Disney’s 2010 animated film, Tangled, is one of my favourite movies ever. I can easily watch it every weekend. I love Rapunzel and can identify with her on so many levels. I think Flynn Rider is a hottie, especially when he forgets about smouldering and shows his more sensitive side. Plus Pascal and Maximus are two of my favourite sidekicks. And, let’s not forget about that amazing score and soundtrack. I even listen to it in my car on the way to work some days.
But, I have a major issue with Rapunzel’s relationship with
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go do so now, because
SPOILER ALERT coming in …
Rapunzel shows no remorse whatsoever when Mother Gothel
Okay, I get it. Their relationship is incredibly
dysfunctional. Gothel is her kidnapper, for heaven’s sake. BUT – Rapunzel only
finds this out at the very end. For 90% of the film, Rapunzel believes Gothel
to be her real mother. Yes, a manipulative narcissistic one who points out
every real and fictitious flaw Rapunzel may have (seriously, why the girl
doesn’t have major self-esteem issues is beyond me), but her mother
We see real affection for the girl as Gothel raises her from
infancy, tender moments where they brush Rapunzel’s ridiculously long hair
together. They even have the cutest ritual I’ve ever seen between mother and
GOTHEL: I love you very much, dear.
RAPUNZEL: I love you more.
GOTHEL: I love you most.
Even if you consider the fact that Gothel might actually only be referring to Rapunzel’s ability to keep her young here, to Rapunzel this is a loving exchange, and one that she has taken part in all her life.
So to me, watching the only mother you’ve ever known turn to
dust before your eyes (even if you recently found out that she had stolen you
as a baby) without so much as a pang of dismay, seems just a little callous.
Even if said mother had just stabbed your first ever
What do you think?
Does Mother Gothel deserve at least a tear or two from Rapunzel, or is the
teenager right in pushing all childhood affection aside so easily?
In theory, I’m busy working on Part 4 of the Mythical Menagerie series. In practice… erm, not so much. It’s been a really bad writing month for me. I plotted out this next installment, jumped into the first draft guns blazing… and then, about 1000 words in, I stopped.
I hit a difficult scene that stumped me, and then my situation at work changed, which meant my whole routine was suddenly thrown out of whack, and then the scene became a mountain which I am yet to scale. In between, I’m also trying to organise new passports for my husband and son, both of whom have dual citizenship (which just means double the trouble, if you ask me), since we’re going on an epic holiday later this year. Plus, my son also turned three years old (cutie pie!) this past weekend and I spent all my free time planning and organising his first ever birthday party.
All of this combined to leave me with almost no writing done this month. I at least managed to complete the short flash fiction piece that goes out monthly to my newsletter subscribers, but other than that, the only words I’ve written have been emails and technical specification documents that even had me nodding off!
I also made a huge mistake that left me feeling like a fool for a few days. I finally had the opportunity to take Beginner’s Luck, Part 1 of the Mythical Menagerie series, out of Kindle Unlimited and made it available wide, for free. In a fit of misplaced optimism, I assumed that Amazon would immediately price match and make the novelette available for free there too. So I let all my subscribers know, and then watched in horror as the emails arrived one after the other to tell me that it’s not free on Amazon. I asked my writing group and they said that it could take Amazon anything from two weeks to a month to update the listed price. You could hear me facepalm all across the plains of Africa.
Needless to say, I then had to send out another email to everyone to apologise and enlist their help in reporting the novelette as free elsewhere to Amazon. The friendly support staff at KDP then sent me an email to let me know that they acknowledge the price change and they will get back to me by 28 Feb. Here’s hoping. Live and learn, I guess.
While I haven’t done anything concrete yet, listening to Joanna Penn’s mini-podcast about narrating your own book has reminded me that I still want to get more active on YouTube. For now, all I want to do is narrate one of my flash fiction stories to see if I can actually do audio and to see how people respond to my weird accent, which is a Frankenstein’s monster that is unsure whether it should be English with an Afrikaans South African, American or Welsh twang to it. Really, my husband giggled when I recorded a sentence the other day, so I’m not sure what listeners will think. But I’m interested to find out 🙂
And that’s all my news for now. Fingers crossed that March will be a more productive month. I have a deadline to hit, after all, and I am by nature a deadline-driven person, so sometime soon that compulsion to get cracking will kick in and I’ll tackle that scene that’s stopped everything in its tracks. Any day now…
What do you do to get your creative productivity back on track again?
The Mythical Menagerie
series was envisioned right from the start as a short story series that I would
release in a serialised fashion. Many short installments would make one large
coherent whole in the end that you could binge read the way you would binge
watch your favourite TV show on Netflix.
As it turns out, that plan was a little flawed.
Firstly, when I started writing the series I was taking a sabbatical from my
full-time job and had lots of time to write in. Now that I’m back at work, and
have been for almost 1.5 years already, my speed of writing has slowed down
tremendously. Leaving such long gaps between publication dates meant that
readers forgot what happened in previous installments and little clues that I
dropped along the way went right over most people’s heads.
Secondly, although I’ve had tremendously positive feedback in general, almost
everyone complained that the stories were just too short. They wanted more.
That’s a very nice problem for me to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless. I want
my readers to be happy.
And lastly, I think it might just be a little unfair to charge readers $0.99
for every short installment I release. I have six installments planned for
Series 1, so after a while that adds up and turns out to be a pretty steep price
for what will eventually amount to a standard-length novel.
So… my plans have changed. I have unpublished Banshee’s Wail (Part 2) and
Asrai’s Curse (Part 3) to prevent anyone from buying these installments
individually. I will not release any other installments until the series is
complete, and then I will only make it available as a full novel (my deadline
date for this is the latter half of 2019).
Get Your Free Copy of Beginner’s Luck
As part of this change, Beginner’s Luck (Part 1) is now no longer in Kindle Unlimited and I’ve made it available for free across a variety of popular platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc). If you don’t have a copy of it yet, grab it at your favourite online store now!
Amazon Price Match
To date, Amazon is yet to price match the other platforms and make the novelette available for free in its various stores. I’ve been told that the best way to expedite this process is for as many people as possible to let them know that it is free elsewhere.
If you want to help out with this, please do the following:
Click on the image below and navigate to your preferred Amazon store.
On the book page, scroll down to the Product Details section and underneath the Amazon Best Seller Rank you’ll see a link called “Would you like to tell us about a lower price?”
If you click on that, a pop-up asks where you saw the lower price. Click on Website.
It would be ridiculously unfair to make you pay full price when the complete novel comes out, so please, please, please send me proof of purchase and I will arrange a discount or promo code that you can use at your Amazon store of preference, when the time comes.
Do you think changing from serialised installments to a complete novel is good idea? If not, please let me know why in the comments below.
I recently watched Moanafor the first time. It’s not my favourite Disney movie by far, but there are some aspects of it that I can really appreciate. The animation is gorgeous, of course, but what really set me thinking is the way women are represented in this film. Other reviewers have called Moana a redemption story, or the tale of a young girl on a journey to find herself, or even an environmental warning – and it is all those things, but to me the most important message is how women are depicted within the confines of a patriarchal society.
Spoilers abound below, so if you haven’t seen Moana yet, go do so first.
Te Fiti, the mother goddess of creation is problematic. She
has her heart stolen by a man and immediately turns into a lava-spewing rage
monster. She’s unable to move past her anger and hatred until her heart is
restored and the man apologises. Only then can she return to her loving (and
To me, she is the clichéd woman that men both fantasise
about and fear – the voluptuous beauty who can bring forth life, and the evil
Other who brings about destruction. In her malevolent form, she causes Maui’s
downfall, stripping him of the fishhook that is the source of his power and
banishing him to a desert island. But once her heart is returned to her, she
becomes passive again, literally falling asleep with a contented smile on her
Te Fiti is a patriarchal society’s typical female. Bring her
a bunch of flowers and tell her you’re sorry -she’ll come to her senses again,
and she’ll even restore your symbol of power.
She is woman as myth.
Moana’s mother also fulfils a traditional role. She is a wife
and a mother and she abides by her husband’s laws. We don’t really know much
about her and I had to look her name up on IMDB – it’s Sina, apparently. She
does what’s expected of her, admirably, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
She is content with her life – and who doesn’t want to be content? Like a good
mother, she wants what’s best for her child, even if that means defying her
husband’s wishes, so she helps Moana escape the island. At the end of the film,
when Moana’s people set sail again, we see Sika learning to tie knots,
determined to be useful as a sailor.
Not much to be said about Sika, except that she is a woman
who is comfortable within the role that society has placed upon her.
She is woman’s present.
Moana’s grandmother, Tala, is an interesting character. The
movie opens with her telling a scary story to the village children, showing us
that she is her people’s keeper of past knowledge and traditions.
Yet she is anything but traditional. She is the free spirit
who doesn’t sing along with the other villagers, preferring to dance by herself
next to the ocean. When she dies, she takes the form of a manta ray (a
traditional Polynesian symbol of graceful strength and wisdom that teaches one
to stay true to oneself) to become Moana’s spiritual guide. She is also the
only one who encourages Moana to follow her dreams.
And yet Tala calls herself “the village crazy”, which is
unfortunate. It sends the message that a woman of knowledge who is unusual and
interesting and lives outside the defined structure of society cannot possibly
be in her right mind.
And although she is the one who spurs Moana on her journey,
her advice was to get Maui on her boat so that he can save them all. Tala still sees the man as the saviour, while
the girl is merely there to help him on his quest.
She is woman’s past.
From a very young age, Moana wants nothing more than to set
sail and explore the ocean. She feels stymied on the island, especially since
her father forbids her to ever venture beyond the reef that protects their confined
home. So she resigns herself to becoming her people’s next chief. This in
itself is unusual, as she seems to be the first female in a long line of male
chieftains who have placed their slabs of rock on the mountaintop.
When her village is threatened, Moana follows her
grandmother’s urging and goes in search of Maui, even though she was chosen by the ocean to save her
people. While she tries to convince the demigod (an arrogant ass if there ever
was one) to step up and help her, she learns all the skills she needs and
eventually acquires the self-confidence to save the day.
She returns to her village, a saviour and a leader, and
becomes her people’s wayfarer as she leads them off across the ocean in search
of a new destiny.
She is woman’s future.
What are your thoughts
on the women of Moana? Do you agree that this movie paves the way for young
women to shake of the traditional feminine roles of the past and embrace
independence as the creators of their own destiny?
A few months ago I wrote about my journey through uncharted waters and how I was completely planning on avoiding dangerous topics in my writing. This post referred to the most recent installment of the Mythical Menagerie series, in which I’ve made Amari Kerubo, a black woman, my main character. After completing this novelette, I patted myself on the back for successfully avoiding the quagmire of racism and sexism (although I’m still awaiting feedback from my beta readers) and I was quite pleased with how that story turned out.
However, while recently listening to a back list episode of the Writing Excuses podcast, the presenters were talking about story tropes and they mentioned one that immediately turned my veins to ice (much to Ambrose David’s amusement, no doubt). This particular trope is called the Magical Negro and refers to a person of colour appearing on the (often white and male) main character’s journey to give them some sage advice that will help them in their quest.
And I couldn’t help but wonder – was Amari a Magical Negro?
After all, she did come into Ambrose’s life when he was
struggling to make ends meet and set his feet on the path that would eventually
lead to fulfilling his quest (well, the quest for Part 1, it gets more
complicated later on). Did I make the mistake of unwittingly writing a
stereotype, when all I really wanted to do was to write inclusively, to create
diverse characters? Have I internalised society’s view of black people to such
an extent that I unsuspectingly made the same mistakes as my predecessors – all
with the best intentions?
TV Tropes defines the Magical Negro as a character from a minority group, usually black, who “step[s] … into the life of the much more privileged (and, in particular, almost always white) central character and, in some way, enrich that central character’s life.” This black character has spiritual wisdom and/or supernatural powers, and yet only acts in a guiding role, leaving the central character to save the day.
Wikipedia says this type of character exists because “most Hollywood screenwriters don’t know much about black people … [s]o instead of getting life histories or love interests, black characters get magical powers.” Furthermore, “[t]hese powers are used to save and transform dishevelled, uncultured, lost, or broken whites (almost exclusively white men) into competent, successful, and content people within the context of the American myth of redemption and salvation.” They continue: “[a]lthough from a certain perspective the character may seem to be showing blacks in a positive light, the character is still ultimately subordinate to whites.”
This worries me, because upon first glance, it does seem
like I’ve stepped into this trap: Amari is a black woman with supernatural
abilities who supports Ambrose, a white male, on his journey to redemption.
But I think I’ve delved a little deeper in Part 3.5, where
she has become the protagonist. We see Amari struggle under white authority,
but we also see her rise above it. We see her history, where she comes from,
what it’s like for her as part of a diaspora, and how important her culture is
to her. We see her affinity to nature, but we also see her use both magic and
technology to achieve her goals. Above all, we see her as a leading lady who
tackles her own quest head-on, while ultimately still supporting the journeys
of the other characters around her.
Have I managed to rise above the stereotype? I don’t know,
but I hope so, and with this new knowledge of this particular trope, I will
definitely endeavour to do better next time.
Can you name an
example of a character that an author wrote with the best of intentions, but
that fell into the stereotype trap? How would you advise writers to steer clear
of clichéd tropes to create characters that are truly diverse and inclusive?
This is a special birthday year for me, one with a 0 at the
end, and I thought to myself if I want to get a novel published before that
birthday, I’d better get a move on. I looked at the planned instalments I have
left to wrap up the story for the Mythical Menagerie series, the tempo at which
I write, and the amount of time spent in between each instalment for marketing
and recovery and realised that I won’t be able to make it.
So… I won’t be publishing any more novelette-length sequels
for the series until the entire thing is complete. Once it’s done, I will
compile it all into one novel (title to be confirmed, but subtitled Mythical Menagerie: The Complete First
Series) and release that novel wide on all platforms.
This decision has some consequences:
Readers who have already bought the first three
instalments (or some of them) are going to be upset that they would now have to
buy another novel that contains a large section that they have already read and
I won’t be getting paid for reads from Kindle
Unlimited for the rest of the series.
I won’t have anything new to release for the
next 6 months.
It also has some perks:
I won’t have to pay for covers for the
additional 4 instalments that I envision right now.
I won’t have to spend money and effort
advertising novelettes when most people are interested in novel-length fiction.
I will have a novel ready much sooner than
I get to rebrand my cover art genre
I get to write a blurb that covers the entire
Here are my thoughts on how I should proceed:
Complete the rest of the series in the same way
– a sequence of instalments of novelette length, which will be combined into a
single series, much like a TV show.
Decide whether or not Part 3.5 (seen from
Amari’s point of view) should become Part 4 and be included with the rest (seen
from Ambrose’s point of view) or if I should keep it aside as an additional
Get a genre appropriate cover for the novel
(because although I love my current covers, after much research and expert
opinions, I have to concede that they do not do what they’re meant to – which
is to draw urban fantasy readers in).
Publish the novel wide and start running
Facebook and Amazon ads.
Offer readers who have already bought the first
3 instalments a discount on the full novel (not sure how to do this at this
point, but there must be a way – perhaps just a limited-time promotion and make
sure they are aware of it…).
Take Beginner’s Luck (Part 1) out of KU so I can
make it free as a series starter and update the blurbs on Part 2 and 3 so that
it’s clear that there is a full novel now available. I’m not sure if it’s
possible to remove them completely… I’d lose a few reviews if I do, but it
might be for the best.
Alternatively, rebrand all the instalments and
release them all separately in KU as I have been doing to get the best of both
worlds (story available in KU and wide, but as separate entities to adhere to
Although my deadline for all of this is June 2019, realistically the crossover will probably only happen by July, since the big birthday I mentioned will be celebrated with an overseas holiday (as is my habit – you can read about this year’s plans here, if you’re interested) and I won’t be online to deal with any marketing that needs to happen in that time. I’m okay with that – it might not be before the big birthday date, but it will be in the birthday year, and that still counts!
If you have any thoughts or advice, I’d appreciate some feedback! I’m
especially interested to know how you would handle the already-bought conundrum
to avoid angering readers who have spent money already.
I finished the first draft of Part 3.5 of my Mythical Menagerie series on 30 November 2018. I planned to take a week off and then dive into edits, but then December happened and I found myself consumed by a reading frenzy. Apart from my monthly flash fiction piece and the odd blog post or two, I didn’t write anything!
Now it’s January, a new year, and I want to get cracking
again. The plan is to finish the edits by the end of January, have my betas
review it in the first two weeks of February, another round of edits, and then
hopefully have it ready for release by end of February or early March, at the
While all of that is happening, I also need to decide on the
title (I have something tentative in mind, but I’m still unresolved) and come
up with a cover idea, which is going to be tricky this time around (not a lot
of photo-realistic images of griffons available, as far as I can see. I wonder
if my cover designer will be able to photoshop an image for me..?).
You’ll notice that the story is Part 3.5, and not Part 4, and this is because it’s not told from my main character Ambrose Davids’ viewpoint, but from Amari Kerubo’s, the current Keeper of Exotic Animals. It’s not part of the main storyline (although what happens in it will give some background that informs the plot for Part 4) and therefor I won’t put it up for sale on Amazon either. The idea is to give it away as a freebie to my newsletter subscribers. There’s just one catch: it contains massive spoilers for Asrai’s Curse (Part 3), since it takes place during much of the same timeframe. I really don’t want anyone to read it unless they’ve read the previous three installments first.
So, I’ll probably make it available to anyone who is subscribed
to the newsletter and who can give proof that they’ve bought Asrai’s Curse. Or
maybe I’ll just place a huge spoiler warning in the front that will urge
readers to read the rest first. I’m not sure what would be best.
In the two weeks that the betas are busy reading, I’ll also start plotting and planning Part 4. I have a broad idea of what needs to happen, but the finer details still elude me. I’d also like to finish planning the rest of the series – another two installments should do it.
Do you have any ideas
on how I should make this story available to my readers? Should I ask for proof
of purchase first, or provide it to all of them with the spoiler warning and
hope that will suffice?
My writing group is hosting an Instagram challenge in January 2019. If you’ve read my post about this year’s goals, you’ll see that I want to get more involved with Instagram’s book reading community, so I’m jumping at this opportunity.
Obviously, most of it is geared towards writing and your current work-in-progress, so although I mainly use Instagram to document bits of my life, January’s posts will be centered around Part 3.5 of my Mythical Menagerie series.
I’ve already started capturing images for this challenge, and it is so much fun! Some of them I’m finding quite … challenging 🙂 At this point in time, I have no idea what I’m going to do for a song lyric or a writing playlist, since I tend to write best in either complete silence or the white noise of a coffee shop, and my writing is hardly ever inspired by music; I’m more visually inclined. But… I guess this is what it’s about – getting creative!
The challenge is open to anyone with a public Instagram account, so feel free to join in. You can follow me here on Instagram, or use the #dragonwritersjan hashtag to see what others are posting.
Are you on Instagram? Are you taking part in the challenge? If so, leave your details in the comments below so we can all check out your writerly images.
It’s that time of the year again when most people invoke Janus, the god of doorways, of beginnings and endings, and reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead. My feed reader is inundated with end-of-the-year round-up posts, and while some might think this tedious, I find it fascinating to see what others have been up to or are striving to achieve. I believe that we can only grow if we have goals to aim for and, even if we don’t achieve those goals, they are what spur us onwards to greater heights.
Complete the free
magnet story to be sent out to email subscribers
Done! And it’s been an incredible success, I’ve had nothing but good feedback for Keeper of Exotic Animals. If you’ve read it, I’d be enormously indebted to you if you’d leave a review on Goodreads. If you haven’t yet – you’re missing out 😊 Sign up for my email list to get your free copy now.
Complete the second
(and subsequent) instalment(s) of my Mythical Menagerie series
Done! Sort of. Banshee’s Wail (Part 2) and Asrai’s Curse (Part 3) have been published on Amazon and are available for free to KU readers. The first draft of Part 3.5 has been completed and is awaiting revision. The rest of the series will continue to be a 2019 project.
Redesign this website
to be less generic and more personal to me
Done! I shudder to recall the original design, which was
bland and boring. This site now has Una the unicorn as its main feature, and I
Publish one short
story every two months
Err… I didn’t quite manage this. I am a slow writer it
seems, plagued by self-doubt and writer’s anxiety, and I have a two-year old
son who takes up all my time when I come home from the day-job. So no, this
didn’t quite happen as I’d hoped.
Blog one piece of
flash fiction every month
Done! I still write a flash fiction story every month,
although I no longer publish it here on the blog. These stories go out to my
newsletter subscribers as an exclusive thank you for their support.
Finish the first
draft of (one of) my novel(s)
Nope, this didn’t happen either, since all my efforts went
into the Mythical Menagerie series this year. I hope to rectify this next year.
Increase my email
subscriber list to at least 500 readers
Done! My list reached just under 800 subscribers at one point, although they have been slowly unsubscribing as the months pass and currently I have just under 700 subscribers. I found it incredibly disheartening at first, but I’ve come to realise that quality is much more important that quantity. I’d rather have fewer people on that list who truly enjoy my writing than loads who are just there for the freebies.
Additionally, this year I also achieved the following:
Hit the Top 1 position on Amazon with Beginner’s Luck for free reads in its genre during a release promotion
Implemented Book Funnel for freebie and ARC delivery
Attended webinars about Scrivener and book marketing and creating courses
Read 63 books (and counting)
I’m quite pleased to say that generally I did very well with
2018’s goals! I hadn’t realised that until writing this review, so I’m
enormously chuffed with myself right now 😊
There are so many things that I still want to get done in
2019 though. These are my main objectives:
Complete all instalments of the Mythical
Compile the completed series as a single novel
to be published wide
Continue writing a monthly flash fiction piece
Write bi-weekly blog posts as part of a content
Complete the first draft of a full fantasy novel
Grow my email list to 1000 subscribers
Release an audio book version of one of my short
I recently listened to an eye-opening podcast by Yaro Starak about FREEDOM (of finance and time and mind), which is ultimately my main objective. One of the things he mentions is that you should focus on one thing and do that very well, and outsource the rest. I think that’s very valuable advice.
My one thing should be writing, and I should always focus
most of my time towards getting words on the page. However, once that’s done,
and I’ve created something I can be proud of, I need to find a way of letting
people know about that. I don’t have the financial freedom to outsource
anything just yet, and to be honest, I quite enjoy all the marketing-related
activities that come with being an indie author, although it’s a continuous
To that end, I also have these additional sub-goals that may
fall by the wayside if I decide they detract from my main focus:
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is the biggest social writing event of the calendar year. I’ve attempted it four times, won once, and generally encourage every writer (and even a few non-writers) I know to try it for themselves. Even if you don’t make the expected 50k word count, it remains a lot of fun and usually leaves you with at least some salvageable words to work with.
But, after much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, I
decided not to participate this year.
And I’m so glad I didn’t.
NaNo places a lot of stress on a person. It’s bloody hard to keep up the pace of writing 1667 words per day, especially if you’re already working full time and have little children in your life. Just finding the time to make up the quantity of words, and then feeling horrible about their quality, is enough to set my teeth on edge.
I’m not trying to make an excuse for not writing, I’m just
saying that this year I really didn’t need that kind of pressure.
Instead, I plodded along at my own pace. Some days writing
my usual 500 words, others firing up at 2k per day, mostly plodding along at
300 words per day. Sometimes a week or so passed without any words at all.
And that’s just fine.
I know it’s not a professional mindset and I won’t be winning any awards for being prolific. But this tempo suits me. Like many creatives, I suffer from depression and occasional anxiety, and sometimes my well is just dry and I need to spend my free hours refilling it (usually by reading someone else’s books instead of working on my own). Sometimes, instead of racing against the clock or a specified word count, I’d really rather just sleep until I’m able to face the next day again. They say one should prioritise writing, but writing can never be a priority if you don’t prioritise yourself first.
In any event, in the month of November I managed to write
just over 10k words, the complete first draft of the next instalment of my
Mythical Menagerie series. And I did it at my own pace without the pressure of
a near-insurmountable 30-day deadline, or the dejection that comes with not meeting
an almost impossible target.
It may not be the arbitrary amount of 50k that most other
writers raced towards that month, but it is a fully plotted, fully written
coherent first draft that I’m pretty proud of.
And that’s a win no matter how you look at it.
Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? How did it go?