Me, Too

At first when I saw this “Me, too.” effort sweeping social media, I didn’t think I qualified. I’ve never been raped.

But I have been sexually assaulted, a reality that dawned on me slowly as the week has progressed. That counts. Finally I said, “Me, too.”

At eighteen, I went on a blind date and found myself trapped under a 200-pound linebacker trying to take off my clothes. I wriggled off the bed where he’d tossed me and made my escape.

At nineteen, I endured the disgusting advances of my boss in a part-time job. He’d stand directly behind me while I worked at the cash register, pressing his body against me and sometimes putting his hands on my arms. I quit the job after 30 days.

At twenty, I was married and while he was a good man, he wanted to ‘try things’ which at one point included anal intercourse. I preferred not to, but he insisted. I never knew anything could hurt that bad.

At twenty-two while my husband was overseas in the military, an acquaintance decided he’d have a piece of me. After forcibly kissing and pawing me while I said ‘no’ and ‘stop,’ he picked me up and started toward the bedroom. I realized he wasn’t going to give up and grabbed his hair. I said I would call his boss, who I knew personally, and that I would report him to the police. He put me down and left the house at which point I locked the door. And I did tell his boss, who was a Methodist minister. The offender was an associate pastor.

In my thirties, I was at my office. No one else was around when an acquaintance stopped by to talk about a project. As we stood there, he stepped forward and cupped his hand between my legs. I was like, what? What did he think would happen, that I would fall onto my back in a fit of uncontrolled passion? He had this weird smirk on his face. I stepped away and said nothing. I didn’t want to confirm what he’d done. Afterwards, I refused any phone calls or other contact.

In my mid-forties, I sought out a realtor who owned a property I wanted to buy. When we met to sign the Offer and Acceptance contract, he closed his office door, grabbed me by the arms, and kissed me. I’ll never forget the slip of his tongue along my lips. He was in his 60s.

I saw all these acts–and others I haven’t described–as the dues I paid as a female. I never considered it as abuse or assault. Not until ‘Me, too.’

But now that I’m thinking about it, I see how much of my life and the lives of other women are shaped by men who take it for granted that they have a right to touch women whenever and however they please. Even more, men consider it their right and duty to direct and control women’s place in the world: my father’s decision that the only career suitable for me as woman was to teach school; an employer’s decision that I could run a cash register and stock shelves, but never decide how products were displayed or advertised; or a spouse’s determination to control how I dressed and what jewelry I wore.

More than that, I see how I was brought up to be complicit in such controlling and/or abusive behavior by men. My parents followed a strict religion. Women were not allowed to speak in the church and were assigned, by God, to a submissive position under men, just as men were in submission to God.

I was mildly flattered with the touching. It affirmed my femininity. It made me feel desirable. It was a measure of my value. This was part of the female experience.

It’s been a long hard struggle for me to learn my way out of patriarchy.

My daughters know better. They are among the first generation of women to assert their rights as human beings, not to be touched unless they wish it, not to be assaulted in any way at any time. I’m so proud of them. I’m proud of how far women have progressed in my lifetime.

I’m hoping there will be no more generations who can say “Me, too.”

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Writing Historical Fiction

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I’m deep into the second novel of my Roman story of Caerwin and Marcellus. Everything I do is seen from the perspective of 50 AD Rome, which is kind of disconcerting when you’re driving down the highway. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy a snippet of the work as well as a few observations about writing historical fiction.

Research is at the heart of any historical fiction. Without details of place, dress, and social customs, an author can’t create a believable story. Unfortunately, the further back you go in time, the harder it is to find information. For my current research on Rome, I’m regularly frustrated by gaps in the record. I want the story to be as accurate as possible. How do I know if I’ve got the right information?

I confess. Without Google searches, I’d have to fold up my tent and go home. One thing I’ve learned, though, is not to take one Google search as the whole story.

For example, one academic source insisted that women in Rome did not drink wine. Initially, I found a few other sources that affirmed that information. Then I uncovered a new more specific historical survey that explained the wine thing.

Yes, in early Rome, in the nearly six hundred years of its early formation and its existence as the Roman Republic, the Senate made laws and oversaw government operations. Conservatism ruled the day. But in the mid-first century BC, Julius Caesar wrested control from the Senate (for which he was assassinated) and became the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Another four hundred years would follow under the rule of emperors.

Social norms relaxed in the empire. Wine-drinking for women was no longer a crime punishable by death. Whew!

Notoriously, the empire also saw sex scandals, blood sport in the arena, and other excesses which have become the hallmarks by which most of us remember Rome.

As an author, I want to entertain readers with compelling stories about fascinating people. But I also want my stories to reflect the truth about those times. This means the work takes longer. Sometimes hours, days, even weeks elapse as I try to uncover some obscure detail. I’m hoping for a late summer release on the book.

~~~

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Augustus Caesar ruled from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD

We might have guessed that a warrior culture destined to conquer the known world would produce some hot bodies. All those marble statues were trying to tell us something. Now researchers have learned that the original marbles were painted with lifelike colors and features.

The colors are not being arbitrarily added–a combination of ultraviolet, infrared and X-ray spectroscopy can apparently divine the approximate hues these statues were painted in. Personally, I like the one on the left. (More info here.)

~~~

Here’s an excerpt from my current work in progress, a continuation of the story of Caerwin and Marcellus. In Book I, released last November, Caerwin is taken captive by Marcellus as his Roman legion crushes her native tribe in Rome’s quest to seize Britannia.

~~~

Caerwin and the other women waited in the carriage. Outside her window, she watched Marcellus. The baggage wagon had pulled forward so that both conveyances waited in the shade of tall trees. A cluster of taverns and eating places lined the wide roadway.

Antius attended Marcellus who stood fully in her view outside the front of the carriage as he began divesting himself of his weapons. No one could enter Rome bearing war gear. Antius received each item, making a stack that she guessed would be put away in the trunk: the sword, the red sash around his midsection, the wide leather straps he wore across his chest bearing his medals of commendation. Caerwin shifted uncomfortably as her mind raced ahead to the inevitable conclusion of this process. Surely he wouldn’t…

4-old-paintings-by-bryanThe segmented torso armor clanked as it joined the pile, reminding Caerwin of all the nights she had watched him undress from the comfort of his bed. Or discomfort in the certain knowledge of what would come next. She wriggled on the seat, unable to look away.

Marcellus pulled his tunic over his head. Her mouth went dry. It had been weeks since she’d seen him undressed. He stood in the dappled sunlight in nothing but the cloth that wrapped his loins. The gods! Had there ever been a man of such beauty as this? Muscle curved across his shoulders and chest. A narrow line of body hair descended briefly down his lean abdomen. The wound on his bicep left a puckered red line along the bulge. His hands, his forearms, the line of his jaw…

She licked her lips, absorbed fully in this vision of manhood standing just yards away. Everything about him incited her. Her breath came in short light bursts. Her pulse throbbed in her throat—and in less modest places. Moisture crept between her tightly clenched thighs.

Antius unfolded the long white yardage of Marcellus’ toga then sorted out the tunic with its two red stripes. Marcellus paused, standing fully facing Caerwin and meeting her riveted gaze. She gasped at the unmistakable knowledge in his dark eyes, the slight smile curling his lips. By the goddess Sabrina! He had intentionally positioned himself to disrobe in her view. He had purposefully captured her attention to display himself.

He turned slightly and shifted his hips so that the front of his loincloth gave full evidence of his pleasure in her attention. Her eyes closed in the sensation of him over her. She could feel him in her. She squirmed. Her nipples hardened. Her hands filmed with sweat. She wanted him in ways she’d never known possible.

“What mystery holds your adoration?” Junia said. Her forehead wrinkled as she gazed at Caerwin. “I must know.”

Caerwin’s face heated as she tore her gaze away from Marcellus. Just as he had placed himself in her view, he had also made it impossible for Junia or Porcia to see him. Unless Junia came to Caerwin’s position in the carriage.

“I…It’s…” Caerwin stammered. What could she say? Marcellus meant this for her, not to be shared with Junia.

Against her intention, her gaze drew back to Marcellus. The moment had passed. Marcellus had already shrugged into his tunic and Antius had begun to wrap the toga. “An eagle,” she said finally to Junia. “Powerful animal. Quite beautiful.”

“Indeed,” Junia said suspiciously.

~~~

Check out my Roman Pinterest page for some fascinating images and facts about that long lost world.

 

♥ ♥ Chance to Win! ♥ ♥

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Like all cheesy promotional contests, this one requires you to do something in return for your chance to win a stunning prize. For your effort, you could win a $20 gift certificate at Amazon.com. Please, no applause. I feel bad enough as it is. I should be giving away much more, like maybe $50. Or $100.

I would if I could.

I’m giving away $20 to some lucky winner because I’d love to have more followers for my blog. Alternatively, I’d love to have more fans reading my free monthly newsletter. Both would be perfect, so rush right down and sign up today.

Why do I have a blog and a newsletter? I’m a writer. I write every day. Some of my words are in my blog and some are in the newsletter, but most of those thousands of fascinating combinations of letters are in my books and short stories which you wouldn’t know about unless you read my blog or newsletter. See?

I want you to know about my stories because I know they’re good. I know that once you read some of it, you’ll come back for more. You’ll tell your friends and relatives–well, at least those who like racy romance–about me and my stories and next thing you know, I’ll be rich and famous. And I’ll be encouraged to write more stories for you.

Now that I’ve clearly established my ulterior motives for giving away $20, I’ll sweeten the pot by making my most popular novel available for ONE DAY at half price. That’s right, all 380 steamy ebook pages of 5-star Jarrod Bancroft: The Novel only $2.50 all day Valentine’s Day. (You’ll note that I’ve added a convenient link so you can jump right in there to order your copy. It’s available at this price only through this one outlet, NOT Amazon.com) That’s a lot of smut for the price of a cheap cup of coffee.

By the way, you’ll probably really like my newsletter this month. I’ve given FIVE ideas/links for FREE Valentine’s Day gifts for your sweetheart, from food to foot massage.  The teaser short story posted here on my blog (Feb 4) is an offshoot of Jarrod’s story, and the opening paragraphs of that story are also in the newsletter. Also my regular feature “Did you know” talks about the different ways authors approach their work–carefully plotting the action before starting to write or flying by the seat of the pants. I know you’ve been dying for that.

As a Valentine bonus, I’ve written a short story about Jarrod that will post to my blog on February 4. See how nice I treat you?

Wouldn’t you love to have my clever, useful newsletter pop into your email each month? Wouldn’t you love to see my occasional scintillating blog posts arrive to amuse you in random moments? I thought so.

So click the “Follow” button over there in the left margin and you’ll get my blog posts. Or click on my newsletter Liz’s Hot News link to sign up. I promise you won’t regret it. And really, why not? If I ever annoy you, you only have to click “unsubscribe” and it’s all over for us.

Once you’ve signed up (OK, if you’re really short on patience here, you only have to do one of those two things.) then your name will be entered in the drawing I’ll hold on February 14.

[If you choose to follow my blog to qualify for your chance to win rather than signing up for my newsletter, you’ll need to provide me a way to know how to contact you. You can send me a private message on Facebook or you can leave a comment here. If you sign up for the newsletter, I’ll have your email.]

Go ahead and visit my Facebook page and find the pinned post with most of the same information you’ve already read here. I know, I know, it sounds redundant. But if really want to make my day, please “Like” my page, “Share” the post about this drawing with all your friends, and “Comment” to say you’ve done your part.

There. I hope you feel better. I know I do. Thank you. Really. Thank you very much.

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The Magic Word

Books-to-Get-You-in-the-MoodI lead a double life. This is one of those moments when I’m in the twilight zone between those lives. Stuck.

As my alter ego, a writer of erotic romance, I fall in love with amazing men. I watch characters emerge from the page with their own agendas. I wander down long dusty roads into the past to tease out details of a love affair between a maid of early Briton and her Roman conqueror.

As my real person, I dig into local history and personalities. I blog about travels and memories, Most recently I’ve blogged about issues in the news that stir my venom against patriarchy and ignorance. My blood is up.

Days have passed as I-as-my-real-self flogged the keyboard, brainstorming how to phrase in even more impactful ways all the harms caused by religious extremism. For now, I’ve mostly satisfied myself that I’ve read the reports, the research, that informs and elaborates on my ideas. I’ve put it out there. I’m done, at least for now.

All this time, I’ve longed to return to the misty hills of northern Wales where my maid awaits her next confrontation with the Roman commander. Her future is unknown, as is the future of the Roman legion camped a short distance away. The story will unfold only as I type the words.

I want to read this story!

But my blood is up. I’m restless. Arguments still echo in my real-person head. I’m finding it impossible to slip back into the green rocky hills where Caerwin waits, against her will, for Marcellus.

The solution for today’s dilemma? It was so simple, I don’t know why I didn’t remember it from the last time I ran up this stump.

Read. The magic word. I will read. No writing required.

I’ll set aside the real world and its daunting problems. I’ll indulge myself by investing in the latest novel by one of my favorite edgy authors, Tiffany Reisz. I’ll spend the rest of this day in her stunning world of sex and angst.

I’m relaxing now. Planning lunch. Birds chirp outside my window. From wherever I arrive by the end of her book, I’m confident I’ll soon find my feet walking ancient byways in long ago Britannia.

Wolf at the Fence

wolf at fence copyThe condition of her roof, for example, had become a source of mild panic. Other items on the list of irreconcilable disturbances included her fifteen year old car, her weight, and the accumulation of leaves along the outside of her fence. Over a foot thick and growing. At what point would they  rot into ever higher dirt and the outside world could merely step over the bit of wire still showing?

It’s not the roof, she reminded herself tiredly. The dull crush in her chest, centered between her shoulders and lying just above her breasts, came from other more endemic sources. Genes? Diet?

She could no longer wear jeans. That was cause enough.

There was no cause. It was always there, waiting like a hungry wolf to eat her days and haunt her nights. Sometimes the wolf’s teeth gleamed at her, the only thing she could see.

Oh, she gathered her jewels to her, gripped them in her hands. Shining emeralds the color of spring grass, azure clumps of lapis gleaming like the midday sky. Was it greed that drove the wolf? More, always more?

Once she had a love. They lay among the stars. They nestled in deep warm grass, his arms the bed she always wanted, a bed of comfort and promise. He lay over her with silken skin. His eyes took her into the far universe where all answers were given.

All answers. The only bed she wanted. Silken skin that whispered in her ear and spread her thighs with the most rapturous adventure.

So much more. Years flying past, faster until the end waited just around the corner. So much to do that would never be done—the Gobi not seen, the yacht on the Mediterranean, the long sunny days on a beach somewhere with waves crashing and receding, crashing and receding.

A man who wanted her. Who was what he promised. Who held his power in his hands and lightning bolts sparked from his fist. That man. The man that never was.

Tears. The roof, the weight. The thin edge maneuvered each day between what she had and what she needed. Worry. Wait.

There will be no end to it. If he came back, she wouldn’t want him. He’s broken. He’s what he always was that she never knew. He’s the dream made flesh and discarded. He’s a promise that could never come true.

It’s not him.

It’s the wolf inside her. Long, lean, gray. Skulking around the fenceline, waiting for the dirt to rise.

Author Brand

corp brandAccording to many knowledgeable sources, an author’s brand is essential to success. If readers enjoy one book, they’ll come back for more. When an author produces works that don’t fit that brand, readers walk away. That’s the message about brand.

And that’s a problem. I’m not a one-genre writer. In fact, my problem is even bigger than that. I’m not a product. I don’t fit in a box with a logo. I’m a creative force channeling whispers from the universe.

Or something like that.

Under my real name, I write non-fiction: whimsical essays about life and the world around me, local history, biographies. For my real name books, I have an author page as an offshoot from my personal Facebook page. I have a website and blog. I’m on Goodreads and maintain an Amazon author page.

Under my pen name, I first wrote and will continue to write erotic romance. I have a Facebook presence as well as an author page. I have a website where I blog. I have a Goodreads page and an Amazon author page. (Aside from that, I maintain two Facebook pages for my commercial rental properties.)

I feel like the Red Queen: It takes all the running I can do to keep in the same place.  I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be writing.

In November, I published Salvation, a dystopian novel, under my pen name. According to the knowledgeable sources, this was a big mistake. My pen name readers expect erotic romance.

I’m sympathetic. However, other knowledgeable sources say one pen name is enough. I agree. There are only so many hours in the day.

emo resp copyIn reading about author branding, I was struck by one cogent comment to the effect that if the emotional payoff for a reader is the same no matter what genre an author writes, then sticking with one genre isn’t necessarily critical. There’s no clear cut answer here.

When readers of my erotic romances pick up Salvation, my dystopian novel, they won’t find the main character in a happily ever after. He’s an anti-hero at best. In Denial, Book II of this House of Rae series, the main character grows more toward his potential, no longer an anti-hero. Still, there’s no HEA. Maybe by the end of the series—at least two more books down the road—there’ll be a happy ending. For readers who start reading in hopes of romance, they’d have to last a long time to get to that payoff.

But then, the hellish other horn of my brand dilemma is that most dystopia readers don’t expect what I include in these books.

A word of explanation seems in order here. Set in the mid-21st century, the House of Rae series involve legal, upscale houses of prostitution that serve women. (Yes, there are houses that serve men as well.) The sex energy produced there, along with pleasure energy created at dance centers and meditation rooms, is channeled by psions to a grid that redistributes the energy over populated areas. The energy serves a vital purpose—it heals a mysterious illness that leads to brown death.

(An entirely other issue revolves around whether ‘dystopian’ is the appropriate description of this series. Other useful terms might include slipstream, utopian, ecotopian, and soft science fiction, but none of those are options in official book categories.)

There’s much more to the storyline than that, but there is sex, some of it explicit. So these dystopian stories of mine bust through the general wisdom about genre margins which says, more or less, that you don’t mix explicit sex with science fiction. Sci fi readers, especially the men, don’t like to read explicit sex because it slows down the action. I refuse to believe that men or women readers are this narrow.

What is my brand if romance readers pick up Salvation and don’t get their HEA? What happens if a Salvation reader picks up the uber-explicit BDSM story of Jarrod Bancroft: The Novel and walks away shuddering? What happens when I start releasing books in my Chroma series, which is way-out-there sci fi with no sex at all?

By any metric, I seem to have successfully mixed up genre elements enough to alienate any and all readers. Yet the reviews coming in are four and five stars on all my books.

I refuse to be crammed into a box where I write only one genre. I refuse to dilute my time even further by creating another pen name. My compromise is to make it clear in the blurb that this book is erotic romance. Or dystopia with sexy bits. Or what the hell ever.

I’ve decided my ‘brand’ is to be known as a writer of realistic characters, dynamic immersive plots, and innovative ideas. My scenes will be rich in descriptive detail. Readers will linger over particular phrases and thoughts. I respect my prospective readers enough to believe that what they want is to be entertained and to grow through the experience of reading. I can deliver that.

What do you think?

Product? cattle

 

 

 

Or

 

be orig

 

Artist?