Monday, November 27, 2017

Thoughts on Writers

I went to the Wollongong Writers Festival, Sexy Words panel, yesterday. It's my local festival, or at least the closest one to me, and they have a romance panel supported by ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association), which is a great thing. Not many writers festivals include romance, so I like to support it.

For a long time, I've been trying to work out what Indie authors (independent authors; those who self publish first and foremost, even if they may be published by a publisher later on) do that's different (and often more successful) to the more 'traditional' authors, and yesterday I think I had a brain break through. Although, it may be baloney!

This wasn't just because of the panel yesterday - it's the synthesis of years of puzzling, and the case of things falling into place yesterday. It may have been because of the questions, the answers, the authors, or it may just be that acupuncture is working, my viruses are no longer winning, and I'm starting to feel alive again (thank heavens!)

In a nutshell, this is what I'm now thinking - 

Traditional authors - those with a publisher, including hybrids (those who publish by self and with a publisher) - are marketing a product. Indie authors are marketing themselves.

I'm going to give grand generalisations here, and although I know generalisations aren't right, they're the only way I can illustrate these points in a short post, and because not everyone falls into these 'categories'. I also can't give any details because after collecting thoughts over the last few years, I've no idea who I can attribute these things to any more. 

Traditionally, authors have been those who write a creative work that's the 'best they can do at the time' and they keep writing more stories, trying to perfect the craft of writing. Publishers have 'standards' which authors are trying to meet, to attain publication. Having one book accepted is no guarantee that another book will meet the same standards.

So, those authors who follow the traditional method, and are looking for a publisher's 'validation' are selling a product and trying to make that product the best they can create. They also follow some sort of 'rules' to meet these 'criteria' - although these are rather nebulous.

Indie authors have a different mindset, as far as I can work out. [Please remember, vast generalisations and since I'm not Indie, I have no way of knowing if I'm correct here.] Indie authors are selling themselves. Their books are them, their life, their fantasies, their struggles, their dreams. They aren't looking to attain any standard, they're writing purely for themselves and their friends (and their readers become their friends).

Where publishers caution you not to reply to reviews, Indie authors are in there, having robust discussions about their books, telling readers/friends where the stories developed and how they know that what they did is right for their story, their characters (or accepting if they made an error).

Indie authors share the process. Traditional authors are wrapped up in secrecy because of contracts.

Where traditional authors are hesitant and not sure of their work; Indie authors have written a fantastic story and they love every single word of it.

Publishers encourage you to have a social media presence, but you're a business. Indie authors have a social media presence that is them, no holding back.

The Indie phenomenon has turned the creation and sale of stories on its head.

For a long time, I could see extrovert/introvert. But that's too narrow a focus. All Indies aren't extroverts, in the same way that all traditionalists aren't introverts. So I think I've come a long way past that now. I'm getting a bigger and better understanding of the difference.

And... yet... even as I know this, I don't think I can change me.

I'm an introvert. I value privacy, but my family values it more highly than I do. I'm also notoriously bad at sharing me, but especially when I'm vulnerable. For example, I wrote about my sickness when I was getting better. There is no way I could have said that I was sick, when I was really ill. I curl into a ball when I'm sick, and to have others poke at me even with the best of intentions, isn't something I can cope with. I hardly let Mr E bring me a glass of water, much less have other people offer me kindness.

So, although I've had this revelation about how I can interact more with readers and hence have better reader relationships and sales, it's not something I can possibly do.

But, I will try to change. I'll try to be proud of what I've produced - instead of thinking I can do better. I will try to share more of me. I will try to interact more.

And if you prod me when I forget these things, I won't growl :) I'll try hard to feel the poke as a loving reminder that I'm falling into old habits.

Writing Festivals bring about some very unusual thoughts! I love them :)

How do you feel about Writing Festivals?
What are your thoughts on Indie and traditional published authors?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Saturday Soapbox - women as weaker part 2

I know, it's Sunday, but I have more I need to get off my chest.

Women are often their own worst enemy. My words towards the end of the last post made me run onto this tangent.

"Boys will be boys." 
"Some men don't know any better." 
"Not all men are like that." 
"Don't rock the boat." 
"You need to take the higher ground."
"Turn the other cheek."
"Don't be like that, men like to be needed."
"Dress to impress."
"Don't try to be one of the boys; men don't like that."
"You can't be friends with men."
"All men want is sex, not emotion or connection."

OMG, the platitudes. They just start spewing out of me. I've heard all these things a thousand millions times over the years. They've been drummed into my mind from a very young age and so I have to actually push them aside before I find my own voice.

This is what women do. This is how we keep ourselves in a subservient position.

Fuck that!

No more.

In publishing, look how many stories are written by women, about subservient women. It boggles my mind. I don't like reading them. I know there's the argument that the woman becomes stronger by the end (or she tames the alpha) or whatever tale we want to tell ourselves...but we're perpetuating the 'women are lesser' myth. We. Women. Are doing this to ourselves.

If that's your fantasy - fine. I don't have a problem with it being a sexual fantasy. My problem is that it's a reality for the world. We need to debunk that. We need to change that.

If 80% of stories (this is my guess, which may be somewhat exaggerated) written by women, for women, perpetuate the subservience of women...then can we ever change reality?

If publishers say, "This isn't romance, the woman isn't showing herself as weaker and in need of saving," then we're not helping change the world. We aren't truly reflecting what we want the world to be. We're shoving a stereotype down other women's throats and not letting other fantasies/stories happen.

Can't we have strong women in romance?
Can't we have women who want to have what they want?
Can't we have heroines who save themselves? Heroines who know what they want, and go after that?

Heroines can be strong and still have a hero fall in love with them. Or in my world, they can.

Why are we putting women into subservient roles in so so so many stories??????

Break the damn mould. Let women be strong.

Take a leaf from Wonder Woman; she's strong, powerful, knows what she wants, and is capable of respect and love.

STOP telling each other that we're weaker. STOP telling each other that we're lesser. STOP telling each other we need a man to save us, make us whole.

We need to believe in ourselves. We need to believe in each other. We need to know that we can be loved, strong, and equal.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Soapbox - women as weaker

Did you see Uma Thurmon shaking with rage as she quietly said she was too angry to make a comment about the treatment of women in Hollywood? Well, that's how I'm feeling. I'm shaking with rage, paralysed in thought because everything is all jumbled up, but I don't seem to be able to settle. So I'm going to soapbox my tangled thoughts.

My personal experiences have become all caught up in the world's experiences. Things I thought I'd dealt with and banished, have surfaced. I'm angry, fuming, at men...even men who haven't done anything to me (or other women), except bury their heads in the sand.

And that's irrational. I know. But how do I stop myself ranting at someone's ignorance? How can you live in the world and not see what's happening?

The other night the news had a statistic of 3 out of every 10 women have been negatively affected by men's behaviour. Male said, "Gosh, that's a high statistic." I laughed, bitterly. I think it's the tip of the iceberg, and the statistic is more likely to be 9 out of every 10, or maybe even 10. Horrified man was gulping. Asked why I thought that.

And that's when so many instances came flooding into my head. Things I thought I'd banished. Things that in themselves weren't too horrible but when I started thinking of them all, one after another, I felt sick. Physically sick. 

I only said a few instances out loud, but Male was horrified...and truly, I'm not sure he believed me. But he started to talk about his workplace and how my comments had just changed how he might deal with his staff. He's a gentle, if oblivious, soul who has always worked with lots of women (as opposed to me who's always worked mostly with men). And I seriously wonder how he's never noticed all the things that affect women.

I consider myself lucky that I've always worked directly with respectful men. I've never had to work under a barrage of abuse. However, I employed a woman who did. One of my co-workers took a dislike to her and made her life a living hell. After weeks of 'putting up with it', she came to me with the problem. Fuck. As if I knew what to do. But he was threatening her and her children, so it had definitely gone beyond something we could contain. I took it to my boss, and then to the workplace management. All men. Nothing happened. He denied it, of course. But I saw him now. I couldn't un-see him. He was a horrible man who had always made snide comments at me, which I'd taken as jest. Now they weren't funny. There was a serious problem and no one would do anything. I helped arrange for a transfer to another section for her (this wasn't a management thing, but a few concerned people taking action). I had always worried about the man in charge of the other section because he was a bit slick (not quite sleazy but just a slick kind of salesman type), but he was horrified by what had happened and rearranged his workers to take on this woman. I looked at him differently then. I had a lot of time for him, and respect. The same could not be said for so many others who I had expected more from.

I'd tucked this horrifying incident somewhere deep in my mind. It came out in a huge blurt of horror with a bucket full of twisted and tangled emotions. Anger. Horror. Frustration. Helplessness. Futility. Unfairness. Fury. 

He got away with being a total creeper because he denied it. WTF? There was evidence, okay, so it may not have held up in court but it was enough to point the finger at him. All he had to do was say, "No." She had to have phone taps, diarised entries, interviews by at least 4 senior males, questions as to her private life. God, it makes me sick to see what happened.

I was mid 20s (she was at least ten years older, thank goodness. It would have been more awful if she was younger than me, and less experienced in the world), and I lost my faith in the system totally. Although, I didn't have a lot of faith to begin with.

As a kid, men whittled away at my confidence in being a strong woman. Women didn't help because all of those around me deferred to men, made excuses for men, and taught me that men held power even as they tried to say women were equal.

Women have never been treated as equal. Never. 

My concern is that now the tide is turning somewhat, despicable men in positions of power will wield the lash to ensure women are put back 'in their place', and sadly, I don't have enough faith in other men to stand up for us.

And that makes me angry. And it makes me lash out at the men who have never noticed what happens to women in this patriarchal society. I'm shaking with fury, yet I feel impotent. Completely and utterly useless. The world seems to be a horrible place right now.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Soapbox - health

This year's been a shocking year for me, health-wise. In 2005, I was diagnosed with Ross River Fever and Glandular Fever, but the symptoms have never really gone and I get flare-ups each year around spring (when I was diagnosed with it - like an anniversary present). I've been managing my illnesses, and on a scale of 1-100, I thought I could quite comfortable sit at 70 or 80 (it's not stated at %, but I often think of it that way - it's easier).

Then last November I got sick with a cold/flu. My health on the scale dropped to maybe 40 or 50. So rather than being able to do what I normally could do, I was down to about half that and with no voice. So there'd be days in bed trying to get better. A few hours working, trying to keep the roof over my head (well, not THAT bad, but I do need to work). If I could, I'd try to slot in writing - because my head gets all messy if I can't get people out of it! Social media is for spare moments, and blogging only good days. My colds/flus usually last a few weeks, then I go on again at the high level of functioning.

But I haven't got better.

Or maybe I've had a good day or couple of days, before being knocked again. Back to bed, cold/flu worse, no voice. It's this ongoing battle.

And the Dr said... You have a virus - rest and drink plenty of fluids.

I'm not the most patient of people, so a year of this is killing me! Well, not killing, just frustrating the heck out of me.

About halfway through the year I realised there was a menopause component to this. My hormones were going haywire, so it was affecting my already compromised immune system, so I wasn't shaking the viruses like I usually could.

Then last month I began moderating a course for those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Fibromyalgia, ME, etc) which I do periodically, and I realised that I've been at 40 or 50 all year. Which should have been obvious, but somehow I overlooked it. This means I can do mentally stimulating work for 4-5 hours a day, rather than 7-8 hours at (70 or 80).

Suddenly not being able to have time to blog, write enough, do social media, etc began to make sense. My day job is 3-4 hours a day, so it's taking up most of my time. I discussed cutting back the day job but it's not a financially viable option at the moment. So that means, my first priority for those 4-5 hours, is day job. Then writing. Blogging, etc is going to drop off the list until I can find some good health and more hours.

I'm hoping if this is a menopause backlash, then when my body settles down, I might get back some hours. Fingers crossed.

Until then, I'm not going to be a very social person.

I'll miss my blogs here. I'll miss chatting to people. But hopefully I'll have some books still coming out semi-regularly. And if Cate Ellink doesn't have a new book, then my other self might have one, so you can try for the cleaner, rural read :)

Until next blog, take care and read lots!

Cate xoxo