Friday, March 30, 2018

Saturday Search - Oracle cards

I had never heard of Oracle cards until last year. There seems to be a heap of different types but I think the basic idea is that it's a simple deck of cards which uses symbolism and/or a word to stimulate thought. These can be used for whatever purpose you require - answering a question, helping to work out yourself or your thoughts, for clairvoyance, etc.

They seem to be a quick way to encourage thoughts and/or discussion.

I own three packs, each are very different. One is a Celtic Tree pack and it has some depth to it, linking in Runes, tree meanings, seasonal links, and personal meanings. It's a bit too deep for my daily use because I found I wanted something basic so I could think for myself after a prompt.

So, I was then pointed towards two decks and I couldn't decide between them. I followed both creators of FB and I still couldn't decide. Then one had a sale, so my decision was made, but then the other one kept attracting my attention and when she had a sale I had no resistance! 

One I use for my daily thoughts and the other for my dreams :) 

The Soul Trees cards are basic and beautiful. They have a coloured tree and a single word. I adore them.

The Messenger Oracle has artwork filled with symbols, rich with colour, and usually a phrase. They give my subconscious homework while I sleep, sometimes I dream with the dragons or mystical characters from the cards (I don't write fantasy but I do love it!)

This past month I've been participating in a challenge on Instagram where I create my own oracle deck using prompts set by Over the Moon
Academy. A friend encouraged me, then another participant told me I needed to share my cards regardless of my skill. It's been the strangest experience. I draw terribly, like a child, and yet it's been a positive experience, even with putting my 'art' out in public. 

Looking at a word and then expressing it as a simple image has loosened up my creativity - kind of like word association game. Then trying to express that in a drawing has been a challenge. I don't see pictures in my head. So if I think of a frog, I know things about frogs and I know the basic shape, but I can't envisage a frog in my mind's eye, I can't get small details, and so I draw some rudimentary thing to skim over details. It's not much better if I look at a picture and try to draw it because I really need to trace to get it right, I have no clue how to work with perspective! I know mine looks like shit but I've no clue how to un-shit it, if that makes sense.

But it's been quite a rewarding experience and I've seen some incredible artwork and my mind's been opened by looking at other people's interpretation of a simple word. Sometimes people's interpretation of my art has me rather shocked in a good way.

Have you ever used Oracle cards? If so, do you have a favourite deck?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A dreadful day for Aussie sport

No no no no no. It's a shameful day in Australian sport. A day when I don't have sensible words. A day when I'm horrified by what's happened on the field, and more than horrified about must be happening off the field.

The Aussie cricket captain, along with one of the newest players, have admitted to cheating - not just cheating on the spur of the moment but a blatant planned cheating where it was discussed and agreed upon by a 'leadership group' before it happened.

That's horrifying, especially given all the other nasty crap that's happened during this tour. It's diabolical. It seems that there's things happening behind the scenes that we're not privy to. And that makes me speculate. It has me trying to read between the lines, read body language, and try to surmise what's happening that we can't see.

I watched Michael Clarke struggling to understand and explain what's occurred. I admire that he sat on the fence and wanted more information before he'd condemn anyone...but that also makes me question so many things. Michael Clarke has had nothing good to say about Cricket Australia since before he left/was forced out. The way he supported the current captain this morning, without directly supporting anyone else, has made me wonder how much more is beneath this incident...and who/what is really behind it.

Smith and Bancroft have owned up to this. Smith has also laid blame on an as yet unnamed 'leadership group'. Are Bancroft and Smith the only blokes with the honesty and guts to own this? Are they falling on their swords, but cleverly toppling a whole empire of gutless cheaters?

When Clarke left, some cloud hung over Cricket Australia, but as fans looking in we aren't privy to what that was. This morning he explained that partway through his captaincy, he lost control of the cricket team by CA putting in new structures which made a mess of the accountability, which previously had been so clear. And after Phillip Hughes' death, Clarke has said he felt he wasn't supported by CA and had been pushed into doing things he felt he shouldn't have had to do. I always thought he meant he was forced to play and captain, and encourage others to play through their fear, grief, emotion.

Is it more than this?

Is CA so focussed on winning that they've set up a system where players feel they need to cheat rather than just playing the best they can? Have players been forced to do things they're not comfortable doing in order to play in the Aussie team? God, have we lost sport and become something led by money/prestige/crowds/sponsorship/whatever?

I'm appalled to think of how deep this horror goes. I'm appalled to be a cricket fan, particularly an Aussie men's cricket fan, today. I don't want sport tainted by cheating. I don't want to be associated with this win at all costs mentality. I don't want our nation associated with appalling behaviour - which has been the case of this whole tour.

This isn't an isolated incident now. In light of this, I look back to Cummins standing on the ball the other day and his smug reaction when asked about it, saying of course it was an accident. Was it? I'm doubting that now. And last test, Warner had a huge amount of taping on his hand, which wasn't completely unexplained or illegal, but when South Africa protested about it the Aussies claimed all innocence - were they? Wasn't that tape there to do exactly what the SA's were worried about? 

It's not like the Aussies were doing so poorly that they were at the bottom of the entire world of cricket. No. This is a team that others should have admired...and they've lost not only admiration for themselves, but for every Aussie cricketer and cricket team in the past and possibly the future. They've besmirched the name of Australian sport. They've lost fans. And I would hate to have to explain this to a cricket-mad kid when I can't make sense of it myself.

I don't know how this will unfold. James Sutherland, CA boss, had a media conference where he sounded as if he was trying not to cry, and said nothing except that there was a process and it would be followed. That process is that CA send 2 people to investigate - how can that be fair if this problem is systemic? He said he hadn't spoken to the Captain - and that worries me deeply. Why not? The Captain surely needs his support, and needs to explain himself, and I would have thought should have been his first or second call. That's not looking good for the relationship between CA and the players. Add in the bad blood after the payments negotiation and nothing looks good there.

Has Smith been backed into a corner and is toppling a tower to weed out more serious cheating? 

I could be a conspiracy theorist but I think there is so much more behind this than we may ever know. I just pray that none of these young men are in positions that cause irreparable damage to their mental health and/or life.

I wait to see what happens, but my heart is broken and I don't think I can watch men's cricket with any passion.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Saturday Search - Astrology

Astrology was one of the first 'alternate' things I was familiar with, I think. I've always known my star sign even if I was in trouble for reading about it! I think the widespread awareness of astrology comes because astrology has always been in mainstream newspapers.

When I was a kid, Dad brought the newspaper home after work. If the stars were for that day, it was mostly over by the time I saw them, so there was no future prediction, which made them innocuous reads - I wasn't having my future foretold.

As I got older, I read more about my sign mostly because I exhibit so many of the traits of my sign. It gave me a sense of being understood. It explained away some of my oddness (compared with others - I was the only one in my immediate family of this sign).

As I got older and mixed with more people and found more people interested in astrology, the signs themselves were only the start of astrology. There were rising signs, full natal charts. It was like a science trying to understand what it all meant, what's more, it was so aligned with astronomy it shocked me.

I love the stars. I love looking up at the constellations, watching for shooting stars, looking at their movement across the sky. I have a tiny understanding of astrology, but there's this whole incredible depth to it that I haven't gone into - and since I think it might take forever to learn it, I might leave that to the experts :)

I do like reading a daily interpretation of what the stars and planets are doing and what that might mean for the energy we feel - that's kind of cool!

I read about astronomy and check out the ISS, and solar flares, comets, moons, galaxies, etc.

The universe is the most incredible space. No wonder we use it to try to understand our place.

How are you with astrology?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Wildlife Wednesday - Leaf Like A Book

I have a Bird Nest Fern that has spores on the underleaf at the moment. I was outside looking at it, when I realised that it looks like a book! I can't tell you how many times I've looked at this and taken photos of the spores, but just not in this way! It was like those optical illusions when the image 'flicked' and you saw something different. Well the midrib of the leaf flipped and I saw the spine of a book, the spores like text, so tiny I can't read it.

Anyway, that was my wildlife madness for this week :) Oh, no it wasn't...

I found a lizard doing acrobatics to sneak in through the flywire gauze sliding door and get inside. There's the tiniest of gaps, and if the small lizard twisted and wriggled and squirmed, it could sneak through while a big lizard stood guard and encouraged it. Of course when I had my camera, no lizards did anything of the sort. They sat smiling at me with faces of innocence...but I know! I just have no buggers.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Team Player ARRA Finalist

A crazy thing happened the other day and in my mad excitement, I haven't posted about it.

TEAM PLAYER was nominated in the ARRA Favourite Erotic Romance category for 2017. You can find the full listing of finalists here.

Other nominees are:
  • Egomaniac by Vi Keeland
  • Mack Daddy by Penelope Ward
  • Sapphire by JA Low

Booktopia are the fantastic sponsors of the award. So if you want to check out any of the other finalists, have a look at Booktopia, let me give you the links for the other erotic titles:
Mack Daddy
Team Player.

JA Low, me, Donna Gallagher, Cassandra Samuels, and Diane Cassar.
JA Low and I are flying the Aussie and the threesome flags :) I met her at the ARRA-organised Wollongong Writers Festival Sex On The Beach talk in Nov 2016, so to be nominated with her is such fun!

When you're nominated for an award, it's an odd feeling - well, for me anyway.

To have found a connection between my story, my weird imagination, and with readers is incredible.

I know some people who nominated me will be friends, and in a weird way that concerns me, but I hope they haven't just nominated Team Player because of friendship. I hope something about the story resonated with them. I hope it means that Charlie, Lyle and Hannah and their odd relationship was believable. That they liked the people in my head enough to wish them the best, to hope that they have a future, to cheer for them when people might jeer.

This story was born from some confused thoughts after I'd finished Deep Diving. Cooper and Samantha from Deep Diving are heterosexual, and while I was writing that story, I was thinking a lot about relationships with elite athletes and how they might work and how they may affect life beyond the professional one. At the same time, Australians were talking about the same sex marriage debate, which (I felt) was being used as a political tool, which annoyed me. Then I began to wonder about how that might affect someone playing professionally in Australia, especially in a male team sport where to date, no playing athletes have 'come out'. One guy came out after his retirement, which was an incredible thing because he opened up a dialogue and he was a tough player, so it vetoed the 'wimpy' gay male stereotype. I also enjoyed writing Lana, with multiple characters, so I was keen to explore that more. All these thoughts rumbled around in my brain and Team Player came from those.

And it's a threesome story where I didn't want a submissive female character. I wanted a relationship where the three characters held equal roles in the dynamic. I wanted a strong woman who knew what she wanted. I wanted a woman who wasn't blackmailing or conniving, but somehow connected with these two men. I wanted to show a solid relationship that could sneak by public scrutiny, but in doing so, I needed to show how difficult those choices are, without jeopardising the dynamic.

It was a struggle to get what I wanted from my head to the page. I had lots of help from my writing buddies to get things clearer. For all that hard work to be recognised by readers enjoying the story, and then going to nominate it as a favourite erotic read, is beyond incredible. It's humbling, it's exciting, it's wonderful, and it's terrifying.

This writing caper has days that are gold, mixed up with days of black despair and everything in between, but it is the best job in the world :)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Saturday Search - Runes

I fell into Runes in my 20s and I’m not entirely sure how. I hadn’t wanted to look at Tarot or anything clairvoyant, but deep down I knew Runes would be safe - I’ve no idea how I knew that. Or maybe it just came because I had heard ‘bad’ things about other devices and I’d heard nothing of Runes. I don’t know, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. But down that rabbit hole I went!

A few books, some searching, lots of reading, and I needed a set of Runes. But none felt right. So I went and made my own. I lived in a flat without a garden as such, but I’d made a little one along my part of the back fence, and through the fence grew a privet. Armed with a little saw, I chopped off the branches that poked into my yard, then cut up the branch into rounds for my Runes.

My raw, crudely made Runes
I let these dry in the sunshine for a bit. And then I wrote my Runic letters on my tree branch. I always intended to burn the marks on but I never have. I use the same Runes today, without changing a mark! And yes, I know Privet's not a plant I should have used, and I know it's better if they're stone - but these are mine, and that's the most important thing to me.

Although the Runic alphabet bears little resemblance to our alphabet, I felt I had a connection to these letters and I learned what they meant from a book, or ten! In the beginning, I had no understanding of intuition being linked with what I was doing. I thought it was something I had to learn, study, and then pass my daily test as I read my spread. 

I used the Runes mostly when I couldn’t decide something or couldn’t work something out. I’d sit quietly and think of my problem, then pull three (usually) Runes and work on what they meant and how that may relate to the issue I faced.

I refused to use them to ‘tell’ the future. I wouldn’t use them to read for others - in fact, I doubt anyone knew I read them. 

I made a raw silk bag with a leather drawstring in which to keep them. I kept them as natural and basic as I could. I kept the readings focussed on understanding myself and my issues.

You could say they were a tool in helping me decide my life. As a kid I’d often flipped a coin to know what I wanted (and if it fell the wrong way and I had to do best of 3 or best of 5, then I knew what I truly wanted!), and I guess this was the next progression. Something that dug a bit deeper into my psyche.

Have you ever used Runes? How do you use them?

Here's a website with more information if you're curious - 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sunday Story - romance genre

We've had Valentine's Day, where there seems to be a flurry of reporters having their dig at the romance genre, and this always gets my brain working. But I've also had chats with reader friends who have got my mind going too. So, I need to blog to sort my head out a bit (again!).

I'd never read by sticking to one thing. I read eclectically, picking up anything that grabs my attention. I read award winners, things off a shelf that no one recommends, things friends recommend, or hate. I've belonged to a Book Club for years and read whatever was set for the month. I also belong to a Classics Book Group and read the book that we've chosen there too. I read Mum's books, Dad's books, my books, my sisters' books, friends' books. I have been known to visit someone and pick up a book, and then ask to take it home to finish it. I'll devour anything.

So, in 2006 when I started to write towards publication, deciding what to write was a bit tricky because I read so widely. I didn't quite understand the 'boxes' that publishers put books into, or why these boxes were important. So I straddled boxes. And not sub-genre boxes. I went for the big boxes - like straddling literary and genre.

I learned that you couldn't  straddle boxes because no one knew how to categorise your story, which meant you couldn't be shelved or found by readers. This doesn't sound like a big deal, does it? But when it boils down, publishers don't but your books if they can't market them. Now that I finally understood that, I had to find where I fitted.

I ended up in genre and romance, largely because I could get a lot of help to learn this genre.

Having not been a romance-only reader, I struggled to understand the conventions - actually I still struggle with this.

In broad terms, romance requires a HEA (Happy Ever After) or a HFN (Happy For Now) ending. No cliffhangers, the romance has to be 'concluded' and it has to be a happy conclusion. That seems to be the only real and abiding 'rule' for the genre.

But there are other things that the genre wants. These are:
  • an emotional journey
  • characters need to change
  • language needs to be emotive
  • the inner workings of the character(s) minds needs to be shown
  • a journey for the romance to follow - which usually includes a 'dark' moment where you think things will never work out
I've struggled with some of these, and still struggle with others.

Emotion took me an eon to understand - well, I knew what emotion was, but getting it onto the page correctly was an almost impossible task for years.

I don't like depicting the inner workings of a male mind because I'm not sure I know how that works, and I fear that I do it in a 'female' way.

I hate the 'dark' moment. I feel like it's a total and complete fabrication. I try to have something, but I cannot 'invent' something to make it as gutting as some authors do.

So...when I hear people say that romance is 'a bit much' or that it's 'formulaic' or that I write well enough to 'do something decent', I get a bit of a burr happening. I don't really know what they mean, and when I question them, they often can't really explain what they meant and they back track a little.

But I think it's these genre conventions that many non-romance readers don't like/understand.

Emotions aren't an easy thing to discuss/face/write/read. A large part of society is focussed on ensuring that we know how to be XXX (whatever emotion here - eg happy, sad, angry, grief-stricken) in the 'right' way. This seems to be a huge industry. And from what I can tell, everyone has a different and unique way of expressing and dealing with emotion. I think that's why so many writers can write about love, and so many readers keep reading it - there are a bazillion ways to 'fall in love'.

But, falling in love is 'soppy'. It's an emotion associated with women. It's an emotion associated with softness, vulnerability, and for some, a time when they let their guard down and were damaged. For some it has lovely memories, and others it hurts.

I think this is why there's backlash against the genre, and it's often not seen as a legitimate form of storytelling.

The formulaic comment, I think applies to the fantasy aspect of romance. It's not written true to life. It's written to tap into higher emotions than we often feel. It exaggerates the good and the bad, yet it always ends well...often after a huge 'pit of despair'. Not all romances do these now, but the stereotype carries over.

And the 'write something decent', I think means literary, but I may be wrong with that. Maybe commercial literary would cover it. But that's a hard market to write for, because the trends change so very quickly. If I wrote what was selling now, by the time I finished, the trend woudl be passed. Literary takes a style and a genius that I have yet to perfect.

I'm happy in kind of romance...where I don't 'fit' all the rules, but I still find readers and publishers who like my stories.

It's taken me years to learn my craft. Years to understand the intricacies of the genre and the readers' expectations. I don't expect to ever know all of it, but I bend my mind trying to keep on top of it all.
I will probably always get annoyed at those who criticise my choice using cliches that, to me, are ambiguous. I'm not so much annoyed at the criticism, more annoyed that you can't articulate what you mean and have chosen to use, what I feel are, derogatory terms that I've heard many many times before. I'll try to bite my tongue and I'll try not to snarl, but my writing is important to me. This is my career. I am a romance writer.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturday Search - gemstones

Samples from my grandparents
I've been a collector of rocks, shells, soil, bugs and odd stuff for as long as I can remember. I suppose it began with shell collecting, which Mum did whenever we went to the beach, and developed. I distinctly remember her parents bringing me rock samples back from Mt Isa when they'd holidayed up there, and I would have been under 10 years old when that happened. These are probably my oldest rock samples in my collection.

Gypsum (maybe)
I've always collected interesting rocks. But a few years ago, I found a stunning piece of gypsum (I think) in a dry creek bed in central Qld. I think it's one of my favourite pieces. I've bought bits too. When I was in 5th Form, 17 years old, we went up to Yeppoon on holidays and I bought a "thunder egg". I've also bought a piece of amethyst.

Moss Agate, small bowl
I've always wanted to own rocks as jewellery. In my teens, there was a crazy for those coral necklaces (pink mostly) but I wanted a brown one made of rocks. They didn't exist, but Mum found one some years later and bought it for me. Then I've bought small opals and black pearls when travelling around Australia.

Agate, large bowl
Over the years, I've also collected small gemstones as I've seen them and 'felt' that I needed them. And then I've found some rock bowls, and some wooden bowls, and I've a few of those too.
Black pearls

Lately there's been more gemstone jewellery available (I don't know if I've just found it, or the internet has opened up this interest market). I seem to be collecting more and more gemstones.

And now there's this whole industry of using gemstones to 'help' with life. It's really quite phenomenal. When I look at my collection, I'm rather attracted to the colours black, white and light blue.

Black: generally black stones are protection stones. They protect you from negative energies. They also indicate death, earth, stability. Black conceals.

White: purity and cleanliness. Kindness. Openness, truth, wholeness, completion. White reveals.

And technically, black and white aren't true colours but reflection/adsorption of all colours.

Blue: sky, ocean, space. It's a cooling and calming colour. It depicts space. It's about solitude, peace.
My collection case

Now, I own more colours and I like picking them up to help me think. Sometimes I'll pick up a particular stone and carry/wear it for the day to help me with whatever I need to do. I don't really know what the gemstones mean, if I have to know I need to look it up. But I don't need to know what someone tells me they mean, I just let my intuition pick what I's been working for me for many years now, so no point changing a good thing!
Some stones, rocks, sticks, nests and soil

Are you into rocks or stones?