Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Story - craft vs story

No titles mentioned in this post because I know how hard it is to put your work out there.

I've been doing a lot of reading lately - some good, some bad, some frustrating - and I need to vent a little (or a lot).

Sometimes a book can have a great story, fabulous writing, and then one little niggly thing will whip me out of the story quick as a blink. And then it's difficult to get back into it, no matter how much I try. The other day it was a great story about a guy who'd lost an arm. The point was made about how many things he couldn't do - like put on a condom, and how he'd have to practice. Cool. I liked it. And then after a most delicious sex scene, he flicked the condom off and tied it before dropping it on the floor. Man!?! He tied it? One handed? When he couldn't put it on one handed? Such a tiny thing, yet it bugged me all through the rest of the story. I was believing every word, until then.

And I know that stuff happens. I do it myself. Recently I had a guy who didn't drink visiting wineries. Yep! No idea what he'd do at one of those. A trusty editor picked it up. There are so many things to think about when you write that slips like this happen. And maybe a little slip like the tied condom will make me always remember what a great book that was, and how that scene pulled me out. So maybe it's a good thing - a lot of other books just get swallowed in my head!

But my real vent is on books that have so many mistakes in them - in the story line or with the writing craft. The ones with story line issues send me demented and I've stopped reading a lot of them, especially the dark, almost abusive, ones. I don't want my reading taking me to the brink of death by some self-serving dick of an alpha who's only wrapped up in himself. No thank you. Reading is subjective. I don't like that, but if you do, that's fine. It tweaks my buttons so I keep away. Easy done.

When it's the writing craft that lets a story down, that's harder for me to walk away from (or to pick before buying). I'm reading one now and it's totally frustrating. Spelling errors, typos, grammatical strangeness and horror, sentences that don't make sense, first person to third person flicks, POV shifts within a sentence/paragraph sometimes, past vs present issues. It drives me bats reading it - yet I want to read the story. The story is interesting and the subject something I'm keen to know more about...but I don't know if I can keep going.

Usually a few typos, or the odd weird thing, I can overlook. This has mistakes on almost every page. The scariest thing is that the acknowledgements thank quite a few editors. Did the author actually use them and listen to their advice? That's terrifying if they did. I know it's the author's final say, but if I was an editor, I wouldn't want my services listed in a book with this many mistakes. Maybe a good proofer would help...but I really consider this story a first draft and not a publishable piece.

But should I be making these judgements? I'm not sure, which is why I'm not naming these books.

I have had extensive training in being anal about publications. In the world of science, mentoring with an older scientist is almost mandatory (or it was for me anyway!), and the mentors I had didn't let a thing through. One guy even went so far as to mark up my Ellinkisms in my thesis - things that I wrote (like creative writing - my opinions, my observations, my colloquial comments, whatever) that were not appropriate for the document. These guys were harsh. My first drafts of anything came back with more red pen from their scribbles than typed words. It was horrifying...but I learned. I don't think I'm at their standard of anal-ness (I got out too soon for that) but I know I have issues :)

Maybe I've learned too well. Maybe my expectations are too high. I don't know. But reading is subjective and those are my standards.

Do you have issues when you read?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Phallic Friday - another idiot footy player

There's another idiot of a footy player, and his so-called mates, in the news again for videos of a lewd nature. I'm not even going to point you to a news article because I'm a bit sick of the publicity of this one - already.

In this one, the guy has pissed on himself, pissed on a lounge that doesn't belong to him, tried to kiss a woman who didn't want to be kissed, refused to leave her house, and threatened to fuck her dog with his shorts on.

In my mind, trying to kiss this woman and refusing to leave her house aren't great traits. It doesn't show a lot of respect... and his mates didn't drag him out, which doesn't say a lot for them either.

But what the media is incensed about is that he wanted to fuck the dog. Seriously? He has his shorts on and he simulates the act by putting the dog in front of him and thrusting his hips. Most of the reports are about this so-called bestiality act. I think that act more reflects his lack of regard for the owner of the dog, the couch, the lips and the home he's in.

But anyway, I'm not going to rant. But it sickens me that yet another idiot has been allowed to get away with this type of behaviour for far too long. He's 26, has been in this sort of trouble numerous times and has always been protected. It has to stop.

The world has become a place where privacy is rarely possible. Social media, access to phones with cameras, wi-fi everywhere all means that you do something, everyone knows about it immediately. Surely these guys realise all this?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - butterflies

I grew some onions this year and the number of new butterflies I had stopping by astounded me. We get a few butterflies around (maybe 4 or 5 species) but the onions drew at least 2 I hadn't seen before. This isn't a great photo, but the new butterflies were skittish.

So I did a bit of a hunt around for butterfly information. There's this article about a butterfly garden in Brisbane, which reminded me that a while back we went to the Cairns Butterfly place (my post is here) where I took photos of the different caterpillars being fed leaves of different plants in their hatching labs. So, yes, of course different butterflies prefer different plants. Why didn't I remember that? I didn't put that bit in a post is probably why! The pictures aren't real flash, but here they are.

I might have to look into this butterfly gardening. I love having butterflies flitting about, and I enjoy trying to get a good photo of them.

So... stand by for more butterfly photos, just as soon as I get my garden going better!

And if you'd like more butterfly garden info, here's a link for Melbourne gardeners, some general info, Brisbane plants sales, North coast NSW, Sydney (click on the invertebrate PDF), North Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia.

So...anyone joining me in the butterfly garden growing?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Phallic Friday - sexual assault

This article caught my eye today (you can read it here but it's not an easy read). It's an article about rape and sexual assault. University researchers (from Georgia State Uni) studied personal accounts of rape and sexual assault they found posted anonymously online and looks for trends as to why these assaults happen.

The researchers posed a question on Reddit and waited for people to respond. They asked perpetrators for 'their side of the story' and more than a thousand responses (that in itself is scary!).

They then used 68 responses to try to find patterns as to why these assaults happen (not sure why they only chose 68). The reasons for the assault fell into a few categories - they blamed male hormones/horniness; the victim; or a decline in their treatment of women over time.

The article mentions that many respondents questioned whether what they described was sexual assault. Not sure what they were after with that query, although the researchers wonder if it was 'getting it off their chest' (a confession). It makes me wonder if they wanted validation more than forgiveness.

Sexual assault is a power game...that's gone past the game state. It's the domination of one person over another.

Society gives mixed messages about domination. In some ways we laud it - especially in the media with sporting events where one team is applauded for annihilating another (eg football, rugby, soccer, basketball, etc), or one person over another (eg tennis, boxing, cycling, etc). We might like to watch a closely fought battle (eg crowds are up when the contest is evenly matched) but the headlines are made by an annihilation (eg when the 'home' team wins by a ridiculous amount).

We have 'hero' comics, books, TV shows, movies where one man/woman dominates, overcoming all manner of obstacles.

In these ways, we cheer for the dominator.

In reality, we don't want such a thing to happen, especially in personal relationships.

We're a society full of mixed messages. And then we wonder why society is screwed up.

I don't have any answers, just thinking as I read this article and wondering about how we've come to this. Do you have thoughts?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - bluebottle

I'm not as fond of seeing these bluebottles on the beach as I am the horses, although I do like taking photos of these! :)

Bluebottles are also called Pacific Man o' War or Portuguese Man o' War (scientific name Physalia). You can find out more here at the Australian Museum site.

They travel on the oceans, floating on top and blown along by the wind in their clear 'sails'. The long tentacles capture food in the waters and are the part that stings unsuspecting people (and see how long those tentacles can be - and they sting when washed ashore too!).

Bluebottles aren't a single animal, but a community, or colony, of four individuals - the pneumatophore (sail), the tentacles, and the polyps that reproduce.

I have to leave the post here but the museum site has heaps more info if you want more. I have little visitors today who are begging to go to the beach - just hope there are no bluebottles today :)

Have a great week!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Phallic Friday - boundaries

I've been thinking about boundaries lately. It kind of follows on from last week's post.

In a BDSM relationship, boundaries are important. They're discussed, adhered to, and there's a safeword to ensure things stop. And although all that relies on trust, hopefully you've built that or established that, or are working in it safely.

In other relationships, there aren't really any 'rules' regarding boundaries. In general, they aren't discussed. People assume others are the same as them, when sometimes this may not be true.

Personal space is one boundary that is often different among people. It's never discussed. No one's ever asked me how much personal space I need. And it's something that does fluctuate - I accept less space on a crowded train than in an empty park.

If someone encroaches on my personal space, I tend to distrust them. Makes no difference at all that they may not even know they're doing it, my distrust is instantaneous. And if I move back and they follow, then I move from distrust to dislike. And if they crowd in even further, then whoa, I'm out of there, if not physically then at least mentally.

A relationship is kind of like the personal space thing, in my mind. I have boundaries, which usually aren't discussed, but I expect them to be understood and adhered to, or negotiated if they don't suit. But people can take advantage of others and push their boundaries - sometimes, unnecessarily, or for their own gain.

One example is with a new relationship. If someone wants a relationship with you, and you aren't feeling the same, you're entitled to say "No, thanks." You've set the boundary for you. They can push, but each time they do, I'd be trusting them less.

Respecting a boundary is all about courtesy and trust. Sure, you can be forced outside your boundary, and some people like to be pushed outside their comfort zone, but others don't. It's personal. Boundaries are personal. I feel they need to be respected, in all relationships.

I don't know how we learn about boundaries. I think it's something we learn as a child and extend it throughout our life. As a kid, if we overstep our parents' boundaries, we're usually pulled into line. If we overstep another adult's boundary, the same. As we tussle in the playground, we're learning to respect others' boundaries. Maybe people stop learning this, or think they're beyond it, or think they're more important than another, so their boundaries don't matter.

I'm realising how important boundaries are, yet how much we don't even think about them.

Do you have any thoughts on boundaries?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - horses on beach

I know it's crazy, but I have an incredible fondness for seeing horses on my beach. Seeing them doesn't happen all that often, although I often see the hoofprints and curse that I've missed them again! I think for me, it's the ultimate freedom to be galloping along the shore, wind in your face, you and your horse loving every stride.

I've never seen that though I dream of it!

I've never ridden on the beach either. When I had horses I lived inland and there was no beach to ride on. I rode in paddocks or along the road, and occasionally at pony club grounds or showgrounds.

Most of the people who ride horses on my beach walk, sometimes they might trot. It's not because it's crowded - my beach is pretty deserted at the best of times. It may be that the people I've seen riding are either kids or older women and maybe they don't want to go flying along like I dream.

One day I saw a kid riding her pony bareback and they were trotting along both laughing with their lips peeled back (okay, so I'm anthropomorphising, but I swear that pony was laughing). It was a glorious sight.

When I was learning to ride (at 23 years ancient, which was embarrassing at times!) I rode a pony who loved water. I was riding with a lady and her daughter (who was maybe 12 and so much better than me!) and it was hot, so she said we'd walk through the dam in their paddock. Sounded like fun to me, I tagged along. Halfway through my horse starts pawing at the water with her front hoof, I'm laughing because she's splashing me and it looks like she's having a ball. Then I look at the owner's face, she's terrified and is yelling, "Kick her, kick her," at me. I wasn't much good at being strong and assertive at this stage, but the terror on this woman's face did something to me and I booted that horse in time to her yelling. Shiralee eventually stopped her pawing and reluctantly made her way out of the dam with me clinging on tight, because this pony wasn't happy now and I knew how to tell that!!

When we were unsaddling, I asked what had happened. The poor owner had temporarily forgotten that I was a beginner and that I was on a horse who was cheeky and loved to roll in the dam. So, if I hadn't have booted the horse out of the water, I probably would have been squashed by a rolling horse as she enjoyed the dam. No wonder there was terror!

Maybe I would have jumped free...but you know, I was so hopelessly unsure of anything to do with riding that I probably wouldn't have known how to get free without being tangled in reins, stirrups, water and horse.

And still, to have a horse galloping along the beach spells freedom. In reality, I'm probably more likely to land ungraciously in the sand and lose my horse to a rip, or be dumped while the horse swims and end up dragged out in a rip myself! Maybe I'll stick to dreaming.

Do you have any crazy dreams about freedom?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Release Day

Release day happened - twice!

Both of my short stories hit the deck at once. Amazing coincidence, huh? Not what I was expecting at all!

So Lucky is out; and so are the cuckold fantasies.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Phallic Friday - sexism

As we start the 2016 Phallic Friday posts, I'm wondering if I should update my phallic symbol...what do you think, does the phallic rock from the Pinnacles in WA have more pizzazz than the local phallic bluebottle I've been using?

Today I thought I'd express my mixed feelings about an incident that occurred in the Cricket Big Bash this week. It's been splashed about in the media a fair bit and I have really mixed feelings about the incident. If you need to check it out, you can see the incident here.

I was watching when it occurred and my first thought was "Gayle's a creep" and then my second was, "wow, not the way to handle that, Mel."

I worked in a male dominated industry for most of my life and I grew up when women weren't given a lot of respect, so I am a little toughened to the way women are treated. So my initial reaction was that Gayle's sleaziness was inappropriate. But this behaviour happens and I think if Mel had have cut him off with a firm but polite refusal, nothing more may have been said. As it was, she reacted visibly and he kept going because he took it as flirting, or that he was 'winning' (getting a reaction from her, making her affected by him).

What he did wasn't right - it's their profession and therefore their workplace, so it should remain non-sexist and non-discriminatory - but until this stops happening, I think women need to stand up for themselves, especially if they're in male dominated industries.

Women should not be walked over, or ignore the smut, or accept it. I mean, a polite but tough put down. Something like, "I don't think that's appropriate" or even, "I hardly think this is the place for those comments". It addresses the issue head-on and stops it being blown out of proportion like this has been.

Yes, sexual innuendo and banter can be harmless fun if the two people know that that is what it is. For a woman who doesn't know that, it can be downright uncomfortable and creepy. It can make you concerned for your safety and your integrity.

When a sleazy comment is left without being addressed immediately, it undermines a woman. I felt Mel lost the chance last night to assert herself. It was left to others to apologise and defend her. It made her look weak, which I'm guessing isn't what she would want. But maybe there's more to this story...maybe he's a serial offender and she was making sure everyone knew that.

Whatever the case, it concerns me and makes me all muddled up.

How do you feel about this issue? (I know Rhyll won't care because it's cricket!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wildlife Wednesday - flies

It's summer in Australia and as well as heat, storms, cricket and the beach, there are flies. On the coast there are few compared with inland, but they're still there - sticking to you, lapping at your sweat, threatening to walk into your nostril or mouth, even trying to dart into your mouth while you talk or breathe! Don't swallow one because they hurt your throat and make you gag!

When I was at uni, we collected flies in a fly trap and had to identify them. Yep, you guessed it, I was useless at identifying them...but I did learn that there were different types of flies and I don't think I'd ever paid enough attention to that before then.

So the other day, I drove down to the beach and this green eyed fly came home with me - hopped into the ute and stuck around for the lift. His eyes were incredible and so I spent a bit of time trying to get a good photo because I don't think I've seen a fly with eyes so bright - not for a long time.

Okay, so I looked it up and it says it's a march fly (also called horse fly or green head)...and we do have them here because they like biting me and I'm usually swinging around like a madwoman trying to swat them while jumping from the pain of that sharp stinging bite, but I've never seen one with such brilliant eyes. Lucky he didn't bite me when I gave him a lift! Oh, check this - the males don't bite - As with most biting flies, it is only the female march flies that bite as they need blood to produce the next generation. They use their strong, piercing mouthparts like a needle to extract blood from their mammal hosts. The males have larger metallic green eyes and feed on nectar. Taken from the Australian Museum website  Maybe I've always attracted the females for my tasty blood. (Don't handle the larvae, because they can bite too).

The blow fly (up the top) is the fly I most usually see, especially in summer. On a hot day they can get quite sluggish. We also have the little black flies, and the common house flies, but these two were big enough, and nice enough, to pose for a photo.

I hope you don't have too many flies where you are (and if so, I hope they don't bite!).