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.

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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?

On Genre

College 0013I’m a writer. I’ve written nonfiction and fiction. In 2012 I was thrilled to find an agent who liked my latest manuscript, a fiction story set in 2059. We spent six months on edits and another six months on pitching it to the big houses. Finally even the few smaller publishers we queried said ‘no.’

Why? All agreed it was well written. But there’s Explicit Sex. Sex is a key element in the storyline, not because of romance but because it serves a critical role in the main character’s development. According to the agent who first handled the story and all the publishing houses who rejected it because it was Mixed Genre, the majority of those who read sci-fi do not like explicit sex. And the majority of those who enjoy explicit sex expect a romance story.

While I’ve written a story with a bit of romance as a sideline, this book is not a romance. Can there never be explicit sex in a book that isn’t romance?

So I’m self-publishing because I refuse to edit out the sex or make it a romance. I’d call it science fiction, but there are no spacecraft or laser guns. No otherworldly creatures taking over the planet. No travels to distant galaxies. My options for sub-genre under sci-fi are: general, action & adventure, alien contact, apocalyptic & post-apocalyptic, collections and anthologies, cyberpunk, genetic engineering, hard science fiction, military, space opera, steampunk, or time travel. None of those fit.

Dystopian? Yes, it’s a future society, but the government isn’t oppressing the characters. Utopian? Kind of, only people are dying from a mysterious illness and terrorists lurk in the shadows. Ecotopian? Well, yes, there’s a strong environmental twist in the story, but that hardly categorizes the book.

Not apocalyptic—the world continues. Post apocalyptic? Not really.

I could go to the extreme of calling it Visionary & Metaphysical but it’s really not, and besides, calling my work ‘visionary’ makes me gag.

I’ll agree it’s speculative fiction. Everyone nods to that. But spec fiction isn’t a genre.

I’ve been searching for more information on genre. I’ve concluded that I could spend the next ten years reading all the suggested works by authors from Lois Lowrey to Cormac McCarthy to Kelly Link and thereby reach my own conclusion as to how my work fits in. I could delve into the differences between New Wave Fabulists, the New Weird, Interstitial Fiction, or the Romantic Underground as discussed by Pawel Frelik’s 2009 article on the Science Fiction Research Association website. I could further examine Parallel Universe v. Multiverse v. Metafiction, or Speculative Fiction v. Magical Realism v. Slipstream as critiqued in a recent Book Riot post (February 16, 2015) which undertakes an analysis of “literary fiction” works with a sci-fi/fantasy slant.

Arghhhhh! Help me Rhonda, help help me Rhonda. Can’t I please just write?

Categories available to indie authors through Amazon’s ebook and paperback publishing branches include Magical Realism. Psions are part of my story, including directed energy and telepathy. But is that the best way to describe this work?

I could call it Literary Fiction and step back and watch as the book gathers dust on store shelves. That classification conveys little meaningful information. Oddly, while I’ve been through countless classes in writing and literature and trudged through writing workshops at both the undergrad and graduate levels, I’ve ended up with a jaded opinion of ‘literary’ anything. Who decides what is literary? Is the work adequately focused on ‘big’ themes and presented through appropriately evocative language? What if it is both plot driven and a manifesto on social issues?

Yes, a writer can deem his/her book ‘literary fiction.’ But so what? Nothing is confirmed until the label emerges in a review from the shadowy world of literary criticism.

Who are those critic guys, anyway? Writers tired of writing? Professors? Readers who appoint themselves this task? Is there a degree in literary criticism?

Yes, Virginia, there are degrees conferred in the field of literary criticism. God help us.

Is there really so much time in a critic’s life that he/she can read all the literature, produce scathing or complimentary reviews of said literature, and still have time to pontificate about whether the latest release is New Wave Fabulism or Slipstream? What do they do for fun?

Bigger question: why do I care? Self-published authors aren’t deemed worthy of mainstream criticism. We’re left to flounder in a sea of self-appointed ‘reviewers’ whose blogs clog the Internet. Largely comprised of females eager to receive free books in exchange for what often amounts to a book review, the majority of review blogs focus on romance genre. A few review blogs address the wider range of literature including science fiction in all its forms. All of the review blogs have become crushed under the onslaught of self-pub works, some of which might actually be worthy of reading.

There seems to be no adequate winnowing process by which the better works filter up to informed reviewers. If somehow an indie writer might stumble into a legitimate reviewer’s welcoming arms, he/she might gain a favorable review to encourage the buying reader to try this one. Otherwise the marketplace is an abyss lined with books.

Thus the importance of genre.

I’m a writer. I want to write. I have stories to tell, stories I think readers will enjoy. My stories don’t fit neatly into genres. I don’t want them to. I don’t want to write by formula. I want to create characters who tell me stories that I convey the best I can.

What I don’t want to do is spend hours trying to figure out a label for my work. Or for that matter, prostitute myself at conventions and signings or cultivate online relationships with people who might be coaxed to read my work–but that’s another rant.

For now, I’ve determined that every so often I’ll change the genre designation for this book and see if it matters.

Salvation, House of Rae Book I — Excerpt

fire over KCThis edgy feeling won’t go away. It’s been in my neck for days. Maybe think it’s the mission, but I’ve known about the mission for a long time. This is different.

It’s not the fire either. By the time I finished high school last year, Class of 2058, the countryside had been on fire for years. When the fires range within a hundred miles, there’s a glow at night. They burn toward us from out past Leavenworth or Topeka, sparked by lightning or agricultural machinery. Every dawn and every sunset carries the orange-red hue of smoke in the air even when real clouds gather.

Uncle Dan’s old Dodge truck vibrates as we sit at the stoplight. The thrum of its engine comes up through my shoe soles, through the worn seat to penetrate my body. My edgy feeling gets bigger in his truck. If I was driving, I’d slam my foot to the floor and drive as fast as this old beast would go. That’s what I mean—this isn’t about the mission.

The light changes and the engine noise increases as he accelerates. Other people in their quiet little electric cars look at us. That used to embarrass me, but I don’t care now. We’re the ones who know the truth, and that’s all that matters.

To the west, past the city lights, the night sky gleams orange. This burn is running south along the far side of 435, forcing people to evacuate to the old speedway or Wyandotte Lake. Or into Kansas City proper. It’s safer in town. Pavement and concrete don’t burn like timberland, fields, and crops. Like old farmhouses built out of wood. Old neighborhoods burn, but new buildings are mostly concrete with metal roofs.

Granddad Carter’s house was wood. So were his barns, outbuildings. Uncle Dan told me how it was when all that burned. Even Granddad’s rigged up water system couldn’t stop it. The fire came in on a strong wind, jumped the fifty-foot fire break he’d plowed. Afterwards, they made the best of things, went out into the blackened prairie and harvested burned deer. That’s the family story. My dad Victor, Uncle Dan, Amos, and Granddad cured over three hundred pounds of venison jerky from that. Before I was born.

We drive along in the hot wind tinged with smoke scent. Bits of music break through the engine noise, pealing out from shops and street cafes, nightclubs and dance centers. Crowds throng the sidewalks now that the sun has set, families with eager children, groups of enthusiastic young people, loving couples staring into each other’s eyes. You’d think, looking at them, that the world wasn’t in its last days, that we’d just go on living like we always have rolling around in our desires, our appetites. I used to think I wanted that, what everybody else had. I know better now.

“Look at them, boy,” Dan scoffs. He nods toward a line along the sidewalk waiting to enter a store. New Shipment! the signs announce in big letters. Level II Meat, Dairy. “They ain’t got more sense than to spend all their money on a lie.” He glances at me. “You’re damn lucky, Josh Carter, you know that?”

“Yes sir,” I reply. Because I do know it. I’m among the few who see, the few who hold to the old ways, respect the truth. The rewards will be ours.

Only, since I got this feeling, this shivery sensation that runs up the side of my neck a few times a day, it seems like the world has tilted a little. Used to, knowing I was special, knowing the way things were headed, I had the energy of five people. I’d do my morning run, go to work, go to school, get everything done and be ready for the evening workout like I’d been resting all day. Lately, since this feeling started chewing on me, everything I do is like clawing through a layer. Like a clogged pump straining to drain. And I don’t even have school any more.

I stare out the side window as we drive along. We pass through residential districts. There’s a long stretch of apartment buildings, those big complexes they build for all the people that keep coming here. I don’t know why they come. Kansas City isn’t that much better than anywhere else. Maybe every place is this crowded. But I haven’t been anywhere else, so I don’t know. I’d like to know. I’d like to think that I’ve seen everything and made the choice to be here. But I’m going on nineteen, so I guess I’ve still got a few things to learn.

It’s hard to face what I’m facing and only be nineteen. I’m not afraid of what I have to do, of the challenges that lie ahead. Even before my father died when I was little, I always knew I was in line for a mission. That’s what the menfolk of the Brotherhood do. Until this strange feeling started, I didn’t worry about it at all.

We’re in another district now, housing thinning out to commercial—places to buy things. They’re always crowded at night. The distant glow of white light reflects up from the sports arena. If Dan turned off the truck, we could probably hear the crowd from here. The Royals, home game.

I keep my face turned away from Uncle Dan. Even as well trained and dedicated as he’s raised me, I can’t stop my feelings. There’s excitement in that crowd, in all these throngs along the streets. It travels through the night and hits me in my chest. Makes my stomach tight. Just once, I’d like to mingle in those crowds, smell the tobacco and marijuana smoke, the beer. I’d like to hear the laughter up close, stare into the colorful lights and video displays. I’d like to know how it feels, that pleasure, that freedom to sin.

But I can’t. I’m one of the chosen ones.

Because that’s how things are.

Available as ebook or paperback at all your favorite book retailers.

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Sex and the Young

youngRecently a reviewer of one of my novels commented on the age difference between the female and male main characters. In the story, the female is pushing forty and the male is a couple of years shy of thirty. Their first acquaintance, however, had been ten years earlier when she was a high school teacher and he was her student. Their attraction went unmentioned at that time, but now, ten years later, the connection catches fire.

The reviewer became uncomfortable with this dynamic, partly because the story follows a Dominant/submissive relationship. In the early weeks of training this new submissive, the female ‘domme’ uses the term ‘boy’ as a humiliation. This particular word choice added to the reviewer’s unease about the relationship because of the word’s implication about his age. She still gave the book four out of five stars, but her protest troubled me.

Perhaps we as a society have gone too far when even the use of the word ‘boy’ and an attraction that began while the male character was seventeen trigger thoughts of child molestation. I’m all for laws that protect young children from predation. But there’s a difference between a seven year old and a seventeen year old. There’s a difference between taking advantage of a youngster and reciprocating a mutual attraction. Today’s laws fail to note the difference.

Maybe it’s inevitable that initial efforts to address child molestation will necessarily overreach. For too long, children (as well as women and minorities) were used and abused by male adults. Whether beatings, forced labor, or sexual molestation, children were subject to the whims of whichever adult had ‘possession.’ Until the child grew old enough to fight back or escape, the abuse continued.

No one argues that child labor, beatings, and sexual abuse should occur in a compassionate society. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs easily descends into hysteria. Hardly a day passes without notice of an arrest where molestation charges are brought against the older partner in a consensual relationship with an adolescent. How often are these relationships not crimes but healthy interactions in a very long tradition?

Gaining sexual experience has always been a rite of passage for adolescent males who wish to discover the ‘secrets’ of sexual activity and achieve the confidence and self-development that accompanies this milestone. In the past, an older woman often served as a teacher and mentor in such matters. Stories abound of fathers or older brothers bringing the quaking younger male to a bawdy house where a friendly prostitute would instruct him on the finer arts of pleasing a woman. Thus informed, the initiated young man would go forward with greater confidence in all matters.

Is adult-adolescent sex harmful? New York Magazine published an article examining this topic. The author cites a study which remains a spear in the side of the ‘molestation’ argument:

In 1998, Bruce Rind, Philip Tromovitch, and Robert Bauserman (professors at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan, respectively) published a study that has resounded through the psychological Establishment ever since. The article, published in the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, was what’s known as a meta-analysis, an overview of the existing science, in this case on the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse. The authors concluded that “negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense” and that men who’d been abused “reacted much less negatively than women.[i]

If we subscribe to the idea that a sixteen year old male is not capable of acting in his own interest in deciding whether to engage in sexual activity with an older woman, what does that say about our view of our youth? A hundred years ago—and virtually at all previous times—age sixteen was often seen as the start of manhood. Through the nineteenth century, census takers required a statement of ‘occupation’ for any household member age sixteen or above. Even at age ten, young people were expected to contribute to the family’s welfare by working in the fields or tending livestock, or cooking, sewing, and tending younger siblings as surrogate parents. Especially after the American Civil War with its widespread disruption of families and communities, teenaged males rode off to the West to find their fortunes.

By virtually all accounts, youth today is more worldly wise than any previous generation. With modern media, sex is no longer a secret whispered among adults in Victorian parlors. Both sexes have abundant opportunity to view naked human bodies, read about sexual encounters, and discuss sexual liaisons with sexually-active peers. We can’t assume that sexual activity with an older, caring partner is somehow inherently more damaging than sex with a peer.

Wisdom sufficient to properly conduct one’s affairs does not begin at the age of majority, although this is the age at which most nations allow its citizens to vote, engage in military service, and conduct any and all financial matters. Similarly, understanding and experience sufficient to ensure healthy personal relationships don’t begin at the age of consent. There are long years of effort, arguably a lifetime, required to gain excellence in either arena. Indeed, mastery in relationships and wisdom in conducting one’s financial affairs may never be accomplished. Are we to believe that delaying the onset of one’s involvement in these matters confers any greater skill?

Are adolescents capable of making decisions in his/her own best interest? Does age alone define the ‘power’ position in relationships? Does an adolescent know enough to decide whether a sexual relationship will cause harm? There simply is no hard and fast answer. The individual’s choice becomes part of the fabric of his/her life, for better or worse. A set of laws dictating that only one decision is the right one can only be right part of the time. The rest of the time, such laws cause as much or more harm than no law at all.

American society in the twentieth century moved toward a parental role for government. In the process, we have demanded a longer adolescence of our young people. More schooling, extended virginity, and parental financial support even into the late twenties are key features of this mindset. Meanwhile, biology hasn’t changed. Sexual desire arrives with the hormonal dictates of puberty, and while not all sexual desire should necessarily be satisfied by an older partner, the impulse to criminalize May-December relationships is as misguided as is the belief that young people can or should deny their sexual appetites.

An older caring sex partner can be a far better option for an adolescent than a peer who may or may not pay attention to important concerns such as birth control, protection against STDs, or the thoughtful management of tangled emotions. Perhaps even more importantly, the young male learns how sex is done in a caring exchange instead of relying on pornography and the inflated stories of his peers. Just as we need instruction and training in job skills, we need experienced teachers in personal relationships. There’s an argument to be made that initiation by older lovers could foster healthier long term relationships for young people.

We need to ask ourselves what we’re really afraid of in this rush to label any and all sex with minors as criminal activity. Is there a wish to enforce religious rectitude? Have we so enshrined a ‘youth culture’ that we want to paralyze our young people in an artificially-extended innocent state?

While seeking to protect young people truly incapable of self-defense, we’re harming young people ready to explore. Sexual attraction doesn’t see age. Rather, lovers are drawn to each other through lust, empathy, affection, and an instinctive desire for the spiritual epiphany that sex is uniquely able to bestow. We should welcome these pursuits between consenting partners of any age.

[i] “Dirty Old Women” by Ariel Levy, May 29, 2006

Jarrod’s Favorite Things to Eat

cookJarrod Bancroft’s Top Ten Meals, or My Favorite Things to Eat

Food? I’m a fan. I’ve got no issues with cooking for myself. I like to cook. First meal I served to my bitch mistress, Macie Fitzgerald, sure surprised her. Hey, she had few surprises for me too—in the kitchen, hallway, den, her bedroom… But that’s another story.

10.  I have to be desperate to cook up a batch of lasagna, but the good thing is, when I do, I have enough for four meals. That stuff freezes great. You can use bottled sauce if you want, but if I’m going to make this, I want to do the whole thing. Sometimes I use ground beef, sometimes not. But definitely onions, green peppers, garlic, and diced tomatoes. Throw in the seasoning–fresh herbs if you have them, or dried–but use basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, and a little rosemary never hurt. Or buy the premixed Italian seasoning and add about a tablespoon. Simmer until it’s a smooth, thick sauce, at least an hour. Figure out your favorite—bottled or made from scratch. Don’t skimp on the sauce—you’ll need a lot.

Boil the noodles, rinse in cold water, and set aside with a little olive oil to keep them from sticking together. For a 9×13 pan, mix 16 ounces of small curd cottage cheese with four ounces of grated Parmesan, 2 eggs beaten, and 12 ounces grated mozzarella. (Please, none of this low fat junk.) Add the same seasoning as you used in the sauce, another tablespoon. Spread sauce, then noodles, then cheese mixture, then sauce, noodles and cheese, until you run out of ingredients. End with a layer of sauce, sprinkle with more parm, bake an hour. Open the wine, heat the bread… Come on, I don’t have to tell you that, do I?

9. Jambalaya. I admit to watching a few cooking shows. Rachel Ray knocks it out of the park with her jambalaya recipe—Andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp. Look for it online at the Food Network site. No major production with making roux, or fussing over details. Just cook that spicy baby ‘til your mouth is watering so bad you’re going to burn your tongue not waiting for it to cool. Doesn’t hurt that it’s all one pot—except for the rice. Better the second day, the third day—as long as it lasts, or hell, freeze batches and eat it later. Gotta have crusty bread. A tall cold one earns extra points.

8. Broccoli-Beef stir-fry. Buy sirloin or chuck steak. Stick it in the freezer until it’s almost frozen—that makes it easier to cut thin slices. Slice a cup of green onion and two cups of broccoli. It doesn’t matter if the broccoli is all flowerets. You can slice the stem, too. Depending on how meaty you like it, use 1 ½ to 2 cups of meat. A little green pepper doesn’t hurt, if you like. Put the rice on to cook—I like long grain, organic basmati, but that’s up to you. Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic. Prepare fresh ginger to grate onto the mixture, about a tablespoon. Get some of that paste beef bouillon. Then turn the fire on under your wok or iron skillet until it’s smoking hot. Throw in a little oil, then the beef and onion (and green pepper if you’re using it), sprinkle with salt, and stir until the beef has lost its redness. Then add the broccoli. Keep stirring until it starts to dry up in the pan, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir a bit longer until you really start freaking that the whole mess is going to burn then pour in a cup of water. Careful, it’s going to sizzle. Add another half cup of water, then a level teaspoon of the beef bouillon paste. Stir until fully blended. Let it bubble a couple more minutes. You decide—want your broccoli al dente? Serve now. Like it softer? Put on a lid, reduce heat to low, and wait another five. Killer: garlic-butter croutons on the side.

7.  When I said I liked to cook, did I give you the idea I was into a bunch of fancy composed dishes? Well, forget that. Nothing turns me off a restaurant faster than some tortured stack of mystery ingredients in the middle of a big plate. I want real food. Like baked chicken. Rinse the bird inside and out, pat dry, stuff some celery, sage, and onion inside that baby, rub the skin with butter all over, and sprinkle with poultry seasoning (easy, now, maybe a half teaspoon), salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Put it in a clay cooking pot or cast iron Dutch oven with a cup of water, let it bake for at least two hours at four hundred degrees. (Check at least once to ensure there’s still some liquid in the pan. Add more water if necessary.) If you’ve got room in the pot, add some small onions and fingerling potatoes. Damn. That’s a feast I never found in a restaurant as good as I can cook it at home.

6.  Same principle applies with a beef roast. I like chuck because there’s just enough fat in the muscle to break it down to fork tender. If you’re reading my story Ms. Lizzie Ashworth channeled for me, you’ll get the idea in Book III. Sear in a hot pan til all sides are browned, throw in some onions and garlic, add a splash of sherry and 2 cups water, then cook on low for at least four hours. Last hour or so, add some carrots, potatoes, and more onions if you like. Whole meal in one pan. I never said I liked doing dishes. Unless Mistress makes me. That’s a whole other meal, er, job.

5.  Barbeque ribs—let me say I never cooked any ribs as good as I had in Kansas City. There are too many good places there to single out one. The sauce is smoky, sweet, and spicy at the same time. Meat falling off the bone. Can’t stop eating that shit. Have to wash my hands before I pick up my drink. No way to eat pork ribs without getting messy.

4.  Johnny’s at the harbor in Santa Cruz, California—one of the best grilled fresh, wild-caught salmon fillets I ever tasted. Enough sear on the outside to give it that charred flavor. Insides still moist and flaky, just enough seasoning to compliment the natural delicate taste. Comes with some killer cheesy polenta and seasonal vegetables. Why did you ask me about this? I’m hungry, and it’s ten a.m. Alternate—buy your own salmon, set up the grill or use the broiler, swab with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with dill, freshly ground black pepper, and kosher salt, and…go!

3.  Okay, I admit that underneath it all, I’m a guy who loves what all guys love. A big juicy cheeseburger is perfection. Oozing with mustard, towering with slices of fresh tomato, onions, and dill pickles, crisp lettuce, a layer of melted cheese, oh damn, a thick burger on a toasted bun stops all conversation. Fries are nice, iced tea or a cold beer—sure, I’ll take it. Not necessary, though. Best possible—fire up the backyard grill.

2.  Steak. Baked potato. Iceberg lettuce wedges, salted. Sliced homegrown tomatoes. That is all.

And my Number One favorite tasty treat:

1.  Macie Fitzgerald. No cooking necessary. Prep as needed, ideally on a freshly made kingsize bed. Um, baby.

Jarrod Bancroft — his time is now

Jarrod the novel copyIt started innocently enough. A rich young man in search of adventure in sadistic humiliation. An older woman intent on her profession as dominatrix. Their crossed paths should have been six weeks of a purely business relationship.

But things never go as planned.

The story of Jarrod Bancroft becomes much more than scenes of extreme sexual kink. Hope rejected, regret and anguish, terror in captivity, and an awful truth about Jarrod’s family emerge in this richly-presented series. Told in stunning detail, Jarrod Bancroft’s adventure reveals old lies, ugly threats, and the raw human need for love.

Averaging 4.5 star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads!

“…hotness, explosive sex scenes and most of all one of Lizzie Ashworth’s signature immersive plots, which keep me returning to her books.” Kirsty

I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of writing and soon lost myself in the story.” Tracy

“…surprising revelations, steamy sex and desperation…” Donna

Book I ebook FREE at the following retailers:

Smashwords           Barnes and Noble           Amazon

Book II and Book III ebooks only $2.99!

Paperback Jarrod Bancroft: The Novel includes all in Books I, II, and III

Buy it at Amazon for only $11.69