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So What Now?

July 20th marked the end of Paid To Dance, a book series I had been working on since 2016. It is the end of an era, but I am ready to close the book on this particular chapter (pardon the pun) and get started on something fresh.

I’m going to take it easy for the rest of 2018. It has been a big year and a relentless rollercoaster past four months in particular. Every area of my life has been touched: my work, my health, my friends and family.

I never thought I would take a ‘break’ from writing and publishing, but for some time I’ve increasingly feeling the need to pause.

I have pushed through the challenges determined to stay on track with my writing, publishing, marketing and promotion, trying to maintain consistent with my blog and a number of social media platforms. I want to take some time to review my strategies, to ensure I’m making the most of these platforms and not wasting time.

There are some pressing non-writing matters that are increasingly demanding my attention. Since leaving my full-time job last year my attention has been reduced from all things creative to merely surviving. But I don’t want to just survive anymore. I need to re-establish stability so that I can properly focus on my passion again.

So I’m going to take a break, until mid-late September, at least. I’m not going to stop writing completely- I simply can’t. I’m just going to take a step back from blogging and social media. I will try and keep up my daily writing inspiration posts if I can.

I’m not going to be launching any new books in 2018, however I am going to republish all of my short stories that I had as individual Kindle ebooks, that were deleted last year when my Kindle publishing account was shut down. I may even pop a few new ones up there

For the remainder of the year I’m going to work on getting the first of my Irish crime novels finished. This series is my ‘life’s work’, my passion project, the books I was born to write. I’m also going to make a start a collection of women’s intrepid travel stories.

I want to take this opportunity to sincerely THANK everyone who is coming along on this writing journey with me, as fellow writers and readers, likers and sharers. Your support means the world to me, and I hope that by taking this little breather, I can come back bigger and better.

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Paid To Dance Blogging Series Exclusive Interview: Julz Divine

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Dancer Name/s: Julz Divine

Age started dancing & where: In Europe.

What did you do before dancing?

I was just out of school, studying psychology at university part time, giving private French lessons and working as a sales rep for a local TV channel selling advertising space to businesses. I was living with my mum who was fully supporting me financially, therefore earning money wasn’t a big concern for me at the time, I was just trying my hand different things and earning some pocket money for fun when I could.

Why did you to start? Did you have an ideal time frame or an end goal?

I saw my first live exotic dance show at Le Lido cabaret in Paris in 1992 at the age of 15. My mum took me there, this is why I got in despite being underage! And my dad paid for it. This shows that I come from a family who are very open-minded about this style of entertainment, even though they are quite conservative in some other ways.

I loved the show and thought to myself: “It would be really awesome to get involved in something like this one day!”

Fast forward 4 years. I was 19 and working as a sales rep for a TV channel, selling advertising. My first client happened to be the new night club due to open in town. At the time I didn’t even know what kind of club it was. As I sat there talking to the manager about the advertising packages I watched a group of beautiful ladies rehearsing some dance moves at the other end of the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off them!

After I’d finished my meeting I approached the ladies and asked what they were doing and how I could get into something like that. They were very friendly and invited me to join them at their next rehearsal. Which I did. And quit my advertising job that very day.

They explained to me what the show was all about and how it worked, showed me some dance moves and suggested that I should audition.

This goes back to the era when strip clubs had choreographed feature stage shows as part of their entertainment packages. Therefore, any dancer who aspired to get a job there had to come prepared with 2 or 3 fully choreographed and costumed solo feature acts, ready for stage!

My mum stayed up all night to help me make my first stage costume. If I remember correctly, it was my ballroom dance dress remodelled to resemble a showgirl costume. I think we did a rather good job of it, if you ask me!

I did fail that first audition and didn’t get the job at that club. I was young and clueless while the other performers were very experienced showgirls. However, those seasoned showgirls encouraged me to not give up and try again. I followed their advice and got the job at the next club! I danced at that club, and then another club on weekends for a few months. I had a ball!

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I then moved on to doing other things – travelling, studying, several day jobs, getting married, getting divorced, travelling again… and so on for several years. That whole time throughout my travels I kept a couple of stages costumes in my bag, just in case, because I always thought I’d go back to dancing at some point. Which I eventually did.

I went back to dancing in Brisbane, circa 2004. I was in my late 20’s then. Since that time I covered just about every genre of Adult Entertainment industry: as a strip club dancer, feature showgirl, lingerie waitress, party stripper and burlesque performer. I’d say I’ve been dancing for around 13 years, cumulatively.

First stage show experience:

My first stage show experience was actually an audition (back in the 1990’s). Now, this would be a nerve-racking experience for anyone, even a seasoned performer, let alone a 19 yo first-timer!

Imagine this: you have to perform a very sexy and seductive stage act in an empty club, in the broad daylight in front of a small group of club’s executives who just sit there with grim expressions on their faces… And this is your first time on stage ever as a solo performer… Can someone please kill me now???

Needless to say, I felt very awkward and ended up experiencing every stage mishap imaginable – from several wardrobe malfunctions to getting my heel caught in between the floor boards and falling over as a result… Not very sexy… Beam me up Scotty!!!

That memory aside, my first ever public performance, once I got my act together, got me instantly addicted to the stage! The adrenaline rush that comes from performing in front of the live audience is incredible!

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First lap dance experience:

When and where I first started dancing there was no such thing a lap dance. It was all about the stage performance.

Once I had re-entered the dancing industry in the 2000’s, I had to learn the whole lot of new things! One of them was the art of lap dance. I just couldn’t understand the concept! Luckily, on my first shift one of the seasoned dancers took me under her wing. My first private dance booking was a double dance with that lady. She showed me all the lap dance moves in the real life situation. And I was just parroting her, ‘monkey see monkey do’ the whole time whilst thinking to myself: “Why would anyone want to pay $200 for this??? Just to see some some ladies gyrating their hips in front of them?” After 10 + years in the industry I still struggle with the concept, to be perfectly honest with you…

Best & worst shifts financially:

The one that stands out in my memory as one of the best was the night when I made around $800 purely in tips in the course of 5-hour bikini waitressing shift and some podium dances in a mining town in West QLD. I didn’t even do any lap dances that night, if I remember correctly. People just kept throwing money at me!

Worst was $50 or more out of pocket after a full night shift. This is how this happens: the night is slow, you make no money whatsoever, but you still have to pay your club fees, the price of those few drinks you bought from the bar, your cab fare home or a parking fee. This could easily amount to $100-200

Besides money, what qualities do you believe make a good customer?

Basic good manners. it’s that simple! Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and offering ladies a drink goes a long way, trust me! Just the heads up, Ladies and Gentlemen: when you treat the club’s staff with respect you get a far better service from them in return. So, do yourselves a favour and be nice to all hospitality staff!

What are/were your customer pet hates? (Things that annoy/ed you about customers most)

1)“The Preachers” and “The Saviours” – the type of customers who come in to the club, enjoy the entertainment and then start preaching to us that our job is degrading/sinful/amoral and that we should be ashamed of doing it. My thoughts: “If you don’t like it, then why are you here?”

Those who say “I can take you away from all this if you would just go home with me”, basically offering me to become his personal sex slave instead. No thanks…

2) Those female customers who treat dancers with disrespect and think they can get away with it because of their gender. No! The same rules apply to everyone. Your gender doesn’t give you any entitlements!

Best memory of your time as a dancer?

Ohh, there are so many… All those exciting show tours I went on either by myself or with groups of fellow showgirls. I got to perform in so many beautiful exotic places all around Australia and meet so many awesome people along the way. I might have to write my own book about those experiences one day, so stay tuned!

What is the most rewarding experience dancing has allowed you to have?

Having the freedom to choose the hours I worked and being able to take time off anytime to do other things. All the travelling I got to do with this job. Performing on stage in front of some amazingly appreciative audiences. Getting to dress up in glamourous sparkly costumes and being paid for it.

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In the recent years I’ve performed stage shows at multiple charity events and helped raise funds towards some great causes (including Domestic and Family Violence Awareness, LGBTI Community, Community Arts Centre in Broome WA, Animal Rescue Centre end several others) and it has been very rewarding!

Best piece of advice to pass on about dancing?

Don’t take people’s negative comments to heart. Try not to get involved in ‘dressing room dramas’ and conflicts with other dancers, it’s not worth it. And don’t let one bad night bring you down and affect your self-confidence. Bad nights happens to everyone once in a while, even the most experienced and popular dancers.

Are you currently dancing? If not, what are you doing now?

Now I’m 41 and have retired form dancing in strip clubs – those long night shifts in stiletto heels are just too taxing on the body. I still occasionally perform Burlesque stage shows and do some lingerie waitressing shifts every now and then. Aside from that I work as a freelance makeup artist and photographer, do some odd jobs in hospitality and retail, volunteer for RSPCA and study for a Certificate in Community Services.

How do you feel about the statement that some people make that stripping is degrading to women?

*Rolling my eyes* Does a circus clown or a comedian degrade himself by making himself look like a fool on stage? Does he feel offended when the audience laughs at him? No. This is the whole point of his act! Same thing applies to striptease artists. We invest a lot of time effort into making ourselves look like sex sirens and put on theatrically sexualised dance routines in front of the audiences. It’s a stage act, a form of performance art and self-expression. Why is it degrading if we willingly choose do it? This could only be degrading if were were forced into doing it.

How do you feel about the use of sexualised imagery of women in advertising material?

Indifferent. As long as it looks good and doesn’t depict any violence or abuse it’s fine by me. What bugs me, however, is the rampant gender stereotyping in advertising material. Why is it always the woman who’s doing the housework in most TV commercials and the man is drinking beer, playing sports or driving cool cars? This is what needs some revision, if you ask me.

Some people argue that strip clubs shouldn’t exist at all, removing the opportunity for women to be ‘objectified’ in that setting. How do you respond to this?

With an eye roll! They are missing the point! Strip clubs, burlesquer clubs and bikini bars are places where it is safe and acceptable to objectify women because they willingly put themselves into that environment and are comfortable with being objectified whilst getting paid for it!

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Visiting strip clubs and engaging in the services of dancers is an intrinsically male activity. Do you believe that the practice of visiting strip clubs and engaging in the services of dancers is an activity that should be freely available to men, and to the general public, now and in the future?

Strip clubs should continue existing. However I think they could with some changes, the old format is getting boring. They should offer more variety of entertainment, for a start. Bring back the proper choreographed cabaret-style stage shows! This would attract different demographic of customers. Some clubs started introducing ‘ladies nights’ where they would have male topless waiters and performers in a separate section of the club. I think it’s a great practice! Both sexes should me made feel welcome in strip clubs. Offer something for everyone!

Women’s rights are being highlighted daily in the media at the moment. What purpose do you think stripping holds in our modern society? Do we ‘need’ to have stripping as part of our ongoing culture? If so, why?

I think people are taking things too seriously. It’s just another form of entertainment, that’s all. Some people like it, others don’t. Everyone should just chill and let each other be, I reckon. I don’t think we ‘need’ it. Just like we don’t ‘need’ ballet, circus, opera, football etc. But it’s great to have all these options available for everyone to enjoy.

As far as women’s rights go, women should have the right to work in a strip club if they choose to and not be shamed or lectured for it!

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Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two is AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER in paperback and Kindle eBook for release WORLDWIDE on July 20th, 2018.

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Writing Fact As Fiction: Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Parts I & II

Creative Non-Fiction: a term introduced to me by my mentor, fellow author Lee Scott. Finally I had a name for what I had been working on all these years! Up until that day I had been calling my first book a ‘biographical novel’.

The words ‘creative’ and ‘non-fiction’ describe the style. These are stories about real people and events, but unlike a biography or autobiography, are written to read like fictional stories. It is a way of storytelling that creates a safe platform for anybody to tell their story and retain their privacy. As the writer, you also have the ability to be more creative, free of the restrictions of facts.

Creative Non-Fiction is not restricted to novels. The genre, also known as literary nonfiction, includes travel writing, nature writing, science writing, sports writing, biography, autobiography, memoir, interviews, and essays.

Asha’s Story: Part Two continues the story of a young woman’s experiences working as an exotic dancer in Brisbane, Australia. Three years after daringly stepping into the world of stripping, Asha has left The Runway, the club that made her an exotic dancer, to make a fresh start at at rival venue Mademoiselle’s. Here she is faced with a whole new set of challenges, including an interstate adventure to Melbourne’s glamorous strip club scene. Asha’s personal and professional lives collide in unexpected ways, in the lead-up to the grande finale of her stripping adventure.

The character of Asha and her experiences are intended to represent the experiences of many dancers, and was also an opportunity for me to include some of the stories and events from the dancers stories I could not fit into Stripping Past & Present.

A Few Tips on Writing Creative Non-Fiction:

Get Your Facts Straight

Even though you are writing a story that is stylised as fiction, the bottom line is is that the story is still based on fact. While you can be more creative with the narrative, you are still responsible for getting the facts straight. For example, you might be writing a story about the Titanic. You might create your own characters, but you will still need to get the dates correct, statistics etc. You could come up against scrutiny otherwise, for which you will be ridiculed.

Disclaimer

Think of the opening of ‘Law & Order’.”The following story is fictional and does not depict any actual person or event.” Although we can tell by watching many episodes that they have been inspired by true events, with minor detail changes slipped in here and there.

Repercussions

In my experience of writing The Wilted Rose, my book was received relatively well by the family and friends of the main character. Some minor complaints were made that the book was too harsh on the Brethren church, however the events recounted in the story were based on the main character’s personal experiences, for which I had full permission to use.

Everybody has a right to tell their side of a story, even if someone else might not agree with their particular angle. However sometimes our best efforts to change detail are not enough. I have heard stories from other authors who, despite doing their absolute best to disguise detail, received complaints from readers whose inspired character had only a minute role and mention in the story. And even when you have the blessing of the person you’re writing about, be sure to maintain good communication with them about the details of the story, so that you are both clear on what will be included.

Be Objective.

When I am writing Creative Nonfiction, I like to think that I am laying out the facts on the table, telling a story from someone’s point of view. If someone else comes along and challenges the idea that I have conveyed in the story, then that is their opinion. Allow the reader to take from the story what they will and form their own opinion without creating an air of bias by putting your own voice and angle.

Language

Good news! Because you are working with a fictional narrative, you have the ability to be more creative with your language! You can veer away from the mundane ho-hum of factual nonfiction, with the ability to make full use of language and storytelling techniques.

Selection of Stories

As mentioned before, Creative Nonfiction is a great way for many people to share their stories, which may go unheard otherwise. However as the author you should still be mindful of which stories you select to use. A memoir about an ordinary person’s first year of college isn’t incredibly interesting. There would want to be some drama, something inspiring perhaps. When writing creative nonfiction, a clearly defined audience is also essential. Who can relate to the material you’re writing about?

What I love about the genre is that it gives the ability for more and more people to share their stories with the world, whether they write them themselves or utilise a professional writer to do so. I certainly hope we start seeing more of these types of stories in circulation.

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Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two will be available worldwide on Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook from July 20.