My name is Amy Bernheisel, and I am co-creator, along with Pam Goodwin, of Cate’s fan forum, The Storyfire. Writing this tribute has felt, at times, impossible. I wish I had a dollar for every time I started, deleted, and started again. Especially since this is my second time writing that exact sentence. How do you encapsulate your feelings about the passing of someone as remarkable as Cate Culpepper? No matter what words I come up with (and believe me, I am not usually short on words) they aren’t adequate for explaining how I discovered Tristaine, came to know Cate, and eventually helped build an online forum to honor both.
If you didn’t know Cate, it’s never too late. Cate had an impressive volume of literary work that won her numerous awards. They’ve all been listed before, and her work was beloved by many. My favorites were books one and two of her Tristaine series, The Clinic
and Battle for Tristaine
, respectively, but I also adored the warmth of Fireside
. Even when Cate wasn’t writing about the Amazons of Tristaine, she was writing about Amazons. Cast in modern settings and clothing, but fighting similar battles with familiar strength.
We are almost two weeks past the day of Cate’s passing, as I write this, and dealing with her absence hasn’t gotten any easier. I think this is partly because my friendship with Cate was entirely in virtual space, so, in many ways, it doesn’t seem real to me that she’s gone. Sometimes I tell myself that I should just believe she’s off on one long-ass Alaska cruise, and she just hasn’t posted or messaged me in awhile. That would be easier. Even though I hold her farewell letter in my hands, it still doesn’t feel real. Or right! Our world has plenty of people who do it harm. Why take one of the good ones? One of the ones who made us laugh, lifted our hearts and souls, and, for so many, made us feel that we finally found a place, a family, where we belonged? As I’m sure many of you do, I shift from anger, to sadness, to hope, to extreme gratitude for having the time with her that I did. Lather, rinse, repeat… on and on.
I stumbled upon Tristaine in December 2012. I wish it had been earlier. A friend recommended The Clinic
to me, and I devoured it. I have always sought the friendship and acquaintance of strong women, and wanted to surround myself with people exactly like the Amazons that Cate wrote about. Tristaine felt like a home I’d like to have, and I was desperate to know more. Somehow, I learned about the Tristaine group on Yahoo and, though it appeared to have been silent for some time, I sent a message to the moderator (who I later discovered was Cate) and asked to be allowed to join. When I logged in for the first time, and saw how little activity there had been, for years, my heart sank. I thought I was too late. But I was undaunted, and also propelled along by total fan-girl squee-power that Cate Culpepper, this amazing author, would actually talk to little old me. I started posting, and eventually proposed the notion of building a little tribute to Tristaine in the virtual community of Second Life. While Cate approved of the idea, I think the rather steep learning curve for utilizing Second Life proved daunting for people, and also too difficult to gather a critical mass of people online all at once to hang out. Thus, the idea of The Storyfire forum was born and we came online on
September 13, 2013. We named it after the place where Tristaine’s Amazons would sit and share warmth and tales and ideas – thus, the perfect name.
Cate was so proud of The Storyfire, though she cautioned me that her readers were few, though dedicated, and not to get my hopes up about how it would turn out. Pam and I were thrilled beyond measure to be able to grow the forum, before Cate took her leave. Our forum has 49 members, 511 threads, and 4,870 posts as of this writing. More than 850 of those posts were written by
Cate. It’s a treasure trove of Tristaine and Cate Culpepper. When Cate let us know that she was ill, we asked her if there was anything we could do for her. I’m sure I speak for Pam as well when I say that I desperately wanted to be able to repay her for all she had given me, in her Tristaine novels, and her unflagging, constant encouragement and support of me as a friend. The one thing she said she wanted was for us to keep The Storyfire going, even if there was never a single new member.
And so we shall. Just as
Brenna’s journal in Tristaine Rises
left the clues that aspiring Amazons would need to find Tristaine, we will remain open to continue to share the wonderful characters, philosophies, and ideals espoused by our adanin, Cate. It’s easy to feel close to her, there, because she left so much of her thought and personality all around the forum for us to remember her by.
So, as a tribute to Cate, please consider coming to join us. Even if you don’t know a thing about Tristaine, or Cate, you’re welcome all the same! (It’s not all we talk about.) We have threads on all of her books and books by many other authors as well, politics, current events, health and wellness, pets, space and stars, music, gaming, movies and TV, technology, spirituality… and so much more. Come if you want to post pictures of cats wearing berets. Come if you want to talk about metaphysics and the existential nature of life. Come if you want to share your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe (especially then). Just come and join us. We’d love to have you. Registration is required, just to prevent spammers and keep the forum secure, but we’re approving new members within hours. Here’s your map
! If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us here
We hope to be able to welcome you wonderful women soon.
As for you, Cate: If you’re out there reading this in some kind of celestial RSS feed, we love you, we miss you, and we hope you’re finally learning how to shoot your bow in a manner that won’t bring harm to yourself and others. And nearby trees and buildings. And yeah, adanin… I’ll see you in the stars.
Take a moment to get to know her through her appearances on The Liz McMullen Show:
Episode 2: Amazons of Tristaine and A Question of Ghosts
Episode 53: Windigo Thrall
Gender & Sexuality Series: Mental Health
All of Cate’s books can be purchased on
Bold Strokes Books website.