Cat Sheely

Writer and opinionated reader

A Fight with Procrastination

So.  In November I managed just over 60,000 words for NaNoWriMo.  I was proud of myself.  I knew that another 30,000 words would finish the novel.  Then came December, Christmas, New Year and family.  All good reasons not to get on with it.  But early January, that was over and done with.  By the end of January, the novel would be finished.  But no.   Not even remotely done.

200px-%22Mino_Monkey_Dark%22_concept_artI’ve been reading in all sorts of places about the ‘dark monkey’ of procrastination.  The devil of procrastination. I know I’m doing it.  I get another 1 or 2k words done and it’s over with for a week.  My characters are doing their own thing too, going off in directions I hadn’t planned on.  May I add I think they’ve got it right.  But knowing I’m procrastinating and doing something about it is very, very hard.  My good friend and writing buddy Marison Dunham has been helping.  She comes over, I get work done.  She’s a bright spark in my writing day.  But she leaves and I go right back to the ‘I’ll get into it tomorrow’ phase.


Yes, I know.  Discipline.  Something I’ve always had trouble with.  You see, I know the ending… sort of. Or do I?  As I said, my characters are doing strange things.  Am I afraid of them? Of what they want me to write?  I think the answer is yes.  Also I think I’m afraid to finish this because it might be rubbish. I’m not really sure anyone would want to read it.  But then, is that why I write? For others? If I’m honest, the answer to that is maybe.

I guess I want it all done and over with … now.  Not tomorrow, next month but now.  I can’t seem to wait to go through the process of actually finishing it. Or is that just another excuse?

Doldrums.  No wind and the writing boat is floating in a sea of insecurity.

Thanks for listening.  Now it’s out there.  Guess I’ll have to do something about it.

PS: Anyone got a whip?

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS …in all shapes and formats


This year has been more interesting than usual in terms of the Christmas Card.  In the past I used to send out up to 60 cards each Christmas to friends and family.  It was always a chore but one worth doing.  And in return we usually got almost as many cards with wonderful greetings.

But things have changed. Now I send out maybe 25 cards that go to older family and very close friends because I add a ‘Christmas Letter’ that gives a potted history of what the family has been up to for the past year.  This has become quite the thing to do as I normally get about 7 or 8 of these in return.  I love hearing about our friends and their families and sometimes they include interesting photo’s as well.  Our older relatives tend to hand write their letter on the Christmas Cards.  I wonder how many of us actually write anything more than a quick greeting anymore?  Not many I’m guessing.

And then there are the 15 or so emails that include a short message and our Christmas Letter. A few of these go overseas and they are much quicker and more sure than the now expensive snail mail version.  Finally there are the few that are animated eCards and animated videos (JibJab etc).  I have to blame my daughter for getting me into JibJab as she was the first to send one to friends and family several years back. They are fun to make and fun to receive (but hard to put up with the other Cards and letters).

This year has been surprising in that one of my older friends has sent me an animated Christmas Card. It reminds me that no matter what age, there is always the possibility of mental flexibility to remain up-t0-date with technology.  I hope I’m that cool at 80+.

So like everything else, the Christmas Greeting is changing fast, becoming technologically sophisticated and yet still it means that we are thinking of our relatives and friends and wish them well for the festive season and for the coming year.

As an aside, isn’t it funny that here in Australia we still often send Christmas Cards that show a winter scene when Australian Christmas cards abound.  Anyway, as I started out with an Aussie picture, so -

 I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2014



To Bah Humbug OR Not to Bah Humbug

bah-humbug-catSo here we are and it’s just over a week to Christmas Day.  I’ve not done all the housework, I’ve not done my Christmas Cards and I’m not sure about 2 Christmas presents I still need to buy.  So I’m thinking stress is happening here. Bah Humbug.

On the other hand we hosted the street Christmas Party last Sunday and, despite all the work, it was heaps of fun.  I love my neighbours and their wonderful kids.  We played the traditional street cricket and had games which hubby spent a week working up – lots of small presents to the winners (and all the kids got something).  So Not Bah Humbug.

I’ve not done any writing this month because I’ve been too busy (Bah Humbug), I’ve had lots of fun with my family (Not Bah Humbug) and so you can see that I’m still on the fence about Christmas.  Overall, I mostly feel in the Bah Humbug camp.  It’s an expensive time of year, even if we only buy presses for the kids and these days I’m not even sure what to buy the littlest ones – they already have everything they need/want.

There are some  delightful things about the Christmas period.  I get to have my whole family around me for more than a quick weekend visit from one or other family – I love that bit. Oh, and the Christmas Eve tradition with my delightful vegetarian friend who always cooks a pork roast for it – and it always tastes delicious. We’ve been doing that for quite a few years and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it. And then, we’ve got a few more additions to the Christmas Eve family which is absolutely the best thing ever.

Hmmm.  OK, I’ve decided…. NOT Bah Humbug despite all the hassle.

by Cat Sheely

Thank heavens it comes but once a year
Couldn’t cope with it more often,
I have to get my tush in gear
Or it might end up a rough ‘n.

Presents left to buy, money running out,
Ideas are in a muddle.
I get it  wrong it’s all for nought,
My tears will make a puddle.

But then, I think of family dear,
I love them ever more.
I’ll do my best despite the fear,
To bring presents to their door.

And if it’s wrong, oh well I say,
I did my very best.
I love you all in the nicest way,
And after Christmas; a good rest.


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It’s Almost Christmas – Again!

Oh my, but I cannot believe another year has rushed past and it is a few weeks to Christmas 2013.  I knew everyone says it, but the year has really flown by.  Going backward, I’ve just finished the NaNoWriMo - I managed 60,000 words on a new novel.  So only another 25,000 or so to finish the first draft.  On top of that we’ve travelled just over 5,500 kilometres since mid-September.  We visited children and grand-children several times each, went to Phillip Island for the Motorcycle GP, I enjoyed a wonderful time in Sydney with my close and dear friend whom I met at school and enjoyed a High Tea at the Sir Stamford – very posh.  And all of that in my new Mazda 3 – she’s a real beauty, not just to drive but to look at too – red with a black interior.

So that was just the past three months.  The ones before included lots of fun and writing with the Eurobodalla FAW evening group that we set up in March/April.  We have some wonderful writers including Marisol Dunham and Cassandra Webb.  The little group has been growing and we now have 7 delightful members all writing books. I’m webmistress for the Eurobodalla FAW website as well and setting that up was fun.

Add to all this the Write a Book in A Day with the CSFG, the 24 hour story challenge that I managed to write a whole story for and the workshop with Ian McHugh last month and it’s been a busy time.

I’m the editor of the 2014 Eurobodalla FAW 20th anniversary anthology ‘Mutable States’ and we’ve already had 11 submissions that are currently with the slush-readers, so I see that next year is going to start with a bang.

I’m looking forward to having the family at Broulee this Christmas/New year.  With two additions to the family the house will be noisy and fun.

If you’re interested in a great Christmas poem, go over to the Eurobodalla FAW site where Maxine McIlveney has allowed us to reproduce a pearler of a Christmas tale called “The Chimney Job”.

As for me, I’m back to my novel.  I’ve decided that 25k words for December is my target and I’m already falling behind.  Maybe one day in the future I’ll be sprouting that the thing is done and being published – I wish (fingers crossed).

And yes, this is all an excuse for not having been a very good blogger. But then, life has overtaken my blogging and I’m not altogether sorry about that :-)

Life is Good

It is interesting how a topic of conversation can permeate through a friendship/family group.  The particular topic I’m thinking of is one of quality of life – what it means to different people.  Over the past twelve months this topic has arisen many times over drinks, dinner or just driving between venue’s/places and the people involved have been close relatives, friends and even just acquaintances.  And I wonder why this is?  I am pretty sure I’m not the one bringing it up – at least not recently.  Maybe it’s the news that always seems to be bad or the current political situation, that makes people think about this topic.

So what have I discovered during this period about what people believe makes life good?

It seems it has little to do with health as several of my friends and relatives have long term health issues ranging from severe arthritis to diabetes and other pain related conditions and even those that may be terminal.  Yet it is specifically these people who are the most optimistic and ‘alive’.  So it’s not one’s health that makes for a ‘good’ life.

Quite a few of my friends and relatives are retired and live on pensions.  Yes, quite a few own their houses so have a roof over their heads.  But again, many do not have a great deal of disposable income.  So money and assets is not the full answer to what makes life good.

Family could be the answer to what makes life good yet in several cases family has caused quite a bit of grief and anguish.  So that in itself cannot be the answer either.

That about covers what most people think makes life good – health, money/assets and family.  Often, in fact, these things can be seen as stressors in people’s lives instead.

So here is my take on what I’ve seen and heard over the past year of so during these conversations and my own observations.  What makes life good is a ‘positive attitude’.  It is looking for the good things and not dwelling on the ‘not so good’ – because it seems most people who are ‘happy’ don’t have really bad thing happen – they simply don’t think in that way.  When something that others would think ‘bad’ happens, people with a positive attitude find ways to deal with these things, they are proactive and when they can’t ‘fix’ things, they look for the good and positive in them instead.  For example after some surgery that did not go as expected one friend simply said “Well, at least I’m still here and I have quite a few more years ahead of me” instead of “oh dear, I’m still sick and I will die.”

I’ve seen several people who have  had life-threatening conditions that doctors said they would not survive, live 40 years longer than predicted (and are still going strong) simply because they would not give in to those ‘conditions’.  They look to a good future, plan for it and live toward it.  Yes, it has not been easy for them.  And yes, they have had their ‘troubles’.  But each time they look positively forward and never let it get them down.

As for me, I’ve always been an optimist.  Just ask my close family.  I just didn’t realise that this optimism, the ‘knowing’ all would be well if I just kept looking forward and dealing with things as best I could, was a very positive way to live.  I’ve had my share of issues but definitely not as many as others.  I had a very lucky and wonderful life so far and am truly enjoying it.  I will do so as long as I am able.

One of the things young people, especially teenagers, worry about is not having friends or not being popular.  I think back on my teenage years and found I also worried about that.  Funny thing is that in hindsight, I had  wonderful friends during that period.  Interestingly, over recent years I have been lucky enough to reacquaint with some of those early friends.  Of course, I have to thank the internet and Facebook for some of that :-) as well as a classmate who organised the 1st reunion.

I think it’s my positive attitude, my acceptance of people as they are (at least for the last 20 years or so), and learning from my friends and relatives that has made me feel lucky to be here, happy in  life and able to deal with ‘problems’ in the best way possible.

Oh and yes, I did do an internet search on ‘happiness’ and ‘quality of life’ and found a whole lot of stuff on self assessment on these topics.  But for me, I worked it out myself.  I believe that’s the only way to really understand and feel it.

Life is bloody good.  Ain’t it grand!


Where are We?

I got a really nice response to my last story so…. here’s another one.

Ernie was pale as he said ‘oohh daaamn!’  He was holding the joystick with bloodless fingers and I could only stare at them because, looking out the window meant I had to see at the planets surface coming up way too fast.  And seeing, more clearly than anything, the last seconds of my life. I couldn’t face that.

‘Jay.  Grab my hands on the stick and pull with me as hard as you can,’ hissed Ernie urgently.  We struggled with the manual control. There had been a major flame-out of the onboard computer because of the meteor strike that hit the ship in the wrong place.

Afraid but ready to do anything to live, I jumped out of my seat, lent over Ernie’s armrest and clamped my hands over his.  With my feet jammed against the stanchion of his seat I added extra leverage. I could feel the joystick begin to inch backward, to level out the shuttle ever so slightly.  But not nearly enough.

We were still high over the forested escarpment that ran nearly eight hundred miles down the west coast of the largest continent.  To the left was thirty miles of forest which slowly changed to savannah and then desert some eighty miles away. To the right I could see the fertile fields that started from the bottom of the escarpment to the ocean ten miles away.

There was no way we could move the joystick to land over the ocean or even the desert.  We were heading straight into the forest belt and collision with the centuries old trees, many which stood close to three hundred feet tall.  No soft landing there.

‘Pull!’ Ernie screamed and I pulled with all the might my fear lent me.  The nose of the shuttle edged up another degree.  ‘More you mongrel!’ yelled Ernie and I wasn’t sure if he meant me or the shuttle.  Not that it mattered, I pulled with everything my body and mind possessed.  Another degree and instead of heading straight down we now were coming in at 85 degrees.  I quickly checked the altimeter and saw we were only 27,000 ft up and the dial was spinning to zero alarming fast.  My heart beat frantically, I was sweating, panting and my head was starting to swim from the adrenalin overdose and holding my breath.  I pulled harder than I ever thought possible.

Slowly, too slowly, the nose came up another few degrees.

We hit the tree tops angled at 55 degrees.  I heard a noise like a thousand nails raking down a blackboard.  Then everything went black.

I woke with an acrid smell tickling my nose-hairs.  I made an effort to open my eyes but only one would respond.  Myopic, I saw smoke, twisted metal and tree branches.  Then I heard a moan.

‘Ernie?’  No response.  I didn’t think I had moaned.

Slowly getting my elbows under me I managed to roll from my back to my side to come face to face with a bloody visage.

‘Ernie?’ I asked again and gently touched his shoulder.  I could see he was still strapped into his seat but two blue orbs managed to blink and I knew he was still alive.

‘We need to get out of here!’  I knew it was a stupid understatement even as my banged up hands were undoing his seat belt.  I moved my legs and quickly guessed nothing was broken, although I hurt all over.  Ernie was not so lucky.  His left shoulder looked funny so I got my arm under his right one and we both rose awkwardly together.

Ernie groaned again and when I looked into his eyes the left pupil was slightly dilated and I knew he was in trouble.  But it would be worse if we didn’t get out of the wreck before it went up in a ball of flame.

Slowly but surely we worked our way out of the mess.  Just as we were about to scramble out of the cockpit I saw Ernie’s flight bag,  grabbed the strap an slung it over my head.  I had no idea what was in it, but it might have something useful for survival.  We needed to hang in until someone came to rescue us, always assuming people knew we had crashed and where.

It took quite some time to get a reasonable distance from the crash site with poor Ernie’s injuries.  Every moment I expected a blast from behind would finish us.  But we were just a tiny bit lucky. The shuttle didn’t blow.

An hour later we had gone about eight hundred feet and we hunkered down behind the trunk of a fallen tree.  Panting I grabbed Ernie’s bag and rifled through it.  Two chocolate bars, reports and a map.

‘Ernie, do you know exactly where we went down?’

‘Not really,’ he grumbled.  ‘I was working on trying to fly.’

‘I hope someone comes soon,’ I said.  ‘You don’t look too good.’

‘You want to be inside here with me,’ he joked half heartedly.

As I was studying the map, trying to remember any specific landmarks from the few panicky glimpses as we came down, I saw the name of the forest that surrounded us.  Then, probably because of shock as well as surprise that we were still alive, I began to giggle.  It grew into a full blown hysteria and I howled until it hurt.  I couldn’t stop.

‘Jay! Hey Jay! What’s the matter?’ Ernie asked anxiously.

Getting partial control I said between bouts of giggles and wiping my eyes, ‘I just found the name of the forest. It lies between the coast and the desert.  They gave it a suitable name.’  Giggles overtook me again.

Finally, I regained enough control to see Ernie’s worried features staring at me.

I took a deep breath and said as straight as I could, ‘Ernie, we are lost in “Translation”!’


As Good As A Holiday

Thought I would give you one of my very short stories.  Enjoy (I hope).

Carefully and silently the kayak slipped into the river in the small hours of the morning.  With no moon, the paddler looked up to the billions of stars, smiled and felt a little insignificant.  It gave a kind of perspective to the work. After all, humans were just so trivial and irrelevant in such an immense universe.

The kayak sat low in the water; several oddly shaped, tightly taped up and weighted bags provided more ballast that was probably safe.  Checking that the car was parked under the overhang of bushes and couldn’t be seen, the paddler set off toward the open sea.  It was quite a distance to the breakwater but the outgoing tide made it a lot easier.  The sea was calm at this hour.  The paddler always knew the tides and water conditions before taking action.  Caught out only once by a strong north easterly wind blowing up the river, the kayak had almost capsized twice on the two nautical mile return trip. It had left the paddler almost too exhausted for the 5 hour drive back to Sydney in time for the afternoon shift. A near miss after a micro-sleep near Lake Bathurst required open windows, freezing cold wind and singing loudly with the CD to get home.

But not this morning.  Conditions were near perfect.  It would be an easy paddle out and a lighter paddle in on the tide change.  Then a relatively quick drive home.


 ‘Afternoon, Cynthia,’ said the guard at the security gate.

‘G’Day Phil.’

‘Have a good day,’ he said smiling as he placed my firearm in a numbered locker and handed me back my backpack, mobile phone and computer.  I gave him a raised eyebrow and went through to the lifts. He was suddenly a bit too nice to me.

‘Hold the lift,’ called a voice I recognised and I lunged past two people in front of me for the ‘open’ button, managing to hit the right one for a change. ‘Thanks Cynthia,’ said Elaine, my work partner as she scrunched up next to me in the full lift.  ‘You been out last night?’

I shook my head. ‘Nah, couldn’t sleep.  That Guyen case got to me.  I thought we had it in the bag.  Bloody prosecutors not getting their act together.’ I noted a few nods amongst the other passengers of the lift.

‘No use loosing sleep over it.  We’ll get him next time he stuffs up.’

‘You’re too much of an optimist for a copper, Elaine,’ I said smiling at her.  ‘Hope it’s a quiet day, I need a rest.’

‘Petterson, Vellios, in here,’ called Superintendent Allen as we got to our cubicles.

‘Oh god, what now,’ I mumbled tiredly.

‘See you didn’t get much sleep last night Petterson,’ said the Super as I slumped in behind Elaine.  I smiled and said nothing.

‘Right,’ he began. ‘I know you had a loss in court but don’t let it get you down.  Now, a guy by the name of William ‘Bilby’ Phelps came in early this morning with a strange story.  He’s a private investigator who works for the people we try to put away.  Makes money by helping the thugs keep an eye on each other. Problem is, he’s going broke.  Apparently, several of his clients have gone missing.’

‘So do we care?’ asked Elaine.

‘We do when they were our cases as well.’

‘What..?’ I began.

‘Hold on ’till I finish,’ said the Super holding up his hand like a traffic cop. ‘Apparently Phelps went to see his client Alan Arthur Volt to get his money for finding stuff to keep him out of gaol.  That was two months ago and no-one’s seen him since.  And this morning he went to see Guyen for the same reason.  No-one’s seen him since he left the courthouse day before yesterday.  I need you two to follow it up.’

‘But who cares if these pieces of shit disappear?  Good riddance,’ said Elaine vehemently.

‘We have to look like we do our job for everyone.  Do your best.  I want them found.’  He looked at the papers in front of him and we were dismissed.

‘So, where do we start,’ asked Elaine as we headed for our desks.

‘The case files I guess.  I think we’ve got a lot of slog work ahead of us.’

‘Yeah,’ she said sulkily.

For the next few weeks Elaine and I trudged all over town and interviewed some of its shadier characters.  At night I slept like a baby and on weekends I went out kayaking with friends.  After all, I had to stay fit.  A few months of unproductive work would be like a holiday.  And it would let me make sure I’d left no clues, or mess with ones I could have left.

Sometimes it nice to do ones duty.


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