27 September 2010

(Not So) Guilty Pleasures

Every fall, post premier week, I get pulled into a slew of conversations about everyone’s new guilty pleasures of the season. Inevitably this leads to the admission that I don’t have any. Don’t get me wrong, I watch TV, I watch A LOT of TV. In fact I watch more television than anyone else I know, (will admit to). I just can’t find it in myself to feel guilty about it.

Between new and returning shows, my household watched some twenty-one guilt-free hours of primetime television last week. With this week’s new shows, that number will increase to twenty-five hours; add in October premiers and it could reach thirty hours. That’s more than a full day of shows and it doesn’t count any of the news programs I watch faithfully, or the half-hour comedies he watches online.

By November that number will change again as certain shows fail to live up to expectation and others are abandoned by their networks, leaving us somewhere around the twenty hour mark, but let’s say twenty-four just to stay positive. Twenty-four hours of television a week—that’s a part time job—and one only made possible with the use of a DVR and 32 inch monitor that makes Hulu worth watching online. If we watch that much television and will admit it, how much are others really taking in and crossing their fingers about?

I have to admit that over half our television time is combined with computer time which is how much of this is possible. I do research, check email and social sites and even write as a show sparks an idea or a deadline looms on the horizon. I’ll also read or workout during commercial breaks and scenes with characters I don’t particularly like, so a lot of multitasking to be had. Perhaps that’s why I don’t feel guilty about watching television as whole. We also watch zero “unscripted” reality television which doesn’t leave a lot to feel guilty about.

I know things like Survivor and The Bachelor are edited and slightly scripted, but I make the distinction because we do watch fully scripted/narrated reality shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network, nature and science shows on Discovery and the eclectic mix of mental phenomena that is the History Channel and History International. All of these shows have a research basis as details and desserts make their way into my stories, but we love them because where else can you discuss the merits of brining and the likelihood of parallel universes on the same weekend with the same confidence in each topic due to the easily digestible facts broken down and served up for maximum retention? If only school had been so accommodating. *smile*
I think as a household of readers, who talk primarily to other readers, we stand out for our watching habits because few people do both so robustly. But if you look at the abundance of paranormal fiction and sci-fi/fantasy that we read, the paranormal fiction and sci-fi/fantasy that we watch makes more sense. We also watch House and a rather startling number of procedurals, but personally I find a fantasy element to the technology and mental prowess used to solve cases, so it fits right in from my perspective.

I think the difference between television being a guilty pleasure and pleasurable hobby is whether or not you feel you should be doing something else instead. We don’t give up other things to watch and since we extend from fan into fandom with many shows, the conversation is just starting when the show ends for the hour. We’re invested in many of the series the same way we are in the books we read and the conversations, theories and story inspirations that come from our shows make every hour seem worth it.

Now I have had my guilty moments. Supernatural is a favorite show and one I’ve heard others describe as a guilty pleasure since they watch less for the story arc and more for the attractiveness of the main characters. I watch for both so I don’t feel that hour is better served elsewhere. However, the twenty-plus hours spent in a two day marathon of season 5 in preparation for season 6…yeah, I so should have been doing other stuff and it felt wonderful! Besides, my season 5 dvds didn’t show up until the 22nd, what was I supposed to do?

So how much television do you all watch? Do you have any guilty pleasures you tune into every week? Do you feel more guilty about the time you spend watching TV than the time you spend reading? And should guilt ever play a factor in any pleasure that’s healthy and doesn’t take from family, friends and productivity?

Ooh, What's On Tonight Ramble ~ Done


22 September 2010

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Images from Dragon*Con 2010

1. Dragon*Con 2010 was all about the lines, starting with the multi-block, multi-hour lines for registration Thursday, September 2. The final figures have yet to be published, but I'm sure the con exceeded last year's numbers by several thousand.

2. But that didn't deter revelers, many of whom had already donned their costumes.

3. Costumes like this gorgeous articulated elf and dragon, who were so popular, I couldn't get close enough for a good shot.

4. There were fabulous costumes everywhere you looked, including the Dragon*Con Art Show reception. By Dragon*Con day, the Red Queen and Mad Hatter were artists and vendors at the Art Show September 3.

5. The costumes of authors Leanna Renee Hieber (the Strangely Beautiful series) and Mari Mancusi (the Vampire Coven series) pay homage to the subject of the Dark Fantasy Track's "Worlds of Tim Burton" panel, Saturday, September 4.

6. This year they moved the Dragon*Con Cabaret burlesque show to the Hyatt's Regency Ballrooms, which meant there was enough room for your fearless photographer to sneak into the show, late as always. (I was on a panel. Honest!) But even so, the house was so full, I was squeezed into the very back and watched most of the show on the Jumbotron.

7. Some of the con's most extravagant costumes could be found at the Grand Pirate and Time Travelers Ball at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, Sunday, September 4. I presume this gentleman is a steampunk bounty hunter. He looks ready for anything, from varmints to vampires.

8. The con also boasted an amazing Steampunk Justice League of America. Alas, my post-Masquerade photo didn't turn out. (Oh, to have captured the Batman's leather wings. Oh, to have purloined the Batman's leather wings...but I digress.) Luckily, however, I wasn't wearing the wrong color when this Green Lantern appeared.

9. Did I mention the lines? The Dark Fantasy Track's 10 p.m. Sunday panel "The Taste of the Forbidden" featuring Laurell K. Hamilton was so popular, people were still standing in line for it at 10:45. And no, there wasn't an 11 p.m. panel to justify another line.

10. Even after the Sunday night Dragon*Con Masquerade, this Dragonrider was a big draw for cameras and fans alike.

11. Author Sherrilyn Kenyon (the Dark Hunter series) backstage before the late night Celldweller and Cruxshadows concerts.

12. The always lovely Cruxshadows dancers. At the concert, lead singer Rogue announced his wife Jessica Lackey (second from left) was expecting her first child.

13. Cruxshadows Pyromantic and keyboardist extraordinaire Jen Jawidzik (right) persuaded me to step out from behind the camera for my final con photo.

What? You were expecting me to end with the photo of Laurell K. Hamilton dancing onstage to "Marilyn, My Bitterness"? No way. I have to generate traffic to my Flickr page somehow. Enjoy! ;-)

Jean Marie

Where do you buy your light bulbs?

I have a writer friend (who has this totally awesome fantasy series; in the near future you will probably see his words on the big screen), who when he loses his inspiration says he is going out to 'buy some light bulbs'. See, he's an illustrator as well as an author, so he's big on visual cues. That 'light bulb' moment that all authors search for, like in cartoons when a character gets a bright idea.

For me, light bulbs come from all over. I am asked all the time, 'where do you get your ideas'. Literally everywhere, is my answer. Last weekend, for example, I was on my annual family trip to Wildwood, NJ. The ocean and beach is rejuvenating for the muse. I haven't written much lately, because I'm swamped with freelance work, grad school work, Boy's football season, editing the upcoming Library of Athena book (yay!). So my current WIP is on hold, but that's maybe not such a bad thing, since I hate to rush and I'm thinking I needed a recharge anyway.

So, here we are, down the shore (as we say here in Jersey), walking the boardwalk. I see a crowd, off to one side, across from Douglas' Fudge (yum, btw!). The three of us, Boy, Husband, and Me, go and see what is happening. There's a guy there, setting up some kind of art - he's got canvases laid out on the deck, pretty pictures. He's setting up a bunch of spray paint cans and dropcloths.

Did I mention he's wearing a mask and giant Mad Hatter's hat?

His assistant is also setting up a sound system, for reasons unknown. Anyway, after watching all this, the crowd is suitably curious and rolling with anticipation. Finally the guy in the big hat kneels down and pulls out a fresh canvas. The assistant starts the music - a thumping techno with a huge bass line.

The man in the hat starts to paint. He grabs can after can of spray paint, dabbing, dripping, using scrapers as edges - and ALL to the beat of the music. He paints TO THE BEAT, spraying and swiping, throwing paper towels and empty cans into a nearby container. In about five minutes, he picked up the canvas and showed us a work of art. Not spray paint graffiti, but a piece of art I'd hang on my wall, a black and white mountain scene with pine trees. It was amazing - a complete performance. It was magic.

I found some light bulbs. Don't be surprised if you see a guy with a big hat and magic paint in a future story someday.

So where do you buy your light bulbs?

20 September 2010

Everyday Heroes

When I need inspiration to help me write, like I did last week (oy-vay what a week I was having) I don't have to look far.

I am blessed to be surrounded by heroes.

I love a man who is a member of cycling club/racing team. This gorgeous guy hops on his bike six days out of the week. He rides in rain, sleet, sand storms, desert heat, over mountains, through water, on rocky highways, into the Sierras, across Phoenix in August...You get the point. He rides when he is sick. He rides when he hurts. Paying money to race, he shows up hours before the start, warms up, does the whole elbow thing to get his spot in the group, and races his heart out.

Sometimes he wins. Sometimes he gets a flat tire. Sometimes he crashes, or riders crash into him, or cut him off so that he can't do his amazing sprint finish. Nothing keeps him out of the sport for long. I have seen the man riding his stationary bike with a broken clavicle, wrist, and foot. He is passionate about riding. He loves it the way I love to write.

His teammates are just as dedicated, just as crazy as he is. In their real lives they are mechanics, doctors, real estate agents, teachers, scientists, firemen, small business owners... But they live to ride. Sure, they hurt, get beat up, occasionally eat pavement, but they don't stop fighting. They do everything they can to improve themselves and their sport. I have never seen a group of more supportive, proud, butt-kicking people.

I also have hero friends who run marathons, ride in the Leadville 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race, compete in the Ironman, train for the Race Across America, and swim mile after mile in the ocean. I have girlfriends who make men cry on their bikes.

My everyday heroes remind me that you have to make time for your passion, work your tail-end off for your dreams, and keep improving and fighting against all odds. Winning doesn't happen without putting miles in the sadddle (or desk chair, as it were). There's no place on the podium for quitters.

I am in awe of my heroes and wish them nothing but successes.

Who inspires you?

17 September 2010

The Blame Response

The news lately has carried the story of a woman who had acid thrown in her face. After time and resources are used to investigate her attack and find her attacker, she finally admits she threw the acid in her own face. And suddenly the world turns against her. It’s at this point that my heart really went out to her.

Violence happens every day. Sure, we all feel for the victims, but the reality is that if we felt for every single victim of violence, we’d be so emotionally drained we’d be unable to function. But this episode is a different kind of thing. Violence was done, but the victim is also the perpetrator. This girl is obviously very sick, very sad, and in serious need of psychiatric help. Law enforcement is talking about pressing charges. I can only hope they rethink that option.

I’ve had some experience with mental illness—it doesn’t run, it gallops through our family. From my great grandmother who threw hot water on my grandmother to the severe depression that is denied by several people close to me to the bipolar illness one member of the family has. Me? Major depression and post traumatic stress disorder. There, admitted. It’s an illness, just like my Ehlers-Danlos, hypertension, degenerative disk disease, and asthma. I take medication, exercise, try to eat right, etc. Not so very different , really. I also have friends who have various mental illnesses. And something I’ve learned, people with mental illnesses are just people. Nobody blames a diabetic or an asthmatic for their symptoms, but when a person can’t get out of bed in the morning, has hallucinations or flashbacks, or becomes manic and acts irrationally, people line up to blame them for their illness.

My theory is that people are afraid of getting what the person has, so therefore believing the person brought the illness on themselves means they can be morally upstanding and not fall victim to the illness themselves. This is also true of physical illnesses, but the stigma of mental illness is greater, therefore the desire to blame the victim is greater. Factor in odd behavior, and fear, and the result can be a serious desire to find a reason to blame the victim. Just to protect a person’s piece of mind.

My own, not at all humble opinion is that this poor girl who threw acid in her own face shouldn’t be charged with a criminal act. Instead she should be given serious psychiatric treatment for as long as it takes. I just hope and pray that’s what will happen.


13 September 2010

Fear and Loathing in My Office

Yep, it's that time again. Every few months like clockwork my home office starts to bubble over like some Shakespearian cauldron stirred by a band of witches, spitting out bits of crumpled paper, packing boxes and old mail that needs sorted through. It's not that I'm fascinated with clutter, but that while my head is stuck in a world of my own creation, the physical world goes to shit in a handcart. At least the extraneous paper part of my existence.

Why is that? I've often wondered as I look around at the squalor that becomes my work space, how in the hell that happens. All right, the book boxes I understand. I have a tendancy to order reference materials from Amazon and their affiliates. After ripping into my newly arrived treasure, I just kind of let the wrappings sit there hoping against hope that they will go back into the earth of whence they came without direct intervention from me. Never happens.

Then there are the books. Reference, fiction, notebooks. You name it, it's probably on my floor. That old dog earred copy of Strunk & White you've been missing - I'm sure it's here somewhere. This is the portal wherin all lost items have probably traveled.

The ironic thing is that I honestly can't work well with the mess around me. I can't concentrate. My butt won't stay planted in the chair so I can work. It's sad really. Why don't I work as I go and instead of just throwing the crap on the floor, actually put it away? That's just too easy. And it doesn't start out junky, it just kind of becomes that way over the course of weeks.

And so, at some point this week, I'm going to have to buck up and deal - to set aside some time to get my work area organized once more. Actually, looking around me, I've seen it in worse shape. Maybe if I just do one thing a day rather than taking on the entire bloody room, I won't feel as if I'm spending so much time away from my writing.

It's a thought anyhow.

So, how's your office?


11 September 2010

Shameless Plug for The Willing Courier

Throughout the centuries everyone from world leaders to romantic hearts have always valued the loyal services of a willing courier. And now The Willing Courier is back and better than ever! Filled with yummy news, views and Willing insights I'll be issuing the first of my new style newsletters sometime in October--depending on when we can ransom Big Ears from the Duke.

In the meantime here's the start of the free read that comes in instalments with the newsletter. Remember, if you want to read more, come join up. It's free, whole and hearty. Just like me!

Come play with me here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thewillingcourier/


Terras IV

Christy’s breath caught as she glanced out of the laboratory window, looking across the small compound to the landing bay and the tall figure standing there. Inkle, her Nchibu, the tiny hamster-like creature that normally traveled curled up—comatose—on her shoulder gave a small bleary “meep.” Then poked its head out from under her regulation, “itch right down to the bones,“ Federation Exploration Corps. skintop—an incredibly thin and stretchy metallo-plastic tank top which gave a lot more protection than looks said it legally should.

Embarrassed that her thoughts could rouse her mildly telepathic pet from its slumber, Christy forced herself to focus on the test samples in front of her.

Even then she couldn’t prevent her gaze straying out to the landing pad—accompanied by the curious wriggles of Inkle as he clambered to the top of Christy’s head, presumably for a better view.


“Oh, shush!” Christy whispered, trying to settle Inkle down. Truly she’d excited the tiny impster unnecessarily. No man was worth getting excited about, Christy reminded herself. Especially a man whose hair shone in the sun with rich oaken tones, and whose rugged face and muscled body was reminiscent of the old Celtic Gods folktales. All men betrayed you and hurt you—just like Maik—the reason she’d volunteered for this post in the first place. It was a long way from here to the nearest available, wantable, man.

Well, that had been what she’d hoped—until now.

Precisely the point, of course, Christy wanted to find someone special but with a past of failed lovers and one broken engagement, she no longer believed in those fantasies. There were, though, Christy smiled to herself and ignored Inkle’s excited “meep,” other types of fantasy she could indulge in. She decided to indulge in them as much as she could with her new object of desire.

She stopped to watch, admiring the way he moved as he helped the shuttle crew unload the supplies and equipment, some of which were essential for her own research. It impressed her too, for an officer to so easily fall into working with the regular mil was rare—but on Terras IV combined effort was essential—snobbishness over rank quickly became the major source of conflict in the small encampment. Not to mention the way the man’s muscles rippled beneath the thin fabric of his uniform skintop did wonderful things for her imagination.

She wondered where he’d be posted within the camp, wishing for once she’d taken the time to listen to the many rumors and speculations which so often fueled the conversation in the mess hall and recreation rooms.

Christy studied the new officer again and allowed herself a wicked thought. Wherever he was posted she could tell he’d be smooth enough to fit perfectly.


Inkle gave a stuttered chirp and tumbled unceremoniously down Christy’s chest to land with a flumph in the now ruined test sample of Periphetins—one of the floppy purple flowers folded over the poor creature’s head. Christy almost laughed at its “What happened?” stare.

“I don’t know what you’re thinking about girl,” Marsha, Christy’s co-worker and sometimes boss laughed loudly. “But it’s sure sending Inky into fits.”

"Uhm, did those cabonized sample tubes for the Riecard analysis arrive yet," Christy asked, changing the subject and looking at the small pile of botany supplies set out on the landing pad. Inky frantically clambered up her sleeve and sat on her shoulder, locking its tiny claws into the fabric.

"Probably on the landing pad now," Marsha answered, catching Christy's glance and smiling. "Why don't you go and check?"

"Okay," Christy tried not to sound too enthusiastic. "I hope they're not too heavy."

Marsha grinned, finally spotting the new arrival and guessing Christy's current bout of distraction. "Maybe you'll find a nice hunky man there who will help you bring it back?"

"I'll use a grav cart," Christy blushed, determined not to let on that she'd been tumbled.

“Sure thing,” Marsha laughed back. “Take your time, it’s your turn for a break anyway.”

Too embarrassed to say anything else Christy grabbed hold of a small grav cart and stepped out of the biolab into the hot, humid jungle air—then walked into a brick wall.

“Can I help you?”

Christy looked up, speechless. Okay, it had felt like a brick wall. So what if it was one hundred and ninety pounds of rugged male which now looked at her with a smile akin to pure orgasm.

“I’m...was just going to collect our supplies,” Christy managed finally. “I’m one of the botanists here…”

“Oh, good.” The captain replied. “Maybe I can make a deal with you?”

“Huh?” Christy wondered why she was cursed with a less than witty vocabulary.

“As you can see I’m new here, posted to escort the field excursions.” Christy nodded numbly—she definitely needed to schedule in a few more of those excursions for her experiments. “If I help you shift your supplies, could you show me the town, who does what, and where?”

“Sure,” Christy nodded. Hardly believing she’d agreed to the plan. The encampment was barely a mile across and she was certain he’d be able to work out everything on his own. There were very few formal boundaries in the camp, except those usually reserved between civilian and military.

“I’m Christy,” Christy announced, starting towards the pile of supplies by the landing pad. “I hope you’ll enjoy your tour of duty with us.”

“Richard.” The captain answered. She felt his gaze wash over her. “And I didn’t think I would, until now.”

Christy refused to blush, failed miserably and felt glad he couldn’t see her face. So the good captain had a nice smile. Truth be told he had a smile so inviting she found herself blushing more, having realized just in time, she’d been about to turn around; slip her arms around his neck and demand his kiss.

They reached the pile of biolab supplies, Christy breathless in spite of the very short walk. What the hell was wrong with her, he was just a man for Sadie’s sake! She forced herself to concentrate on her work and mentally began organizing the supplies in the best order for putting them on the grav cart. Maybe that would take her mind off the wonderfully orgasmic fantasies she was suddenly having.

“Meep, meep, meep. Meeeep!”

“No, Inkle! Behave!” Christy scolded as Inkle struggled across her head—the creature’s tiny claws catching and tangling in her hair.

Inkle’s madcap bleating ended with one of his customary suicide glides as he leapt from Christy’s forehead and somehow managed to land in the middle of Richard’s chest. To give him his due, Richard didn’t flinch as Inkle’s claws dug into his skin. The fact that the captain chuckled over the whole affair gave Christy both a sense of relief and envy. Nchibu, once they chose someone, rarely changed their affections. And even though her own thoughts about the captain weren’t exactly of the sharing nature, there was no way she’d let him woo Inkle away from her.

Richard laughed at Inkle’s frantic scrambling, as the frenetic fur ball scrabbled the last few inches to his shoulder. The warm glance he sent her way eased her flash of jealousy, allowing her to risk a small giggle at Inkle’s high adventure.

“This must be one of the famed Nchibu.” Richard reached up and scratched between Inkle’s ears with two fingers. A ploy which Christy knew from experience would send the creature into beeps of ecstasy.

“Wow.” Christy nodded, surprised Inkle’s vocal hysteria wasn’t alerting the rest of the camp. “I think you’re the first mil sent here that’s actually knows what they’re called.”

“You’ll have to blame that on my parents,” Richard grinned, picking the Nchibu up and cupping it in his hands. “Partially sentient, quadralmarsupial with indications of psyche ability. Rare animals and very difficult to find, I gather.”

“You should be working with Marsha,” Christy laughed. “Your parents must have been very much into animal care. One of Marsha’s jobs is to study them and see if we can live and work together. And yes, it’s more like they find us, if they want to. You’ll virtually never see them otherwise. Especially not out in the wild.”

“Ouch!” Richard slapped his neck as a tiny tie-dye took a chunk out of him and moved on. The miniature wasp disappearing into the jungle before Richard even knew what had happened.

“Tie-dye wasp.” Christy moved his hand away and peeked at the tiny inflamed spot on his neck.


“From their colorations,” Christy explained. “They look like they’ve been tie-dyed. Everyone here has been stung by at least one. It’s almost a welcoming tradition by the local anthropods. You’re not a Terras IV colonist if you don’t sport the sting.”

Christy pulled down the top of her tank-top to reveal her left shoulder and a small white pimple that remained of her sting.

“Mine got me in the shower. I’d taken tons of precautions too, since I’m allergic to normal wasp venom. Fortunately I didn’t react to this one.”

Christy hurriedly pulled her top back in place when she noticed Richard taking a little too much interest in all the skin she was showing.

“Impressive.” Richard murmured, as if he was in a dream.

Inkle had started to do a little circular dance in Richard’s hand which both amused and, oddly, worried Christy.

“My father was the animal lover, Dr. Eldmund Joung. You’ve probably heard of my mother, since you work in botanics. Professor Hilary Joung.” Richard’s voice almost sounded as if he’d spoken through treacle. Christy began to get extremely worried that the wasp had some weird effect on him. It was unnerving. Then his words broke through her worry.

“Oh, my God!” She nearly clung to Richard’s arm in excitement. Hilary Joung had been Christy’s tutor over sixty years ago when she’d been an overeager intern newly inducted into the Exploration Corps. What Hilary didn’t know about exotic plants, wasn’t worth knowing.

Then she caught a glimpse of an odd look on Richard’s face, and the growing intricacy of Inkle’s dance and another, more shocking revelation came to her. “Oh, my God!”


Ignoring Inkle’s protracted protest she snatched the tiny animal from Richard’s hands, the brief contact of her fingers with Richard’s leaving behind a sharp, hot sensation. Stunned she cupped Inkle against her chest, waiting for the glazed look in the captain’s eyes to vanish and her own thoughts to re-gather.


Christy opened her hands flat, wondering if she should chastise Inkle but didn’t get a chance. Immediately it stood on its two hind feet—something she’d never seen before—and, waving it’s two front legs like a manic conductor began a long tirade of beep, peeps, meeps, whistles and even a few low grunts. Then it hopped along her arm and quickly buried itself under her shirt. She’d been well and truly scolded.

In spite of that the sensation in her fingers where she’d touched Richard hummed pleasantly for a while longer before spreading through her body and fading.

Now what in Sadie’s Hell was all that about?

"And that was…?" Richard asked, looking at her with a puzzled expression.

"I, I call it the bonding dance," Christy found herself blushing. "When a Nchibu 'adopts' you it will do a dance like that somewhere on your body. I think it sort of adapts its thought patterns to incorporate its adoptee's thoughts. Like a permanent sub-psychic link."

"And you were worried that I'd be stealing Inkle from you?"

The captain looked and sounded saddened by that thought. Christy blushed again. "Yes, no, I mean. It's just, well, Inky is the only close friend I really… How did you know its name?" Yet Christy knew his answer before Richard spoke, it had been the same for her.

“I…it told me,” he answered, his expression a priceless image of confused amazement.

Christy felt a wave of terror, she couldn’t bear to lose Inky, not yet. The warm movement of the tiny creature just above her breast calmed her some. She didn’t get the sensation that it intended to leave her. Maybe it was only her own fears, after all, no one here had ever had, and lost, an Nchibu before. None of them knew what the effect would be.

There was a warm look of understanding in Richard’s face. To Christy’s surprise he reached out and stroked the bangs out of her eyes, his touch on her forehead leaving a burning trail on her skin that spread slowly outwards. She held her breath, feeling the warm glow spread inside her.

"I wouldn't take Inkle away from you," Richard told her, his voice husky with emotion as his fingers combed backward though her hair, his hand coming to rest at the back of her head and tilting her face towards his.

The kiss surprised her. Partly because it had been the last thing she'd expected, and then also because of its intensity. Richard's kiss was electrifying, sparking to life every pleasure zone in her body. She leaned into him, slipping her arms around him and pulled him closer, feeding off his kiss and demanding more as her breasts, her clit, her whole body tingled and ached.

"So, who's your new friend?"

Don't forget! You can read further instaments here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thewillingcourier/

10 September 2010

Timing is everything...

In life, in comedy and fiction... timing really is everything.

I've found the men in my life seem to have the worst timing ever. In comedy, it takes a certain knack to deliver that one-liner at just the right moment -- moments I tend to miss in real life. You know, the come-back you think of hours or even days after a certain conversation? I hate when that happens. Although I have had some success in the past:

Dh models a hideous plaid suit jacket. "How do I look?"


Timing in fiction can be just as tricky. Have you ever read a book where there seems to be too much going on in a particular wedge of time? Um, yeah... how can they meet, fall in love, have sex, defeat the bad guy AND find the missing diamonds in the space of twenty-four hours??? (Toss book at wall.) Or maybe the author skips entire days/weeks of time because nothing of interest happened. More realistic, sure, but distracting all the same.

I hate those bumps when I'm reading, so I'm careful in my writing when it comes to time frame. Okay, I usually have to smooth my own 'bumps' out in the editing phase, but I do my best. Don't want anyone tempted to throw their Kindle, laptop, etc, at the wall. Ouch.

I found myself wondering the other day about the timing in my current wip -- the big one, not the shorter one -- and if the events are falling into a feasible time-line. Why bother? I'm already asking my reader to suspend their disbelief and accept my alternate world-within-a-world, I don't think I can ask them to completely ignore physics, too. ;)

So far, I haven't had to change anything major to make things fit. Believe me, having to add and/or delete entire sections of hard-won-writing is about as painful as having an in-grown toe nail removed. Ever try it? The shot(s) to numb it are excruciating!

But I digress...

Let's suffice to say that I'd rather tweak my timing now rather than later and have to dismantle a finished story. Finished being a rather loose term. I'm not sure I ever really 'finish' a book to my complete satisfaction. :\ But that's a post for another day.

~~Meg Allison
Indulge your senses...

09 September 2010

13 Things to Write During Football Season

We've got these kids, DH and I, and after we had the first one we made a deal. He could watch as much football as he wanted....as long as he was responsible for the kids while the game was on. I had no intention of being a football widow with 2 kids to feed and a house to clean while the Dude sat on the couch and watched other dudes running around chasing a ball. The result is that DH doesn't watch as much football as he did before we had kids, and he has learned the value of taping the game on TiVo and fast forwarding through the commercials.

In fact, I welcome football season now. For me, that's prime writing time I don't get when it's not football season.

So here are 13 things I hope to write during this year's football season:

1) More query letters, hopefully at least one of them along the lines of, "Yes, I accept your contract, awesome agent or publisher!"
2) The rest of this steampunk novel that was supposed to be a short story and then supposed to be a novella but is now a novel. ONE novel, by gum, just ONE.
3) More stories about bad cats on Meankitty's redesigned website: www.meankitty.com
4) The 4 critiques I promised to do for an RWA chapter contest I'm helping judge.
5) The ~9 critiques I usually do for my local chapter RWA contest as the Grammar Wench -- finalists get a consult with me as they prepare their manuscripts for the final round judges. Some take advantage of it, some do not.
6) A note to my kid's school explaining that she is now off the restrictions from her broken arm and can resume normal activities. Yay!
7) A third Tallwood romance novella by Ellie Marvel, characters pending.
8) A hilarious yet informative trip report of my and DH's vacation in Yellowstone. With pictures that don't suck! Which means the friends we're travelling with will probably be the ones who took the photos...
9) A lot more of the superhero serial romance some friends and I have been dabbling with--time to get serious!
10) The beginning of my next Realm romance, the third in the series after 1000 Kisses, due out in February 2011 from Samhain.
11) A thank you letter to the people who gave us that million dollars for being the millionth customer of some random store.
12) Some extremely clever tweets that get RT'd a lot (wishful thinking on my part, but hey, so is the one about the million dollars).
13) My Beyond the Veil blog entries!

What do you usually accomplish during football season? Lots of cheering and cussing or something else entirely? I know there are a lot of people out there whose lives aren't touched by sports, televised or otherwise. Are you one of them?

Jody Wallace w/a Ellie Marvel
WHAT SHE DESERVES--Available from Samhain Publishing

04 September 2010

Subtitle: In order to remember what it's like to feel alive, sometimes it's necessary to do something that scares the sh!t outta you.

So, I've been a little MIA this summer. As soon as the weather got nice, my husband and I have been out on his Harley whenever it's a nice day. This is our second summer with the bike, a '99 Ultra Classic, and while it's a blast riding behind my husband, I've been getting the itch to learn to ride, myself. I figured, hey, I know how to drive a stick shift. How hard can it be?

[insert hysterical laughter here]

Those of you who know me even a little know that I've had rheumatoid arthritis virtually all my life. I've done pretty well overall, thanks to modern medicines and joint replacement technology. Normal, everyday activities are usually not too big of an issue. Still, the prospect of working a clutch with my teeny little hands and not my foot had me working on strength training for a few weeks leading up to a weekend beginning riders course.

Day 1 of the riding portion of my Motorcycle Safety Foundation class dawned dreary and rainy, and I'm thinking, "Perfect! If this doesn't cure me of my fear of wet surfaces, nothing will."

I arrive, gear up, and walk down the row to select my bike, preferably one with a low seat. I got on a Honda Rebel, red, and my tush went "aaahhhh!!" It seems to be a good fit. Next step, overcome my first fear: balancing the bike. I put the kickstand up and leaned it back and forth, not real far, but got a feel for the weight. Okay, seems doable, and it's clear I'm not going to tip over just sitting still with my feet on the ground.

Did I mention it's pouring rain by now? I'm glad I put the visor back on my helmet.

Finally comes the moment to start the engine. I hit the button and how can I describe the feeling? I can't. Those of you who ride know what I'm talking about. Next, power walking, which brings me to my second concern - the clutch. First power walk completed, though I'm the slowest in the class. I'm struggling to find the friction zone as my hand strains and quickly starts getting sore. I manage a couple of sloooow power walks and by this time my fear of balancing while the bike is in motion is gone.

The trainer encourages me to go a bit faster and get my feet up. Nope, still can't find the friction zone (the point where you're letting out the clutch and the engine catches hold), and as I fight a losing battle with the clutch, I forget about the throttle. I give it a little gas, feel the engine staaaaaart to engage, then my clutch hand slips and, to my great surprise, I'm zipping along at maybe 8 to 10 mph but it felt like lightspeed!

There wasn't time to be scared. It was more like, "What the...? Oh. Let off the throttle, retrieve the clutch. Oh, and braking would be handy!" I get it stopped quickly, hit the kill switch and sit there for a minute to assess. Yeah, I know what happened. Still, I'm not really scared, just a bit startled. The trainer comes over and laughs, and cheers me back to the starting line. Okay. One more time. No more clutch slipping, but I still can't find the friction zone and I turtle across the range, straining with my left hand at the clutch. The I fought with it, the less my throttle hand cooperated.

Still raining. Oh, and I can't seem to get the bike from first to neutral without accidentally popping into 2nd. Balky gear shift, or rider ineptitude? At this point, hard to tell.

Meanwhile my clutch hand is getting increasingly tired and sore, and it's only been an hour since I started the engine. It's clear that my learning curve is going to be way too wide for this class - which by this time have all mastered power walking and are waiting for me after every revolution. After yet another of countless stall outs, I signaled the trainer and withdrew. My hand wasn't going to make it through the five hours ahead of me.

I sat down to watch the rest of the session. I held back tears for a few minutes, mainly because I'd wanted to ace the class in memory of my Dad. But as the class wore on I knew I'd made the right decision. I learned tons just by watching. It was fun to watch the beginning riders' faces light up and grins get bigger as they mastered each step.

At the end, both trainers told me that I was the first person who'd ever actually stayed to watch the rest of all-day session after withdrawing. They could see I'm determined and encouraged me to try again. A couple of the more experienced students in the class also talked to me and gave me advice, which was really nice. They all said I could work on my hand strength, but they thought might do better on a scooter, which doesn't involve a clutch. At least to build my confidence until I'm ready to look for that elusive friction zone again.

So, the bottom line is, by charging head-on into doing something that scares the crap out of me, I put a few unfounded fears to rest. And I'm confident that someday soon, I'll finally feel the wind in my face under my own power.

It was a pretty awesome day. :)


Special shout-out to my new friends at VTwinMama.com. You ladies rock!

03 September 2010

The World Flood - Diluvian Tales in Comparative Mythology

Hey everyone! I know, it's been a long time since I blogged. I'm blaming it on my new catchphrase: I have A.D.O.S -- Attention Deficit...Ooh Shiny!

But I'm back now, so today is another post on mythology. I'm doing another Comparative Mythology bit, somewhat like the World Tree article I wrote some time ago.

This time, it's The World Flood.

I'm going to make a leap and assume that everyone knows the story of Noah's Ark. For those who left Sunday School behind some time ago, here's a quick recap.

Noah and his wife had three sons, who had three wives. During their life, the people of God were becoming increasingly sinful and wicked, growing further and further from God. It was time for a do-over. He decided if He could find one righteous man on the face of the earth, He wouldn't destroy mankind entirely. And there was just the one. Noah.

So God addressed Noah directly and told him what He was going to do. He directed Noah to build an ark so that one pair of each creature on earth could be saved. Noah started his ark, all the while telling people that God was mightily ticked off with them and fixin' to send a flood. (What? I was raised Southern Baptist.)

Noah built his ark, collected the critters and got himself and his family inside just as the rain started to fall. And fall it did. For 40 days and 40 nights, the earth was inundated with water. After the rain stopped, Noah found himself afloat with no landmarks because, hello, no land! So he sent out a raven to see if it would come back with some sign of land. Then he sent out a dove, but again, no luck. Finally, he sent out another dove, which returned with an olive branch in its beak. As the waters receded, he discovered he was atop what's now known as Mount Ararat, he let the critters out, made a sacrifice and the world started over.

In addition, God built a rainbow in the sky as a promise that he would never again flood the earth.

The End.

Except...not quite. The thing is, the idea of a flood wiping out the earth isn't purely a Judeo-Christian concept. The flood "myth" is very likely not a "myth" at all. Many cultures from the Mediterranean to the Near East share a similar story.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Just saying his name makes me shiver. I love that story.) relates the tale of Utnapishtim. The gods of Babylonia decided mankind was too numerous and noisy, so it was time for a do-over. They decided that only Utnapishtim (also Ziusudra or Atrahasis) and seven others (let's see, 3 sons +3 wives + Noah's wife =7) could accompany him. The gods commanded Utnapishtim to build a big boat for all the critters, and then the rain starts coming down.

In Utnapishtim's story, it only rained for seven days and seven nights, but the desired objective was attained. Mankind was entirely wiped out except for those on the ship. He also sent out birds to discover whether there was dry land, and when the waters receded, he let the critters out, made a sacrifice and the world started over.

The gods promised they would never again destroy the earth with a flood.

If this keeps up, I'm just going to start copying and pasting.

So, all well and good that Israel and Babylon share a common flood myth. They're in the same part of the world, right? Well, how about a story slightly further afield, in India?

In this, the hero is named Manu or Satyavrata. One day, he finds a wee little fish in a wee bowl of water. The fish begs Manu to save its life by placing it in a bigger bowl. He does so and the fish grows. Every time, Manu places it in a larger container until finally it grows so large, he throws it back into the sea.

In gratitude, the fish warns him of a great flood that is coming to end this age of man. Manu is told to build a boat to save himself, his wife and a few chosen others (I'm betting there were 8 humans, but that's just a guess), seeds of all the plants, and two of every creature.

In the midst of the storm, a serpent god appeared as a rope, which Manu bound to the horn of another god-fish, and they were pulled to safety, landing in the Malaya Mountains.

No birds in this one, and the sacrifice isn't consistent throughout the different versions, but (copy/paste) when the waters receded, he let the critters out and the world started over.

Still too geographically close?

For our final version, let's head west again, to Greece. Yes, there's a Greek version of the flood myth, this time with Deucalion in the role of Noah.
Zeus had come to earth and met the evil king Lycaeon, who killed his own child and served it to Zeus for dinner. Disgusted with descent of humanity, he turned Lycaeon into a wolf ( Get it? Lycaeon? Lycanthropy? I do love when stories intertwine.) and decided to end the Bronze Age by divesting it of mankind.

He gets the gods together and they figure out how to wash the earth clean of men. Prometheus, however, was the father of the good King Deucalion and he warned his son of the coming flood. Deucalion and his wife, Pyrrha, constructed a boat and rode out the flood. In this version, no animals are saved, but they did come to rest atop Mount Parnassus, where they came out and worshipped the Corycian Nymphs of the mountain, as well as Themis, the goddess of oracles.

Seeing they were alone in the world, Deucalion prayed to Themis in his loneliness, asking how to rebuild the land. She told him and his wife to take up the bones of their mother, or the rocks of the earth, and throw them behind their heads. As they did, the stones that Deucalion threw became men and the stones that Pyrrha threw became women. The earth spontaneously regrew both plant and animal life, as well.

As I researched, the diluvian myths of other continents and cultures seemed to show up after the spread of Christianity, leading me to conclude that if they had flood myths, they were co-opted by Noahic tales so they're no longer reliable as historical markers.

However, the common threads of the stories from the Mediterranean Sea to India do seem to indicate that there may have been a massive, destructive flood of the Middle/Near East during ancient times and that it may have occurred within the same time period.

Two websites are good jumping off points for diluvian myths, although they also mention cultures which, as I said, may simply have co-opted the Biblical tale after coming into contact with Christianity.

(Art credit: Noah's Ark by Edward Hicks, 1846. Photo: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)