Monday, June 25, 2012

When I'm Stuck, I Read.
(Also When I Eat, I Read, When I'm Happy...) #amreading

Whenever I am stuck in my own writing, I turn to reading. Or when I am eating, or TCOB in the bathroom, or poolside, or...

Last few months, I have been stuck a lot.
Septic Zombie - A Short Story - Aquila Robinson (horror, children's)
I can honestly say that this short story (17 pages) is the best zombie story written by a seven year old I have ever read. I might even go so far as to say it is the best zombie story I have ever read, by an author of ANY age (not being a big zombie fan here).
When Aquila Robinson and her friend Naomi find a magical ring at the bottom of a stony creek, strange thing begin to happen. The sound of shuffling feet emerges from the woods, followed closely by a low moaning, “brraaaiiinnsss,” that sends the girls running and begins an adventure that could only come from the mind of a seven year old author.

SEPTIC ZOMBIE is the first story written by homeschooled seven year old, Aquila Robinson (the real Aquila). With the help of her father (bestselling author Jeremy Robinson), Aquila has written, art directed, formatted and released this book, which she dictated to her father. Every word is hers, though she did work with an editor (mostly to fix Dad’s typos).
When I was seven years old, I was dependent upon my blankie to protect me from monsters, not charging in with my imagination to rescue myself. This story blends horror, fantasy, friendship, and ingenuity in a way that many adult authors (including me) would envy.

The Darkest Surrender - Gena Showalter(fantasy/paranormal romance)

The cover sucked me in, with the butterfly-ish tattoo, as an impulse buy. Besides I've been meaning to read some of Ms. Showalter's books for a long time.

This is number eight of an ongoing series of thirteen, and that's one of the hardest challenges as an author. Draw in the reader who simply picked up this book, first, while not boring those who've been following all along.

She didn't quite manage it for me. Despite a very convoluted first third or so of the book, I was very confused. Too many characters, too much backstory, and yet I still didn't understand this Universe or its rules or what the point was to the Harpy Games. I liked the hero, Strider, much more than the heroine.  Until well into the book, I thought Kaia was an unlikeable brat.

That said, by the middle of the book I was rooting for Kaia to succeed, and by the end I was very invested in Kaia and Strider's romance and challenges. I loved the Alaska references, and the sisterly support of the other Harpies for Kaia.

Lesson learned: Showalter is a masterful writer, but I won't impulse buy any of her other books unless I know I'm picking up a standalone or the first one in a series.

Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah (memoir)

The cover picture here, says it all - a shy little girl left on the edges, peeking in. In 1937 Shanghai, Adeline's birth resulted in her mother's death. You may have heard that the Chinese are not real "big" on girl children anyway, and Adeline (Jun-ling) was the fifth child, second daughter.

I found the book fascinating - the look at pre-Communist China, at Grand Aunt who founded the Shanghai Women's Bank in 1924, at the interweaving of Chinese and British culture, at the intimate view of the Communist takeover. The Chinese characters and their literal translations (Yuan Mu Qiu Yu - Climbing a Tree to Seek for Fish) are wonderful.  Treated badly by her elegant Eurasian stepmother (shades of Cinderella), emotionally abandoned by her father, Adeline is still determined to succeed, and she does. She received a medical degree in the UK, and later came to America where she became a citizen and an anesthesiologist, still with ties to both mainland China and to Hong Kong.

She is honest about the mistakes she makes; accepting the job her father thinks she should have, instead of the one she wants; marrying a man who turns out the be abusive. It is always easy in hindsight to see what the "right" choice should have been; so hard to escape childhood conditioning and habits of obedience. At times the tone is a bit whiny and self-indulgent. Yet in the end, Adeline does rescue herself, and her siblings are not (all) the monsters one might expect from their upbringing.

Dancing With Danger - Laura Sheehan (romantic thriller)

Full disclosure - Laura is a fellow member of my RWA chapter (LARA) and a really nice person, plus she's going be here for an interview shortly. So it would be hard to pan her book, even if I hated it.

Luckily, I thought it was an amazing debut. Lily is a fiercely independent young woman determined to make a go of a dancing career, which at the moment, after suffering an injury, means a group of hobbled together jobs. Children's dance teacher. Barista. And yes, pole dancer, none of which jobs her conservative politician father would approve.

Her path crosses that of an LAPD rookie officer, and as their romance heats up, so does the angst of her secret admirer turned stalker. His attacks inspire Marc to take Lily (and cat) into his condo - and bed.

I loved that Marc is super-protective of Lily, yet she herself is strong and self-sufficient. Given the circumstances, the speed of their romance was believable, and the sex scenes are very steamy.  There's excellent use of humor throughout, as well.

The only detraction was that in the end, I felt there were a few too many loose ends wrapped up neatly for everyone. For example, Marc's parents who have been estranged for years now have a HEA tied up in a bow. It felt a little too pat; simply having them move in that direction would've been enough for me, likewise the reconciliation between Lily and her father.  All in all though, a very satisfying book, and the view inside the mind of a dancer and a dancer's life was awesome.

Automagically - Sommer Marsden (paranormal erotic romance)
I didn't realize, going into it, that this was a novella (68 pages) or I would have jumped in a long time ago.  And I am not a fan of this cover, just saying.

This was a delightfully fun, spicy romp. Very playful, very sexy.  Who can hate a contemporary witch who, post-breakup, uses a simple "bang-yourself-happy-again spell" on a new hot guy?  Espcially when her sisters made her do it, really.  And she doesn't mean to hurt the guy's heart, just get in a mutually satisfying sexcapade (or several) and then wipe it out of his memory. No harm, no foul, right?

I liked Evie, the heroine, and like her, totally lusted after Caleb, the hero.  Lots of humor, sprinkled in - which to my way of thinking, makes every story that much better.

Devil's Kiss - Zoe Archer (paranormal historical romance)

While I love historical romance, IMO this barely qualifies. There simply aren't many details that pin down the period - some fancy houses and of course, the clothing, the hero's an Earl... So if you're somebody who doesn't want those nit-picky details, you'll be happier. If you are a history nerd like me, you may be disappointed they're missing.

I loved gypsy Zora, who is feisty and highly intelligent; I thought Earl Whit and his greedy friends to be a little on the mentally slow side. The (few) sex scenes are hot, yet...I didn't find the initial consummation to make much sense - fighting for Whit's immortal soul and the bad guys are chasing us, but we're tired so let's stop for a 24 hour sex break.  I did like Livia the ghost, and in the end, I liked them as a couple. I will definitely read more of Zoe's work, because she is an excellent writer, but... there was just something missing for me.

Inside Heat: Mustangs Baseball (Volume 1) - Roz Lee (erotic romance)

Megan is a pediatric nurse who knows nothing about baseball, but is determined to score an autograph from baseball pitching ace Jeff Holder for a young patient.

This is only the beginning of the scoring, because Jeff's identical twin Jason is also a star catcher. They live together, in a very fancy - and very private estate, and both are interested in Megan as a lover, whenever the team is playing at home. Talking about taking one for the team!

If baseball and sex are among your favorite sports, you will LOVE this book. Smokin' hot menage, and more than that, a true romance. In the end, Megan realizes that while she loves both men, she's only IN love with one of them. But does he love her back? And what about the other twin, the one she's not in love with - but who may be in love with her? Will this trio end with a pair of winners, or three losers? Will either/both men put their careers on the line? It was not just the hot sex, but the emotional exploration that I found so compelling.  LOVED this book; can't wait for the sequel.

Little Black Dress - Susan McBride (women's fiction with a splash of paranormal)

Two sisters and a daughter - or is it a niece? - and a magic dress.  We have a mother, Evie, suffering a stroke, her daughter Toni coming home to care for her, and a missing aunt, Anna. It turns out that a certain magical black dress is at the root of all mysteries - and solutions.

When you don the dress, it not only fits perfectly and in a flattering manner, regardless of your size and shape (which in and of itself is pure magic) but it gives you a glimpse of the future. Once you've glimpsed the future, you can't simply proceed along the path as planned.

The books flips from Toni's (Antonia's) viewpoint to Evie's in flashback, done very skillfully. Romances are broken - or begun, based upon what the dress has revealed to its wearer. It's a moving look at a not-entirely-whole, not-entirely-broken family dynamic, full of secrets, dysfunction, and love. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone exploring sister-sister or mother-daughter dynamics.

Marriage Made on Paper - Maisey Yates (contemporary romance)

Okay, I'm prejudiced. I've met Maisey, she's done an interview here on Writing in Flow, and she's an amazing person, separate and apart from her formidable writing talent.

In this book, we have struggling PR agency owner Lily Ford, who agrees to take on internal resort developer Gage Forrester. Since this is a romance, we know that she's gonna take him on in more ways that one.

 Lily is very resistant to love - and men, having seen her mother throw her life away upon boyfriend after boyfriend. Gage has already "done" the family thing, having acted as a guardian to his baby sister since he was twenty-five years old, so why would he want a wife or family?

The erotic tension between the two is hot from the get-go.

Business concerns and a need to protect Gage's sister lead the two announcing a fake engagement, but on a business trip to Thailand, the sun, sand, and sea make it impossible for them to keep their distance.

What I love: the crackling dialogue leaps off the pages. Maisey writes steamy sex scenes (and I like those too), but what is fantastic is the way she creates plausible backstories for her characters that both explain why they don't just jump into bed together, AND why their HEA is also a resolution of those characters' pain. She gets a tremendous amount of story into a work that's less than 200 pages; I am not sure if I am jealous or have a mad girl-crush.

Pleasure - Eric Jerome Dickey (erotica)

I so wanted to love this book. Erotica, from a male author? Thought it would be an interesting POV, but then he goes and writes it from the POV of a female character.

Okay, fine. Still on board. Surprisingly, he gets most (if not all) of the sensations right. Another set of identical twins, or as the character dubs them, identical sins.  Hot menage sex, hot F/F sex, more hot menage sex.  There was also the interesting look at black life in Atlanta among the people who've emigrated from the Caribbean: the protagonist, Nia Simone, and her mother are from Trinidad, and they still have a house there; the twins are from Barbados; one twin's wife has an islands connection.

I read this on my Kindle, and there were some crazy formatting issues.  The word "pleasure," used repeatedly, yet (almost) always spelled out as plea sure.  Was it deliberate or a formatting goof? Other words oddly split were im  port ant, Ca rib bean, and a couple others, so I am thinking it was a formatting accident, not an author affectation, but every time I hit one (every screen or three) it stopped me dead in my tracks. Kind of like it bugged Nia to have her ex keep texting her with "your <sic> always on my mind" messages.

There were repetition of phrases, like "identical sins" that were striking the first time, a nice callback the second time, still somewhat cute the third time, but with continued use, simply annoying. I hope I never see a reference to a woman's "chocolate star" again.  I did like the tie-in to Anais Nin, another sensualist on a journey of discovery, but while I have always been able to relate to Anais, I could not relate to Nia.

It was much too long (476 pages). There really wasn't a plot, or any sense that Nia, the main character, learned, changed, or grew during the course of it. She just had lots of (unsafe) sex with men (and women) who were emotionally and/or legally unavailable to be with her, not that she seemed to want a permanent partner anyway. The complication of Mark's wife Jewell, a television personality, seemed unnecessary, and what really ticked me off is there is a scene near the end, where the reader is led to believe it involves one brother, but actually involves the other, so there's a ta-da! moment.  In rereading it, it is clearly contrived; somebody's "calling out his name," so Nia, the narrator, knows who it is, but it's withheld from the reader. There's a fine line to play that kind of trick on the reader/viewer and have it still be satisfying, a la The Sixth Sense; in this case, I just felt played.

I will read more of this author's work in the future. Based on the other reviews I have read from his fans who were deeply disappointed in this offering; he has done much better than this.  It's worth a look to see how male writers imagine sex from a female POV, but if you're looking for something deep as well as sexy, this ain't it.

Giving Up the Dream - J.L. Campbell

Ms. Campbell is another writer out of the West Indies, Jamaica in this case, and I needed her to wash the taste of Plea sure out of my mouth. I have so enjoyed her short pieces in the Romantic Friday Writers group, and this was no exception, BUT  it is just a short story (29 pages, plus excerpts from other works). So if you are looking for more of her work, and the story of Justine and Xavier, you will have to give up the dollars to get Distraction.  Or read her other books Dissolution or Contraband.

Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
This book hit me very deeply; I was not expecting the theme of domestic violence. I will review in depth in October.  Note: If you have a story of domestic violence - whether you have experienced it in your family of origin, a relationship, or with a friend or co-worker - would love to have you guest post here in October. Please leave a comment or e-mail me.

Left on my TBR list from December:
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (I'm up to 72%, lol!)
Daisy Miller - Henry James
Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Giving Up the Dream - J.L. Campbell
Automagically - Sommer Marsden
Little Black Dress - Susan McBride
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Confessions of an Improper Bride - Jennifer Haymore

Added to my TBR list, already on my Kindle or bookshelf:
Pleasure - Eric Jerome Dickey
The Darkest Surrender - Gena Showalter
A Heart to Mend - Myne Whitman
The Doctor's Lady - Jody Hedlund
Dev Dreams - Ruth Madison
My Cheeky Angel - Mimi Barbour
Katie's Hellion - Lizzy Ford
The Inner Game of Stress - W. Timothy Gallwey
Romance Novel - PJ Jones
Living in Gratitude - Angeles Arrien
Bossypants - Tina Fey
Train Your Mind, Change Your Life - Sharon Begley
Water - Terra Harmony
The Cowboy's Pride - Charlene Sands
The Bird Sisters - Rebecca Rasmussen
Mercury Rising - Daisy Harris
The Brenda Diaries - Margo Candela
Hollywood Ending - Lucie Simone
Are You There, Vodka?  It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler
Devil's Kiss - Zoe Archer
Melt - Natalie Anderson
Inside Heat - Roz Lee
Beauty and the Werewolf (A Tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms)  - Mercedes Lackey
Marriage Made on Paper - Maisey Yates
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Awakening - Kate Chopin
His Strength - Kiru Taye
Just The Way You Are - Barbara Freethy
Bloodchild and Other Stories - Octavia E. Butler
Hunchback of Notre Dame - Victor Hugo
Just Like That - Margo Candela
Twelve Times Blessed - Jacqueline Mitchard
The Lantern - Deborah Lawrenson
Danger Zone - Dee J. Adams
The Possibility of You - Pamela Redmond
Daughter of Fortune - Isabel Allende
Alpha Wolf - Linda O. Johnston
Asphodel (The Underworld Trilogy) - Lauren Hammond
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Witches of East End - Melissa de la Cruz
The Comic Toolbox - John Vorhaus
A Week to  Be Wicked - Tessa Dare
The Belly Dancer - DeAnna Cameron
Caught in the Act - Jill Sorenson
Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James
Elizabeth I - Margaret George
How to Knit A Wild Bikini - Christie Ridgway
Somewhere in Time - Richard Matheson
Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton
Fired Up - Jayne Ann Krentz
Fragrance of Violets - Paula Martin
Can't Buy Me Love - Maggie Marr
Colters' Wife - Maya Banks
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
Common Sense - Thomas Paine
Lady Susan - Jane Austen

and yes, there's more I need to add here. <insert chagrined face>

The details and sign-up are at Vicky's blog, Books Biscuits and Tea.

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?  
Have you read any of the books I read?  
What did you think?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vagina Sing-Along Time

I always wanted to be a singer/songwriter. (Why let the tiny fact that I have zero voice and no musical talent get in the way?) And because my rant on Monday still hasn't worked all the angst out of my system (possibly I'm PMSing), I thought I'd try this.

I'm not much of a poet, either, though some people like my parodies.

So please, cue the music, and sing along with me:

The most powerful sound I ever heard
All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word
Some men are afraid of VAGINAS
And suddenly that name
Will never be the same
You see

All women you know have VAGINAS
We'll never be ashamed
To call them by their name
You see

Some men are afraid of VAGINAS
And suddenly we’ve found
How powerful a sound
Can be

Say it loud and there’s gavels banging

Say it soft when you’re legislating…


We’ll never stop saying

Say it loud and there’s gavels banging
Say it soft when you’re legislating…
We’ll never stop saying
The most powerful sound we ever heard

Plus, for your snacking pleasure...

Do you love saying (or singing) the word vagina? 
Written your own Vagina Monologue lately? 
Please share in the comments, below.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Shut Up & "Act Lke A Lady"? Oh, HELL No!

House Chamber, Michigan State Capitol
House Chamber, Michigan State Capitol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I really don't want to play into the stereotype of this bitchy, hairy legged woman always whining about how "men done us wrong."  I adore men.  Most men are decent, honorable, wonderful people. I love looking at men, talking with men, writing about men, and playing with men.

Some men, however, are total assclowns who are deliberately working to suppress the voices and rights of women. (There are female collaborators, as well, who work to suppress every woman's voice but her own, or those women who think "the right way.")  Some men (and women) are simply oblivious - haven't men always done all the talkin'?

Even when it comes to "women's issues," women are only "allowed" or asked to speak a small percentage of the time. 

Why is that? Aren't there plenty of intelligent, articulate, dynamic women capable of speaking on every issue, from economics to war to politics? Women form the majority of the US population - why so small a voice?

Why are the "go-to guys" always guys?

You've heard about what recently happened in Michigan, right? Recently brought to the Michigan House was a highly restrictive abortion bill, with controversial provisions such as a total ban on abortion past 20 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions made for saving the life of the mother.  From Michigan Live:
Right to Life has said the package “represents the largest collection of pro-life legislation ever addressed at one time” by Michigan lawmakers.

Planned Parenthood calls the legislation the “biggest assault on women’s health in our state’s history.”

(HEBH-5711, as passed by the Michigan House on June 13, 2012, can be read in the link. It still has to go before the Michigan Senate and the Governor to become law.)

I am pro-choice, but I think there are many points voiced by the right-to-life movement that have validity, and deserve to be heard.  I also think men's opinion should be taken into consideration as well - but they need to turn down the volume, they ain't the ones driving this bus.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," was written as a summation of Voltaire's philosophy by his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall. It has always been considered by many, many Americans as one of THE defining qualities of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

So why were two female elected officials banned from speaking on any issue, as punishment for speaking up on this one in a way of which Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas did not approve?

from the Detroit Free Press:
Brown and Byrum were doing their jobs. Jim Stamas was killing democracy. This wasn't a decision to not recognize a verbose or just plain dumb colleague.

The way he did it, was, by all accounts, a first.

 "It's never happened," legislative historian and Inside Politics editor Bill Ballenger said. "There is no precedent. There have been altercations in the House and Senate. But the idea of the controlling party, Republican or Democratic, censuring, in a sense, two of its members for speech, literally clamping down on their free-speech rights? It never happened and shouldn't happen. And, in my view, won't happen again." 

So, men can engage in "altercations" and that doesn't affect the "decorum of the House," but women had better act like ladies? from the Huffington Post:
Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), said the lawmakers were banned from speaking because of their behavior, not because of their word choice. "They behaved in a way that disrupted the decorum of the House," Adler said. "For Brown, it was not the words she used, but the way she used them that resulted in her being gaveled down." In Byrum's case, Adler said, "I hate to put it this way, but she essentially had a temper tantrum on the House floor.

Really? A "temper tantrum"? Let us see for ourselves, shall we?

So, brawling by men on the Floor = okay?  Men have never raised their voices on the Floor?  While a woman daring to raise her voice - how unseemly!

I saw Rep. Byrum fighting to be heard. I saw Rep. Brown speaking with passion and emotion, daring to use the word vagina and to proclaim that other people's interest in regulating hers (and by inference, those of other women) is unwelcome and unwanted. No does mean no, to me.  Personally, I apply "no" to everything from access to my vagina, to declining dessert or cocktails at a party. (Oh, who am I kidding? Like I ever decline dessert or a cocktail.) Still, it's the principle of the thing.

I did not "get" that Brown "used her words" in a way that "disrupted the decorum of the House."  But perhaps I simply don't understand what delicate flowers the Michigan male representatives are, so easily shocked and offended.

From The Detroit News:
"What she said was offensive," said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."
Really? Really? <facepalm>

Yet he would happily regulate, in mixed company, vaginas, uteri, embryos and fetuses.

This seems like yet another excuse to squelch women and women's voices, and lately, there have been so many of them.  It almost makes me want to stop shaving my legs.

But wait, there's more.

According to the Michigan state constitution, there are two ways of passing new laws - the normal way, in which the majority passes a law, and it comes to pass in a way that allows plenty of time for it to be debated, or even overturned.

Then there's the fast track, aka "immediate effect." The fast track allows laws to be implemented right away, no waiting period, but does require requires more than 2/3 majority to vote yes. In the Michigan House, there are 110 members, so if even 38 people vote no, the new law can only be implemented via the "normal route."  (At least according to my understanding of the law.)

In the Michigan House there are currently 63 Republicans and 47 Democrats. Sometimes Democrats do vote with the Republicans, and vice versa. On other votes, however, the Dems insist they all voted as a bloc - 47 No's, and yet, the bill was recorded as "immediate effect," as if there were 73 in favor.

That's just not possible.

Maybe that's partly what Brown meant when she said No Means No.

Please watch the clip, below, and note how fast Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas can (supposedly) count 73 heads. (At about 1:58.)

Can anyone claim that Stamas took an honest-to-goodness head count there?

It appears they have already predetermined what they are going to do in Michigan, in some back room where they don't have to worry about saying the word vagina or other "offensive" words, because it's a small cluster of good ol' boys.  The whole concept of debate and voting and representatives who speak for their constituents has become a dog-and-pony show, one to be dispensed with whenever the Powers-That-Be feel bored or embarrassed.

Why not deny Byrum or Brown their illusory rights to be heard? Trying to add and discuss an amendment to require the same restrictions on providers of male genital surgery as for abortion, really? Airing the word vagina out in public - who the hell do these uppity women think they are? They should be ashamed!

It looks to me like a coup d'etat has occurred in Michigan, and the rest of America, heck, even most of Michigan, hasn't even noticed till recently.

I wouldn't be surprised if one of the next fast-track bills in Michigan is one to make it illegal to record, photograph, or publish an account of the votes being pretend-counted in its House or Senate.

Now maybe you're thinking, gee, I'm really glad I don't live in Michigan (I know I am). Well, we are the United States; what happens in Michigan or Mississippi does matter.

I for one am not ready to give up on my country. 

Yes, the US has been far from perfect, even from its founding. Native Americans deprived of their land and heritage; Africans enslaved, women treated as property; foreign countries invaded on made-up premises; the list can (and does) go on and on. But our ideals are still good, and for all her faults and flaws, I think there is still hope we can get closer to those shining ideals of how people can have a working government that represents people - not corporations or only the rich. (Or only men).

 ...of the people, by the people, for the people.

 Aren't women people, too? I believe as women we've become complacent. We've had some rights, including abortion rights, for a few decades now. As far as media coverage and political presence - sure, we're underrepresented, but...  Our ladylike attitude seems to be, well, at least we don't have to eat in the kitchen anymore. At least we have a seat in the dining room (even if it's at the kiddie table). We are pitifully grateful if we are not beaten as much, denigrated as much, or as disregarded as much as we used to be. We seem to think, if we continue to grovel and apologize for those angry feminists, over there, that we will eventually get invited to sit at the grown-up table.

As women, we need to speak out, act out, and above all, educate ourselves and VOTE, or we are going to lose all those hard-fought rights.  The kind of men who oppose women's rights are not going to change their minds because we act "nice" or "ladylike."

And if some guy whimpers that women have acted bitchy, or angry, or that we use words we should not "in mixed company," I'm going to smile and say, "VAGINA. VAGINA. VAGINA."

What's your take on what's going on in Michigan?
Did you think either representative was deserving of censorship?
How fast can you count to 73?
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Being the Perfect Ex - Spider-Killing Not Included

What qualities do you think a perfect ex possesses? Physical? Mental? Emotional? Financial?

This original short piece (400 WOL) is written for the prompt of "Being the Perfect Ex" by the Romantic Friday Writers blog group. Please visit here for more great story snippets on this theme.

Here now my piece: Spider-Killing Not Included.

“Steely jaw, high cheekbones, and killer abs,” Veronica said.

Everyone in our Monthly Martini Monday group knew the closest Veronica had gotten to killer abs was Pinning Joe Manganiello to her Hotties and Heartthrobs board.

via Wikimedia
In the interests of not getting my a$$ sued off for money I
don't have, am substituting a face shot for an abs shot.
You'll just have to imagine 'em.
Rita almost spewed Appletini all over the table, “Girl, you smokin’ crack? I don’t want my ex to look hot. I want him scarfin’ Cheetos and blowin’ up like a freakin’ Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade balloon. I want that loser cryin’ at home, watchin’ porn and hatin’ himself for losin’ me.”

Veronica sipped something that just happened to be the color of blood, “Oh, I want him to hate himself over losing me.”

Everybody passed her drink to the right, took a sip of the new drink.

She continued, “The Perfect Ex works out at the gym constantly to win me back. I want him to obsess about me. I want him to wake up in the night and ache, wonder what - or who - I’m doing now. To know that all I have to do is reach out my hand,” she gestured with an impressive salon manicure, “and he’s mine, again.”

“Vindictive little bitch, ain’t we?” Rita teased.

Veronica pretended offense, “Who you calling little?”

Donna, late again, slid into the booth.

“The subject’s ‘Being the Perfect Ex,” I told her.

She ordered a Mangotini, then jumped in,“The Spider Contract. No matter what, even if you’ve been split for years, he has to be on call to come kill spiders.”  

My ex wouldn’t kill spiders for me, and he wasn’t eating himself into a new zip code. Abe had a life, not pining away for me like a loser. Thinning hair, reading glasses, and he certainly didn’t boast Joe Manganiello abs. (Really, besides Joe, who did?)

But his mouth was as hot as ever, he knew exactly how to touch and caress and make me come, over and over and over again. I felt a frisson of pleasure run through me at the memory, less than 24 hours old. Held my swollen lips to the Lemon Drop, letting the icy rim of the glass ease the delicious pain of being kissed half out of my mind.

via Hungry Girl's Healthy Cocktail Makeovers

Abe was willing to be anything I wanted, from booty call to steady lover. Pretty perfect ex in my book.

“Denise, you’re wearing a very wicked smile,” Rita commented.

“Ladies, I have a confession to make...”


  Some writers are very sensitive to criticism, hence this guideline.

Word Count: 397 FCA

While I like to think I am a sensitive writer-type, I'm not ultra-sensitive about these kinds of short shorties. I write them to learn and stretch my writer-muscles. Even if you tell me you HATED every single word of it, I will not be crushed and never write again (though I may ease the sting with a martini).

Please do share, not just what you liked, but what didn't work for you. What there wasn't enough of. What rang untrue. If this inspired you to call an AA sponsor for me. If I kissed up enough to our RFW moderators.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Drunken Unedited Birthday Thoughts.

Last weekend was my birthday, and people do tend to show their love on your birthday. (even if they ignore you the rest of the year).

Okay, that was totally unfair snark. I am actually blessed to have a number of awesome peeps who consistently demonstrate their love to me, THROUGHOUT the year, birthday or no.

The second thing you need to know is, the title is a lie. I am going to go through here, and at least attempt to clean up the typos.


Second, Third, there is a reason they call it Liquid Courage. My ability to share my uncensored thoughts has gone up in direct correlation to the amount of 150 Proof West Indies Rum I have added to my Mai Tai's. Whereas, oddly enough (though perhaps you will not find it odd), the number of typos increased.

Also, the amount of shit you drop onto the counters and floors increases.  You might set as a rule of thumb not to handle your grandma's china and archaeological artifacts during this time, and restrict yourself to handling things like pillows, wet towels, penii, and perhaps a packet of crackers. (Though those do make a mess, too. Just sayin'.)

Fourthly (is that a word? It is now) I came to realize, this year, that for decades I have been handling the whole birthday thing ALL WRONG. Trying to avoid any mention of it, go on with life as through it wasn't my birthday... Why not milk this baby for all I it's worth? After all, it's not like I'm still 30 21 five years old.

So, this year, for my birthday, I:
  • Spent a sizeable portion of the day on a chaise lounge in the sun chippin' away at my read of Les Misérables.
  • Made sure to officially "Like" everyone who wished me a happy birthday on FaceBook.
  • Worked on my current WIP. Actually wrote substantial number (for me) of pages!
  • Kept the Mai Tai's and wine and margaritas flowing. And yet, due to superior judgment of my alcohol tolerance level (or, possibly, pure dumb luck), am not yet worshiping the Porcelain Goddess. Can I get a woot-woot?
  • Did some laundry. (Might be my birthday, but dirty undies wait for no man - or woman.)
  • Dreamt/middle of the night texted an old b-f. Results: highly satisfactory.
  • Cursed my Kindle for only giving me only 60% of Roni Loren's Still Into You before gagging, but at least retained the wit to recognize prob would be better dealt with when not Under the Influence of 150% rum.
  • Texted and FaceBooked all the peeps I have been neglecting for months with an "I love you, man," kind of message (see 150 Proof Rum). Feeling smug satisfaction they will all appreciate my current (drunken) level of sentimentality.
  • Chocolate. Oh hell yeah.
  • Endlessly replayed the same few albums on iPod as this seemed much easier than selecting something new. Plus, due to strange (150 Proof rum) factors, music all seems SO much more profound than usual. Alan Parsons Project, Peter Matuchniak, and Gekko Project.

  • Pondered the unfairness of a universe in which I could fall asleep on a chaise lounge in the sun on Saturday, and my pasty-white, unsunblocked legs, would pick up no additional color whatsoever, while my shoulders and back got sunburned. I mean, WTF?
  • Totally bailed on meetings I "should" have attended in order to relax in drunken debauchery of a day devoted to writing and "whatever."
  • Enjoyed an extended birthday celeb at my day job, as I requested my cake (Marie Callender, chocolate cheesecake slice o' heaven!) & crap to be pushed back to Monday.

Btw, if anyone is looking for gift ideas for my next birthday... this would be fine. In fact, you don't have to wrap it at all; I know how tricky it is to wrap odd-sized packages. I would be happy to take this one even if it came divested of any wrappings whatsoever. I'm flexible like that.

via Wikimedia

In fact, it doesn't even need to be my birthday.  Any ol' time you've got one of these hanging around, and you're wondering, "Gee, I wish I knew what to do with this ol' extra George Clooney of mine," you can dump it on me.

What kind of things are de rigeur for your own birthday celebrations?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Transit My Face, Venus

Diagram showing how transits of Venus occur an...
Diagram showing how transits of Venus occur and why they don't occur frequently. Drawn by User:Theresa Knott; License see: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Because I rarely turn on the TV, I totally missed the buzz about the transit of Venus until it was already transiting. D'oh!

So after work I'm planted in my reading chair, watching the coverage of the people watching the Transit from the Griffith Park Observatory, only a few miles away. Feeling very sorry for myself.

I live in an apartment that technically faces west, but is only a few dozen feet from an even taller condo. That's the way my entire street is, one 2-3 story apartment building, a narrow space, then another, and another... Basically I figure we live much like the canyon people of the Southwest. The soft susurration of cars passing up the street that echoes through the courtyards isn't too dissimilar to the sound of a mountain stream. The odors of whatever my neighbors are barbecuing waft through my open windows; sometimes temptingly, sometimes not. The ancient people had coyotes howling at the moon, we have the neighbor's yapping Pekinese that won't shut the cuff up at night.  Same difference.

I am grateful, however, that unlike the original canyon peeps, I have indoor plumbing and cable.

Between the tall condo to the west and some shady trees, sometimes my apartment just doesn't get that much afternoon sun. Plus it was (unusual for SoCal) kind of cloudy that day anyway. I told myself that even if I had known about the Transit and headed straight to the Observatory after work, I never would have gotten a parking spot, couldn't afford the super-duper special sunshades, and prolly wouldn't have seen anything anyway, because of the clouds. Sour grapes, I know.

I'm still sitting there, thinking I should move into my office and do some actual writing, instead of sitting there being unproductive, but I'm too comfortable and lazy to move.

So then, Venus and the sun decided to say, fine, you won't come to us, we'll come to YOU. The clouds parted, the wind stirred the tree to the west, and the sun shone straight onto my face where I sat in my big overstuffed chair. I didn't even have to shift my fat ass. How awesome is that?

Of course, even though I had just listened to three differently newscasters explain why you shouldn't look straight at the sun with unprotected eyes, I instinctively turned my head and looked at it anyway, just for a second. Luckily, the tree's leaves provided some screening, and it was only for a second before I realized I was being a super-idiot. I sm hrdly seeeing thaty bigg bluue dot n frnt of my facce at alll anymoree. NNNo dammmage too myy viision, guesss i gottt luuucky.

I am still super-pumped. I got to see (well, mostly, feel) the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. I got to breathe in air warmed by the heat of the sun mixed up with some magic Venus juice.

Surely that gives me some kind of super-power, right? Much better than being bit by a radioactive spider or injected with some mystery formula in a lab, all I had to sacrifice was my eyesight.

Sadly, though I have searched and searched, I have not discovered any legends or myths about the transit of Venus granting anyone special magical powers, though I did come across a Souza march for the Transit of Venus (which, as Patrick Weidinger pointed out, sounds pretty much like every other Souza march).

Still. In a way, not finding an actual legend is even better, because now I can make up whatever I want.

Oh, not for me, but for one of my characters.  Surely I can work the whole intensified Venus-shine thing into whatever I want. A blessing, a curse, maybe she now has the power of the goddess Venus to attract any man she wants...? Or just to eat vast amounts of chocolate without gaining weight.

Or maybe it is the first part in some mystical cosmic trifecta - next she has to stand in a moonless night and see her own shadow cast by Jupiter. Then if she swims in Crater Lake, she will... I dunno. Glow in the dark? Be able to breathe in the vacuum of space? Regrow a severed limb?

Still working this stuff out.

What do you think? Did you see the Transit of Venus, with your own two (hopefully still functional) eyeballs? What magical powers do you think it could have given you - me - a fictional character?

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Monday, June 4, 2012

At Least I Didn't Get Arrested

World Book Night
World Book Night (Photo credit: danbruell)
My plan: I was going to go to this wonderful site I picked and put up the wonderful signs I made and hand out the wonderful free book I picked for World Book Night, and enter into some wonderful discussions with people about reading and about my book o' choice.

It was going to be... wait for it... wonderful.
See, from the moment I heard about World Book Night, I wanted to be involved. Somebody would give me 20 free books, that I would take out into the public, proselytizing the Joy of Reading, while others throughout the US, UK, and Ireland were doing the same thing, on the same night?

It would be like the good ol' days when I lived in a religious cult. (True story. Someday I will share.) Despite years of near starvation, sleep deprivation, dubious theology, and attempted male asshattery, many good things did come from my time in a religious cult. I learned:
  • I was not the only shy person who loathed the idea of going out in public and approaching strangers with a Message. 
  • Despite my fears, I could do it anyway. I could even do it well.
  • People I approached were generally as much or more scared of me than I was of them.
  • Smiles are always a good thing.
  • Rejection is survivable. 
  • There's no going home until you've passed out all your tracts, er, books.
  • Security personnel headed in your direction never bodes well.

Preparation: I signed up, way ahead of time, and secured my book of choice, The Hunger Games. Wonderful! I figured as close as it was to the movie being released, it would be an easier job to interest light or non-readers in a book with a movie tie-in. (I'm altruistic, but no longer masochistic.)

I made some cute little posters to put up.

I dressed in comfortable but not sloppy clothes, and donned my Book Giver Pin.  Decided my nifty bottlecap earrings would be the closest thing to coordinating with the World Book Night moon theme.

Loaded my posters, some masking tape to put them up, my WBN box (20 books are surprisingly heavy, FYI), and my neatly groomed and decorated self into the car, heading for my location of choice. Parked in the lot, stashed my purse in the trunk, and headed for the entrance of the North Hollywood (California) Metro Station.

SoCal isn't as well-connected via public transportation as it could (should) be, but we do have our hotspots, and North Hollywood is one of them. Each Metro station has individual, unique artwork and themes. NoHo's is Kaleidoscope Dreams.

There are even Metro station tours you can take, with special attention to the art. NoHo itself is very strong on encouraging The Arts - visual, music, theatre. I've been there for plays, poetry readings, indie music performances, art gallery shows... Perfect place for a little love of literacy, right?

So anyway, I dig the NoHo Arts District in general, and thought the Metro Station would be a yes,  wonderful place to give away my World Book Night books. People commuting to work via train would be delighted to get something to read, right?

Took the escalator down, and began taping up my signs to let people know what was up. Guy came over to help me.

At first I felt a little nervous, he seemed a little... strange, but he was polite, enthusiastic about the importance of books though he confessed he hadn't read anything in a while, wanted a copy of The Hunger Games, helped me tape up the signs which did not want to stick.

Then he began explaining about how he had the cure to cancer and AIDS, only nobody would believe him. "You know, of course, that the government really doesn't want a cure for AIDS..."


Nice & Deluded departed after a few minutes, a good thing as he was scaring away my regular customers. Most of whom looked at me like I had two heads. One was happy to take a book after she found out it wasn't a Bible, lol! (Good thing she hadn't met my earlier self.)

My joy did not last long. As I was struggling to get my signs to stay up, I became aware of a snotty female voice announcing over the crappy PA system, "You there, in the lobby. <crackle crackle feedback> You are not allowed to post any signs without the written consent of the Los Angeles Metro system."

I felt humiliated, like I was caught passing notes in class. H'okay, fine. Silly things didn't want to stay up, anyway. So I took down the smaller signs, and leaned the bigger one against the post. Continued offering books to the people headed to the trains, or coming from it, had given out about 8-10 or so, when Ms. Bitchy Attitude starts scolding me over the PA again, "Unless you <crackle hiss crackle> Los Angeles Metro <crackle pop> vacate the premises immediately. <crackle feedback crackle> private property trespassing <crackle> subject to arrest."

108/365 - World Book Night
108/365 - World Book Night (Photo credit: danbruell)
Chagrined and embarrassed - how was it that with all my preparation and planning, it never even crossed my mind that I would need a permit to give away free books at the subway station? I glanced up as I was gathering my box o'books, posters & masking tape, and two tall security guards stood on either side, ready to escort me out, lest my free books and I make further trouble.

Am I the only one who experiences serious heart palpitations and anxiety when surrounded by uniforms when caught doing something "wrong"?

(Actually, the guys were quite nice. Carried my posters. Asked a lot of questions about World Book Night and what I was doing, were quite apologetic about having to make sure I left the premises. They also showed me where I could stand, topside, so I could still give out books without officially being on Metro property.)

Even topside, it didn't take much longer to find takers for the rest of the books, though now I had to compete with a dreadlocked guy handing out brochures about Inner Peace. I just staked out a small portion of the area and prayed Ms. Bitchy wouldn't sicc the topside security guards on me if I accidentally stepped over the line.

North Hollywood is the northern terminus of th...
North Hollywood is the northern terminus of the Red Line in the San Fernando Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I did find takers for all my books, in a fairly short period of time. In retrospect, the location wasn't as wonderful as I thought it would be, both because of the whole trespassing-possible arrest thing, and because people coming and going were mostly in a hurry. Going into the station, they were headed to shows or night shifts; coming out they were mostly flogged after a long day of work. So I didn't get into the "books are wonderful" conversations I'd hoped to find, not much more than 2-3 minutes spent with each person to see if they were a light rather than avid reader, before they wanted to jet off.

The ideal place to approach people would have been on the subway platform itself, or perhaps on an actual train. Which I will consider, for next year (once I research the permit thing).

Aftermath: I do, definitely want to do this again, and think I'll be better prepared for World Book Night next year. I will never love approaching strangers, even in an excellent cause; I'm still more a shy bookworm at heart. And I don't ever want to see guys in uniform approaching me again, unless they're carrying a boombox and strutting their stuff.

But it could've been worse. At least I didn't get arrested.

Sign up here for the World Book Night Mailing List and you too can get in on the fun, in 2013.
(Or at least let me know if you'd be willing to bail me out.)
Your thoughts?

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Demons and Blood and Hotness, Oh My!
Christine Ashworth & Demon Hunt Cover Reveal

Does anybody else have the same gut reaction as me?
Angels = Good
Demons = Bad
Am I right?

So why would I want to read about demons? Never been a big monster fan here (though I did love Monsters, Inc.).

Then I read this by author Christine Ashworth, explaining why "I Love My Demons":
WikiPedia (that source of all maybe-not-entirely-accurate information) says this about demons:

“Demon or Daemon, Diamon, from Ancient Greek, is a supernatural being from various religions, occultisms, literatures and folklores that is described as something that is not human and, in ordinary (almost universal) usage, malevolent.  The original neutral Greek word “daimon” does not carry the negative connotation initially understood by implementation of the Koine (Hellenic and New Testament Greek)…(I’m cutting a lot of stuff here)…originally intended to denote a spirit or spiritual being.”  (Bolding is mine.)

To me, when I first read a variation of that a couple of years ago, it meant freedom to create. My demons didn’t have to be tied into any one religion or way of thinking; demons weren’t tied to the Devil, they didn’t have to be bad, and while some demons were considered to be Fallen Angels, they didn’t have to have wings unless I wanted them to.

What that all means is, you can make your demon good or bad or, like most of human kind, a bit of both. They can be tied to the devil and a religious Hell, or they can be tied to the Greek Gods, or they could live independently of man and man’s religion (like they do in my world) on their own plane called Chaos – which exists in a slightly different dimension from our own world. (And of course, the Chaos Plane is called that by the Fae and the Humans, not the demons themselves.)
So, now finding the idea of a daemon intriguing and kind of hot, rather than scary, I picked up a copy of Demon Soul - and loved it, as you can tell by my GoodReads review. (If you can't stand sexy men, killer sexual tension, and action that never stops, better avoid this book.) I've been impatiently waiting for another book by Christine Ashworth in this paranormal Universe, and it's out! Today today today !!

It's December, and Los Angeles is in the grip of a serial killer – or so P.I. Gregor Caine would like to believe. But the moon grows fat as it builds toward the Winter Solstice and a rare eclipse. An old woman searching for a friend gone missing believes danger is coming, and the Blood Dreams that keep interrupting Gregor's sleep portend a swarm of demonic activity.

After summer's setback, Kendall Sorbis is finally getting started on his Revenge Life List. First up, open a portal to the Chaos Plane. Second, invite the Caines to come and play...

The only bad thing, this one's (only) a novella. Think of it as a delicious  appetizer, tiding us over until Demon Hunt comes out in a few months.

And Christine was sweet enough to give me an exclusive cover reveal here for the next full-length novel. (Squeeing like little girl - so flattered and honored - it's not often that an author you admire gives you an exclusive.)

Demon Hunt
Tribred Gregor Caine decided long ago to deny his blood legacy. So he isn’t happy when paired with a full-blooded Fae to hunt the demons threatening to overrun Los Angeles. As they fight side by side, he finds she calls to both his Fae and his demon blood; a call he can’t resist.

Warrior Fae Serra Willows crossed into the Human Plane to help destroy the demons released from the Chaos Plane. Finding and shutting down the portal between worlds is more challenging than she expected...and Gregor and his world more seductive than she had ever imagined.

As the killings escalate, Gregor and Serra realize one of the most deadly demons from the Chaos Plane has marked Serra as his own. To save her, Gregor has to face his greatest fear—losing his humanity to the darkness in his blood. But in a race against time, that darkness could become his greatest strength. And he will kill to claim Serra’s love.
I'm not a big fan of suspense/action novels. Nor of paranormals. And yet, the writing is so brilliant and the characters so compelling, I'm on the verge of being converted.

Even if I'm still scared of "regular" demons.

Christine Ashworth is a native of Southern California. The daughter of a writer and a psych major, she fell asleep to the sound of her father's Royal manual typewriter for years. In a very real way, being a writer is in her blood - her father, Chet Cunningham, sold his first novel before he turned forty and has over 300 novels to his credit. Christine’s brother, Scott Cunningham, sold his first book before he turned twenty-five.

At the tender age of seventeen, Christine fell in love with a man she met while dancing with the California Ballet Company. She married the brilliant actor/dancer/painter/music man, and they now have two tall and exotic sons who are as intelligent as their parents, thus ensuring lively dinner conversation.

Christine's two dogs rule the outside, defending her vegetable garden from the squirrels, while a polydactyl rescue cat holds court inside the house. Everything else is in a state of flux.

Demon Soul is Book 1 of the Caine Brothers Series and is now available in trade paperback format, as well as in Kindle, Nook, and Kobo formats. Book 2, Demon Hunt, will be available summer 2012 from and in all the above formats.

Christine says: My website, Wicked…With a Side of Saucy at is where I talk about wine, and books, and other things that catch my attention. I’d love to see you there. Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Questions, comments, breathless admiration?
I hear that Christine may drop back to answer questions - 
if Gregor and the sexy Caine tribreds allow her to.

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