Friday, September 13, 2013

Do Spirits really Exist?

A skeptic tells of an encounter

 with a believer

don't believe in spiritulism, fotune tellers and magic so I was skeptical when Jilly told me that a bomah had put a spell on her. A bomah is the Malaysian term for a witch doctor. At the time I was living in MIri in Sarawak, East Malayasia and I knew the Dayaks, the Indigenous tribal people still consulted bomahs but Jilly was a UK ex-pat. Still I have friends back home who visit clairvoyants so it wasn't so much the fact that she'd consulted a witchdoctor as much as her reaction to what he said.

Jilly was frankly edgy. Finally she broke down. In tears she told me the bomah threatened to curse her unless she gave him ten thousand rinngits.  I couldn’t believe that she could take his threat seriously. “Tell him that you’ll curse him back,” I joked.

Not long after Jill returned to England. I heard through a mutual friend that she had cancer. She later died. Though I believe her subsequent illness and death was no more than a coincidence perhaps I was too quick to dismiss other's beliefs. 


Writing is a way to reflect on experience


 When I constructed Roger, one of the more unpleasant characters in The White Amah I was having a dig at my own flippant attitude to unfamiliar ideas because I still feel guilty about the unsympathetic way I responded to Jilly. 

In my story Roger is having an affair with his amah, Rubiah. Hoping to become his wife, she has gone to a bomah for help.  Her plan miscarries when the bomah demands more money and threatens to put a spell on her if she doesn't pay up.

Roger is as skeptical as me. "Tell her  you'll curse him back," he says.  He then proceeds  to  mocks her beliefs calling her “an ignorant little jungle bunny”. I warned you he was an unpleasant character, didn’t I?  

As to whether spirits really exist the jury is out because as someone famously said--

"There’s more in heaven and earth than we can ever know."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Books That Defy Genre Labels

Today I'm turning my blog over to author and blogger, AB Shepherd. She talks about facing writers whose books aren't a perfect match for the major book genres. Over to you AB...

"What is a genre? It is a label used to categorize a book. It is intended to be useful to help readers discern whether they will enjoy it, and to help book stores know where to stock it on their shelves.But what happens when a book just doesn’t fit quite so nearly into a pre-established genre?

You end up with a book like Ann Massey’s Salvation Jane - which is chick lit, wrapped up in a political thriller, tied together with a romance/contemporary fiction/literary fiction/drama. It is one of those books that needs to be read by the masses, but just how to get it to them to read is tricky, because it doesn’t fit neatly into a genre category so it can’t be marketed easily.The same can be said of Lifeboat, my novel.

Lifeboat is a science fiction/mystery/thriller with aliens and UFOs, but it is so much more than that. It is a story of love, loss, isolation, coping mechanisms, manipulation, and mind games. It is a story that will leave you thinking. Don’t take my word for it - read the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.
But it is difficult to market because it doesn’t fit neatly into one or two of those predefined genre categories. Several readers have said of Lifeboat, “I hate books about UFOs and aliens, but I loved Lifeboat”. But because so many people dislike books about aliens and UFOs they will pass it by and miss out on a really good (if I do say so myself) book.
How many other authors are having this difficulty with their novels? I’m guessing many. I almost did the same with Salvation Jane. I don’t enjoy books about politics, so I nearly said “sorry”, but Ann told me it was more than that, so I gave it a chance and I really enjoyed it.

Oh sure, there are some authors who say “I write romance” or “I write thrillers” and that is exactly what they write. Those books easily find their target audience. There is nothing wrong with that, and good on ‘em. But what about the rest of us? Ann, me and all those others authors out there whose books are more than they appear at first glance. How do we go about finding our target audience when our books are different, and we don’t have a defined target audience?

It is difficult. All we can do is list the category we think it comes closest too and cross our fingers, hoping.
We can only hope that some open-minded readers like you will find them, like them, and share their discoveries with the world by not only leaving reviews, but talking about them with their friends and family.
I hope you will give Salvation Jane, and Lifeboat, a chance and keep your minds open.
What books have YOU read lately that defy their genre label?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


It has been three years since I had a new book out - SALVATION JANE took me a long time to write because I wanted to do justice to homelessness and poverty, the issues  that inspired me to write it. Sounds heavy doesn't it? I thought so too, so I abandoned my soap box, and wrote a story that is a bit funny, a little deep, sad and I hope inspiring.

Canadian writer, Darlene Jones reviewed it - here's what she had to say:  

"On the surface, Salvation Jane could come across as "chick lit." Poke a little deeper and you find a serious commentary on current social conditions in Perth, Australia.

Our heroine, Jane, inherits a hotel from her uncle. Excited at the prospect of instant wealth she arrives to find a derelict building serving as a shelter for homeless men. Hours spent laundering the sheets and towels does nothing to improve her mood so she decides to convert the shelter into a hostel for back-packing tourists. One thing leads to another and Jane finds herself involved in politics--naively playing with the big boys--using the street people as leverage.

For this Canadian reader, SALVATION JANE was an education in the economic conditions of the area, in the plight of the poor, in the culture and language of Australia. Well written and intriguing. You keep turning the pages to see what Jane will do next--sometimes biting your nails as she gets herself into one scrap after another. There are love interests too, not always the best for Jane, but she perseveres. The ending is satisfying and fitting for the story."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jailing of Pauline Hanson was inspiration for a book about Australian politics.

Q. Why after writing a mystery about a desperate girl who sells her baby have you written a book about Australian politics? 

After I published The White Amah I wanted to write a book about a shameful incident in Australian politics. Love her or loathe her there is no getting away from the fact that the plot to break Pauline Hanson was worthy of Francis Underwood of House of Cards at his most machivellian.

To put those not familiar with Australian politics in the nineties in the picture-- a politically naive fish and chip shop operator cum politician from Queensland was damaging the Liberal Party's chances at the forthcoming Federal Election. Her party, One Nation was perceived as a threat by the major parties. And come hell or high water the powers-that- be were out to get her. And they did. Pauline Hanson was convicted of electoral fraud and sentenced to nine years in jail.

After serving three months she was released, the sentence quashed and her name cleared. And yet instead of being viewed as a victim of a terrible injustice, Pauline Hanson who conducted herself with dignity and heroism throughout her ordeal is perceived by many as a figure of fun.

It has always amazed me that there wasn't a backlash against those who conspired to remove Ms Hanson from the political stage. I put it down to the prevailing belief that politics is the province of the well-educated. The inference was clear-- if you don't have a degree you don't have a right to voice an opinion. It got up my nose. I translated MPs and journalists' contempt for Ms Hanson as an indication that ordinary people do not rate.
Salvation Jane was written to draw attention to a disgraceful episode in Australian politics, to thumb my nose at elitist condscension, and to applaud those willing to have a go.

It will be available as a paperback and ebook from 1st July

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A walk on the wild side - a review of 'The White Amah'

I was blown away by this book. I honestly had not expected it to be quite as intricate as it is. It's quite a story that has an awesome view of southeast Asian indigenous people. There is a little mystery thrown in and a look at the rougher side of life. The introduction of a lot of characters can sometimes be overwhelming however not here. I loved how in the end everyone ties in together one way or another and how the story does a well rounded circle.
(Margaret- Goodreads)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Some secrets should never be told

When not teaching English Ann Massey is busy devising plot twists and turns involving germ warfare, the International Space station and environmental risks. Her settings often draw on her diverse career; she has been a country publican, newspaper marketing manager and teacher to name just a few of her previous roles.

Ann, added novelist to the list, after accompanying her partner on a five-year posting to Borneo. Shocked by the permanent damage to the rainforest by excessive logging, she sat down and wrote The White Amah a thrilling family saga that sweeps you from the nightlife of Singapore to the rain -drenched jungles of Borneo to the world of a rich and ambitious rock star - The White Amah is the story of a dark secret and the consequences when a woman's past comes back to threaten the present.

Her second novel draws on her time as a governess on a remote Pilbara sheep station. But the plot of The Biocide Conspiracy is far removed from anything she encountered. A roller-coaster thriller, it involves international intrigue and biological warfare. It poses the question where do we draw the line. Are no holds barred in modern warfare?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fairy Tales: the single biggest influence on contemporary literature.

Not sure if I agreed with this statement but intrigued, I decided to examine my own stories in the order they were written.

The White Amah tagged as a family saga focuses on a young woman brought up in the rain drenched jungle of Borneo, who, to escape a forced marriage, embarks on a search for her roots. Tricked by a maid posing as her mother, she becomes a lowly amah.

Stop there! Isn't that just like the good-hearted princess in The Goose Girl. Wasn't she seized by her maid and turned into a common goose girl?  I'm not apologizing if it was good enough for Charles Dickens, it's good enough for me. because you'll have to agree Oliver Twist is a  variation of this popular theme.

 The Biocide Conspiracy with its dastardly plot and its motely cast of rogues and villains  is a  modern Treasure Island and yet it has a lot in common with Hansel and Gretal with my teen hero and heroine accepting help from a Good Samaritan, unaware that they are falling straight into a trap.

Likening The Little Match Girl to  Salvation Jane, the story I'm currently writing, was a bit of a stretch but as it's about a human rights activist campaigning for the rights of homeless people I feel it's not that far removed from Andersen's bittersweet tale of man's inhumanity to man.

Little Red Riding Hood is the story tonight.
So there you are, the first stories I knew and loved are still influencing my writing and I'm hoping my grand-daughter will enjoy them as much as I did at her age.