Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

I'd like to wish you all the very best for the year's end. If you celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas! 

Thank you for your support throughout 2017. I appreciate it very much.

May 2018 bring joy and happiness, new beginnings, and good health.

Cate xo

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Short Story - One Night Stand

I woke up this morning with this story fluttering in my mind. It's not going to fit into any 'genre' or anthology, so it's my random gift to you. There are no beasts involved in this one - just a Grandma! It's not edited, just raw from the fingertips.

One Night Stand
Grandma wraps me in a hug and the plastic bag with Indian takeaway swings wildly against my leg. As her arms envelop me, the scent of earth, mulch, jasmine and roses encircles.
“You’ve been in the garden, Grandma.” I don’t make it a question, it’s what Grandma does. Others knit, play cards or read, but not my gran. She’s out there wrestling weeds every moment there’s sunshine. Not just her garden either, she started up a little business and has her clients to tend to.
“I knew you were bringing dinner, so I only just got in. I haven’t even showered. Sorry.”
I laugh at her veiled attempt at an apology. “As if I care.” We let go of each other and walk into the cottage. It’s like another big, flower-scented hug too. Lived-in and loved, is probably the best way to describe it. Others in my family use much less flattering terms but this is my kind of house.
Grandma turns to look at me before she fills the kettle. Under the harsh bare bulb in the kitchen, her gaze is a little too discerning and I scurry about unpacking the dinner and grabbing plates and cutlery.
“You’re upset.” Grandma frowns, but says no more while she fills the kettle, tosses leaves into the teapot, and grabs her huge mugs.
I ignore how perceptive she is and focus on food. Usually we just help ourselves but today I’m delicately spooning mounds of rice to each plate, and depositing small tastings of each of the four dishes around the rice. Naan bread and pappadums, I place on the side of each plate. By the time I’ve got all this done, Grandma’s poured the hot water on the tea leaves and warmed our mugs. She brings them to the table and sits.
“Is it your mother?” she asks as she fusses with her fork and spoon. I know she’s deciding which one to use. Then she looks up, sees my grin, and moves the knife and fork aside.
“It’s nothing.” I shake my head. “Mum’s just the same. I leave her be as much as I can. We only make each other cranky.” I grin because Grandma knows exactly how Mum is. Whatever genes Grandma and I have, Mum has the opposite.
After a few bites accompanied by Grandma’s decadent moans about the food, she puts down her spoon and glares at me. It’s a soft glare, with a wry twist of lips, and a little sigh. “You left a piece of your heart somewhere, Ron.”
My lips pull in tight and I squish down on them but it doesn’t help. Not a bit. A teardrop leaks from the corner of my left eye and skitters down my cheek. Another follows from my right. I brush them with the back of my hand, pretending they haven’t leaked at all but there’s no fooling Gran.
“Oh, Veronica.” She’s around to my chair and holding me in her arms within seconds. And she’s used my full name, with such passion, that it makes my tears leak again.
“It’s just a guy. Nothing major.”
Gran snorts, as if she doesn’t want to call me a liar but is anyway. “Tell me about him.” There’s no demand from Gran, it’s an invitation. Warm and gentle. Beckoning and waiting. Patient and caring.
I so want to tell her but how can I? It was a one night stand. A guy I’ll never see again. But she’s right, he took a piece of my heart with him and I’m not sure how that happened or what it means. So I shake my head and pull away from her just a little.
She doesn’t make a sound, just pats me before she lets me go and she resumes her seat. The silence doesn’t last because she fills me in on her gardens. She chatters happily and I know I don’t have to say a word. I know I can sit with my thoughts, and Gran’s warmth and find my peace. And I should. I should do just that.
As I chew the last bit of Naan, I find myself looking at Gran in a different way. I see her love. That’s not what I see differently, I always see that. It’s the unconditional part of the love that I don’t think I’ve noticed before. I’ve taken that for granted. Only just realising that not once in my twenty-four years has she judged me. No matter what I’ve done, she’s loved me. Even when I helped her weed and pulled out her bulbs. Even when I over-pruned her magnolia. Even when I fight with Mum.
“I met a guy last night.”
Gran stops talking about rhododendrons and says, “What was his name?”
A smile erupts because his name was not the first thing I thought she’d ask. I thought she’d say something that included the word ‘nice’ but now I think of that, Gran isn’t exactly a ‘nice’ person. She’s wild, loving, rebellious, gentle, nurturing, fun…nothing as placid as nice.
“Where did you meet him?”
“At the club.” I hesitate and Gran doesn’t pepper more questions, she seems to know there’s more to this hesitation and it’s not the end of sentence pause. “He was with the band. He left this morning. With the band.”
“And there was a connection between you?”
I nod even as the frown deepens, cutting into my forehead and tugging at my flesh. “That doesn’t make sense, Gran. I shouldn’t be like this. I knew what it was, so why’s it bothering me?”
“Is it bothering you, or is it him?”
Gran’s question was exceptionally perceptive, if a little personal. How the hell had I ended up discussing a one-night stand with my seventy-two year old grandmother?
“Him.” I shrug. “He’s with the band. Transient. We didn’t swap phone numbers. Yet he’s under my skin. I don’t know why.”
“This hasn’t happened before?”
“Not with any of the others. No.” The question was so lightly asked, and so cleverly phrased that I spilled more than I intended. I shove my hand across my mouth. “Shit, Gran. I don’t make a habit of one-nighters, but sometimes…” I’m not sure how to finish that sentence.
“A girl has a need.” Gran grins a little too cheekily.
I’m hit by a wave of shock. “Gran, you haven’t?” Then I realise how judgemental I sound, and how she never sounds like that with me, and I start to giggle. Not in a mature twenty-four year old way, but like I’m a ten year old incapable of holding a huge secret. Gran starts to laugh and then we’re both snorting and giggling like teenagers.
When I have a little more control, and Gran’s poured more tea, I look up at her and I know my eyes are overly rounded with excitement and intrigue. “Tell me all.” I still sound like I’m twelve and agog.
“You first,” she says, as if she’s allowing me to walk ahead of her or something mundane. “Tell me what happened last night and why he got to you. Then I promise to tell you of the man who rattled me.”
There’s just something in the way she says that which makes me think she’s not just had one quick shag, but she’s had one that rattled her. Sunday night just got interesting. Not that they’re ever dull. I love spending Sunday evenings with Gran but tonight is a level I never expected up to step on.
“I don’t know where to start.” It’s not the best opening but I was scratching around for what I should be telling her and what should remain secret.
“When you first laid eyes on him.” Gran states it as if it’s the most obvious place to start.
I guess she’s right. “The band were playing, and they were good. I was up dancing with a bunch of girls, and this guy moved to the edge of the stage. You know, from backstage to just hovering in the shadows. I was drawn to him, his movement I think. No one else seemed to notice him but I couldn’t stop looking at him. He was in the shadows, so there wasn’t a lot to see, but he felt magnetic.” I laugh at myself. “I know that’s stupid, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I could not look away.”
I’m back there, my stomach tangling, my heart taking turns between frozen and thundering. I know he’s looking at me too, yet how I know that, I’ve no clue. But I’m dancing for him now. Moving sinuously, with extra sway in my hips, extra thrust of my breasts, extra lifting of my head. My back arches and I want to be dancing against him, with his body sliding against mine. It’s so weird because it feels just like that’s happening, so I keep up this seductive movement even when no one else is moving slowly.
“He hovered there for the whole show. Not really coming out of the shadows. Dressed in black. Scurrying across the stage with whatever the band members needed without lifting his face to the light. No matter how desperately I wanted to see him, he didn’t show his face.” I groan. “Do you know how frustrating that is?”
Gran chuckles, and brings me back into her kitchen, after I’d momentarily popped back in time. “I have some idea,” she says with that same cheeky grin. Oh, her story is going to be good! “When did you see him?”
“After the band finished. We were standing near the stage, bopping to whatever was playing and working out how we were all getting home. He called from the edge of the stage and asked if we wanted the discarded plectrums or drumsticks. Some groupies go for that stuff.”
Gran was biting her lip but then she leaned on her hand and said, “So which did you take?”
Laughing, I shook my head. “The others grabbed it all. I was…I don’t know…seeing him in the light, or almost the light. He had a cap on so there was still shadow but it was the most I’d seen of him and I was planted to the floor. Not because he was beautiful or anything, just because he was there, near me.” I feel myself slip back into that moment.
He’s looking at me. Not full-on staring but taking glances, looking at me from the side of his eye, ducking his head and peering up at me. I break out in shivers because I’m not beautiful. I’m not usually the one to attract a guy. I mean, I’m not unattractive but when I’m with my friends, it’s not usually me that someone is taken by at first.
I want him to do something, say something. And then I wonder what I’m waiting for. I can speak to him just as easily, or maybe even easier.
“I walked up to him and asked if he’d like a drink. Sweat was pouring from him and his shirt was soaking wet. He shook his head and said he was working. I laughed, and told him I was only shouting him water. He changed his mind then and nodded. So I went to the bar to get ice water. When I got back, the girls were all leaving, so I said I’d be right and they left.”
“Don’t you girls look after one another?”
I nod, puzzled because we usually do. So why had they left me? “It was the pub in my street, so I guess they figured I’d be right.”
Gran murmured, and she may have said, ‘Fate,’ but I wasn’t focused on her, I was still confused about my friends’ non-reaction to me picking up. Or hadn’t I really picked up then?
“I gave him the water. The very tips of our fingers brushed and we looked at each other. Right at each other.” I could have been lost in his gaze forever, but I wasn’t going to be melodramatic. “His lips moved into a tiny kind of a smile, then he said, ‘I’ll probably be an hour packing up.’ I told him I’d wait and pointed to the bar.”
I sat and watched him work. I watched the play of muscles as he moved and lifted and lugged. I watched his throat as he swallowed. I took him more water and left it on the side of the stage so I didn’t disturb him. I waited and watched, content.
“I’m never content, and yet I sat there. I don’t know why.”
“You were in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time.”
I looked sharply at Gran. “For what?”
Gran shrugged. “Destiny. I guess that’s what you call it. Moments or days where things are just easy, everything falls into place, it’s peaceful and happy. Those are the days I think of as the days where the planets aligned, where fate worked, where destiny occurred. Like you met up and crossed with your right path.”
“Gran?!” I’m judging again, but I had no idea Gran had this mystical side.
“You haven’t had that before?
I nod, even while I’m shaking my head. “I’m not sure I know you, Gran.”
This time the cheeky grin was tempered by a sweetness that made my heart melt. “You know me as your grandmother, not as a woman. That’s all.”
That makes sense. It’s also a little sad. Why have I not noticed that she’s a woman before? Or rather, of course I’ve noticed that, but why have I never thought of her as a woman with emotion, needs, partners, desires?
“When he finished, you took him right home, didn’t you?”
My eyes must be out on stalks. “How did you know?”
Gran gave that shrug with a dash of cheekiness, and I’m beginning to suspect her story and mine aren’t going to be too different at all.
“It was as if we’d discussed it already. Or like we’d done it night after night. He took my hand and we walked out of there. We walked home, and he asked if I minded if he had a shower. I washed his clothes while he washed himself, like it was every day routine. It wasn’t even odd having him in my house.”
I wasn’t going to give Gran all the juicy details of how I joined him in the shower and we ran the hot water out. Of how natural it was to be with him. How we seemed to know the places that drove the other insane without even thinking. It was the hottest damn shower I’d ever had and technically we hadn’t done the deed yet.
We went to bed and the deed blew my mind. His cock was perfect and drove me insane. I almost drowned him in my pleasure, and I came so many times I lost count. He pummelled me so hard it should have hurt, yet there wasn’t the slightest tinge.
Lying beside each other afterwards, we touched and talked. The touching wasn’t exactly sexual, but it was erotic as all hell. His fingertips brushed the back of my hand and if he had have kept going, I’m sure I’d have orgasmed, but inside I slid my hand against his and our fingers brushed and stroked. It was the most intimate gesture which led to a most intimate conversation, or maybe it was the other way around.
“We talked about things that I haven’t ever talked to anyone about, and I got the feeling he was the same. Deep things. Things that hurt. Personal things that opened up the soul. We shared, cared, encouraged, supported and loved. It seemed like love. It was deep, so deep. I don’t know how to explain it.”
“I know, Ronnie. I know.”
Her understanding made tears prickle at the backs of my eyes. “I’ve never felt that way with anyone. Ever.” My head fell into my hands as I tried to process, and find words to explain. “I spent less than eight hours with him, and yet it seemed like a lifetime.”
“And this morning you parted, easily. As easily as you’d come together. It seemed right, peaceful, content.”
“As the day went on, everything felt less right. It didn’t make sense. It was all sorts of wrong. And you wanted him back. You wanted to do it all again.”
Gran smiled wistfully and reached across the table to close her fingers around mine. She squeezed.  “Those connections are so rare, Ronnie. Precious, incredible, and yet so very rare.”
“But why?”
Gran shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve decided they’re a fate thing, where paths have to cross. Sometimes I’ve felt something pass between us, like a healing or a lesson. Other times I don’t have a clue why they happen. And I mean the easy days or moments, not just the people.”
“How do you go on? Do I find the band again?”
“That’s up to you, Ronnie. It has to be your choice of what you do.”
“Did you chase your man, Gran?”
Her head shakes slightly, and her lips press together. “It was a one-off. He came into my life for a moment and left me a better person for his visit.”
“Oh, Gran.” I clutch my chest because my heart aches. A deep sadness seemed to accompany those words that touch me more than I can explain. “You don’t ever forget them?”
Gran’s smile is a beautiful mix of sadness and joy. “You never forget important things, they’re buried inside you much too deeply. Love, it’s a part of your very being.”
I nod even though I still don’t understand. And I wonder if today is one of those moments, and in another fifty years, I might be in Gran’s chair and my granddaughter will be asking me about a man who crossed her path for a few important hours.
I move to Gran this time, and she stands when I get there. We wrap our arms around each other and hold each other tightly.
“I love you, Grandma.”
“And I love you, Veronica.” Gran slides her rough palm across my cheek and smiles into my eyes. I feel that love warming me, filling me with comfort and knowledge. “You make me so proud.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Another of those life breaks

I'm not doing well with blogging at the moment. So I'm going to go on another of those breaks.

I'll be back though!

And in good news - I got new batteries for my camera and can take macros of bugs and things again. Yipee! So here's a flower from my garden.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Phallic Friday - women's health

There's a fabulous post this week on the ABC website about women's health - vulva and vagina health.

You can read it here.

A gynaecologist gives some great tips, some info about changes over time, and some health details.

I think it's really important that women do look after themselves. And gynaecological health is vital - but it is something women are often uncomfortable discussing. Sometimes, I've found male doctors uncomfortable discussing my health with me - particularly if I ask questions!

But this article was great, I thought. Thanks, Dr Elizabeth Farrell for your insights and openness.

Hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another short break

There'll be another short break while I deal with life.

Lost a dear friend last weekend. Unexpected deaths always rattle me and leave me thinking about how precious our time is with those we love.

Love hard!

Cate xo

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Story - erotica likes/dislikes

I read an interesting blog post through the week, which had my mind working. You can read the post here - it's on the Book Riot blog, by Casey Stepaniuk, called "Why Don't I Like Erotica?"

I was tempted to comment on the post...and maybe I will...but at the moment I've not. Mostly because my thoughts aren't succinct!

I share some of her views that erotica can be boring. Sometimes I read erotic stories, often the latest, greatest thing, and I find it boring too. Sometimes, it's just a story. I'm not drawn in or engaged. I read a bit, maybe I discard, maybe I persevere, but it doesn't engage my mind, let alone anything else. I guess I touched on this in the recent Catnip or Poison post.

After reading that post, I've been trying to work out why I have this reaction to stories, particularly erotica.

I think it's because in a non-erotic story, for me to love it, I need to have:
  • great writing
  • characters that I can relate to
  • a story that is plausible and sensible and that works for me
  • good character arcs so I see changes happening

When you add in the erotic component, I also need:
  • sex scenes that are believable for those characters
  • sex scenes that affect me on a mental (and physical/biochemical) level
  • sex scenes that reach inside me and wrestle for my attention/emotion/recognition.

I think erotica needs an extra complexity that other stories don't require because when a reader reads an erotic story, they want (or I do anyway) the tension, the buzz, the build up, and the release that comes with sex. This may not be needed in every scene, but it needs to be there in some form for the reader to connect to the story. And maybe that's why I love writing's deeply challenging.

However, this requirement also adds a deeper layer of subjectivity to an already highly subjective art form. There are so many variables that have to be 'right' for a reader, that finding the correct book/reader becomes more difficult.

It also, for me, adds a much more difficult aspect of writing to 'deal with'. On one level, when a reader writes and tells me how much they loved a story and how much it affected them, it's a truly uplifting experience. It hits right into the heart. It makes all the swearing and sweating and cursing as I wrestled with the story and characters, worthwhile. But there's this part of me that sort of cringes, that gets decidedly uncomfortable with the comment (probably over-thinking on my part!). It goes back to an incident when my first story was published...

When my first short story came out in an anthology, Dad took the book to show his mates at his retirees do. I was so chuffed. Then he told me how he had it wrapped in a paper bag and passed it under the table...and my chuffed got a bit deflated. Some weeks later, he told me how one of his mates forgot my pen name but loved my story and thought it was best in the anthology. Again, a totally chuffed feeling, until the brown paper bag got mentioned again, and I realised I was titillating 70+-year old men...and my chuffed got battered again.

So, it's a strange thing, erotica. It needs to be 'more' to be 'liked' by readers - it needs to connect on a very deep level with the reader. But as a writer, I can't really afford to write thinking about how readers read my scenes. I don't write wondering if people will be reading it one-handed, and I'm not even sure I want to know if readers do that...but isn't that my aim when I write erotica?

When I read erotica, it takes a phenomenal book for me to lose myself in it...and when I do, it's an incredibly powerful read that penetrates my mind and body and takes me on a sensory ride that's a complete and utter thrill. And why shouldn't I tell the author what a marvelous job they've done? Because it's a bloody feat to connect with a reader's mind...and it's even more amazing to do that with an incredible personal experience, like sex.

Which still leaves me confused about reactions...but not confused about the level of difficulty required for an erotic story to be 'liked'.

As I reader, I don't have a favourite erotic writer. There are some authors who I like to read because their writing style appeals, but some of their books bore me, when another of their books has grabbed me by throat and taken me to the highest heights. Some erotic books I've picked up have had writing that grates, but the emotion/sex has grabbed me and I've ignored the writing/style (although, for me, there are fewer of these).

It's such an interesting topic to think about an explore...and possibly I need to think more as a reader, separate to as a writer.

The original blog post I read has taken me on a waffly old journey of thoughts and self-discovery, where I probably haven't solved anything, but I feel better for expressing my mixed up thoughts.

Does the original blog post, or my thoughts, resonate with you?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Phallic Friday - erotica vs steamy contemporary

I've often pondered, and been asked, this question (what's the difference between erotica and steamy contemporary romances) and in theory it's been quite easy for me to address but recently I had a very practical example of it.

I've always answered that erotica/erotic romance has sex as an integral part of the story. Without the sex, the characters wouldn't get together or grow/change. And you can't rip the sex out of the story...because there would be no story.

Steamy contemporary has the story happening, and sex is woven into the story but it's not integral to the story itself. If you could rip the sex out, the relationship would still develop, the story still happens.

In my other self, I write sweet contemporary stories. I was asked to be a part of a 'series' and they were to not be dirty (I initially thought it was Cate writing, which is I guess why this was said). So I left the sex out, submitted the story, and then got edits back saying, "Please add some sexy times." Throughout the story, there were places marked with comments like, "They could have some kissing here." And that's contemporary romance - the story is there, there's even spots to slot in sexy times if that's what's needed, but it's not a prerequisite for the story to unfold.

My latest Cate story, Team Player, doesn't even exist without sex. Charlie's not thinking about inviting Hannah into his confidence, until she has him hard and horny and she's begging to join in for a threesome. Take the sex away, there's no story. She could be a housemate, but the character growth won't exist because Hannah will remain isolated and her emotions almost non-existent. It's the sex that invites trust, that opens her heart to caring for others, that makes her want to understand the men she's with and their families and other relationships. It's the sex that gives them all the confidence to open their hearts and minds, to share, to develop.

Writing these two differently focussed stories is an interesting process as I come at my story development in the same kind of way (characters first) yet I think about everything after that with the completely different focus.

As Cate, I think about the sex and the emotions - how can I go from closed to open, from the unknown to the known, from scared to confident?

In the sweet form, it's how can the characters get together and what can be stopping them? So it's more focussed on the backstory and/or motivations.

And that's my pondering for today.

And just between us, I find the sex-driven stories much more fun to write and think about!! :)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Saturday Soapbox - media and mental health

Not exactly a soapbox, or a great pose, but anyway!
I'm going on a bit of a rant here, no need to read to the end if ranting's not your thing!

The media is driving me bats at the moment with their mixed messages, poor journalism, lack of 'research', tendency to tell us what they think we want/need to hear and not actual news.

My example this week is an easy one to start with - mental health and sport. (I have issues with politics but that such a huge topic, I'm not ready to wade into that one yet, so I'm starting in a confined space!).

The Australian media has been on a huge 'campaign' about the number of mental health issues in society, and especially among sportsmen/women, in particular retired sportspeople. But it's been a huge issue and has been drawn to the public's attention, mostly because of the number of sportspeople seeking rehab or help and then allowing that to be made public to break down stigmas. But, sadly, there has also been a high number of suicides.

Awareness has been a big factor, but also everyone's duty of care, plus things to look out for, what we can do to help, etc etc. I was thinking this was good. The media were taking this issue seriously.

Then this week, the same media who have raised these issues, have vilified a star sportsman, his team and his coach. We've heard how the star is a waste of money, not wanted, detrimental to the team, not working with the younger players, etc etc etc. It's been horrific. And not just journalists have got into this, we've got retired players, ex-teammates, commentators all having their say.We have young blokes drawn into the argument, with quotes of their thoughts, which they've then denied they said. Denied meeting the journo. We've a footy team trying to play with all this hanging over their heads, screamed about for a whole week.

If I was that player, the young players, the coach, or even a team mate...I'd be mentally scarred. It's been relentless. It's been personal attacks. It's been scathing.

And yet, we care about people's mental welbeing.

Yeah! Right!

The media cares only about selling a story. And sadly, with the click counting that websites allow, they know what headlines draw readers. So they use these emotive things to draw in readers, have huge clicks, 'win' whatever they're trying to 'win' ... and who cares about the mental health of anyone. Unless that's a good click-bait headline.

I'm horrified that we've come to this sort of journalism.

I'm horrified that we can one day be concerned about mental health, yet the next day attack someone with no care to their mental health.

Do we have no standards any more?
Do we not care for others?
Do we not have slander and libel concerns?
Do we not want to know the truth?
Do we not want to keep things behind closed doors for the welfare of others?

God. I despair for the world at the moment.

I despair for the sensationalist beings we've become where we feed on others' suffering or shame or humiliation, just so we feel a moment of ... whatever it is.

I'm limiting my clicks on news feeds. I'm trying not to get sucked into the click frenzy.

And I'm trying to find the good in a world that seems to have gone crazy.

How are you going with any of this stuff? Does it bother you too?