a certain extent, the decisions you make consciously while writing.”

“… I feel this invisible pull to conform, as though to be a “better writer” means to be more like the writers that we read in class.  I throw in more description, imagery and more in-depth character development into my writings.  At first, it made me feel safer, but I’ve realised that it’s just made me the same as everyone else, except not as good. So from now on, no more trying so hard to be someone else.  I’m going to try and find and employ my own style, do what makes me feel good as a writer, and write in a way that I find interesting.”—Pace J. Miller (

There you have it! Stay true to yourselves! This is why living your life to the fullest is so important in teenage years as well as later on. You get to experiment as a kid, learn and grow, stumbling upon what works for you or not. If you don’t, you end up a confused adult sitting in the middle of you designer living room (which some overpriced dude with funny hair told you how to decorate) suffocated by self-help books and soggy tissues!
So just go have adventures, love yourself and party till you drop!! Just please don’t hurt yourselves and anyone else or your parents WILL come looking for me.

Friday, 21 September 2012

To Give Up or not to Give Up

“Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.”—Anonymous
“We climb to heaven most often on the ruins of our cherished plans, finding our failures were successes.”—Amos Bronson Alcott

Over the past few years, I’ve realised that failure and success are intertwined. There were many mistakes I made which evidently turned into opportunities for further growth as a person as well as a writer (I’m not saying writers aren’t people, so calm yourself!). I wonder if I would be where I am today had I not paid attention to my failures (and there were many) and used them as ways to come out on top. Every day, I see people who have accepted defeat and moved on to some other project without even trying that one last time which could have made all the difference in the world. However, just because I have never taken No for an answer, does this mean that it’s right? Could I have avoided a whole lot of disappointment and pain had I just tucked my tail between my legs and scurried off to some other adventure?

Sometimes I wish that a little book had accompanied me on my way to this world which tells me everything I need to know about what’s going to work for me and not. (Some of you may say, “Yeah, it’s called the BIBLE or *please feel free to insert any other relevant religious, motivational or otherwise plain telling-people-how-to-live-their-lives publication here*!”, but you know what I mean.) So, my question is basically, when do we know when to stop fighting and just except our lot in life?

“Despair is not the enemy of hope. Frustration and anxiety may not be your friends, but they are repeatedly wrestled on your way to hope.”—Adam McLane (

Failure can occur anywhere, be it in our love lives, carrier, at school or anywhere else where a bunch of people have the chance at frowning upon us. If we could just live on our own and forget about the other tsk-ing human beings around us, I don’t think there’d be much point to failure and success. (If there’s no one around to applaud that perfect piano recital, is it considered a success?) However, we’re stuck with our kind and have to make the best of it so learning to deal with failure sort of comes with the territory (but the look on your parents’ faces when you bring home that trophy will always overshadow the bad times…believe you me.)

“New research from the University of Kent has revealed that positive reframing, acceptance and humor are the most effective coping strategies for people dealing with failures. In a paper published by the international journal Anxiety, Stress & Coping, Dr. Joachim Stoeber and Dr. Dirk Janssen from the University's School of Psychology describe a diary study that found these three strategies to be most effective in dealing with small failures and setbacks, and helping people to keep up their spirits and feel satisfied at the end of the day.”—Ray B. Williams (

As I am an extremely optimistic person (sometimes bordering on simply-dreaming-fool), I tend to believe that if you love something enough, there will never be a time to give up on it. EVER. I would rather fight with my man till my dentures fall out, submit that hundred year old manuscript to robot publishers and learn to ride that dang motorbike to my grave than giving up and wondering after I’m gone, “What if…”.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”—Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Five Senses

“We live on the leash of our senses.”—Diane Ackerman (
“Common sense is that which judges the things given to it by the other senses.”—Leonardo da Vinci (

The sight of the sun winking at you from between rain clouds. The sound of birdsong after a long winter. The feel of sand between your toes on your first trip to the beach. Your first taste of rebellion. The smell of your partner.

Our senses influences how we experience the world, how we learn, love or regret. I personally tend to ignore them sometimes, choosing to delve into the challenges of everyday life while literally forgetting to stop and smell the roses. It’s gotten better now (I practically had to kick myself into watching the world around me) and day dreaming somewhere in nature has become one of my favourite down times.

If we take away one sense completely, do the others make any sense? An apple is red, yeah so? That doesn’t mean anything if I don’t know that the redder it is the better it tastes or smells or that it gets squishy after a while. If the weather man forecasts blue skies tomorrow, will it have an impact on me if I can’t feel the sun on my skin or hear the kids playing outside or taste the picnic spread?

I know people who claim to have the sixth sense and frankly it scares the pants off of me while at the same time intriguing me beyond what normal people consider healthy. My protagonist Anjeli in The Scarlet Omen is plagued by visions and spirits and everything else hair-raising. She struggles with it, wanting to be a normal teenager but knowing that that’s not going to happen anytime soon. It’s fun to read about characters with special powers and how they deal with it but I sometimes wonder if we need senses like that in real life. The people I know who “see” things personally don’t see the point to the gift either. Luckily, God knows that I’d freak out and live at the top of a coconut tree if I had the gift so He has spared me.

So what are the implications for authors? We all know that readers don’t like being told but shown (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve sent flying at the wall which tried to convince me of the millionth shade of brown rock!). Stories need to sound magical or readers might as well pull out their encyclopedias and get to it. It’s hard work, but I’ve read a few books that have mastered it and I must say...the enchantment that unfolds is so worth the trouble.

“It is the writer’s job to show us what his characters are like, not by what he says about them, or what they say about one another, but by their actions...telling...makes a text read more like a synopsis than a work of art.”—Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages

My first novel, The Scarlet Omen plays mainly in a parallel world called The Valley of the Hornbills. As you can imagine, nature practically smothers my readers from left, right and centre. Can you imagine reading or writing a book like that without making use of your five senses? I’d have died of boredom in the middle of writing it! *Cause of death: lack of sensory stimulation and a whole lot of bull.

So let’s take the time and actually put some thought into how we perceive the world. It might get a little overwhelming at times, but it’s a whole lot better than inhaling a Snickers bar without even knowing there’re peanuts in it. As for The Scarlet Omen and my medley of the senses, I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. All you need is a good sense of humour, a not so sound mind and a taste for magic. Cheers!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Watcha Doin' with Jo Ramsey

(Cover courtesy of Jo Ramsey)

Author Bio:
Jo Ramsey is a writer of young adult fiction and urban fantasy. Her novels include The Dark Lines series, the Reality Shift series, Life Skills, Dolphins in the Mud and Vengeance is Sweet. Jo has been writing since age five, and although she’s now considerably older, she still thinks like a teenager. Jo’s books can be found at Jupiter Gardens Press (, Featherweight Press (, and soon from MuseItUp Publishing (

So, what would you say inspired you to become an author?
I don’t think any one thing inspired me. I’ve always wanted to be an author. I learned to read before I started school, and even though I couldn’t write then (no one would teach me how), I made up stories and told them to my stuffed animals, and I knew I wanted those stories to be in books like the ones I read someday.

Who would you name as your mentors?
I’ve had help from a number of authors, so I’d rather not name names because I’m sure I’d forget someone! I don’t have anyone I’d necessarily consider a mentor, but I’ve learned a lot from a large number of people.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
There are supposed to be times I’m not writing?

What books have made a lasting impression on you?
Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising is the book that started me on writing urban fantasy. Madeleine L’Engle’s books and Diana Wynne Jones’s also fueled my interest in the genre.

What do you think were the three best inventions ever and why?
Computer word processing programs, definitely. They make it so much easier to write and revise. Online music playlists because you can choose what you listen to while you write. And cable TV, because it keeps my kids occupied while I’m trying to write.

Do you believe in Prince Charming? What role do you think this fictional character plays in modern literature? Should he play a role at all?
I think I married Prince Charming. If one considers Prince Charming to be a man who knows how to respect a woman, to take care of her but not smother her, and to be the woman’s soul mate (if you believe in that concept), then yes, he definitely has a role in modern literature. Any book in which a woman or girl finds a guy like that is a book with a Prince Charming, in my opinion. And yes, that does describe my husband. He and I are so compatible that within hours of our first meeting, we were not only finishing each other’s sentences—we were saying what the other was thinking!

Aww, how perfect! Congrats on finding him!:) On to the next question before I cry…My novel The Scarlet Omen is basically about fate and destiny. What is your opinion on destiny and its function in storytelling?
I think that destiny is changeable. I might be destined to be an author, but I could choose not to write. I also believe that to an extent, we’re able to create the lives we want to live; we aren’t slaves to fate or destiny because we can make choices that will affect our lives. Destiny plays a big role in stories, especially in fantasy, but even there I think there’s room for choice. Harry Potter might have been destined to defeat Voldemort, but at any time he could have chosen not to fight Voldy; he could have run away; he could have decided not to ever go near Hogwarts again. Destiny might exist, but all humans—and humanlike beings—have free will.

As authors, we live on inspiration, hoping that it will bite us on the bottom sooner than later. What are your sources of inspiration? How do we know which ideas to cling onto and which to banish as soon as they cross our mental path?
I don’t have specific sources of inspiration. Ideas jump into my head (the phrase “plot bunny” is surprisingly apt in my case). I don’t banish any of them, but I can’t write all of them at once, so some get put on the back burner and fade away from there.

Some words of wisdom:
If you want to be a writer, do your research. Learn a LOT about the genre and age group you want to write. Find out which publishers are reputable and which ones are struggling. Don’t settle for the first publisher who offers you a contract; aim high and work down if you have to instead of aiming low to start with.

Thanks so much for letting us into your headJ It was a great ride! Hey readers, if you haven’t gotten enough of Jo Ramsey and her excellent prose, below is a list of sites to continue your lurking! Have fun…
My website:
Facebook group (come chat with me!):
Twitter: @JoRamseyYA