Teenagers, errors and the internet

InternetWhen I was in Year Ten in high school, we went on a school camp. It was a rustic bush-type camp. There was a single shower that everyone took turns to use. It wasn’t part of a bathroom, it was a single cubicle encased in fence palings with a bit of corrugated iron for a door. I think we had to boil water if we wanted to have a hot shower. My memory might be failing me a little – it was about 25 years ago.

But I do clearly remember the boys started a competition of sorts. The idea was to burst through the cubicle door (which had no lock) and take a photo of fellow students showering. Male and female. There was a lot of bluster and bravado, and friends posted on guard outside the cubicle door. But one particular boy got several snaps of different classmates under the shower. He duly got the film roll developed at the local chemists (remember when we used to have to wait several days before we got our photos?) and for his trouble, he got several strips of blacked out negatives. Yes, whoever developed the photos decided they were inappropriate and simply didn’t print the photos and destroyed the negative. And that was the end of it.

In the news at the moment, we’ve heard about a simply vile website where teenage boys (and men too presumably), swap indecent photos of teenage schoolgirls, often posted with personal details such as their address and phone number. As the mother of both a girl and a boy, I find this horrifying from all angles.

But it did remind me of the Year Ten boys at camp in the 1980s. Curious and reckless teenagers engaging in voyeurism.

I’m still in touch with some of these boys. For the most part, they are husbands and fathers, and generally nice blokes. If I reminded them of what their fifteen-year-old selves got up too, they might laugh or maybe be a bit embarrassed. If they had successfully obtained prints of the photos, they may have been shared around amongst friends. In all honesty, if there were any nude photos of my male classmates, I probably would have had a look too. At some point, everyone would have had their fun and the photos would have disappeared into the bottom of someone’s locker and that would have been the end of it. The victims would have been angry and embarrassed, but it would have been a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward twenty-five years. Combine instant technology with the global reach of the internet and the power of anonymity, and the same scenario – teenagers behaving inappropriately – has turned into a hideous beast that has severely impacted many lives.

Teenagers, in general, will always engage in risky and ill-considered behaviour. I think it is part of the way their brains are wired – trial and error, along with the evolutionary need for independence. But their errors shouldn’t follow them for life.

There are girls testing their burgeoning sexuality. There are boys with fake internet accounts thinking they won’t be held accountable for their actions. And lives are being destroyed.

If a seventeen year old boy is tracked down as having posted a nude photo of a fifteen year old girl, he will be charged as an adult for child pornography offences. If they fall for the excitement, the competition and peer pressure of this type of website, they can end up on the sex offenders register.

If a sixteen year old girl sends a risqué selfie to a current boyfriend she has to understand – once an image is sent anywhere, to anyone, you have given it away. It is no longer yours. You have no more control over it. With the press of a key, it can start a frightening and endless journey around the world. You can never get it back. It can follow you into adulthood and impact on you long after you realise it was an impulsive error. Neither apologies or remorse will stop it.

The police should shut the website down. Sure. Agreed. But as the website is hosted in another country with different laws, it is not that easy. It’s not right, it’s not fair, but it’s reality.

The internet is part of life now. Teenage stupidity can now become a lifetime regret. I’m so glad there are no records of my early mistakes. I can only hope I know enough to steer my children through it when they reach this age of experimentation.

Reviews for ‘The Twisted Knot’

I have been fortunate that ‘The Twisted Knot’ has been reviewed in many places in the press as well as on several blogs and has been so well-received. Here are links to some of the things written about ‘The Twisted Knot’.

Great review here and interview here by Marcia at Book Muster Down Under.

A review in Carpe Librum here.

Starts At 60 with a review here and a Q&A here.

A review by Carol at Reading, Writing and Riesling here.

Extensive review at All The Books I Can Read here.

Kind words here from Debbish.

This review here by Sam Still Reading.

A review here and Q&A here at Gabby The Blogger.

Pop.Edit.Lit with a review here and Q&A here.

An interview with Annie Gaffney on ABC Sunshine Coast Radio here.

Extract – The Twisted Knot



3793 Twisted Knot_COVERThe following is the first chapter of my second novel The Twisted Knot (available now).

Set in a fictional Queensland town, Constable Sammi Willis investigates an apparent suicide, uncovering a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town seeking vengeance.

Chapter 1

Sammi always felt a sense of relief when she saw Bob’s face in the morning at Angel’s Crossing Police Station. With him as shift supervisor, the station felt like a calmer and safer place. He kept everything running smoothly. He kept the staff in line. And her colleagues kept their manners in place when he was in the room. Mostly.

‘Morning, Sammi,’ Bob called out from the sergeant’s office as she passed by.

‘Morning, Bob.’

‘Do you want a cuppa?’ she called from the locker room as she packed her bag away.

‘Yes, thanks,’ he called back. ‘Are you going to look after the front counter for me again today?’

Sammi paused before she shut her locker door. Her utility belt lay curled up at the bottom, like a black snake in hibernation. It had been a year and a half since she had buckled it on and kitted up for a shift on the road. Each day, she looked at it. And each day she shut the locker door on it again.

‘Yep,’ she called back to Bob.

She grabbed her lunch and went into the kitchen. She put her sandwich in the fridge and filled up the kettle. One cup of tea for her, one coffee for the sergeant. Milky with two sugars, she didn’t need to ask. With these small everyday details, she settled herself into the rhythm of the day.

Bob looked up from his computer and smiled at her as she placed his coffee on the desk.

‘What would I do without you, Sammi?’

A lot of the younger staff didn’t like Sergeant Simpson. Discipline had been a lot stricter when he had come through the ranks. You did what your supervisor told you and didn’t backchat. Although attitudes had relaxed, he still expected this standard of behaviour from his junior staff. So the lazy or ineffectual officers at the station didn’t think much of him. But Sammi listened when he gave her advice and, in return, he always helped her out if she asked.

Continue reading

Blog Tour – The Twisted Knot

3793 Twisted Knot_COVERMy second novel The Twisted Knot will be published next month (available June 28).

Set in a fictional Queensland town, Constable Sammi Willis investigates an apparent suicide, uncovering a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town seeking vengeance.

A marked man. A damaged cop. A town full of secrets.

After her abduction and near death at the hands of a sadistic killer, Constable Samantha Willis is back in the uniform. Despite being on desk duty, rumours reach Sammi that someone in Angel’s Crossing has been hurting little girls, and before long a mob is gathering to make sure justice is served.

So when a man is found hanging in his shed, the locals assume the pedophile has finally given in to his guilt. That is, until Sammi delves further into the death.

Over the coming weeks I will be stopping by a number of fantastic Australian book blogs to talk about the book and answer some great questions. Be sure to follow my stops along the way and join the conversation using the #thetwistedknot hashtag!

Blog tour

How on earth did I get published?

IMG_5369I’ve asked myself this question many many times since signing my contract. I was an unknown, appearing out of nowhere, offering up the electronic equivalent of a ream of paper – “here’s this book wot I wrote.” And now I’m a published author. How did this happen? Why me?

There is a woman who works at my local shopping centre who looks like a publisher. Specifically, she looks like one particular editor from a major publishing house. This editor showed a lot of interest in my manuscript, only to reject it after I’d been on tenterhooks for several months. Every time I see her doppelganger at the shops, I give her a smile. She always smiles back because I am a customer and that is her job. But I smile because every time I see her, I think about how lucky I am that my manuscript has actually been published. Because I do believe there is a fair bit of luck involved. Not only luck – I’ll give myself a little credit for producing a readable and marketable novel. But hundreds of writers across the country are producing readable, marketable novels and they’re not all getting published. Why me?

I spoke to an agent once. She was very interested in my manuscript. She didn’t remember having seen this previously. This is the conversation I had with her –

Me: “How does a debut author attract the attention of an agent?”

Agent: “Well, you’re doing everything right. I’m interested.”

Me: “You know you turned this manuscript down a few months ago?”

Agent: “This same manuscript?”

Me: “Yes.”

Agent: “Oh, sorry, I must have been having a bad day.”

A bad day? My literary ambitions had (at that time) been knocked flat by yet another rejection because the agent was “having a bad day”. Or I was rejected without her even bothering to look at it. Either way, it goes to show how fickle this business is. Something dismissed one day can be loved the next. I still don’t have an agent. How do you successfully tread the fine line between persistence and backing yourself, and being a pain in the neck?

I know many fine writers with way more experience/ qualifications/ talent than me who are not getting published. So why am I? I have given this a lot of thought. Sometimes, I almost feel guilty, as if my place should belong to someone more worthy.

The best I can tell, there are two reasons working in my favour. The first is my ‘point of difference’. I am a police officer. I know the procedures, I know the culture, I know the people. So the voice of authority comes through in my writing. It was an easy choice for me as a police officer to write crime. I’d like to think every writer has a story that they are the best possible person to tell it.

The second is that it’s not just about the story you wrote, it is also about ‘your story’. The author platform. Publishers seem to be looking for the complete package. A website has to exist, there has to be a social media presence. And, seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.

Then the best you can do is cross your fingers and persevere.

Online book launch and giveaway

Tomorrow, I can take4 out my bucket list and tick something off.

“Have a book published” has been a life ambition since I was a teenager. And on the 1st of July 2015 my debut novel A Time To Run is officially released by Pan Macmillan. So close now…

To celebrate, I’m having an online launch through Facebook on Thursday 2 July. Everybody is welcome. Due to my double life/ assumed identity issues, I won’t be doing anything in person. Instead I’m going to hang out online and give away some books.

So drop by my author page ‘JM Peace Author’ on Facebook between 7:30pm and 9pm EST. There’ll be competitions and guests. You can wear your pyjamas and ugg boots. I know I will be.

Then stay tuned here for my ongoing blog tour. Exciting times.

Blog Tour – A Time to Run

My Debut novel A Time to Run is available on June 30. Photo by Sheree Tomlinson

My debut novel A Time to Run is available on June 30. Photo by Sheree Tomlinson

As many readers of this blog will know, next month I publish my debut novel, A Time to Run (available June 30).

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

The hunt is on
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.

Over the coming weeks I will be stopping by a number of fantastic Australian book blogs to talk about the book and answer some great questions. Be sure to follow my stops along the way and join the conversation using the #atimetorun hashtag!

Blog tour