Are Writers Poisoning Their Future? Tough Love On Bad News Overloads

McLKKK7caThe online writing community has it’s positive and negative aspects, one negative being that tightly packed communities can pass along nasty diseases. As seemingly protected as we are behind our individual monitors, we are still subject to catching poisonous attitudes and becoming dis-abled, dis-empowered and dis-enchanted by what ails others.

For the past eight weeks, I’ve been having a ball writing “The Dragon Tree.” Sure it’s tricky and I am an old dog that’s a little blurred with painkillers; but it’s been a voyage of discovery and I’ve only thrown hissy fits at typos I have missed for the fifteenth time! However, every time I read up on something I need to know, for example, first drafts, most of what I find is a mind-bending, howling chorus of negativity against putting pen to paper, or keyboard to pixel. First drafts are supposed to be the scourge of the writer, the substance of hell itself! I had fun. Is something wrong with me?

Writing is fulfilling. That is why we do it. We profess our love, yet, we sink into the negative aspects of the craft too easily.

Ask yourself this:

are we putting ourselves and other writers off the craft of writing,

by generating excessive clouds of negativity?

How many great books won’t be finished or published, as someone/s have shrunk back under the perceived external pressures of too hard? Why? Because the Internet has become overloaded with bad news about how terrible the life of the writer is. We are sneezing the plague over each other.

There is a difference between, “does anyone know how to handle this? and “I can’t cope, it’s awful…” I know it’s tough being an author, my sales stink too. There are some aspects to life which are a love/hate relationship. I know I fall into the same traps you all do and  I’d love to write posts that would make it all better; but at this point I am standing back and asking, has needing constant support and broadcasting our creative issues become a way of life that is pulling us all down? Is my negativity feeding yours, then do you pass it on?

Are we in a needless negativity trap out of habit?

dededefheifuhq3118047108ehoSo I made a creative decision for the sake of my sanity. I stayed offline. In other words, I put on my gas mask and got fresh air into my lungs. There is a lot to be said for writing alone. I have 69,000+ words and my work is growing in a healthy environment of, “yes, I can!” It may be awhile before I decide to come back online properly.

I am not alone in being sick of all this. The Indie Writers Monthly blog has started an interesting series on lies writers tell each other. It’s intriguing, a little complex, but worth reading and evaluating if you are falling into some of these traps of thought such as, “your first book will be unsellable.” Why do we tell each other things like that? Do we believe them ourselves as we’ve read the same thing in so many places, erroneously? The repetition of the negative needs to stop.

We can do better than this!


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Author Survival Resources

salvagente_architetto_f_01rCommuniCATE frequently posts tips, references and encouragement for all writers and authors. The post links below will take you to the most helpful information on the blog.

Social Media and Networking Help

Book Marketing



Fear of Failure: Survival for Writers

DEB_MixedMedia_Emb_Pencil_RedFear of failure as an author, can be built into us as early as primary school. We become inflicted with what I call, “Red Pen Phobia.”

Red pen is the hated mark that comes back on school assignments screaming, “you are wrong! You didn’t make the grade. You’re not good enough. You messed up! You didn’t try hard enough.” It is also used to mark bills with “overdue!”  Red pen phobia is so serious, that when I looked through my licence stock photos for a *red pen image, I couldn’t find one. All I could find was a red pencil. Who wants to make artwork using an image that makes you feel bad?

I hear from other writers who like to write in colour to stimulate their creativity, whether in pen or as a font choice. They choose purple, blue, green, orange, pink… I can’t remember anyone ever saying they like writing in red. It is the colour of failure. Many writers I teach are over 55 years of age and have an embedded demanding, judging English teacher in their head. Some teachers used to throw chalk, or smack them over the back of their knuckles with a ruler. Others were lucky enough to have teachers who were interested in getting them to be creative; but a vast majority fit the academic model: you were judged on correctness. There was no grey, only black and white and on that you were smart or you were stupid.

In psychology class we had to try and define intelligence as an exercise. It is impossible. Too many people fit outside that tiny box academia focusses on and we, sadly, often judge ourselves on. There are people who work best through movements such as dance or art, are great manual workers, have excellent spatial skills or who have musical or people skills. They are all intelligent but may not have the academically acceptable mathematical or English skills that are supposed to define intelligence. It doesn’t mean they are stupid. Yet, we can live our whole lives with that label as we didn’t fit a narrow set of standards, rather than being encouraged to use our unique skills.

Many, many writers over time have not fit the academic model, but have been successful despite it. They may not have had the educational opportunities to try and fit into that model, or their skills may simply lie in other areas. Some writers are great story tellers, but need extra support with grammar etc. It does not mean they should stop writing as they don’t have what it takes. We need to silence our inner school teacher and reach for our goals.

So you can take the red pen in two ways:

1. A rod of correction, signal of danger or symbol of fear ;


2. Look at it as a colour of passion, fire and energy! Those are positive qualities of writers who love their craft.

Grab your red pens, stick them in a drawer if they deter you, but don’t let them stand in your way! Write for yourself and the joy it brings you first. Edit later; hire a professional editor if you are not confident… but don’t let those red pens stop your dreams. The only thing that will mark you as a failure is never having tried.



This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

*The red pencil image is commercially licenced to Cate Russell-Cole. Please do not reuse it. It can be purchased from as part of the DEB_Stationary and Art Bits collection designed by Durin Eberhart.

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

#Search Engine Optimisation for #Indie Authors: How Far Should You Go?

There are many bloggers out there who still don’t know what SEO is. That is and isn’t a good thing. SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and for best practice, it is supposed to have a very large say in how you write book titles, web pages and blog posts. (There is an infographic explaining it at the base of this page.) A great idea? Yes, if kept in balance. There is one major worry with getting too carried away with it: you stop writing as yourself and allow yourself to be told what to do by a robot. Think about it…

Digital computations determine how easy it is for us to have our books found on Amazon, our Page posts read on Facebook, our web site or blog found on Google… They are awfully frustrating and if you want to claw your way to the top of the pile, you have to work – hard! You must sprinkle your keywords through your post, use meta tags on web pages, sprinkle matching keywords through your web pages, tweet, status update, Like, Plus 1, retweet, share and comment until your fingers fall off and your brain goes numb.

I did this asiduously throughout 2013 and got to the end of September and simply burnt out! I wasn’t tired of blogging, writing and people. It was those robotic demands that did me in. So I spent far less time on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. After reading a massive, endless stream of SEO and social media how-to posts, I came to the conclusion that as writers, we are possibly far better off writing in the attic, away from the computer and all this “wonderfully good advice.” Any available time I had in my week, was spent assuaging the gods of rank. So I quit! I’ve noticed that since I began to pull back in September, my visit stats and book sales didn’t drop much. They are growing.

1238999_450639671718505_835016741_nSo here is how I am now surviving online. I hope it inspires you and if you have further suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

  1. I will automate as many blog posts and shares as I can, so I can take time to see the sunshine and not be spending hours manually on social media. “I’m sorry Hal, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
  2. I will not read any more SEO and social media how-to posts or books: instead I will be myself and stay tapped into my innate creativity identity.
  3. I will not get trapped in worrying about my statistics. If I get 2 Likes on a post and someone was inspired: I aced it! That is my main goal: encourage, equip, empower. Not rack up fat numbers.
  4. I will write the blog posts which are close to my heart, regardless of what posts pull in the greatest number of readers.
  5. I will market my books with titles that make sense to the content of the book and are not used elsewhere. I will not calculate words on what sells.

In business, if something does not pull in sales, you stop doing it. Yet online, many of us tend to jump feet first into the latest and greatest next thing, perhaps in the hope it will propel us to stardom? That doesn’t work. It simply chews away more of our time and sanity.

It is all about sanity. If I have to mutiny against binary calculations, the numbers game and everyone’s marvellous advice, then I will. Join me… your creative soul is worth more than this.

If you want to know more about SEO, check this infographic from



IMG_0204Note from Cate: this post was published last year under a different title, but there was a technical glitch and it never got proper promotion. As it received great comments from those who did read it, I have updated, improved and published it again.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013 and adapted in 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Sanity Saving Blogging Resources

Be UniqueLife flies by at an insane pace… I constantly miss or have to dash past blog posts I want to and need to read. In case you missed it, here are the resources I shared during Blog Taming Month in February. A few extras are thrown in, just because I can… Happy scribing and remember, forget the musts, the have-tos and the myriad of experts. Your best success comes by being yourself!

Micro-Blogging: An Idea to Experiment With

Blogging Survival: Get Ahead by Scheduling

Services Which Make Your Blog Easy to Follow

Surviving BIG Blogging Mistakes

Blog Sidebars: Easy Ways to Add Whatever You Want

Are Your Blogging Goals Slipping? Help to Get Focussed Using Planners and Organisers

Building Community Spirit in the Blogosphere

Is Your Blog Trapping You or Helping You Fly?

Savvy Blogging Cover Image 2If you want even more… and why wouldn’t you? All blog maintenance and promotion posts here on CommuniCATE can be accessed by this category link. Or you can save yourself the trouble and download the free .pdf ebook, which saves you scrolling and reading through all those posts online. This is the download link. It is safe, with no strings attached and comes from my web site.

Chapters Include:

  • Blog Treasures Hidden in Plain Sight
  • Get Yourself A Second Brain
  • Slack, Fake and Egocentric Followers: How to Pick Them!
  • Blog Post Promotion on Social Media: Instantly Hooking Reader Attention
  • Sometimes, It Just Goes Wrong: When to Ditch!
  • The Best Kept Editing Secret
  • 10% On Top: Being a More Efficient Writer
  • Professional, Effective Author Sites: The Problems With Using Blogs
  • Cleaning the Cobwebs Out of Blogs: Reader Engagement and Content Value
  • Guest Posting as Advertising: How To Be Professional and Be Asked Back
  • Your Individuality is Your Greatest Asset: Writing and Marketing as You
  • Faulty-Tasking
  • The Road to Success is Paved by Free-Sharing

Have fun!

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

Do You Write by Heart or Head? Technique Overload

Complexities that put me off my game.

Complexities that put me off my game.

When does studying the craft of writing stop you or inhibit your work? That is a question which some of us need to ask. Writing has become more than a plotter or pantser issue, it can come down to science vs your instincts as a bard.

I like to know I am doing things the right way. However, in branching back out into fiction, I am finding the more I read about what to include, the more nervous I am becoming with my writing. I look at images on Pinterest, like the one on the right, feeling bemused, hemmed in, inadequate and I am stunned into inaction by a fear of failure. What if the “right” way is not my way? Jane Austen wrote without all this!

Since I originally studied writing, main characters have become protagonists and there are also antagonists, contagonists, deuteragonists… what? Deuteragonists are the main secondary characters. Why can’t we just say that! How many aspiring authors are being scared away? I often get the feeling you I am being told to be perfect and write a specific way, rather than being allowed to just write down that story I need to tell.

There are things I need at the beginning: plot arcs, descriptions, body language, emotional reactions which are realistic, archetypes as a guideline and character profiles (such as the Enneagram); however, I need to begin to ignore many technical articles or stash them for later in the writing process.

Things that freak me out when I am writing a new story for the first time:

  • Dos and Don’ts for the Last 10,000 words of your story.
  • What you should write and when : hook, plot point, response, mid point, attack, plot point, climax, resolution… complete nervous breakdown?
  • Structuring Your Story’s Scenes, Pt. 5 (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? Did I fail?)
  • 200,000,000 ways to say that, went, and or whatever, which makes me feel like I need to watch every word as it comes out.
  • Revealing secrets, pivotal information etc. for maximum impact on a very detailed, precise manner. (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? I really stink at this, don’t I!)
  • The First Five Pages. A writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. (That has to come with editing, you can’t get that right, straight off the bat!)
  • The most annoying type of story conflict / the most hated antagonist readers will throw the book down after reading etc.

You get the picture.

My answer: learn slowly as you go; be open to new ideas but don’t let them mash you into a one-size-fits-all, formatted cliché like a Hollywood blockbuster movie… You need to get that story down before you can start working on perfecting it.

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

When You Feel Like Originality Has Passed You By…

Meridan PlainsIt was during the early 1990’s that I started to write “The Chronicles of Mirchar.” This was before the Internet, it had never been published and I felt my place and character names were pretty safe. I’d never seen them anywhere.

Then around 2003 or so, my husband and I were on holidays in a coastal area I had never been to. This area was fairly new and the suburb name: Meridan Plains. They had “stolen” my continent name! Even though my series was long since abandoned at the time… and had never seen the light of day outside my desk… I still felt the sting of losing my exclusive name. As I had (stupidly) destroyed my original manuscripts, I didn’t even have the satisfaction of storming into their local Council office to demand answers. “Where did you get this from, it was mine!” You know how it is when you get attached to your work. You take the oddest things rather personally…

I went online, checked all my old character names, had a little cry at my lack of originality and vowed to never, ever repeated the mistake. I would research all my names in case I had subconsciously “acquired” someone else’s idea. Then I was working on a name for a key character earlier this year and liked the name “Mirabelle.” I hadn’t read anything where it was used by my favourite authors and it looked safe to me. I did no further checking. It was just an old fashioned girl’s name. A few weeks later, I opened the cupboard. Months earlier we had changed light bulb types and voila!


[Epic facepalm!] I named a favourite character after a light bulb. Please hold back on the “she must be a bright spark,” jokes! So much for learning that lesson. Though there is one thing I did learn from that: no matter what the genre, you don’t have to be perfect all the time… have fun and do what you want anyway. As one idea leads to another, then yet another, you never know what may come from it.


If you ever need it, this is how you name characters, places and construct languages in fantasy stories.

Character images property of Universal Studios.

1. Base them on known sounds and words so they strike a familiar chord with readers and don’t sound fake. Case in point, in the movie Despicable Me 2, the Minions call an apple “papple” and their banana language comes from a mix of many languages including Spanish, French, English etc. They will say “belo” instead of “hello.” You get the picture, it’s just close enough to sound right to our ears.

2. Building a fantasy language is a mammoth task! Try and stick to key phrases such as patriotic slogans, greetings and commonly used words, unless you head goes spinning off or you feel a strong need to sue someone, when you find out they used YOUR word!

3. Link your language into cultural elements: eg. In the Game of Thrones, in the Dothraki culture the word graddakh means “one who walks.” This is a status inference. You are worthy or unworthy as you are able to ride, or are too weak or forbidden to ride. It reflects your societal value. Using words like that gives them a great deal of power.

4. Document your language very well so you don’t contradict yourself, can build a glossary on your web site or into your books, and hey, if you get to the level of Sir Terry Pratchett, you can make a mint out of it. Or have people playing your equivalent of Klingon Boggle (video below for the Big Bang Theory fans).

5. Learn to be at peace with the fact that you will probably never get a totally original name or word and that’s OK. If it is recognisable as a possible native tongue, you aced it!

Creative Commons License

This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Is Your Blog Trapping You or Helping You Fly?

BlogTamingMonthCommuniCATE2I’ve been looking at this debate for some time, as I see more and more bloggers talking of burnout and writers starting to rebel against the endless demands of what you must do to succeed! To settle the matter, I took a few hours out to read and properly absorb both sides of the argument. It is complex when it comes to the publishing industry. At the end, all I could do was make up my own mind about what was right for me. I have placed as many of the arguments here as I can (without this post being novel sized) so you can also make up your own mind. Don’t follow the herd: do what works for you!

  • When you find yourself filling in posts with anything, as you just want it done and are tired, drained and over it!
  • Having no direction: which is sometimes apparent in writers with multiple blogs, unless they are for multiple purposes… but watch how much time that takes up!
  • Letting your self-esteem be dictated by reader statistics.
  • If it is an excuse for social media interaction which may be a sign you need to find a better answer to loneliness, or other tasks you are avoiding.
  • When you are investing too much time, and other higher priority tasks are going begging as a result.
  • Getting involved in blog challenges which run you into the ground with time demands and leave you wrecked.
  • When you have made such a hash of a blog that is screams lack of quality, poor commitment to your writing, or stands as testimony to an attitude that makes you cringe!
  • When your content is too personal and can do you damage in the future with potential relationships, employers or contacts in publishing and promotion.
  • Taking on guest bloggers, cover reveals and other sharing initiatives where you are used and not supported or thanked.
  • When the amount of effort invested is not getting you the results you need long term. If you are losing followers, not growing and this has been going on for at least six months, maybe it’s just not the medium for you…

… and you know something? That’s alright: you don’t H.A.V.E. to be a blogger. Do what is right for you. Write what you have in your heart and be true to yourself. Follower numbers aren’t everything.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.


remind meAccording to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, my work pattern is wrong. I write while getting laundry done, checking email, answering the phone and whatever else comes up. It is something we’re used to. Even though we have far more leisure time than our predecessors, we fill it to the brim, so we have to multitask.

So unless you are texting while driving, what is the problem? Well, as good as we think we are at keeping all the balls in the air, the hard data is, we’re taking 50% longer to get things done. We have to go back and redo jobs, as details have been forgotten, and the quality of what we do achieve is not as good. Can we afford that in a competitive writing market?

On TED Talks, a speaker named Paolo Cardini said, “forget multi-tasking, try mono-tasking.” He was advocating limiting the amount of constant, hectic activity we engage in, and doing one thing at a time… with focus. It makes sense. That way we are less stressed, achieve more and what we do is better!

If you do not believe you can get work done any other way, stop, take a deep breath and look at whether or not multitasking is  really working for you. Perhaps you need to schedule time with the Internet off, phone on voicemail and simply focus on what you are writing.

This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

Your Individuality is Your Greatest Asset: Writing and Marketing as You

lifeinchalkIf all writers thought and expressed themselves the same way, all books would be the same. Fortunately, they aren’t. We enjoy libraries stocked with diverse characters, settings, views and approaches. There is always something new to discover. It whets our appetite for thinking outside our own style and genre.

However, as I roam around writer’s blogs on the Internet, I see so much of the same repeated. The same blogging challenges, the same badges, the same marketing techniques. I also read regurgitated lists of rules on how often we must blog to capture the attention of search engines, approach social media and present ourselves. There are excellent reasons for following some of that advice… but…

If our success as writers is dependent on our individual creative instincts, why do we fall into a carbon copy approach online? I feel like rebelling: jumping out of line and saying, “Hey, I am going to be ME. If you don’t like my style, that’s OK. I don’t like everyone’s style either. I am not going to conform and fail at being myself.”

Following the flock of sheep in front of us involves the risk that all people will see, is another woolly behind. We can be too well blended into an indistinguishable mass of cream woolly behinds. When you promote other writers on Triberr and Twitter, you can start to tune out and not pass on another round of giveaways, challenge posts and blog tours. You’re looking for something different, something that catches your interest and hasn’t been done before. A new design. A new point of view. A new theme. With the number of people online, that’s not always easy to do; but when you put yourself forward in your own individualistic style, then people do notice. That can generate a more positive response.

is it right

So, while being sensible and sticking to the most essential rules for promotion, may I challenge you to not be afraid to be yourself. Show your personality, show your passion for your work and if you hate blog challenges or tours, don’t do it! Find an approach that fits who you are.

Be yourself. You are your best shot at success.

This video from TED Talks highlights how we tend to gravitate towards like-minded people. They are often the least able to help us when we need to break free of the norm. Please enjoy Maria Bezaitis, speaking on the surprising need for strangeness.


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture.

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Don’t Quit Striving Towards Your Writing Goals

New desk 2

For some reason, I see owls being used everywhere in decorator and stationary items. 
They are even appearing on Christmas paper plates! Maybe they are telling us that we need less ‘frantic doing’ and more contemplating to learn wisdom from our experiences!

For the last few weeks I have desperately needed a change of pace, and have been trying to plot out a new direction for CommuniCATE in 2014. I have destroyed parts of a brand new, very expensive diary in the process! However, after an obsessive assessment of my stats and many hours of deliberating, I keep coming back to the same answer: keep doing what I am already doing, as it’s working and I am being true to my own creative self.

That makes sense… but!!!!!! I am paying a high price in unpaid labour and far too many hours of drudge work to make that happen. So still, what to do? I want off that rat wheel!

I know many of you are in the same position. You have a taste of success, but you’re still a small player, investing more than you will ever get back. Some days you just stop and say, “why?” “Is this Internet promotion game really going to make me a satisfied author? What am I doing pandering to strangers, SEO, social media and all that rot? I want my life back!”

The final clincher for me in making this decision, was digging out archived files of an old disaster. You know how some days you have to stop and look back? You have to pull up that memory that still hurts, remember dreams lost, face the work that was wasted and ask, “what the ‘bleep’ went so wrong?” It’s human nature to want to make sense of it all. Looking back at that toxic carcass, gave me a sense of gratitude which I have been missing. Despite being fidgety, I am now happier because I followed one of my dreams. It’s all been worth it.

New desk 1

Yes, there are a lot of plants. As I spend so much time at my desk, I try and make it pleasant.

As writers we often look back on older work and cringe. We have shelved ideas, abandoned books, smashed dreams and poisonous feedback that still makes us want to hide and cry under our desks. I have thirty files which need editing and placing back on Why were they removed? They are 15 years old! My editing standards are now higher. Many past pieces of writing are online out of my reach, and perfect or not, I just have to wear them. Maybe that is a lesson in humility we all have to learn, allowing ourselves to grow. Seeing what lies behind as a necessity, a blessing and something we should use to empower us to keep moving forward.

Whatever publishing, blogging, social media and your life throws at you, stay with it. Keep writing. It will pay off in some way. I know once my restlessness wears off, I will go back to happily following my work routine. I just need the sense to focus, stay grateful and stay put!

What is the hardest part of your writing journey?

Savvy Blogging Cover Image 2

Oh yes, please don’t forget! There is a new free e-book (pdf so readable on any device) which pulls all my blog related posts together. It’s titled “Savvy Blogging for Time Starved Writers,” and is available via the sidebar. You can import pdf files into Kindle via their apps (just point your Kindle app on your computer to the directory where you keep your pdf and it will import); and into iBooks via the iTunes link up with your computer and your iPhone/iPad.


This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. The featured image from this post comes from the web site linked to above.

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

The Life Journey of a Mystic in Fiction

Image Source:
Original artist unknown.

One of the spiritual areas that fascinates me is prophecy. I love fantasy books featuring people who strive to reach a high spiritual calling. Being a Mystic / Prophet appears to be one of the toughest roles anyone can take. They can be held in awe, regarded with fear or suspicion or ostracised… if left alive. It is as demanding as the role of a warrior.

Some prophets have it easier than others. For example, the Oracle of Delphi in Greece, was constantly breathing in toxic fumes from volcanic gasses that came up through a rock. The priests around the Oracle did the interpretation of the gibberish this chemical high produced. They were the ones with the real power. The actual position of Oracle doesn’t sound too onerous to me, though definitely dangerous to their health!

Often these mystical people were embroiled in power battles within epic fables and stories. Being a mystic supposedly gives ordinary people marvellous power; but is that view a myth? Depending on the storyline, that power can be public and impressive, or limited and only able to be used in a covert manner. The little power they have may not be enough; it could often leave the mystic frustrated. How often do the wise ones have to stand back and watch those they warned make avoidable mistakes? That or they can be so power drunk, they start to destroy everything around them, including themselves. You can turn the storyline so many different ways.

According to the Old Testament, if you were a prophet and your accuracy was less than one hundred percent, you could be stoned to death. Nostradamus would never have made it. The Egyptians could change gods like you change your socks. Depending on who you represented, being one of their religious leaders could be a job with a limited shelf life! If you were ever on the wrong side of the current religious fad, you could kiss your robes and your good life goodbye.

Look into the job description of a mystic further. While literature romanticises quests and great adventures, more often, the wise ones were called on to deal with the conflicts and faults of their societies. That can mean that their purpose in life was to be unpopular. I can see why figures such as Jonah legged it when given a tough challenge. For most prophets, the training and standards are anything but easy and would leave them feeling humbled and impotent. Then to make them feel better, people don’t tend to roll out the welcome mat when it’s your divinely-given task to go tell them they are wrong. In the same shoes, I’d go whale watching too. It could be worth the risk. There are always plenty of rocks laying around to be thrown… Moses was another Biblical figure who firstly said “I don’t think so!” when he heard what he was meant to do.

This image was made by and belongs to i_luv_angst
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The early life of a prophet involves sacrificing a normal life; developing exacting discipline; being misunderstood; learning focus and meditation; studying relevant areas such as magic, medicine, history and literature; making your fair share of humiliating bloopers when you hear or judge the facts wrong and the obligatory “character building” wilderness experience.

The best prophets are grown in the toughest places and at times, are called into a time of living in solitude, while they do the equivalent of a Prophetic Masters Degree… in the middle of nowhere with scant protection and few comforts, if any. If they were really lucky, the wilderness would be their permanent mailing address. Loneliness is often the prophet’s closest and only friend.

Prophets are deliberately developed where the conditions are toughest. If you were a Celtic mystic, they may have chosen to go to sea. Sometimes they made landfall, sometimes, they didn’t, being on a boat for weeks. The forests and the desert are not the only choices for getting away from it all to hear clearly.

Celtic Monasteries have been found on tiny, wind-slapped islands (not wind-swept, that is too gentle), where you need to be a mountain goat to move around. The tougher the life, the better one’s attitude grows. It’s the truest of cliches; suffering gains you perspective on human nature and shows you what really matters in life. You must have suffered to be able to relate to others’ pain.

So as you write about awesome soothsayers, crystal ball gazers and wand carrying heroes, consider what manner of life experience and training that led them to the centre stage in your novel. True mystics are not born with all the talents and graces they need, they’re made: most probably the hardest way!

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

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Sending Your Readers in the Right Direction: Blog Post Marketing

bigblogsThe bigger your blog gets, the harder it is for readers to find the content they want, or you need shared the most. However, there is an easy solution: build in a simple mini-search engine for your readers which is easy to access and takes no technical wizardry to set up.

Last week I posted on how and why I had cut my posts down to make the blog more reader friendly. I was also wondering who was going to read back through over 200+ posts? Probably no one. However, there is one way to keep high quality older posts accessible to readers: by effectively using categories.

While it can take some time to go through a big blog and categorise old posts, it’s worth that investment! Think through the best way to represent your topics. A straight label may not always be effective. Cleverly named categories may work well as teasers to pique curiosity. If say, a book title isn’t drawing traffic, alter the category name your book posts are under, to draw interest.

To make categories readily searchable, you can either use the category sidebar widget that your blog has, or do as I have done as used a text widget to separate the categories out of the cloud and make them more readable. To increase their usefulness, you can also link straight to a category and share it on social media; or as I have done, list them in places where they will draw attention, such as on my Best of the Blog page and my web site. Don’t forget to use the slug feature which allows you to put in a brief description or explanation of the category. It will clear up any confusion and let you communicate extra information.

wlogoI’m interested in hearing what categories draw your attention. What works on your blog? Please share in the comments. Here is my new category list.

Getting Real About Writer’s Burn Out and Social Media Demands

The Scream by Munch

The Scream by Munch

I was going through my Triberr stream today and someone had blogged on people who are too “big for their britches” to say thank you for retweets, comments etc. I shared the post as they do have a point. However, there can more behind this issue than mere rude behaviour: it may be overwhelm and silently suffering burn out.

Lack of response can come down to time availability, overload, required response numbers… and the need for a balanced life which includes family, recreation and rest. Those of us who have the sense to balance our time, or step away from “must-do to succeed” tasks, can pay a price in public criticism and the god called search engine rankings. It’s time for technology and all writers to stop cracking the whip and set better standards. Our online culture needs to allow people to lead balanced lives! We are creating our own hell… but we can create a way out of it, by changing our expectations and what we pressure other writers to do.

As my blog and business have grown, I have had increasing issues with time. I cannot comment on all the visited blog posts I would dearly love to respond to, which makes me feel very guilty. Thanks to Triberr, I have more RTs than I can keep up with. Add on the demands of marketing, networking, supporting other writers, time for writing, home life, book keeping, bills, health challenges and the many, many social media must-dos which I am supposed to follow… it all becomes physically and mentally impossible to keep up with.

For the last few years, I have worked my butt off trying to do it all the right way and it has slowly and surely led to me balancing on the edge of total burn out. So I chosen to step back from much of my prior workload for a time. Does that mean you will judge me as “too big for my britches,” as I need to switch comments off for a time, or because I am not on Twitter saying thanks every day?

I see so many writers say every week. “I am out of ideas.” “I want forget all the social media: I am forcing myself, as I am told I have to.” “My book isn’t working any more, I am going to ditch it. I don’t know what to do.” Guess what, like me, you’re over-tired. If you’re stats are low on blog visits or followers, maybe your content is bad as you’re too tired to think straight and good ideas have stopped flowing. If you’re stuck on a plot problem, maybe you need to let your mental muscles rest and regenerate.

Rfc1394_Danger_-_High_Voltage_(Alt_1)Technically burn out is: “the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time.” There is a fallacy that if you are doing what you love, you can’t burn out. Yes, you can. Burn out advances faster when you feel trapped, stuck, frustrated or are doing a task you don’t enjoy: but it can still quietly sneak up on you when you are doing what you love. It comes from being out of balance.

It comes from not getting away from your desk and taking “you” time; from giving into the online peer pressure to be so involved in everything, you are too busy for your creative brain to rest and for your stress level to reduce. Long term, those two don’t just lead to writer’s block, increased stress hormones will make your body sick. If you over-rev a car, the motor will burn out. We are no different.

There is an answer: rest, reduce your workload and balance out your time.

Until I feel better, my Triberr shares will automatically appear on Twitter, but I will rarely be doing my usual sharing; I won’t be on Facebook much; my time on Pinterest and Google Plus will be the barest minimum if at all; and I will be rarely reading blog posts I have subscribed to. I am not going to be stupid with my mental and physical health. I have to take time out, now.

According to SEO and all the good advice on success, this is suicide. According to Jeff Goins and his Slow Down Challenge, it is wisdom. For me, it is necessity. I am going to stop and quietly repair.

I challenge you to join me in re-assessing what you’re doing:

  • Look at your stats and see what social media/promotion doesn’t work, and have the courage to radically reduce your time on it, or stop using it.
  • Limit the number of days a week you post so you don’t run out of ideas, energy or overload your audience.
  • Get out of Facebook and Google communities and groups that are unresponsive, spam attractors or criticism ridden. (I exited 17 last week to pull my work load down to a controllable level.)
  • Stay away from Blogging challenges that are demanding more than 3-4 posts a week, or modify your involvement to what you can handle without stress, regardless of the rules. (I dropped out of two last week. I feel free! I’ll stash away the prompts I like and do them in my own time, for me, when I am ready.)
  • If you know NaNoWriMo and challenges like it are unrealistic and will scorch your sanity and stress you, don’t do it! Give yourself a longer time frame.
  • Reduce word counts to a level you know you can achieve and be patience. Just because it takes longer to get there, doesn’t mean you won’t!
  • Reduce extensive goal lists to the most important and work on no more than three at a time.
  • Stop being a type A and enjoy your family, friends, fresh air, fun and the good parts of life which involve no computer connection.

Take very good care of yourselves.

blog sig

Creative Freedom or Selling Out for Profit: Which is Your Choice?


I am being asked more and more, “how do I sell my work?” “How do I write when I have no money for editing and book covers?” “How can I get my out-of-print books up and into circulation again?”

Writers seem to be getting lost in the market, thrown around my poorly deduced statistics and seduced by the demands of one-sided advice. It appears at times, that almost everyone that has e-published then has an urge to write a book on how they did it, as a self-proclaimed expert! Often, the advice is at best, partial; at worst, downright dangerous to a writer’s mental health! As I’ve look at some of the advice in the books, then look at a poorly written sample of that writer’s actual published novel, I’ve quickly developed an allergy to these ‘experts.’

What is really bothering me at the moment, is how often I see the same messages being repeated which are dictating how we are to blog, how we are to write, how we are to publish. We are being assimilated to a manageable norm. So are we having our creativity and originality juiced out of us? It concerns me that we are. If I read one more four character based novel with a predictable ending, I am going to scream. The writers are stuck in a formula rut. At times, it makes me stop reading. I’m bored with the same old thing.

So I decided to watch a few out-of-the-box movies, such as “Finding Neverland,” which is magic for writers, and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” I’ve always been intrigued by Johnny Depp’s performances and surprised at his ability to chameleon into roles. He is original and outstanding. I don’t watch a Johnny Depp movie to see him. The character always overtakes the real Johnny in appearance and personality. Depp is that character, rather than appearing as another reincarnation of “Star X now depicting the character Y.”

Reading more about Depp, I quickly discovered that he is his own man, takes his own path, frustrates the Hollywood norms… and wins. Labelled as frustrating, eccentric, unusual and odd, he won’t do the standard cliched blockbuster films, that enable the financial wheels of the movie industry to safely spin along their predictable path. Yes, he is also a writer. Just at the moment, that is the kind of role models many writers need… so much so, it is at least rumoured that Harper Collins has started an imprint of books which are “authentic, outspoken, and visionary,” a project initiated by the “bookish” Johnny Depp. The Imprint title is characteristically him: Infinitum Nihil” (“Nothing is forever.”)

Johnny has reminded me:

  • You can still be successful by being yourself, rather than filling the mold;
  • Reflect your own interests in your choices, not what’s popular now and thus liable to make the most money;
  • If instinct says so, disregard the ‘shoulds’ from the experts: there is always more than one formula for success;
  • Write for the love of writing, not the money, you’ll stifle your real self;
  • Don’t be afraid to write outside your standard genre, step out of your comfort zone and do something completely different;
  • If others raise an eyebrow at your work and call you ‘unusual’ that’s good! Negative criticism can be a long term positive.
  • Never compromise yourself.

So “do a Depp.” Seriously consider where you are conforming to the norm in any way that is not you. Find your way back to your genuine creative self. Take a few risks: write something in a new genre and see where your journey takes you. The satisfaction of the creative journey is worth more than any payment or popularity. Plus, it can also become a winner for you too.

From Depp’s Point of View:

“The challenge for me is still to do something that hasn’t been beaten into the moviegoing consciousness. Otherwise what am I in it for?”

As an undercover cop on 21 Jump Street, Depp emerged into the spotlight as a teen idol in 1987, but a future as a lunch box icon and not having any control over his own image, scared him. “I waited and waited to do a movie, because I wanted to do the right one. I wanted to go as far away from the series (21 Jump Street) as I could. The first film I did after Jump Street was Cry-Baby with John Waters. That was a great experience. After that I did another season of the series, and then I did Edward Scissorhands. During that movie I got the phone call saying I was out of the show. I felt like, Ah, possibilities. I was freed up. I swore to myself that I would never again compromise to the degree that I had. I swore that I wouldn’t just follow the commercial road. I wouldn’t do what was expected of me or what was necessary to maintain whatever it is –a popular or financially rewarding career. I promised myself that I would do that.”

f8b104b5dc135f71e6a5f154a7857e3eAfter the success of Pirates of the Caribbean he has been considered less of a non-conformist risk and more of a bankable movie star. However, his change in status has not changed the way he maintains his career path. Depp: “I’ve always been some distance from that game. I guess there have been times when I was on the brink of being bankable. But that’s all so weird. All these weird lists – top five star, top 10, “Let’s get this guy because he’s bankable.” I don’t think about that. You’re on the list two weeks and then – poof – you’re gone. It never jarred me that I wasn’t on the list. If I’m considered bankable this week, that’s great. Next week I’ll be totally off. I’m used to that. I’ve never had an allergy to the idea of commercial success. When you put a movie out and it’s successful, that’s great. I just wanted to get there in the right way, in a way that’s not too compromising or demeaning or ugly. Whether I’m there as a bankable movie star or not, I don’t know. If I stay there, who knows?”

“It’s just an odd game. I mean, I may want to do dinner theater. Maybe it’s not so bad. I’ve always said I might end up being forced to do McDonald’s openings dressed as Edward Scissorhands. You never know.”


Aside from Mr Depp’s quotes, this article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2012, updated 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner.