Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Story - inspiration

Lots of people are inspired by lots of different things for their stories. But my inspiration for Deep Diving played his 250th game of footy last night and there's a highlights reel here to celebrate that milestone. I thought you might want to see him from the start of his career to now :)

When I look at the gallery I can see why suddenly in 2012 I noticed him. There's a confidence about him  that wasn't there earlier. He has more of a presence, his legs are huger...but maybe I'm interpreting not just looking at the highlights!

Hopefully I'll pop in and tell you how his game went - but I'm setting this up early and I might forget! So here's my imaginary take on the game -

He had an absolute cracker. His kicking was pinpoint accuracy. He scored a couple of tries, one all on his own. He set up the ten other tries his team scored and they won convincingly. He won the man of the match award.

So how's that for a prediction! I'll probably be so very wrong.

Hope I remember to update this post :)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Phallic Friday - sexual assaults

The news stories this week seem to be filled with sexual assaults and awful things. Today there's even one about a woman being raped by another woman.

I suppose these happened all the time and our penchant for news 24-7 has just made them more of a focus and more discussed, but it's really quite an awful trend to see in the news.

I love the act of sex - which is kind of obvious considering I have fun writing about it - so I find it difficult to understand how people can choose to use it as a way to harm others. But I do know it happens.

When I was really young, probably only just 18 or so, I was a leader of a youth movement group and there was a kid in my group who had been assaulted by her own mother. It was horrific to hear. She was in the custody of her paternal grandmother when I met her, aged 7, so the assaults had occurred before then. And it horrified me on so many levels. How could a mother do that to a child? How could a child survive such horror? How did the father cope knowing what the woman he loved had done?

The effect on the child was awful. She didn't trust anyone. The school system was set up in 4 terms, and each new term meant the child going through the awful trust issues again. Her grandmother was exceptionally patient and beautiful. She came to our meetings and was always there for her granddaughter, always supported her and always cared. After a few weeks, the little girl could laugh and play with the other children but it took a few years for her to be relaxed around me - I was more her mother's age than the other, older leaders.

It broke my heart that this little child was so damaged and healing took so very long.

I don't know what became of her. I don't know that too many knew why she was in her grandmother's care and I never spoke about it to anyone. So I'll never know. But I hope she found something wonderful in life. I hope the nightmares of her youth left her. I hope she had understanding people along every step of her journey. But I know I probably have my rose-coloured glasses on. The effects of sexual assault, any assault, are long-lasting and horrible. I wish they never happened.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday - Moorish Idol and Wrasse

Moorish Idol
Last of the Lord Howe Island wildlife.

I haven't found a lot of information on the Moorish Idol. The trusty Australian Museum has some info you can read here. Their info includes that Moorish Idols have a long snout which they use to feed on coralline algae and sponges in cracks and crevices. They often form pairs but are also in large schools.

The Wrasse are the second largest fish family and the Australian Museum website has lots of photos if you'd like to check them out here. I find they're the fun, friendly fish and I always enjoy diving with them. They include the Blue Grouper, which is one of my favourites.

Green Moon Wrasse
I think the remote beach photo I have here is an unnamed beach at Lord Howe Island. I took the photo from The Clear Place looking towards Blinky Point over Little Mutton Bird Ground. It was kind of wild and incredible. So different to the Lagoon and Old Settlement Beach and even Neds. And all packed into one tiny island :)

Hope you've enjoyed exploring LHI. I've loved 'virtually' going back.

Red and Green Wrasse

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Deep Diving Release Day

I think it's release day for Deep Diving! I'm not one hundred per cent sure because I'm a guinea pig trialling a new release process. So let's say it's today! Woohoo!

Things have changed between the release of The Virginity Mission and Deep Diving - and it's only 1 year! Some of these have been:
  • I've had net galley reviews ahead of release
  • I've had a 99c pre-order thing going for a few weeks
  • I've had lots of people retweeting and favouriting my meme things.
  • I'm part of a bigger group of writers (the Naughty Ninjas)
  • Escape have done some great promo things with e-book platforms and bloggers
  • My cover is not so naked, and therefore better received in the US
  • I've got more of an author platform and feel a bit more confident than last time.

So, I'm interested to see how these changes affect sales. I'm not sure if I'll know which had a lasting effect, or the biggest effect, but I'll know if overall there's an impact.

I think the 99c pre-order is huge. I buy lots of 99c pre-orders because it's a bargain, especially if I'm going to buy the book anyway, or if I'm tempted to give a new author a try. The Virginity Mission never dropped in price from $2.99. That's kind of my cut-off point for buying a book, and TVM was only 41K so just bigger than a novella. I think the 99c pre-order is a great strategy. But I wonder if it works. If it does, I should see DD's ranking launch at quite a high point tomorrow because all pre-order sales are counted on release day. So that's what I'll be checking - what's my Day 1 ranking look like. But I won't know if it's directly attributed to the price, the early reviews, the tweeting or the memes.

That's one of the difficult things about the industry. I don't know what helps sales - no one seems to. And we all stand and shove our books at each other and hope a few buy. I don't like that type of marketing.

So, before my next book release, I'm challenging myself to think of 2 new ways to market that doesn't involve shoving my book at other authors. Now that will be a challenge!

If you've bought DD at the bargain pre-order price, I thank you very much and I hope you enjoy Sam and Cooper's holiday as much as I did (and they did)!!

Cate xox

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Story - post conference thoughts

I'm leading this post with the warning - I came home with a bad chest infection, so my views may be tainted by that!

I went to the RWA conference in Sydney earlier this month. I think I went to a different event to that of what I've read about from everyone else! Although, maybe I have different expectations.

All my working life I've attended conferences (agricultural science ones before writing ones). I have a high expectation of learning, networking and facilities. At the venue I asked the girl at check-in if they were regularly 'like this' because it was chaos and no one seemed to know what they were doing. She smiled and told me they always had lots of big events. Yep, stunned me! Service was slow. Bar service was slower. And I don't think our room was serviced in our 4 day stay.

The Friday workshop was an event I did not attend. The speaker is a man whose books on writing craft I had heard great things about but when I read, they left me cold (or asleep). I was very very glad that I had not spent almost $200 when I heard these comments from attendees, "His examples are a bit dated. They're all from the mid 1980s. If you're under 30, would you have ever seen The Odd Couple?" and "I went to a talk he gave in 2010 at the American conference, and it's word for word exactly what he's presenting today."

The keynote speaker was an American big-name author. I had been told she was a cross between Phyllis Diller and Lucille Ball, which did not endear me to her before I heard her speak. But when a keynote speaker opens up by saying they haven't prepared a talk, I really get my hackles up. When it's obvious that they haven't, I'm left wanting. I thought maybe it was just her I went along to a session about 3D Character Development. Ah, okay, not just the keynote. Sure she had notes about character but nothing I could use. You see, she plainly said that this was not for pantsers, about halfway into the session. Useful for pantsers to know that, huh? Why not put it right up front so I can go elsewhere? About three comments were made about pantsers and all of them derogatory. Then the class ended up doing plotting not character because she was sure she had a plotting session (but didn't).

I walked out, furious. Absolutely furious. I could not attend another session until I had wound down. And I was not alone. In the bar area a few of us debriefed the session and the waste of our time and money.

But do you know what she said in the final speech? She said if you haven't finished a book in 9 months, just kill it. Get over yourself and your dead baby and start a new one. (I've paraphrased because I was so incensed by her insensitive comment to a roomful of 350 women, a proportion of whom would surely have suffered miscarriage at some stage, that my mind has blanked her exact words). Political correctness, anyone?

There was another American guest who I did not see except for her session and there were photos of her at the book signing. Was she there? She certainly didn't make herself easily available.

The fourth American guest was brilliant. Thank heavens!

But when I'm paying $1000 to attend a conference (includes accommodation), I'm looking for brilliant nuggets I can use. I don't want rehash. I don't want nasty comments about how I write. I don't want only humour or inspiration...I want value for money...and 3 out of 4 of these American guests aren't delivering for me.

It's not the conference team's fault. You don't know what you're getting until they arrive. But why aren't these authors delivering? Or is it just me?

I went to a brilliant session by an academic on psychopaths. It made my conference worthwhile. He was current, relevant, presented a lot of information and gave great examples. The only part relevant to my writing was the sexual sadist component (which lasted a few minutes) but it was well worthwhile listening to him and watching a sharp presentation. (Sadly, I missed another session which I'm sure was brilliant too).

I went to a lovely Harlequin dinner which was fun, feel good and fabulous. They obviously spent money and time planning the event. And they made an effort to be all-inclusive, which hadn't been the case so much last year. I thoroughly enjoyed that evening - and it wasn't just the shirtless men!

I ditched the loud cocktail party for an evening meal with 4 others. That was really worthwhile too. The networking was great. I helped out at the pitch sessions and did a bit of chatting there too with editors and agents. I chatted with other authors. Caught up on new developments and progress on secret projects.

The Awards Dinner was lovely. Nice food, a pleasant atmosphere, nice group of people, and a lovely night to celebrate RWA's achievements.

So there were good moments and bad. But my experiences the last couple of years have left me questioning whether the cost of the event is worthwhile - especially when I come home and spend the next 2 weeks with a rocking horrible chest infection.

Maybe I'm too harsh. Maybe my expectations are too high. Maybe I'm just in a shitty mood. But I'm sick of seeing how fabulous everything was, when I think a lot of it was not worth my time or expense.

I'm happy for you not to share my views :) So, please comment if you think I've been too judgemental. I promise to respect your views.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Phallic Friday - sexual favours

There's an interesting article about a venture capitalist asking would-be clients for sex before agreeing to their funding/start up. You can read it here. Interestingly enough, his defence is that his email was hacked.

This type of thing has been around for years and it is great to see women standing up and saying "no". I presume it happens in reverse as well, with women propositioning men, but more often than not, it's the men doing the suggesting...and often they're older men picking on (up) young attractive women.

It's a form of prostitution, and if the women are happy, there's nothing wrong with it.

It's when the person being propositioned feels that it's a power play, or that they have no choice, that's when it's wrong. That's when you are entitled to say "no" and to call the person on their action. But that takes guts. Lots of guts because it may mean your dream is squashed, your character is brought into question, and your privacy is negligible.

So a huge cheer to those who are strong enough to say "no" when they're not comfortable. I hope one day we'll live in a world where everyone can respect another's choice and strong-arm tactics aren't the way rich and powerful get their way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday - Kingfish

Yellowtail Kingfish
Last week we saw Neds beach on Lord Howe Island and I mentioned the fish feeding held each afternoon. Some of the fish that visit are the Kingfish. Here are two milling around waiting for the feed. There's lots of information about the fish here at the Australian Museum website, and also a photo of one at Neds Beach where it is clear and stunning (not murky and green!).

On my first trip to LHI, I did a lot of snorkelling at Neds Beach between dives. Once I went out before the fish feeding and swam down the beach from the feeding zone. There were heaps of these big kingies milling around. I was in awe, snapping photos on my disposable underwater film camera (because this was a long time ago!). They were circling around me, heaps of them, it was the most stunning thing I'd ever seen. They came closer and closer and I was more an more in awe. And then they vanished and I was left with a shark swimming around me. Now most of the sharks are reef sharks, non-aggressive, but Neds Beach is open to the ocean so it could have been any type of shark and by now you know how useless my ID skills are! My heart in my throat, I snapped a couple of photos and then I backed up, keeping my eye on that shark, until I got to water I could stand in and I walked very quickly out of there!

One of the Admiralty Islands
What scared me most was that I was alone. Who would notice me gone? Would anyone see me eaten? How long would I be missing before my family found out how I'd gone? It was quite terrifying...not so much the shark, but the way my poor family would suffer.

Anyway, nothing happened and I got back in later to swim behind the fish feeding and there were more sharks, but also more people, so I felt safe (silly huh?).

The other photo is of one of the Admiralty Islands. They lie to the north of LHI and can be seen from Neds Beach, Malabar Hill and Kim's Lookout. There are 8 rocky outcrops in the group and are home to thousands of sea birds (sooty terns, noddies, masked boobies, wedge-tailed shearwaters, grey ternlets, white-bellied storm petrels, tropicbirds and little shearwaters). We dived out here once, when the weather was right, and it was stunning. The water so clear and blue, fish aplenty, and lots of corals. The girl I dived with (who worked for the dive company) was also collecting (and mapping) any crown-of-thorns starfish in the area.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Story - still sick

Sorry, no post today as I'm still sick. Be back Wednesday - that post is written ready to go :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Phallic Friday - sharing

I'm afraid there's not a lot sexy about me at the moment. I went to the RWA conference last weekend. Women are good at sharing, and some kind soul shared a dreaded lurgy with me. So I'm hacking up my lungs, my throat is so swollen I rival a thick-necked front rower (nah, I'm way past that, I don't have a neck, just this mass beneath my head that jellies onto my shoulders), and energy is something I lost and haven't found again yet.

And when I say this to women, I'll receive comments like, "oh, you poor thing", "hope you're better soon" - sympathy, acknowledgment, because they know what it's like to share. 

Even if some bugger shared the damn thing with me first!

Hopefully I'll be back to normal transmissions soon as I find someone to share my germs with that is :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday - Lionfish

Lionfish are one of my favourites because you don't see them often, and they're weird. This is a photo of two of them at Lord Howe Island in 2004. They're all frills and spines, looking a bit like a mane. When scared these spines stand up, threatening predators.

The trusty Australian Museum website has a video of lionfish, if you'd like to see them more clearly than my blurry photo. You can go here.

They have venomous fin spines, that are toxic to humans, so don't be going poking at them :)

Neds beach
Continuing my Lord Howe Island theme, here are some photos of places that feature in Deep Diving. Neds Beach features quite a bit. This is the grassy stretch along the last part of the road before the beach. Neds Beach is the home to the fish feeding which occurs every afternoon. It's a beautiful spot and the first time I went to LHI (alone) I spent a lot of time snorkelling here. The second time I went with Mr E, he's not so fond of the water, and he made me hike hills - something I'd never considered before!

LHI has lots of sub-tropical rainforest. This photo along the road from town to Neds Beach shows some of it. Gorgeous palms and ferns, with lots of other trees and shrubs.

Road to Neds beach
At night, the roads are dark as there are no streetlights on most of the roads. It's gorgeous to walk along with your torch in hand and feel the rainforest, catch the twinkling of the stars through the treetops. I did this when I went the first time. The best thing was that I never felt unsafe. It's isolated, but most of the people I met were there for the beauty of the environment, not to harm others. It made travelling alone a complete pleasure. I could chat to people and walk away, knowing I was safe. This was over 10 years ago - so I hope it's that wonderful still.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Story - annual pilgrimage

This weekend is the Romance Writers Conference, so I'm making my annual pilgrimage to have my well filled.

I'll be catching up with my CP who started in RWA with me, attended the first conference with me, and who I only ever see once a year - except she missed the conference last year, so it's 2 years worth of talking to do!

I'll be inspired by other writers - sometimes in sessions, sometimes just in a quiet chat, sometimes at dinner or over a drink, or even breakfast.

I'll network because the industry seems to thrive on networking.

As well as these good things, I'll be struggling with the noise of 300+ women.

I'll be exhausted from information overload, sensory overload, and food overload!

And I'll be nervous as hell as I'm delivering a workshop on Sunday! It shouldn't be nerve-wracking, it's only about my journey, but all the same - talking in front of people!

And I'll be missing Kate, Rhyll, and Lily. All of who read this blog and I know they're not going to be there. So a huge cyber-hug to you guys. One day I hope we'll all be there together. What a ruckus we could have!

And yep - have packed a few merkins ;)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Phallic Friday - porn dreams

This caught my eye this week (read it here). Sydney just had SEXPO (no, I didn't get to go as an 80th birthday took precedence - not mine, mind you!) and attending Sexpo was James Deen, one of the current leading porn stars.

In this article he says he wanted to be a porn star since he was a kid. He remembers being suspended by his third grade teacher for saying so! He lost his virginity at 12.

I'm sad to say, I didn't know what a porn star was until I was...hmmm...certainly well into high school. I had such a sheltered little childhood. High school needlework, years 9 and 10, is where I started to learn about the world. The girls in that class opened my eyes to this whole dimension of life that I'd been missing. God, how I sewed! So much hand sewing, just so I could learn about boys and sex, drugs and night clubs. All those things I knew nothing about.

And virginity - gosh, even as a Catholic I didn't know what that word meant until I was about 12, yet the word 'virgin' was used so often and in so many prayers. And losing it, wow, swap those numbers around and it's closer to when I lost it.

It's kind of amazing to me that with my thirst for knowledge, I missed the whole sex thing as a kid. I knew about animal sex. I knew biology. I just didn't even think of the human mechanics. I was such a nerd of a kid, that I probably knew the mechanics but never thought of it beyond a coupling exercise. I remember turning away during kissing on the TV because it made me feel sick - can you believe that?

How did I get from there to here? I met someone just like James Deen, who'd had a childhood not too dissimilar to his. He made me explore sex in a way I hadn't, well, not beyond my own scribbles. He encouraged me to write, read, explore. What if I'd never had my eyes opened by the girls in needlework or this guy? I wonder if I would have stumbled across the thrill of sex, or if the mechanics of coupling would have been all I was interested in?

What were you goals re sex or career as a kid? Were you a James Deen or a Cate Ellink with your upbringing?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wildlife Wednesday - Mosaic Moray Eel

The Lagoon and Blackburn Island
Deep Diving is set on the very beautiful Lord Howe Island. So I thought during August I'd showcase some of the island and the wildlife.
Mosaic Moray Eel

The Lagoon runs along about half of the island and is a sheltered spot for swimming, snorkelling, diving, boat mooring, canoeing/kayaking, glass-bottom boat tours.

The Lagoon is protected from the ocean's waves. There's a deep opening (channel) for access to the ocean (for boats, but also fish and sharks) so it's not closed off. Lord Howe Island has the southern most reef in the world, and the Lagoon is a perfect place to see it.

There are some deep holes, which are up to 12 metres deep, so you can snorkel and see most of the same fish and corals as you would see diving (you just don't get to spend as long underwater).

At the southern end of the Lagoon, is a place called Lovers Bay. On the northern side of this is where I saw the Mosaic Eel. It was like a little nursery area, with tiny fish and lots of little corals. I was really enjoying the place, loving being in such a gorgeous spot. But the eel wasn't so thrilled to have me there. After I took this photo, he fairly much chased me away! I've never found eels to be aggressive before, although they do have teeth and strong jaws, so I wasn't going to take my chances. When the eel wasn't happy and started swimming at me, I hightailed it away. I was laughing, though, as I left. I couldn't believe that I was being herded away!

Lord Howe Island is the most beautiful place I've been - and you'll probably be sick of it by the end of August...but I'll be still dying to go back!!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Story - The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansI read The Light between Oceans by ML Stedman over the past couple of weeks. It's a beautifully written story about a lighthouse keeper, love, family, surviving war, making choices and living with the consequences. It's also about guilt.

It's set in WA in the 1920s in a small SW town with a lighthouse off shore on Janus Rock. I've been to Augusta and the lighthouse there, and the town and lighthouse in the book was so incredibly depicted, that I had to go searching the internet to find out if it was a true story - only to find it was a fictitious town and lighthouse, modelled on the one I'd visited.

View from Lighthouse
So I felt some kind of kinship to this book immediately because when we went to Augusta, I went real estate hunting. I've never done that before but i wanted to live there. It was wild, isolated, and ruggedly beautiful. Mr E tolerated my craziness for a time but then drove me away! I've attached some of my photos from the area.
The story is about decisions and repercussions. It's incredibly sad but also uplifting, which I know is a strange thing to be. But some of the decisions are so easily taken, have such disastrous effects, yet there's a beauty in seeing the tale unfold.
Where two oceans meet
The lighthouse keeping work is fascinating. I'd love to have worked as a lighthouse keeper but I wonder if I could have handled the total isolation and the constant demands of the light - and I know I'd have struggled with those early starts! But the beauty of the job, the rhythm of the ocean, the importance of the light, all appeal to me.

As a debut novel, this is truly awe-inspiring. It shows such a depth of thought, a mastery of the art of story telling, and a skill with language. These are the kind of books that make me wonder what I'm doing writing - they freeze me up, make me doubt, just make my writing look like crap. I think I complained about it last week, without mentioning the book!
Lighthouse cottages from window
I borrowed the book from a friend but I think I might need my own copy. It's something I'd like to read again. I struggled finding time to read this story, so I did it in fits and starts. I like to fall totally into the story, and read it in a great glob. I want to do that. I want to be taken back to Augusta and swept into the 1920s job of lighthouse keeping.

The Lighthouse

Friday, August 1, 2014

Phallic Friday - naturists

Naturists or nudists have always interested me because I think it's such a natural way to be. I enjoy the freedom of no clothing, especially when it's warm, but it has such a stigma attached to it.

Nudity is most often associated with sex. It seems you can't have one without the other, so naturists are often termed 'perverts' or worse, because people assume if you like running around with your kit off, then you have to be a rampant sex fiend.

I'm lucky in my life to have lived on farms and in rural areas where I often enjoyed the freedom of wearing little. Sometimes this was rudely interrupted by unexpected visitors, so I learned to always have something to chuck on. At one house, I had a hammock strung up the backyard and on scorching summer days, to lie in that hammock, clothes-free, reading a book, shaded by the trees but warmed by the sunshine and air, was sheer bliss. If it was scorching, I'd even have the sprinkler on low underneath so the dogs could lie in the water and the droplets would cool my back.

I've only been brave enough to go to nudist beaches a couple of times...and I annoy myself by having to be brave to do this. Why do I feel embarrassed to go there? Why do I care what others might think? When I've gone, I've been surprised by a couple of things - one is that there are hardly any people there (although it was never peak tourist time, so maybe that's why), and the average age of naturists is a lot older than you'd find on other beaches.

Maybe you need to get to a certain age to not care about society's comments about nudity or body image. Maybe you have to get to a certain level of self-comfort to be able to bare it all. I don;t know what it is. I now I feel kind of young at the places I've been, and that's not a bad feeling for someone in their 40s!

In Deep Diving, I didn't have any naturist beaches, but I made sure Samantha and Cooper got their kit off in nature a bit. I like the idea of being free to have sex outdoors, so I often incorporate it in my stories - much better than being arrested in real life!! Sam and Coop try out the beach... a couple of times. They swim naked. They have sex on a bushwalk. I wanted them to have the freedom that's not available in reality. And that's one thing I love about writing erotic stories - your characters are free to express themselves (and I can express myself).

I think I'll have to write a naturist story...but I don't want to add fuel to the fire that nudity equates to sex. So I'll have to think about that a bit more. Maybe it'll have to be more of a family story, where sex is very separate to where the kids are. Hmm...ideas, ideas, ideas!

How do you feel about nudity?