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Know your nurse: Rhyll Biest interviews a veteran of the profession

My secret nurse source (let's call her Special K) dished the dirt on her experience of nursing (after 23 years on the job!) I learned a lot and will be giving away my pressure cooker...

Rhyll: What’s the most unusual thing that's happened to you on the job?

Special K: One of our aides was sexually assaulted by a doctor while she was stocking scrubs after hours in the men's locker room. I made a fuss about it. Fortunately we were working at a Veteran Administration (VA) hospital and we had a union. The doctor was fired. That would not happen in a community hospital, where doctors generate the income. There the victim would have been fired. In the VA system, doctors are employees and subject to the same rules as everyone else

Rhyll: Tell us a bit of saucy nurse jargon

Special K:

  • IV Propofol (the anesthetic agent that Michael Jackson used as a sleep aid) is white, so we call it 'milk of amnesia'.
  • Code Brown means a massive amount of poop from a patient.
  • PITA = pain in the ass.
  • Circling the drain = actively dying.
  • Slow code = taking your time to call or respond to a code blue, usually when a patient has had TMB (too many birthdays) to expect a good outcome.
  • Banana bag = IV with so many vitamins added that it is yellow.
  • Pecker checker = urologist.

Rhyll: What is something that most people don’t know about nurses?

Special K: We fantasize about having enough time to go to the bathroom when we need to, or eating lunch when we are hungry. Instead we have giant bladders and carry snack bars in our pockets.

The nursing life does not revolve around the patients, who come and go. It's all about our co-workers and who can be depended on, who is unreliable, who is good to work with and who isn't.

We hate most doctors. They're generally arrogant assholes with some few exceptions. If a doctor wants to romance a nurse, all he has to do is treat her like a real person. A smile and nod and simple acknowledgement that she is a human being goes a long way. Respectful listening is highly seductive. 'OMG! He knew my name!' Once a doctor wanted to complain about something I said. He went to my supervisor, but couldn't remember my name. We had worked together for six years.

Know that when we’re checking out a hot guy, bodybuilder, etc., we are actually looking at those lovely prominent veins in his arms. Muscles? What muscles? Did you see those great veins?

Rhyll: What sort of weird things do patients tell nurses?

Special K: They tell nurses *everything* because they trust us. The night nurses usually get the most insight into the patients' lives, because the day shift is too busy to stop and listen.

We had a patient who kept returning for surgery because he derived sexual stimulation from putting golf pencils (those little stubby ones) into his urethra. I wish someone would have told him about sounding tools. It would have saved everyone lots of time.

Rhyll: What’s the best nurse joke you know?

Special K: Be nice to your nurse: she's the one who makes sure the doctor doesn't accidentally kill you.

Rhyll: Who is the most unusual person you’ve met on the job?

Special K: One of my favorite patients was a multiple personality. We had lots of interesting conversations.

Rhyll: How would you describe working in med-surg, cardiac, float, pool, burn unit, rehab, ICU and surgery recovery room?

Special K: 

  • Med-surg is the place most nurses work when they first graduate because of the variety of patients they will encounter. Med-surg units (aka 'the salt mines') have the lowest status nurses, but those nurses know everything and can handle up to eight patients at a time.
  • Cardiac unit has patients that are suspected of having a heart attack, recovering from cardiac diagnostic procedures, or recovering from heart attacks. They get boring after a while because the patient is either having a heart attack or not, and there are protocols for either situation.
  • Float pool is for nurses who like variety. You don't know where you will be working until you arrive for your shift and check to find out where you will 'float' that day.
  • Burn unit is where you take care of the crispy critters who have burned themselves. I loved working the burn unit. There are no boring burns. Every one has a story behind it. It's one of the reasons I don't own a pressure cooker.
  • ICU means intensive care unit. The sickest patients. Nurses have only one or two patients because they require such close monitoring. ICU nurses get a lot of respect from doctors, some of it is earned. Doctor/nurse romances usually bloom in ICU settings because they work so closely together.
  • Recovery room is where the patients are taken directly after surgery. The nurses there help them to wake up completely, make sure they are breathing property, monitor them for complications from surgery and watch them until they are stable enough to move to a hospital room. These nurses need to have great assessment skills because the patients are teetering on the edge of being unstable and can go either way.
  • These are only a handful of the specialty settings that nurses work in. Some people think a nurse is a nurse is a nurse, but we gravitate toward the specialties that appeal to us. I could never work a pediatric unit because sick kids break my heart. Every unit requires a world of special knowledge unique to that unit. Nurses are not interchangeable, much as administrators would like to think they are.

Rhyll: Which celebrity would you like to see cast as a nurse in a movie?

Special K: Paula Poundstone or Rosie O'Donnell. French & Saunders would be perfect. Sick humor is how we cope with the stress.

Rhyll: What does it take to be a good nurse?

Special K: Most important is good judgement. Knowing when to ask for help, being willing to admit you don't know something is essential. Being a team player and giving and accepting help when needed.

Rhyll:  Does being a nurse come with any perks?

Special K: 

  • Autonomy. We are trusted to do our best with very little supervision. I hate working in a situation where someone is breathing down my neck all the time.
  • The pay is good. My best year I made $96,000. I sooo wanted to have a six-figure year, took on all kinds of overtime and on-call time, but never quite made it.
  • Variety of work situations and choices, everything from labor and delivery to hospice care and all points in-between.
  • Job security. The world will always need nurses.
  • Lots of laughs, lots of tears. We see people at their most vulnerable and are able to help them, even if it's only for the duration of our shift. They are better off because we are there.
  • We work in the most trusted and respected profession. Nurses are rated highest in honesty and ethics, and we deserve that rating.

I think they deserve that rating too. Want more insight into nursing? Try the site only a

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Lily sets us straight on setting

Oh yes. Your #setting can be a #character and without it, this #story would not be possible. #writingtips #amwriting

There’s lots of these #setting gems on Twitter.

Often #setting and #books get synonymous with classics such as Wuthering Heights… how the moors matched the moods and the broody character of Heathcliff etc etc, and how Wuthering Heights could never have been set anywhere else…

As Lily Malone, the books I’ve written pretty much thus-far have been vineyard and winery settings, rural settings, and small town. I write real towns, not fictional settings, and I write about places I’ve visited and lived, and places that I love. I also write very Australian, meaning: a ‘thong’ in any book of mine will be something you put on your feet, not on your butt.

And then to confound it all, I just wrote a book where setting really doesn’t seem to matter much. Here’s why.

As I was starting to write my query for agents (most of whom were in the US), I found myself very tempted not to mention the book was set in Australia, and instead to say something like, this is a story that could happen anywhere. The moment my poor brain pondered this, all those #setting tweets started doing the neon chorus line can-can behind my eyes, as did the #InstantAgentRejectHitDeleteFasterThanUsainBoltCanRun tweet (That hashtag is proudly mine).

How could I possibly have written a book set in Australia that could also be set in America or England or Italy? And if I could even consider doing this, did that mean the book was dead in the water before it started?

I don’t think so.

The book I’m talking about is set in Margaret River and Busselton – south west of Western Australia. It requires small towns, not too far apart from each other, and it requires those small towns to be near the beach (needs some surf), and within 2-3 hours (drive time) of a major city, in my case, Perth. A wine region is good, the more touristy the better. Margaret River works for that.

Adelaide/South Australia could have worked too. I’ve lived in South Australia and I know how to write about scenery, places & geography there. I could have set the book on the Yorke (might have struggled with the surf) or Fleurieu Peninsulas; even as far south east as Mt Gambier or Robe. Those are all winey and touristy, and within that radius of Adelaide.

I need a capital city close by because I need a hospital. A major aka big fuck-off hospital. Because my protagonist ends up in an almighty car accident and requires major surgery and a bloody long recovery. But it could be any hospital right? Anywhere in a major city, near the beach, about three hours drive from a small town.

The only other incident in my book that is Aussie-specific involves my hero hitting a kangaroo in his car, not linked to the accident mentioned first. (Hmmm, note to self: my hero’s driving skills are now appearing a touch on the crappy side of average.)

So, I’m thinking. I could switch this book to anywhere else in Australia that fits the bill of being 2-3 hours from Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide or Melbourne; on a surf coast, with a wine region. (Might have to scrap Darwin at this point and Brisbane is looking iffy for the wine.)

If I set it in America, or England, on the coast, in a wine region (oops, might have just dumped England on this ‘wine’ basis too) my hero could run into a deer couldn’t he (a baby one)? A badger? Any of those myriad animals that can dash across a road on a dark night and cause a ‘bit of a bingle’ or the equivalent American expression for ‘bingle’.

Actually, this begins my greater questions/problems relating to uprooting my Aussie book into an American setting: converting my Aussie-isms to American-isms. And, given much of my book plays out in a hospital setting, I’d have to get up to date with the American insurance/medical system and how that beast works.

So, even as I write, I'm thinking I’ll keep it in Australia. But that's because I'm lazy, not because it couldn't be done.

Writers: have you written a story that could be set anywhere in the world? And readers, think about your favourite books. Could they have been set anywhere different?


We have the lovely Laura Greaves telling us why the term 'Chick Lit' should get the boot today. This kickass article previously appeared on her website and you should go check it out because she is Ninja Awesome!

I am both an author and a voracious reader. My favourite stories, both to read and to write, are about women making their way in the world; women striving to live life on their own terms; women refusing to settle for less; women seeking connection with other human beings.

Apparently this means I read and write chick lit.

No. No, actually.

It’s high time – in fact, it’s way past time – we put the term ‘chick lit’ out to pasture. It winds me up firstly because the word ‘chick’ winds me up. Mostly because ‘chick’ is almost always used as a sexist pejorative (let’s be honest, you’re unlikely to ever hear anyone say, “Phwoar! Check out the phD on that chick!”), but also because it justdoesn’t make sense. (I’m a journalist by profession; I like it best when things make sense.) Chicks are baby birds. They can be female or male. So why is it women exclusively that are called chicks?

Why, world? WHY?!

Labeling books that tell women’s stories as ‘chick lit’ is also pejorative, and it’s reductive to boot. The label boils these stories down to a handful of stereotypes. The One About The Ditsy Girl Who Loves Shopping! The One About The Cocktail Swilling Magazine Girl! The One About The Girl Who’s A Bit Fat And Generally Hopeless But Lands A Sexy Barrister Anyway! It conveniently ignores the many wonderful books and authors tackling really meaty stuff in their work. My own published novels, for example, address thorny issues including postnatal depression, alcoholism, domestic violence and grief. With jokes!

Of course, stereotypes become stereotypes through overuse, and there were admittedly a lot of vacuous heroines traipsing about in four-inch heels some years ago, when every publisher and his dog was desperate to find the next Bridget Jones’s Diary or Shopaholic series and consequently polluted bookshelves with some fairly terrible novels. But Bridget was published in 1996 and the first Shopaholic book in 2000. The world in general has changed immeasurably in the past two decades; is it really so inconceivable that books about women could have changed, too?

The thing is, the term ‘chick lit’ is essentially just a marketing tool – a way for book publishers and marketers to classify and sell a certain type of novel. But there seems to be no rhyme or reason in how the term is applied. In the world of romantic fiction (and it’s a big world, accounting for more than US$1 billion in annual sales in the United States alone) a chick lit novel is defined as one in which the romantic plot is not necessarily the major storyline. In my books there are romantic relationships, but there are also friendships, sibling relationships, even a woman who is deeply bonded to her rescue dogs. This is an important distinction from romance novels, in which the love story is the main (and sometimes only) relationship in the book. Generally speaking, chick lit novels are also funny, and not all have a ‘Happy Ever After’.

So with that in mind why aren’t Pride and Prejudice or Emma marketed as chick lit? Romance? Tick. Other important relationships? Tick. Hilarious? Tick, tick, tick! Why aren’t the late Nora Ephron’s novels and essays branded as chick lit? Why isn’t The Girl on the Train a chick lit novel? (It’s about a woman looking for love, and it’s definitely funny, depending on your sense of humour.)

Could it be because marketers would have us believe only women write chick lit? Or that novels in this genre must have female protagonists? But bestselling UK author Nick Hornby has written funny, romantic books about women, and yet you’re not likely to find his books on the same shelves as chick lit’s high priestesses Marian Keyes, Jane Green and Jennifer Weiner.

I know plenty of authors who don’t mind that their books are called chick lit. Many welcome the classification, because they feel that the packaging that goes along with it helps guide readers to their books. To be clear, I am ridiculously grateful that a publisher saw fit to send my little books out into the world, and I’m grateful for anything that helps readers find and connect with my work. I wouldn’t mind my books being called chick lit if this was the best way of describing them. But it’s not.

It’s not because every time a book that speaks to women is dismissed or mocked simply because it has a pink cover or its title is written in a jaunty font, it saddles not only the books but the women who read them with an entirely undeserved reputation: I am trivial and silly! You will learn nothing from me! Don’t waste your time!

(Incidentally, my first novel has an aggressively pink cover, and I LOVE IT.)

Without exception, the women I know who write and read so-called chick lit are fiercely intelligent, wildly interesting and about as far from trivial as it’s possible to get. They’re also vastly less pretentious than some of the ‘I only read high-brow literature’ bores who make a point of sneering at chick lit. I take it personally when any one of those women is shamed for reading or writing stories that move her.

These days, I tell people I write romantic comedy novels, because I think it’s a better description of what my books are about. It also seems to go some way toward cutting through preconceived ideas about romantic fiction in general and chick lit in particular. I’m not ashamed of writing or reading chick lit, though others would shame me for it. But I do find it shameful that smart, funny, moving stories about women continue to be lumbered with a reductive descriptor that doesn’t actually describe the books or the people who write them. These books deserve to be read.

Anna Clifton lifts the lid on what it's like to be a lawyer

Rhyll Biest committed several crimes to get herself banged up so she could interview a lawyer. Not only did Anna Clifton get her off the hook for everything, but she totes spilled the beans on the lives of lawyers.

RHYLL: How many years have you worked as a lawyer?

ANNA: Twenty years, before abandoning ship for a life of teaching English literature and writing romance fiction, both of which are much more fun than slogging out contracts and submissions!

RHYLL: What’s the most unusual thing that's happened to you on the job?

ANNA: A client once told me, in all seriousness, that her legal excuse for moving out of her rented house before the end of the lease and refusing to pay her landlord another cent was because of the ghost that was living there!

RHYLL: Tell us a bit of saucy lawyer jargon 

ANNA: Lawyers never engage in that kind of smutty talk. They're far too busy and important juggling penal outcomes and trying to get their clients off.

RHYLL: Boom boom! How do lawyers like to unwind after handling briefs all day?

ANNA: Watching television shows featuring lawyers. They're nothing if not narcissistic.

RHYLL: What sort of things do people tell their lawyer?

ANNA: Everything! Lawyers are right up there with the priest in the confessional, but sometimes you wish your clients didn't tell you quite as much as they do. 

RHYLL: What’s the best lawyer joke you know?

ANNA: What happens to a lawyer when he takes Viagra? He gets taller.

RHYLL: Snort! Who is the most unusual person you’ve met on the job?

ANNA: Not so much unusual, but an all-time favourite client of mine. I’ll call her Dotty: 89 year-old pack a day gal with a wicked sense of humour and a husky smoker’s voice worthy of Joe Cocker. She’s somehow outlived her husband by twenty years and still lives in the house they raised their children in. Every now and then she needs her will tweaked and on one of my visits to her home I noticed she had a new car in her driveway. Dotty told me she'd crashed the last one speeding. It was red, she explained with her sandpaper voiced delivery and a wink. Red cars were too fast, she assured me. But it was all okay now, she said - she'd traded it in for a white one.

RHYLL. Makes sense to me. What do lawyers dislike?

ANNA: Lies. Thankfully, it doesn't happen too often but clients' lies in particular have a habit of unravelling at awkward moments, like when they're under oath in the witness box. That's when you begin to die the death of a thousand cuts behind the bar table, knowing your client is about to be sliced and diced by the opposing counsel, knowing there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop the carnage from unfolding.

RHYLL: Which celebrity would you like to see cast as a lawyer in a movie?

ANNA: If you're a Doctor Who or The Thick of It fan, you'll understand my choice of rubber-faced Scottish actor, Peter Capaldi, to play a lawyer with dastardly tendencies. No actor I know has a better 'rat-cunning' look than he has. And that accent…!

RHYLL: What does it take to be a good lawyer?

ANNA: The hide of a rhinoceros, a stubborn streak the size of the San Andreas Fault, a healthy dose of rat cunning (see above) and a bulletproof sense of humour. Everything else is just window dressing.

RHYLL: Thank you, Anna! And if you'd like to know more about Anna check out her bio and latest release below.

Anna Clifton writes contemporary romance novels with a special focus on legal eagles and the modern urban family. Her third novel, New Year’s Promise, is out now and her fourth, Making Ends Meet, is due for release through Escape Publishing on 22 June 2015.

You can find Anna and her books at her websiteFacebook, at the Escape website, and at GoodreadsAmazonBooktopia and Barnes & Noble

From Anna Clifton comes a sweet, emotional, beautiful romance about a man whose life has been derailed and the unexpected woman who can help him get it back on track.

‘It’s for other reasons that I won’t need a nanny beyond a month.’

Twenty-three year old nanny Somer Sullivan has never had a job quite like this one: fix the messed-up, out-of-control life of high-profile artist and thirty-something dad Harry Halligan. But Somer is organised, efficient and not afraid of a challenge.She will do everything Harry needs her to do, including bringing his ex-wife home for good.

‘One month, Harry, and I’ll be out of here.’

Harry Halligan doesn’t want a nanny, but he needs one—he needs Somer. She’s the only one who can reach his troubled daughter, who can bring some measure of peace to his home. But as Somer advances her mission to fix his life, a few things become clear: his ex-wife might not be the answer, and Somer just might be. But Somer is running like hell from something in her own life and hiding in his.

Only one thing is for sure. Harry now has less than a month to make the hardest decision he’ll ever have to make—a decision that will change all of their lives forever.


Cate Ellink interviews Krissy Daniels

Author Krissy Daniels won the Naughty Ninja’s monthly subscriber prize for April. When I went to send her my book, we cyber-chatted and ended up swapping books—an unexpected benefit!!


I chuckled away while reading How To Kill Your Boss in one night. The story was quirky and fun, with some amazing descriptions that reminded me of Naughty Ninja craziness. So I thought you should have the chance to learn more about Krissy Daniels and her books.

Hi Krissy, Welcome to the Naughty Ninjas! Your bio says you had a childhood filled with adventure...tell us what you've done.

I haven't done much, to be honest. I grew up in North Idaho and we were extremely poor, so we didn't get to travel. But we lived in a house that was surrounded by fields, forest, and river. We were always outside! We didn't have a farm, but we raised hunting dogs, ducks, rabbits, horses. We spent our summers hiking through the woods, fishing, swimming, catching frogs and snakes, biking, mini-biking. We spent our winters building massive snow cities, fighting epic snowball wars, sledding down dangerous mountainsides. We even dug huge underground forts along the railroad tracks. We lived in a trailer park and the neighborhood kids would put on parades, circuses and shows for the tenants. We were always making up adventures and acting them out. 

Have you always written?

I've been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I recently found some of my earliest work tucked away in the attic. I won first place in a writing contest in grade school. The story was about the invention of shoes and it had something to do with a caveman's feet getting stuck in the mud. Anyway, I usually made up stories just to goof off. My girlfriends and I used to drink daiquiris and write funny short stories. We'd take turns writing each sentence. Usually, by the second or third drink, we were laughing too hard to finish our masterpiece. I didn't take writing seriously until a few years ago.

How was your road to publication?

I love this question! Aflame was the first book I ever wrote. I started in 2010, finished in 2012. I couldn't believe I wrote a book. I had no intention of trying to get published. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

A friend of mine from high school had several books published at the time so I reached out to her and asked, "What do I do now?" She gave me great advice, which I heeded, and I joined RWA and my local chapter. My manuscript was raw, and terrible but I started sending it out to publishers anyway, mostly because I didn't know better. I received a few nice rejection letters with some suggestions on how to make it better. I revised, and revised, and revised again. Then I sent it to a few more publishers. I think it was about three months between the time I started querying until I received my first contract offer. I cried like a baby for two days. I received another offer a week later.

What's your favourite aspect of writing?

Living vicariously through my characters. I love writing the dark characters so, so much. I love being in their heads and seeing how far I can take it. I usually have to tone it down during revisions because I tend to go too dark and that's not great for romance. Writing is a form of escapism for me.

What's the Apotheosis series about? Is there a paranormal element to these books?

The Apotheosis Series is about descendants of a race of warriors created by fallen angels. The fun part about this series is that these humans have supernatural abilities that only come to fruition after they've met and had sex with their true soul mates.

Of course, there is more to the series than just sex. Good vs. evil, alpha males, scary bad guys, tons of action. And love. It's all about the love, baby.

Aflame and Aglow are in the Apotheosis series, how many books will there be?

I'm not sure yet. It might depend on the readers. I'd originally planned to make it four books, but I might wrap it up in three.

You mention you have a new book called How to Ax The Ex. Is this part 2 of Tatum and Franklin from How To Kill Your Boss? Are they the main characters again?

Yes. Ax The Ex is about Tatum and Franklin and their inevitable break-up. I mean, seriously, how long could Tatum stay engaged to a stalker hitman whose ex-wife wants her gone? There is not enough rocky road ice cream in the world to deal with that kind of crazy.

Truck Stop Tango is a NA contemporary that you mention on your website. When can we expect this to come out?

Oh. My. Goodness. I am so in love with these characters! There is no release date to report. I can't say too much about this story yet, because I wasn't happy with the way it was going and I'm in the middle of a major overhaul. I can tell you that it's about two-thirds of the way finished and it's consuming all of my brain juice right now.

I noticed that How To Kill Your Boss is written in first person, yet Aflame is in third person. Which do you prefer writing/reading? Does the book dictate which you chose? How do you decide?

I prefer writing in first person. It feels more natural to me. The Apotheosis Series is in third person because there are several point of views in each book, and I thought it worked better. I'd originally written the first half of Aflame in first person with just Grayce's voice. I wanted to explore the other characters more, especially Tyr, so on the advice of a friend I changed it to third person.

As far as reading goes, as long as it's written well, I don't have a preference.

How did you find the Naughty Ninjas?

I'm embarrassed to say this, but I can't remember how I found the Naughty Ninjas. I think it was about a year ago and I believe an Australian author mentioned Naughty Ninjas in a post on Facebook or their blog so I looked you up. Sheesh. I have a terrible memory.

What do you wish I'd asked you?

I was hoping for more SexyTime questions!!!! LOL

Thanks for the chat, Krissy!

Thank you, Maneater…. I mean, Cate! I’m honoured to be interviewed by Naughty Ninjas. I love the blog and website. You naughty girls always make me laugh. I’m so happy we met. I feel like I have a new friend and I can’t wait to dive into your books!

You can find out more about Krissy Daniels at

Sarah 'sizzling yoga pants' Belle ponders writer immortality and Shakespeare's panty-melting prose

This year I have returned to university to study English and creative writing. Consequently I have been buried under a pile of poems, novels and plays for months. And do you know the one theme that is constant throughout the majority of these works? 

The immortality of writers.

Yes, we have joined the ranks of those who shall never die simply because our words will live on long, long after our earthly remains have turned to dust.

Do you know why writers are immortal?

Because the literary devices used to create imagery are not only beautiful, eloquent and original, but are memorable- to the point that over 400 years later, we are still studying and enjoying Shakespeare.

Let’s look at Romeo and Juliet – the famous balcony scene (2.2.2...23) in which Romeo speaks of Juliet’s beauty.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she...

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

Now, tell me you didn’t swoon a little at that?

Look at that amazing imagery–the moon is personified and is jealous of a mortal woman’s beauty that shines so brightly that the moon is non-existent in comparison. In fact, Juliet is so beautiful to Romeo that her radiance could fool the birds that daylight has arrived as her divine image lights up the night sky. Wow! All in a mind-blowing 70 words.

As a writer I get so caught up on plot, pace, structure and characterisation – showing and not telling-  and all the other ‘rules’, that I often don’t prioritise the power of a beautifully written sentence or phrase. Have you ever read something so lovely that you had to go back and read it over again? I’ve spent most of this semester doing that with the various forms of literature I’m studying.  So, while I haven’t done one scrap of writing for far too long, I am learning—from the masters—about the construction, and importance of beautiful prose. I am not saying that anyone will be able to quote my work 400 years from now the way we do the Bard, but as writers our words are immortal. They will live on long after we are gone, and the thought of someone (maybe 100 years from now) liking a line I wrote so much that they have to read it twice gives me goose bumps.

So, writers, remember this: what you write and publish today will still be around in 100 years time, being appreciated by a new audience—an audience that hasn’t even been born yet. It will make readers laugh, smile, cry and be grateful that they have passed the time enjoying a good book.

And that’s what makes you, the writer, immortal.

Sully’s Famous Fish Burgers

On Good Friday my hubby took my boys on their first official fishing trip down to Gracetown/Cowaramup Bay, a gorgeous beach and surf spot in the Margaret River wine region that I’m lucky enough to call home.

My son, Sullivan, (Mr 5) caught his first fish, a herring. Every beach around the world has a herring of some variety although they do go by different names. A herring is the WA name for that classic ‘bread and butter’ fish that is permanently hungry, easy to catch, and sometimes don’t even require the investment of bait, they are so greedy. Herring when they’re biting will snap at a piece of yellow plastic straw on a hook. (They are not the world’s smartest fish).

The catching of this fish put Mr 5 in a mood similar to mine when I type those magic words: ‘The End’.

But the fun bit is, since catching his first fish, Mr 5 has become an expert on how fish should be cooked. So without further ado, I give you the recipe for Sully’s Famous Fish Burgers. (The plural is interesting, given the sum total of the Good Friday fishing trip was one herring, and while size isn’t everything, our fish sure wasn’t big).

Sully’s Famous Fish Burgers


1 fish (herring)




Grated carrot

Garlic aoli

Bread or bun


Get your dad to scale, clean and fillet the fish.

Get your mum to cook the fish fillets in butter in a frypan until done.

Watch intently to make sure both parents get this right.

Hunt through beetroot container tin to find perfect-sized beetroot slice to fit burger, because only the perfect sized slice will do (obviously).

Thickly coat bread or bun in garlic aoli.

Assemble fish, lettuce, carrot and cheese in bun.

On no circumstances, add any tomato. (On pain of tears and accusations that the whole thing is 'ruined'.) 


Rhyll interviews Vance the vacuum truck driver

Vaccum truck drivers are a pretty tough lot to pin down, so I really have to thank Vance's wife, Kelly, for helping to bribe him with a Caramello Koala to get this interview. Thanks, mate.


RHYLL: What are this season’s fashion must-haves for vacuum truck drivers?

VANCE: Steel capped boots and a sexy, fluoro orange shirt.

RHYLL: How big is your rig and how strong is your suck?

VANCE: My rig is the biggest operating in this region and I can suck a consistent 22 pounds per square inch.

RHYLL: Are you a sewer sucker or will you suck anything? (i.e. gas, oil spills etc)

VANCE: Not fussy, although I draw the line at dead bodies.

RHYLL: What’s the best vacuum truck operator joke you know?

VANCE: The jokes all suck.

RHYLL: What are the traits of a good vacuum truck operator?

VANCE: You need exceptional endurance and manpower to suck hard all day long.

RHYLL: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you on the job?

VANCE: I once caught my arm in the auto retracting hose reel and pinned myself to the truck – a very vulnerable position indeed.

RHYLL: Who are the most unusual people you’ve met on the job?

VANCE: Electricians are generally weird critters.

RHYLL: Tell us a bit about vacuum truck operator jargon.

VANCE: It’s all about inches, suction, depth, pressure, and capacity. In our world, size really does matter.

RHYLL: How do vacuum truckies like to unwind after vacuuming all day?

VANCE: I come home and vacuum the house for my darling wife (vacuum in one hand, scotch in the other).

RHYLL: What do vacuum truckies dislike (i.e. it makes their job harder)?

VANCE: Rock, bad weather and meddlesome peeps.

RHYLL: Which celebrity would you like to see cast as the romantic hero (and vacuum truck operator) in a movie?

VANCE: Without a doubt the beautiful Pamela Anderson. She is a pro-sucker with reputable lips.

RHYLL: What do you think is sexy about being a vacuum truck operator?

VANCE: In the summer I love getting hot, sweaty, and splattered with human faeces.


Glitterpants Says: Never Go Drinking With Girls From The Rigs


This article previously appeared on the lovely Shelleyrae's blog Book'd Out.

Never go drinking with women who work on oil rigs. Just don’t do it. I tried one night and can still remember how epically I failed.
It all started when an Aussie engineer friend flew into town with a French colleague who worked in Algeria…
I was the one who made the suggestion to have a girls’ night out. It occurred to me how infrequently these ladies let their hair down and I got to scheming. Foolishly I thought that they wouldn’t want too big a night. After all, my Aussie friend had just come off of a six week shift on a rig in the Bass Strait and hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol that entire time. The lass from Algeria had lived on the fringes of the Sahara for months and should have had ‘Cadburys’ written all over her.
What I’d failed to factor in was the fact that these two ladies had forged successful careers in one of the blokiest industries in the world. Not only had they made it, they’d learned to do everything their male colleagues did better to avoid accusations of not pulling their weight. Drinking it turned out, was one of the things they’d gotten very good at.
I held up quite well in the beginning. Our first stop was a restaurant in Subiaco where the French lass picked the wine, offhandedly saying that her family owned a winery in the Loire Valley and that she wanted to check out the Australian competition. When I asked her how she’d ended up working in the oil industry—in Algeria no less—all I got was a Gallic shrug. Curiosity piqued now, I turned to my Aussie friend and asked the same question. Her answer was an equally prosaic ‘I heard it paid well.’
Conversation drifted to talking about favorite holiday destinations. I didn't manage to steer it back to asking the ladies more detailed questions about their work until the second bottle of wine did the rounds. This time they weren't so reticent.
It turned out that the Bass Strait rig my Aussie friend had worked on had been largely crewed by Texans and it had been a tough shift. Until then, she’d predominantly worked on rigs in Australia and Algeria where her colleagues were either governed by corporate regulation or cultural customs to be relatively well behaved. I listened as both women explained that normally, when a woman arrives on a rig anything that could be deemed offensive is removed from sight and their male colleagues are usually on their best behavior and are often good company.
This time had been different. As my Aussie friend detailed a vast number of grievances that would make the average sexual harassment lawyer do a happy dance all the way to the bank, the French lass just kept up with the shrugging. I asked her if she’d encountered similar treatment and the reply was, ‘sometimes.’ I then asked them why they didn't complain and got a look that said I was plainly mad. In the end my Australian friend took sympathy on my in my obvious confusion and explained that a sexual harassment complaint would kill their credibility and their careers dead in the water. And besides, she continued, that was just the one rig. The problem wasn't so much harassment. The issue was more the way the men she worked with used her as an agony aunt.
This got a resounding ‘oui’ from the French woman and a call for another bottle of wine.
While I tried to work out how my glass had magically topped itself up for the seventh time, both women shared stories of how their male colleagues had wanted to have deep and meaningful conversations at the most inopportune times. My Aussie friend mentioned a time where she’d been handling a radioactive source with full safety gear on and one of the roughnecks had wanted to bring up the problems he was having with his recent divorce!
The French lass laughed, saying one of her senior colleagues wouldn’t turn up to work on the rig unless she went and woke him up, like his mother did every morning. ‘Oh, and the gossip!’ She added.
Imagine my amusement when I found out that oil rigs are a hotbed of rumor and intrigue, everyone wanting to talk about everyone else’s business.
‘Worse than women!’ Was my Aussie friend’s reply.
‘Non. Better!’ The Frenchwoman disagreed, deliberately misunderstanding with a wide smile. ‘They gossip much better. They always have more information, more details than woman would.’
The conversation continued with many other anecdotes, a couple of rants, another bottle of wine and then silence as we contemplated a group of attractive men wandering by. Suddenly my Aussie friend gave a huge sigh. ‘You know the tough thing?’
‘It’s how they all look so good when you’re offshore. The first week? Not so much. The second, yeah, alright. Then by the third week at sea, every one of them is looking like a model.’
I started belly laughing but the Frenchwoman was shaking her head sadly. ‘I get this too. And then I have trouble knowing how to talk to them when I go home…’
‘Yeah, it’s really hard. It’s like they’re one way at work. And then here, it’s like they’re another.’ The Australian held up her hand to ask for the cocktail menu.
It wasn't until we were headed home in a taxi much, much later that I got around to asking them both if they actually liked their jobs. I got a resounding ‘Of course!’ When I asked why, the answers were emphatic. ‘The adventure, the travel, the challenge, the money…’ The list went on.
By the time I shuffled myself off to bed, all I could think of was that these ladies had lived. The next morning all I could think of was that I never wanted to live quite that hard with a bottle of wine again!

Carla Caruso Talks The 5 Books That Made Her Want to Write Chick Lit

Happy International Chick Lit Month, all! Wishing you many rip-roaring reads, feisty heroines, and spunk-tastic heroes.

I thought I’d raise my glass to the occasion by listing the FIVE books that made me want to write the (sometimes maligned, albeit ever-popular) genre, chick-lit. Those titles that ensured I knew which fiction camp I’d hope to wander into one day, if I had half the chance (that being the fun, flirty, frilly, clever kind!). But, on with the list…

1.       REMEMBER ME? by Sophie Kinsella – …Okay, and The Undomestic Goddess, Twenties Girl, Can You Keep a Secret?, etcetera, etcetera. I first happened upon Kinsella’s brilliance when my sister passed on her library copy of the first in the Shopaholic series. But it was Kinsella’s standalone novels that really got me pink with excitement. Remember Me? involves a young heroine who, after a car crash, discovers she has amnesia and has lost the last three years of her memory. In the time she’s forgotten, it seems her entire dream life has come true, from now having a millionaire hubby to possessing a mouthful of expensive dentistry work. But is everything as dreamy as it seems? ;)

2.       HANDBAGS AND GLADRAGS by Maggie Alderson – My Alderson addiction started with Pants on Fire and continued with Mad About the Boy, Cents and Sensibility, and this fave, Handbags and Gladrags. It’s about a magazine stylist who has a globe-trotting affair with a Fashion Week photographer. London-born Maggie lived in Sydney for eight years and wrote brilliantly from an outsider’s perspective on the glittering Harbour City. It probably even partly contributed to me moving to NSW for three years! Maggie was also a big-deal magazine editor when all I wanted to do was work for a fashion glossy…

3.       Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? by Hazel Osmond – I’ve only read one book by Ormond and this is a good reminder to look up more of her tomes, because I LOVED this novel. I read about it on a chick-lit blog, downloaded it on my e-reader while travelling in Europe – and didn’t want to leave my hotel room once I got stuck in! It’s the push-and-pull between the ad-copywriter heroine and her new, scowly boss, Jack Wolfe, that had me on the edge of my hotel couch.

4.       AIR KISSES by Zoë Foster – When I first read Foster’s debut tale about “the magazine world’s most unlikely beauty editor”, I was working for a tiny mag in Sydney, rather wishing I was writing fabulous fiction. Foster, also a magazine journo, had just made the crossover to novelista. Since then, she has married (and had a baby with) top-earning TV comic Hamish Blake, launched her own skincare range, produced a beauty app, and released a trillion other books to much success. I’m not jealous, much…

5.       NOWHERE GIRL by Gilly Lockwood – Okay, this is really ‘teen chick-lit’, but I was a big Dolly Fiction fan back in the day and its influence remains. It was the kind of (younger) chick-lit that fed my soul before the genre, chick-lit, had even been properly coined! The fiction line was put out in partnership with Dolly Magazine and I read the books I owned in the series probably more often than my Baby-sitters Club, Sweet Valley and Judy Blume novels. The heroine in this book thinks her life sucks when she has to work at her uncle’s truck-stop cafe on the Nullabor Plain one summer. That is until she meets a cute local named Kieran… Funnily, just the other day I was excited to hear the news that Harlequin Teen is now partnering with Seventeen Magazine to publish original novels as Seventeen Books. Sigh! For me, it’ll be like a trip down memory lane…

Want to hunt Carla down and give her some Ninja love?  Her latest release is the rom-com mystery, Pretty Famous, involving a dark secret from Hollywood’s Golden Age and a possible prince-in-hiding (ooh, er!). She’s also involved in the FREE chick-lit ebook anthology, Autumn Leaves – featuring none other than Georgina "Glitterpants" Penney.  For all the extra feels you can also stalk Carla at

Rhyll gets a tattoo (and interviews her tattooist)

RHYLL: Which tattooists are an inspiration to you and why?

J: When I first started I didn’t have an artist who was an inspiration to me but now I have—the people who work with me and my boss. With a lot of other artists I like their work but it doesn’t really inspire me.

RHYLL: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you on the job?

J: There’s different types of weird. There’s been customers groping me—young women will do anything just so they don’t have to pay that much money for a tattoo. But that definitely doesn’t work on me. And some dude asked me to tattoo a line on his penis. I said no.

RHYLL: What made you want to become a tattooist?

J: When I first started I just wanted to be cool. I was a bit of a loner at school and I got to think about what I wanted to do with my life because I was alone all the time. So by the time I was 16 I knew what I wanted to do. While others at school were thinking of university I was thinking of tattoo places that might like to hire me. I think I got into it because I wanted to be someone. And I’ve always drawn, from about something like 8 months old I was drawing little tiny squiggles and shit and my parents would find little squiggles around the house.

RHYLL: Tell me some tattooist jargon.

J: Jargon changes from store to store. But this machine here I’m using on you is called ‘bulldog’, so whenever I want to use it I just say ‘bulldog’. But most of the stuff people think is jargon is just the technical names for things, like mags and shaders for the different types of needles. A lot of the jargon that’s out there is made up by customers.

RHYLL: How do tattooists like to unwind after slaving over a hot tattoo needle all day?

J: I do watercolour painting.

RHYLL: Who’s the most unusual person you’ve met on the job?

J: I tattooed a dude from the BDSM community. He wouldn’t tell me what part of the community he was from but he wanted ‘unlovable’ written across his chest. When I started doing it he began screaming and I was surprised because I thought someone into BDSM would be able to take a bit of a lashing, but it turned out he was a sub not a dom and just loved the pain, so he was screaming and in between had a massive smile on his face.

RHYLL: What do tattooists dislike (because it makes their job harder)?

J: Clients who don’t give enough information but expect tattooists to be able to draw the world out of it. Clients who don’t show up to appointments and don’t call to cancel. I work on commission, so if clients don’t show up I don’t earn any money, since it’s too late to book someone else in.

RHYLL: What did you find unexpected about the job?

J: The hazing! When I first started out as an apprentice the others would hide my shit and send me off to buy stuff that didn’t exist. I think they did it to sort out the people who really wanted to be working there as opposed to just doing it to say they’re a tattooist.

RHYLL: What skills do you need to be a good tattooist?

J: Patience. The patience to learn perspective and to develop your skills. You also need a creative mind and a quick mind to be able to fix mistakes. And this is a people business so you have to learn how to talk to people and how to be around people. Artistic skill is secondary.

RHYLL: What’s something about tattooists that most people don’t know?

J: That we’re not all rich. A good tattooist puts as much money into tattooing as they earn from it. Plus, we’re not ALL assholes. Oh, yeah, and that the first few times you tattoo someone it’s pretty scary, like learning to drive.

The alligator’s terminally tumescent todger

Male alligators should have their picture under the word ‘priapism’ in the dictionary since each alligator is proud owner of a permanently erect meat truncheon which is kept hidden inside its body until fun times with a lady alligator take place.

That’s right, the male alligator's disco stick is constantly erect and does not change during mating, unlike the disco sticks of other vertebrates.

Made of tough, fibrous tissue, the alligator’s permanent woody is ejected from the body during mating and retracts (the same shape and size) afterwards.

It makes you wonder why Viagra packaging doesn’t have an alligator logo on it.

Cate 'the man-eater' Ellink on Getting Emotion into the Story

Artist: Jaz Harold

Artist: Jaz Harold

My family have told me I’m an emotional wreck. They hurl tissues at me during ad breaks, movies, TV shows, near the end of books. If someone dies, they wish they had shares in the tissue company. Emotion is something I deal with all the time. I tamp it down a lot, suck in those free-flowing tears when I can, and try to be better than an emotional wreck.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my writing was lacking emotion (it was devoid of it but, thankfully, people tell you these things gently). I’ve been writing for a good few years now, solidly practicing and learning for 7 years, and my first drafts still have zip emotion. I layer some in, then I find my next draft is a mess of emotion that doesn’t flow, or ring true.

I can easily type, “I felt afraid”, or “Anger welled up inside”, but I can’t really get good emotion into my characters without painting it on in layer upon layer upon layer. And to tell you the truth…my critique partners have to tell me it’s messed up before I notice it, and sometimes they have to tell me more than once.

So, how does a complete wreck become unable to write emotion? Wish I knew!

At first I thought it was my science brain and training that stopped me. I thought they were keeping things factual and not ‘getting carried away’ with feelings. But after this long, I think I’ve pretty much trained my science brain back to creativity, so that’s not it.

Then I thought maybe it’s because I tamp down my emotions after years of tissue throwing, general amusement, name calling, etc. But I’ve actively tried to put it in there and still failed! I’ve tried to tap into my emotions while I write. I’ve even written some scenes and cried, or laughed, or got all excited…yet still I was missing emotion on the damn page.

I wondered if I become so overwhelmed by the emotions that I can’t look at the big picture and ‘see’ what I’m doing or feeling. But that can’t be right, because when I do those facial expression tests, I nail them. So I understand how your face moves, or your body moves, when experiencing a different emotion…I just can’t get it on the page.

I’ve given up thinking and now I’m admitting to my problem. I’m hoping by admitting to it, I might be able to learn how to get over it. Not sure it works that way, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

I can write some quirky characters…but my first readers usually hate them. This is the kind of thing they tell me: Samantha, from Deep Diving, was too up herself. Mac, from The Virginity Mission, was pathetic and whiney. Lana, the Sydney Housewife, was a total bitch who only cared about herself and had a sad life. You can see I had some work in turning these heroines around to become someone likeable, or at least somewhat relatable.

So I go back to the first draft after I’ve finished writing and I find each time I wrote the name of an emotion (e.g. scared). There’s this fabulous resource called The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, and I open that up and re-write that section to include body responses and physical actions so the reader knows what the emotion is, without me saying the word. Without this wonderful little e-book, I’d be lost. I’m getting better now at not always needing it, but for some emotions, I have no words to describe the physical effect or reaction because my mind goes blank. There is just nothing in my head, no words, no actions, nothing.

Once I’ve done that, and I think I’ve nailed it this time, I send it to my critique partners who hammer me. One of them we spend hours on the phone talking about the characters, who they are, their background, how they might be feeling, what I’ve missed, and how they might go forwards, etc. The others write comments, loads of comments, about what’s missing. This feedback takes me back to the manuscript again.

This time I plan, chapter by chapter, how my heroine has to be feeling to get from that scene to the next scene. At Chapter 1 she might sad/lost/scared and by the end of the book she has to be happy and hopeful. Each chapter has a scene(s) and I write down the major emotions she should be feeling - like an emotional character arc or journey - and then I go back and work my way through it again, looking for the particular areas where I can show these emotions.

It’s bloody hard work and it makes me swear a lot. It makes me doubt my sanity. It makes me wonder why on earth I’m in this game. It hurts knowing I suck at emotion, which is one of the major reasons for reading romance, joining the heroine’s (and/or hero’s) emotional journey.

When I finish, which can take a few goes before my critique partners allow me to send it to a publisher, it’s with a sense of relief and complete exhaustion. I’m gutted after ripping all that emotion out of me (even if I do have help from that book!). But the story is stronger for the work. I just wish I didn’t have to work so hard to get there, every time! I’d like to learn from my mistakes, not keep repeating them.

I once got a review from someone I don’t know (that’s important because they didn’t know all this about me), who said, “This author, first off, is freaking amazing at writing emotion. She has that kind of style that sucks you immediately in and makes you feel like you're the character, not just right there with her.” And that is the reason I keep trying and keep working and keep writing. It hurts while I do it, but when someone says something like that…every little bit of pain was worthwhile.


Fornicating flatworms

The sex life of the marine flatworm can be summed up in two words—penis battle. (And you thought those only happened during office meetings.)

The duel, which can last for up to an hour, is all about not getting knocked up. Both flatworms start off hermaphroditic and use their sharp penises as swords to stab and try to impregnate the other first. The loser gets stuck with the kids and the winner gets to scoot off like the original deadbeat dad.

What Colour Were Your Eyes Again?

This blog post first appeared on friend of the Ninja's Lisa Ireland and Amanda Knight's blog Love, Sweet and Sinister last year.

Secondary characters… I love everything about them. They get to say all that risqué un-hero and un-heroine stuff that your main characters can’t say. They get to get smart, dumb, plain crazy and lovable all the same. Sometimes they get to even be narcoleptic dogs, opinionated cats or even quaint little anthropomorphized out houses named Harvey. But there comes a time in every writer’s life when they’re writing a surefire Man Booker Prize Winner—fingers clickerty clacking on keyboard, glass of wine at the ready, profanity hanging in the air because Microsoft Word isn’t co-operating (again)—and they realise that they might just love their secondary characters a little bit more than their hero or heroine.

It’s not that one’s hero or heroine suddenly develop a strange case of hair in unexpected places or anything, it’s just that nothing is more attractive to a writer than the book they could be writing but can’t because they’re stuck writing this one. It’s true.

It’s why series were invented. Because, the great thing about writing a series or stand-alone-but-connected books like I do, is that when you get a crush on a secondary character and decide that they absolutely must have a story, (and they must have it now!) you can start plotting away in your procrastination time.

But here is where the tricky bit comes in. Now that you’ve got not one but two stories with the same character in it, you’ve got to make sure they line up. Is this new secondary character-turned-hero-or-heroine behaving the same? Are they speaking the same and on a more base level, do they look the same?

Look the same you ask? Yep. Believe it or not, it’s pretty damn easy to get height, breadth or even eye color wrong if one isn’t more vigilant than a 50s nun inspecting school girl’s skirt length. I’ve had it happen before. A couple of times. Particularly with one of my secondary characters, Scott who’s turned up in not two but four of my books so far. He started out with dark brown eyes. Then the next book they were light brown. The next they turned a kinda hazel colour and I just caught myself writing them green this morning.

Luckily I caught the error before my first two books Irrepressible You and Unforgettable You went to print but I might not have. The whole editing-publishing process is especially crazy nowadays and something like that might get missed. And then yours truly would have been stuck coming up with some kind of contact lens kink by the time I gave Scott his own book…

ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is that secondary characters are marvellous fun, sometimes too much fun… but make sure you keep an eye on them or they might just… develop a kink for contact lenses…

On second thoughts… maybe the book I’m currently working on does look a whole lot more interesting. Maybe I’ll just finish it first instead.

Blood Salad

Blood Salad

For those of you who like to wax nostalgic about Eric from True Blood, here’s a Blood Salad that Eric would love to sink his fangs into.



·         1 pomegranate

·         2 large ripe Fuyu persimmons, mangoes, or papayas

·         5 cups mesclun, arugula, baby arugula, or mixed salad greens

·         1 thinly sliced Spanish onion

·         5 cherry tomatoes

·         1 recipe Pine Nut-Persimmon Vinaigrette

·         4 medium blood and/or navel oranges, peeled and thinly sliced (can also substitute with blood grapefruit).



1.     Score an "X" into the top of the pomegranate. Break apart into quarters. Working in a bowl of cool water, immerse each quarter; use your fingers to loosen the seeds from the white membrane. Discard peel and membrane. Drain the seeds; set aside.

2.     Cut each persimmon in half; remove core. Slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices.

3.     In a large bowl combine mesclun and green onions. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the Pine Nut-Persimmon Vinaigrette over musclun; toss to coat.

4.     To serve, arrange mesclun mixture on six chilled salad plates. Arrange persimmons and oranges on top of greens, tucking a few in and under leaves. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Pass the remaining Pine Nut-Persimmon Vinaigrette.

Pine Nut-Persimmon Vinaigrette

(I like this vinaigrette because it’s made with a Fuyu persimmon, which I like to think of as a F.U. persimmon.)

1.      Remove the core from one large ripe Fuyu persimmon and cut in half. Scoop out the pulp (you should have about 1/3 cup) and discard the skin.

2.      Place the pulp in a blender or food processor and blend or process until smooth.

3.      Add olive oil; red or white wine vinegar; toasted pine nuts; blood orange peel; blood orange juice; honey; shallot; mustard; cinnamon; and pepper.

4.      Blend or process until smooth. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.

Cate Ellink talks Dreams


A couple of weeks ago there was a media furore over a guy (Jarryd Hayne) who chose to follow his dreams. Lots of people have dreams, rise to meet challenges, and work hard to improve themselves, right? So why the furore?

He chose to leave the game of rugby league, where he was one of the best, and leave the country, to begin again in a sport where he was no guarantee of success. He went from the top to start at the bottom – because he wanted the challenge. Because he wanted no regrets. Because he wanted to see if he could achieve his dream – making it in the NFL.

I guess if he doesn’t make the Superbowl, the media will say he’s failed. But maybe his dream doesn’t mean the Superbowl. Maybe he wants to make the top side in a club. Maybe he just wants to play one game. Maybe his dream is the experience, no matter how far he goes in the game.

And that’s the thing about dreams – they’re yours. Achieving them is all about what you set as the standard. No one else can decide if you’ve succeeded or failed. It’s your call.

With dreams, you can achieve them at any time. You can change them, add to them, adjust them. You can abandon them early, or strive for them all your life, or something in between. You don’t have to quit everything to reach for your dream…but you can if you want to.

Dreams are personal.

When I was a kid I had a few dreams. I wanted to move to the country, own a horse, have my own dogs. I probably also dreamed of Prince Charming and the Knight in Shining Armour and those things girls dream of, but I adjusted those as I grew up. I dreamed of being an astronomer, a biologist, a zoologist, an author, a vet. I wanted to own a racehorse that won the Melbourne Cup. I wanted to go into outer space. I wanted to be like Jacques Cousteau. It was so difficult to settle on dreams because there were so many options. So many paths to try. So many things to do.

My biggest and most chased dreams were to move to the country and own a horse. I did that by age 23, then a couple of years later, my horse died. I didn’t expect my dream to be so difficult, so heart breaking, so crushing. I didn’t dream for a long time after that.

Without dreams, I still did things I wanted to do. I just never called them dreams. I got another horse or three. I had dogs. Worked in science. Scuba dived, and also did a heap of one-off adventure activities.

Writing a novel became my next dream. It took a few years, lots of work, many tears, and much emotion to achieve that dream. And I want to keep doing this, keep achieving, keep improving.

I think to myself what a big sacrifice Jarryd Hayne has made to go after his dream…and then I correct myself. We all make sacrifices, big sacrifices, when we go after a dream. These sacrifices may not be as visible as the media made his to be…but we make them. We might leave people, or commit money, or time. We might take a risk of some sort. Whatever we sacrifice to achieve our dream, we do it with the best of intentions and with hope in our heart. Only we know if we achieve our dreams, and often you just don’t give up until you do.

If you’re chasing a dream – good luck! And remember it’s YOUR dream. Only you can judge if you’ve achieved it.

Interview with a professional vampire (sort of)

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a phlebotomist? Rhyll Biest sat down with one of these exotic creatures (let’s call her Phoebe) and managed to hold her away from her veins just long enough to get an interview.



RHYLL: Does phebotomy offer the potential for keeping hero and heroine together in a confined space, or apart?

Phoebe: Oh, yes. In a small lab, the phlebotomist works closely with the lab techs and pathologists and helps prepare specimens for testing or transport.

RHYLL: Phlebotomists are trained to draw blood from people. Could you imagine this skill coming in handy in a romance novel plot?

Phoebe: Very handy indeed! Phlebotomy requires the practitioner to get close to and touch a patient in order to collect blood. And we all know what important roles proximity and touching play in a romance novel!

RHYLL: Do you think there is anything sexy about being a phlebotomist? (I think the name is pretty sexy!)

Phoebe: When taking blood, a phlebotomist often has to lean over a patient and there’s enough proximity to feel a caressing breath, bask in another’s scent, or thrill to the touch of fingers on bare skin….

RHYLL: Is fraternization a no-no between phlebotomists and patients? Or between phlebotomists?

Phoebe: I don’t recall any specific fraternization no-nos, although there may well be some now. I was single when working at the lab and had a dalliance with a single and well-to-do pathologist who was also a pilot and a partner in the state-wide firm. It was one of the most romantic times in my life!

RHYLL: Some big strong men have been known to faint at the sight of a needle. Are phlebotomists trained in reviving fainters?

Phoebe: Many phlebotomists are registered nurses, so they know how to revive fainters. For those of us who hadn’t received nursing training, we were given some rudimentary instructions. Thankfully, I never had to use them! Part of my training involved practising my venepuncture technique on a fake arm we christened ‘Lefty’. It had a skin-like latex covering and a network of ‘veins’ running through it — long tubes containing water stained with red dye. These water tubes were arranged differently like veins found in real patients (i.e. close to the surface, deep-set, and bunched with others and so forth) and I had to be able to successfully extract red water from each of them.

Once I’d mastered Lefty, our consulting pathologist (the one I had a dalliance with) had me collect blood from both his arms. Now THAT was a real test, and proof that there’s plenty of scope for romance and sensuality in phlebotomy!

RHYLL: What are the traits of a good phlebotomist?

Phoebe: A caring but professional ‘chairside manner’, excellent hygiene, good joke or story-telling skills, and sensitive fingertips (for finding veins).

RHYLL: How many people might you take blood from in a day? Is there much opportunity to chat?

Phoebe: In my experience, the number of patients we saw was the number of patients who presented! And that varied from day to day. It was a high- pressure environment that was also mentally, physically and emotionally taxing, so talking about ‘normal’ things (like boyfriends, family, hobbies, our dreams for the future) helped keep us grounded.

RHYLL: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you as a phlebotomist?

Phoebe: This was probably one of the nicest things that happened. We got to know a young woman who was keen to start a family. She came regularly for pregnancy tests, which continually came up negative (the doctor gave us permission to release the results to her directly). At first her husband would come into reception with her and they’d comfort each other on receiving the disappointing news. But after a while he began waiting for her in the car park, which was right outside the window in reception.

The day came when we could give her the news she’d been hoping for. We were almost as excited as she was when we told her the test was positive! But we helped her calm down and assume a serious expression before returning to the car. As we watched from the window, she slumped into her seat with head bowed. When her husband reached over to comfort her, she lifted her radiant face and burst out with the news. It was like a party for two in the front seat of an old Holden!

RHYLL: Do phlebotomists have their own jargon?

Phoebe: Yes, but I don’t remember much of it! We used a lot of initialisms, like FBP for ‘full blood profile’, ESR for ‘erythrocyte sedimentation rate’ and LFT for ‘liver function tests’. We also shortened words like bacteriology to ‘bacto’, biochemistry to ‘biochem’ and histology to ‘histo’, but that might be an Aussie thing! When it came to the collection tubes, we’d refer to them by colour so, for example, EDTAs* were ‘lavenders’.

RHYLL: How do phlebotomists like to unwind after slaving over a hot vein all day?

Phoebe: Pretty much like anyone else! But when we all went out as a group, our boyfriends or husbands (we were all female except for the manager) rarely joined us. They’d all tried bravely once or twice but would were put off by all the talk about needle sticks, collapsing veins, sputums, swabs, 24 hour urine and faecal fat tests, and so forth. I hate to admit it, but we sometimes took wicked delight in turning a newbie boyfriend all shades of green!

RHYLL: What do phlebotomists hate?

Phoebe: Plenty! Arm veins that are too deep, hard to get to, or which collapse as soon as they’re punctured, forcing the phlebotomist to go looking for veins in other places. Doing heel pricks on newborn babies also makes you feel like such a monster!

(*EDTA = Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid)

Thanks, Phoebe, the phlebotomist sounds like real red-blooded romance novel hero/heroine material!


The Galapagos Tortoise

The lady Galapagos tortoise likes to play hard to get, so males have to chase females before mating. During mating (which can last several hours) the couple fit together like spoons due to the males having a shell with a concave base (intelligent design for sexy times!) It may take the female up to five hours to build her nest, and the temperature of the nest plays a role in determining the sex of the hatchlings. It may take young tortoises up to a month to dig their way to the surface of the nest after hatching. Taronga zoo-keepers say "Courting has been said to begin with the male ramming the female with the front of his shell and nipping her exposed legs until she draws them in, immobilizing herself. However our keepers have also observed that copulation can occur by the female elevating the back end of her shell and stretching her cloaca open and positioned towards him. Our female tortoise has even been observed to help the male with his aim, guiding him with her back feet."

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