Something Had to Change

What was it that made me realise it was time to re-evaluate my life and career? Was it any of the following?

  1. Driving 2,500 miles a month, on average.
  2. Five RTAs in seven years, including one vehicle write-off.
  3. Being a regular guest at several hotels in the Holiday Inn brand.
  4. Escalating blood pressure.
  5. Inability to attend Parish Council meetings due to work.

Probably a combination of all if the above. As a pagan, I would celebrate the Spring and Autumn Equinox, with a promise to seek balance in my life. It wasn’t happening, not in the last seven years. And for what? What did I gain? I had a good salary, which is generally seen as a mark of success. I had a decent car on the driveway. I was able to support my son through university. We had three family holidays a year. But …

I was tired. I was physically and mentally exhausted. My blood pressure was dangerously high, and my diabetes was out of control.

It would take a day at least to relax into being on holiday. My ‘hobby’ of writing urban fantasy became more of an outlet to pour emotions I couldn’t voice for fear of appearing weak. As I mentioned, five RTAs, albeit all but one were rear-impacts where I was the victim. The one involving a vehicle write-off? That was due to being tired, having to drive two hours to reach a destination by 0800, as my employers were cutting back on hotel stays as it affected the profit margin. Trust me, I would not have been on the road at 0550 through choice.

I accumulated a lot of Holiday Inn Reward points such that I was a Platinum member of their loyalty scheme. I was a regular guest at the Holiday Inn Scotch Corner such that the barman knew my favourite dinner order, but in seven years, I never had the energy to use their rather decent looking swimming pool. The same could be said for several other hotels. I would eat my dinner and maybe work on my current novel, but I would be too tired to exercise, even though it was essential if I wanted to stay healthy.

I have always been keen to represent my village, such that I served as a Parish Councillor on two occasions. I had to resign the second time, as I found it impossible to attend meetings. That was despite having a note in my diary of the dates. But work meant that I might be away from home.

The crux came in early 2018, when the risk of redundancy became real. I had known from 2017 and before that it was a risk. There was a crossover between my sales territory and that of three of my colleagues. An attempt had been made to ‘encourage’ me to leave, such that when the notice was given, I had decided that I would hold out for the best package that I could squeeze.

So, there I was. Redundant at the age of fifty. My severance package meant that I had enough to support my family for six to eight months. Surely I would find another job in that time, I did also sign in for benefits, only to discover that thirty years of working without interruption, the last ten of which were as a 40% tax payer, entitled me to £34 per week as Jobseeker’s Allowance, for which I had to trek into the Job Centre every fortnight to ‘sign on’.

But, I realised something. My heart wasn’t into finding another job in the medical sales industry. So, I used the time to examine my options. Could we live on a lower salary? Medical sales was described to me as the job with the golden handcuffs. I also helped my parents as they were downsizing. So many things accumulated and to what end? There was the health issue. I had a recent scare over throat cancer.

My religious path has demonstrated to me that much in my life happens for a reason. Even the bouts of anxiety and depression, given the support I have received from true friends. That was where I put my trust. It was well-placed. On one of the dreaded group sessions at the Job Centre, we were introduced to Darren, who was looking for people for The Works store in Cambridge. He could only offer a four-hour per week contract, but he reckoned that it would be more than that. I had nothing to lose in talking to him.

After a twenty minute discussion, he asked me to submit a CV online as that was their system. I did, but received a rejection. A month later, we were told he would be in on the next day. I decided to ask him why, after our positive discussion, I had been rejected, particularly if he was still recruiting. It transpired that he did still want to see me, the four-hour contract turned into eight-hours, and could I attend an interview at the store the next day. Another competency interview and bearing in mind this was my first job, at the age of 51, in retail, I left the store with a start date of 17 September.

I discovered that Darren had felt that I was capable of much more and had submitted my details to Gail, the Area Manager, with the potential for a store manager role. To cut a long story short, I was interviewed by Gail and offered the role of Manager of the Newmarket store.

So, there you have it. After much consideration, I have decided that the stress and anxiety of working in medical sales was not worth the salary. Yes, I earn less, but the difference in tax allowances mean that I have a net salary not far short of my previous job. More importantly, even those issues my colleagues view as stressful are nothing. Twenty years in medical sales did teach me transferable skills,

Now I go home each night. I eat with my family. My dogs know who I am. My diabetes is under control and my blood pressure in improving. All because I dared to take a risk.

Come 1 December, after three weeks of training, I shall take over as Store Manager of the Newmarket branch of The Works.

So why is this important to me as a writer? Time. I have time to write again, time to research. Time to enjoy writing, rather than seeing it as an escape from stress only. This whole things taught me an important lesson. I used those first months after being made redundant to write. Over seven years, my writing and characters had matured, so I took the opportunity to revaluate where my series was bound. The pleasure in writing was restored. Work life balance is essential. It is not a nicety.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.

Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Celebrate Roald Dahl Day … Vaccinate

Everyone knows Roald Dahl. James and the Giant Peach was my first of his stories, but I also enjoyed his very adult Tales of the Unexpected.

But did you know that he was a strong advocate of vaccination? Did you know he lost a child, his eldest daughter Olivia, just before the introduction of measles vaccination?


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.

Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Stereotypes … still an issue?

What happens when a BMW driver encounters a Herdy ewe and her lamb on the road to Buttermere? If you answered with a slur on the BMW’s driving ability, guess what? You are guilty of using a stereotype.

Sheep
The BMW in question actually had to swerve to avoid the sheep and an oncoming car which had stopped. (Photo taken 20 August)

Surely not, you might ask? This was old hat when I started in pharmaceutical sales, some twenty years ago. Surely it can’t be an issue now?

As was demonstrated in my earlier post about being called a Pharma-Babe, when I admitted to being a medical salesperson, stereotypes are alive and well. And yes, they can be damaging, both when one is looking for a job, or when one is working in a more traditional company. I have had situations where, for example, the office-based personnel turned up for a field visit in suit and tie (it was a male colleague). We were visiting an ITU. The rule in the ITU is bare below the elbows, and jackets to be left in the visitor’s waiting room. As I result, I tended to leave my jacket in the car, and roll up my shirt-sleeves. This approach demonstrated that I knew the ‘rules’. But, it also demonstrated that my colleague, and potentially others based in the office, were out of touch.

That only serves to strengthen the belief in stereotypes. Many roles require the ‘rep’ to be seen in a partnership role, rather than as a rep. This will not happen if a company insists on conformation that doesn’t fit in with the actuality in the hospital. More importantly, it will not enable the ‘rep’ to become a ‘partner’ in what they and the hospital are trying to achieve. That is the key issue. Another example was a decision made at senior management level that all reps had to have the wheeled pilot cases which were used in the 1980s/1990s. Again, it demonstrates a management structure which is not remaining current with the world outside of the office. It won’t make the job of the ‘rep’ any easier to be seen as something of a laughing stock. One can’t be a partner with the hospital if they do not take one seriously.

Office-Stereotypes
(Picture courtesy of PowWowNow)

Stereotypes out in the field are one thing. But, they can also be found in the office. I won’t go into detail, but ask only that you look at the picture, courtesy of the PowWowNow company. Attaching a stereotype to an individual, whether it is job or gender specific, can be detrimental to working relationships, or even hinder an individual’s chance of promotion and recognition. If the latter can be proven, it would make for a very serious situation. It would also be a very unnecessary situation if it is avoidable.

So, stereotypes bad. The other side of my blog is how the topic in question affects writers. Tropes or stereotypes, call them what you will, but the net result can be the same.

How many paranormal romance or action books have you seen where the cover features a stunning set of male abs, or if it supposed to be a ‘serious’ action book, it has a clothed, but muscular hero on the front cover? But, here’s the problem. Yes, you may have seen that cover, but it is a very easy way for a potential reader to identify the book as a type that they might want. The trick is avoiding the stereotypes but still communicating the content to the right reader.

Two examples here. The first looked at using the stereotype. The second was geared towards establishing a series identity.

Then there are the stereotypes in the stories themselves. Alpha males are all very well, but no one can bond with a perfect male, because, unfortunately, they don’t exist. So, add the quirks: he can’t stand latte coffee, he doesn’t ride a Harley Davidson motorbike (Fane rides a Triumph Rocket 3 Touring), he is an alpha, but he has a weakness which in Fane’s case is his sister and an inability to see her as a female able to protect herself.

The trick is to use stereotypes and tropes wisely and to avoid the risk of producing a clone of a favourite author. It may be something small, but it can make all the difference.

The same goes for the workplace. Make yourself unique, but also ensure that you meet the requirements of the role.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Hellfire Banner V4

 

 

 

Tag! You’re it!

The other morning, I was looking through categories. One of the topics of recent discussion on the Interwebs has been how some individuals have manipulated systems like the Kindle Unlimited way of recording how many pages have been read in order to pay the author their share of the KU pot of money.

There are some quite unscrupulous people out there, and inevitably, it is the ones who play by the rules who suffer.

‘Stuffing a book’: 

This is a process whereby the content of the book is inflated. One of my personal issues is when you buy a print book, and find that a large font has been used, making a moderate word count seem more. This seems to be a tactic to inflate the price of said print book. In terms of e-books, ‘stuffing’ means that overly large line spacing has been used, or several ‘free’ books have been added, generally work that has been published on a website or similar. This can mean that a supposed 350 page book has 800-1000 pages. Yes, apparently that has been the level of ‘stuffing’.

bookstuffingfbgraphic-1

This process hurts honest authors because, if someone reviews ‘stuffed’ titles regularly, they are deemed to be in cahoots with the cheating author. So ALL their reviews are cancelled on Amazon, even if they are innocent of wrong-doing. This means in turn that an honest indie author who relies on each hard-earned review suddenly finds that they have lost a couple or more reviews. Even if the reviewer was innocent, they are unable to post new reviews.

So, it is not just a financial cheat, but it has a knock-on effect to others.

Keywords

Another interesting one, and it doesn’t just apply to books. A friend of mine sells handmade polymer clay on Etsy. The descriptions used by Carly’s Creative Clay may seem strange, but it is done that way so that her items can be found in product searches. Similarly, the descriptions used in the Little Thoughts Store are similar.

Challenge. Chart with keywords and icons. SketchIt is no different with books. I read a very interesting book recently, where this process was explained. For example, someone looking for a book like mine might type in ‘shifter romance series’, which might give more than a few returns. The trick is to think like your potential reader. What words will they use to find their preferred genre. These strings of words are what one uses when listing a book on Amazon or Smashwords. A keyword is not a single word. That is the important thing. Consider what a potential reader will look for. The flipside is quite simple. In what category do you list your book? Some categories have fewer books that others. Paranormal romance is a huge category. ‘Military paranormal romance’ is slightly smaller. ‘Urban fantasy military shifters computers’ is even smaller. Pick a small category and hey presto! Sell a hundred books or so and you are a best-seller in that category. So now, you can can add ‘Bestselling Author’ to your accomplishments.

Beware padding. keywords are also used when looking for a job. I have been looking at admin/secretarial type jobs recently. After all, that was my original training, and I have the transferable skills. But, and it is significant, my last twenty years have been working in sales. Many companies scan CVs for keywords, so just as you would try to work out what a reader might type in the search bar, consider what a potential employer might look for. If you want to convince them of transferable skills, use the right keywords and tags to demonstrate office skills. It may sound stereotypical, but that is the world in which we live and try to work.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Hellfire Banner V4

 

Behind The Masks

Cysgodion-Cover2One of the novels in my series is the story of a character who, from “Beta”, is painted as a barely leashed psychopath as he and his siblings were growing up. Rumour had it that he had even murdered his own brother to remove him from the line of succession. He attempted to kill the Alpha’s Mate of the Cwn Annwn. He attempted to shoot the Beta of the Cwn Annwn. He was behind several criminal schemes. All in all, Casimir Gosselin was not a ‘nice’ person.

But, hey! It is an urban fantasy and romance series, so that can’t be all there is to it. If I was writing according to the constriction of most traditionally published romances, then I doubt I would have had the freedom to explore Casimir’s character fully. That is one of the joys of self-publishing.

Casimir is not what he seems, and in “Cysgodion”, this is explained in greater detail. But considering Casimir’s story made me think about masks in general. We don’t walk around life wearing masks, like some extended Venetian carnival, yet many of us do wear virtual masks. Is it any wonder that one of my favourite creations in “The Diaries of the Cwn Annwn” does the same?Venetian mask

Consider this. When one is at work, there is an image to project. It might be because one works in a very conservative arena, such as law, or even to some extent, my own field of medical sales. I recall an incident about 12 years ago, when I was travelling by plane to an meeting in Aberdeen. I disembarked from the plane via the rear exit, and was walking to the terminal when a voice called my name. It was a Consultant from one of my major hospital accounts. This individual had known me for a few years, and in all those years, whenever I met with him, I wore a suit, low-heeled court shoes, neat hair and carried a briefcase. Stereotypical rep gear. What had surprised him was my usual travelling clothing: leather jeans, boots and a leather jacket. Even my makeup was different. I discovered that day the meaning of the phrase “jaw hit the deck”, because that was pretty much this Consultant’s reaction.

Some companies will say that they expect their personnel to maintain an image. A mask by any other name, because you may well be hiding your true persona. The other danger is that, whilst one is portraying an image, one can be sure that others will be doing the same. Moreover, the image projected may change: one image for the management, one for subordinates. When the two differ, and something goes wrong, there may be further issues caused, since when there is a significant disparity between images, which is to be believed?

sweep under carpetIs there a solution? The recent attempts to focus on how others view mental health issues in the workplace exemplify the problem. Mental health is such a minefield for most employers that it may be easier to brush it  under the proverbial carpet. Most companies exist to make profit, either for the owners or for the shareholders. They want and expect their staff to present the face that doesn’t have problems. If those problems exist, it is better to brush them under the carpet, which can be severely detrimental in the long run. This is something that needs to change. If one must focus on maintaining a mask, then surely focus will be lost from the primary responsibility: to make profit for one’s employers.

Honesty is the best policy. That’s another one of those trite phrases, but that is what I believe. Surely it is better to be able to be the person you are? After all, people buy from people, not from clones.

Going back to Casimir, one thing I will say is having to deal with the dregs of human behaviour, it made him a stronger and more resilient individual. I would suggest that those ‘forced’ to hide behind a mask are the same.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Hellfire Banner V4

 

 

The Birth of a Character

This is a tale of three thirds: the birth of a new character and realising the nature of transferable skills, along with the inclusion of those skills on a CV.

Transferable Skills

The other day, I applied for several admin-type jobs. The rationale was simple. Whilst all of them paid a lot less that my former role in medical sales, they would all place me in a lower tax bracket. The net result would be a take-home salary not far from what I was earning previously. So I don’t have the bonus lure of working in sales, were I to be offered one of those roles, but with my son finished at university, the extra cash is not so important. Food for thought?

But sales vs admin? Skills used in sales: organisation, prioritisation, multi-tasking, project management, management of e-mail accounts, liaison with varying levels of external contacts. All feature both in sales and in a senior PA/Office Manager role. I have just set up my own company properly, with an online Hunter’s Arrow Store Front. All of that will be going on my CV, because it is all relevant experience. However, a caution: DON’T LIE. Be careful how you present those skills, since the last thing you would want is to be caught in a lie.

CV-tings

Skills Update

Another useful thing to do whilst you are looking for another job is skills update. Several months ago, I took advantage of the sale at Udemy.com. I bought a four part course for £20, which focused on internet security. As of Monday 23 July, they have one day of a £10.99 flash sale on. Not a logical thing for a salesperson to have, but if I was going for an admin job, it could be very useful indeed.

Computer skills are not the only thing one can study with Udemy.com. It is worth checking their site because their sales make their courses very affordable.

Banquo O’Cearnaigh, Selkie

From the one who admits to being a ‘pantser’ by preference, it seems surprising that I started to plan one of my characters in advance of writing his story. As with all my characters, I started with a picture. I wanted to write a book incorporating elements of the Selkie legends, to I had an idea of what my character’s looks should be. Enter Maximiliano Patane, totally un-Scottish, but the look was important. Then he had to have some background, because no one lives in a vacuum, particularly when you are something like the tenth book in a series. So we have Banquo O’Cearnaigh, a male Selkie as well as an oceanic environmentalist and marine biologist, who flies planes to help with wildfires and forest fires. He serves Amathaunta, and is familiar with the Lamashtu and Sekhmet links held by other characters.images

His gifts from the Goddess free him from the seven year cycle of male Selkies, such that he can transform into his seal form or walk on land. He still retains his sealskin, He tries legal routes for protecting the oceans, but is not averse to less legal routes.

He studied Oceanography and Marine Biology at Bangor University in North Wales, having gone to university at the age of 17, graduating at 20. He joined the Royal Navy and served his 12 years commission.

Maximiliano PataneAfter leaving the Navy, he moved first to the Orkney Islands before moving to the USA at the behest of his goddess. He settled in Cape May, NJ, living in a Victorian house which is much larger than he needs.

Banquo’s book has the provisional name of “Teine Is Usige” or “Fire and Water”. As with all my novels, it is an urban fantasy, with romance. The female lead is Aisha Steine, a mystery woman with a few more gifts than she is prepared to reveal to him.

My co-author and I have been working on the new book already, and so far, Banquo has been forced to admit that he knows her brother, which has her demanding if he was sent to keep an eye on her. In this day and age, she is anything but amused by her brother’s somewhat Neanderthal attitude.

I predict that their book could be quite an interesting one to write.


RELEVANT LINKS FOR JO PILSWORTH
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JKPilsworth

Paranormal may not be your thing. Urban fantasy may not either. But who knows? I may be one of your friends new favourite author.
Inspired by #Legends an #UrbanFantasy series. 

Alpha: https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH

AMAZON LINKS

Alpha (US link): https://t.co/IRZLR92AFu
Beta: https://t.co/DGDDI03VB9
Merysekhmet (US link): https://t.co/fFOUm5MHUs
Toho: (US link): https://t.co/oKtbDgrqiHhttps://t.co/mGMuJWd6Xd
Medved: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C19QKPH 

Hellfire Banner V4

 

“Pharma-Babe”? Not me!

The other day, I was called a ‘Pharma-Babe’ in an online chat group, when I admitted to having worked in medical sales. Two things to note: the first was the automatic assumption that I had been a pharmaceutical sales rep, and the second was the derision in which I should be held.depositphotos_14003092-stock-illustration-cartoon-boy-derision

The individual in question was American, and given the piece below from CBS News, perhaps I can understand his derision. I would like to think that the UK pharmaceutical industry is not at the same stage as the American industry in terms of corruption. But, the constant drive for profits, at any cost, can have only one result. Eventually, rules will be broken. The regulatory system in the UK is different to the USA. I would hope that 9 million opioid tablets going to a pharmacy with a catchment of under 1000 adults would raise red flags in the UK.

 

downloadBut, from my own perspective and from many other medical reps, we have ethics. Not all of us are chasing our bonus with no regard for rules. We all have to pass exams. Generally, we are all degree-level educated. I have both a BSc (Hons) and an MSc (Merit). To assume all reps in the UK are like some in the USA would be a bit like me saying all doctors are like [insert name of quack/murderer according to your preference].

 

pharma1I worked hard to be able to do the job that I enjoy. I am proud of my ethical stance. It is not too much to ask for others to respect that. And in answer to the earlier point, yes, I have sold pharmaceuticals, but I have also sold devices. The correct description is Pharmaceutical Sales Representative, or Medical Equipment Sales Representative. Keep your derision for where it is deserved in truth.

CBS News: The cause of the American opioid crisis?