Sharon Black says hello…

February 20th, 2015

My guest blogger today is Sharon Black who has just released her novel, Going Against Type, a humorous, fun, romantic novel.

Going Against Type is set in the world of Dublin-based national newspapers. It’s about two rival newspaper columnists, who write under pen names. They fall in love, without realising that they are bitter enemies in print. They have good reason to keep their alter egos safe from each other. So their relationship develops, each of them blissfully unaware of whom the other is. Until they are forced to reveal themselves….

The idea for the rival columnists came after I remembered one of the fabulous old Hollywood films, that I adored when I was a teenager. (They were shown at odd hours on Irish TV – I’m not old enough to have seen them on the big screen!) In Woman of the Year, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey, she plays a high brow pundit, who rubbishes sport in one of her columns. Tracey is a sports columnist who leaps to attack her, and so they start to spar. In the film, however, they meet quite quickly and despite knowing who the other person is, they fall in love.

What I did in Going Against Type, was to turn the stereotypes on their head. It meant making my heroine the sports buff. At the beginning of the story, she is given a chance to write the new, anonymous sports column, Side Swipe. My hero, Derry, is a fashion writer and also writes the back page gossip column The Squire for the rival paper. They fall in love, but they don’t discover that they’ve fallen for their bitter rival until half way through the book. While that whole build up was really fun to do, I had to ensure that Charlotte and Derry’s columns were quite acerbic. That way, you could see a huge contrast between their views in the papers – their weekly banter – and how they were with each other. It also meant there was more at stake.

The hardest column to get right was Charlotte’s. Paradoxically, she turned out to be a wonderful character to write. Although I don’t know an awful lot about sport, I researched well. I read a lot of sports columnists, I checked all my facts, and then I tried to put myself into the head of a feisty, twenty-something woman, working in an area that’s largely dominated by men. Her columns took a lot of writing and re-writing. I wanted them to be sharp, funny and very controversial.

A lot of people are surprised when they see that my hero is a gossip columnist and fashion writer. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but mainly these are areas in journalism that tend to be dominated by women. I wanted to write a strong male character, who is completely comfortable in his own skin, not to mind his fabulous tailor made suits! He is manly, yet completely relaxed with having a female boss and working in a features department, surrounded by women. Actually, he likes that a lot!

Like all romantic comedies, once things start to go wrong, everything seems on course to keep this pair apart. But I promise a happy ending!

Sharon’s book is available at  tirpub.com/gatype

Sharon’s author page: Sharon Black Author Page

Sharon Black grew up in Dublin. She studied history and politics at University College Dublin and then did post-graduate in journalism at Dublin City University.

She has worked for national newspapers, including The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner.
She had short stories published in U Magazine and won the 2010 Dromineer Literary Festival short story competition.
When she is not writing, she reads, walks and sees friends. She co-founded a local book club 14 years ago. She loves theatre, old Hollywood films, science fiction and good stand-up comedy.
She lives in Sandymount, Dublin, with her husband and their three children.

Success

February 13th, 2015

How do you define success?

  • Having lots of money in the bank?
  • Being the go-to guru in your specialist field?
  • Retiring before legal retirement age?

For me, success is all about the effort and attitude I put into my project. Little effort means not much to show for the time spent on the project. I can’t regain time I spend. I can only move forward and choose to use my time to work toward my goal. If I put a ho-hum effort in to write my book each day, it’s going to take me a long time to finish the book. If I arrive at the keyboard bursting with energy with the intention of getting lots of words on the screen, I know I’ve already succeeded. My attitude has gotten me on my way to achieve my goal.

Aiming for success is applying yourself to today’s task – now, in this moment.

Some days showing up at the keyboard is difficult. It’s usually because I feel distracted by random thoughts about all kinds of subjects demanding my time and wanting to be written. This includes my characters knocking on the door to come inside with me, too. To help me achieve the success on these crazy mind days, I take 30 minutes to an hour of my time to write out my thoughts and then I meditate to still the mind so that the creative process can begin. This hour is time well spent because it makes me more productive. It’s better to spend an hour to clear the mind than to fight my way through the hundreds of things I’m trying to remember.

A computer works best with no bugs tripping the process and so our mind works best with fewer random thoughts.

Are you succeeding today? Have you shown up for success this week? I’d love to hear how easy or hard it was for you.

Distractions at Distractions Espresso

February 8th, 2015

It’s happened…a broken toe! Of all the times I’ve hit my toes on a bed leg, corner of the wall or chair leg, I have never broken a toe … until now. I really whacked it this time.

I can be a bit clumsy sometimes. Mainly because I don’t always watch where I’m going because I’m caught up in my creative world with all my characters chatting to each other. I can’t resist getting in on the action with them. They are usually acting out my story ahead of time and they are unaware of me having a life.  You don’t need to be writing a book to whack your toe against the chair leg though. I was clearing the breakfast table when it happened. I yelled and said a couple of words under my breath that will remain unpublished and I shed a few tears. Yes, tears!

It hurt a lot, but I was in denial. My son was staying with me at the time and we were anxious to go out for a coffee at Distractions Espresso in Southport. Great coffee, by the way. I thought it might distract me from my hurting toe. It did!

By the end of the week though it was really painful. My son had returned overseas so there were no more distractions for me. Being sad to be on my own again my thoughts returned to the niggling ache on my left foot. A friend said I really should go and see about it. I did and the result was a broken toe. It is now bound up next to my little toe with a supporting strip of  bandage tape. The doctor told me it’s the only way it can be treated. I’m glad because I though I was going to have to wear one of those moon boots.

This little event has taught me a few things:

1.  Slow down when I’m clearing the dishes, or better still, have someone do them for me.

2. Distractions, such as coffee at Distractions Espresso, are definitely good when one has an aching foot.

3.  Take the time to let the toe heal. That means sitting back with the foot up from time to time eating a bit of something sweet, like chocolate.

4.  Too much chocolate is bound to put on weight because I’m not walking my regular 6 ks. per day. When I can walk again, it’s going to be agony in a different way.

5.  Waiting three weeks for the pain to settle so that I can do the walk is really, really annoying. I can read great books though, like Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

6.  I promise my feet I will slow down around all things that are traps for authors who think they live in a world where chair legs don’t matter.

Ah, almost three weeks down … three to go.

Have you ever had a broken toe? I’d like to hear your story and any handy hints that you might have to keep me out of trouble while I’m resting.

 

Attitude

January 10th, 2015

Following on from the last post on passion, I’m coming from a different direction this post.

Work takes up about one-third of our life. That’s a lot of hours we are giving to someone else. If we like what we are doing, work becomes fun. If we don’t like what we are doing, it feels like someone has slowed the movie and we can’t move faster no matter how much the boss is on our back.

The question arises: what are you expecting from your job? Are you climbing the ladder of success or are you working to earn an income regardless of the enjoyment in your job.

If you choose to become passionate about your job, you will reap the benefits of catching your boss’ attention resulting in that much sought after pay rise or promotion. Being passionate about your job is linked to what motivates you. If you are motivated by a bigger pay packet or a step up the ladder then being passionate about what you do will reap the rewards you are looking for. Maybe you are motivated by just doing a great job, then your passion will no doubt be fired enough for you to continue in that job.

When the motivation to succeed isn’t there though, it’s hard to be passionate about a project. If you are watching the clock, working through the tasks with your mind focused on when the next break is can make for a long day that sometimes feels as though it will never end. It’s probably time to take a long hard look at why you are doing what you are doing. Why are you there? Being there for the money is a good reason because it pays the bills, but this isn’t always a good reason to stay in a job.

Step back and look at how your lack of motivation is affecting the other areas of your life. Do you feel as though your job is sucking the life out of you? Do you feel grey inside with no hint of colour on the horizon? It’s probably time for change and it’s a good idea to take time out and focus on all aspects of your life and ask some serious questions. Because if you lack motivation there is no way you are going to become passionate about your job unless you change your attitude.

To change your attitude, look for those tasks that excite you. By focussing on what you like in your job you might find a way to exploit that and turn it into a passion.

Take time today, to find a part of your  job that you can become passionate about to make your work life more enjoyable. Attitude can transform our life overnight and give us a head start on where we want to go in the future. It may just put more colour in your life, too.

Changing your attitude will change your future…

Passion

December 5th, 2014

Do you have a passion? A passion to write, to paint, to create something the world needs? Have you followed that passion?

My passion started in year one at school when I opened my first reader. Who were the people on the page and what was their life like? It sparked a curiosity in me that has been with me ever since. In year four I walked into the library and I found rows upon rows of books. Intimidated by seeing so many books, I stepped cautiously into that world of silence. My pulse raced as the different coloured spines drew my attention. The more spines I looked at the more overwhelmed I became. How I was ever going to read all those books? My teacher assured me I only had to read the ones I was interested in and it would be a good idea to read something outside my interest every now and again as I grew older, she said.

I took her wise words to heart and I lost myself in the world of words, characters and foreign lands. This passion for reading has led me to write and now writing is as much a need for me as breathing. The simple task of sitting at my keyboard and typing words or using a pen, which I often do, puts me into a different level far away from my everyday life. You could call it escape, but that’s what I want to do: help my readers escape from their everyday struggles and take them on an emotional journey where they will become good friends with my characters so that they live in their hearts for a very long time.

My next novel, Mr Bojangles is the sequel to African Hearts. I’ve been writing this story on and off while I wrote Dusty. Justin and Kizza floated into my mind every now and then reminding me their story wasn’t complete. I pushed them back saying I wasn’t ready, but they insisted it was time, so here I am enjoying being with them as they take the next step into the future out of their village, Gumboli to Bond University at the Gold Coast.

My process with this novel has been different. I’ve made notes whenever Justin and Kizza have entered my conscious and taken time to write a few scenes. This week I looked at these scenes in detail and discovered they don’t fit the story I want to tell. These young people aren’t just learning about medicine, they are learning about themselves and growing in ways they had never thought. They are young people with loving hearts and the desire to be loved by their peers. This need for acceptance challenges them in ways that have surprised me. Their presence is so strong now they have overtaken the story showing me their journey into the future instead of me writing the story.

My passion for writing this story is well and truly on fire and is all consuming so that I now can’t not write the book. Has your passion taken hold of you and consumed all of your waking time? Is it a passion or is it something you think you’d like to do because you’ve seen others doing it? A passion will grab you and it won’t let you go no matter how hard you try to push it away. A passion demands attention and you had better give in to it and follow it, otherwise you will be miserable. Are you feeling lost and irritable and unable to focus? I used to be like that when I was in the world of numbers. It has taken me a long time to take that numbers shirt off and put on the words shirt. It feels good in my words shirt. I’ve come home and I’ve settled in with Kizza and Justin and I have accepted they have as much to teach me as what they will learn on their journey.

So what’s your passion? Are you following it? What’s stopping you? Start making small changes toward your project and eventually you will find your passion shirt is just the right fit for you. I’d love to hear how well your shirt fits in the comments below.

 

Banished to Antarctica

November 21st, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted and prior to that my posts have been spasmodic. The reason for this is that I have been on an amazing journey into my writing self. I liken it to being banished to Antarctica. I allowed my writing critic, Drakar, to have control of my head and he did some serious damage to my writing confidence that resulted in me thinking every word I tapped out on the keyboard or scribbled on a page meant nothing. From time to time, every writer has doubts about their work and how it will be received by readers. My doubts overwhelmed me paralysing my writing so that for a long time I couldn’t think words at all.

Believing my writing days were over I went back to the accounting world. For the past almost eighteen months I’ve slogged through the numbers believing I had to hang up my letters and pursue that career and make it into something I would be satisfied with. What I learned was that it was safe and secure with a regular income coming in to pay the bills. What I wasn’t prepared for was the war raging within me. The letters and numbers beat against each other creating a potent cauldron of insecurity that left me beaten and confused, alienated and alone, and badly in need of some direction. I let the battle rage believing it would fight itself out and there would be an eventual winner and I would be stronger for the experience.

Anger at the indecision raging within was my constant companion and this affected my relationships to the point of me staying away from family as much as possible and shutting down many of my friendships and terminating friendships before they got started. I was hurting a lot of people and myself. I withdrew from all social contact except the little (my own choice) I received in the work environment and a neighbour who showered me with unconditional love. These shaky relationships is what brought me through the battle and helped me understand my number days are over and I have a clear winner - words!

I am grateful for Kim and my colleagues at Your Wealth Corporation.

This week has started with a new-found confidence in my writing seeing me polish off my manuscript, Dusty, (working title) that I’ve been working on for two years. It is different to my other books and so needs to go to a different publisher. I wait impatiently for the verdict and while I wait, I place my fingers on the keyboard and work on the long awaited Mr Bojangles (working title), sequel to African Hearts. This story has been in the pressure cooker since African Hearts was finished. It is well-cooked and ready to come out of the oven, so I anticipate it will be written with nimble fingers flying across the keyboard requiring stops only for refuelling and other bodily comforts until the story is out.

Drakar, meanwhile … heh, heh … I’m pleased to say has been sent on a holiday to the lovely Antarctica where he will be for the duration of this summer and hopefully lost in an unseasonal blizzard. As for the numbers, they continue to be, but not with me. They are left in the hands of young vibrant people who want to make a difference to the bottom line of businesses and help them achieve their goals while at the same time working toward their own dreams.

As Mr Bojangles unfolds, I’ll keep you posted…

 

It’s tax time…

July 15th, 2014

By the end of this week you should have received your payment summary from your work. It’s time to get some of that hard earned cash back from the tax man. It’s easy to prepare your tax online these days, but are you getting all the deductions you’re entitled to? Going to a tax agent will be helpful if going online isn’t a good fit for you. Here are some tips on what to take with you to make your visit with your agent that much easier:

  • If you’ve had more than one job this year, wait until you have all the payment summaries from all your employers. Yesterday was the deadline for businesses to have the annual summaries lodged with the tax office. If you haven’t received all your summaries, you might have to chase your employer.
  • Have you earned interest on savings and interest bearing deposit accounts. You will have to declare this. The tax office now has a matching data facility with all financial institutions. Be aware also that the tax office and Centrelink are good buddies and rely on each other for information. If you have a debt with Centrelink, they will get your refund before you.
  • Have you earned dividends from shares or other managed investments? Annual tax statements for the managed investments usually come out early August.
  • ABN: if you earned income under your ABN you will need to gross it up and gather all your expenses to write-off against this income. The more expenses you find the less tax you pay.
  • Rental property: If you receive income from a rental property, you must declare that rental income, however any expenses in relation to renting that property are deductible against the income. Your real estate agent can provide you with a yearly statement of rent received and expenses paid by them. Ask them for one.
  • DEDUCTIONS: these are expenses incurred directly with earning your income. They include the tools of your trade that you buy to do your job.
  • Uniforms and protective wear. Uniforms must be compulsory. A deduction of up to $150 for laundry can be claimed. You cannot claim for ordinary clothes and footwear, for example, if you are in an office job. The uniform must be work specific.
  • Motor vehicle expenses: Claiming motor vehicle expenses can be a bit tricky. Ideally, keeping a log book of all car travel is recommended. Some people don’t know that you can’t claim for car expenses incurred in getting to and from work. However, you can claim your motor vehicle expenses from one work place to another. Drive to work and back home: no claim; boss asks you to drive to another job location: yes, you can claim from the office/depot to the work/job site. Claiming for car expenses is a highly emotive claim and it should be understood what you can and can’t claim in this area.
  • Union fees: if you are a member of a union and pay fees, claim them.
  • Self-education expenses: this is an area that is also full of hot coals. The education expenses must be relevant to the job you are doing now, not the new career you are hoping to take on in the future.
  • Income protection insurance: This one is often overlooked. If you pay monthly premiums  to cover against the loss of your job, you are entitled to a claim.
  • Tax agent fee: This is claimable. Make sure you get your deduction.
  • Private health insurance: Most health insurance providers have the annual statements online for you to download. You will need this to complete your tax return.

There are many tax agents offering same day refunds. Usually, there are conditions attached to these refunds. Before seeking this option, you might like to consider the following:

  • Do you have a debt with any of the government departments including the tax office and Centrelink? If so, you won’t get  a same day refund. You must be squeaky clean in these areas to get one. Why? Because all or part of your refund will be taken to pay your debt first. The agent has to safe guard against this happening otherwise they will be out of pocket. Be aware tax agents have access to the tax office portal so they are able to check if you have any outstanding debt. Usually, you won’t get the full amount of your refund. They have a limit to the amount you can receive and they also take their fee.

If you want some great financial and tax advice. You might like to tap into this resource: https://www.yourwealthcorp.com.au  They offer same day refunds, too.

Getting your tax return completed can be a stressful time. Take the stress out of your return this year and seek advice from a tax agent. Any questions? Ask in the comments below.

 

 

 

I’ll Meet You At Hachiko

June 22nd, 2014

When I went to Japan  I didn’t expect to hear about the faithful dog, Hachiko. It was a story that brought tears to my eyes and I want to share that story with you today.

Hachiko, a homeless, Akita breed of dog, came into Professor Hidesaburo Ueno’s life one day in 1924. Hachiko became his loyal companion. Every day Hachiko met his master at Shibuya station where the professor stepped from the train after his day’s work at Tokyo University. In May, 1925 Professor Ueno died of a brain haemorrhage. Hachiko waited for his beloved master every day even though in the early days he had no food. People who got to know Hachiko knew of his master’s fate and brought food for him. Hachiko continued to wait for his master until his death in March 1935.

A film titled, Hach: A Dog’s Tale, was produced in 2009 to make this true story real to movie fans. The monument is a favourite place for people to meet when they arrive in Shibuya. The station is a busy place. The Hachiko memorial is an outstanding landmark that had me thinking about loyalty. Can we humans understand the loyalty of this dog to his master? What was the instant connection starting the relationship that kept Hachiko coming back to greet Hidesaburo every evening and even after his death?

I have a connection with a special friend that started way back in the early eighties when we met in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. She now lives in Melbourne and I live in Gold Coast. We are always there for each other when we need to talk. We have been through high and low times. We speak on the phone often and it is a deep connection that takes us to a deep level with each other. She is my confidante, my sounding board to try out new ideas and most of all she loves me for just the way I am warts and all. I know I will be loyal to my friend until the day I die.

I believe this is the connection Hachiko had with his master, although the level of loyalty Hachiko and his master shared may be on a level I will never understand. So when you and I are meeting up in Tokyo meet me at Hachiko in Shibuya.

I’d like to hear about the special relationship you have with your pet or friend. What is that special something that means so much to you?

 

Back to school

January 31st, 2014

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted. Life has happened and challenged me in many ways, but I am a better person for having come through the struggles. It has been a time to learn about the person I am and how I see the world. The start of the new year is a good time for me to get back into blogging and re-joining the world.

The first week of school has ended and I feel excited even though my son has left the family nest and is on his unique journey of life. Today I reflect on the first week of the home schooling years. Back to when the box of books and lessons arrived on the door step. We opened the box with curiosity and anticipation. What would the theme of Dan’s learning be this year?

There is no other smell that comes close to that of new books. For me it brings pleasant memories of hours spent in the library, choosing books, checking them out and taking them home where I anxiously waited for the first quiet moment when I could sit and let the words fill my imagination and take me places.

This week, students all over Australia opened books, smelled the freshness of new paper and hopefully are looking forward to the year with anticipation and curiosity as they learn academically, socially, physically and spiritually. For some students, school isn’t greeted with the same enthusiasm. I feel for you. You require a different approach to learning and life, but I believe schools are looking for new and innovative ways to help you, too. To all the students from prep to university and mature aged, grasp hold of these opportunities, learn much, but most of all have fun.

I’d love to hear how your first week of school went. Please leave a message. Thank you.

Home Schooling: In The Beginning

June 26th, 2013

It took me a long time to make up my mind when I was deciding to homeschool my son. I suffered many nights tossing and turning, and when I couldn’t sleep I got out of bed and walked around the house hoping I’d come to my decision so I could go back to bed and sleep. I talked to neighbours, teachers, strangers I met in the street and family. All said, “Why would you want to homeschool? You won’t have any time to yourself. It’s the  only time I get away from my kids. It’s going to take up too much of your time. You’ll be with him twenty-four-seven. What about his socialisation, you can’t cut him off from other children, especially when he’s an only child. He’ll end up a loser.” These comments and more made me feel I was “the loser”.

That last comment was the one that burned me the most and really got my ire rising faster than a tsunami. It was the turning point. Loser eh? The quote on the slate in this post says exactly what was going through my mind. My son wasn’t coping with school life. He was bullied, the classroom was so noisy with rude children he’d become overwhelmed with the noise and have to leave the classroom. Teachers often found him out of the schoolgrounds. He just had to get away. I knew I had to do something because my son wasn’t learning. When I checked his school books, nothing had been written in there for two terms. He was attending a private school. A week later, he was home with me and I was determined he wasn’t going to set foot back in a school unless he wanted to.

Our first year was our hardest as Dan and I adjusted to being home together. Dan was in year seven. My husband ran a business from home, but he was out on jobs most of the time. I ran a business from home, too, so my time was divided between it and the homeschooling and running the house. What I learned about myself and my son during this time was more than I could have imagined.

Lesson number one, we were both individuals. Somehow, because he was my son, I thought he would work the same way I did: head done and just get the job done, also that when I’m focussed the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Dan was different, he was easily distracted by noises, ringing telephones, and people coming and going, so that he just couldn’t settle to the work. We solved this problem by encouraging him to listen to music while he worked. An outstanding result. At the same time, as he was completing his school work, he was able to do two or three things at one time which astounded me. He had two computer screens running several programs while he was listening to music and working.

My mind boggled. I stepped back and thought a moment. How could he be retaining all that he learned while he had all those distractions? The few times I insisted he focus on one thing, I was met with indignant stares and he refused my request. After much coercion from me where I said he would be more prolific and his school work would be finished faster, I got a shock to find his work stalled, and he was lost as though he’d been put in the middle of the jungle and didn’t know which way to turn. My insistence in trying to organise his time failed miserably, so we returned to his way and hey presto, work was completed well before time with top marks. Well, if that was his way of learning, then who am I to change that?

I’m glad I learned this lesson. It made me aware that some of my employees may have had unusual working habits to be efficient. I learned how to get the best out of the people working for me to keep them happy and fulfilled in their work and develop a special relationship with them I may not have done otherwise. During the next few weeks I want to share other lessons I learned from home schooling.

Have you had a similar experience? Please leave a comment for me below.