Monday, November 30, 2015

How To Repair A Broken Tiara

1) Assemble pieces, put on granny glasses, plug in soldering iron.
2) Grab soldering iron off kitchen towel just before kitchen towel ignites.
3) Note to self: Next time, use handle to grab soldering iron. Next time, no soldering iron.
4) Apply ice to burned fingertips.
5) Unplug soldering iron and get out gorilla glue.

6) Apply gorilla glue to broken ends of tiara. Attempt to hold in place.
7) Realize glue is not sticking to anything but burned fingertips.

8) Many swears while looking for runaway cap for gorilla glue.
9) Decide tiara looks fucking awesome, just as it is.
10) Raise glass of champagne to toast and celebrate the broken, imperfect, but still gorgeous things.

Despite burned fingertips and several project failures, including trying to adjust the font on this post, I had fun last weekend. And I got some writing done.

How was your weekend?
Got a good project failure story?

Monday, November 2, 2015

I've Been AWOL #cancer #momswithcancer

I am now 2/3 of the way through my breast cancer journey.

Surgery, done!
Radiation, done!

Yay, me!

Tamoxifen... coming right up. It may seem awful that I am more concerned about the potential side affects on my sex life, than on the stuff about blood clots and stroke, but honestly, yes I am.

My medical oncologist said I could take it whenever I felt recovered enough from radiation, which ended a month ago. And I did experience ongoing tiredness longer than I thought I would, undoubtedly exacerbated by another super busy fall at the day job, plus grief. For my brother in love, for my boss who passed in August (his birthday was yesterday, ouch!, and the deathversary on October 22 of my dear friend Sidney Patrick.

So, as this posts, I'm taking it, today.

I have occasionally thought about blogging, these past few months, but could not summon the physical or emotional energy, and decided, you know what, that's okay. It's all part of the journey, which I am, well, journaling.  (I'm hoping to turn my stories into an actual book, because it's not everyone who fights breast cancer with sex positivity, Bondage Classes, and Orgasmic Magic. Not to mention figuring out that the radiation machine sounded like a coffee grinder trying to mate with an adding machine.)

Overall, although sometimes I am a little tired, or a little sad, I am happy, and joyous, and feel well.

I am blessed to be surrounded by so many loving and supportive friends, and to have so much good news coming my way. I'm also getting to hear about the cancer journey others are taking, which makes my Cancer Lite seem like a day at the spa.

While I am fretting that Tamoxifen might dry up my vajayjay, oh, dear, I might have to use lube! #firstworldproblems, another friend had cervical cancer. Her treatment closed her up, permanently. and she lost her breasts at the same time, because, BRCA1. (She's got a dynamite-looking pair of reconstructed breasts, though, and a hot young boyfriend.)

And while I miss my boss, I'm pretty sure that his wife, who's on her own breast cancer journey, still in chemotherapy, probably misses him more than I can begin to imagine.

Another friend has been hospitalized for issues with her chemotherapy, but battles on with courage and good humor, with her radiation to begin in the new year.

And then there's bright, beautiful Augusta Fleming. Augusta and I have not yet met in person; she's in Tennessee, and I'm in California. We met in a FaceBook support group for people who've experienced pregnancy/stillbirth/miscarriage loss, me of my almost-grandbaby, hers of an angel baby.

She's gorgeous on the outside, but she has an even lovelier spirit, warm and funny and generous. I was so delighted for her that she had two "rainbow babies," girls now aged one and three.

And this summer, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Below is a picture she shared on FaceBook, of the last latch-on of her younger daughter. Augusta had to wean her cold-turkey at eight months, because the radiation in the diagnostic scans she had to take would have poisoned the baby.

*I* think this photo is lovely and poignant, but you will or will not be surprised to hear that some uptight troll reported this picture as obscene and FaceBook removed it.

I. Can't. Even.

So many of you have been so supportive of me. I'd like to pay it forward, and ask, if your funds allow, please consider donating to Augusta's fund, because diapers, food, gas, and out of pocket medical... I have been chipping in what I can; her husband has been working as much as possible. But with her spending an entire month in the hospital this summer, and no end of treatment in sight, it has been rough for them financially, as well as horrific, emotionally.

I will continue to gratefully accept healing vibes, prayers, rituals, good thoughts, and anything else you care to send me. I "get" that we all have many important places our money could go, but if you can spare anything, I know Augusta's family could truly use it.

Or if you don't have funds, consider simply sending Augusta a message of healing and hope.  Hug your own babies, or grandbabies, or nephews and nieces and consider what a blessing it is that we have our health (mostly), and wonderful people we love in this crazy world.

Be kind. The next time some jerk cuts you off in traffic, consider the possibility that they may be rushing to the bedside of a very sick loved one. If you have a surly teenager in your classroom, consider that she may be in trouble, rather than a troublemaker.

Sending love and blessing to you - and if you can, leave a comment and let me know what you are doing in your life, these days, I have missed interacting with you all.

Your thoughts?

Monday, October 5, 2015

#AmberRoseSlutWalk2015 vs. #SlutWalkLA2011

So, I finished radiation (yay! more on that in a future post), and my first big foray into the world was to attend the 2015 AmberRoseSlutWalk.

So, what is SlutWalk? From Wikipedia:
SlutWalk is a transnational movement[1] of protest marches which began on April 3, 2011,[2] in TorontoOntario, with subsequent rallies occurring globally.[3] Participants protest against explaining or excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman's appearance,[4] and call for an end to rape culture.[5] The rallies began after a Toronto Police officer suggested that "women should avoid dressing like sluts"[6][7] as a precaution against sexual assault.
The protest takes the form of a march, mainly by young women, where some dress as "sluts" in revealing, sexy attire such as short skirts, stockings and scanty tops. In the various Slutwalks around the world, there are usually speaker meetings and workshops, live music, sign-making sessions, leafleting, open microphones, chanting, dances, martial arts, and receptions or after-parties with refreshments.[1][8] In many of the rallies and online, women speak publicly for the first time about their identity as rape survivors.[9][10] The movement's ideology has been questioned and its methodology criticized.[11][12

Every SlutWalk, in every city has had its critics, from the very first one in Toronto, and this one is no exception. My full post on the first LA Slutwalk is here.

So, who is Amber Rose, and how/why did she get to take over SlutWalk, or at least, SlutWalk Los Angeles?

Amber Rose is a lovely young model and fashion designer and mother, who has also been a stripper, and involved with and married to several famous rappers, as well as releasing her own music. She's releasing her own clothing line, and one criticism of her is that she took over the SlutWalk brand for her own self-promotion.

My take? That may be partly true.  And if so, so what?

The reality is, few (if any) other volunteers were picking up the ball and running with it. SlutWalk the movement-slash-brand, seemed to be dying on the vine - I certainly wasn't devoting my life to it. Social movements do morph and change, as people join, become more active, become less active... It's the nature of the beast. And none of them, ever, are perfect incarnations of the ideals expressed.

The differences between SlutWalk, LA, 2011, and the AmberRoseSlutWalk, LA, 2015?

Mo Money, Mo People, Mo Everything

SlutWalk LA 2011 contained a few hundred lovely protesters, in a small West Hollywood park. AmberRoseSlutWalk LA 2015 had thousands, in Pershing Square, downtown Los Angeles. Major stage, sound system, pre-printed signs and many booths for vendors, food trucks.

Though there were still many wonderful handmade signs.

Not Just a Bunch of Old White Feminists

The organizers of the original SlutWalk, in Toronto, were two white college women, Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis. Not that there is anything wrong with being white; to quote Lady Gaga, I was Born That Way, but although all women suffer from slut shaming, it is women of color, sex workers, and transpeople, who suffer the most. Because Los Angeles is a diverse city, Slutwalk LA 2011 contained men and women of many skin tones, but in all honesty? Probably over 50% white folks.

This SlutWalk was dominated by women of color. The panelists, dancers, performers, and crowd were predominantly people of color.

And that was awesome.

There were plenty of male allies there. And women and men who are older of my generation, too. But mostly, it was a young crowd.

When white people did speak, like SlutWalk co-founder Heather Jarvis, and actor Matt McGorry, they spoke about white privilege, and how people of color have been disproportionally affected by rape and slut shaming. Yes, rape and slut shaming hurts everyone. But I have never been assumed to be a slut simply because of the color of my skin.

People in Transition Were Not Pushed to the Back of the Bus

I have to confess, it isn't until recent years I gave much thought to transpeople. And while I still have so much to learn, I have been lucky enough to become friends with a few, who have kindly overlooked my ignorance and insensitive verbal blunders. I am coming to better understand the pain, struggle, and body dysphoria they live with, every single day. The fact that, Caitlyn Jenner notwithstanding, transpeople are much more likely to be attacked, sexually assaulted, even killed, just for being who they are, or trying to present, on the outside, what they feel like on the inside.

I know there were a few transpeople at Slutwalk LA 2011. I have no idea how many were present at AmberRoseSlutwalk 2015, because I am learning to not look for signs that someone is "trying to pass." If someone is presenting as a woman, I will treat her as a woman, and if someone is presenting as a man, I will treat him as a man, and if someone is presenting in an androgynous way, I will treat them like any other human being. I loved that every speaker talked about the slut shaming and danger our transgender brothers and sisters endure.

The Emphasis Was On Sexual Freedom, Not Rape

When it comes to rape myths, that battle is already won, or almost won, at least in SoCal. As I walked around downtown LA with my "No Shaming This Slut" Slutwalk sign, people asked about it, and everyone nodded their heads in agreement, that of course no one deserves to be raped because of what they are wearing. (There may be a few troglodytes who still feel differently, but they are also the tinfoil hat kind who believe we faked the Moon landing, so, whatevs.)

There seemed to be a shift in emphasis, in that more and more people are adopting the philosophy espoused by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy in The Ethical Slut, that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.

This message deeply resonates with me, and did long before I joined the fabulous organization Sex Positive World, Los Angeles chapter.

SPW's awesome founder Gabriella Cordova wears the message on her sleeve sexy ass.

More than a few of the SPLA members there to represent.

And while Amber Rose might not (yet) be a member of our happy tribe, she sends the same message. Consensual Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.

In fact, we should be proud of owning our sexuality. Whether we choose to be celibate, monogamous, swingers, sex workers, or polyamorous or a combindation, we choose. Whether we choose to wear burquas or bikinis or bare-breasted, we choose.

That's a message that hasn't changed, from 2011 to 2015.

Have you ever participated in a SlutWalk or this one?
Your thoughts?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Time for Class! Bondage, Business, or Both?

Sorry for the long absence, but I've been all tied up.


Besides the day job and lotsa doctor appointments to deal with the cancer thing (more on that, below), I've been taking workshops and attending events. Bondage and Meditation. Yes, it's a thing.

Thanks to the magical Michael for being my partner this week, to awesome Alexandra the week before,
and to terrific Tim and amazing Aaron the week before that.

And all props to Orpheus and Indigo Black, Nina, and the other workshop facilitators
Yes, the word "loose" instead of "lose" bothered me at first. But it's actually just as appropriate,
because when you are bound physically , you are also loosened, mentally, emotionally.

It has been a sensual, peaceful, wonderful way to connect with my body and spirit in a healthy, joyful way. I highly recommend it.

Also, it can make for terrific foreplay, if you learn the ropes and have a lover who is willing to play that way. [insert happy smile here]

But besides that workshop, I've also been busy preparing to give one of my own, through LARA (Los Angeles Romance Authors).  Here's the deets:

 August 2015:  The Business of Writing 101

Beverly DiehlregisterINSTRUCTOR:  Beverly Diehl
DATES:  August 3 – 19 (2.5 weeks)
COST: $30
LARA member cost: $20
CLASS DESCRIPTION:  Most writers would rather enjoy a root canal than talk about business. And yet, sometimes both are necessary (and with a little laughing gas, both can be made less painful).
In this six-part, two & a half week online workshop, participants will learn the essentials of running their writing business successfully:
  • A Douchebag By Any Other Name (why/how to choose a pen name)
  • To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate (overview of different organization structures & the pros & cons of each)
  • Poindexter, Your New BFF (Accountants – what they do that writers need, how to choose one)
  • Avoiding the Death of a Thousand Paper Cuts (What forms need to be filed)
  • Separate Ways (Basic principles of business record-keeping)
  • It’s Never As Easy As It Looks On TV (How to choose an accounting software package)
  • And more!

I'd love it if your schedule permits you to join the rest of the participants for this workshop. You know me - there will be mancandy.

Another thing starting on August 3 is my first radiation session. Six weeks, five days a week, three minutes of being zapped. I cannot honestly say I am looking forward to starting radiation, except in the sense that the sooner I start it, the sooner I will be done with it.

But six weeks goes fast, I'm as prepared as I can be, I'm very grateful to be one of the lucky people who does not need chemo. I have a generous supply of boob cream to get me through any skin discomfort, plus medicinal marijuana product to get me through any anxiety.

As electrifying career coach Shelley Mazer of Step Into The Possibilities told me and the Los Angeles Romance Authors at a recent presentation, "It's good. It's all good."

Here's hoping it's all good with you as well.

Your thoughts, or questions?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Choosing to Dream with Jennifer Senhaji

I've needed to do a writerly 10-Question interviews in a while. Here now is lab experiment brave volunteer, author Jennifer Senhaji stepping to the screen.

1) You published Sweet Dreams in July 2014, a story in Unwrapping Love in December 2014, the novella Sea Breeze in May 2015, and you have the sequel to Sweet Dreams, Choosing to Dream, coming out this month. You also have a full time job, a husband, and children. Do you sleep? Can you unpack for us how you make it work, writing with all those other major demands competing for your time? 

Honestly, I am constantly sleep deprived. I do sleep, but am hard pressed to get more than six hours a night, and I love sleep. My body really needs at least eight hours. My husband works nights, so I get most of my writing done at night while he’s at work. It’s hard. Time is something that I am always battling. But when you are passionate about something, you have to pick and choose what you want to spend your time doing. I’ve pretty much given up TV. It’s always on in my house, two kids and all, but I usually just catch glimpses of the Food Network or cartoons over the top edge of my laptop while I work. A normal day includes the day job, home at 6:30 pm, homework, dinner, then laptop. I don’t write every day. I work on blog posts, catch up on marketing, edit, and then write.

2) In Sweet Dreams, cafe owner Jenna Morris begins a secret romantic friendship with A-list actor and sexiest man alive Jacob Walker. Have you ever had a secret friendship or romance with a celebrity, or know someone who has?

I haven’t. I’ve met a few celebrities in my life though, and I’m always surprised at how normal they seem up close. Totally different than our perceptions. I will let you in on a little secret… Sweet Dreams is actually based on a recurring dream I’ve had for years where I did have a secret friendship with a celebrity.

3) You seem to like the "J" names for your characters: Jordan, Jenna, Jacob, Jerry. Where did "Eric" in Sea Breeze come from, name-wise? You did know there were more "J" names available? 

Ha. Yes, I like using "J" names. Actually, in Angels in Disguise, my holiday anthology story which will end up as the kick-off to a new series, the main characters are Alex and Gabe. Supporting character is Jaime though, so I didn’t escape the "J" name there. Eric is a name I have always loved and come to think of it, I did once know and work with a bartender named Eric. He was not the inspiration for the character though, just a funny coincidence.

4) I notice you used a LOT of songs that wrapped their way into the story of Sweet Dreams. Do you decide on a song list for your novel before you begin writing, and have that inform your story, or does the story itself, as you're writing it, suggest songs that you add to your playlist? Do you put song X on repeat as you are working on that chapter, or...? 

The songs come to me during the scenes. When it feels right, I jot them down and add them to a playlist that is also edited down to the final list once the book is edited and done. When I am writing a particularly juicy scene, like the wedding scene in Italy in Sweet Dreams, I do keep the song on repeat, in this case Anything, Anything by Dramarama. It really amps up the tension for me and puts me smack dab in the middle of the action.

5) Jordan in Sea Breeze mixes a drink quite impressively. Tapping on your own skills, or just great research? 

I have worked in almost every facet of the restaurant business including being a cocktail waitress and a bartender. I certainly know how to mix a cocktail and always loved working a busy bar. There is something about the adrenaline of pouring drinks at a busy bar. I can spin a shaker in my hand, but that’s about it. I’m an impressive klutz, so being a flair bartender was never in the cards for me.

6) Both of us belong to a group of women (and a few men) called Writing Wenches. Can you tell us how support groups, online or in person, help a writer advance her/his career? And is there any downside to social networking among peers? 

Honestly, I’ve made wonderful friends in writing groups. Here’s the thing, I’m a member of a lot of groups, and it’s hard to find the right one. Some are purely marketing based. Some are more friend based. Others are writing based. I have found a perfect medium in the Writing Wenches for me. We support each other because we are friends, not out of obligation. Some groups will have requirements and rules that need to be followed, so make sure to read those carefully before joining a group. The only downside is finding the group that works for you. It can take time and patience, but in the end is absolutely worth it.

7) Complete this sentence, "I know I will have 'made it' as a writer when..." What's your own happily ever after?

When I quit the day job to write full time… But I don’t know if I will ever quit the day job, I love my career. Instead, how about… I will have made it when I can travel and write on location. That is the dream.

8) Moroccan. You bio says that you speak Moroccan (along with Spanish and a little French). For the ignorant among us *raises hand* who did not know that the people of Morocco had their own language, can you educate us a little on the people, the culture, and the language? Will we be seeing any Moroccan or Moroccan-American characters in a Jennifer Senhaji work of fiction anytime in the near future?

Fifteen years ago, I married a man from Morocco who I met while I was traveling in Morocco. I’ve been there several times and love it. The culture, the food, the people. It’s a happy blend of ancient and modern, that you can see in the architecture of the old medina surrounded by new construction. It’s a Muslim country, but extremely tolerant and open-minded with a European feel. The official languages are Arabic and French. However, Moroccan is the local dialect that is spoken in all households. When they write, it’s in French or Arabic. The nightly news is given in Arabic, French, and Moroccan. I learned the language through my husband and his family. My daughter is fairly fluent and my son is learning. The language itself is a combo of Arabic, French, Spanish, in my opinion. All Moroccans can speak to and understand people speaking Arabic and French, but they have their own language as well. A country full of people that speak three languages fluently is pretty impressive. And when you go to northern Morocco, most people also speak Spanish since Spain is only a ferry ride away. I will incorporate Morocco here and there in different books down the road, but eventually I will publish my story, when I’m ready. That is the first book I ever tried to write and had to put it down because it was too close. Someday.

9) Choosing to Dream releases this month. What will we love about Jen and Jake in this book? Do we need to read Sweet Dreams first, or does each book work as a stand-alone? 

The angst is definitely amped up in this book. It’s all about long distance relationships, which is something I know a little about since my husband and I dated long distance for almost two years before we got married. You do not have to read Sweet Dreams before this book. However, the story of Jake and Jenna coming together is so awesome, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.

10) What question have you never been asked, but always wanted to answer? And what's the answer?

Hmmm, this is hard. But I’ve often wondered why no one has asked me about my logo “Your Sweet and Spicy Romance Author,” and whether or not it applies to my regular life and not just my writing. The answer is yes, and I am fairly certain my husband will agree.

Jennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. About herself, she says: Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing at the top of my lungs with whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life, and I now love writing. I’m a klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

Questions? Comments?
If you've read Jennifer's work, what did you like about it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

50 Shades of Rape #rapeculture

The Rape Of The Sabines: The Abduction .
The Rape Of The Sabines: The Abduction . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I avoided the #AskELJames Twitter party/skewering, because generally, I don't "do" Twitter, FaceBook events, and the like, but found myself in some interesting group discussions about it, and her work, anyway.

Some female writers I know, along with EL James herself, vigorously deny the reality that, as depicted in Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian rapes Ana.

[Trigger warning: If you couldn't tell from the title, this post will explore rape and controversy, and explicit language will sometimes be used.]

As a writer, this is an interesting journey. I am a rape sur-thriver (I have not only survived rape, but gone on to thrive), and have had to examine and unpack not only the second time I was raped - the one that everyone would agree was rape, by a masked stranger at knifepoint - but the first, which for a long time I myself did not recognize or understand as rape.

I explored that date rape experience, and the role that my romance reading played in making me not "get" that it was rape, in this post a few years ago.

In more than one scene in FSOG, consent is missing. Sex without consent = RAPE.

Many people don't fully understand consent. "But she could've used her safe word, and she didn't!" or "But she had orgasms!" Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse feel a great deal of shame and that they were partly responsible for their abuse, because 1) they did feel feel pleasure or have orgasms, and 2) their abusers told them that meant they wanted it, too.

Many people in BDSM situations, especially newbies, are too stressed and confused to remember their "safe" words, and responsible Doms will never override a "No," "Stop," or "Don't," without checking in to make absolutely certain the sub wants play to continue.

From UC - Irvine:
Consent is positive cooperation involving an act of free will, absent of coercion, intimidation, force, or the threat of force.  A person cannot give effective consent if he/she is unable to appreciate the nature of the sexual act - as with a person who has a disability that would impair understanding of the act or if a person is impaired by the influence of drugs or alcohol.

There must always be active consent on both sides. Consent to one thing does not imply another. If limits are made clear and consent is not given, pressuring someone into changing their mind is not consent. → If you are unwilling to accept a "no", then "yes" has no meaning. 
  •  Consent is based on choice. 
  •  It is active, not passive.  Silence and passivity do not equal consent. 
  •  Consent is possible only when there is equal power. 
  •  Giving in because of fear is NOT consent.  
  •  Giving in or going along with someone to gain approval or to avoid being hurt is NOT consent. 
  •  Consent means two people (or more) deciding together to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, with each other.

Rape is evil... but I like it

Another part of my journey has been to understand the contradictions in my own thought process. I hate rape. If I had a magic wand I could wave to prevent rape from being perpetrated on another man, woman or child on the planet, I would wave that shit till my arm fell off, then switch arms. I do not look back at any of my own rapes as being enjoyable or fun, and would not ever want to repeat them.

And yet... being totally honest with myself, I have read rape scenes in books, or watched them in movies, and become deeply aroused.  This is a part of myself about which I felt greatly ashamed, and wanted to deny.

Because how can I be anti-rape, and yet, be erotically aroused by rape?

Many "decent" women, and probably men, have rape fantasies

I haven't studied the male angle much, but I'm guessing some of them fantasize about being the object of rape, or raping a woman, man, or child, or both.

But I have found that I am not the only woman who feels this way. Many women, who would never want to experience a rape or gang-bang IRL (in real life), either fantasize about being raped or gang-banged, or actually go to a swing club or other safe place and arrange to experience a simulated rape or gang-bang, under very controlled circumstances.

Controlled circumstances being the key. I have talked to other women and read of experiences where the rape scenario is played out, generally as tightly choreographed as kibuki theatre. Some rape surthrivers say re-enacting their rapes were tremendously empowering, and it is something I may consider for myself someday. (Note: my therapist thinks it's a very bad idea.)

English: "Rape of Europa"
English: "Rape of Europa" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I've worked at digging deeper to try to find out what, exactly, I find arousing about rape (when I do find it arousing - I don't, always). I think it has to do with being freed from guilt/sexual shame. Because if somebody makes me have sex, then I am not dirty/slutty. I still have much more digging to do, but I have accepted this kink as a part of my own personal being, at least at this time.

There are lots of sexual fantasies out there that might fuel masturbation, but will never come to fruition IRL, because people can't actually have sex with vampires or werewolves or dinosaurs. Yes, dino porn is a thing. There are other fantasies that are possible, like bestiality, that most people will never act upon.

I no longer believe that having dark fantasies, or role-playing rape, are a bad thing, even if they are not something we want to bring up while passing the cookies at a PTA meeting.

If it's not bad to fantasize about, it can't be bad to write about

I actually know lovely people who write dino porn, and rape scenes. I have many issues with Fifty Shades, but that it includes rape and an emotionally abusive relationship isn't any of them.

Where my biggest problem lies is with the denial by EL James and others that Christian rapes and emotionally abuses Ana. And her portrayal of the rape and abuse as romantic, a viewpoint I internalized as a teen from the many rape-y romances of the 1970's. Maybe because I have worked so hard to unpack my own issues, and am still working on them, I have little patience with people in denial about their own writing and actions.

I own my own shit. I expect others to be grown-ups and own their own shit, too.

I am a rape sur-thriver AND I am sometimes aroused by rape fantasies,
and this is okay.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to write rape scenes, and bestiality scenes, and group sex scenes, and whatever our dirty little imaginations can conjure up. But when we do, we must accept the reality that not everyone will love our work.

Some people will have a strong negative reaction, and if they do, the adult response is not to try to redefine consent, rape, or negate the reader's experience. It's to put trigger warnings on our work. It's to tell the readers who express distress, "I'm so very sorry someone raped or abused you. This work is not for everyone."

As a writer, I believe it's very bad form to tell the readers that "they read it wrong," rather than accept the possibility that we may have conveyed the message poorly. As a human being, I think it's callous to ignore the legitimate distress our actions may be causing other people.

I do not agree with the dogpiling of personal abuse directed at Ms. James, but criticism of her work, and even criticizing her attitude toward that criticism, is totally legitimate, in my opinion.

What's yours?
Do you have dark erotic fantasies that made you feel ashamed?
What do you think is an author's responsibility to her readers?

Monday, June 22, 2015

We Are All The Champions #breastcancer

It blows me away how many people are cheering for me to beat breast cancer.

And though I am a terrific person and all that, I think I know why.

Trigger warning: profanity will be used in this post. Because "motherfucking" and "cancer" are words that go together like "Caitlyn Jenner" and "Vanity Fair."

Has Anybody Gone Untouched By Cancer?

I don't think so. I believe almost everyone in America, anyway, has either personally experienced cancer, or seen a loved one ravaged by this motherfucking, evil disease. Mothers, fathers, beloved grandmothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, life partners, children...  Cancer is like the schoolyard bully - everybody is secretly rooting for somebody to take this bitch down.

Challenge accepted.

People Say I Have a Great Attitude

I don't know about that. I know I have an attitude. Which is, mostly, that cancer is pissing me off. In a strange sense, I feel like Jimmy Stewart in High Noon - it was inevitable that someday, I would have to go face down the bad guys. And now, it begins [read in your best movie announcer voice].

Unlike the Hunger Games, the odds are ever in my favor. Breast cancer diagnosed as early and as small as mine has damn near a 100% cure rate. Basically, I have Cancer-Lite, a minor inconvenience (accompanied by major medical bills, but luckily, I have insurance), right?

I know I am blessed, to be living where I live, where the medical professionals are great (Go Cedars-Sinai!). To be surrounded by loving family and friends, to have a super-supportive work environment. And yet...

Wobbly Bits Happen

And I'm not just talking about "the girls" and my ass in my boudoir shoot.

I am having feels on this journey. Like when the roller coaster is cresting the first drop, and we realize it is one fucking long way down and why the hell did we think this was a good idea? Suddenly I feel I don't need to be the one who personally kicks cancer's ass, after all. Someone else, anybody else can do it, I want off this freakin' ride.

In my fantasies...

In the absence of J-Law magically taking my place, I realized I was gonna deal with this myself. I took my fears out and sat with them. Even though general anesthesia has come a long way, I realized I was afraid:
  1.  that I would be groggy and "out of it" for a week afterward, like the last time I "went under," and 
  2. That surgery would leave me scarily disfigured, and/or in serious pain.
  3. death. Because people do still die on the operating table, even if that has become extremely rare. I have too much unfinished business: book reviews to write, sexual acts I want to experience, and of course, is housework ever really done? How rude would it be of me to up and die and leave a messy apartment for my next of kin? (Even if I did finish the vacuuming and clean my toilet, beforehand.)
Even though none of my fears were realized, it is okay to be afraid, to be uncertain, to be nervous.  I am not Superwoman, and am sure I will get better acquainted with plenty of wobbly bits throughout this journey.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night - or the Doctor Appointments

For me, rocking a tiara through my treatment has worked to get me through the medical appointments and procedures with a minimum of angst. It makes people laugh, or at least smile, and I laugh, too, and that brings a lightness to the appointments. They even let me wear my tiara through my lumpectomy, under my surgical cap.

Makeup? Zilch. Kitten-chewed glasses? Check. Attempt at "Sexy Librarian Face"? Fail.
I do give myself points for the attempt, and for the ovaries to post it here.

I also decided to create a Kicking Cancer's Ass playlist, and have contacted many of the people who've been helpful on this journey for upbeat or meaningful songs to add. I've got over 350 songs so far, everything from Pharell William's Happy to Alan Parsons Project to Nina Simone to the Beatles' Good Day Sunshine.

For the nasty hot flashes that undoubtedly lie in my future, I've begun receiving fans from friends and family, some pretty and functional, others frivolous and pretty.

I think the key, at least for myself, is not expecting even Cancer-Lite to be an easy ride, but to create plans for "okay, sometimes it's gonna suck; how am I going to get through the wobbly bits?"

AND I need to examine how and in what ways I want people to help me. Because I did, I do, and I will need help.

Checking In With Ourselves

There's never a bad time to begin really "taking our own temperature," We may think that putting together a Kicking Cancer's Ass playlist sounds like a great idea... until we start working on it, and it turns out to be too much hassle for us. We might find that we don't look good in a tiara (hard to believe, but see Sexy Librarian Face fail, above).

I discovered that while I want and need to find many different avenues for family and friends to support me, sometimes I need to set a firmer boundaries as to what kind of help/plans I truly want.

Some days... I just want somebody to hold me.

Or fuck me. Or hold me, then fuck me.

Then hold me again.

This need can be only partly filled by family. (At least, in my family. YMMV.)

To all of you who have recently held me, or fucked me, or held me and fucked me, thank you. I needed that.

We each have to figure out what works for us. Sometimes we might think we want one thing, and we actually want another. Or we might change our minds, and that is okay. I found that, the night before my surgery, I wanted to see one of my favorite guys, get a hug and quickie eye-gaze from him, then spend a low key evening at home. I did get to see my guy, and had those needs met. Yet I allowed myself to be gently pressured into a family dinner afterward that was pleasant and well-intentioned, but created a lot of stress for me, and was not what I wanted. 

We all have those friends and family members who need neon signs, not gentle hints. It's okay to be blunt: I really don't want X. Or, I really do want Y, can you take charge of making it happen?

I am getting better at doing internal checks, and allowing myself to feel annoyed, or afraid, or nervous, or aroused, or gratified, whatever. Embracing all the feels. But as blunt and tactless as I can be sometimes, other times I may be a little too nice sometimes for my own good.

The reality is, when people do things for us, whether cancer is in the picture or not, they are actually doing them for themselves.  If they appear self-sacrificing, it is because they like playing the martyr. Aunt Lucy burned baked a tuna casserole "for us" because that action made her feel like she was doing something, not because we needed or wanted a tuna casserole. [Note to Universe: I will never, ever want a tuna casserole.]

We can choose whatever paths feel easiest for us, whether that includes accepting Aunt Lucy's burnt tuna casserole with a smile (and carrying it directly to the outside trash bin), or saying to a family member, "I appreciate your love and concern," while at the same time saying NO to that person accompanying us to treatments.

We don't have to wear the orange striped sweater or drink the vile cancer-curing smoothie or tolerate anything we don't truly want. Not when we are battling cancer.

Or at any other time.

Flowers are good. And Goddess Earrings by KreativeKetty

And tie-dye flowers are good.
And energy necklace.

Next Up for Me: More Appointments

I came through the surgery easily, and have had an uncomplicated, easy recovery from it. Minor pain and bruising; I was totally off pain meds within 24 hours. I am cognizant that this is not the experience for every woman or man with early stage breast cancer, and am grateful to get off easy, at least so far.

In a few weeks, I will be seeing a medical oncologist to discuss hormone blocker meds, and a radiation oncologist to get that ball rolling. And my optometrist and gyno, because it's time for those visits, too.

I See All Good People

Back to my original point. I am truly blessed by a countless number of fabulous, supportive people in my life. Family, lovers, doctors, friends, medical staff, everyone is offering me hugs, rides, massages, jokes, and love. My niece Heather even flew out from Chicago to be my bitch, as she put it.

And I know some of it is Because I Am a Beautiful and Worthy Human Being (and gosh-darn it, people like me!), and some of it is that everyone is pissed off at motherfucking, evil, bullying cancer.

I will accept all of the support, and gladly. Because when I beat cancer like a rug on a clothesline, it's going to be all of us doing it. Every little bit of support, of donation, of prayer, of reiki and lighting candles, of things like my mother donating her cancer-ridden body for medical research, of people (like me!) enrolled in the CPS-3 study, and all the researchers who are working to discover what triggers this disease, every kind and encouraging word to somebody like me, all these little pieces come together to defeat cancer.  There's a reason I don't have my mother's terminal breast cancer, but something I'm damn near guaranteed to survive.

We are kicking cancer's ass. Together. We are the champions.

Care to share about the people in your life impacted by cancer?
Have you ever had boundary issues with a "helpful" friend?
Your thoughts?

Monday, June 8, 2015

7 Things My Sexy Boudoir Photos Taught Me

Prude warning, there will be boobs here. Undoubtedly some profanity. Potentially some triggering words about body image.

I've been struggling to deal with body image issues for.... oh, most of my life. Got closets full of clothes in assorted sizes to testify to it. Anyone else?

I've realized I am never going to be able to come to better terms with, let alone love, my soon-to-be post-cancer, battle-scarred body. Not if I am hating on the body I have now.

How many times have I recited to myself a laundry list of my body flaws? Even when I was younger and relatively thin, I was hating on myself much more often than I was appreciating and loving myself.

I have to learn to love my body. As it is, not as I would like it to be.

Project: Self-Love
Here's my target.

Project: Self-Love

I am working on becoming more mindful, learning to be aware when my inner hater starts in with her negativity. And from being aware, to figuratively jamming a ball-gag in her mouth. Because I would never hang with a friend who talks smack to me the way she does.

Hating As A Strategy Does Not Work

Hate doesn't work as a long-term, healthy-body strategy. Hate doesn't work as a good strategy for anything, from foreign relations, to career-advancement, to dating, and certainly not for healing a damaged body.

So I have been working showing myself the love. On improving my nutrition, on giving up projects that were giving me more stress than satisfaction.

On appreciating the wonderful experiences and pleasure my body, as it is right now, has given me, and continues to give me.

My body truly is, as Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about in The Joyous Body, a faithful and loyal companion, who deserves to be treated as someone loved and valued.

This leads me to... sexy boudoir photos. Because I wanted to honor (and memorialize) "the girls," and myself, before my surgery and radiation.

I expected it would feel a little awkward at first (it did), and then, because I was blessed with an incredibly talented photographer who totally put me at my ease, I was able to open up, not just physically, but emotionally.  I came away from the session with more than some amazing smutty photos, but thoughts, impressions, and experiences I will be unpacking for months, if not years, to come.

Here's 7 things my sexy boudoir pictures taught me about self-love, and life:

1. More is more, when it comes to photos.

Most of us don't like ourselves in pictures because we often only take 2-3 of them at a time. None of them are good, so we conclude we are not photogenic or attractive, and then we avoid having pictures taken, or wear a pissy expression when we are forced into it. Expecting to look fugly in pictures becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we take dozens, hundreds of photos even, and loosen up a little, have fun with it,

chances are we'll find at least a few pictures of ourselves that we like.

I found so many that I liked, so many that had me looking at myself with new eyes, and saying, Wow, amazing! I look hot! Who knew?!? 

Actually, it made me tear up a little.

Sure, there are pictures I don't like as much, but for once, instead of zooming in on those, and ripping myself to shreds, I focused on the ones I liked.  I found myself falling a little bit in love with me.

2. I really do have an expressive face.

I loved this photo shoot. Nick (Nick Holmes Photography) was super fun, yet super professional, and because he drew so many looks out of me, from a glam Hollywood look, to playful, serious, earth mother, sensuous...

3. Usually our our perspective is skewed. 

I had no idea my tits looked so different, and well, big, from other angles.

4. Things change, sometimes dramatically, when we shine a different light on them.

5. It's not all about the makeup.

Makeup is fun. Makeup and hair styling [inserting a commercial plug and shout-out to Liana and Mel at Studio 15 Salon] can make a person feel attractive, and glamorous (and I did), but at the end of the day, when your makeup is mostly schmeared off and your hair's gone flat, how do you feel? I felt playful and amazing.

Absolutely, lighting and makeup and camera filters made me look sexy and glamorous in this shoot, but I have to claim some of the credit. That's my personality (as well as my tongue and tits), sticking out from so many of these shots. I look like a person I would like to be friends with.

Kind of validating to be able to say that about myself.

6. Tiaras do make everything better.

I am planning to rock my tiara for all the rest of my cancer journey, because by the Power of Glitter and All Things Shiny, I am going to kick this beast to the curb.

7. I think I could easily develop a taste for young, sexy, talented photographers.

Some of you might remember the headshots I had taken in south-central Oregon a couple years ago with sexy photographer Kirk McKenzie.

I have noticed the word amazing coming up a lot here. I cannot speak highly enough of my Pasadena photographer, Nick Holmes, who took my virginity (at nude and semi-nude posing) with his skillful direction as to poses, costumes changes, lighting changes, background changes, explaining to me about posture, all without ever making me feel awkward.

Even though I was.  Even though at one point, in trying to go for a pose, I overbalanced leaning forward (see big tits, above) and gracefully faceplanted on the floor.

Nick not only looks great in a tiara. but he's agreed to do a second shoot with me, when I am through my lumpectomy (scheduled for June 15), and whatever comes next, probably radiation+meds. And I'm looking forward to using another boudoir shoot as a tool, to learn and embrace the beauty and sexiness of the post-breast-cancer me.

Have you ever done a boudoir shoot?
How did you feel about yourself afterward?
Your thoughts?