Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New Directions

Yes, it is that time of year yet again—December 31st, New Years Eve. The night when one and all are supposed to party like it’s 1999. But like Christmas, New Year’s Eve has lost a lot of the sparkle as I have become older. Quite honestly, I’m probably going to be in bed and hopefully asleep by 10:30pm. And when I wake up, it’ll be 2010.

Crap, 2010??? How the hell did that happen? Through all the good and the bad, time marches on. What happened to being 21? What happened to traveling around the world just because? I’m hardly in my dotage but responsibilities tend to take precedence over being footloose and fancy-free. That said, I still take risks and try new things.

2009 was an eventful year for me, I got published, for the first time/hopefully not the last time, and divorced, hopefully the only time, on the same day. How many people can say that? Between these two events, I’ve managed to keep busy and stay relatively sane. Not completely sane because, honestly, that would be boring. ☺ I received a Rising Star award from my publisher, which I am now looking at on my bookshelf. Not a bad start for a first time published author. I learned how to use Photoshop fairly well (the light version, the full version is out of my price range). I updated my blog today with new graphics and a new color scheme/look, which I’m quite pleased with. Always room for improvement though.

Just over a year ago, I was invited to be a member of a great critique group of ten people who keep me on my toes and offer loads of encouragement / support / advice / information, both personal and professional. And this year, I discovered how truly valuable my group is. Ladies, I love you lots! If you’re a writer, a critique partner/group you trust is invaluable. The women in my group are great – not a wilting flower amongst them. We all have strong opinions and strengths and a great synergy has been created. We’ve connected both as writers and as women (hear us roar – LOL!!).

Not everything has been great but such is life. I’ve learned from my mistakes and my difficulties. I know they, whoever they are, say that difficulties build character but I think I have enough character now, Universe, so please lay off just a bit ☺. I am in a much better mental space now than I was in a year ago at this time. My emotions have settled, I’ve settled into my home, I’ve settled into a routine, I’ve settled somewhat into my life. All of which makes me feel, well, more settled overall.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions on principle but this year, I am going to make a few.
1. Become a terrific photographer
2. Get my second book finished (I’ve got 11 days to go) and published.
3. Restart and finish my third book (a paranormal romantic suspense) which I’ve been itching to get back to for a while.
4. Find a great agent.
5. Put together a course on the different aspects of writing novels. I have a different way of setting things up that I’m pretty sure no one else uses.
6. Meditate daily.
7. Exercise daily to get the creative juices running.
8. Complete my morning pages every day (see Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way).
9. Live consciously and be happy.

So the past year has been one of leaving my past behind and starting to look to the future. 2010 will be the year when I consolidate the gains I’ve made in 2009. I’m looking forward to this year. The shackles have been shaken off and I’m ready to fly. I’ll see you in the sky. ☺

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Undomestic Goddess

I have never in my life claimed to be a “domestic goddess”, unlike the many people who write cookbooks or give tips and tricks to the hopeful on how to fold fitted bed sheets properly. Growing up, domesticity wasn’t really a big thing for me (okay, I can hear my mother laughing hysterically at that gross understatement). Don’t get me wrong, my mother tried and, I think, for the most part she succeeded admirably with my sisters, both of whom cook and pull off domesticity very well. Me, well, not so much.

When I first moved to Toronto, my younger sister and I lived here for a while in the city. I remember she came over to my place once and for some reason she was looking through my cupboards, probably to help me cook something. She turned to me in amazement and said, “You have no canned goods, no staples! How can you cook with no canned goods?” I think my answer was, “Um, cook???”

She used to go through cabbage roll phases – I’d go over to her place, which would be permeated with the smell of cabbage, and she’d have multiple pans filled with cabbage rolls, cooked and ready to go into the freezer or for lunches or dinner. An organized domestic goddess even in her early 20s.

My older sister married young and had three kids out on an acreage. She would plant these huge vegetable gardens, bake bread every day it seemed. Make loads of pies and freeze them. Those kids ate well. She’d put on these huge holiday feasts for a zillion relatives and friends. Another organized domestic goddess early on.

And me, well … I watched Oprah many years ago when Martha Stewart appeared on her show. Martha showed Oprah how to fold a fitted bed sheet. And, I swear, I tried to fold a fitted bed sheet into a nice, even, neat square. On the tenth try, I balled up the sheet into a messy roll and shoved it into the linen closet.

Baking is fairly straightforward but I seldom get the urge to bake. Cooking seems to be a lost art for me. I don’t think I got the domestic gene that apparently my sisters got. But I can’t blame genetics. My interest in the domestic side of life is sadly lacking – I just don’t care enough to be domestic. I wish I had more domestic interests. I’m one of the few women I know who hates decorating. Every woman I know seems to be a decorating maniac, changing the decor with the seasons. I moved into an apartment once and someone asked me if I was going to paint the walls to something other than white. I said, “No, I like white.” I don’t notice these things, never have.

I’d rather be doing almost anything other than domestic stuff – writing, reading, watching tv, going out, anything but. In a perfect world, I’d have a maid and a chef, but as I haven’t won the lottery, it is up to me to at least try to be somewhat competent domestically.

And the really strange thing? I love cookbooks. I love cooking stores. I love cooking implements. I just don’t love cooking. Or baking. Or decorating. I manage to keep my place clean for the most part. It’s not that I’m incapable. I can follow recipes in cookbooks and get the correct result. Mostly. I’m just not interested. Which is why I’m eternally grateful to have a double side grill press – I can grill everything year around. And it takes me five minutes to make dinner – perfect for someone who can’t be bothered.

If I have people over for dinner, I can actually cook fairly well. At least no one has died yet and I’ve had no complaints. I think it’s easier to get motivated to be domestic if other people count on one being domestic. Like a parent. Or a spouse – but the cooking should be shared – or have one person cook and the other person clean, just to equitably distribute the tedium.

Maybe the issue is that my head has always been elsewhere than at home. I work at home but I’m not AT home. I’m thinking of plots, sub-plots, characters, politics, world events, science, psychology and human behavior, quantum mechanics (although not so much anymore), the state of the world and society, and information technology. And romance fiction. It’s a real hodge-podge of interests and none of them include anything in the domestic sphere. You’d think that I’d at least appreciate baking more because that is based on chemistry.

I think I tried for so long during my disastrous marriage to be a domestic person that now I feel like running screaming from the kitchen if I’m required to make anything that takes more than six minutes. Ten minutes at the outside. Square-peg-in-a-round-hole syndrome.

I still don’t keep canned goods. I still can’t fold a fitted bed sheet. I still don’t like cooking. I’ll never be Julia Child or Nigella Lawson or Martha Stewart (but that last one is probably a good thing – no pun intended - as she is a veritable menace to women everywhere by insisting that one should only use kosher salt, fresh eggs from your own chicken coop and being a perfectionist without mentioning that she has a huge staff to do all this stuff for her 24 hours a day). Women have enough to feel inadequate about without someone telling us we need to keep an immaculate home, cook and bake everything from scratch and do everything to perfection. Why doesn’t anyone tell men to do this? But I digress. Sorry. ☺

I guess the point is, I get on well enough by keeping my kitchen and domestic adventures to a minimum. It works for me. I start cooking and the smoke alarm goes off. The universe is telling me, unequivocally, to be an undomestic, unconventional goddess.

And I can live with that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Banner Day for Pitch Dark!

I am having a banner day today! Pitch Dark is now available on Amazon USA, Canada, UK, Germany / Austria and France AND the Barnes & Noble websites! Excited bouncing happening here!! Select the links below to take you to the website of your choice :) Discounts from the list price are available at some sites.

Amazon UK

Amazon Germany/Austria

Amazon France


WOW!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Wonderful review of Pitch Dark in RT Book Reviews magazine, November 2009 issue!

PITCH DARK received a fantastic four out of five star rating from RT Book Reviews magazine! I am thrilled to death with the review - my first attempt at fiction got published and landed four stars out of the gate with a well-recognized and well-respected voice in romantic fiction. Thank you to reviewer Barb Anderson!

RT Rating:
Category: ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Publisher: CERRIDWEN
Type: Romantic Suspense
This story has the perfect mix of romance and suspense, with plenty of twists to hold your interest. London has created two strong-willed and passionate characters. Connor and Alyssa strike sparks off each other whether they're fighting or making up.

Summary: Former intelligence operative Connor Donnelly, now the CEO and president of Energy Unlimited, has been negotiating a co-venture between his company and a company owned by Douglas Tiernan. Douglas' granddaughter, Alyssa, wants to protect her grandfather's interests and offers to meet with Connor at his headquarters in Colorado.

Alyssa and Connor are wary of each other but also very attracted. When their lives are threatened, they are thrown into a world of espionage and terrorism, and Connor and Alyssa will have to combine their skills to stay alive. (CERRIDWEN, Jun., 349 pp., $18.99) HOT

—Barb Anderson

The HOT rating means: Most romantic fiction falls into this category. Ranges from conventional love making to explicit sex.
The Four Star Rating: Compelling. A Page Turner.

Yay!! Got it right the first time and it'll only get better from here!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No Man’s Land

I think most men today are feeling under siege due to the upheavals in society in the last fifty years or so. And in a way, I think it’s time for everyone to change how he or she reacts to and perceives the opposite sex.

It used to be that, generally, women stayed home with the kids, protecting and nurturing hearth and home, while their men went out to slay the dragon (or protect his family against threats, physical and economic) everyday to bring home the spoils for his family. Everyone had a role and life was simpler because everyone generally knew what their role was.

Of course, nothing stays the same and abuse of authority, whether by governments or individuals, leads to revolutions and rebellions to erase the perceived and/or real inequities.

From the beginning of time, women were viewed a chattels, like a cow or a goat, from which children and service were extracted. Sometimes the chattels were loved and respected and sometimes they weren’t. And then there was always the argument as to gender superiority. Since bigger is ostensibly better (witness all those teenage boys with a penchant for measuring things), women lost out and, it was presumed, declared inferior to men.

The problem is men and women are now so busy pointing fingers at each other to assign blame for everything that we’ve lost sight of what we’re trying to accomplish. I can hardly blame a living man for all the wrong men have done in the history of the world. Just as women cannot be held accountable for all the wrong women have done.

What I don’t understand, and don’t know how to fix, is why do we have to point fingers at all? Why can’t we just work with what we have and do our best? In the past fifties years, the cultural and social pendulum has swung from “Father Knows Best” to “Everyone Loves Raymond”—from benevolent, wise man to idiotic man, while women have gone from brainless doormats to mistresses of their own domain. Just look at the sit-coms. The woman is the smart, insightful character while the man bumbles around and learns something by the end of the show. Have any of these depictions been accurate? No.

I don’t know one man who hasn’t had their head handed to them on a platter because they opened a door for a woman. The woman invariably feels indignant that a man thinks she’s not capable of opening a door. Unless one is disabled, most people are capable of opening doors. So it’s not a reflection on the capability of the woman, but the manners of the man. Hell, if someone opens a door for me I say, “thank you”— I also open doors for other people. Big deal. Why would I get upset over someone opening a door for me? I know I can open the door. He knows I can open the door. But someone taught this man that opening a door for a woman is simple courtesy. So THANK YOU. Any woman who reacts badly to having a door open really needs to take a look at her priorities and possibly go for therapy.

Some women, and I see this all the time, will walk through a door that a man has opened and not even said “thank you” to the guy, not even smile at the guy. These women have really, really poor manners— obviously no one taught them about common courtesy.

But I digress. Sorry, pet peeve.

So, we’re on a pendulum that was stuck on the guys’ end forever and now that swinging bob has swung more onto the gals’ end. And some people think that somehow reverse discrimination should be SOP for righting all the wrongs done to women by men. We have affirmative action programs, not only for women but also for anyone who isn’t a white male.

Well, excuse me, but I am perfectly capable of getting a degree/diploma and a job in a male dominated field all by myself. But really, am I?

Affirmative action programs and the like are part of a massive social engineering experiment. I don’t know about your country, but in Canada in 1965, approximately 65% of men and around 38% of women smoked. The Canadian government knew that smoking cigarettes caused major health problems and death. So they embarked on a massive social engineering experiment to get people to stop smoking or to not start smoking. Forty-four years later, something like 20% of all people in Canada smoke—that’s a huge drop of around one percent per year since 1965. It took nearly half a century to get attitudes towards smoking to change. But change it did.

If I hadn’t been a beneficiary of feminism, I probably would not have ended up with a business degree, and I would probably not have received a diploma in computer science. Nor would I be competing with men, based on merit alone, for jobs in a male-dominated field like information technology. Feminism has allowed me to do things that were not generally approved of for women forty or fifty years ago. Any woman today that says she is not a feminist is a hypocrite, because feminism that has given women choices.

Unfortunately, the way feminism has been proposed and practiced has sort of screwed everyone over and left many of us, okay…me, wondering what my role is. There is this ‘thing’ in feminism that resulted in the Superwoman syndrome. Hey, we’re women, we can have it ALL: we can have an education, careers, kids, a man (but really that’s optional), do all the housework, do all the cooking, nurture and teach your children and still be a sex kitten at night. Are you kidding me?? We’re freaking exhausted trying to have it all, do it all. And men? They don’t know what to do. Feminism has sloppily re-defined what it is to be female but has not held out an olive branch to men at all. Men are the ENEMY.

According to http://www.chivalrynow.net/,

“In America, we shy away from defining manhood as if the very subject were taboo. After a long history of unwarranted violence and discrimination, men are being taught from birth that they automatically carry an inheritance of guilt for past sins. We make sure that no male child slips by without taking his share. Each of us is expected to bear the guilt of our forefathers along with a personal stigma for simply being male. We are told in a thousand different ways, either in silence or in the commercial media, that there is something inherently wrong with being a man.

The intent is clear. We do not want today's men repeating the crimes of the past. The hope seems to be that by tearing us from any sense of cultural identity the world can move toward greater harmony. More guilt and less pride make for a calmer species. Women and minorities will be treated better. The demise of Western male dominance might even bring an end to war.

Such conclusions are dangerously simplistic. We cannot excise the cultural identity of half the population like a cancer and replace it with nothing. Doing so sends our entire cultural evolution into a tailspin, leaving a psychic void that can only lead to disaster.

The results are all around us — a population of boys and men searching for who they are and how they fit in. No road map, no gender specific guidelines, no rite-of-passage — not even an articulated goal. Finding no guidance at all, many turn to whatever distraction is available, be it entertainment, business, sports or narcotics. Or they just give up.”

This is no way to run a society, no way to run a world, where half the population is mad about the past and the other half is mad about the present. We need to turn a page in male/female relations. We’re at war with each other. And there are no winners, only losers in this conflict.

And I don’t know how to fix it. The only fix would be to celebrate both the masculine and feminine without referring to the “other” as evil or depraved or stupid or weak or inferior. But people are not perfect, understanding is never perfect, we don’t even understand our motivations and ourselves for the most part. It all stews beneath the surface, waiting for the next inciting incident to tip off the next round of skirmishes.

It plays out on the world stage and on a personal stage every single day. We’ve created an enormous no-man’s land between men and women. Somehow we have to figure out how to bridge this gulf. And we all need to contribute, need to be open to different viewpoints and come up with a happy medium, where everyone compromises.

Yeah, dream on. Sighhhh.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Older Men and Flirting

The other day, I was sitting in a large mall waiting to meet someone. As is normal for me, I was early. I'm always early - it's like a disease :). Anyway, I sat down with a coffee to wait for this person, my laptop open on the table (also like a disease - needing my laptop near) and kept one eye out for the other person to arrive.

A man approached me - he must have been somewhere in his late 70s, maybe early 80s - and he complimented me on my outfit and jewelry and said something flattering about my appearance. I managed to say "thank you", smiled at him and he went on his way. I guess I must have looked suitably surprised because the couple at the table next to me laughed and the woman said, "That would make any woman's day." I laughed, agreed with her and the couple left.

And I had to wonder if that man had been nearer to my age, would I have wondered what he was after? Probably. Suspicion factor would be built in for a younger man in the same situation. But older men can do this sort of thing without seeming sleazy. My own father does this type of thing - I've seen him do it numerous times. Nothing lascivious or inappropriate, just friendly.

I think much older men know that approaching a younger woman with a compliment won't result in an insult or a put-down. I knew he wasn't being disingenuous - he was just being nice.

But a man nearer to my age doing the same thing? All my radar would have sprouted up, looking for any signs, however minute, that he was less than sincere. I'm a suspicious person, always have been. Very few men my own age approach me - I think I broadcast "don't come near me" signals, which is close enough to the truth. And I've been known to be oblivious to men - I don't notice them unless they approach me, as this older gentleman did. I do know a physically attractive man when I see one - I register the information and then I forget about it. What is attractive to me is a man who is friendly, intelligent, trust-worthy and nice. Appearance doesn't count for much unless the person would need to have their front window removed and a crane to lift them to an ambulance - that, I would have a problem with.

So, I guess the question becomes, at what age does a man need to be in order to approach an unknown woman, give a compliment and not be perceived negatively? Or is it an age thing at all? Maybe it's more of an attitude thing. I would like to think that I could differentiate between a genuine compliment and a disingenuous one.

Or maybe, it's just as well that I'm not looking for that "special someone" at this point. I'm saving the entire half of the single population for the time being :). Yes, I think that's the way I'll look at it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Costco - Parental Fight Round 16897

I visited my neighborhood Costco this morning. Doing what I would normally do on a weekday but didn’t get around to doing. I expected Costco to be jammed with people, which it was, but I didn’t expect to keep running into one battling family – a mother, a father and two little blond boys that I estimated to be around three and five.

I don’t know what started it. But the father and mother decided to have a major spat in the middle of Costco – yelling and shouting and pointing at each other accusingly, while their little boys looked on with numb expressions and dead eyes. It was obvious that these children had seen this kind of behavior so much that they had shut down, waiting for the storm to pass. I passed them about three times in the aisles and somehow ended up behind them in the check-out line where, forty-five minutes later, they were still arguing and the boys looked even more shell-shocked. The parents were so involved in their argument they didn't even notice their younger boy drop his toy (he was in the kid's seat in the shopping cart) - I picked it up and gave it back to him. I wanted to give the poor little guy a hug he looked so miserable. I didn't because I don't touch other people's kids unless I know them and the parents know me well enough to know that I am not a threat.

I know that I can’t tell people to “SHUT UP ALREADY – YOU’RE HURTING YOUR KIDS WITH YOUR STUPIDITY” without being told to mind my own business and/or possibly being assaulted because what else can I expect of people so ignorant as to argue in front of their children. These people should not even have kids – they’re not mature enough. But seeing those two little boys so traumatized just broke my heart. And it made me angry as hell.

These parents are obviously adrenaline junkies who will probably have make-up sex later and go back to their normal fighting activities. The problem with this is that the kids only see an argument, they don’t see a resolution. They are left in a state of perpetual uncertainty and fear, wondering if they did something to make Mommy and Daddy mad at each other. Kids will always blame themselves for things that go wrong with mum and dad.

I wanted to slap both parents, not that I would have, but I really wanted to. I actually haven’t slapped or hit anyone since I was a kid and then it was my younger sister. Plus one moronic guy in India who came up behind me and grabbed me, but that was self-defense.

Don’t these parents know what precious gifts they have in their children? Don’t they care that their behavior hurts their children? No. They only care about winning whatever stupid argument they’re having – a power struggle played out for the viewing displeasure of every other person in Costco and their poor boys. The reason I get extremely upset with abusive behavior to any child is that I tried to have children but due to problems that were not mine, plus five failed IVF attempts and one failed adoption attempt, I don’t have children. I wanted children but in light of what happened in my now-defunct marriage, I can see it is just as well that I didn’t have kids.

I think people should be licensed before they can have children. We make people take driver’s tests to get drivers licenses so they don’t kill themselves or other people on the road. I don’t see why people should be allowed to have children if they are going to mentally / emotionally / physically / spiritually damage their children for life through idiotic and destructive behavior. Take a parenting course, for God’s sake. Do something other than what you are doing but don’t damage your children. It’s very simple. And very hard to do when you have an immature relationship.

I know life is not perfect and couples argue. But really, people, don’t argue in front of your kids and don’t argue so that they can hear you—act like two reasonable adults and stop acting younger than your children. Practice some self-control because honestly, you’re embarrassing yourselves. The parents I witnessed would have been good for those Ultimate Fighter contests I’ve heard of. No holds barred.

Seriously, grow up, get some help or get away from each other. Your kids are better off with a single parent in a less stressful environment than a chaotic environment created by clashing parents.

Okay, that's it for my rant. I just had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Independence

Hmmmm. I’m starting to wonder, actually have been wondering for quite some time, if I was meant to be a settled down person. You know—married, 2.3 children, white picket fence, steady employment and PTA meetings. More and more, I’ve been thinking ‘no’.

I took one of those Facebook quizzes about what kind of animal represents me—as a rule, I don’t take them seriously but sometimes the results make me think. Apparently, I am an Eagle type person, the description of which is:

You have an Eagle personality. These Birds of Prey are some of the wildest of nature's beings. Though they can be tamed they always retain some of their wild spirit. Most see the Eagle as a wandering spirit but it only seems that way to the untrained eye. In actuality you as an Eagle personality have issues being tied down in relationships and in places sometimes not because you want to be elsewhere just that you want the freedom to be elsewhere if you choose. You aren't the most trusting individual but you are the most well known. Eagle personalities are few and far between but they tend to stand out in a crowd as if they don't belong with them, mainly because they are fairly solitary: they might be the artist who sits in the corner and doesn't communicate, they might be the popular person who has lots of acquaintances but very few actual friends. Being an Eagle means you have an inner core of strength, which you unfortunately have to use quite frequently since you are uncomfortable leaning on others, and have difficulties sharing your personal and innermost thoughts.

I don’t know anymore. I like to think that I chart my life according to my own wishes, but more and more, I look at my past and realize that I’ve never been settled. Not at any time, not in any place, not with any person, not in any job. My earliest memories are of wanting to get away, to escape from wherever I happened to be in my life or where I was living.

For a period of time during my now-defunct marriage, I was at the same job for almost four years and during that time, in combination with an impossible marriage, I felt trapped. I was in a rut. Get up every day, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch TV and argue with my ex. Every. Single. Day. I felt as if I had died in a hell of monotony. And then one day, I was laid off along with half my department because the company I worked for was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Suddenly, everything was immediate. I started living in the here and now and anything could happen. I was scared as hell because I had become accustomed to an every day mundane existence and was abruptly dumped into a whirlpool of uncertainty. At the time, I thought it the worst thing ever. After a number of months (and after much nagging by my ex even though my severance package paid my full salary for the duration), I found a contract position as a Business Analyst. The position turned into Project Manager, Build Manager, Trainer, Team Lead, Systems Analyst, Quality Assurance Analyst, Support Analyst, Professional Handholder and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer for a department in the government. And in a strange way, my need for instability and chaos was satisfied - until I hit my physical limit and was forced onto disability.

But it was exciting. Being dumped into the deep end and forced to sink or swim. I swam but at a huge cost to my health. I think it's part of a perfectionist, masochistic streak that seems to run through my head. If I could do ten jobs at the same time, I must be pretty good, right? Wrong. It illustrated how the thought of letting other people down adversely affected my health. It illustrated a lack of personal boundaries. It illustrated how people will take advantage of those who do not protect their own boundaries. I hate learning these lessons the hard way, but that’s the only way I seem to learn them.

I seem to do better on my own. Always have. Like a lot of people, early on I learned not to trust people. People will turn on you. People will let you down. If you do it yourself, you won’t have to depend upon anyone else. But you know what? No one is an island. And you will be hurt. At some point, in some way. It is a part of life. But the question isn’t if I will be hurt, the question is how will I react when I am hurt. I won’t disappear. I won’t dissolve. I will keep going because that is what I’ve always done.

No matter how independent you are, at some point, you will need help. And with any luck, someone will be there. As someone was there for me when I needed it the most.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I admit it, I'm addicted to...

Kitchen gadgets! Ha! Not what you were thinking, was it. LOL! :))

Yea, though I dislike cooking and baking, I love kitchen gadgets and cookbooks. I'm not even sure if I can explain why I have this fetish for kitchen things. Most women (I think) have a shoe fetish or a purse fetish. Those things would make sense - you wear shoes and use purses. But I don't normally even use the kitchen, unless I'm nuking milk for a latte - yes, I have a cooktop espresso maker. And yes, I have an electric grill which is my main mode of cooking - otherwise, everything would be raw and, quite honestly, raw steak/chicken isn't my thing.

I have two and a half shelves of cookbooks - okay, they are very narrow bookshelves (about 18 inches / 45 cm wide). I leaf through the pages, lovingly gazing at the pictures of what I could do, should I be so inclined. Which doesn't happen often but it does happen on occasion. I may even go out and get the ingredients. And then they rot or go stale. Sighhhh. My parents did not a domestic goddess raise.

Today, I wanted to find a cherry pitter. Cherries are in season and I want to have pitted cherries. I find a kitchen supply store and to my great dismay, they are sold out of cherry pitters. So instead of leaving the store like a normal person, what do I do? I get myself a shopping cart and I peruse the aisles. Up and down until, lo and behold, my cart is full. How the heck did that happen??

Hey, I needed those silicone brushes, place mats, six BBQ lighters in a single pack (although I don't own a BBQ), the over-cabinet door hangers, the bright red dish scrubber (red's my favorite color), water-stop flocked latex gloves in hot pink, the trash bin, the blue polka dot beach/shopping bag and the baking paper. Oh, and the food dehydrator was an absolute must. :)) Really, I think this should be categorized as a compulsion. I'm not compulsive about anything else, just kitchen stuff that I don't use.

This is why I don't go into kitchen stores. I haven't been into one for a few years now. So I guess I was catching up and now it'll be another few years before I allow myself near that kind of store again. 

Life is hard. :))

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trust Yourself

There is a Blue Rodeo song that has been playing in my head for the past five years. It has become my anthem of sorts. The lyrics that I identify with the most are:

Now you’ll be alone when the sun comes up

Tattered little dreams and a broken cup

Then you’ll have to trust yourself

And don’t believe in any more lies

I believed in lies for years, about myself and about the people around me. And it wasn’t just a bad marriage. Other things and people contributed to my problems, problems that were and are up to me to fix. It’s all well and good to discover from whence your problems sprang, but if you get caught up in the “It’s all your fault” thing, you can’t move forward and you can’t fix those things that are every person’s responsibility to fix. You become a victim because you define yourself as a victim. You may have been victimized, but it doesn’t follow that you have to view yourself as a powerless victim. And you perpetuate your victim-hood by not taking steps to view yourself and your world in a different, clearer light.

And whether it’s an abusive childhood, abusive marriage, racism or bullying at home, school or work, in the past or present, it’s up to you to fix you. You teach people how to treat you. I absolutely believe this. You may have tried to have the perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect whatever but it blew up in your face and “now you’ll be alone when the sun comes up”.

Being alone in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact it can be a very good thing, a very centering thing and a very humbling thing. Being alone has allowed me the time to figure out what has gone wrong and right in my life. Yes, I hang onto my “tattered dream and broken cup” but that is until I replace it with something better, which I am working on.

My eyes are open and I won’t believe the lies anymore because I am not that person anymore. I have to be able to trust my judgment and instincts. And that comes with maintaining my personal boundaries and listening to myself. That comes with carefully picking apart my past and my present. Some of it is painful but some of it is good. I have done some things right, even though it may have taken me some time to realize it.

The reason I am writing this post is that I believe that everyone gets dealt a raw hand in some way, at some time. No one’s life is a fairy tale and unfortunately, some get dealt a worse hand than others. No, it’s not fair. But it is life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Romance and The Sexual Mind

I spend quite a bit of time looking at psychology and physiology to build my characters. The other day I read a special issue (July 7, 2009) of the “Scientific American Mind” magazine dealing with sex and sexual differences between men and women, aside from the most obvious dissimilarities. The article about kissing was named “Affairs of the Lips” by Chip Walter. Did you know that a kiss “triggers a cascade of neural messages and chemicals that transmit tactile sensations, sexual excitement, feelings of closeness, motivation and even euphoria”? Also “Kisses can convey important information about the status and future of a relationship. At the extreme, a bad first kiss can abruptly curtail a couple’s future.” Wow, talk about pressure and all dependant on the first touching of lips.

Oxytocin is a chemical that can govern the formation of social bonds. They did an experiment and the results were fascinating. With kissing, researchers had predicted that oxytocin levels would rise in both men and women. What they found was they while oxytocin levels rose in men, they did not rise in women. Researchers concluded that women “needed more than a kiss to feel emotionally connected or sexually excited during contact.” The reason I thought this was interesting is that I believe that men fall in love faster than women. And if oxytocin, which facilitates bonding, rises faster in men than in women, it could mean that men become involved in a relationship faster than women.

Another article, “The Orgasmic Mind”, was written by Martin Portner. Men and women were placed in PET scan machines to see what happened in their brains during an orgasm induced by their partners. Not something I would want to do personally, but hey, it takes all types. I like privacy. When a man orgasms, “the amygdala, the brain’s center of vigilance and fear, showed a decline in activity”… ”a probable sign of decreased vigilance during sexual performance.” When a woman orgasms, something unexpected happens, namely that, “much of her brain went silent”, which might correspond  “to a release of tension and inhibition.”

As a result of other measures, the researchers concluded that, “(f)ear and anxiety need to be avoided at all costs if a women wishes to have an orgasm, we knew that, but now we can see it happening in the depths of the brain.” So maybe this has to do with our caveman brains: a man, being broadly responsible for the safety of his family, must always maintain some vigilance even during sex thus allowing his female partner to relax enough to orgasm and facilitate bonding with her partner. I may be wrong, I may have misinterpreted what I read but still it’s an interesting subject.

So those of us writing romance and erotica now have more scientific ways to closely simulate realistic characters in courtship and sexual situations. The images of women as mindless during orgasm don’t appear to be all that far off. But this is only during climax, the article indicates that women’s brains bounce back to normal activity immediately after orgasm.

Romance and erotica are such interesting genres because they explore relationships between men and women. And despite derision of these genres by “serious” writers and readers, relationships literally keep the human race in existence. I think that every adult should read at least one well-written romance novel, where the characters are realistic even if the situations are not.

I believe the percentage of men writing romance under female pseudonyms is somewhere around 10%, so some of your favorite romance authors may be male. It is really too bad that we don’t necessarily know who is male and who is female in these cases because we might get a more balanced view of men and women. After all, writers are either men or women who have to simulate the opposite sex' responses and feelings. 

I would like to think that romance writers could present a realistic view of both men and women. I personally do my best to avoid stereotypes in characters because no one is entirely a stereotype. Everyone is an individual with feelings and motivations and agendas. And when we stereotype anyone, whether in real life or in fiction, we do a disservice to everyone.

This is why I love mixing science and art. When the two are combined, great things can happen. Science is art and art is science. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Eventful Week - Birthday Prezzies from the Publishing World and Beyond

I have to say that this past week has been one of the more eventful weeks than I've had in a while. This is a very good thing, btw. :) I celebrated my birthday on June 26 (Friday) and spent the day indulging my interest in photography, starting at dawn. I found out on the week-end that my novel, Pitch Dark, is now available in paperback from my publisher, Cerridwen Press.

In addition, last week I found two more reviews of Pitch Dark, which are fantastic. I even got the Night Owl Romance Reviewer Top Pick designation for Pitch Dark. Yay! The reviewer from Joyfully Reviewed enthusiastically enjoyed Pitch Dark. Pitch Dark, to date, is doing really well with the reviewers - something that has affirmed my choice of writing. If you select the links below, you'll be taken directly to the reviews of Pitch Dark.

Night Owl Romance wrote, "Pitch Dark was an awesome read from beginning to ending. I loved the whole suspense, betrayal and lies twisting in the book. The attraction between Connor and Alyssa was great. You can tell they both are afraid to love because of their pasts but man the heat between them is explosive. Even the grandfather in the book was great to read. His attempts of matchmaking will really make you smile. This is the first I have read of Brooke London and it won’t be the last. Brooke London knows her men, action and how to create chemistry between her characters. All of that just makes her books worth reading." 

Joyfully Reviewed wrote, "In Pitch Dark Alyssa and Connor are going find the answer.  Alyssa had to leave the job that gave her joy when she could not let her gifts be used for harm.  Connor was only hoping for a big dollar partnership when he found an unexpected love.  I thought that Alyssa and Connor were the perfect foil for the other, being so different.  I just loved learning new things about both of them that enhanced their personalities.  While the sparking passion and corky humor would have kept my attention, it was the thrilling suspense that kept me turning the pages to discover just what would come next.  If having espionage, betrayal, spies and danger along with your romance has you grabbing for a story as it does me, then Pitch Dark is a must read for you."

Madame Butterfly wrote, "Pitch Dark is one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in a while. There’s a nice easy flow to Brooke London’s writing style and from this book, she has an ability to write well rounded, complex characters while keeping them from coming across as stereotypical and stale. Her ability to slowly build up on the plot and keep the tension going at just the right pace is just as fine. I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her books."

I am just so completely thrilled: Pitch Dark, even though it is a first book, is getting wonderful reviews and has just been published in paperback. I am so happy. Hopefully, I will be finished the sequel to Pitch Dark in the next few weeks with the working title "Blinding Light". 

I have a new life, a new career, new friends and a new me. What more could a girl ask for??

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Great Review for Pitch Dark by Madame Butterfly!

Madame Butterfly posted a wonderful review of Pitch Dark on her site at http://madamebutterfly90.blogspot.com/2009/04/review-pitch-dark-by-brooke-london.html. 

Leah (Madame Butterfly) gave Pitch Dark an 'A' grade saying, "...it’s really impressive for a first book. Pitch Dark is fast-paced thriller, which I couldn’t put down...Pitch Dark is one of the best romantic suspense novels I’ve read in a while. There’s a nice easy flow to Brooke London’s writing style and from this book, she has an ability to write well rounded, complex characters while keeping them from coming across as stereotypical and stale. Her ability to slowly build up on the plot and keep the tension going at just the right pace is just as fine. I’ll definitely be looking out for more of her books."

Pitch Dark is available for purchase online at http://www.jasminejade.com/p-6985-pitch-dark.aspx. Drop by for the blurb and excerpt. :)

Who is more romantic, men or women?

This age-old question is as relevant, or as irrelevant, as ever. Women claim they are more romantic than men, citing such reasons as being more verbally emotive, buying romantic cards for their partners, suggesting candle-lit dinners, etc. And while women may be more outwardly expressive of feelings of love, I think men are more romantic but many are shy about expressing themselves for fear of ridicule or rejection.

There are studies that show that men fall in love faster than women. Men are more idealistic about love, not bothering to look at some of the down sides. Women initiate the break-up of a romantic partnership more often than men. Men also, according to these studies, suffer more from a break-up. Men felt lonelier, more depressed, unloved and the least free after a split.

I think there are reasons for the above findings going back to Darwinian theories of evolution. It’s a numbers game really. A woman produces, generally, one egg per month. A single man, in theory, could populate the entire world in a few months because of the millions and millions of sperm he produces (using IVF – not even the most lusty man could impregnate millions of women a day, assuming that all the women become pregnant).

Love is a riskier proposition for women than men. Women seem to have more to lose, so I think this accounts for some of the differences. Women carry babies, they invest more of themselves in the process of procreation. They have to. A couple has sex and, biologically speaking, the man’s part is done. Of course, the man needs to be there emotionally and physically for his pregnant partner, but the woman incubates and nourishes the fetus until birth. A baby is one tangible piece of a sexual partnership.

I believe that women may recover faster from a break-up as women generally have a larger support system of friends. Men are supposed to be the strong silent types—I’m not sure how many men feel comfortable enough with their friends to cry on their shoulders. And I’m assuming that the break-up has not been precipitated by some form of abuse. If a break-up occurs because of abuse, then both men and women will take a long time to recover their sense of self.

I think men feel love just as deeply as women. Women just don’t give them credit for it. Men just show their love in different ways. 

He takes out the garbage = he loves you. 

He mows the lawn = he loves you. 

He comes home every night = he loves you. 

He fixes things around the house = he loves you. 

He thinks of ways to make your life easier = he loves you. 

He supports your decisions and respects you = he loves you. 

You know, flowers and candy and grand romantic gestures can be nice, but quite honestly, I’d rather a man shows me his love in different ways. Ways that go past the superficial and speak more deeply of attachment and love.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cyber Friends: The Good, the Bad and the Puzzles

It is no secret that I am a member of Facebook. Through FB, I have “met” some really wonderful people, people that I am glad to know and some I met in real life at RT in April 2009. Like many authors, I have been trying to reach out to people—some have turned into good friends who I love to chat/interact with because they’re great people and we have common interests. I have had people reach out to me when I needed help and I hope I have done the same.

Others, unfortunately, have turned out to be creeps who I promptly block because, really, I don’t want to receive pornographic images and have someone believe it is a turn-on. It’s NOT. Yes, I write romantic fiction and some may see explicit sexuality in print as pornography but I do not. Wikipedia describes pornography as "the depiction of explicit sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexually exciting the viewer. Pornography makes no claim to artistic merit, unlike erotica which does."  I believe my writing has artistic merit even though, like most romance writers, I write sex scenes for the viewer's reading pleasure. It is fantasy, fiction, and not indicative of who I am. I mean, yes, you can tell some things from my style of writing, but I’m not interested in enduring crude attempts at what amount to pick-up lines.

And yet, some others have turned out to be puzzles because I simply did not know what to do. I think the drawbacks of being on social networking sites are outweighed by the good parts of the medium. But some people get the idea that they know me personally and start to make unusual statements, leaving me to scratch my head and wonder where I went wrong in evaluating the person.

I think the issue is there are a lot of lonely, isolated people in the world who are looking for some kind of connection. They take a look at the slice of me, or anyone else for that matter, that I show to the world and think that’s all there is to know. That the small slice means that I am looking for companionship. I mean, I’m single, I write romance: I MUST be looking for more than friendship. The puzzles read more into my profile than actually exists. 

I feel badly for these people and I truly do try to be kind while not encouraging them. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t. I am not perfect. And meeting someone who seems to have an unrealistic image of me would be unnerving to say the least, which is why I haven't done so, except with people where I can at least verify their identities. I am sure that this is not their intent but unless I meet someone at a convention or through personal friends or have more interaction with a person, I don’t know what anyone is really like. Even then, I am very cautious. And someone who sends me twenty-five requests every day, only serves to make me more wary. Life is not risk-free but that doesn’t mean I will take idiotic chances, such as meeting someone I have never met without taking many, MANY precautions. So far, the only people I have personally met have been other writers.

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

Monday, May 4, 2009

RT Booklovers Convention 2009 - Orlando, Florida



Well, it's taken me a while to get myself together after RT. First I couldn't find the patch cord to transfer my pics from my camera to my computer and THEN I couldn't find my camera. Sighhhh. But I've got it together now :)

This convention was the first major convention I've attended. I met a bunch of great people, both readers and writers alike. During the Saturday Booksellers Fair, I went around and took photos of authors and others I met around the resort, in seminars, at lunch, at dinner, dancing ... well, you get the idea. These are the pics of some of them.

Michelle Rowan aka Michelle Maddox from the RWA Chapter, Toronto Romance Writers:
Christine D'Abo also from the RWA Chapter, Toronto Romance Writers:


Melissa Lopez, Ellora's Cave author:


Cai Smith and Stephanie Lynch comprise the writing team of Marilu Mann for Ellora's Cave:


Robin Kaye, author:


Annaliese Evans, author:


Cheryl Dragon, Ellora's Cave author:



Sandra Cox, author for Cerridwen Press:

Solange Ayre, author for Ellora's Cave:



Jeania Uplinger, Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.'s organizer extraordinaire, and hunky Ellora's Cave cover model, Rodney Chapman (God, I hope I got his name right!):


Lynn Cash, Ellora's Cave author, with her cover model, Rodney Chapman (sighhh, some writers have all the luck!):


Dakota Cassidy, author:


Eileen Ann Brennan and Dee Brice, Ellora's Cave authors - lovely, lovely ladies :)

Mechele Armstrong, author, with her book 'The Rivals':

Marissa Alwin, Ellora's Cave author:


These two wonderful ladies, the writing team of C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp AKA Cat Adams, were the first people I met at the convention. Fresh off the plane and confused by the warmth, sunshine and humidity, these lovely ladies invited me to have lunch with them, even though I had never met them before. I guess I must have looked like a lost writer - LOL :) These multi-published authors won the RT Award for Career Achievement in Paranormal Romance, you can see it in the pic below - YAY!!


Dalton Diaz, Ellora's Cave Author:


Frances Stockton, Cerridwen Press author:


Ciana Stone, Ellora's Cave author, with her cowboy cover model (I really wish I could remember his name - if anyone knows, please contact me and I'll update this post).

Elayne S. Venton, Ellora's Cave Author:


Joanna Waugh, Cerridwen Press Author:


There were many, many more readers and authors I met that are not pictured in this post unfortunately. I am so happy to have met friends, both new and existing, in Orlando.

Until next year's RT Booklovers Convention, everyone, happy writing, reading, editing...

P.S. There were so many people that I MAY have gotten a name wrong - I sincerely hope not! But if so, please let me know - you have my apologies and an update of this post to correct the errors.

Eureka!

I finally have the missing piece. Writers are sort of like golfers—always missing something in the quest for the perfect swing, the perfect method, the perfect word, the perfect tool.

I should have realized this before but being a relatively new writer, I didn’t. I know what my problem is now, halfway through writing my second book. To be perfectly honest, the second book has been more of a trial than the first book. I think I just did things in the first book that happened to work, without knowing why these things were working. First time lucky. Second time has required me to think about what I am doing and how I am doing it. I didn’t pay enough attention the first time.

The first time writer, I think, is sort of like a lone wolf in the woods. Solitary. Without guidance except for instinct. And all too often, I think I, and probably other writers, ignore their instincts because they just want to finish their project. Deadlines, whether imposed by the writer herself/himself or by the publisher/agent/editor, mess with the creative urge. The first book I worked out a method but I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings, those things that made it easier for me to write, where the words flowed from my fingertips onto the keyboard, from my voice recognition software into my manuscript.

The missing piece for me is music. I had one of those “slap my forehead”, “D’oh!” moments as I have struggled through my second manuscript. The first book I had written entirely listening to music, being inspired by the music, matching the moods of my scenes to the music to which I listened. And an occasional glass of port. Mustn’t forget the port. I escaped into my fiction, into my story to avoid the other realities of my life at the time.

I don’t know if this is true for most writers, but for me music is an amazing creative tool. It sets the mood, it creates a bubble which the writer inhabits, away from the world. I have music for all moods—from heavy metal (not much) to classical—you name it, I have some variety of it. And my music collection keeps growing as I look for new sources of inspiration for moods. Right now for instance, I am listening to classical music “Any Other Name”, and it’s piano music, so I am in my happy place. Music has always been my happy place, my sad place, my inspired place, the one thing that has never failed me.

To write, I need to block out the world and just “be” in my head. And music seems to reach directly into my emotional centers. I think most people are this way. Music speaks, even if there are no words. But then, music is the universal language. Allowing me, as a writer, to tap into imagery and ideas I may not have had before, not considered before. I close my eyes listening to music and I “see” a scene unfolding on the backs of my eyelids, like a movie screen or television.  I see people, activities, colors. I see more with my ears and my imagination than with my eyes sometimes, a lot of the time.

The words are flowing again, like a spigot that’s been turned on after winter. The flow of music is clearing the rusted debris and cobwebs from the pipes. So I will ride on the crest of my music from now on.

It’s funny in a way. Last night as I signed off from one of my social networking sites, I posted a picture of a palm-from backlit by the moonlight and music to accompany it – Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Movement 2. The two just seemed to belong together. I listened to that music, staring at the picture, for a long time. Felt it sink into my mind to remind me of what has always been there.

Me and my music.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Spring of My Life

Every once in a while, I hear someone refer to their early adulthood as the Spring of their lives, their middle age as the Fall of their lives and aged as the Winter of their Discontent (swiped that one from Shakespeare). But the Spring of someone's life always seems to refer to when they were anywhere from eighteen to twenty-nine years old.

I am past my twenties, I won't say how far past, but those days are gone. Thank God. And I am in the Spring of my life, maybe for the first time. I'm sitting in my home, looking out over the horizon of the city, seeing green life poke its nose into Toronto. It's still cool and windy, but Spring is shyly poking it's head out of the trees and ground. Taking a look around to see if it's safe to bloom into riotous life, to see if Winter is over. The Winter of my discontent is finally over, but it took a long time for it to happen.

I think I am aging backwards, if that makes any sense. Youth brings with it so many unknowns and firsts and excitements, middle age can bring dissatisfaction to many, old age can bring despair to others. I think I started off middle aged, Fall, moved into old age, Winter, and have now moved into Spring with the possibilities of my future hanging just barely within my reach from the trees ready to bloom.

All things are possible now, freed from the restraints of the past. I have a brand-spanking new writing career, I have a new home, I have new friends, I am meeting new people, experiencing new things and, for the most part, have left the crippling shyness of my childhood and early adulthood behind. I wouldn't want to be in my twenties again. Too much confusion. Too little confidence in my own abilities.

But now, in the first Spring of my life, I know where I stand. I know myself better, understand myself better, than ever before. And although I am no Spring chicken in years, I am in my life. For the most part, I am enjoying myself and exploring the possibilities revealing themselves almost daily to me. I know what I want, what I don't want, what is possible and what is not possible for me. But the impossibilities dwindle as the days pass.  And I am made new again because of the choices I've made. Hellish choices which turned out so much better than I could ever have imagined a year and a half ago. Things that didn't happen in the past which I regretted at the time, devastated me at the time, have worked out for the best.

Would I change some of my past? Maybe. Probably. But at the same time, my past experiences have made me who I am today. And I like me, just as I am. Perfection would be boring and leave me with nothing to accomplish. I have many things I want to accomplish and in the next few years, I will achieve want I want to achieve, even if I end up taking a circuitous path to my destination. And it will still be Spring when I get to where I go. 

Whenever or where-ever that may be. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Review of Pitch Dark is In!

The first review of Pitch Dark is in by Literary Nymphs! It is rated as a 4 out of a possible 5 Nymphs: "An impressive read. Quality literature, recommended for anyone who enjoys the genre."

The reviewer noted, "Pitch Dark is a good suspense story...I did not want to put it down." 

I'll take it! :))

To see the full review go to: http://literarynymphsreviewsonly.blogspot.com/2009/04/pitch-dark.html