Romance

Are We There Yet?

When I saw the date of my last post here, I shivered with thoughts of how much time had passed since then. I thought, like so many people, about how quickly time slips past us. But as I sit here in my kitchen typing this note, inhaling the aroma of baking cookies and enjoying the smooth flowing rhythm of white twinkling lights on my Christmas tree just a yard away, I realize how much “life” and “living” has been packed into these last few months. Months BEFORE Christmas had been announced in stores.

It’s true, I haven’t posted anything here since July. I have stopped by intending to post, though. Inevitably, something would require my attention and off I’d go again. If I didn’t stop to give some deep thought to why this blog has been so quiet for so long, I’d say the days simply got away from me, time has moved faster than ever, I’m lazy, I’m void of ideas…

None of those excuses/reasons are true, however. I’ve been writing. I’ve been a second pair of eyes for my daughter’s college essays, I’ve designed digital albums for my husband’s customers, visited with friends, paid bills, cooked, cared for sick pets… and worked on Book 2 of my erotic novella trilogy which I intend to self publish in the spring.

I’ve been busy. I’ve had richness in my life. I may be moving a little slower now than when I was in my teens and twenties, but time is not moving any faster. However, more is expected of us than ever before. We read and post tweets and status updates that provide minute by minute reporting of what we’re doing and before we know it an hour has passed. Two hours… But we’re so focused on the reporting of it, that we’re not living it. At least I’m not.

It’s my desire to step back a little. To head into 2014 with a new appreciation of time’s ethereal design. It’s not meant to be captured. It’s meant to be lived – and acknowledged. It’s the foundation for memories.

2014 will be a year of doing, and of savoring every moment. If that includes tweets and status updates – or even blog posts – that’s great. As long as the moments themselves are not shrugged off, as long as the focus isn’t on the outcome but the path to it.

My husband often says something that I tend to shrug off because I’m “too busy” and “need to get there”.

“It’s the journey,” he says. “Without the journey, the destination is just more of the same.”

May your 2014 and beyond be a journey and may your destination be that much richer because of it.

Porn, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance: What’s the Difference?

By now, nearly all of us have heard of Mommy Porn. It’s an obnoxious term used for erotic fiction geared toward women. While it was the sweeping success of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY which attracted so much attention to the erotic genre, erotic fiction, in various forms, has been around and enjoyed – by women and men – for centuries.

I think back to the romance novels of the 1970’s and 80’s. They were called, Bodice-rippers because of the standard theme of aggressive (by today’s standards, abusive) heroes who manhandled the heroines, berated them as if their respective roles were lord and serf, kidnapped them, imprisoned them, and ultimately raped them… only to somehow be portrayed as having been so deeply wounded that only our brave heroines could ever bring light into their lives. And forgive them. Lords of the Were - Bianca D'arc

Today, those heroines would be considered TSTL (too stupid to live), but back then? They offered a glimpse at what would become the strong independent and smart heroines who populate many books of today. Heroines who would never forgive their rapists. Heroines who have spunk and intelligence that, at the least, matches, and at times surpasses, the hero’s. Women who appreciate their own beauty in all its forms. Women who embrace their sexuality – in all its forms – and are responsible enough to fully enjoy it.

Erotic fiction helps to remind us how we – whether male or female – are all sexual beings. How sex for the pleasure of it is not just exciting, it’s normal. Of course, some plot lines fail to remind readers to be smart, safe and aware if you’re going to be sexually active. And some blur the lines of reality and fiction in quite shocking ways. But the target audience of erotic fiction is a reader of some maturity who would understand erotic fiction is just that – fiction meant to arouse.

Bound to be PleasuredHow focused that level of arousal is helps distinguish the difference between erotic romance, erotic fiction and straight porn. That’s not to say any one of those is intended to be less arousing than the others but rather how focused the piece is on sex versus emotion.

To break it down into workable bits, we can look at a story as having three parts – beginning, middle and end. What happens within a story that propels it through action, emotion, narration and dialogue from one point to the next is plot.

Porn does not have a beginning, middle and end – and yes, that means foreplay, climax and afterglow cigarettes are not the beginning, middle and end.

With porn, take out the sex and there’s nothing to the story.

Erotic fiction, or erotica, is a story with a beginning, middle and end that does not end with a happily-ever-after for the star players, whether hero and heroine, hero and hero, werewolf and heroine or any other combination. There are usually several explicit sex scenes within these stories, and there is absolutely no sex behind closed doors/fade to black moments and no purple prose. Characters may care for – or even love – one another, but love is not at all central to the plot.   The Sinners Club

Take the sex out of the story, and the story is still there. It’s not porn because emotions will be explored and expanded. There can be yearning, fear, concern, affection or any other emotion. Not just lust. As readers, we will get to know the characters beyond their sexual desires, though we won’t see them riding off into the sunset. Well… we’ll see them riding but not necessarily into the sunset or with forever in mind.

In erotic romance, the sex scenes can/will be plentiful and explicit, as in erotic fiction or erotica, but the heart-warming feeling of commitment between sexual partners will be clearly presented, built upon and defined.

And yes, it will end with an implied, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Though, some of today’s erotic romances end with a simple “happily for now” instead. There is explicit sex within the pages, but it is not just sex. Instead, it is sex with a sense of commitment between the characters. A joining of hearts, not just bodies. We would see how the characters are attracted to more than each other’s body. How when they look at each other, they see a person who helps make them whole and happy. That brings their story – with all its hot, uninhibited sex – from porn to erotic fiction to erotic romance.

PorAnne Rice Beauty Trilogyn = sex without plot (sex for the sake of sex)

Erotic Fiction/Erotica= sex as an integral but not sole element of plot (sex within a story that has a clear beginning, middle and end as well as some level of emotional depth)

Erotic Romance = sex between characters whose deep emotional connection grows throughout the story and leads to either a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending

As readers, we enjoy various levels of heat in the books we read – even within the erotica genre. Some of us enjoy paranormal erotica – whether paranormal erotic romance, paranormal porn or something in between. Some of us enjoy BDSM, ménage, dubious consent, historical or any combination of those and others.

Readers like myself and, probably, like you, regularly browse actual and virtual bookshelves for the type of stories that ignite and quench our desires. With authors’ interests as varied as readers’, there is a book out there for everyone – every taste, every desire, and every level of heat.

 

Rent-a-Cart

photo-5It’s amazing what we get used to and assume is normal not just for us but for everyone.

I live in a rather populated section of the city, so there are several supermarkets/grocers in my neighborhood. Of the closest, three are on the smaller size and one is quite large. I usually go to the larger one. During my last visit there, as I was returning my shopping cart to the stall, an elderly couple was standing there grumbling about something and looking rather confused. photo-2

I greeted them and they watched me with interest as I slid the front of my cart into the back of one already in the stall. And then they watched me with more interest as I popped the ‘key’ from the cart in front of mine into the slot in my cart’s handle in order to retrieve the quarter I had to pay as a refundable rental fee for the cart.

Their expressions went from confused to completely aghast. It seems they had just returned from spending several years in Florida and had never seen the contraption our grocer had set up for the shopping carts and had never considered the notion of paying for one.

photo-4It’s normal here now but it wasn’t normal here about a decade ago.

I remember when I first saw the carts all chained together. I thought, for sure, we were not permitted to use them, but I couldn’t fathom why. Annoyance soon replaced confusion however when I realized I – and all shoppers – had to have quarters at the ready so we could borrow a shopping cart.

Of course, this process of paying forced people to return those carts to the stalls rather than leave them scattered around the parking lot since the only way to get your quarter back was to chain your cart to another. It also prevented people from taking the carts home with them. And you might be surprised by how many people did just that. Some didn’t have cars so they walked their groceries home in the same cart in which they purchased them. Others used them as aides to deliver newspapers or collect nickel return recyclables from other people’s trash. And still others did it just to be wise guys and then they’d leave carts around the neighborhood in all sorts of places – like abused mutilated bodies or failed art exhibits. I guess the description depends on your point of view… photo-1

About the couple from Florida… I showed them how they, too, could gain the prize of a shopping cart, explaining how to use the key to plunge the quarter in fully in order to disengage the cart holding it in line. I laughed when the women muttered something I know I muttered when I first saw these things years ago, “What a stupid idea. Who thought of this?”

I just hope they remembered how to get their quarter back once they finished with the cart.

What about you? Do your grocers make you pay for a shopping cart? Are there other inconveniences or oddities in your area that you once thought were universal then learned were unique?

Beta Readers, Feedback, Pitch Sessions and Pride

My local writing chapter, Long Island Romance Writers, is hosting its 16th Annual Agent/Editor Luncheon this Friday, June 7th. Soon after, in July, RWA is holding its Annual Conference. Both will be a time for mingling, networking, connecting and reconnecting, and, most of all, pitching our work to interested editors and literary agents.

Often, simmering below the fear of the actual pitch is the fear of rejection. Rejections, however, are sewn into this business and no one has, as of yet, determined a workaround. The best thing to do is prepare. By that, I don’t mean we need to expect a rejection, but that we need to put rejections into perspective.

When I say rejections are sewn into this business, I not only refer to agents and editor rejections but also rejections from readers. Face it, not everyone will like our work. This is such a subjective business and we know negativity is out there – or if we don’t know, we find out soon enough.

Unfortunately, I think we tend to cling to the negative even if its dose is a tiny fraction of the positive.

I’m working on an erotic novella trilogy. Book 1 is finished, Book 2 is plotted and waiting for attention, and Book 3 is, at this point, merely a back-cover blurb. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers. All honest, helpful and encouraging. Out of the seven people who read it, only one did not like it.

Notice, I didn’t say, six loved it.

Though six did love it, one did not. That one is the one that matters most to me. That one unhappy reader, the one negative review, tends to be the one that carries the most weight with us as artists. We pour so much of ourselves into our creations that one dissenting voice comes through as if on a bullhorn.

Alone, that’s not a bad thing. It’s what we do after we’ve digested the reason for the negativity constructive criticism (it’s all about perspective) that matters.

Do we agree? Do we see a way to make adjustments to mitigate some of the concerns raised without compromising our vision for our story? Can we take the concerns to the positive beta readers for additional feedback or perspective? Some of the most negative feedback, when applied properly, can take a rough patch of story and make it shine.

This type of refocusing attention also applies to pitching our stories to agents and editors. Some will latch onto the idea with enthusiasm while others might cringe, pleasantly say it’s simply not for them, or dismiss you – not just your story – outright. And yes, the latter has happened to people I know and love.

So what? Not everyone will love us. Not everyone will love our work. That’s fine. All is good. Criticism is criticism no matter how gently or cruelly delivered. Our job is to determine its value and our next move.

As I said, this business is subjective. It’s truly as simple as that. If we’ve studied craft, applied ourselves to the project, poured our heart, our tears and our sighs into our stories, and others have rewarded us with honest, unreserved feedback and we’ve applied common sense revisions, then we have done our job.

Someone will always be there to point out a flaw. Others will want what we have to offer because they will ‘get it’. They will get us. They will see the potential in our project and make us feel good about it.

So don’t let ‘no’ stop you. Absorb it. Understand the reason for it. Decide whether to give it weight, and if so, how much. Determine the best direction for it – additional consideration or dismissal – and move forward undeterred.

If you’re anything like me, your muse will have it no other way.   

Technorati

I registered an old blog with technorati ages ago and just heard it mentioned by some friends. I thought, since that old blog is long defunct, that I should probably update the addy and other information. Honestly, I no longer know what technorati is, so I’ll be looking into that today.

Meanwhile, here’s the code I needed to post for verification purposes. 🙂 ear90j3DWEFOwe2

Beyond that, I need to give all of you a heads up – when creating this new space, I failed to update links to my photos, videos and audios. So, if you browse through some older posts, you’ll see lots of blank spaces. Please know, I’m working as quickly as I can to fix all of these issues. I promise – you WILL be able to listen to my ‘disembodied voice’ recordings soon. Promise!

Onward. horse

Voices Within an Empty Room

Just a few months ago, we investigated a report of paranormal activity in a nearby bus depot office. The claim was one of benevolence not malice. It was presumed that a spirit of someone who once frequented or worked on those grounds – which at one time were part of a military base – still resided there. Whoever the spirits are, they seemed curious and interested. Or perhaps, unaware they now lived in another realm.

Visitors to the office reported being tapped on the shoulder as they entered. The woman whose office it was, reported hearing noises and voices around her as she sat behind her desk or at her computer. There was a sense of calm, however, not concern. A curiosity most of us would feel if we heard tapping on our keyboard while we were not typing, or if we sensed someone standing behind us though there was neither a person nor room for one between our seat and the bookcase at our back.

So, we arrived one evening, around 6:00 and set up our equipment, ready for a long and interesting chain of events. We heard nothing. We saw nothing. We felt comfortable, safe and unconcerned. None of the feelings one might associate with paranormal activity came to us.

Upon reviewing the evidence, however, we did find one interesting photograph and several astounding audio recordings. Let me say right here – we had to dismiss most of the audio recordings though we truly believe we captured disembodied voices on them. There was simply too much contamination on the audio since people in the outer offices were speaking much louder than even we had realized.

Having said that, let me add this – two audio clips are keepers and, to us, solid evidence.

First, to the photograph…

This photo was taken with a flash, and as you can see, the computer is to the right, with my digital recorder beneath it. That will anchor you for the next photo because there is a green power light on the computer, and a red record light on my digital recorder.

With Flash

This is the same area without flash but with our blue/purple light grid –

with grid - w/o flash

THIS one was taken between the two pictures above. I saw this while we were there as I scrolled through my images. It might take a little looking, but if you compare the above image and this next one, you just might see the face we captured. The scale is off, the angle is odd, but there is a definite facial structure in near profile in this image. It looks to be in the area of the ‘wingback’ section of the chair.

I will post four versions of it – one as is, one indicated, one indicated in black and white because sometimes these things can be easier to see that way and one closeup and indicated in color… note in the photo above and in this first one where the green and red lights are (simply so you can compare locations to the first photo) –

FACE without flash - with grid

 

 

In this picture, can you see the red glow from my recorder? (Click on it to zoom in, it’ll open in another page)

Slowly, look diagonally up and left. You will see a bright bluish dot and then two vertical blurs of blue. Look a fraction more to the left and up. See a small horizontal bit of blue? The face is just to the right of that. See it? It’s indicated in the pictures below…

 

 

 

FACE - INDICATED - Full

FACE – INDICATED – Full

FACE - indicated - B&W

FACE – indicated – B&W

FACE - color - indicated and cropped

FACE – color – indicated and cropped

See it?  Bring the image up closer if you need to. Give your eyes a chance, it is definitely there.

Once we completed our investigation, we started chatting with the office personnel and after a while, I decided to go back into the now-empty office and set my recorder down. Just in case. I closed the door, yet you can still hear our voices coming from the front office area. If you listen closely to this clip, you will hear different voices, at a different level than ours. To me it sounds like two women. This is only a minute into the recording and it seems to me as if these entities found my recorder to be of interest. To my ears, it sounds like one says, “Where?” and the other replies, “There.”

You will need headphones –

From 2-11 seconds you’ll hear us in the other room (with one of the women walking right outside the closed office door at 11 seconds when she mentions a printer ‘squealing’). Then you’ll  hear white noise until… 31 and 32 seconds when you’ll hear the other, disembodied voices (only with headphones). Remember, no one is in the room with the recorder. btw – I kept the white noise in there so you could hear the difference in the sounds. Sometimes, when you just start an audio clip at the actual EVP, it doesn’t sound as fantastic as it actually is.

Audio – Where, There

And in this clip, less than a minute later, you can hear one of the women speaking in the front office but then there are two whispers. It sounds to me like the first says, “Two or three?” and the second responds with a forced whisper, “Don’t know.”

Listen – first there will be outer office chatter. It goes on until 10 seconds. Right at 8 seconds, if you listen very hard past the regular voice, you’ll hear the whispered, “Two or three?” At 11.5 seconds, you’ll hear the rather distinct whispered reply of, “Don’t know.”

Two or three, don’t know

To me, they sound curious, harmless. We don’t know who they are or why they’re lingering there but we hope to go back on another day, when no one else is there, and ask some questions. Hopefully, we’ll have more evidence to share.

Meanwhile, I hope you were able to see the face and hear the voices – and if not, look and listen again. Trust me. Once you see and hear it, you’ll be rather amazed. .

 

Sonoma Diet – Wave 2

yummyWe survived Wave 1 of the New Sonoma Diet – which is the most restrictive of the ‘waves’ but not truly restrictive when you consider the amount of food we were able to eat.

Wave 1 lasts ten days and is intended to retrain your body to accept and enjoy healthier, unprocessed, foods. To be honest, once I shopped for all the ingredients and stocked the fridge, I was quite impressed. It looked GOOD! Nothing went into the cupboards except some cans of beans, dried fruit, nuts and dried herbs. Everything else was fresh – veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese, meat, fish.

Oh, and wine. Cannot forget the wine.

Trust me – the recipes are phenomenal. We haven’t had one dish that wasn’t flavorful and filling. Even if you’re not looking to ‘go on a diet’, you might want to browse through the cookbook – The New Sonoma Diet Cookbook.  Daily menus are set up with recipes and their page numbers – the thinking has already been done for you though you can mix and match as you please within Waves.

Every meal has been an adventure – and, there was never a scrap of food left on the plates (take that as a sign of the deliciousness of the food or the hunger we felt at mealtime – either or both would be right.).

Of course, portion sizes are smaller than the American “Supersize” we’ve grown accustomed to, and the ratio of veggies to meats or grains has been adjusted. That might be the biggest change of all for me. I was used to serving pasta, rice, bread or potatoes with nearly every dinner. Carbs were a big part of the meal yet now I realize none of that is necessary for one to feel satisfied, though it’s a nice treat in moderate amounts.

All that said, this diet is not for anyone who is short on time. Meal prep, for me at least, seemed to take all day. I barely left the kitchen before it was time to return and start again. To be fair, this was all new to me, and I didn’t give myself enough time to read all the info before starting, so maybe there are hints in the book for less time-consuming ways to deal with meal prep. I don’t know. What I do know is that everyone in the family was happy with the meals and the outcome.

In ten days, our average weight loss was 4.5 pounds.

Yes, we all grumbled about not being able to nosh on cheese Fresh Veggiescrackers or some other not-good-for-you mid-day snack. But once we got thehang of it and realized how to space out the snacks we were allowed to have – the occasional mozzarella cheese stick, an ounce of nuts, celery and nut butter, cottage cheese or yogurt and fresh berries – we found we weren’t as ‘hungry’ as we were ‘bored’. We’re snackers because we feel like doing something other than work. Grabbing a handful of chips during break time provided us with a quick fix. We simply had to retrain ourselves to avoid dipping our hand into a box of something and, instead, prepare a snack. It took time and discipline but it’s been well worth it.

Did I mention that the only day I wound up with a migraine during this 10 day wave was the day after we cheated by going out to dinner?  There’s something to be said about the wholesomeness of fresh foods. I’m happy we started this. I hope to organize myself better so I’m not so reliant on ‘the book’ and can prepare  healthier meals and menus on my own.

Until then… onward with Wave 2! Fourteen Days… or until target weight is reached.

Wave 3, then, will be maintenance – which we all know is a lifelong process.

Onward! ridinghorse.gif

 

 

 

Reality Blog Award

Donna Coreality-award1e-Velleman nominated my blog for the Reality Award. I feel so special. 🙂

Thank you, Donna.

Here are the rules for The Reality Award :

1. Show appreciation of the blogger who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
– Happily DONE!
2. Add the award logo to your blog.
– Done!
3. Share 7 things about yourself.
– Done! (below)
4. Nominate 5 – 10 or so bloggers you admire.
– oh my. There are so many bloggers I admire but I’m never sure if I should pull them into something. I will nominate bloggers privately and if they accept, I will post them here. Surely the rules can be tweaked this way?
5. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know.
-Easy peasy! Will do.

So, drum roll… because you are all just itching to know my secrets…  here are seven facts about me:

1) I’m a lefty when it comes to writing, but can do just about everything else with both hands – ha, let that sink into your imagination. I do write romance, after all.

2) There are two things I simply CANNOT do with my left hand, yet do well with my right – eat soup/cereal and play air hockey. Yeah. I know. Strange, isn’t it? 

3) I love to bake and am into cake decorating.

4) My dream car is a red Mustang – I’m really not picky on the year. It can be a 1967 or it can be a 2013. One day, one of those beauties will be sitting in my driveway and I will be holding the keys.

5) I am an impatient learner, wishing to ‘know’ instead of ‘learn’.

6) I am terrified of anything that……. scurries. (That should be 6a, while 6b should be that even the word ‘scurries’ gives me the willies).

7) I’m allergic to tree nuts, strawberries and… are you sitting? ….chocolate.

==

There. Your life is complete now that you have learned seven little things about this Gemini. Oh. Ha! Make that eight!

Four More Years

With the end of a harsh campaign season, the USA has finally voted. Though the president won comfortably, this country is still divided, with some Americans feeling hopeful again while others are afraid for the future. If the vote went the other way, there would be the same split of emotion with merely a flip of who felt what.

What I find sad is how close to the edge Americans now stand, staring at each other across a chasm of our own making, trying to tug some invisible knot  over to our side. If we care about our country, we will drop that knotted rope and extent our hands.

Neither side is stronger. Neither side is ‘right’. Both sides have value to add to the discussion. Both sides simply need to listen – and act – for the betterment of the country, not a party, an ideal or an agenda.

It starts with each of us and ends with the demands we make on our representatives – and on the motive behind our demands. Insist on compromise, not on stagnation, and this country’s focus will soon go back to being of the people, for the people and by the people.

And ‘the people’ is everyone of us. We all bear blame. We all bear responsibility. We all bear the brunt of dysfunction. It’s time to demand better from all. For all.