Friday, July 29, 2016

Self Editing for indie authors

Well, hello my neglected blog! My other job as editor has kept me busy these past few months, which is a reason but not a good excuse. 

This is me the editor by the way. Take a look, I offer reasonable rates and specialise in indie authors: 

There’s been personal drama and travel too – but this blog is not about that. It’s devoted to editing – more specifically, how to know when your manuscript is ready to send off to the editor.

Editors charge in differing ways. I charge by the 1000 words, but a lot of editors charge by the hour, so if your manuscript is full of simple errors the cost can mount to an eye-watering total. Apart from the potential cost, a manuscript that contains a lot of errors will take longer to correct, and you, the author, will have to wait longer for it to be completed. I don't know about you, but I hate waiting.

I’ve compiled a list of things you can do to clean up your manuscript before the editor sees it, to save time and money.

1) Continuity: Does Susan become Sandy halfway through the story? Do her eyes morph from blue to brown, and back to blue? Did James go to find Sandy and disappear into a black hole of author forgetfulness? Continuity, or the lack of it, is very common and easy to overlook.

2) Dialogue: When writing dialogue remember, a separate paragraph for each character. That applies even if the character reacts and does not speak.
“Shut up Simon!” Larissa shouted.
Simon compressed his lips and turned away from her.
“Don’t turn your back on me!” She wiped angry tears away, glaring at his back.
“You said to shut up.” There was nothing in his tone to indicate the anger that held his back stiff.

3) Dialogue tags: It can be boring writing dialogue tags – he said, she said. You start wanting to add some variety. A little bit here and there is ok, although some will say you should never do more than he said, she said. Do remember though that people express emotions with words and tone, they don’t say emotions. If you want variety in your dialogue tags, try using actions:
“You’re such an idiot.” Larissa dropped onto the couch in disgust.
“Because I won’t agree with you?” Simon turned to face her, his tone was still level but his expression was volcanic.
Remember that if your dialogue is between two people and easy to follow you don’t need dialogue tags:
“I don’t want you to agree with me, I want you to understand me!”
“But Larissa, your logic is unfathomable, how can I understand you?”
Simple words like he said, she said, are invisible to the reader. It means the reader can focus on what he or she should be focused on – your cracker of a story, so don’t be afraid to use them.  

4) Redundancies: Check for redundancies, like dialogue tags that are not necessary. Look for other redundancies, like, ‘she nodded her head’ (what else is she going to nod?), ‘the shot killed him and he fell down dead’ (if the shot killed him he is most definitely dead, no need to say it again). Keep your writing as economical as possible.

5) Adverbs: They have their place, but that place is occasional. Most of the time adverbs can be eliminated. Sometimes they can be deleted without having any effect on the sentence because adverbs are often redundant words. At other times the sentence can be rewritten to avoid the adverb, which will give you a stronger sentence. I once read a book where the author was trigger happy with ‘immediately’ and ‘suddenly’. By the end of that book, I swore I would never again write either word.
Instead of, ‘He immediately saw her eyes flash with anger’, try, ‘It was impossible to miss the flash of anger in her eyes’. Compare, ‘She stood up suddenly and glared at him’, with, ‘Surging to her feet, she glared at him’.

6) Misplaced modifiers: Misplaced modifiers are words that are incorrectly separated from the word they are describing. Read your work out loud, either to yourself or to someone else. Nothing highlights misplaced modifiers like reading out loud. ‘I saw an accident walking down the street’, ‘he wore a cap on his head, that was clearly too small’. Say them out loud and you’ll hear it.

7) Storyline: Sounds obvious, right? As the writer you know all the backstory, but you haven’t put it all in the book – at least I hope you haven’t. So you know things about your characters the reader doesn’t know. That can lead to inconsistencies in the story. Read your manuscript, paying attention to the storyline to make sure it can be followed, it makes sense, and there are no vital parts of information left out. If your heroes are stranded on a planet and have no oxygen, but you know your main character has evolved to be able to change the atmosphere to oxygen, you have to make sure the reader knows that too. By all means, hold back the information to add tension to the story, but do remember to tell the reader eventually.

8) Loose ends: Sometimes a minor character or story thread can be forgotten and left loose. The reader never finds out why Marshall was so secretive about the bottom left desk drawer – what was in it? Antonia went in search of a cure for Zack’s persistent allergy to her cat and then the cat vanishes from the story and Antonia never does say how her search went. Did she give away the cat? Did Zack overcome his allergy?
If a story thread is introduced, make sure it is followed to completion, or if it becomes redundant to the story, delete it.

9) Filler words: We are all guilty of using them. Filler words are words such as: just, very, that, really, so, well, as, like. I use so and well too much. Learn your filler words and delete as many as are not needed.

10) Pet words: Like filler words, we all have pet words that we love to utilise. I use the adverb clearly too much, and there are plenty of others. When you read your manuscript look for words you use frequently and replace them with alternatives.

11) Repetition: Repetition can be as easy to spot as using the same word twice in a single sentence. Repetition is also saying the same thing two different ways in the same paragraph. Read carefully, and delete repetitive sentences. If you said that Sandy was sitting in her cubicle at work, and she hasn’t left it, you don’t need to repeat where she is. If you’ve already explained that she sits near Max the suspect and can hear his phone conversations you don’t need to say it again. The reader already knows.

12) Paragraphs: Paragraphs give structure to a story. There should be a separate paragraph for each character in dialogue. Short paragraphs keep the reader’s eye moving faster down the page so are good for action. Longer paragraphs are good for reflective scenes. However, paragraphs should be structured so that topics flow naturally and not too much is crammed into one.  

Taking the time to self-edit before sending your work to me, or to another editor, helps both you and me. And self-editing is an excellent way to become a better writer. And becoming a better writer is something we work on our entire career.

Friday, April 22, 2016


Apologies to all of you who are waiting on the next Zora instalment, it's going to be late this week - like two instalments next week late!

I had a disaster, the hard drive on my laptop crashed and died, beyond recovery. I was lazy, and hadn't backed up for a long time and so I've lost a lot of work, including the next few Zora instalments and over 30 000 words on my current novel. That hurts, a lot. So it's taken me a while to regroup but I'm back now.

Zora will be back next Monday, with another instalment later in the week to make up for the missed one this week.

In the meantime, Cassie is now live in Amazon. She's had a bit of a rewrite to make it book format rather than a series of episodes, and there is some extra material in it as well, so go take a look. The link is here:

I am back in the groove after my mind went numb at the news of my hard drive. It's hard to take, the loss of so much work. But, it was my own fault, I should have been backing up all along. I am now!

Take a look at Cassie, I'm proud of how the book turned out, and I promise, two episodes of Zora next week!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Zora's Light continuation

It's been a hectic week, and here it is Wednesday already, without a Zora instalment! So sorry those of you who have been looking for it, here it is,and the link for the first book in the series also: 

Zora was yawning by the time they got back to their room, only too happy to use the bathroom first to get ready for bed. She was almost asleep when Powers finished his own preparations, but this obvious sign of weariness did not deter him from sitting on the side of her bed. Forcing reluctant eyes open Zora raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

“Zora, you know that Ziyad is a shifter, yes?”

The other eyebrow arched up. “Of course, he is a guardian. Why do you ask?”

Powers ran a hand through his hair. “Well, shifters tend to be hot blooded, and he comes from a hot climate so he is probably even more so.”


“And he is a guardian and you are a defender.”


Powers was beginning to look uncomfortable. “So even though he is not your guardian it would still not be wise to start anything with him.”

Zora lay in silence.


“Let me see if I have this straight. You are thinking that a mild flirtation from a gorgeous man is enough to turn my head, so that I forget our purpose here and indulge in a holiday romance? You are imagining hot sex in the desert while the rogue werewolf kills again?” Zora sat up and glared at Powers, her temper making her eyes spark as she spoke, or so it looked to an alarmed Powers.

“Well, he is charming, and he is handsome and charismatic. And he did seem to be interested in you.”

“You believe I am so desperate for male companionship that a few words and a smile are enough to awaken unbridled lust. Thank you for that character assassination Powers, I’ll be sure to pass on your kind words to Ziyad. No doubt he will be thrilled with your assessment of him.”

Powers was beginning to look annoyed. “Calm down Zora, no need to over react. I was just suggesting…”

“I know what you were suggesting and it’s insulting! How dare you even THINK I would be that shallow. You, who had a different girl each week, sitting there so high and mighty telling me how I should behave.”

“I didn’t have a different girl each week. Well I didn’t sleep with all of them anyway.”

Zora tossed her head, the strands of her red hair glowing like they had been lit by her ire. “Oh I’m sure there was not much sleeping going on at all. And now you sit here and tell me how I should behave. Well you listen to me Powers Barnham. If I want to flirt with Ziyad, if I want to see how it feels to kiss a guardian I damn well will and it’s none of your business!” She had no intention of doing either, but she was furious.

Powers leaned forward, pushing his face close to hers. Zora was fascinated and a little worried to see his eyes take on a yellow cast and faint feline shape, as though he was close to changing. “You will not flirt with Ziyad, you will not kiss him. I forbid it.”

That did it. Who was he to forbid her anything? She had done all they asked of her, she had dropped her entire life to go on this chase for a rogue werewolf, a being that only a few weeks ago she hadn’t even known existed. She knew that no matter the outcome of this mission she would never be able to go back to her old life. She had not asked to be a Defender, she didn’t want to be a Defender. She just wanted to be Zora, free to flirt with whomever she pleased should she wish to.

“You are my Guardian, you are not my father, you can’t order me around like that. I will do as I please and there is nothing you can do to stop me.”

Never mind that Zora had not given any thought to kissing the handsome Egyptian, that was not the point. She was furious that Powers was sitting there telling her what to do as though he had a right to do so. She jutted her chin up at him aggressively, refusing to be the one to back down.

Powers placed a hand on either side of her and leaned even closer, until their noses were almost touching. Tendrils of Zora’s hair touched his, fiery red mixing with deep brown. Wherever her hair touched Powers it seemed to glow but neither of them noticed.

“You will not kiss Ziyad, you will not flirt with him. I will not allow it.”

“You. Can’t. Stop. Me.” Zora practically bit out the words, wishing she could bite him instead.

“Yes I can.”


“You want to kiss a guardian? Here.” Without any further warning Powers closed the distance between them, his lips finding hers as though they had kissed many times before. His arms went around her and pulled her close, his hands coming up to tangle in her hair.

Zora’s brain stopped, she had never been kissed like this. She forgot that she was a defender, and Powers was her guardian. She forgot that they should not be doing this, she forgot about the rogue. Nothing existed for her in that moment except Powers mouth on hers, his arms around her, his hands sliding through her hair. Arrows of sensation were zinging through her entire body, sharp pangs of desire, sweet flows of pleasure. She moaned into his mouth and returned his kiss, wrapping her arms around him and surrendering herself to sensations she had never felt before with any other man. Caught up in the moment neither of them noticed her hair, which was spread across her back and Powers’ shoulders like a cloak. It was glowing as though alive, growing brighter and brighter as the kiss became more passionate.

Zora was consumed by the kiss, by the urgent desire for fulfilment that grew stronger with every second. Powers growled, pulling her tighter in his arms until she felt they were one. Never before had she felt this sensation of surrender, of belonging, of blending and melding. It felt otherworldly, magical but frightening.

It was the pulsing at her throat that broke the spell. Pushing Powers back Zora looked down at her pendant, shocked to see it glowing, the golden stars that dotted its surface shining against the darker gold and brown tones as though lit by an internal flame. With a shaking hand she lifted it, pushing impatiently at her hair which fell from Powers’ shoulder as he changed position.

Although fading swiftly with the dimming of their passion, the red strands were glowing enough to have both Zora and Powers staring at it in shock. Powers lifted a lock, which began to glow again at his touch. Zora stared from her pendant to her hair to Powers.

“Powers? Is this a defender/guardian thing?”

Powers ran a shaking hand through his hair. “I don’t know sweetheart. This has never happened to me before. Kissing you is like the most powerful drug in existence. I didn’t want to stop. It was only your enhanced strength that allowed you to push me away.”

“And now I’m glowing like I’ve been plugged into a power station. Do you think that’s why defenders and guardians don’t become involved? Does the fairy spell make passion irresistible? What if there’s some sort of reverse effect, like instead of combusting a rogue, I instead combust myself?”

Her hair was still glowing where it rested on Powers’ hand. He dropped it and the strands began to fade. Looking down at her pendant Zora saw that it too was returning to its usual self. Powers picked up her hair again, but dropped it when it lit up. He reached instead for her hand.

“I don’t know what this means Zora, I’ve never heard of anything like this happening. I don’t even know if a defender/guardian relationship is forbidden or if it just hasn’t happened. Or maybe it has, in other families and we just don’t know. I always thought it was a practical thing, since the guardian family is tied to the defender family through the fairy created bond.”

Zora nodded. “That makes sense, if you and I were to have children, who would be the daughter’s guardian, and what of future generations? We would effectively end the line with us.”

Powers agreed, “Yes, although my father was not your mother’s guardian, my uncle was.”

Zora stared at Powers. “Your uncle was my mother’s guardian? You know I’m sure I never met him. I didn’t even think about that until now. Why didn’t I ever meet him?”

Powers studied her for several long seconds, appearing to be deliberating before replying. “Well, I don’t know the full story. I only know that for some reason when I was about two I began talking about Zora and describing you, and that was how my family knew I was to be your guardian.”

“Did your uncle have children?”

“Not at the time, although there were several miscarriages.”

“So the bond must have just gone to the next family member in line, like the line of succession in a royal family.”

Smiling a little Powers agreed. “I guess that’s so, although I didn’t inherit jewelry, just a cranky woman.”

Ordinarily Zora would have been offended, or at least pretended to be. But at that moment she felt too drained and disappointed to even pretend. “Powers I don’t know what happened just now, I’ve never felt like that, as though I had to have you and nothing else mattered. I don’t understand it, and I don’t understand why my pendant and my hair act as though you are a power point.” She paused, giggled a bit. “Oh, Powers the power point, that’s kind of funny.”

“But not in a good way. I don’t understand it either Zora, but I don’t think we should do that again.” His stomach clenched as he said the words, what he wanted was to pull her into his arms again, kiss her senseless and take her to bed. But this was not the time nor the place, and might even be dangerous for her.

“You’re right.” It was the only thing she could say but it was not how she felt. Her body was crying out for Powers but it was not possible. There were so many things about this new life that were not fair but this one seemed right now to be the worst one.

Powers lifted the hand he still held, kissed the back gently and placed it in her lap before standing. “You will forgive me I hope Zora, I need a shower, a cold one.”

Zora smiled, and watched him until the bathroom door closed behind him. Lying back down in her bed she wondered how she was going to cope with this attraction that had leapt up between them. It was hot like a fire, and she was the flame. Perhaps she was literally the flame, she didn’t know. Axel would know, he was the fairy who had performed the original bespelling of both their families. She resolved to ask him as soon as there was an opportunity. At the very least she needed to know if there was such a thing as a reverse combustion, it was no less plausible than a sentient silver staff with a disconcerting mode of travel after all.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Great Wedding Scam

I read an article today that was standard first world problem irritating. But I kept on thinking about it, and today’s blog post is the result of that. It’s about marriage, or more specifically, weddings.

What is a wedding primarily about? Once, a wedding was a way to consolidate property, join countries, or a host of other political or economic reasons. Weddings were a lavish declaration of wealth and they still are, which is all well and good if your marriage is for the purpose of joining two countries. But the weddings that I’m talking about are more personal. They are two people declaring before the world that they are going to share their lives, for the rest of their lives.

Some of these weddings, these declarations of love and commitment, cost enough to support a small country. Ok, I’m exaggerating, although probably not regarding celebrity weddings. Yes, Mariah Carey, I’m pointing the finger at you, and you Kim Kardashian. Weddings seem to be a narcissistic frenzy, all about appearances and little about the meaning that should be the main focus. Instead, it’s the venue, reception, food, theme, decorations, cake, stationery, flowers, shoes, clothes, dress.

The wedding dress; it was an article about wedding dresses that got me thinking about this. The article was taking a shot at a company which has released a line of low cost wedding gowns. The woman writing it paid $6000 for her bespoke dress, which she sees as a physical reminder of her wedding day (she also says that it has been kept in a zipped garment bag ever since). Ok – what about her wedding ring which would have cost who knows how much? What about the extravaganza of photos costing an arm and a leg and taken by a ‘wedding photographer’ – because an ordinary photographer would presumably be unable to properly capture the vision she made in her bespoke wedding gown.

What about the cards and gifts she received? What about her spouse? How is it that she appears to consider her wedding dress more important than her vows and her spouse? Isn’t the whole meaning behind the wedding circus supposed to be starting a new life with a spouse? How did one day, the day when you sign the paperwork that makes you an official couple, become such a money pit? One of the articles I read before I started writing this stated that a lot of couples expect to receive gifts that add up in value to the cost of the wedding. Which makes the entire day a business arrangement. Where is the romance, the love, the emotional value in that?

I have never had a traditional wedding. I’ve never had a wedding gown and I’m not likely to. So I can’t talk about it from experience. But I cannot understand why there must be so much money spent, why it has become some kind of keeping up with the Jones thing. And what irritated me about this article is that the writer said that having a cheap wedding dress strikes her as tacky.

Tacky? Tacky is spending more than you can afford on showing off, and having to pay for it for years afterwards. Tacky is an over-priced designer gown that has cost far more than it could possibly be worth just because it is designer. Tacky is buying into (literally) the belief that a wedding day is all about showing off, and tacky is believing that the dress the bride wears is more important than anything else, including the love that is supposed to be between the bride and groom. Tacky is the sense of entitlement that many of the western world carry with them without realizing it.

Weddings, for ordinary people, are about love, about committing to a partner. There is no reason they should be so expensive. None. You can get married in a registry office and have a backyard reception. You can go to McDonalds if you want. The wedding industry wants you to think that all of this frippery is necessary but it’s not. You don’t need special wedding stationery, you don’t need to release fifty doves, or arrive at the venue in a horse drawn coach. You don’t need a $6000 dress.

Why not forget all the expensive trappings, and focus on the meaning behind it all? You can still have a wonderful, special day. You can have a beautiful dress, made by a local dressmaker for a fraction of the cost of a designer gown. There are many ways to have a cheap wedding without missing out on all of the frills, if your heart is set on them. Get back to the meaning and forget about the hype. In the end, all you’re doing is lining the pockets of the people who make a fortune out of the industry, and who have a vested interest in perpetuating this belief that a wedding must be a day of extravagance.

Marriage should be a day of celebration, a day when family and friends gather together in celebration of the lifetime commitment made by two people. It should not the culmination of months of stress and planning and expense. All that money could be put towards your life together. Or, here’s a thought, some of that money saved could be put towards saving a life. Donate some of the excess to a worthy cause. Spread love instead of dollar signs. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Zora's Light continuation

It's Tuesday isn't it? Somehow I missed a day, sorry about that guys. Here's the next instalment of Zora, hope you enjoy it. As always, if you want to read the first part of her story the link is here, and if you don't you should have no trouble following the story as it unfolds here. 

Talk remained light over dinner, everyone by mutual consent enjoying the delicious meal. Once Zora looked up to see Ziyad watching her again, he raised his glass to her before turning his head to reply to something Axel said. Powers growled, Zora frowned at him and the moment passed.

Dinner over, their party moved to the more informal bar area, where there were comfortable lounging chairs and small round tables. The helpful staff rearranged the seating so that their large group could sit together. The fairy guard, as was their habit, chose seats at intervals around the group so they could keep watch. Even in this setting they remained on duty.

Powers sat next to Zora, putting himself between her and Ziyad. She compressed her lips at his possessive behaviour, making no attempt to hide her irritation from her mind. That he caught her thoughts showed in the heavy frown darkening his face, but he stayed seated. Axel grinned in amusement and winked at Zora, a reaction that lightened her feelings of irritation. She smiled back at him and half shrugged, rolling her eyes in Powers direction, which made Axel laugh out loud.

“You have a delightful laugh Lord Axel.” Basma smiled her gentle smile before continuing, “I would wish that these difficult times will soon be ended so that we can all laugh more often.”

Her words seemed to be the cue to take the conversation to the reason they were all there - the rogue werewolf.

“As you now know Basma and Ziyad, we believe the rogue may be part of the entourage for Daciana, who will be giving a concert at the pyramids in a couple of nights. Do you know where they will be staying, and when they will arrive?” Axel’s expression had turned serious.

Ziyad leaned forward, all casual indolence gone. “They arrive tomorrow morning, and will be staying at the Le Meridien which is not far from here. It is a pity they do not stay here, it would be much easier for you to mingle with the crew.”

Basma nodded. “However they will almost certainly do some sightseeing at the pyramids and in Cairo – everyone does. There are still two days to the concert, they will want to relax beforehand. We have friends who work at the hotel, they will get more information for us.”

“Are your friends shifters or something else?” Powers voice showed none of his earlier irritation, all focus now on the mission.

Ziyad inclined his head. “They are shifters. We have a large shifter population in Cairo.”

“There are many witches also, and they are currently combing the city in search of anything that looks wrong. Of course they are working with Axel and the fairies.” Shax was sitting next to Marcus, with Sunny on her other side.

“The vampires and werewolves are also searching. It is possible that there are more rogues, and it is also possible that the one we seek is not among Daciana’s people so we must look in all places.” Axel accepted a small cup of Turkish coffee from a waiter, which made Zora wonder.

“Axel, should we be discussing such a sensitive topic here?”

 The fairy prince raised an eyebrow at her. “You believe I am affected by jetlag perhaps little Zora?” 

At her chagrined expression he smiled gently. “Do not worry, I merely tease you. I have altered the perception of the staff here and the other guests. To them, we are speaking Fairy, and as such they have no inkling of that which we speak. Not that they know it is Fairy of course. It is simply a foreign language to them.”

Zora could feel herself blushing and cursed again the pale complexion that came as a package deal with her red hair. Ziyad took a Turkish coffee from the waiter, and with the tongs provided, added something to the saucer from the tray on the table in front of him. He passed it to Zora.

“Here Zora, try this Turkish coffee, it is superb. Try also the kunafa, it is an Egyptian sweet that I believe you will love.” As she took the cup and saucer from him he added softly, “Do not be embarrassed because you blush, the pink under your skin merely highlights your beauty.”

Zora almost dropped her coffee at the compliment coupled with the wicked gleam in his soft dark eyes. “Th-thank you Ziyad, it is most kind of you.”

She sat back in her seat, wishing she could fan her face which had turned an even brighter hue at his words. She could feel Powers anger, and Axel’s amusement. Looking up she saw Shax grinning and Sunny openly ogling Ziyad. Without missing a beat Ziyad signaled a waiter and said something in Arabic.

The waiter hurried off and came back with a tray holding several cups of the delicious Turkish coffee. Ziyad added a piece of kunafa to each saucer and handed the cups to Shax, Sunny, Sara, Clare, Samantha and lastly Basma.

“We are honoured to have such beauty in our group to take our minds off the gravity of our task.”

Each of the women, except Basma who gave a wry smile, blushed at being on the receiving end of Ziyad’s charm. The men, apart from Axel, were frowning heavily. The waiter came back again with coffee for the rest of their group, which Ziyad offered with the same courtesy but without the mild flirtatious charm.

Zora tried the kunafa, curious to know what it tasted like, and almost moaned at the delicious flavour bursting in her mouth. It was like a vanilla slice, only much nicer than any vanilla slice she had ever had. She looked up to see Ziyad smiling at her, his dark eyes warm with approval at her obvious enjoyment of the sweet treat. Disapproval was rolling off Powers, which sparked an imp of mischief in her. Leaning forward she eyed his piece of kunafa.

“Are you going to eat that?” she asked innocently.

Powers glared at her and popped the treat into his mouth, chewing angrily. She grinned, and her eyes locked with Ziyad’s in a moment of shared amusement.

Putting his coffee cup onto the table in front of him Axel said, “Daciana and her entourage will need to sleep when they arrive. They are human – apart from the rogue – and they will be exhausted. I do not believe they will do anything until the afternoon at the earliest, so I propose that tomorrow morning we go into Cairo, and meet up with some representatives. Where do you suggest we meet Basma?”

Basma leaned back in her seat and steepled her fingers under her chin in a gesture reminiscent of Marcus. “I think we should meet at Kahn El-Khalili souk. It is full of tourists and with a group of our size it will be a good way for us to pass unnoticed.”

Shax grinned. “I love that place! You will love it too guys, I know this is a serious quest, but still wait until you see it!”

Basma smiled at her enthusiasm, while Ziyad added, “Miss Shax, it will be an honour to accompany you, I too love this place.”

Shax batted her eyes at him. “You must show me your favourite shops Ziyad.”

Inclining his head, he said, “It will be my pleasure.”

Zora glanced at Jake, surprised to see him looking furious. Hmmm, maybe there was another reason why he and Shax clashed. Looking at Shax she saw nothing to show she had noticed Jake’s reaction, but Shax seemed pretty good at hiding her thoughts when she wanted to. Shrugging mentally Zora decided she had more than enough to think about already without adding something else to the mix.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Grief and the dildo

The other day I saw an article on social media that I’ve seen a few times before. It’s one of those strange things you see and dismiss as a joke. As it pops up regularly I decided to do a search on it, and found out that this is a real thing. This is something that somebody thought was a good idea, and enough other somebodies agreed so that this went from an idea to a product.

This is a dildo called 21 grams, and it’s made of glass, with a brass insert into which can be placed the ashes of a loved one. Yes, you read that right, the ashes of a loved one. Now the world of sex toys is a lucrative business, that’s well known. The range of dildos and vibrators is stunning in the variety of shapes, styles and colours – although admittedly with a big leaning towards pastel hues.

This particular one is made of clear glass with a pale grey end, and comes in a pale grey case. It is not, to my eyes, attractive or elegant. The design of the dildo is the same as that of a cheap vibrator, and that was what I thought it was until I read the article. The storage box is chunky, with a kind of retro feel, a bit like a 1970’s lunch box. The name, 21 grams, refers to the weight loss a person is supposed to experience at the time of death, something which I believe has been discredited.

People use vibrators and dildos for pleasure, obviously. Singles and couples use them for fun or to increase intimacy. They don’t use them to replicate or to simulate intimacy. I just cannot get my head around the thought that a person could use this particular dido as a way of recreating intimacy with a lost loved one. The inventor says that the storage box can be used to store personal items of meaning, such as a wedding ring and a handkerchief. The items can be taken out while remembering sweet times with the deceased.

As well as the dildo, the storage box has speakers and an iPod/iPhone dock, and even a perfume atomizer. It has a key that can be worn as a pendant. It is supposed to be tasteful and a way of reconnecting to the deceased. The designer even said that he got the idea from his friendship with an elderly lady who kept her husband’s ashes in an urn and talked to him regularly.

Quite how he made the leap from conversation to sex is beyond me. But there it is. It’s all a bit icky, and kind of dark. Do people really want to have sex with their deceased loved ones? What bothers me about this is not so much the necrophilia association that I can’t help making, but the apparent lack of understanding of intimacy, at least my understanding of intimacy.

Intimacy isn’t soft music, perfume, and sex with a glass dildo. Intimacy cannot be recreated in that way. Intimacy with a lost loved one can’t be recreated at all and certainly not by using a dildo filled with the ashes of your spouse.

Yes, intimacy is sex, but it’s a special kind of sex that is shared only by lovers and it cannot be recreated. Intimacy is conversation, shared laughter, memories and thoughts. Intimacy is a soft touch, a kiss on the forehead, watching movies together or talking about the day just gone. Intimacy is a cup of tea in bed, a favourite meal prepared, an ear to listen. Intimacy is sitting in silence because words are not needed, a glance exchanged with perfect understanding.

This seems to me seems to be such a lonely concept, it almost makes me cry even to think about it. I can’t see how it could in any way help the one left behind. If they need an outlet, I don’t think this is the way to get it. I don’t think a bereaved person would think so either. Is this an example of the difference between how the mind works in a man and a woman? I don’t think so. Maybe it is, instead, an example of the thinking process of someone who has never been in a loving relationship, or has never lost a loved one. I don’t know.

I am all for each to his own, and live and let live. Everyone is different and that’s fine. So long as nobody gets hurt I believe that we are all free to be the weird little freaks that we all are in some way. I don’t think that race, colour, religion, age, sex, or culture should be an issue. If the people concerned are happy that’s all that matters, especially in this world full of anger and hate.

So, I guess, there are many ways to deal with grief. Perhaps the designer was merely trying to help make grief bearable. I can’t see it though, I just can’t.

If you want to read the article, the link is here: 21 Grams


And if you want to check out this about something that I can see would help with grief, take a look at this article on a weighted blanket: Grieving blanket

Monday, March 28, 2016

Zora's Light, the continuation

Goodness, I almost forgot it was Monday, sorry guys. I hope you all had a lovely Easter, with plenty of chocolate and family time.

It's not Easter in Zora's world, here she is, and remember, while you can easily read this as a stand alone you can always check out the story, including the prequel, in Zora's Dawn:

Showering that evening Zora was thankful for the foresight of Axel. As much as she wanted to see Cairo she still felt too washed out from the jetlag. Her only other international travel had been a trip to Singapore with her father a few years ago. That was a relatively short flight from Australia so no jetlag problems. Staring in the mirror at the dark shadows under her eyes Zora wondered how it must feel for ordinary humans, who lacked the enhanced recovery of the supernaturals. Well, she wasn’t supernatural but she did have enhanced abilities, thanks to the spell cast on her family by Axel all those generations ago.

Abandoning the mirror and her thoughts she dressed in one of the new outfits purchased by the ever obliging Emma back in Melbourne, tailored black pants and a long sleeved top in a shade of gold that exactly matched the gold in her pendant. She added tiger eye earrings, bought by her father on the first anniversary of her mother’s death in an attempt to lift her grief. They hadn’t achieved that goal, but she had appreciated the gesture. Now she often wore them as a symbolic way of linking her parents. Her pendant, of course, she never took off, not since her mother had gifted it to her so long ago.

A memory of the box in the attic at her father’s house slid before her mind’s eye. It was her responsibility, but she still believed it was safest left there. Nobody else knew about it, not even her father. After her mother’s death she had placed a pendent, the twin to hers, inside the box. The box she had locked in a chest along with a small stack of books. She had never looked at the books, not since that day her mother had shown her the chest and the key. Given their current circumstances she felt even more certain that the chest should remain in her father’s attic, at least for the time being.

Pushing the memories to the back of her mind Zora left the bathroom. Powers was waiting patiently for his turn to shower. He stared at her for a few seconds, before brushing past her. Wondering if she had managed to get lipstick on her teeth – not unusual for her – Zora bared them at herself in the mirror, reassured to see them clean. She shrugged, perhaps Powers didn’t believe that she could dress suitably. Figuring he would be some time she decided to make herself a cup of tea, sit on the balcony with that incomparable view of the great pyramid, and relax. She could always redo her lipstick.

Powers, meanwhile, was staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. No matter how he tried to ignore it, Zora touched something deep inside him. His feelings for her were growing, about which he despaired. He was her guardian, he could not be anything else. She had come out of the bathroom looking like everything he ever wanted, a vision in red and gold. He was sure he had seen sparks coming from her pendant, just for a second as he went past her. It was as though her pendant recognized him, and that could not be either. 

He wondered if he should talk to Axel about it, but hesitated. With all that was going on it seemed a trivial thing to be worried about. He was just going to have to control himself. He was not a hormonal boy, he was a grown man. Of course, he was also a hot blooded shape shifter, which did not help in controlling this attraction. Slapping the side of the bathroom sink in frustration he pushed away his thoughts. It was time for a shower, a cold shower.

Powers was so long in the shower that Zora began to wonder if he had slipped over. Sara, Sunny and Shax had all sent her messages to let her know they were on their way up to the main building, and Powers was still primping himself in the bathroom. She checked her watch, relieved to see that they were not late, not yet anyway. Coming back from the balcony Zora deposited her cup on the tray next to the kettle. She was peering at herself in the mirror, deciding if she needed to renew her lipstick when Powers emerged from the bathroom.

“Finally! I was wondering if you had drowned.”

“Oh ha ha, pot calling the kettle black there.”

Powers stopped behind her and frowned at her reflection. Zora pouted back at him, then pulled her lipstick out of her bag and started to renew it. As she did so she saw a strange expression cross Powers face before he strode off to the balcony doors. Shrugging, who knew what was in his head, she finished and blotted her lips on a tissue.

“Okay, we had better get going. The others are already up there.” Picking up her bag she twirled in front of Powers. “How do I look?”

He grunted, then said, “You look fine. You always do.”

“Fine. Powers I have to meet another Defender, I want to look like I belong in this group and that I’m not the outsider we both know I am.”

Powers stared at her for several long seconds, then stepped closer to her and took her hands in his.
“You do belong, you are one of us. You are the most special one of us and don’t let your fears, or Jake, tell you otherwise. And you look beautiful, like a dream.”

Zora blinked a little. Really she wished she could understand this man.

“Come on.” Tugging her hands a little before dropping them he started to walk towards the door. “You know I’ve just realized that I haven’t been seeing your thoughts so much lately.”

“Oh, Axel showed me how to close the bond.”

Powers stopped in his tracks. “Close the bond? You’ve closed the bond?”

Oops. She knew it would be a bad idea for him to know. What was she thinking, letting it slip. “Yes, but Axel told me to never close it, so that you will know if I need you. I only keep my thoughts private.”

Powers frowned at this news. Clearly he didn’t like being tossed out of her head. Well that was too bad. He didn’t need to know her thoughts, or to see her, when she was right there.

“I don’t like it. I have access to your mind for a reason, to protect you. I can’t do that if I don’t know what’s going on.”

“You don’t need to know what I’m thinking, I’m right here. And the bond is still open so if anything goes wrong you will know.”

“If I don’t know what you’re thinking how can I know if someone is threatening or harassing you unless I’m right beside you?”

Zora sighed. “Powers I can take care of myself. And you’re almost always beside me these days. Anyone would think you like knowing my thoughts.”

“Well I liked your mental picture of me in my black boxer shorts, very flattering.” Powers grinned suggestively at her.

“And that’s exactly why I’m keeping my private thoughts private!”

“Why, are you having X-rated thoughts about me?”

“No! Of course not! God, you’d be the last man I’d have those sorts of thoughts about. I mean okay there was that one time but I explained that.” 

Aware that she was digging herself a hole Zora decided to retreat while she still had dignity. “Come on, we will be late.” As Powers opened his mouth she forestalled him. “And I’ll open the bond fully for this evening, but once we are back here my thoughts are my own again.”

Powers grinned, a self satisfied male grin. “That’s fine Zora. I know you like to dream about me.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Now let’s go.”

They walked up to the main building in silence, Zora stalking along with her back stiff with annoyance. Insufferable man. Remembering that he now had access to her thoughts she focused instead on the local Defender she would soon be meeting.

When they entered the dining room she saw that their group was all there, and that the local Defender and her Guardian had not yet arrived. That was good, she felt it would have been bad manners to arrive after their guests.

Taking her seat she smiled at Sunny, Shax and Sara who were closest to her. Joe was deep in conversation with Marcus who had a glass of red wine in front of him. Zora looked askance at it and seeing her look Sunny leaned close and murmured, “Don’t worry, it’s actual wine, not his ‘special’ wine.”

That was a relief. Sunny’s family was one of the human families who supplied blood to the vampire community – in convenient baggies that could be stored in the fridge. While vampires did drink from humans, it was only from consenting adults, so they supplemented with the bagged blood. Marcus preferred to drink his from a wine glass.

Jake was sitting halfway down the table glowering at Shax. Zora wondered if they had argued again, which led her to worrying whether it was a good idea that Jake was here at all. He didn’t approve of her and seemed to be always fighting with Shax. He appeared to her to be a disruptive influence, but he was a werewolf and as such had a right to be with them. And Axel had allowed him to come and he was bound to be a better judge than her.

Putting the problem of Jake out of her mind she accepted the glass of red wine Powers handed her. She couldn’t stop herself from taking a sniff before she took a sip, just to be sure. It had unnerved her to know that Marcus drank blood as casually as she drank wine.

Powers winked at her, then turned to look across the restaurant. Zora followed his gaze and saw two of the most beautiful people she had ever seen in her life coming towards them. The woman was tall and willowy, with long wavy black hair. Even from across the room Zora could see she was stunning, with large dark eyes heavily outlined in kohl. On Zora it would look like clown make-up. On this woman it looked dramatic and mysterious. The man walking beside her was also beautiful, in a masculine way. He was tall, with dark curly hair, a mouth that could only be described as luscious, and the most gorgeous liquid eyes she had ever seen.

She glanced at the women sitting with her. Shax, Sunny and Sara were staring at the new arrivals with the same stunned expression that she was sure was on her face. Powers was not looking at them, he was frowning at her. Of course, with the bond wide open he could see her reaction to the man coming towards them. Well tough. She smiled sweetly at him and fixed her gaze on the new arrivals. They had to be the local Defender and Guardian.

Axel stood to greet the newcomers, as did all the men in their party.

After kissing the woman on both cheeks, Axel shook the man’s hand before enveloping him in a hug. “Basma, Ziyad, great to see you both. Come, sit, and meet everyone.”

Basma sat but Ziyad remained standing behind his chair. They both appeared to be relaxed, smiling at the rest of the table. Axel had seated them to the left and right of him at the head, and began performing introductions, starting at Samantha on Ziyad’s left.

“And this is Zora, Defender.” Zora half rose from her seat as the introductions reached her.

“Ah yes, I have heard of you and the power of your visions.” Basma smiled at her. “I look forward to speaking to you about your experiences.”

“And you are so beautiful Miss Zora, we did not hear of your beauty.” Ziyad also smiled, with devastating effect. Zora could not take her eyes off him. His soft accent gave her name a foreign lilt that made it sound almost sexy. Feeling herself blushing Zora sank down in her seat, grateful for the soft lighting.

Flustered, she cast around for a reply that would sound sophisticated but found nothing and had to resort to, “Thank you Ziyad, and Basma I look forward to talking to you as well.”

Feeling like a clumsy fool she was grateful when the introductions moved past her to James. She picked up her wine glass to take a fortifying sip, noticing as she did Shax leaning towards her across the table.

“Egyptian men, they are beautiful aren’t they? And they are so charming, but watch out as they often can’t be trusted. Although as a guardian I am sure Ziyad does not come into that category.” Shax winked at Zora. “Those eyes, it should be a crime for men to have eyes so beautiful and sexy.”

Zora grinned, grateful that she wasn’t the only one to notice. “Do you mean they all have eyes like that? Why have I never been to Egypt before?”

Powers began to growl, a low animal growl deep in his throat. Glancing at him Zora put on her most innocent expression. “What’s the matter Powers? Has something upset you?”

Sunny and Sara, having been on the receiving end of Ziyad’s smile and lilting voice were both looking star struck.

“Wow, if I wasn’t married I’d be giving him some serious consideration. Well if I wasn’t also a Defender and him being a Guardian.” Sara picked up her napkin and fanned herself exaggeratedly.

“My goodness, that is the most attractive man I have ever seen, did you see his eyes? And his smile? And his voice, it’s sooo beautiful.” Sunny’s blue eyes sparkled with excitement.  

A few seats down from her Marcus was looking as grim as Powers, while Jake was frowning even more heavily. Zora looked up the table, to see that Ziyad had taken his seat once the introductions had been completed, and was staring at her. Catching her eye he smiled and winked. Zora felt herself blushing again. Of course, as a guardian he was also a shifter and that meant exceptional hearing. He had no doubt heard them gushing away like schoolgirls. How embarrassing.

Shax broke into her thoughts. “Don’t worry Zora, I’ll bet Ziyad gets this reaction all the time. Did you see, Basma did not even notice.”

Basma certainly did not look bothered. She was listening to Axel, smiling and nodding as he talked. Just then the waiter came to take their orders, for which Zora was grateful since she was starving. She didn’t think it was because of the extra supernatural presence of Ziyad, more likely it was just her body clock still confused about the time.