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No ideas without music

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that sometimes I feel a little lost in these times we live in.

I feel there is a fundamental awe in the world that gets chipped away at as technological advancements drive us closer to Artificial Intelligence. Human beings reduced to consumers.

Something that helps me enormously in these times is music. Music makes the ordinary, extraordinary.

We’ve all had that sense of being moved deeply while listening to music. We watch scenes in movies and the soundtrack is what lifts us up, elevates the scene to a higher realm and in doing so, elevates us.

I can only speak for myself as a writer, and quite simply there wouldn’t be books without music. Music is the soul of the book.

Music helps me dig deep, find words in a part of me I barely even know about.

Sometimes I listen to a song that I have found resonates with what I’m trying to write and I listen to it again and again and literally get transported into the character and the world.

Friedrich Nietzsche put it so beautifully when he said:

‘The musical art often speaks in sounds more penetrating than the words of poetry, and takes hold of the most hidden crevices of the heart… Song elevates our being and leads us to the good and the true.’

The River and the Ravages was written whilst listening to a number of songs which I’d like to share with you. They take me into the world of Traegos and I hope they take you there as well. You can find the entire playlist for The River and the Ravages on my youtube channel. I’d love to know if you love any of these songs. I’d love to hear what you think and what you’re listening to. Get in touch at hello@jmlawler.com

By chapter name – artist / song:

The Quiet Goodbye – Max Richter / On the Nature of Daylight

The Hive – Billie Eilish feat. Khalid / Lovely

Perfect Creations – Lana Del Ray / Born to Die

The Hunt – Birdy / Wings

Walking Through an Open Door  – Lamb / Gorecki

Anchor – Laura Marling / Rambling Man

Somewhere In-Between – Aurora / Running With the Wolves

Beyond the Boundaries – Olafur Arnalds / Only the Winds

The Departed – Sia / Breathe Me

All the best

Jann x

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Love and Hate are two sides of the same coin

I cannot tell you how many fights my sisters and I got into while we were growing up. When it was on, it was on. My poor mum had to deal with constant dramas as three girls turned seemingly innocuous events into scenes of emotional upheaval worthy of an Oscar. Thankfully there was no rushing to the hospital due to hair pulling getting out of hand. But I think there were plenty of close calls.

Better or for worse though, I wouldn’t change it for anything. There’s a reason why I dedicated my book The River and the Ravages ‘For my sisters. And for sisters everywhere.’

There’s simply no better connection than that which exists between sisters.

No one ever gets to you like your sister does. They’re hardwired to know your triggers, your vulnerabilities. The path to the door of your insecurities and all the stuff you try to keep covered up from the rest of the world is really a well-worn highway for sisters. They know how to get there with their eyes closed.

But therein also lies the wonder of it all.

They get you. They get you like no other. Having someone ‘get you’ when you don’t even have to try is one of life’s greatest gifts. Our greatest love is for people who let us be weird, who let us live in the space of our own uniqueness. Sisters are (usually) those kinds of people.

Sisters teach you about friends, men, work, heartbreak, joy. As other people come and go, sisters are always there. Sisters may even drift apart geographically, but they’re still there. Blood is stronger than anything. Cliche but so true.

It was always front and centre for me when I wrote a book. The genre wasn’t my core concern. What was essential to me was to explore two sisters, strong women but vastly different in nature, doing dreadful things to hurt the other with consequences and repercussions, but finding a way to appreciate and support each other.

But really, the greatest thing is simply having having access to all those extra clothes at no extra cost.

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Under the Rose

Almost at the end of 2018 which just makes my jaw drop. I’m working on book two as fast as I can, but being very mindful that I want it to be an absolutely cracking great read with as much honesty and originality as I can muster. I’m not going to put a book out unless it’s the best I can make it.

Something I’m currently doing research into for book two are medieval secret societies. I first became interested in intelligence when I joined the Army Reserves and was posted to an Intelligence Corp for a couple of years. I loved the experience so much I went on to become an Intelligence Analyst at the Crime Commission in New South Wales. At the time it was a true sense of belonging for me. The daily opportunity to dive in deep and look for clues amongst seemingly unrelated bits of information was like a dream job.

I eventually went on to apply for work as an Intelligence Analyst with a federal agency in Australia. I went through a gruelling six month interview and psychological testing process. Just about every bit of my life was revealed. No stone left unturned. It wasn’t a comfortable experience I can tell you. I was offered the job and cleared for the highest security classification in Australia—Top Secret—and I turned it down. It was a gut-wrenching decision. Who knows the path my life may have taken had I accepted the job. But I didn’t want to live a secretive life. I didn’t want to ever find myself in situations with friends where I couldn’t be open and honest about what I do.

So I found another outlet for my analytical skills. And one was writing a book.

I understand the world of intelligence quite intimately which is proving to be helpful for book two. I’ve also been finding it a lot of fun to re-engage with my ‘past-life’ as an Intelligence Analyst. It certainly was one of the most interesting jobs I’ve held. I’d love to hear what the most interesting job you’ve held has been. I reckon there’d be some amazing stories out there. Please don’t be shy. Flick an email to me at hello@jmlawler.com or find me on any of the social media links below.

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Handmade Renaissance

Most people have an interest in being creative in some way. Our jobs are often just not big enough for us. Not many define themselves by their Monday to Friday jobs, but ask them what their interests are and you start getting to the essence of the person.

In the very early days of writing The River and the Ravages, I knew I wanted the protagonist, Aaliya, to be a saddle maker. This wasn’t just a random selection of a trade relevant during medieval times. I wanted saddle making for its association with practicality and for its incredible range for beauty. Saddles have stories. The people that had owned the saddle, the distances it had covered and the horses it had been on, the battles the saddle had been in, the unique parts of the world the saddle had been taken to. All of this mattered. And it shaped the character, Aaliya: who she was, what she stood for, what she wanted to achieve.

There’s a significant renaissance in the handmade movement at the moment. Etsy.com (Ebay for handmade) is mega-business as people seek out unique products. I’m drawn to handmade the same reasons so many other people are: the ideas, the tactility, and the hands that work upon the matter. You don’t just get a material item with handmade, you get meaning and stories. There’s longevity. Handmade items are rarely thrown out and in our disposable society, that’s BIG. Handmade items are often handed down through generations. They stand the test of time in a world where there is so much change and nothing seems to last. They help to define who we are and our place in the world.

I’m also heartened by the fact that around the world schools of old trades and craft are opening up and are thriving. Schools for blacksmithing, saddle making, woodworking, decorative ironwork and on it goes. Many people have become interested in learning old trades and craft as a way of counterbalancing our busyness and highly distracted modern lives.

More importantly, I think everywhere people are learning there’s a sense of joy to be had from making. There’s also a strong connection with the present moment when you’re making. You’re not thinking about your imperfect body, or the size of your mortgage, or your messy divorce. Loneliness simply drifts away when making and creating. All that matters is the connection of hand and mind and achieving something real and beautiful. Even if it’s just for yourself. No one else need ever see it.

Victor Frankl once wrote: ‘It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.’ Joy is the goal, not happiness. And I’m a firm believer that making is a strong element of joy in life.

Expect that anything worthwhile takes a long time. You won’t go from novice to highly skilled overnight in whatever craft you pursue. But that’s not an excuse not to start. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. But you already know that. And it’s more than likely you’ll discover a whole lot about yourself along the way.

And you know what’s the easiest part? Nothing. It’s hard work. But the rewards are plenty.

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Forthcoming attractions (and me!)

Ah, that long, lovely lull at the start of the year. Everyone (certainly me, anyway) dragging themselves out of holiday mode. I’ve made it to mid-February and looking down the barrel of the remaining months in 2018…it looks set to be a biggie.

Book 2 in The River and the Ravages trilogy is now in full swing. I’ve done my all important plans, I’ve pondered, I’ve ruminated…and now I’m writing like a demon. Every which way you look at it, there’s going to be edginess and grandiose struggles, characters are going to find themselves up to their eyeballs in problems, lessons are going to be learned the hard way, and of course there will be love and sex and beauty. Oh, not to mention hilarious banter. Something you’ve come to expect from me are well-developed characters and a conflict driving the main character to seek solutions…and you won’t be disappointed. This is all verging dangerously close to hype but sometimes you’ve got to put faith in your writers. And yes, I have a book title, and no, I’m not telling you what it is. Not yet anyway. Like all good maverick creatives, I must retain some shred of mystery, you know…

Some people have been asking about the audiobook version of The River and the Ravages. The process has been BIG…even I’ve been surprised. There’s so much involved…narration of course, but also sound engineering, rights and privileges, distribution and so on. But it’s so close now folks. Any day now it will be available and I’ll let you all know when and where and how so you can listen and enter your own river and ravage world while you walk the dog, smash those muscles at the gym, cook dinner, commute to work…

As I’m not quite at the stage (okay…not remotely at the stage) of chucking in my day job and being a writer full-time, I also will be endeavouring to transform the business of the South Australian public service agency where I work as a Project Development Officer. Yes, I have a whole other life outside writing which I fulfill like the good taxpayer that I am. But rest assured, writing is my love and I spend every waking moment outside my day job writing for your reading pleasure. Awww.

And for those who may be curious, the lovely artwork in the picture was done by my thirteen year-old-daughter. What a treasure she is. She helps to make my instagram account interesting!

Right, got to go

Books don’t write themselves. Yet, anyway.

JM

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In Praise of Reassurance

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t crave reassurance. They may not be out there admitting it to the world, but the need is very real and bone-deep. We tend to think of reassurance as a quality required only by children. That the need for someone to come along and quieten those fears and insecurities when faced with challenges or uncertainty is the job of mothers and fathers. Surely as grown adults we just get on with things? Even after years together in a relationship, surely verbal or other acts of reassurance are no longer required? Isn’t simply being together in a relationship the greatest act of needing another person?

Truth is, we don’t ever outgrow our need to feel valued and protected. Regardless of gender, social status, marital status, faith, creed, culture. No one is immune. We’re hard-wired for it. Reassurance is not something only the perceived weak or overly sensitive need. It’s in all of us.

One of the toughest things about being an adult is that we’re tricked into believing we don’t need reassurance anymore. We live lives that are so incredibly “connected” in the cyber sense, but have never felt more isolated and lonely. And we’re often telling ourselves that our social media world is a “good enough” form of connection.

Except that it isn’t. And never will be. We simply do need genuine words of reassurance and we need to help each other navigate a world which is often restless, and at times, brutal. We don’t stop wanting to hear our partners say to us, “everything is going to be okay, you’re doing an incredible job” or for a friend to say “hang in there, things are tough right now but around the corner is something amazing for you.”

We’re not prepared to admit it though. Or ask. Asking feels at best humiliating, at worst downright terrifying. The dread of rejection can leave even the most titanesque among us feel as insubstantial as a beetle.

Life is always just going on. It doesn’t wait for any person. It moves so fast it’s easy to take what you have for granted.

Sometimes you’ve got to stop and pause, and notice what you have in your life. Maybe today, open up your mouth and reassure someone you care for that you need them, and accept them wholly and unconditionally for who they are.

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My thorny bed of roses

Someone once said to me “it always works out for you.”

I didn’t have a response at the time. I was kind of in a strange place between thinking was that a joke to realising this person was being utterly serious and finding myself quite confused.

So here’s the thing. It works out for me no more than it works out for others. Life also blows up in my face quite spectacularly at the same rate it does for others. The only thing I have, indeed anyone has, is their attitude and how they’re going to react to any given situation.

I remember thinking at the time what’s going on here? From her viewpoint, I was living a golden life free from despair, loss and pain. I have those things in spades.

I consider myself a fairly creative person. I wrote a novel, tried to find a publisher, was rejected…oh, like twenty times, decided I still really wanted to have a published book so learned InDesign (HELL in a word) and got it out into the world. Achievement! And although the sense of achievement and purpose is wonderful, writing a book also comes with a major caveat: My book isn’t going to be liked by everyone (I know right. CRAZY!) I have very little control over people and future events.

I don’t know how any of this is going to go. Everyday I wake up and take a wander in the great unknown. It’s a place I’ve come to accept as being my bed of roses.

It doesn’t always work out for me, not by any stretch. I’m no luckier than the next person. But no matter what comes my way, I’m going to be grateful.

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  • Day at Port Noarlunga beach. God damn it was lovely. Great ending to school hols.
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  • Inari is an absolute delight. I thought it was going to be a quick visit but 4kms later we were still climbing Mt Inari which (I believe) is the head shrine of the God of rice, these beautiful Torii gates to walk through all the way to the top. 🇯🇵
  • Just feeling lucky. And grateful. I’m doing something incredibly special with two amazing human beings and feel utterly blessed.
  • Music hour. 🎧 So lovely to arrive in Kyoto, settle in to our accommodation and enjoy some music and a cuppa. Cracked a rib skiing so quiet days here are just the ticket. #instantcalm
  • The do road works with style in Tokyo. Hello kitty is used to control traffic. Now that’s an advanced country. #kawaii
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