Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Special Offer, an Invitation, and a Giveaway

Join the Inn on the Edge Group Read

May 5 - 11 

Erotic Enchants Group on Goodreads and a 50% off Sale on Ellora's Cave and Amazon

Now on sale! 
$3.99 on Ellora's Cave 
$4.99 on Amazon
(Links below)

Great News! My novel, Inn on the Edge, has been chosen to be the featured group read on the Goodreads Erotic Enchants group on May 5 - 11. Lots of fun things are planned for the week. I will be running contests and giveaways, and dropping in every day to chat with participants. I have put together a fantastic gift basket (shown below) for one lucky reader.

The Prize Basket

To participate in the group read:

Join Goodreads. Then join the "Erotic Enchants" group on Goodreads. This is a fun-loving, friendly group of readers that love everything erotica. On the Erotic Enchants forum, you will find the thread for the group read in the "Monthly Group Reads" section. I'll watch for you there!

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com

To find Inn on the Edge on sale:

Ellora's Cave: Inn on the Edge - $3.99

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Glimpses of Me, Uncensored

Unrestrained and Unapologetic

As an amusing change of pace from my eavesdropping stories, I thought I'd share scenes drawn from my own rather unconventional life. As you may have gleaned, I am an author of (Fun! Different! Exuberant!) erotica novels, three of which have been published and a fourth that I am currently working on. I also am a musician and a jeweler, a wife and a mother. Most recently, I have been creating digital artworks.

It is these digital works and the snippets that accompany them that I share with you today. I may even decide to make a series of this type of post. I hope you enjoy the stories and artwork as much as I have.

Glimpse Number One: Channeling my Ancestors

Channeling my Ancestors - With Yarn
Original digital artwork by Evelyn Arvey

Crocheting: it's for nerds, right? Well, I beg to differ.

I come from a long line of crocheting women. My mother crocheted. My Grandmother did too - even my Great Grandmother crocheted. I remember her coming to visit when I was small. She always had her "work bag" with her, and was always working on several projects.

Great Grandma Norton always had gifts for me, crocheted ponchos and lacy vests made of fluffy red and maroon and blue yarn. I'd model the things she made for me, and admire the fancy stitches.

"You try it," she'd say.

One day, I did. She sat me down and showed me how to hold the hook - it was metal, and slim - in my pudgy little fingers. She taught me a basic chain stitch, she helped me untangle knots. After Grandma Norton left, my mother continued teaching me. I believe my first project was a length of chain stitches that went from one end of the house to the other. My next was a lopsided granny square that I pressed into service as a carpet for my dollhouse.

Later, my mother showed me the tiny crochet hooks and the minute thread Grandma Norton had used to make intricate doilies and lace when she was younger, before her fingers were bent and arthritic. I still have (and treasure) those doilies.

Whenever I pick up a crochet hook and start a new project, I feel as if I am channeling the women who came before me.

Glimpse Number Two: April Fools

April Fools
Original digital artwork by Evelyn Arvey

My birthday falls in April. It's not on April first, but close enough for damage. I've often found myself at the receiving end of April Fools jokes, and the joke that was played on me about ten years ago was one of the best. Or one of the worst. Take your pick.

My husband is a great guy (aside from sneaking up on me at the Starbucks, as described in my last post). The week before my birthday he always takes me out to the See's Chocolates store in the mall so I can pick out two pounds of chocolates. It's enough to make me swoon, standing there at the candy counter, selecting the ones I want. Probably, it's my favorite thing on this earth - aside from eating them - so I take my time about it. I choose two of the nut ones with the dark chocolate ... four of the crunchy ones with the almonds ... three of the thin molasses ones that come in four-packs ... and on ... and on ... until the box is so full that the See's Chocolates lady in her black-and-white uniform can barely contain my bursting box as she wraps it. And then my birthday box is taken home and hidden.

You see, I am not allowed to eat the chocolates until my actual birthday. Everyone knows to stay away from Mom's chocolates. It always goes perfectly... except for once.

My husband, a known sneak, took out my poor box of See's Chocolates the day before my birthday. He oh-so-carefully unwrapped the box. He opened the box. He removed each precious chocolate and placed it in a second box.

And then he put a brick in the See's Chocolate box and re-wrapped it. And presented it to me on my birthday.

I take back what I said earlier. My husband is horrible. Despicable. And he's funnier than hell.

Glimpse Number Three: Crazy Girl

Crazy Girl
Original digital artwork by Evelyn Arvey

I turned fifty last week. Doesn't that explain it all?

Well, if you'd like the whole story, here's the rest. It starts and ends with the ocean. I've always loved the ocean. I set my last novel by the ocean. I always want to go to the ocean. "Where should we make plans for (insert holiday)?" is always answered with: "The ocean! The ocean! THE OCEAN!"

Unfortunately, through a series of events, it had been a long, long time since I'd actually been to the ocean. My husband fixed that. He made surprise reservations at an amazing hotel-with-cabins on the Washington coast, to celebrate my special birthday. "You only turn fifty once," he said, as we explored our delightful cabin - the higher-priced model, the one with the wrap-around ocean view. I fell in love with it. Crazy in love.

The first morning, I woke up early. We'd already talked about my taking a dawn walk along the shore, by myself. I was ready. I piled on layers of sweaters, and jackets, and gloves, and the super-warm Andean knit had I'd bought in Ecuador. (See? We DO go on awesome vacations!) I also packed a bag with a lap blanket, a book, a container of orange juice, a Cliff Bar, and a camera.

Quietly, so quietly, so as not to awaken him, I sneaked out of the cabin.

Oh! The joy of it. The smells, the sights, the eagle in the distance wrangling with a dead salmon on the beach (I swear). I couldn't contain myself, I was so excited. This moment had to be commemorated, so I dug in my bag until I located the camera, and then I took this selfie.

And then, I looked up. Richard was in the cabin window, grinning at me. "Have fun," he said through the window, "you only turn fifty once."

I love that man.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I Overheard - Number Three

The Intrepid Eavesdropper Strikes Again

More Fascinating Snippets From Coffee Shops

I Wonder If They Can See Me?

As I prepare these snippets for this blog post, one thing keeps jumping out at me: A sense of unfinished business. As my eavesdropping alter-ego, I drop into and out of conversations, never hearing one in its entirety. But it's more than the fact that conversations are often clipped short. What's most disconcerting to me is that I usually have no clear idea what the people are talking about

To me, the uninvited outsider, it seems as if the conversations I hear meander around a subject, never mentioning the facts, never spelling out the details of the inciting incident, never explaining things so eavesdroppers can understand. But hey. I can't complain, can I? It comes with the territory. Having no idea what is going on adds to the mystery. With that in mind, here are today's snippets.

Snippet Number One:  "Oh, Mama, Please Don't Cry"

I'm in the Starbucks in the hospital lobby. Once again, it's raining. I'm in a cranky mood - my favorite table is occupied by a man writing on his laptop, a man who looks like he's settled in for a good long stay. I'm wrestling with a difficult scene of my novel. My hour-and-a-half of writing session is almost up. At any moment my husband will glide up silently behind me, touch my shoulder with a single finger, and startle the living daylights out of me. (The sneak.) 

It's his favorite way to pester me. I invariably jump. Sometimes I squeal. His favorite is when I jump and squeal. Because one of these days I intend to catch him in the dastardly act, I turn around in my seat every minute or so to check for his sneaky approach - and that's when I become aware of the woman.

She is pacing back and forth in the Starbucks, on her cell phone.

"Don't cry. Please don't cry," she says. She's upset.

Actually, it's more than that. She's beside herself, she's so upset. Her obvious distress is painful for me to watch. Obviously, this is not good fodder for my Intrepid Eavesdropper column, so I go back to my novel. I type two sentences. I glare at them. And then I delete them.

The woman passes by me again. "Oh, Mama, please, please don't cry."

I watch her from the corner of my eye. Poor thing, she's almost crying herself.

"I didn't mean it that way," she says so quietly I wouldn't have heard her if she wasn't passing right in back of me.

She walks out the door, and then in again.

"Mama, you know I'd never say that." She stands by the potted palm, sniffing. "...Just please don't cry."

She heads toward the door.

"I'm coming. Mama, I'm coming. Wait for me."

And then, she's gone.

I'm left feeling rather devastated on her behalf, wondering what on earth happened. Why was her Mama crying? What had the woman said that started such a cascade of tears? I'm still hearing her voice in my mind when it comes: the dreaded touch on my shoulder. I jump. I squeal. Once again I've had the living daylights startled out of me.

I'm Sorry, Mama

Snippet Number Two:  "It Never Ends, Does It?"

There are two college age women sitting side by side at the next table. They're studying vocabulary for a science class, going over words such as "en vitro" and "endoplasmic reticulum" and others that I do not catch.

The odd thing? Every minute or so, the women exchange laptops. As in: they pick them up, cords and all, and pass them across the table in a coordinated effort without saying a word about it. The table is small. It only barely accommodates the two laptops, the two mugs of mocha, and the little plates that hold the bits and pieces of their leftover cookies. The passing of laptops is not a big production for the women. They just...do it...and continue typing away and studying as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"Are you going home for Easter?" asks the one with her hair in a bundled-up ponytail. They're between vocabulary words.

Without missing a beat, they switch laptops.

"Uh-uh," says her friend, the one with the long strawberry blonde hair. "Are you?"

"No. But my Mom is making me an Easter basket anyway. Even though I'm not going to be there."

They switch laptops.

"Aw. That's so sweet!" Ponytail Girl says. "I never got Easter baskets." She types something, frowns, types some more. "Here's a new one. What is the behavior of (insert big scientific word) when under the influence of (insert a second big scientific word)? What's that again? Do you remember?"

"Um. Yes. It's (insert third big scientific word). Hey. Your touch pad is seriously f*cked up."

"I know."

They switch laptops.

"It never ends, does it?" says Strawberry Blonde.

My ears perk up. Are they talking about the constant switching of their laptops? Is that what never ends? But I am no more clued in by the rest of the conversation.

"I finished this one," Ponytail Girl picks up cookie crumbs with the tip of her finger. "But I have four more to go."

"I have five. Shit."

They switch laptops.

I'm frustrated over here at the next table. I'm none the wiser, and they're not helping me! What is it that never ends? She has five of what left? Does it have something to do with passing their laptops back and forth? Are they playing a game as they do their homework? I'm going insane over here, but I force myself to follow my self-imposed rules of listen, watch, record...but don't ask, don't get involved.

They switch laptops again and again, and again. I never do figure out what is going on. And then it all stops. Inexplicably and without discussion. Everything goes quiet at the next table. No more vocabulary words. No more switching laptops. The show is over.

Women with Laptops

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Over The Edge - The Second Excerpt: The Nurturing Forces

It's Time To Share Again!

Several weeks ago, I posted the opening pages of my work in progress. I'm now ready to share another excerpt, this time from further into the book. Over the Edge is an erotic horror novel destined for the Shivers line at Ellora's Cave (my publisher).

Over the Edge: The Blurb

Dahlia, a novice Healer, is accepted into a mysterious school in Seattle that teaches Curative Touch - only to realize too late that she is in grave danger. She and the other students are being used as a Guinea Pigs for newly-adult Sex Demons in training in the usage of their own powers. But Dahlia has done the forbidden: She's fallen in love with her Demon instructor and unearthed the truth.

The Excerpt:

(The setting for this excerpt: It is the first day of lessons at the Institute. Dahlia and her classmates are learning the first exciting steps of Curative Touch, as taught by ... Demons.)

     Professor Abiba turned to his audience. "And now I shall conduct a little exercise, to get us started. Put your hands together. Like this." He clasped his hands in a prayerful sort of way and held them out for all to see.
     We copied him, a room full of pious students.
     "Now give your hands to the person sitting next to you. One of you will put your hands over the other person's hands. Gently, now." 
     I turned to Coralee. She took my hands in hers, and her skin felt warm and dry. We smiled shyly at each other at this intimate, unexpected contact. On my other side, Ellen moved a few seats over so she could give her hands to Preston.
     Professor Abiba's voice turned soothing. "This is your first official lesson at the Institute. A momentous occasion, to be sure." He waited until the last student pairing was settled, and then continued. "Rule Number One. Always ask for permission before you start a healing. Always. Without fail. Even if the person has requested your help. Even if you are only doing a practicum with your Model. It is an enormous breach of trust to not do so."
     I sat with my hands embraced by Coralee's, pondering his words and wondering—had I asked permission before touching people during my painful years of stumbling in the dark trying to help people? Always and without fail?
     I knew I hadn't.
     Sometimes—most times—I had, but not always. Perhaps I didn't have explicit permission, but I always had implicit permission. I always knew that what I had to give was something they wanted.
Professor Abiba cleared his throat. "But once isn't enough. Asking permission is a two-part process because we believe that asking once isn't sufficient. We must let patients know exactly what we want to do. But fear not, my earnest pupils, for I shall teach you the verbiage." He nodded sagely. He raised a lone finger as emphasis. "First, acknowledge your patient's suffering. Use their name if you can. Now listen closely. These are the exact words—except for the name—that you must memorize and take to heart." He cleared his throat, looked at his wife, and then spoke in a theatrical-sounding voice. "Zettia, you are suffering. May I put my hands on you?"
     Mistress Anjoli inclined her head.
     He turned back to us. "Now you do it. Go ahead. Say the words to the person whose hands you hold."
     Coralee and I shared an excited little smile.
     I took the plunge. "Coralee, you are suffering. May I put my hands on you?"
     Her eyes shone. "And I see that you are suffering too, Dahlia. May I put my hands on you?"
     The same thing was echoed all around us, with minor variations.
     Professor Abiba nodded. "Well done. Now for the second part. May I conduct a healing for you?"
     I turned back to Coralee. "May I conduct a healing for you?"
     Coralee said the words back to me.
     We squeezed each other's hands, a silent yes. Then I thought about Gage, about how he'd put his hands on me yesterday, about how he'd said these very words. He'd even used my name.
     It made me shiver.
     Professor Abiba was speaking again. "The words I just taught you will become so familiar that you will be able to say them in your sleep. They are words that will stay with you for the rest of your lives. They are potent words which will settle you into the proper frame of mind to unlock your Curative Energy."
     They'd certainly been potent when Gage had said them to me.
     Professor Abiba waited an extra moment before continuing. "But even that is not enough. You are not yet ready to begin a healing. You must obtain assent." He moved to the edge of the platform. "The assent doesn't need to be verbal, because sometimes a patient may not be able to speak, but it must be clearly given. Why do we need assent? Why can't we heal a person just because we can, because we have the knowledge and the ability, and because we wish to help those in pain?" He left the stage, taking his robes in his hands and raising them to knee height before letting them drop again after he stepped down to the lower level. He was wearing loose ankle-length white pants underneath. "Why do we wait for assent? Because the nature of what we do demands it."
     He walked back and forth, so tall that he towered above us. Coralee and I, still holding hands, craned our heads when he came our direction. Then he turned around and walked the other way.
     "You see," he said, "our art works best if a patient is complicit in their own healing."
     Oh! I hadn't known that. I wished my hands were free so I could write it down.
     "A willing patient will open themselves to you. A willing patient will be relaxed. He or she will respond to your touch. He or she will offer their energy to you, even if they do not realize what they are doing." He stopped in front of me and Coralee. "Take these lovely young ladies in the first row. Our Dahlia will utilize Coralee's energy alongside her own to do her healing work. Two streams of energy are stronger than one. Understand?"
     "Yes," I whispered. Because I did understand, and it was beautiful. It was simple. And it was so obvious, although I hadn't seen it until Professor Abiba had shown me.
     I stared up at him, transfixed.
     And then I wondered how he'd known our names.
     He moved away. "Good. My job is to teach you to direct the flow of energy. To use it for a specific purpose, targeted toward one part of the body. And to direct your patient's energy alongside your own. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that right there is the basis of Curative Touch as we understand it." He stepped back up onto the podium. "You're still connected with your patient, still holding hands. You've asked for permission. Twice. You've obtained assent. Now it's time for the next step. Ask your patient to close his or her eyes."
     I asked Coralee to close her eyes. And then I closed mine.
     His voice came out of the darkness, silky and warm. "Now we're starting the simulated healing. Keep hold of your partner's hands. Take your time. Be gentle but firm. Be mindful." He waited a good minute or two. "Your hands should be feeling heavier. And getting warmer."
     I sucked in my breath. My hands were getting warmer, just as he'd said. And they felt like they weighed twenty pounds. I wondered if Coralee's hands felt like that too. I noticed that we'd allowed our joined hands to fall to the arm rest that separated our seats. I breathed in, out. In, out. Taking my time.
Finally, he spoke again. "This is a simulation. We're not going to do any healing this time. All I want is for you to know what it will feel like when we actually do get to that point." He paused between each instruction. "Feel your partner's skin…feel your own skin…feel where your fingertips meet…feel your partner's warmth…take it in…share your own warmth with your partner. Feel it. Don't think of anything else—just feel."
     Institute Time was a funny thing.
     It seemed to stand still, waiting, poised, full of potential.
     And then, without warning, something wonderful happened. Color! Fiery vermillion! A shocking burst of brilliant red that flooded my awareness and left me dumbstruck. Even though my eyes were closed, I saw color all around, so much so that it crowded out everything else. I became a ball of pure red light with the name Dahlia attached to it, and it was the most marvelous thing that had ever happened to me.
     I made some sort of sound.
     "Ah," said Professor Abiba.
     I opened my eyes to find him standing right in front of me.
     "Tell me, my dear—what just happened?"
     "Color!" I gasped. "I see red!"
     He regarded me, looking rather proud. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said to my fellow students as he gently parted my hands from Coralee's. "Something momentous has just happened here. A benchmark. And it happened well before anticipated. We don't usually see this occur for days yet." He tugged lightly on my arm, urging me to stand next to him. Which I did, still seeing the world tinged in that delicious vermillion. "Our Dahlia has accessed the Nurturing Forces! Let us give her a round of applause!"
     They clapped for me, all of them, as I stood dazed and happy next to my professor.
     The Nurturing Forces.
     Who knew they were red?


(End of Excerpt)

Working on 'Over the Edge'

Thank you for reading! I'm still hard at work on Over the Edge - I'm currently just over 40,000 words into the novel, almost halfway through. I plan to post more excerpts occasionally, so please do check back.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Guest Author - Zoe X Rider

Guest Author
I am pleased to have a visitor to my blog today. Zoe X Rider is a friend from the wonderful, extremely supportive erotica section of the online forum Absolute Write, where I have been a member for four years. Zoe has a book release today, and I've invited her to write a guest post and share her novel. Welcome, Zoe!


Gay Subtext
by Zoe X Rider

I love writing m/m fiction.

I'm pretty sure I didn't always think about guys falling in love with other guys, though I did grow up watching The Monkees, shared not only a beach house but a four-person bed. I just didn’t quite realize why I loved The Monkees so much.

My love of m/m hit around puberty, which was about the same time my family got a VCR. (They were enormous back then—in size, I mean, not just popularity. The play button on our JVC VCR was as big as one of today's cell phones.)

One of the first movies my father rented (he was the one with the video rental card, and he never took us to the rental store with him) was the original Lord of the Flies. This event predated puberty by a few months; I loved the movie—those boys fending for themselves on an island with no adults interfering—but, as with The Monkees, I didn't quite understand what I loved about it so much. A few months later, I discovered a pile of William Goldman paperbacks at a flea market. Mistaking him for the guy who wrote Lord of the Flies (that would be William Golding), I bought ALL THE BOOKS. I was disappointed when I realized the mistake, but I owned them by then, so I went ahead read them.

The book William Goldman is best known for—The Princess Bride—was not among the collection I picked up that day. If it had been, who knows—things might have turned out differently. Instead I had A Soldier in the Rain, Marathon Man, Magic, Tinsel…and The Temple of Gold, which was a slim paperback about Ray, who, at the start of the story, is in high school. Since I wasn’t far from high school myself, I cracked that one open first.

Oh my God, The Temple of Gold. There I was, just beginning to be infiltrated with hormones, and I was reading about Ray and his best friend Zock with growing certainty that these guys were totes in love: they go hiking, they read poetry, they run away to Chicago together. I was riveted, waiting for the big scene where they admitted how they felt.

But no. It wasn't that story.

If my father were alive today, I'd tell him that my predilection for gay stories was his fault. The Lord of the Flies-to-Temple of Gold connection is tenuous, since it’s based on a mistake, but the book he put directly in my hands a couple years later was not. It happened almost three decades ago, but I can see the whole thing like it was yesterday: I was in the living room, sitting in the blue recliner he’d fall asleep watching sports in. It was a boring summer afternoon, and we lived on such a remote road that I could sit in that chair all day and not see a car go by. My walked in and handed me a paperback, stiff with age, saying it had been one of his favorites when he was a teenager. With nothing better to do, I sat there reading John Knowles' A Separate Peace, drinking off-brand soda and becoming increasingly antsy: clearly Gene was in love with Finny. Any minute he would confess. I desperately hoped the feelings were returned, but I sensed heartbreak coming.

Alas, it wasn't that story.

By the time I discovered S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, I was in the full grip of teenage hormones, and my crazy ideas about the characters were helped along by the fact that the movie had just come out. (Mmm Matt Dillon.) By this point, I knew better than to hope for the romances to happen in the story; it was the eighties. Homosexuality didn’t show up in books featuring young adults. That was fine with me: I had plenty of room in my head to explore my own storylines. I got lots of mileage out of The Outsiders: Dallas and Johnny, Sodapop and Two-Bit, Johnny and Ponyboy. This was, in fact, the tipping point. Up till now, my fantasies had been exclusively me and some cute boy from school, or me and John Taylor from Duran Duran, but now all these guys were taking over: falling in love, making out, fighting, fucking, taking what they wanted from each other with neither apologies nor excuses.

The men were running rampant in my head.

During my teen years, I plowed through the rest of William Goldman's back catalog, from 1960's Soldier in the Rain to 1986's Brothers. There were a few I couldn't get my hands on, but I read everything I could. There were no more Temple of Golds in that back catalog, but I enjoyed them. And then I more or less forgot about William Goldman, until a day a few years ago, when I found in a used bookstore one of those books I hadn't been able to find before: Your Turn to Curtsy, My Turn to Bow.

It was The Temple of Gold all over again. Best friends, tons of homosexual subtext. Chad was totally in love with Peter—you can't tell me any different. And, of course, no actual payoff. Just the lingering sadness of what was hidden behind the text.

I still love finding storylines where I can read between the lines, whether the author intended there to be anything between the characters or not. It's not what I write—in my own writing, while I still have a fondness for stories about guy friends (who fall in love), and stories where guys shouldn't be into each other (but are), I get to bring everything into the open. But I'll always treasure the books where I find those storylines buried in the cracks.

Zoe X. Rider is the author of Games Boys Play, an erotic m/m, BDSM romance between best friends, out now from Loose Id.

Games Boys Play by Zoe X. Rider (published by Loose Id)

Brian and Dylan have been best friends for years. They have no secrets between them—except for the ones they’re keeping from each other.

When Dylan walks in on Brian engaging in self bondage, Brian’s mortified, but Dylan’s intrigued—to the point of offering to help Brian out next time he gets an urge to be tied up.

No. That’s all Brian can think. No way. But the idea of someone else being in control overwhelms his thoughts, and self-bondage is suddenly a pale substitute for the real thing. He gives Dylan permission, on a trial basis, and comes face to face with a side of Dylan he’s never seen before. A really hot side.

As their games pick up steam, so does their relationship, along with Brian’s courage to go after the things he wants. Like, Dylan.

It might be happily ever after, but there’s one secret left, and it could ruin everything.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Writer's Studio - A Tour

...Which Studio Would That Be, Exactly?

I don't actually have a writing studio, let me admit that right away. It's entirely my fault - over the years, I have taken over every available space in our home. Twenty years ago, I created a wonderful painting and metal arts studio in my basement (photo below). Several years later, I made a ceramics studio in my former dining room (also photo below). More recently, I've stashed my sewing and leather working materials in the living room. It goes without saying that I have the most understanding husband in the world. So how can I complain about not having a writing studio? I look at it another way: I'm lucky! I don't have only one place to write - I have five of them. 

#1  At Home: The Kitchen Table
It has its advantages: It's comfortable. It's close to everything. I'm aware of what's happening with family members. My snacks and tea warmer are nearby. But by the same token...it's the kitchen table! I'm too available. Dishes need washing and dinner needs to be started and the front door needs to be answered and the cats need attention - and just look at that mess on the counter behind me. The kitchen table is right in the middle of family life and sometimes it's impossible to keep distractions at bay.
Writing At Home - The Kitchen Table

#2  At Home: In the Guest Bedroom
When things get too distracting in the kitchen, I take myself upstairs to the bedroom my daughter vacated when she moved out ten years ago. It's now the guest room, so that can be problematic at times. Also problematic is the view out the window. In the above photo, you can clearly see the neighbor's walkway to their house. A couple of weeks ago, I was writing but I kept noticing that their dog - a large, fluffy, sweet thing - was loose. Aw. Look. She's wandering around. Don't they see her? Isn't someone going to lead her back home? No? Really? There is no-one out there? She's heading down the block! Where is our neighbor? (Sigh. Harrumph. Sigh.) So I went out and retrieved her and took her home, which pretty much put an end to writing that afternoon.

Writing At Home - In My Daughter's Old Bedroom

#3  At Home: In Bed
Sometimes the story just won't stop, and I have to drag my laptop into bed with me. I have a nifty little table on legs that I set it on, and it works just fine for a couple of hours or until my back starts complaining. The mouse (I hate the touch pad on my laptop) is more problematic - the lap table is too small for it, so I have to prop it on a book on the bed itself. That works pretty well, as long as one of my five cats doesn't bat it around as if it were a real mouse. In the photo, you can barely make out Felix, our white-and-orange long-hair. He's to the right of the mouse, in perfect batting position.

Writing At Home - In Bed

#4  Out and About: Zoka
I love this place. I try to go there a couple times a week, and I like to stay for around three hours a session. I have my favorite table (the one in the photo). It's to the left of the entrance, and is perfectly situated by a convenient electrical outlet. The light from the huge window doesn't cast a glare on my laptop screen if I inch the table a bit out from the wall. It's perfect. I can people-watch. And I can put my plate of flour-less chocolate cake on the windowsill, as you can see in the picture. It's all so, so nice. 

Two days ago, when I was writing at Zoka, I asked the the very nice barista who manages the place to take this photo of me during a pause between her customers. After the photo was taken, I wrote an entire chapter of my novel - and the new material was keepers, quality stuff. I was so pleased!

At the Coffee Shop - Zoka
(Prime Intrepid Eavesdropper Location No. 1)

#5  Out and About: Starbucks in the Hospital Lobby
I find myself at this coffee shop once a week, on Tuesday mornings. The place is small enough that I get grumpy if I don't get my favorite table by the potted palm. I wasn't so lucky in this photo. A steady stream of people pass by, which can be either interesting or distracting, depending on my mood and on how my writing is going. On very special occasions, a friend of mine who works at the hospital can pry herself away from her post and join me for a quick break.

At the Starbucks in the Hospital Lobby
(Prime Intrepid Eavesdropper Location No. 2)

Other locations:
There are other places that I occasionally will take my laptop to, such as the waiting room at the dentist's office, or to my parent's house, or to the park. But the above five "studios" are the places that I have done the bulk of my writing during the past few years.

It's funny.

Certain locations, certain tables, certain chairs even, have become associated with the scenes that I wrote at them. As clear as crystal, I remember sitting at the table to the right of the one pictured above (at the Starbucks), putting together a favorite scene where my characters were having their first banquet at the inn of Inn on the Edge. I remember sitting there, sipping the froth off my mocha, and describing luscious almond croissants ... and steaming blueberry muffins ... and buttermilk biscuits with fresh butter and honey dribbled onto them... hey. I must have been hungry at the time!

That's all for now, except for the promised photos of my metalworking studio and my ceramics area. I must go make some blueberry muffins. It seems I'm hungry all the time!

Metals Studio, With Two Cats

Ceramics Area, Also With Two Cats

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Research of a Very Different Sort

I Try My Hand At My Character's Hobby

Dahlia Rehnquist, the main character of my work-in-progress Over the Edge, has a unique hobby: she makes bread dough figurines of her friends and family. Her figurines are quite a bit better than mine. As they should be - Dahlia spends hours and hours on each figurine, adding painstaking detail such as a violin for her best friend and a soccer ball for her brother. In the interest of "getting it right" - and of having a fun craft project - I decided I needed to make some bread dough figurines of my own. As research.

It's a very enjoyable kind of research. I had a great time.

First, I found directions for making the dough. I needed a recipe that uses white glue and a slice of bread. I'd seen Peruvian figurines made from this type of bread dough and the dough is much finer than the grainy recipes I remember as a child that used a cup of salt and flour and water. 

Peruvian Bread Dough Figurines

Next, I invited friends over for lunch and a crafting party. They came with their darling 4-year-old twin daughters, and - after a tasty lunch of strawberry shortcake - we got right into the project. 

Tearing The Crusts off a Slice of White Bread

I passed out a slice of bread to each person. We carefully tore the crusts off and then shredded the bread into little bits and tossed them into individual bowls. Then we measured a teaspoon of white glue into each bowl (which became much easier when my husband took the lid off the glue dispenser). I dribbled a bit extra into mine, since it seemed somewhat dry.

Shredding the Bread

Adding the Glue

Next we worked it in our fingers until it became nice and smooth and stopped sticking to our fingers. The more it was worked, the nicer it felt. After only two or three minutes of kneading my lump between my fingers, it was ready to go. What surprised me was that a single slice of white bread - without crusts, no less - made a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball.

A Bit Messy at First, But Not Too Bad

This is Me, With my Ball of Dough

My plan was to make the same figurine I was going to have my character make in the novel. It was supposed to be her best friend, Dawn, a woman with a long black braid playing the violin. I quickly abandoned that idea, deciding that the fictional Dahlia Rehnquist has a lot more patience than I do! The violin I made for my figurine to hold left something to be desired, for example. I showed the sort-of violin to my little friends, and they looked perplexed. "What is that?" asked one of them, "is it supposed to be a turtle?" Needless to say, I didn't use the violin.

Poking Fun at the Photographer

The Beginnings of My Figurine,
Looking Rather Like An Easter Island Rock Sculpture

My Figurine, With a Dashing Top Hat and a Tie

The Girls' Figurines

Their Father's Figurine - Duck Man on a Pedestal

It was a fun hour we spent playing with the bread dough. We used drops of water to stick the pieces together, but I have the feeling that it didn't quite do the trick. If I were to do serious figurine-making, I'd want to find a better way of sticking elements together. We'll let the figurines dry for two or three days, and then, if they make it that long in one piece, they can be painted. An alternate method of adding color is to add drops of food coloring to the dough as it is being mixed. I read that finished figurines can be given a protective, glossy finish by brushing them with a mixture of half water, half white glue.

The upshot of my little research-craft project? It was fun! I also confirmed my belief that Dahlia's hobby is a good fit for my novel. She will be able to procure the supplies she needs, which are few, and she'll be able to do this very low-tech craft project.

Five Days Later:

An update, just because I thought you'd like to know. Last night, I caught my top-hatted figurine (the one pictured above) with the edge of my sleeve, and the poor guy went skidding across the table and crashed onto the floor. He bounced! And then he rolled to the other side of the kitchen.

But - guess what? He survived without a mark! He didn't fall apart. His head didn't separate, his hat didn't fall off. Nothing! So I guess the water-as-an-adhesive works just fine.

Two Weeks Later:

Another update! Yesterday I accidentally doused my little guy with water. He was soaked. Saturated. Sopping wet. I set him on the windowsill to dry, turning him over a couple of times. I thought he would be a goner, all sticky and yucky and disintegrating - but when he dried off, he was fine! He's none the worse for wear. He is strong and hard. I have to say that I'm very impressed with the hardiness of the white glue - bread dough recipe for making figurines.

Looking Debonair in His New Home - the Flower Pot on the Kitchen Table

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Snapshots of a Writer

An Art Show - Kind Of

This is the bouquet my sister-in-law sent to me 
when my first book was published. 
The image has been altered in very cool ways.

Last night, I was up until 2 o'clock in the morning altering photographs. I'd dragged my laptop into bed with me - I have this sweet little lap table to perch it on - and pushed away curious cats. I made sure the clack-clacking of the keyboard and clicking of the mouse wasn't bothering my husband, and then I let myself have fun. And it was fun. I had so much dang fun I couldn't stop myself. (See how I just used the word "fun" three times in a row? Rebecca, my editor, wouldn't approve! My excuse is that I was up until 2 o'clock last night.)

It's all because I discovered this wonderful picture-editing tool on my image program.

This was the original version. The mixer had to go. 

I use Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. I have no idea if that's a good editing program or not, but it sure has some fun ways (...fun!...and there I go again!) to alter an image. So I thought I'd alter a series of photos, some recent and some a bit older, and use them to illustrate and chronicle my writing past.

Me and my Breakfast Basket

It was about three years ago. I was at the first-ever writer's retreat in Icicle Creak, Washington, run by Hugo House in Seattle. I had this sweet little cabin all to myself. It had a bunk-bed ,and a table and chair combo for writing, and a picture window that took up an entire wall and let in streams of light at 5:30 in the morning. Perhaps best of all was the breakfast basket sitting on my doorstep each dawn. I Skyped with my husband (but not at 5:30 am!) and proudly showed off my basket. What you don't see is me taking out each thing individually and showing them to him. I'm not sure exactly how he did it, but he took this picture during our Skype session, which explains the weirdly cool angle. And now I've altered it and made it even weirder.

At the Starbucks in the Hospital Lobby

That's me in the white sweater. This is the same location where I overheard some of the snippets in my two "Intrepid Eavesdropper" posts. It's a nice little place, big windows, lots of people-watching. The funny thing is...in real life, as I sit here at the kitchen table on this Tuesday morning, writing this post for my blog - I am about to head to this Starbucks. In fact, I will probably finish the post at the very same table in the image! So how about that?

Linky the Writer Cat

Linky is a sweetie, but sometimes he figures that he's more important than my novel. On this occasion, I'd just spent ten dedicated minutes petting him, which was an odd sort of torture because I had a glaring typo on the screen that I badly, badly, badly wanted to correct so I wouldn't have to stare at it any longer. But no. Cat on arm is more important.

Working on my Novel

Gail Bridges, the Author

I was at the Emerald City Writer's Conference last October. I'd reserved a table at the book fair...because I am an honest-to-god REAL LIFE author now! I have three books! I have posters and swag and the whole bit. I asked the lady at the next table to abandon her post for a moment - this was about two minutes before the doors were to open - and snap this image of my first time publicly being an author.

Going to the Coffee Shop

My husband took this shot of me last week. I was out the door, on my way to Zoka (the second "Intrepid Eavesdropper" location). "Hey," I said, handing him the camera, "do you think you could take an Author Photo of me? Right now, right here?" He moved me from place to place and took probably six shots, none of which would come close to being an Author Photo. But what the heck, it was fun.

At the Coffee Shop
(Actually, it's the Starbucks in the Hospital Lobby.
I have yet to take a photo at Zoka.)

Healing Hands

This shot was taken four days ago. I set it up as an image for an article or blog post I plan to write soon, about the interview I did last week with an Energy Healer. I've been doing a lot of research for my new novel, "Over the Edge". I'm conducting a series of fascinating interviews with REAL LIFE healers and gathering boatloads of material.

But I needed a cool illustration for the post. So I dragged my son over and asked him to hold hands with me. Wonderful 22-year-old that he is, he didn't even complain. We tried various poses with our hands, and were shocked that it wasn't as easy as we thought it would be! My husband helped. He took picture after picture, shaking his head and saying, "Nope. Not this one. Try again." It took a while, but we finally hit gold!

That's it for now.

For my next blog post, I will share the final few images and describe how I altered them. Thanks for reading!