Writing, words and written work

Wilhelmina Woylie is a children’s ebook designed to be read on tablets, smart phones and computers with beautiful illustrations by Katie Stewart. It tells the story of a little woylie who goes out one night to fetch sticks for her nest, unaware of the danger that lurks at every corner.

Please note: You might like to read the book before reading this blog in full as it contains plot spoilers. Download here.

Although the story is primarily for children’s entertainment, it can also be used for learning. Just as the stories used by the Australian Aboriginal people have been used for thousands of years as teaching tools, so can the story of Wilhelmina Woylie.

On one level, children learn about woylies (aka brush-tailed bettongs) in their natural habitat, the danger feral cats pose to woylies and other native species, and they learn about other Australian animals as well as endangered species.

On another level, the story of Wilhelmina Woylie can open up a discussion about the threat of bullies. In the story, Wilhelmina handles the feral cat in the only way she can. She uses sticks to frighten the cat because there is nothing else she can do. If the cat catches her, she will die and so will her baby in the nest because there will be no-one to feed it. She doesn’t run because she knows the cat will be much faster.

Parents and carers can, if they wish, discuss the best way to deal with bullies in the playground. Should we use sticks? What is a better way for children to react if they are threatened by a bully?

Other possible issues for discussion include the importance of caring for the habitat of animals, the natural environment,  understanding nocturnal animals (the emu is not nocturnal – he just happened to get hungry that night) and the importance of small animals.

The book is designed to be read aloud and shared between an adult and a child. There are different ways of approaching the reading of the story depending on the age and needs of the child. In general, read the story using the main text, the pop-up texts and the pictures.  However, for very young children (e.g. under the age of two) you can just use the pictures without reading any text at all. Alternatively, you could just use the text pop-ups and pictures without reading the main text. For other children, you might like to encourage them to read repeated words and phrases – but only if that is something the child enjoys doing. The most important thing is that the reading of the story is a fun shared activity.

My purpose in writing Wilhelmina Woylie  is to raise funds for FNPW (Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife), an organisation set up to protect Australia’s native species and ecosystems. When you read the story, I hope it brings a smile to your face knowing that your purchase of the book has helped endangered wildlife like the little woylie.

Download a copy here.

Until next time…

JB 🙂

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September 1st
Trees are green no more
Spring is throwing confetti
Splash! Golden wattle.

Haiku, a form of poetry made popular in Japan, traditionally paints a picture of nature and is constructed with a limited number of syllables, e.g. 17 syllables in three phrases of 5 7 5. However, there are variations to the form and content.

The haiku in this post are all about spring. In my haiku I have not always honoured the traditional use of a ‘cut’ word to signal the juxtaposition which is designed to cause the reader to reflect. I have also broken the traditional ‘without title’ structure by giving each haiku a title.

Australians are familiar with the glorious yellow of the golden wattle tree in spring (subject of my haiku above). The green of the trees’ phyllodes are barely noticeable when the trees bloom because the large fluffy golden-yellow flower heads are so profuse that the trees look predominantly yellow. Thanks to fellow writer Sara Jarrold who endorsed my use of the word ‘confetti’ as fortuitous and felicitous by pointing out that in some countries wattle (aka mimosa) and confetti are both part of wedding ceremonies.

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I tried to fashion this haiku in a similar style to that of Basho Matsuo (1644-1694), considered one of the greatest haiku poets. Here’s one of his:

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus
A lovely sunset.

Here are my other spring haiku.

September Final
Light rain is falling
Wild tribes swarm to hallowed ground
Oval ball is bounced

October Arts
Naked bodies fall
On stage, painted faces smile
Celebrating art

November Tuesday
Crowds surge at The Rails
Horses’ hooves pound the home stretch
Golden Cup held high

November Oaks
Royal roses blush
Fair fillies model vogue hats
Proud steeds leave the stalls

Feel free to add your own spring haiku in the comments section. JB 🙂

 

Stars for Galahs

Galahs use the internet for malicious mischief. I’m using the word galah with its slang meaning: a loud-mouthed idiot or silly person. (For those not familiar with the word, galah is pronounced g’LAH with the emphasis on the last syllable so the word rhymes with ‘star’.) This term evolved from the noisy antics of the pink and grey Australian cockatoo called a galah.

Aussie galahs, feathered and non-feathered, are usually harmless but the internet galahs are not. Like the pink and grey cockatoos, they peck at things and, just as with the feathered variety, a single galah is often followed by a gaggle of galahs.

My focus today is with the way those internet galahs damage the review status of a book on Amazon.

In my case a galah gave one of my books a one-star rating even though he hadn’t even read the book! He simply didn’t like books in series. A book’s review status is one of its major selling points. This galah’s one-star rating meant that the review status of my book was reduced, through no fault of the book. That’s what I call bloody unfair! Immediately after he had posted, a gaggle of galahs swooped down and used their nasty beaks to mark his ‘review’ as ‘helpful’ which gave it authenticity and credibility thus further negatively impacting on the book. Despite the fact that this individual admitted to not reading the book and despite the fact that his comment did not even come close to being a review of my book, and despite the fact that several kind fellow authors complained about his so-called review, Amazon refused to remove it.

I subsequently found that many other authors have had to endure this sort of Mephistophelian review posting. I know life wasn’t meant to be fair, but readers can help to minimise the unfair action of galahs and therefore support the hard work of authors by doing the following:

You are posting a review of a book that you liked and you’d like to give it 3.5  stars but there are no half stars on Amazon. In such cases, rather than click 3 stars, lean to the positive side and click 4 stars. The same applies if you think you’d like to give a book 4.5 stars; rather than click on 4 stars, click on 5 stars. In other words, add a star to cancel out a galah!

Naturally you will not wish to ‘add a star for a galah’ for every book you read. I’m just suggesting you bear in mind that your stars might not have the impact they should because of the activity of galahs. Of course, it is possible that galahs will not attack the particular book you are reviewing but either way you will have supported an author whose book you enjoyed reading.

You might also consider koalas when wondering whether to add another star. Koalas are not at all malicious.  No, they are wonderful people who read a book, like it and take the time to post a review on Amazon. BUT they sometimes press 1 star even though they loved the book (evidenced by their comments). They don’t understand how the review system works or perhaps they’re just a bit sleepy – koalas sleep up to 20 hours a day. I know how easy it is to be a koala because I’ve been one myself.

So now you know about galahs and koalas I hope some of you dear readers of books will keep them in mind when posting reviews. Thank you so much.

15 August, 2017: As I mention in JB’s Blog, I feel blessed by the number of readers who take the time to leave comments after reading Whisper My Secret and Mother of Ten Comments that express compassion for my mother and empathy toward my half siblings touch my heart. All the reviews (except the ones from galahs) validate and motivate me as a writer. And it’s not just those two books (both #1 Amazon Best Sellers); the Dusty Kent Murder Mysteries written under the pen name Brigid George have also been read by generous people who take the time to leave comments in the review section. It’s such a thrill for me as a writer to see this tangible evidence of readers connecting with my books.

JB

Recently I was sent a reminder about Happy Friends’ Day. What?? Yet another ‘Happy’ day? Is everything going to be reduced to Happy Something Day? Already we have a long list of ‘Happies’: Happy Birthday, Happy Mother’s Day, Happy Father’s Day, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy New Year, Happy Australia Day, Happy Halloween and on it goes. The Happy Hounds are forever sniffing out a new day to Happify. They’ll latch onto anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon I receive an invitation to celebrate Happy Big Toe Day!

Those Hounds have even sniffed out Anzac Day. Yes. It’s true. One Anzac Day, I heard people greeting each other with ‘Happy Anzac Day’. During my extended cringe at hearing this, I imagined the ghosts of Gallipoli soldiers rolling their eyes in disgust and saying: “It was all for bloody nothin’. Those twits have no idea!”

I attended the Anzac Service in Byron Bay in 2015 when I visited the area to research the setting of A Devious Mind. The bugler was silhouetted against the dawn sky and the final plaintive bars of The Last Post were waning when I spoke to a young lad who had recently made the pilgrimage to Gallipoli. He was a similar age to many of the Gallipoli soldiers, some of whom were between 14 and 16 years old. Looking at his fresh young face as he spoke of how he had experienced a little of the conditions the Anzacs had endured on the battlefield stirred in me a profound sadness at the thought of mere boys ‘bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed, coughing like hags…’. The realisation of ‘the pity of war’ brought tears to my eyes that morning.

Do we, the ones who inherited the legacy of a free and democratic society in a ‘sunburnt country’, really want to dishonour the Anzacs by glibly chanting Happy Anzac Day? (Don’t forget the cheesy grin that goes with that.) Such a greeting effectively shifts the focus of Anzac Day from those who served − to ourselves. We want to make sure we all have a ‘happy’ day. That’s how we show respect to those who served our country? Can this be true? I thought it was the day we paused to honour and remember the service people who died, who suffered physical injuries and mental trauma, who lived, worked and fought in horrific conditions. Do we really want to reduce Anzac Day to some slick greeting card level?

Someone needs to tell the Happy Hounds to stop sniffing around Anzac Day. The appropriate greeting on April 25th is: Lest We Forget.

JB

As children, my siblings and I often proudly pranced around singing the chorus of A Frog He Would a Wooing Go.

With a rowley, powly, gammon and spinach,
Heigh ho! Says Anthony Rowley.

What a feather in our cap it was to know that our name was famous enough to be featured in a traditional nursery rhyme.

Rowley was my father’s name. Its origins date back to a small parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire in England. Before I started this blog I contacted the Rowley Parish Council in Yorkshire. They confirmed that the first syllable in Rowley rhymes with ‘bowl’ so that Rowley rhymes with ‘holy’ and ‘moly’ as in the song above. The catalyst for writing this rant about pronunciation was the straw that broke the camel’s back: something that happened to one of my nieces. I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

Growing up in the small country town of Orbost, no-one ever mispronounced Rowley. So it came as a bit of a shock when, having ventured further afield to the big city, I first heard my surname pronounced so that the first syllable rhymed with ‘fowl’. I excused that person on the assumption that their education was lacking. However, when I heard it mispronounced a second time and then a third time, I started to get annoyed. It seemed to me that Rowley was incredibly easy to pronounce. How on earth could people get it so foully wrong?

This vexed issue was one of the reasons I chose the pen name Brigid George for the murder mystery series I have started writing; JB Rowley seemed too hard for many people. I’m waiting for the day when I’m invited up to the podium to accept my prize for best mystery novel at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards. Will they be able to pronounce Brigid George correctly?

For someone who has several names (June Barnes-Rowley, JB Rowley, Brigid George being the main ones) it might seem strange that I get my kickers in a knot about the mispronunciation of my family name. But I do.

I recall an instance when an English teacher in a secondary school mispronounced Rowley when she introduced me to her class as a guest speaker. When I corrected her, she objected saying ‘row’ rhymes with ‘cow’. To enlighten her, I wrote the word ‘bowl’ on her board. I could also have written: bowler, bowling, knowledge, etc. And I could have lectured her on different pronunciations of ‘ow’ such as in crow. However, since by this time she seemed willing to accept that I knew how to pronounce my own name, I didn’t.

Over the years, I resigned myself to the fact that on some occasions I will hear my name mispronounced and I should grit my teeth and remind myself that the Rowley motto is ‘bear and forbear’. HOWEVER, I knew I had to take action when one of my nieces recently told me that she had been informed by teachers at school that she was not pronouncing her name correctly. Her own name! For now, I’ll put aside the arrogance of those teachers and the damage they might have done to a young child’s confidence. There is something even more dangerous afoot.

Clearly, there is a conspiracy out there to brainwash all the Rowleys into mispronouncing their name! I knew I had to arm myself with my trusty pen and put a stop to this mischief. So here I am to set the record straight. All Rowleys will now have a reference to refer to and none of us need ever again be thrown into a state of discombobulation by non-Rowleys who think they know better.

I should point out that the Rowley coat of arms bears the wolf, so if you do mispronounce our name, beware of wolves!

Until next time…

JB 🙂

Murder in Murloo

Yay! I’ve finally started my journey as a murder mystery writer. After years of reading crime fiction, especially that from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, I’m overjoyed to be now writing my own series. I’m celebrating my new venture with a new name: Brigid George. This pen name is a tribute to my father, George Rowley, who always called me Brigid.

Although I say I’ve just started my journey, it really started over forty years ago when I began reading mystery authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and Ngaio Marsh. Thousands of hours of reading these and other crime fiction writers have prepared me for writing in the genre. Readers of Whisper My Secret might suggest that this journey started even earlier with the mysterious secret that lurked in our family. Whatever the starting point, I love writing murder mysteries as much as I love reading them.

I chose to write the type of book I most like to read: a ‘cosy’ whodunit. When I’m in bed, such stories are perfect. The fascination of the puzzle holds me spellbound until I arrive at sleep land in what seems like no time at all. When the violence and horror in the daily news broadcasts create in me a desperate desire to know that order can be restored to our world, it’s a whodunit I reach for.

Murder in Murloo, the first book in my mystery series, is a whodunit set in a small Australian fishing village overlooking the Southern Ocean. The village is a fictional place but is inspired by Marlo in East Gippsland where I grew up.

The series features Dusty Kent, a feisty petite redhead with a black belt in karate and a passion for flushing out murderers. Accompanied by her ‘Watson’, a travelling Irishman by the name of Sean O’Kelly, Dusty is determined to uncover the ‘miserable murderous maggot’ who callously terminated the life of a young woman.

In putting the story together I’ve received much appreciated help along the way from my writing groups and beta readers as well as professional crime fiction editor, Lisanne Radice. Lisanne’s impeccable manuscript guidance has taught me a great deal. As a mere apprentice in this genre I know I have more to learn, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere! I believe I‘ve started at an excellent point with Murder in Murloo. According to one of my beta readers: “It’s a bloody good read.”

A crucial element in my development as a writer has been the role of Amazon in providing unprecedented publishing opportunities. Writers can only grow if their work is widely read. Feedback from readers by way of letters, emails, blogs, social media and reviews, motivate writers and help them to improve their skills. My sincere thanks to those who read my books and those who write reviews. Readers are invaluable. Reader reviews are extremely helpful.

Be the first to know about the next Brigid George release and special offers. Sign up here for email notification.

Until next time.

JB 🙂 More about the writing of Whisper My Secret here   (under March Archives of JB’s Blog)

I often say I hate the word ‘partner’. I’m talking about ‘partner’ when used to mean ‘the person you are in a sexual relationship with’. However, on closer analysis I realise that it is not so much the word as its ubiquitous use that grates on me. The use of the word has gotten out of hand. It is bandied about willy-nilly and used at every turn. Why? Because no-one has written a guide on the use of this innocuous, insipid, uninformative, infuriating word. Here at long last are some clear cut guidelines for the use of the word ‘partner’.

DO NOT use ‘partner’ in the following situations:

1: If you know the status and gender of the person you are referring to.

What is your husband’s name?
Her husband is over there.
What is your wife’s name?
His wife is over there.

If you have made an official commitment to another person, why would you deprive them of their right honourable title?

2: If you are talking about your husband/wife/fiancé.

My husband is the father of most of my children.
My wife is a high court judge.
My fiancé does six impossible things before breakfast.

If you go to the time, trouble and expense of getting married/engaged, why on earth would you want to keep it a secret?

And there is nothing wrong with ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’.

My boyfriend eats dog biscuits.
My girlfriend licks lollipops.

All right, for a person of mature age who is in a new relationship the terms girlfriend/boyfriend might seem a little twee (although I’d have no qualms in using ‘boyfriend’ myself). Here’s the good news; if you are in a live-in relationship and you don’t want to use boyfriend/girlfriend, you can use the terms husband/wife because you are common-law husband and wife.

DO use ‘partner’ in the following situations:

1: If you are referring to a mixed group.

Staff members are welcome to bring partners to the office party.

2: If you do not know the status/gender of the person you are referring to.

Do you have a partner?
What is your partner’s name?

3: If you are designing a form that needs to be filled in. Documents that, for some reason, include questions about the personal life of the person filling out the form might need to use the word partner to cover a wide range of possibilities. (husband/wife/fiancé/girlfriend/boyfriend/)

Please note: If you are introducing someone as your partner and you are not referring to ‘the person you are in a sexual relationship with’, please specify the type of partner you mean.

This is my dancing partner.
Allow me to introduce my business partner.
Mary is my performance partner.

If you follow these guidelines you will help to decrease the level of confusion and irritation in the world. JB 🙂

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