Wednesday Workshop: Fitness of the Mind

I get this strange feeling when I read opinions and watch the news these days.

More energy is spent defending laziness and the propping up the status quo than it is affecting real and substantial change.

It is hard to change, to shed several layers of fat, to take responsibility, to be someone and do something, and to live your dreams. We are constantly told we can’t. This is the way it is. Your chances of making it are slim to none, and slim just left the building. You march in an endless parade of failures. You are nothing, and you can never hope to be anything more.

You will never have that house.

The dream is dead.

And then this toxic layer of lazy sediment settles into the mind. I’m fucked, so I might as well fuck everyone else. Instead of building a bridge to where I want to be, I am content with standing on someone else’s bridge and pissing on everyone who walks underneath. Nothing good will happen to me, so nothing good will come of me.

But see the problem with that last statement?

Nothing good will happen to me.

No, nothing good will happen to you, because you have to make shit happen. It is the toxicity of the princess culture, that somehow Prince fucking Charming will show up and take us away from our shitty lives, we will win the lottery, or we will somehow write one book or do one thing that will propel us to Zuckerberg like wealth or fame.

Life is hard, and being a hard worker is how you survive. Those who can put up with the most shit usually finish the race. Fire hardens steel, and fire fucking hurts. But it is better to be steel than it is to be soft.

But you still may be screwed, since hard work in itself does not guarantee success. There is that. But being a hard worker exponentially increases your odds of survival. It is better to be the ripped and fit Red Sonja or Conan than it is to be the fat and lazy caveman, even if it is just intellectually fit, but I find fitness of the body helps my mind focus as well.

I like to be a finely honed and sharpened weapon, in both my mind and in my body.

Strength of ideas breeds physical strength, and this goes the other way as well.

I go back to the idea of change. Change is almost universally good. The old leaves need to be raked out of the yard. The place needs cleaning and sprucing up. We need some paint. We need some landscaping. New furniture. A new look. This goes for where you live to where you work, and it also goes for your mental state and attitude.

You need to rake the dead leaves out of your head every once and a while.

And you can’t hate change.

You also have to be careful on what you take into your lives. I have these “friends” on social media that sell hate like pushers sell drugs on street corners. Come on, yeah, it will be fun to comment and jump on-board. Just one hit, I promise you will enjoy this. Look at everyone else doing it, why do you have to be so square? Zone out and join the beautiful hateful people. People will love you if you just take a hit. Look at these weaponized memes and images, just one repost is all I ask, who will it hurt?

Come on, just do it.

I can’t. I won’t.

I got better ways to be spending my time, like on doing the things I love and improving myself. All you want to do is sell hate as inclusiveness. You are setting me up as your patsy, so if I repost that garbage, someone on the other side will attack me, and I will go right back to you and your crowd for support and more hateful dope to push on others. It is the classic dependency cycle of pushers and junkies and I am not falling for it.

I am my own person. I am better than that. I have my beliefs, and while I may not agree with the way things are going 100%, I will speak up for what I believe in and take a stand. I just feel it is better to stand for ideals and be the better person. You win fights by principle and standing on the high ground.

But moreso, I feel falling into these dependency cycles breeds laziness, in both the mind and the body. You get angry about what someone posted online. You world becomes this place instead of you. You react instead of act. You accept the notion ‘I am screwed’ and seek out those who feel the same, and you put your mind in the never-changing slum of failure and inaction.

No, you will never get that house if you fall into that trap. Success will never happen to you. Prince Charming will not waltz up to you and change your life. Live in a cycle of anger and all you shall be is a junkie in the ghetto of a hateful mind.

I feel it is better to earn the title of Princess than it is to be given it.

It is better to be the better person.

And I feel it is better to be the Princess who tells her people to be strong in both mind and body, and encourages an active mental and physical lifestyle. I have this terrible feeling the world is devolving into some sort of twisted reality and warfare between fitness versus laziness, and my principles put me on the side of the lean and fit. A studied mind. Respect for one’s body and health. A sense of history and belonging. Knowledge. Tolerance. Respect, even for the other side. But all earned through hard work and sacrifice.

I would hate to simplify this into something stupid, like “the fit versus the lazy” but I feel there is a truth to that in the days in which we live. We live in a war between those pushing dependency versus those who value self-sufficiency.

For me, I have an independent spirit. This is who I am. This is my truth. I have known this since an early age. This is my path.

I walk the hills and listen to the breeze. I read the words of my ancestors. I study history.

I read.

I believe there is worth in educating myself and sharing that with others.

Knowledge is a strength, just as strength is a knowledge.

I believe there is a worth in being able to walk any path, any place, and at any moment.

Fitness in both the body and in the mind is freedom.

And I can encourage others to walk with me and enjoy the same.

Passion’s Price: Book 8 of ‘The Succubus’

Rachel sat in the balcony, her hands gripping Josh’s arm on one side, and Sarah’s on the other. Behind them, Jeremy, Maria, and Yasna sat in a row.

How did it come to this?

If she had had the good sense to simply drive around that traffic accident a few weeks ago, none of this would have happened. Althea would have perished, trapped in the body of a dying mortal man. She would still be estranged from Josh. Her children would be on the verge of an
open break with her, she would never have met Yasna, and Maria and Jeremy would never be more than what they had been at the time; a well-liked but replaceable intern and a maid who was no different than a thousand other women in the city.

Thus am I repaid for a momentary weakness, she thought morbidly, and had to stifle an insane giggle.

It was either that, or scream.

Passion’s Price: Book 8 of ‘The Succubus’

The end.

These words come to all of us, hopefully expectedly rather than not, and in this is the last of a series I have been reading through and reviewing for the last few months. From book one to eight, all the way to the end, sharing my thoughts and feelings along the way. It is what I do, and there are times I seem to think putting my thoughts into words is more for my clarity of thought rather than the review, it is what it is, and I am always happy to share the thoughts which flow through my existence.

And I like reviews which are more trains of thought rather than structured essays one would find in a ‘how to review books’ book.

If a book is supposed to make us think, then show the thoughts and dispense of the scaffolding.

Because the review is supposed to make you think as well.

And we reach the end of this series, and I am in that moment where I feel I shall never meet these characters again. It is bittersweet, because in what they went through I would not want to see them put through the same, and I feel there is a certain literary cruelty of putting the same cast through the next stakes-raising installment, sequel after sequel, time after time, in a selfish and morbid desire to ‘hang out’ with the same crowd again and again. I think of the Star Wars story across the original movies and wonder how that would be if the story naturally shifted the cast to ‘the next group’ rather than recycling the same people to ‘do it bigger and better next time.’

Part of me feels the first movie was it, and more than enough adventure for one group of heroes. Let the next generation pick up the torch already, as anything more feels like inflicting the greed of the audience upon the heroes for ‘one more time.’

There is a limit in sequels, and there is only so many times one can tell the same story before it feels tread-worn.

Here we have the characters pushing towards the climax, wonderfully encapsulated in the motif of a Shakespearean play. They could have called the whole thing off, but they rose together as one to face evil. They called evil out, and united as one. A thought went through my head early wondering how the writer would pull this off, that it would feel forced, but it didn’t. There were good reasons to go there and all participate. And the writer had self-control to not make all of them contribute, the end was what it was, and there is even a spoiler in this that was highly amusing that I shall not reveal.

But it does have to do with a review.

I would not like to see a sequel to this is probably my feelings here, and I feel those out of appreciation and love for the story in which I was told. Once is enough, and the story is told.

Did you know Jack is alive and living in Greenland? Did you know the company that built the Titanic is saying they will do it again, and build an even better and safer ship this time? Did you know the company is inviting all of the survivors to come back and take the ‘voyage that should have been’ for free?

And did you know the ship has a stop in Greenland, Rose?

…and little did they know they were sailing into the worst winter storm in over 100 years.

Titanic II: Breaking the Ice, coming this summer!

No.

Just no. Spare me Hollywood your saccharine nostalgia. Let the characters I invited into my world be. I don’t care if Nazi U-Boats hunt the sequel ship and you throw enough computer graphics at the movie to keep all of Hollywood’s visual effects artists employed for the next three years I don’t care.

The original is enough.

Just like here.

These eight books told the tale for me.

There is sex in this installment, but it reflects the moment. Furtive anticipation. Relief. Joy and unions. Lust becoming love. The sex here was well-played and did not feel forced, and I enjoyed the temporary reprieve from the gallows which everyone knew cast a shadow over how this ended.

My only thought is I wanted loss here. I know, I am spitting in the face of love and the message of the book, but sometimes what makes love all the stronger between those who end up carrying on is exactly that loss. In memory of. For those who no longer are with us. Part of me feels it would have probably made the book a bit of a downer at the end, but I could have seen the two parents of this tribe playing a role in sacrificing themselves for the younger generation.

Cast minus two, and that feeling they need to be replaced becomes purpose for those who remain.

To honor them.

And the circle of life continues.

Just a stray and random thought I suppose, and that is probably me imposing myself upon a work which I did not write. But they are thoughts still, and worth sharing. The fact I do feel them means I care, and this is just me again being overly critical because I subconsciously love the books. I am more critical of the things which I love. I get those ‘should have been’ feelings in the things which I care for. I am invested and the book has become a part of me.

There is no greater praise than that, I feel.

A series that takes delight in biting forbidden fruit, dives into faith, twists lust into love, and leaves readers covered in sweat and anticipation.

Nicely done.

Wednesday Workshop: Delivery

You have to follow your heart. You need to focus on what you love. You need to do what you do best.

My problem is I do a lot very well. Have you ever felt that way, like you could do a million things and love doing them all, but you find yourself torn between them all?

And then you get nothing done? Or maybe it just seems like you get nothing done. Or maybe projects lag and you get this feeling you aren’t putting the work into them you need to in order to make them a success.

If you can’t commit to your own success, it is hard for people to do the same in you. I find when I focus, like a laser, people respond. If I hammer on books or projects, I get reads and feedback, and things feel good. But there are other times when I focus on other things, and then I feel that familiar feeling of listless disconnection with my writing and what I share.

“If only I had more time,” is the refrain I hear from my inner voice. And the old reply to that is, “You would make time if you wanted to.”

I still write, but I am also finding success outside of writing – in my design skills and other practicing arts – which makes things hard.

So I cut back “the other things” and focus on what I love. This is all I have to guide me, I do the things I love the best, and I find enjoyment in them. I get this feeling it is the time to pick one or two things and just do those, to support those and do everything I can to make them a success.

What I have learned is never be ashamed to ask for money. Never be ashamed to setup something with the goal of empowering yourself. You should ask people to enable your success, and ask people make you a part of their lives.

But there is a cost to that.

You become a channel, like a cable channel. People pay you for you to entertain them. You become a service.

And you know what happens if there is nothing on?

People change the channel.

I would, and you will find people will change the channel on you – and you you often won’t know why or maybe they just get bored of you. It happens. Even I turn off the things I love, switch the song in the middle of one I can’t hear enough of, or never finish a series on Netflix even though it grips me. Maybe I am not ready to enjoy it. Maybe I subconsciously seek something different. Maybe I will get back to it later.

But, the channel has to be there, with new stuff, when people come back. There has to be something good on. New stuff needs to pile up, ready to be watched. This isn’t reruns, although those may be a source of revenue for some channels, you are constantly putting out new stuff targeted to your fans and “what your channel is about.”

And if people can’t really explain your channel, that may be a problem. It may not, but typically you want people to identify your channel with something they love. And that something they love is wonderful if it is also something you love. There is a connection there, and a bond that is very powerful and lasting.

And some channels may take years to develop an audience.

It is a sobering thought, and why being a fence post instead of a fence jumper is such a good skill to learn.You need to have that dogged persistence, that ‘putting stuff out rain or shine,’ and that commitment to a base of fans that expect frequent updates. It is one of the hardest things you may ever do, adopting a release schedule that you may think is throwing words into a garbage can, and releasing book after book, or work after work, to an audience of none.

But when you get a bite, there is hope.

And you got to hang on and keep delivering.

It is extremely rare one book will be your career. Impossible even. It is more likely you will attract fans doing what you do, and finding people who love what you are about. But to be that ‘content delivery service’ you need to be that person who delivers content. Someone who can day after day, step up and work towards the next big release. Also it helps to be that person who can market what they do, day after day.

And you will take shots, and you will take heat for being out here – trust me.

People will criticize you for everything, the price of your books, your grammar, what you write, how you write it, that you even ask for money, and anything else you can imagine.

Don’t apologize. Don’t waste time explaining.

Be confident in yourself and the path on which you walk – the one you chose. Your strategy. Your take on making it. Your success. Be happy to ask for money. Be positive, and ask people to make you a part of their entertainment budget, rather than cable TV or other subscription services.

You bring their life value.

But…if you do nothing all day, you bring nothing to anyone.

It is ultimately a battle of expectations. If you want to be a channel, you have to deliver like a channel. If you want to put one book out and expect success, you need to adjust your expectations. You may not do it with one or two books. They may get a lot of interest and then fade out.

You may need to change things to change your experience, and you will need to start with yourself.

 

The Clawed Squad: Stetson

“Well, if it isn’t Sheriff sexy,” a slurred voice called out as Kylee stepped out of her police cruiser.

Shit. These guys again.

“It’s Sheriff Black,” she corrected, slamming the door closed as she glared at the three young punks standing across the street. They were from Arlington, the town next to the town that she presided over: Colwood, Montana. They kept coming over here lately and causing trouble. Mostly getting drunk and harassing the locals. Harold, the owner of the bakery, was furious when his shop window had been broken and the side of his building was tagged with graffiti. He was convinced that it was them and he was probably right.

Kylee would have to deal with them soon, but right now Wasn’t the time. She had more pressing matters to attend to.

“Sheriff Black with the sexy rack,” one of them called out and they all burst out laughing.

Kylee took a deep breath and tried to slow her pulse that was beginning to race. These three were getting bolder lately. It wasn’t a good sign.

The Clawed Squad: Stetson (The Bear Shifters of Clawed Ranch Book 1)

Shifters, wide-open country, trouble brewing with the townsfolk, a sexy independent lady sheriff, a sexy polar bear shifter, and a whole lot of trouble brewing up makes its way to my e-reader today for a wild and adventurous romp through a backwoods town. This is part of a series, a hooking up the sexy brothers type of book where we get to see a group of hot hunks hook up and find love – or else they lose the ranch. It all sounds like a made-for-television movie, but in a good way. I liked the sort of campy, backwoods country, rough men and sexy women sexual tension and hard drinking ways of this crew of misfits and small town types.

Did I find all of it to my liking? Well, I wanted more longing and desire between our heroine and the main fuzzy man in her life. You know, those moments where they meet and she walks away with her head spinning at the thought of him getting all warm and cuddly with her. And him fighting mother nature and that urge to settle down, find a mate, and hibernate with her after the two of them eat a winter’s full of food at the local comfort food chain restaurant. The proceedings seemed rushed a little, and I wanted time to slow down a little here as I took in ‘big country’ with these small-town folks.

Those little moments in small towns where the air is crisp and cold and the coffee hot. Picking up groceries at that little place on the corner. Meeting the same locals, day after day. Roads that go on for miles. The rolling hills. The tall pines. The big expanses of nothing. Snow capped peaks.

Thoughts of him.

I feel this is one of the problems of group-romance books, we are so eager to check off each brother finding love I feel none of them get the attention they deserve. I like them because I am instantly familiar with the cast, and it is fun seeing recurring characters, but I wonder if slowing down and just focusing on one hunky bear would do it for me. I wanted more between them, her special power, his destiny, their shared fate. Those seeking to keep them apart. The tangled mess and close joy of small town life. Rumors that fly around town of him seeing her. The whispers at the coffee shop when she walks in.

How could she be seeing him?

Doesn’t she know her responsibility?

Love making all of that trouble and all of those voices ultimately worthless.

And finding acceptance and their place together in this tiny world.

I love that stuff, small town gossip and trouble from the busybodies that think they run the place. It is natural, because these small, remote places are microcosms for the larger world around us. The people there fall into the roles we find on a macro sense, the opinion shaper, the rumor spreader, the pious one, the moral authority, the wise one, the town official, and even the authority figure. We find the larger world in the tiny worlds around us.

It is drama, and how they deal with these conflicts means a lot to us as people who live in a larger world every day.

This could be just ‘me wanting more’ and that is usually a good sign.

I liked the conflict here, and our writer knows how to throw a twist in to shake things up. I also wanted more of the two of them together, sharing little moments, and figuring out that chemistry thing together. The moment we have are good, and I get that familiar feeling of wanting more when I get invested in the characters.

He threaded his hands through her wavy hair, stroking her to sleep as he stared up at the billions of bright stars in the sky. Her fingers went limp on his stomach as her breathing slowed to a peaceful rhythm that was only found in deep sleep. Stetson never thought that he was mate material. He never thought that he was good enough. But in that moment with this beauty by his side, he vowed that if he wasn’t mate material, he would work on himself until he was. Kylee made him want to be a better man. He wanted to be worthy of her because he didn’t ever want to let her go. Ever.

When the fire died down and the wind grew cold, Stetson scooped her up in his strong arms and brought her to his cabin.

Where she belonged.

And then the book turns sweet and I am lost in its fuzzy and warm embrace. I am such a sucker for romance, I know. Part of why I like shifter romance is the strong sense of metaphor here. He is literally a huge bear when he turns into his other form. that is symbolic for a lot of things, his strength, his power, and his ability to protect her. You get that primal connection between basic instincts of ‘protecting the pack’ that a strong man naturally falls into.

This is nature, and try as we may distance ourselves from it, we shall never escape its bonds.

We come from this world, nature. At times, civilization is no better than the savagery of the wild. And at other times, civilization, in its closest bonds, lives up to the best parts of what nature teaches us.

The family unit. The bonding between mates. The sense of family and belonging. Protecting the ones we love. Raising young. Letting them go. Growing old. Passing on what we had to others.

I have this feeling a big part of why the world seems so screwed up is we think we are better than this. That somehow the rules of nature do not apply to us. That we are somehow immune to these primal forces. That we are somehow special. That we can wear global warming or some other cause-de-jour on our sleeve as a badge of honor and reject the notion of our place in nature. That we somehow spend a lot of time trying to prove to ourselves that the natural order does not apply to us.

I feel we are not so special.

We are still creatures of nature.

I feel these forces still apply to us, and if we accept them we can live in a more balanced way with the world and who we want to be.

I don’t see this as somehow anti-feminist and wanting to go back to the ‘strong male’ paternalistic society. But it does exist. These forces are powerful, they are primal, and they provide a ingrained point of conflict with today’s world. It is great ‘writer stuff’ in a way, and wonderful fodder for characters to explore. I have my own feelings, but this book stuck a chord with me and brought this up in my mind again.

A fun start to a series by one of the great in the genre. A bit fast moving for my slow-moving country life taste, but still a worthy read and recommended.

Wednesday Workshop: del trust.*

Trust is one of those things that is hard to ever recover.

If it even could be recovered.

Like air in a balloon, it can pop suddenly or let out slowly after time. These days, we are subject to so many ‘we should have known better’ moments it boggles the mind that we are able to keep up with them all. Now I feel our electronic devices are all compromised, first by those we thought we could trust, and then – like information does – it gets out and now everybody is playing havoc with things we once trusted.

Where does it hit me? In my pocketbook, because I paid good money for peace of mind, and now all of my wonderful operating systems, phones, and now I feel my computers are in a state of Swiss cheese in terms of security. Mind you, I don’t know if they have been compromised, but like a door possibly left unlocked during a vacation it sits in the back of my mind whenever I think about it.

And did I tell you I paid good money for these things?

Like I will ever pay for a premium computer or phone ever again. I really hope the tech companies are listening to this. You know, trust?

I would love to throw in an emote here and say screw it, like an emo “sigh” and then forget about the entire mess – but I can’t. I am locking down, researching secure routers, installing Linux on older laptops, and treating my smartphone as a guest instead of a member of my trusted family. I am thinking about not using a Windows computer for anything more than an X-Box. I am moving off the cloud. Tape is going over the webcams. Things with always on microphones are getting unplugged. I love my Chromebook, but….

It’s not that I think I will be hacked, but it is the peace of mind I want.

You see someone strange in the neighborhood, and you check and secure your windows and doors. You leave a light on. You clear brush. You don’t post vacation pictures to Facebook when you are out. You heighten security. Even though what you do may be of minimal value, you still get that peace of mind you did something to make yourself less of a target. You still are, but you have this sense of control of the situation that lets you say, “I did everything in my power to make myself more secure.”

So even if it does happen, the sting is not as bad. You don’t get these,  “I could haves” and “I should haves” sitting in the back of your mind. You can take that vacation and not worry about it. Even though, yes, you may still be vulnerable, you are better informed and take active steps to secure your life and take control of those risk factors.

You have some control.

We like to sit here and believe the hype. I buy this brand because it is completely secure. I trust that brand to do my sensitive things on. This router is 100% locked down. I can pay a little more money and be completely protected. But what do we know about security? Not much, given how busy our lives are, nor can we be expected to know all this stuff. There is also the truth to thinking one system is “the answer” and then knowing nothing about it, if you think Linux is the answer to your security problems and know nothing about how to run a system like that securely you are really only doing yourself harm.

It’s not good enough to be stupid anymore.

Mind you, I like to be stupid about some things. I like all this to “just work.” I don’t want to have to learn a lot to get online and do what I need to do. I pay for simplicity.

But then again, I feel I pay for simplicity.

I know, it is a huge pain in the ass to learn all this stuff, and there are some things I used to do that I will probably give up, but like smoking it is probably something I should have given up a long time ago. Some things will not be compatible and will need to be replaced. You know, social media is probably the first thing to go, because the time I put into it really gets me nothing. With the time I save there I can learn about all this security stuff and start being responsible and safe online. I really hope the social media companies are listening to this. If the devices I use to access your wonderful services are crap, your service is crap too.

I could ignore the obvious, but I feel the crap sandwich argument applies here. Crap kind of ruins the whole meal. Crap security kind of ruins the whole online thing.

One of the nice things about being a writer is we can write on anything, anywhere. One of my books was done entirely on an old Asus EeePC on Ubuntu, and I did 12 thousand words a day for three consecutive days on that little, old, slow thing and loved every minute of that antiquated and throwback experience. Sometimes I feel writers actually thrive when we don’t have the best and most slick writing device, and that negative experience carries over into our work as a positive motivation. If I ever write a steampunk genre novel that EeePC is going to see some use, because I want to deal with clunky technology if I write about the same.

And Libre Office exports Word docs, and since most e-books are reformatted it is the text that matters, not the fancy formatting. I lose Word, but really, all I use Word for is the grammar checker, and the more time I put into self-education the less I need that thing (and the better my work gets). I feel can do my work elsewhere, and I yet need to write a book on 100% open-source, from creation to submission, to have that experience. Again, it will take a little learning and time to get myself off of insecure systems, but I feel I will have the peace of mind I desire by doing so. I will also have learned something and have that ‘self reliance’ feeling that I love.

I learned this all by myself.

I did this all by myself.

I set something up, fought through it, and I understand how it works. Even if it isn’t the best system or most slick, it is mine, I made it, and I understand it a lot better than some black box so-called “super secure” thing I buy off the shelf. I feel a lot better if I make my food from scratch, because I know what’s going into it. Is it as polished and easy as eating out or packaged foods? No, it takes work and a little know how to be able to cook for yourself. But I know what’s going into the food I eat, even though it is not the most polished meal, and I like that feeling. I can walk away from packaged foods and feel healthier. I have control.

Same thing here. In a digital world where I feel I have no control, I fought hard and now I have some.

Some control feels like an amazing thing, especially in these times. I am done with being stupid and being treated the same by these tech and social media companies. It just never ends well.

The World of Cherry 3

“The book was good, I take it?”

Tina’s creamy complexion is rosy with blush, her makeup applied by Nixie, too. “Yeah, I can’t wait to read the ending. I hope it’s like the rest of the story.”

“Oh, it’s better…”

The World of Cherry 3

Imagine, if you will, you could look behind the doors into a high-class sexy lesbian escort and strip club, and peek through the doors and see everything that goes on inside. Imagine if you could watch the bed-mates of the owner herself, the drama between the girls after making love, and see everything from bitchy backstabbing to true and loving companionship.

And then drench all that in a sticky, sweet coating of lesbian sex.

Wet panties.

Tasting her on the slick finger offered to your lips.

That look in her eye.

This book comes at me like the roar of a tornado, with the warning sirens blaring and the sky darkening and I stand in awe of its power and impact upon my psyche. The sex is well setup, appropriate, and delivers a satisfying kinky aftertaste like biting into red velvet cake. It teases, holds things back, and I get this terrible feeling of an ominous reckoning coming at this cast of lesbian castaways of normal life and business like that black, twisting shape dropping down from the clouds above. Things will not end well here in paradise, but watching them writhe, kiss, and take in each others’ succulent delights is a voyeuristic delight enough for me.

While it lasts.

And if you understand that, you understand life and why sex is what it is.

Sex and love is humankind’s best answer to death and hatred. We fight past perceptions, social media, bullshit, people telling us what to think and what to do, religion, organized groups of the anti-sex, intolerance, corporate greed and control – all to either watch two people share that moment or share a moment like that ourselves. Everyone in this world seeks to control sex and reproduction at any cost, from wars to beheadings blasted across our inboxes at every turn, and yet love and lust still finds a way to call bullshit on them all.

We can create all the fake we want in this world to try and control sex, but who we are shall always come through. I feel sorry for those who lie to themselves and accept what other people say.

Instead of listening to their hearts.

In the shadows of my mind―this is where Talia lives. The one girl who tempts to ruin my life, and nearly did, sways to a slow beat only she can hear in the middle of the spiral staircase―the place she’s been appearing with frightening frequency. Her elusive appearance draws me into a spell cast long ago, in a different time, from a desperate place. Upset by her intrusion, I attempt to tell her to leave, but my voice is silenced by the sinister magic she exudes. Draped in white satin, she appears ethereal, dancing on heaven’s ledge―a facade shattered by her compulsive need to crash and burn in hell. Talia can have anything she wants in the light of day, and yet she’s addicted to dark paths. This unchangeable character profile is why her mental imprint must be ignored and buried in the past. Minutes after opening the floodgates containing her memory, I’m drowning, wanting to sink into the forbidden depths where she waits, determined to take me under, and refusing rescue.

And that is just the first paragraph. Psycho-sexual lesbian thought control. This is the powdered sugar on top the cream cheese frosting on that red velvet cake. And this girl doesn’t even have our heroine’s best interests at heart, she could be using her, and yet the power she exhumes on our heroine’s thoughts is greater than any weapon mankind can ever build or any bullshit scandal-de-jour on the front page of the newspaper. No wonder every organized group in this world seeks to control the power of sex and lust, through shame and arbitrary rules of conduct and demeanor.

It is the danger of living like an adult child all your life, and one I fear the new generation shall miss out on. The joy of being an adult and meeting other adults in adult settings and situations. There comes a socially-agreed-upon point at 18 when you walk through the door of adulthood and you take on that responsibility. You get to do all this adult shit, and enjoy life for a little while before you leave this world. It’s our right before we die. Instead, money and marketing keeps us in the world of pubescence for at least 30 more years, and we all end up expecting to be treated like children for our entire lives.

Controlled.

Told what to do at every hour of the day.

Told what we can see and do.

Put with others like us so we won’t fight.

Protected by a nanny-state.

To demand to be protected from ideas to corporations, medias, and governments, like words and images are some ‘scary boogeyman’ under the bed we all need to be reassured aren’t there so we can sleep at night.

No, seriously, if you are 18 or older, grow the fuck up. It gets a lot better out here in the real world when there’s nothing to protect you and you actually feel alive for once. When you can actually meet someone and find that secret thing call love and connection. To have your heart broken. To find love again. To have responsibility. To read and possess knowledge and wisdom.

This book gets it. It is a bit on the lesbian porny side and I don’t mind that at all, but it sits here with a wisdom and maturity beyond its age and reflects the fucked up world of adulthood. People cry after sex. Some fuck for the thrill, get up, and leave without cuddling. Others use sex as a collar and wrap it tightly around another person’s mind tightly. Some live in the faded glow of the slightly warm embers of passion, still content in the company of a former lover, but the fire isn’t there. Maybe a wind will come along and stoke this into a full-blown fire, or maybe the ember will die out on its own and the two shall go their separate ways. Sometimes the new gal shows up and stokes a flame through the friction of her well-toned thighs.

It is all adult stuff, mature while still staying nasty, and we get every color of the fucked-up rainbow of sex and lust here. Fire hot reds. The curious heat of oranges. Suspicious yellows. Envious greens. Cool blues. The indigo innuendoes. And those ‘she is a psycho bitch’ purples.

Once upon a time we wanted to live in this life, to be characters in this drama of adult life.

Nowadays, we demand to be protected from it. To retreat in fear behind our entertainment (indifference) and organized beliefs of religious politics (right) or political religion (left). I don’t blame these forces, but I do feel too many people use these things as shields to avoid dealing with the wondrous and sometimes hurtful joy of life.

It gets better too as we go along, from the little hints dropped in chapter titles, to the relaxed form of writing and character we can drop into like the fit of a snug leather glove. Characters we can identify just by the tone of the writing in the chapter. The ominous tease to the reader that things are all about to come crashing down. The moments where the characters miss the obvious, like the actors in a horror movie, and they keep going about having sex in the abandoned house. Nasty hook ups. Sacrifice. Lust. Ownership.

Love.

Being somebody on the stage.

Watching others step up into the spotlight, and exit this drama of life.

What matters is the performance together, not the wants of a single stand out.

I have always had an affinity for the movie Showgirls, beyond its camp and horrid acting it had a story that I felt understood how people got used by the system, and in a ways the movie itself was a victim of this force. This book reminds me of the better feelings I had for that movie, how people can get swept up in a fake world where there are real concerns, and then people try to bring their artistic vision into it and end up being screwed by a larger and impersonal force, the tide of humanity who just seeks what they are told entertains them, and that appeals to baser and more simple interests. Though this world there are real people hooking up, some trying to ‘be someone’, and others just passing through. What does not matter is not the face on the billboard, but who you are as a person.

And there are many still who walk these streets with their eyes lost in the flickering lights. Those who hook up just for the thrill. Those looking to control others and have their meal ticket punched. Those looking for partnership. Those who are alone. Those who don’t give a fuck.

Be someone brave today. Grow up a little. Put yourself out there.

Be a little vulnerable.

Connect.

If you ever want to live the life of a character out of these books, and it does happen, you will need to let go a little.

But this book sees that world outside of our box, and it reflects a little on how we fantasize about this world.

But this fantasy can tell us more about ourselves than we may want to know.

And then we realize this world may not be a fantasy at all, as it could be waiting for us just outside our tiny little worlds.

An excellent book, highly recommend, and looking forward to more.

Wednesday Workshop: Hate is the New Booze

Anger is the new drug.

These are words I am too ashamed to say to a friend of mine, a creator and artist who I respect very deeply. I sit and watch as day after day, a wonderful creative spirit is spent on hateful works of art, as ugly in their depiction of certain figures as are the emotions behind them. Every day it is a new work coming out, the next more dark and twisted by anger than the last.

And I sit here wondering if someone can become addicted to hate.

My friend revels in taking in another drink, heading out to the bar-like atmosphere of social media where ‘social hate’ is acceptable and I feel even encouraged. In the moment, they are the life of the party, the most popular, the person dancing on the bar screaming at the top of their lungs about fascists, punks, and thugs and I wonder if those are true feelings or words used to get across feelings they have no idea how to express. My friend uses their creativity to turn negative thoughts and ideas into beautifully dark works of art, but I feel the intent is to anger and weaponize emotion. It is funny because the very dark and twisted propaganda my friend despises is the same type of art my friend creates.

Darkly propagandist. The shadow of revolution. Red black and white. Faces of opponents twisted into hateful caricatures.

If one knew or cared about history these days one could say something darkly ironic about this.

And I see all the wonderful creative spirit this person has, a real force capable of doing something better in this world, wasted on tearing others down. I know, who am I to say how someone else uses their creativity? Is it me that has the agenda here? I want to be careful of superimposing my expectations onto others, but I grew up in a place where it was better to inspire than to tear down, to build up rather than insult, and to fight for what you believe by being the better person. I know this sounds like I am uncomfortable with their works and maybe the presentation, but there is a point where I wonder, “How much anger is too much?”

I grew up in a better place than this. The strength of your ideas and the conviction of your beliefs were who you were as an idealist, and you won people over by being the better person.

You know, a place called hope.

Are there things which upset me about the status quo? Yes, some things which concern me deeply. Freedom of expression. Censorship. Privacy. Gender equality. Sexual freedoms. World peace. Honesty and fairness. Opportunity. Equality. Love. However, I can’t turn those concerns and worries into hate, and go out onto social media screaming “fuck you” and “fuck this” all day. What is the point? Who are you winning over by acting that way? Can I turn my vast reservoir of creativity into a weapon and thrust it into the other side’s gut every day?

My friend can.

And I get this sinking feeling that I get when I watch someone destroy their life with food, drugs, or booze.

And I stay silent.

I don’t have the right to really say anything. It’s not my life. This is not my muse. This is not my art. This is not my anger. I don’t understand the circumstances. Maybe there is a bigger goal here, and I don’t see the whole picture. Maybe this is my friend’s way of dealing with anger. Maybe something good will come out of it. Maybe they are “in control.” Maybe I misunderstood.

Maybes.

They are the mortar that hold the good intentions together on that road to Hell.

I am humble enough to admit when I am wrong, how rare of an admission that is, and what an open invitation that is to be attacked nowadays.

I could be wrong.

But the culture I see troubles me. Hate is the new booze. Anger is the new drug. I see people addicted, the same words day after day, and the same crowd partying it up. I was never a drinker so maybe I don’t understand. But I do see this strange affliction, one step removed, and I can only share my feelings in a general sense. I feel I am seeing someone wasting their life and I feel sad. I know I am putting this expectation on someone else, and that is wrong, but it is hard to see such a wonderful and creative person so troubled that their creative spirit is wasted in darkness and negativity.

Where does this go?

What is the alternative?

They could be building people up. Creating things of their dreams. Sharing their message. Spreading hope. Planning for what they feel are better ways and better times. Showing and inspiring, instead of tearing down. Working for a better future – one built on hope and civility. Using that creativity as a window into a future they believe in to show others what is possible, and instead I feel they use their creativity as a door to slam in someone’s face.

Forget it, just ignore me. Who am I to say? Live your life how you choose. I have enough to worry about just living mine. It is the sad moment of realization when you realize the word ‘friend’ means something else now. It is just a word and a smile when we meet, along with a thousand feelings bottled up inside just to keep that word around.

Maybe I am a terrible person, either in my silence or in my expectations of others.

But both feelings trouble me.

Wild Exposure


Her mind flew through her faults-boobs too small, thighs too big, hips out of proportion, body out of shape in general-and then she saw the way he looked at her, his eyes moving slowly over her as he smiled to himself. She did the rest of the buttons herself, one at a time, impossibly slowly, as he ran his fingers over the skin she exposed as he could. He traced over her like she was made of porcelain, like she was incredibly delicate, and it was lovely, but-she pressed that part of her mind away. Ian had always been delicate, gentle, and she liked to be worshiped, sometimes. She liked being made love to. Sometimes.

When she’d unbuttoned the blouse, she let it hang loose over her, and Watched Ben as he slowly and carefully pushed it off her shoulders, and then sighed gently, tracing the paths his fingers had taken with his tongue, swirling down over the hollow of her throat, down between her breasts, his fingers all the while lighting her skin on fire. She tangled her fingers in his hair and tried not to want more.

“What do you want?”

More of this, apparently.

Wild Exposure

An amicable divorce followed by a random trip to a bar in in the city and hooking up with someone she knew in college by accident, followed by some catch-up sex? Not likely, but I am getting the suspicion this city is a little like Los Angeles, the land of dreams and convenient hook ups to get the plot moving, so I forgive because this book is magical like that. It just reminds me of one of those LA hook-up stories, and I can imagine waking up in the arms of some hot guy who owns a bar and dreamed about hooking up with me years ago and this is finally his chance.

And I watch has the cool, moist air rolls in off the ocean, the fog burns off, and those impossibly high palm trees reach for the heavens and are set afire by the orange glow of the morning sun. The traffic echoes off the 405 and you know the place is a bit old, slightly out of the 1950’s, and isn’t perfect, but the place is where you wanted to be. Those dreams still live in a place like this, ones from lives which once came here and that will continue to for as long as time eternal.

Dreams.

We forget their power. We forget their ability to unite us. We leave them behind after a long night’s rest and our waking moments become nightmares of our own design with all the stresses of life, and then we dream of returning to this state again.

And the next morning, we forget them again.

Let’s spend some more time here, shall we? Back into the magical land where a divorce can end up mutually beneficial, sort of like walking through the looking glass into a world where everything is new again, where our emotions are raw and we have to worry about things like hooks ups, dates, first impressions, and compatibility.

Does he leave used tissues on the nightstand? Is his sink always full of dishes? Does he let the hamper fill too high before running a load?

Does the sex make up for all that?

There are some things I can live with if I am treated like a goddess, believe me.

It is that sort of book, rediscovering yourself, and living through having your life turned upside down and picking up the pieces. When the big reveal happened and she knew him from college, I did a double take and had to re-read the section. I did not just see that, right? It felt a bit too convenient, like a perfect accident waiting to happen by the pen of this life’s author. When I accepted the fact, the rest of the book went down smooth, and it actually worked pretty well.

Perhaps I am a bit too jaded and skeptical.

I need to let go of the past, and this book fits that bill perfectly. We need to be able to let go, to turn our lives ninety degrees and chart a new course. Where is the power of choice? What power do we have over our lives? You know those stories where someone says, “Ten years ago I quit my job and moved out to the coast with one paycheck and the dream of owning my own sailboat….”

And they did it, they live on that boat, and they took a life that was going one way and made it go their way.

And you feel that little thing in your head saying, “You can do this too.”

That.

That is this book.

Turning it all around. Finding love. Relazing that the man of your dreams isn’t perfect, but love can smooth over the cracks in the sidewalk and make everything “the new right” again. Like jumping the tracks to a life that could have been, and now you have that chance to make it be.

Would you do it?

Would you?

The next time you have a chance to change your life, take it.

You just might thank yourself some day.

Wednesday Workshop: Do You Know the Wind…

Do you know the wind?

As it blows across the plains, around the mountains, and through the rustling leaves of the trees do know know the wind by more than just its sound and the feel as it moves by your body? Do you know it by more than just the force it exerts upon you? More than by the clouds which twist and bend to its will as the wisps of white float by overhead?

But, do you know it?

This invisible force which pushes against you at times and makes each step even harder than the last. It could be at your back and move you along in a direction you may choose, or one you may not. You may have to fight it, or it may help you along. Do you see others in the wind, as it direct their lives in ways which bring joy and sorrow every day.

A life lost. A love found. Something created. Something destroyed.

Feelings.

Futures.

A notion the world is upset with itself and heading towards an unknown future, a place which the winds push us towards – but with our every step our body teeters with uncertain balance. Will this be a good place or a bad one? What will happen to me? Where are we being taken?

And we can try to shout into this wind and nothing comes out of our mouths. All we hear is the bluster and power of the wind as it fills our ears with white noise and the pressure of billowing gusts.

At times it seems the wind is made of the voices of millions, and we feel alone with our voice drowned out.

We could scream and no one would hear us.

Because the wind is there, drowning us out and fighting our every move.

Do you feel its power, more than just a simple and easily-explained force of nature? Do you see it, can you picture it in your mind as some sort of twisting, nether-like tangle of lines and swirls, like a Van Gogh painting where the wind is painted on the canvas with serpentine strokes and the brilliant colors of the sky? Do you see the wind for what it is, and how it shapes our lives? Do you see how it wraps around every one of us, twists and plays with our clothes and hair, and connects us together as one? The wind cares not about the color of skin, our political inclinations, or if the person standing against an infinite tide of the sky is a man or a woman.

It can come at us like a hurricane.

And at other times, the force of the wind could barely move a feather, and yet we still see the plumage gently play in the almost non-existent breeze.

Even though we cannot feel it, it is still there. Do you think about the invisible wind when you cannot even sense it? On a day where the air hangs heavy and barely moves at all, do you think about the wind more than wishing for a cool breeze to come to cool your skin? Do you consider the plumes of heat which rise from the land the wind, or just a current of air spiraling up in a giant column which we do not see nor can we even say is there without science to confirm?

Do we know this, the wind, as something more than science and nature? Can we explain its presence without a mathematical model and climate studies? Is it something more than a force of nature?

Does the wind bind us, connect us in a way?

Does it make us one?

Or does it keep us apart? Does it blow between each of us and keep the tiny hairs on our skin from sensing another there? Do we just feel the wind, and not the other person standing next to us? Does it blow between our bodies and keep us from ever truly touching? Do heated and hated words too easily spring forth and power these winds, and they blow like a scorching blow torch across a desert plain, almost stinging to the touch, with grit and sand which stings our eyes and forces us to close them even tighter to the world around us?

Can we never truly see because the wind blows in our eyes?

Does it numb our sense of touch? Does it blow us off course? Does it force us to shield ourselves tighter against its power and keep us from being as one? But if we were one, would that be what we want? There is something to be said for many singular souls standing against the wind, or together in it to enjoy the sensation. If bunch too tightly, if we were too close, we would feel nothing. There is a certain benefit to detachment, as there is a similar benefit in being close to others.

We need others, yet we also need to be able to stand alone.

Or does the wind do all of these things? A force, a power for both good and bad, indifferent in its infliction and benefit, but yet something which could push a sailing ship to a calm and friendly port, or tip the vessel over dooming all aboard. Do we understand this force, both for good and for bad, and what it does to us all?

At times I wonder about such things, if we understand and can feel the forces which both act upon us and can be caused by one and the same. If we somehow are fooled into thinking we are more powerful than the wind, that a lone voice in the tumult really does matter, and then I think back to the times where yes – one voice and one life mattered.

Change blew in, and one person mattered.

And for the good or the bad, the rest of us adapted to this new world, picked up the pieces, and continued to stand in the wind – or against it, depending on your perspective. For some, we have no choice, as in the wind we must stand.

 

The Wedding: The Young Royals 1.5

The strength of three was so much more amazing to her than the strength of one alone. There were things that trio could accomplish when they wanted to that made CEOs of great corporations look like underachievers. David and his sisters could charm, flatter and cajole any number of people into doing any manner of good things – great things. Truly, Caitlin had realized, they were people who used their influence to the utmost benefit of others. She would be part of that. It was heady. And, in the end, it had been enough to make her realize that the joys to be found in marriage to David could far outweigh the challenges.

Caitlin had left the volume up on the television so that she could hear the noise on the streets and the commentary from the national broadcast; so that she could have a sense of this moment in history. For that’s what it was; she knew that now. A grand occasion such as this had its date marked and the day would be celebrated all over the land. She was a part of history now. The thought made her queasy.

The Wedding: The Young Royals 1.5

For a royal wedding, this gets so much right, the meaning of it all, the pomp, the circumstance, and just the entire heady, elevated sense of history and happening. The prince being so proper, handsome, witty, and desirable. The new and untested princess-to-be from America so detached, nervous, and uncertain. The love between them carrying the day.

This is an in-between book covering the happenings between two books, but it is instructive and noteworthy in how much it gets right. Is it erotica? I feel this is clearly romance, but we could learn a little from our sister genre when it is time to put down the nasty words and write with a sense of gravitas and meaningful prose.

And I was reading this with a mind sullied by erotic prose, and when the prince’s two beautiful sisters showed up my mind went to places it shouldn’t. The funny thing is, I felt a little dirty and guilty in those thoughts, which is exactly what great and meaningful writing should do. My mind went places, but the prose made me feel guilty for going there.

How could I think such thoughts?

Scandalous.

It is the mark of writing that sets a high standard and sticks to it. That professes undying love and modesty and reflects a world where things are normal and relationships still have a modicum of decency. That guilt though is a key to what we do, something that unlocks a forbidden door in a reader’s mind. How can we make something feel wrong and dirty without first setting a standard which we should not breach? Even for less-erotic writing, the art of writing dignity and walls of behavior are some of those things I feel are helpful to learn.

How could he fall in love with her?

Why would she do this?

If you can not build a dam, you can not make it break.

If you cannot write restraint, you cannot show it breaking down.

And the book goes through this momentous day with a flair for touching the moments that matter. The pre-wedding getting dressed moments. Her thoughts about her absent family. A wedding breakfast. them together in bed. Just deft touches, painting the parts of the snow-covered trees that are not in white, and leaving the blank canvas to serve as the invisible composition which pulls the picture together. What is not shown forms in our mind.

We do not need to show her sitting on the plane. Waiting at the baggage carousel. Waiting for a taxi. Driving into the palace. While these are all valid moments which I am sure we could fill with meaning pulled from thoughts, they are not our best moments. They are rises and falls between the mountain peaks, and when we write, we strive to ascent those highest places and give the view from there.

Only the best for the reader.

And this books gets it. While there may not be sweaty bodies and desperate kisses shared in the throes of lust and passion, there are all the proper moments in between. In my mind, and possibly the books which surround this interlude, those moments are likely shared. The good parts, you know.

But what is often missed is the pieces around the good parts give those parts that essential goodness. They must be equally good for the throes and primal thrusts of mating to have any meaning at all.

This is what I like to call carousel romance, where we are introduced to a cast of characters – all without love – and one by one, slowly, we see their stories unfold. Here it is a prince and two princesses, proper and lonely in the modern world, and we get to peek in on their lives during private moments and share in their loss and love. In other books, it is ‘seven hunky were-shifter brothers’ and we get to see each of them, different and unique in their own way, find love.

With a common thread tying them together, as they are all riders of the carousel of life and love.

And as the carnival ride’s motors wind down and the spinning slows, we revel in the moments and sights of a world spinning around us – something which we do not normally see.

A royal wedding. Her discomfort. His stepping through the day. Them together.

The moments between matter, but what matters the most are the best of them.

Recommended, and a wonderful reflection of the space between two books that draws me in to the grand peaks which surround this moment.