Ask Jax Anything (Part 9)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

Have you ever had to deal with impostor syndrome? If you did, how did you overcome it/how do you deal with it? I’m struggling with it at work, and I could use any advice you might have. Thanks in advance.

Have I ever dealt with this? Hehe. Yes. Every day, pretty much. I’m not as good an editor/writer as I think I am, or even as other people think I am. I’m definitely not as good a mother as people seem to think. I’m not as clever, wise, kind, organised, energetic as people think I am. People only think I’m organised and energetic because they see me, like, do all these things, and they don’t know that I am driven by my desire to not be a flake, to not look like I don’t have energy. I am faking it 95% of the time.

Here’s the thing I have come to realise, though. It doesn’t matter whether the energy is real or I am only getting things done out of a perverse desire not to seem like a lazy flake. Because the things get done. It doesn’t matter whether my drive to spread kindness and beauty comes out of a need to fight back against the darkness that laps pretty much constantly at the edge of my mind, because the kindness and beauty still happens. It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I’m good enough if people keep supporting my work and buying the books I make. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if they don’t. I used to write predominantly to work shit out – like, self-directed therapy. If my words sometimes resonate with people and sometimes help, then that’s enough. You know?

The truth is, I think most people feel imposter syndrome to a greater or lesser extent. I remember asking my Mom at some point when she started to feel like a grown up, because I was (technically) a grown up but I didn’t feel like one. And she laughed and said, “Mostly, I still don’t.” We all bumble along through life doing the best we can with what’s presented to us, and mostly hoping nobody notices we’re just hot messes, the lot of us.

Cucumbers with anxiety, according to one internet meme. Perhaps very accurate. 😉

I don’t really have any good advice. Maybe try to be as kind to yourself as you’d be to your best friend. Maybe try to believe people when they tell you that you rock. Maybe try to step out of your own ridiculous standards for yourself and recognise that if anyone else were doing what you’re doing, you would consider them competent.

In my experience, a lot of people with imposter syndrome work twice as hard out of a fear that somehow people will know that you’re just faking it! If this is what you do (I sure do), realise that the work COUNTS even if your motivation or drive comes from a stupid brain place. The work is getting done. People aren’t noticing that you’re faking it because even if it feels fake, the work you do is still real work.

“But I don’t know what I’m doing!” That’s okay. Most of us don’t. And then one day you get asked a random question about something in your field, and you answer it knowledgeably because it turns out that while you’re working really hard to fake it, you’re also actually learning and becoming good at what you do. (I am still surprised every time I realise that I have become quite good at what I do, just by doing it (often in a blind panic) for a decade or so.)

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friends, your partners, your children, anyone you feel disposed to give the benefit of the doubt. The fact that you’re worrying about this probably means you’re doing just fine. ❤

As I write this, there are no more questions waiting in the box, so if you’re enjoying these, ask me something!


Ask Jax Anything (Part 8)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

If you had superpowers, what would they be? And would you be a super hero or super villain? (And why)

This is a slightly tangential answer, but I think I’d basically be a D&D bard. The power of a bard comes down to being a bit of a jack of all trades who inspires when inspiration is needed, heals when healing is needed, provides some comic relief (though mine is usually accidental), reminds people why we fight in the first place, and just generally bolsters and helps out the fighters.

That is the kind of hero I would be. Handing out strength where it is needed. Mocking the bad guys to distract them so that the people with the big axes can knock them down. Providing healing when it is required. Giving strength where I can.

I guess that’s basically what I try to do anyway. I don’t have spells for that stuff in real life, of course, but I do have words, which is almost the same thing. 😉 I am better at making beauty than fighting bad guys. I try to inspire and provide reasons to keep fighting because that’s where my strength lies.

As far as hero or villain goes, I am definitely on the good side of that equation. I am fascinated by villains, because I think they’re often, essentially, personifications of the monsters we fight in our own worlds and lives and heads all the time. But I’m no villain. I just don’t have the temperament for it. I don’t even kill spiders.

In the parlance of my people, I fall firmly into chaotic good. But that’s about right for a bard, I think.

That wasn’t quite what you asked, but I hope it’s a good enough answer. ❤

As I write this, there is only one unanswered question waiting in the box, so if you’re enjoying these, it may be a good time to ask me something!

Why I made a children’s book


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As I write this, we are in our second week of crowdfunding for “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes”. We’ve hit the 10% mark, but we have a long way to go, and that makes me nervous.

Let me tell you about this book. To tell you about this book, I have to tell you about another book. When I was a child, we had a book called “I can choose my bedtime story”. The contents page had a bunch of illustrations on it in lieu of titles. The idea was that a kid could pick a picture, turn to that page and their loving, patient parent could read them the tale. We must have heard these stories a million times as children. Some more often than others, because, of course, we had favourites.

When I had a child of my own, I managed to abscond from my parents’ house with this book that I had loved as a child, so that I could read it to my own child. Much as I had, he loved picking a story from the contents page. And that was when I made my terrible heart-breaking discovery.

The stories were awful.

Through adult (editorial, kiddielit expert) eyes they were badly written and plot holey. The illustrations were actually kind of average. I looked at this book I had adored as a kid, while I was reading it to my own child, and I thought, “I can do better”.

So, in true Jax style, I did.

I had to wait several years. When I had this idea, I didn’t have the Raven, the energy or the skills to do it justice. I needed to learn more. I kept it on the backburner and waited till I had them.

Then the Raven happened. I got better at what I do. The time seemed ripe. So we made it happen.

We have kept the “choose your own” illustrated contents page concept, but everything else is better. The illustrations are bold and bright and colourful and beautiful. (Thank you to Jon Stubbington, who totally delivered on what we were looking for.) The stories are diverse and substantial. Well-written. Engaging.

Even my kid is crazy excited about this book. IT is very close to my heart.

I very much hope it may be close to yours too. But for that to happen, for us to be able to print this beautiful thing, we need you to come on board and help us make it happen. If you have a small human in your life who might love a new book, consider making it this one. If you just want to see more quality books for kids in the world, just have a beer with us, and support us that way. (Yes, we have a beer reward again, because, well, this is the Raven, after all.) Or just drop us $7 and irritate the snot out of Will by making the total a weird number. 😉

Please help me make this happen. I am so proud of this book and it is so close to my heart. And you won’t regret it. No one ever regrets buying beautiful books. 

I love you, awesome nerds. Help me do a cool thing. ❤

Ask Jax Anything (Part 7)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

If you were to have a position in government, what portfolio would you like to oversee, and what would your first action in office be?

Hooboy. I’m not sure I am qualified to do any of this sort of thing, but I guess if I were going to, the thing I’d most like to have power over is Education. So, Jax for Minister of Education (or whatever they call that here)!

My reasoning is that I honestly think that if you want to change the world, you start with the kids. They’re still malleable. Their prejudices are not as locked in as those of adults. Adults can change, but it is a lot harder to get them to do so than it is with children. To a kid, almost everything is a new idea, so adding in things like “the colour of your skin does not dictate how smart you are” or “what you can do or like or enjoy isn’t dictated by your gender” is that much easier.

But also, I think that the key to a smart, critical, productive populace is educating them properly from the start. Plus I think teachers should be better recognised for the work they do because that shit is exhausting, phenomenal, and thankless.

I guess my first action in office would be to start trying to get that recognised, and get more funding channelled into education, and into the education of our educators. I have this dream where being a teacher is more like being a doctor – hard as fuck to become and then financially recompensed as it should be.  (I doubt the medical process is perfect, by any means, but hopefully you see what I am saying.)

If I was going to make the biggest long term difference, that would be the place to do it, I think. This is like that old tree thing though. (You know the one? About how planting a tree is not for your benefit as much as for the benefit of future generations. You will never sit in its shade. Dammit. I am going to have to look it up.) AHA!

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

(Can also be old women, but this is an ancient Greek proverb, says Google, so there ya go.)

I’d like to plant some metaphorical trees. 🙂


Ask me something!

On living with high-functioning depression

I fight an ongoing battle with depression. Anyone who has paid any attention to my journey over the past ten years or so will already know this. I speak quite openly about it, because I can – the stigma has no massive influence on my life, and I hope very much that talking about it helps other people feel less alone. Also, I have developed ways of coping with the symptoms and mechanisms for beating that nasty depression voice in my head that likes to lie to me and tell me how useless and unloved I am.

As far as depression goes, I am doing okay. I had a major crash about 6 years ago, when my marriage ended while I had a small child, and I spent a lot of the time since then putting my life and my brain back together. Now I am back to a place where I can make commitments and meet deadlines and work when I need to, and parent effectively and all that good life shit.

I’m what they call “high-functioning”. I take my meds, I eat properly, I try and get some exercise, and, for the most part, I get through my days without anyone on the outside any the wiser about the battle on the inside.

Because of this, and because I know I’m not the only person in the world who deals with this – you or someone you know might be one of them and maybe it’ll help knowing you’re not alone – I want to talk a bit about the challenges of high functioning depression. I hasten to add, I am not a medical professional, and this is based entirely on my own personal experience. If any of it rings true for you, and you don’t think of yourself as depressed, it might be a good idea to have a chat with a doctor. Coping mechanisms are great, but meds work too. Help your body to help your mind. ❤

The biggest challenge of high functioning depression, for me, is accepting that it counts. That probably sounds silly, but it’s legitimately a major thing. Because I know what it’s like to be can’t-shower, getting-out-of-bed-is-an-achievement, haven’t-cooked-in-a-week, bring-me-my-wine full on depressed, the fact that I haven’t been properly drunk in months, eat three decent meals a day, get up every day at the same time and work and shower and look after my kid often makes me feel like I’m just malingering. I’m fine! I mean look at me, meeting deadlines and eating healthily! Sure, I’m tired, like, all the time, and everything feels kind of grey and numb, and nothing is, exactly, FUN, per se, but it’s not like I can’t get out of bed, right?

I have developed all these mechanisms for getting things done even when I feel like shit, which I did because I needed to beat that feeling of impossibility I used to live with, so now the things get done and I am super productive – perhaps more productive than I’ve ever been in my life. Which is dandy. But it makes it hard to feel “legitimate” if I am having a depressive episode. Because now instead of hiding in my bed crying, a depressive episode looks like irritability and exhaustion on me. I find myself saying, “I’m just tired” when what I mean is, “I’m pretty sure I’m actually really depressed right now, but it isn’t having any major external impact, so meh, it’ll pass”.

I had to talk my doctor into giving me meds because he was like, “You seem very together for a depressed person.” At which point I burst into tears and said something like, “Yes, but holy gods, it costs me so much effort to be” and he was like, “Oh, yes, I see it now, take these once a day and come back in three months.” (He is actually pretty great, I’m downplaying how this went. But there was still that “you don’t seem depressed” thing.)

I’m really good at hiding it now. I get things done anyway. I get up anyway. I can still talk and socialise with people if I need to, though the gods know I usually don’t want to. When I get time to myself, I spend it sleeping or reading or anything that requires almost no energy or effort from me, because I have spent it all looking after my kid and being a girlfriend and cleaning the dishes and making sure whatever I need to get done gets done.

If I get some time to myself, and one of my friends messages me in a way that requires immediate attention, I feel resentful, and then I swallow that resentment because there is no way for them to know how tired I am, and, you know, I’m always tired, so what difference does it make anyway, and I talk to them as much as I can and then I tell them gently I need to go, and I go. (I am very fortunate that my dearest friends all get this shit, and understand that when I am out of juice, I am out of juice, and they don’t get hurt if I say I have to go. My people are amazing.)

Small decisions become impossible. I plan two week menus so that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. My to read shelf is in an order already so that I don’t have to decide what book to read next. I even have a system for my t-shirts so that I don’t have to think about which shirt to wear in the morning. I have structures and systems scattered throughout my life, lists and procedures to keep me on track, to minimise how many small daily decisions I have to make. I have reminders for things normal people just do, like drinking water and eating lunch. Because every decision takes monumental effort, so I do what I can to minimise them, and stick to the ones that are work related or absolutely cannot be avoided. Those I can handle with aplomb. I do story selection quickly and efficiently, but really only because I have this almost insane scaffolding holding up my day to day life to make space in my decision matrix for the big stuff that cannot be avoided.

This has weird consequences. I am good at dealing with the unexpected, but if something “unimportant” throws off my schedule, I get irritated. If my partner offers to cook dinner, I’ll thank him, but if he needs me to decide what he should cook, or if he asks what I want, then there’s no point, and I may as well do it myself. It’s not the cooking that takes effort, it’s the deciding. If I have planned to do something specific in the afternoon, and my kid wants to play with me, it takes a huge conscious decision to set aside whatever I had planned and hang out with him. Sometimes I manage to do this, sometimes I don’t. I should, always, because the years when he is going to want to hang with me are getting shorter, but I have to have the juice to consciously set aside whatever was on my radar and engage with him.

I think the worst thing is that nothing is really fun. Some things are kind of vaguely enjoyable. Some things make me feel better for a while. Some things give me an injection of energy. But I’m not spontaneous any more (I used to be). I struggle to remember what things give me actual enjoyment, because instead of enjoyment, I mostly just feel tired. I feel happiness, and pride, and love, but not really enjoyment. There are, very likely, in my case, hormonal reasons for this which are going to be resolved in the next month or two, so I am hopeful my passionate spontaneous fun will come back, but honestly, this is the hardest thing to deal with. Feeling permanently too tired to actually enjoy anything. It sucks, man.

This all sounds very “poor me”, and I want to highlight that I am not, exactly, unhappy. I have a very supportive amazing boyfriend who really gets this shit, and we talk all the time, learning each other’s idiosyncrasies and how to handle them. I have an amazing kid who gives great snuggles and tells nifty stories. I have kittens and sunflowers. I do work that I really do love most of the time. My life is pretty awesome. But there is an unseen cost for keeping all that rolling, and sometimes it gets away from me and then I feel awful for a while. It passes, and then I feel okay, but I am never not tired, and I am never totally marvellous. I am getting better all the time, because I never stop working on ways to beat this bullshit. But a lot of the time, stuff is kind of grey and meh.

The other thing that is awful is that sometimes I just want the effort acknowledged. Other people just, you know, get up and go to work and live their lives and it doesn’t seem to cost them this monumental effort. I grit my teeth and remind myself that I am a badass and then I put a smile on my face, or some 90s rock on to remind my muscles of who they are, and I pull my shit together and I do what needs doing. I am a tough stubborn wench, and that’s why things get done. And sometimes I just want people to see that. But, of course, I have spent all this effort building a scaffold that hides that effort, so that I seem “normal” (whatever the hell that is), and most of the time only the people closest to me have any idea. (The day my little boy told me he was going to be an inventor and make me a robot to do my work for me “so that you won’t be so tired all the time” I nearly wept.)

So here I am pulling back the curtain just a bit, so that you can see what it costs. And maybe so that if your productivity and getting through shit costs a similar thing, you know you’re not alone, and I see you and you, too, are a motherfucking badass. And maybe if you know someone who is always tired and a little bit irritable, you may show them some compassion and understand that maybe, just maybe, they also have this monumental cost just to appear functional.

I love you, nerds. Stay magnificent.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 6)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox so it can be totally anonymous.

I am considering getting a tattoo. The design will be composed mostly of elements from a culture other than the one I was born into. Is this still appropriation, even though done with respect toward and with the approval of a family member who is of that culture?

I mean, I am not sure I can really answer that since I’m probably also not of that culture.

The whole thing about appropriation is a bit tricky and knotty. I don’t much like the idea of never being able to borrow from other cultures, other stories, other worldviews, because I think part of what makes humans interesting is that we do this. We take elements of things and blend and combine them to make new things. I think that’s a positive. I mean, I am a total nut for retold fairytales.

But where there are major power imbalances and histories of oppression this can become super problematic, when the oppressors take the bits they dig and adopt them while ignoring or actively denigrating other parts of the culture they’re borrowing from.

The short answer is, I think that doing this means there is always going to be the chance that people indigenous to the culture from which you are borrowing are going to roll their eyes and go, “Yeah, nice try, that ain’t your shit”, and they may be justified in that (not knowing your own background) and that is something you need to be cognizant of if you’re going to go down that route.

At the same time, it’s your body, so, you know, maybe do what you want?

This is not super helpful, I realise. It’s even problematic to say that your relation approves because it’s not totally cool to expect one member of any group to speak for everyone in that group. I guess the best I can offer is that you weigh your desire for this particular piece and what it means to you beside the potential eye rolling you may encounter and have to suck up and then make a decision.

Personally, speaking only for myself, I would probably steer clear. There are so many things in the world you can use to express things without having to deal with all of this, that I think there are probably better, more creative ways to do it. My tattoos are all kind of original and specific to me (with the exception of the theatre masks, but those are definitely from my own cultural heritage). The older I get, the more inclined I am to stick to creating my own iconography rather than taking from other cultures.

But, ultimately, it’s your body. So, you know, do as you will. Just prepare for possible consequences.

Ask me something!


Ask Jax Anything (Part 5)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

My Mom in law wants to gift us a toy clothes line that she had as a child for our unborn son (due in a few weeks) which I think is super sweet and nice, however the issue is Father in law is saying that a boy shouldn’t or wouldn’t want to play with a toy clothes line.
I’ve tried to counter that regardless of gender they/son will still need to learn to wash their clothes at some stage and know how to hang washing on a line. (I’m not going to start on the fact that I will be gifting son dolls so he can play with them)
I just feel like son isn’t even born yet and I am battling the gender stereotypes, and older generation. What can I do with Father in law Jax?
I want to teach my child and any future children life skills like how to wash/hang/fold laundry, how to cook and how to care for babies and other children, how to mow the lawns, and repair a bike etc regardless of what gender the child is.

First of all, congrats on having the right idea from the get go! Yay!

Now for the hard part. There’s not much you can do with your FIL except what you’re doing. Gently tell him where you stand on the things, and then do your thing. Your job isn’t to change everyone’s mind, it’s to give your kid(s) the tools to live in the world. That starts with putting the right ideas in their head from the start and then supporting them as they find out that the world doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

Here’s an example from my own life. I love painting my nails. I love having pretty painted nails. Because I’m also a mother and occasional artist, it never lasts that long, so I end up doing it quite often. My partner does his too, and C (my son) has always loved having his done. He’s about to turn 7. Interestingly, when he was younger it was a non-issue. No one gave him crap about it, and it didn’t matter. But the last time (a week or so ago), he got shit from the boys at school. The girls, it turns out, all thought it was AWESOME that he paints his nails, but some of the boys pulled the predictable “that’s a girl thing” nonsense. So I asked him what he did. And he said, “I just told them that was dumb, and that boys can paint their nails if they want.” I asked him if it bothered him that they said it was a girl thing and he said, nope. He just told them they were wrong. It possibly helped that his male teacher took his side in this. In any case, it seems all my “Do what you want, fuck gender norms” attitude has sunk in. Which pleases me greatly.

I think starting off by exposing kids to a bunch of things and then encouraging whatever interests them (regardless of gender norms) is brilliant. And honestly, is actually the easy part. As they get older and go out into the world, the trick is to give them the tools to handle the inevitable backlash. I do think it’s getting better. Certainly, here in New Zealand, kindies actively let the kids do what they wish and ignore gender norms (or at least the kindies C was at did). I think that shift is happening with younger kids. (I’m not sure where in the world you are, so I can’t speak to your societal space.)

I think the trick with this, and possibly all parenting things, is to do the best you can to arm your kids with effective tools against the dumbasses out there, allow them to develop a strong sense of themselves, and make sure they know that you love them no matter who they turn out to be. And understand that this isn’t a “one conversation” issue. This is an ongoing, live it so they see it, constantly reinforce the idea kind of thing.

Also, dude, boys should know how to do their own damn laundry. C is nearly 7, and he’s already able to operate our washing machine, more or less on his own. He needs a little help with putting the detergent in, but he’s getting there. These are important life skills. Good on you for wanting your kid to have them.

Good luck!


Ask me something!

Ask Jax Anything, Part 4

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’m gonna start doing one question at a time because it’s easier to do that way, and also cos I am running out of questions. 😉 If you’re enjoying this, you should hit the link above and ask me something.

How did you manage to start building your Patreon empire, and convincing people to pay for your work?

Patreon empire, that’s hilarious. 🙂 To be honest, Patreon has never been wildly (financially) successful for me. I’ve run three Patreon projects. Latchkey was amazing, and worked really well, in that we covered our expenses, but honestly, even that we only succeeded at doing because I have an awesome network of writers and artists who were willing to come in on an experimental project getting paid less than they were worth, just to be part of the experiment. I’m still really proud of Latchkey, not least because I kept it more or less ticking along, at a pretty high quality, despite being in one of the worst personal depression slumps of my life, but it wasn’t, financially speaking, the greatest success.

I now have two Patreon projects. The Bookish Jelly Bean (which I’m working behind the scenes on getting up and running again) was never intended to be a money-spinner. It is much more a labour of love on the part of my nerdy kid-lit liberal heart. I hoped patrons might help me track down hard to find books, but that was about it. Again, while I’m proud of the Jelly Bean, and enjoy doing it, it’s not super financially viable.

The second is my short story Patreon, where I try to write a story a month (to a greater or lesser degree of success) and hope people will tip me to read them. Again, financially, it hasn’t really been a whopper, but I get occasional new patrons, and it keeps me writing, which was my original goal. If I can get it to the point where it earns my usual editorial hourly rate, I’d be pretty happy. 🙂

What I have found way more effective is distinct crowdfunding campaigns for specific books. There, people come out to support me, as a rule. And I think the secret to that is basically that I care about people all the time, so when I ask for support, they’re inclined to give it. I have an amazing network of supportive humans from around the globe, but, and here’s the key thing, asking them to buy my stuff isn’t the primary connection. I think there are people who buy my stuff because they like my work, and that is awesome, and ultimately the goal is to have enough of them to make a real living from this, but mostly I’m still at the stage where people buy my stuff because they want to support me.

I don’t know that there’s a bulletproof method to making these things work. I experiment a lot, I’ve learned to not be scared of failure – to try things and learn from whether they work or not. My first couple of crowdfunding projects were fucking awful, but I learned a LOT from those mistakes, and I don’t make them any more. Like, triple check your numbers before you price your rewards, and maybe trying to run a CF campaign in the midst of crippling depression is a good way to hamstring yourself. :/

Also, you know, have an awesome product. It helps if, in addition to having people who want to support you, you are also creating something that people want.

I think a lot of people view these kinds of crowdfunded models as an easy route, but they really aren’t. You have to be constantly reconnecting with your crowd, constantly keeping yourself in their attention, and also still creating amazing things that people want. It’s very hard work, and it’s work with no guarantees. I love what I do, and if I’m honest, the money is nice, but it is secondary to just wanting to create cool stuff. So, it’s not hard to keep at it. But if I’d been doing this for the money, I’d have given up years ago. It’s taken years to build it to the point where I can now be confident that a crowdfunding project I run will work. And even now, there’s always the chance I’ll screw it up in some way. But I keep learning, and hence, the screwups happen much less frequently than they used to.

I’m not sure if that’s helpful. tl;dr Have an amazing product, love what you do and don’t be afraid to express that, build a crowd of awesome humans, for the sake of the people more than the money, and maybe you’ll have a shot. 😉


Ask me something!

Ask Jax Anything Part 3

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes

This is part three in a “whenever I get around to it” series, in which I answer your questions to the best of my ability, using my characteristic foul-mouthed, minimal-nonsense approach, based almost entirely on my own ridiculous and often totally batshit life.

You can ask me anything. I know some shit about relationships and communication, I know a bit about the beating of brain monkeys and the support of others who are doing so. I know some shit about parenting, I guess. I may or may not have useful advice – I make no promises. But for whatever it is worth, and whatever questionable wisdom I may have gathered, I am happy to share. 🙂

If you ask me something and I don’t know the answer I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

I hasten to add that I am not a medical professional, I’m just one human who has been through a lot of crap and learned some stuff along the way, and maybe has something useful to share on the matter. Some of what I have said about my own journey has seemed to resonate with people, so maybe I can help some folks. That would be awesome.

If you have a question, you can ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’ve got a desperate crush on my workmate. I’ve recently become single, and I know her marriage is not working out. Should I tell her how I feel?

If she’s still married? Probably not yet. Here’s the thing. No matter how broken and over a marriage is, ending it is still a heart-wrenching, vulnerable, difficult time. And you don’t really want to be the reason she leaves. If she chooses to leave, it’s way better if she does it for herself, and because the relationship is over than because she’s in a flush of NRE (new relationship energy) over someone new. That too easily can backfire into being “your fault”.

I feel obligated to admit that I found the strength to leave my marriage at least in part because I’d found someone else. But it was definitely over, and I had no doubts about that, and now that that (other) relationship is also over, I don’t regret it or hold it against that person. But there is a possibility that new relationship may have survived better if it hadn’t had to weather my emotional turmoil, grief and sadness over the end of a future I’d believed in for a long time. Even when you know it’s right to leave, there is still a grieving process.

My suggestion is that you offer her coffee and support and friendship, and, this is important, MEAN IT. In other words, not just as a temporary attempt to win her over so she falls madly in love with you, but because you care about her and like her company. Don’t “nice guy” this shit. But it would probably be better for both of you and any budding romance between you if she gets her shit sorted out first. That gives you your best shot at a happy ending. And if it never goes to the romance place, you may have made a really wonderful friendship out of it, which is, despite all the stupid friendzone bullshit, a pretty amazing thing.
As you came to adulthood, your home nation of South Africa was finally ending apartheid and moving into the modern world, ethically. Why did you choose that moment to emigrate? Was it at all related to the changes or a temporal coincidence.

I didn’t actually. 🙂 I chose that moment to do a bit of traveling because I had finished my degree and didn’t quite know what to do next. I traveled to the States, and loved the experience so much that I wanted to see more of the world. So I got a job in the Emirates for a year. Well, it was meant to be a year. Then I met the man I would later marry, and stayed for four, and then my life was entangled with someone else’s so we had to make decisions as a unit. It was really only when I had a child in New Zealand that I finally laid aside my intent completely to one day “go home”. This is his home now, so here I will stay, at least for now.

When I left SA I had every intention of going back. But life happened and my road twisted and turned and I ended up here. So, yes, temporal coincidence, I suppose, plus a bit of Tolkien’s thing: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”


Hello Jax! My question is this: what are your thoughts about how to enter a brand new/potential relationship with a sense of optimism and openness and willingness to be vulnerable, when all of your past experiences (long term, short term, sex friends you caught feelings for, all of ’em) have primed your neural pathways to be like “DANGER DANGER this way lies heartsmashing and tears”? I really so want to be there for this but I am fucking scared, yo.

Oh, this is a hard one. Because really what you have to do is ignore your lizard brain, and your lizard brain is very emphatic.

I mean, the short answer is, maybe there is danger. I mean, there is, because love is dangerous. There is always the potential for epic heartbreak. But there is also the potential for epic soulmate love. Or for something a bit more lukewarm, but quite lovely anyway. Or for any other gradient between the two.

I think perhaps the only way to do that is to learn to recognise the difference between a reaction to the person in front of you and historical reactions. Which takes time and practice. Because you don’t want to discount your gut altogether, guts are often pretty smart. But lizardbrain fear sometimes feels just like your gut speaking. And it can take time to untangle all of that.

Here’s an excellent litmus test. Tell your person. You don’t have to unload your entire life history on them if it’s still new, but saying something like, “Hey, I’m super into you, and I really want to make this go, but I have a bunch of historical bullshit that is making me feel really afraid. Please bear with me while I work through it.”

It’s a litmus test because someone into you who can go, “Oh, that’s cool, I get that. Baggage is very human. Is there anything I can do to help assuage your fears?” is the BOMB. That’s the shit you want. Someone you can talk through the lizardbrain fear with. Someone who will sit with that fear and hug it until it sods off back where it belongs. That’s the shit.

But if they go, “uh, nah, fuck that, too much work”, then they’ve revealed themselves as not epic soulmate material, and saved you botha  lot of time. Because really, isn’t epic soulmate what you deserve?

Try and enjoy the happy early fluttery joy feelings regardless. They really are so much fun, even if it doesn’t work out in the long term. Good luck ❤


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Do so here. 🙂 

What’s Jax working on – the 2018 edition

Hi all!

I try, on occasion, to give you a rundown of all the things I have going on, and the many ways that you can support me or find my work. Here’s the “beginning of 2018” edition. 🙂

The Patchwork Raven

The Raven took a bit of a backseat last year due to life stuff on both my and Will’s parts (he got married, I moved to Hamilton, among other things), but we are back on board this year!

You can still buy Twelve Days on our website in various formats, and you can pre-order our re-release of Allusions of Innocence, which should be available in the next month or so.

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes, our collection of children’s stories is so close to being ready I can almost smell it. We hope to launch the crowdfunding campaign for this in March.

We’re also going to be working on re-releasing a few more of my old Solarwyrm titles under the new Raven banner over the next year, and we may even manage to get through some of the novel submissions we still have loitering in our inbox.

Speaking of submissions, we’re still looking for submissions for our Backyard Earth project – a collection of books with stories from every country in the world. Ambitious? Yes. But that’s what makes the Raven crazy special.


I still edit for money! I’m a lot busier now than I used to be, but if you (or someone you know) have a thesis or a manuscript or a website or pretty much anything in English that you’d like professionally edited, get in touch. 🙂


I have this Patreon where I sometimes write stories. It’s on my list to get up and running again, so if you’d like to read my original tales of wonder and woe at irregular intervals, hop on over and drop me a dollar or so. The more of you who do that, the more likely I am to actually write some things again. Just sayin’. 😉

The Bookish JellyBean

This project was one that also got abandoned in the craziness of last year, but it is also on my list to get up and running again. Basically, I am working my way through a list of the children’s literature “canon” and holding it up to the light of a left-leaning political aesthetic. I have a Masters in Children’s Lit, so I legitimately know what I’m doing. 😉

You can support this on Patreon.
Or follow it on Facebook.


I work with MeBooks, helping out with reviews, blog posts and social media. It’s an awesome little enterprise for Kiwi writers and publishers, helping NZers get their books up online for purchase. If you’re a fan of Kiwi literature and non-fiction, it’s a great place to procure some, but it also has a truly astonishing number of historical texts available for free.
You can also follow us on Facebook.


Going to be dragging this out from off the cyber backburner too. It’s a Facebook group devoted to creating bizarre musical lists. If you’re a fan of lists, or music, or weirdness, you’ll probably enjoy it. Come on over and join us.


I think that’s roughly it. I always have too many balls in the air, and every time I put them all in one place like this I realise that I am a maniac. But it keeps me out of trouble, mostly. 😉 Hopefully, you found something that tickles your fancy. Thanks for sticking around. Love you, awesome nerds.

Oh, also:
Follow me on Facebook.
Or Twitter.
And here’s a list of all the books with which I’ve been involved.