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.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cassie's Story Update and Zora's Light continuation

Happy Monday guys, hope you all had a good week. I said I'd keep you informed about the Kindle Scout enrolment for Cassie's Story, and then I forgot to!

The book was accepted for the campaign and has been running for a few days. If you want to go take a look and nominate it I'd be grateful. Anyone with an Amazon account can nominate, and if the book is selected for publication you get a free digital copy.

Take a look here: Cassie's Story Kindle Scout campaign

Ok, onto Zora's Light, and this week's episode. I'm giving backstory as I go, so you can follow even if you haven't read Zora's Dawn. If you want to read it, the link is here:

And here is the next episode in the story:

They met outside the front entrance to the hotel. Staring up at the grand fa├žade Zora realized that she didn’t even know its name.

“It is called Mena House Hotel little Zora, and many famous people have been guests here. It was once a royal lodge and changed hands a few times until it was opened as a hotel in 1886.”

Zora nodded, not even registering any more that Axel had read her mind. As the fairy who had bespelled her ancestors generations before, Axel had a special link with her. Powers as her Guardian also had access to her thoughts, however Axel had taught her how to control the link between them. 
Zora was relieved to be able to keep her private thoughts private, from Powers at least.

She jumped when Axel leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Don’t worry little Zora, I do not intrude on your private thoughts.” Grinning, he straightened again and, clapping his hands, gained the attention of them all. “Shall we go? I think as we are so close that we can walk there, don’t you all?”

Everyone made affirmative noises and the group set off through the grounds.  Zora followed Axel as he turned left, walking along the roadside. As they ascended the hill men with horses and carriages, and others leading camels approached them, but a simple gesture from Axel was enough to turn them away. They continued up the hill, all of them slowing as they saw the great pyramid looming in front of them. Axel left them together to go and arrange tickets, and they all stood staring at the massive structure. All except Shax and the fairy guard. They were looking around at the people milling in all directions.

Zora pulled her attention away from the imposing sight long enough to look around them. There were people of all nationalities wandering about, most of them in groups and led by local guides. Shax was standing with her hands on her hips, Frenchie at her feet. The five fairy guard were facing in different directions, studying the tourists. Just as Zora started wondering if she should do something Axel returned with a handful of tickets and gestured for them to move forward.

They moved off as a group, Axel in the lead and the fairy guard walking on the outside. Shax was walking with Jake, Frenchie snuffling along beside her. Sunny had been silent, staring with wide eyes at the pyramids and the city they could see to one side. Marcus walked close to her, ignoring the baleful glare of Sabrina. Sabrina seemed unimpressed with having Marcus so close, and not for the first time Zora wondered how their fledgling relationship would cope if Sabrina decided she did not like Marcus.

 Watching Marcus, Zora decided that Sunny was likely the main reason he had chosen to come along instead of staying back at the hotel. Even though she knew he could handle the sun – being a very old vampire – she was sure he was not comfortable. Sara and Joe were walking behind Axel, their bond evident in the way their footsteps matched. Zora looked at her own feet and those of Powers next to her. They were matched too, and in a small fit of rebellion she changed her stride to make it different.

The sight of the grand pyramid looming above them made her forget everything else. As they got closer she reached out and touched one of the blocks, feeling a tingle of power right down to her toes. Axel had stopped at the base of the steps and was standing to one side as their group ascended.

When Zora passed next to him he murmured into her ear, “The power of Gaia runs through these stones little Zora, you can feel it I think.”

“I think so Axel, I felt very small.”

“Gaia has reached out to you little Zora, not many defenders receive that blessing.”

Zora swallowed, she was not sure Gaia noticing her was a good thing. Trying to put it out of her mind she began scrambling up the steps, doing her best to ignore the tingles and focusing instead on the doorway looming in front of them. They waited at the entrance for Axel, who again took the lead, waving away the local guides who jumped forward to assist.

Inside was a series of narrow ramps, necessitating single file walking. Zora stood back, insisting that Powers go ahead of her. With a knowing look he grinned and acceded. This was better in that she didn’t feel his eyes watching her rear as she went up, but it meant that instead she got to watch his. She shook her head in irritation with herself. Here she was, walking inside the great pyramid, walking inside history in fact, and she was fixated on the backside of her guardian.

The climb became steeper and Zora was beginning to feel over warm in her jacket. Cold though it was outside, inside the pyramid it felt stuffy. Zora was pleased she didn’t suffer from claustrophobia, she had not realized how narrow the passage would be. The room that they emerged into was disappointingly empty, only an opened sarcophagus with a broken end sat inside. Even though she knew from photos what to expect, she still felt deflated.

“This is the kings chamber, and we climbed up here via the robbers tunnel. I know it looks disappointing, but think how long this sarcophagus has been here.” Shax’s voice was reverent, her touch gentle as she ran a hand along the side of the sarcophagus.

Their group filled the room, each of them wearing the same look of awe as they studied the room and one by one touched the sarcophagus. Zora went and ran her hand down the broken edge. She felt nothing but a slight tingle in her palm and wondered if Gaia had finished with her today. Once everyone finished studying the room they filed out again and down the ramps. Outside Zora was careful navigating the stone steps, having seen a tourist slip on the smooth edge of one when they were going up.

Once they were all on the ground again Axel suggested that they stay together while they explored the rest of the site. There was still a lot to look at – the Sphinx of course; the boat museum that housed an ancient boat, now restored after it was found broken into a thousand pieces and buried; the Eastern and Western cemetery, and the other two large pyramids.

The afternoon was so fascinating that Zora forgot the real reason they were there. It was only when Shax pointed out the desert behind the pyramids, and how spread out the area was that she was reminded of the rogue werewolf.

“You see Jake? It would be very easy for the rogue to grab someone and take them back here. And I’m sure even you can feel how special this area is.” Shax glared belligerently at Jake as she spoke.

Jake glared back, but was forced to agree. “I do see Shax, but still if she is to strike at the concert she will need to get her victim back here without anyone else seeing anything.”

Shax tapped her foot in the desert dust. “That would be easy, she would just be a girl walking off with a guy at a concert. It would not even register with the other concert goers.”
Zora heard the truth in those words. Shax was right, nobody would pay any attention to a couple wandering off during a concert.

“What about security? There would surely be heavy security at a concert here, with all this around.” Sara waved her hand in the general direction of the pyramids.

“I do feel that if she wants to kill at the pyramids the concert would be the perfect time to do it.” Axel tapped his chin in thought. “Perhaps we will come here to the sound and light show in the next couple of nights. We can assess the situation better I think at night, with an audience present.”

That seemed reasonable to Zora, and she was curious about the sound and light show. Shax screwed up her face at the suggestion though.

“Do I need to come to that Axel? I’ve seen it before and it doesn’t change.”

Axel smiled at Shax, an apologetic smile. “I would wish that you do Shax, you will be studying the area in a different way, given that we suspect a crime will be committed here.”

Shax sighed. “You’re right Axel. Okay, I’ll come along.”

Sunny leaned closer to Shax. “The show is not as fun as it sounds?”

Snorting, Shax shook her head. “You’ll find out.”

“Right folks, I think we are done here, shall we go back to the hotel and decide our next step?” Axel had one eyebrow raised, waiting for the expected assent from them all. Everyone made the right affirmative noises and they began the walk down the hill. Zora turned to look back at the pyramids, still awed that she was there, and had touched them.

“Ready Zora?”

She turned, seeing Powers waiting for her. “Yes, thank you. I just can’t believe I’m really here.”

“I know, I feel the same way. Even though our mission is serious, I still feel like a tourist.”

Her foot slipped on a rock as she walked, and Powers took her arm to steady her. Tingles of sensation raced up her arm and over her body at his touch. Zora was glad she was wearing her jacket so her physical reaction was hidden. Powers seemed unaffected, dropping her arm to open his water bottle and take a drink. They walked in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Zora was wondering where they would go next, and what the sound and light show was like. She was also thinking about the expanse of desert behind the pyramids and the western cemetery. It was a maze of tombs, an area that seemed to her to be a good spot for a ritual killing if it was not guarded at night.

Back at the hotel, they went to their rooms to freshen up before meeting Axel in the restaurant for a light meal while they decided the next move. Axel told them that he had been in contact with the local defender who was anxious to meet with them all. She and her guardian would join them for dinner later that evening.

“So, we will meet back here in three hours. I think it easier tonight if we eat here, tomorrow we will go to Cairo. I am hoping that the local fairies can find out where Daciana and her entourage are staying, I believe they will be arriving soon if they are not here already. Even though we all have our strengths that make jetlag easier to deal with, still I believe you all could use a rest.”

Understanding that they had been dismissed the group began to disperse.

“Not the fairy guard just yet, I have messages for you all from my mother the queen.”

The five fairy guard obediently sat, their faces revealing nothing. Zora wondered what the messages were and if this was a normal thing or not. She sighed, no doubt this was more of the fairy ‘need to know’ policy that meant she would never find out. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Suicide, I don't have the answers

This is about suicide, so I will say right at the outset that I am not a professional counsellor, I am not a doctor, I have taken no courses on suicide prevention. I have no answers.

This is from the perspective of someone who knows first hand how tempting suicide can be. It’s a siren song, promising the end to worries and misery, the end to a pointless existence.

A person who is seriously contemplating suicide, and not using it as a form of emotional blackmail, will not tell anyone about it. It comes as a shock even to, or especially to, close friends and family. Most people know this, that people intending to commit suicide will not talk about it. But how many people wonder why this is?

So many times I have heard it said that a person who commits suicide is selfish, not thinking about the ones left behind. This strikes me as a selfish way to think. It’s saying that the person who has made a decision to end life – for reasons that may make no sense to the ones left but are nonetheless real and valid to the person – should instead continue on because the ones left behind don’t want that person to leave them.

People aren’t going to change their minds because they are told they are needed, that others can’t manage without them, or to consider how others will feel if they take that step. It’s entirely possible that they are taking that step precisely because they are so overwhelmed by responsibility that they can’t handle it any more.

People who consider suicide believe life will never improve - responsibilities are too much, or illness is making the quality of life too poor, perhaps life has become a pointless exercise. The reasons are many, and valid, and should not be belittled by others who say only, ‘think about the people you leave behind’. That is saying to the sufferer, ‘you are only worth what you give to others, your suffering and your pain is worth nothing to me’.

While that may not be the intent, that is how the message is received. Trying to talk someone out of suicide is likely to push them over the edge. Putting them in the psych ward, well I guess it stops them, and I guess medication to artificially change the mood will help too. Will it stop the problems that led to the decision in the first place? I don’t know.

Will it stop them from trying again at a later date? For some, yes. Some people find a way through the darkness and into the light. They find meaning and purpose to life once more and continue, wiser and more thoughtful. Others give in. To their family and friends it looks like they have recovered and are grateful to be still on the earth. But, the unpalatable truth is that they are wearing a mask, pretending that all is well when it is not. And there are others who keep on trying, dragging out the misery of all concerned until they finally succeed.

Being told how other people fight for life is telling the suicidal person they are not as strong, being told they should be grateful there are people who care just puts a sense of responsibility on already sagging shoulders. Trying to make them feel guilty simply exacerbates the guilt they already feel at being a failure.

So, why don’t suicidal people tell others how they are feeling? I expect the reasons are varied. Likely, so they are not stopped. Also likely, because they are so used to keeping their pain within that they don’t even think to tell anyone how they really feel. Possibly to avoid a lecture that focuses on how other people think they should be feeling, and to avoid having other people react with anger to their pain.

Each person is an individual, each reacts to pain and trauma differently. Some make a final decision, something that I can relate to, even though I chose not to take that path. And I’ve faced that particular siren many times in recent years. I can’t tell you what stopped me, possibly a tiny spark of hope that refuses to extinguish.

There are people who make an impulsive choice, due to trauma, drugs, or mental illness. There are those who make a reasoned, thoughtful choice when they feel that all other options are closed. To reach those people, to help them to change their minds takes a careful, light touch.

If you know someone who is struggling with life, reach out. Talk to them, not necessarily about their problems, just talk to them so they know they are not alone. Show them that they are loved for who they are and not what they can do for you. Take the time to learn the warning signs and learn how best to help someone in their position.

Suicide is the ultimate step from which there is no return. People who reach that point feel they are at the end of the road. Don’t make them feel worse, don’t belittle their pain, don’t make them believe their feelings are not important. It’s not a decision taken lightly, so it can’t be easily and quickly changed. Give them your time, and be kind.

Lastly, don’t judge. You don’t know how anyone else is feeling, or how they got to that point. Don’t judge anyone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. It’s the wisest advice ever given.

Monday, March 14, 2016

continuing the story of Zora's Light

It's Monday again, and it's been a busy week for me. I'm still working on two stories concurrently, and I'm starting to rough out not one but two non-fiction. I'm almost ready to release Cassie's Story. And I'm getting back into Zora's head. 

Zora only recently found out that she is a Defender, of a family bespelled by the fairies generations ago to aid in protecting humankind from rogue werewolves. In Zora's world the supernatural community goes unknown. Vampires and werewolves live among humans, and do not kill. However there have been, through the centuries, rogue werewolves that prey on humans. Zora is unimpressed to be a Defender, and even less impressed to find out that Powers, a man she thinks little of, is her Guardian. They share a telepathic bond which Zora also resents.

Here's the next part to the story in book 2. The link for book 1 is here. It also contains a prequel that gives more of the backstory to Zora and Powers.

Turning her head Zora looked to her right and stared in amazement. How had she missed it? There, looking so close she could reach out and touch it, was one of the pyramids.

“It’s the great pyramid, the pyramid of Khufu. We are so close that is the only one you can see, but once we are in the hotel you will be able to see more.” Even though she must have seen the pyramids many times before Shax spoke in a hushed voice. “It’s stunning isn’t it? No matter how many times I see it, it still takes my breath away.”

Zora stared. It was so much bigger than she had imagined. The car swept around the curve of the drive and pulled to a stop in front of the imposing entrance to the hotel.

Axel was already there, while the rest of their cavalcade pulled in behind them. Once everyone was out on the footpath the doorman waved them in, while at the same time waving another man across to collect their luggage.

“Although I have stayed in the main building before, it suits our purposes better to stay in the newer wing, which is located down the hill from here. Wait while I sign in for us all.” So saying Axel walked over to the imposing reception desk, talking easily in Arabic to the man who was waiting to serve him. Zora realized belatedly that of course Axel as a fairy would know every language there was.

After a short time he returned to their group and waved his hand expansively to the door. They all filed out, none of them saying much. Zora could see that Sunny and Sara were swaying with exhaustion. No doubt she looked as bad as they did, she certainly felt it. Jetlag she supposed, wondering if she would be allowed to sleep for a few hours.

They were taken to the other building in golf buggies, Zora for one glad she didn’t have to walk. The man who opened the door to her room bustled in and pulled back the curtains to the balcony doors with a flourish. Zora gasped, not even noticing Powers entering the room after her as she stared at the view of the pyramids that was revealed. The man smiled, opened the balcony door and ushered her over. Not needing a second invitation Zora walked out onto the balcony and drank in the view. The pyramids were so close that it looked like she could walk to them.

“You can, they are only 700 metres away from the front gate.”

She turned to Powers who had followed her onto the balcony. “They are incredible.” Shivering, she added, “But it’s very cold, let’s go back inside.”

Powers grinned and waved her through the door. He said something to the man who was standing waiting and walked to the door with him. Zora sighed, surely she wasn’t the only one in her group who didn’t speak Arabic. Then she focused on the twin beds and lost interest in what Powers was doing. She would just lie down and test the mattress and pillows. Powers came back just as she settled down with a sigh – it felt so good to lie in a real bed.

“Come on Zora, up you get and go have a shower. Axel said we should sleep for five hours, and then meet up for breakfast. Go shower, I promise you will feel better if you do.”

Groaning, Zora allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. She rummaged in her bag for pyjamas and headed to the bathroom. She did it all on automatic pilot, not noticing anything about her surroundings. Back in the main room she accepted the bottle of water Powers handed her.

“Remember to always drink bottled water while we are here Zora, you can’t drink the tap water or you’ll get Pharaoh’s Revenge.”

“Is that the Egyptian version of Bali Belly?” Zora opened the bottle and drank, realizing as she did that she was very thirsty.

“Exactly, so always carry a bottle of water with you. Now you can sleep, I’ll wake you in five hours.”

Zora lay back in her bed. “How come you don’t look tired, is that some sort of shifter thing?”

Powers laughed. “No, I’m tired. Maybe not as tired as you but I need to sleep. Five hours is all any of us will need, we will recover from the jetlag much faster than ordinary people. You may have a few days of odd waking times, but you will adjust fast.”

Zora mumbled something, she was already almost asleep. Smiling, Powers leaned down and brushed her hair from her forehead. It was such a fiery red that the strands seemed to glow as they clung to his fingers. He sighed, his feelings for this woman were enhanced by the bond, he knew, but still he felt a tenderness that he was sure would not be approved of by Axel if he knew.

As promised Powers woke Zora exactly five hours later. “Come on, time to go and meet Axel. You can have a nice big pot of tea. Come on Zora, wake up.”

Zora groaned and hugged her pillow, it was too early to wake up wasn’t it? As awareness began to clear her mind she looked around, momentarily puzzled about her surroundings, but after a few moments of confusion everything clicked into place. Sitting up, she focused on Powers.

“Did you say tea?”

Powers grinned. “Yes, we are to meet Axel in the main dining room where we will have lunch and discuss our first move.”

“I like the first part, the second part not so much.”

Grinning again Powers pulled back the bedcovers. “That’s our life, good and bad in the same sentence.”

Zora screwed up her face at him, grabbed the water bottle and took a drink before standing and stretching. “I just need to change and I’m ready to go. I’m starving!”

They headed down to the foyer of the building together, meeting Shax, Sunny, Sara and Joe there. Neither Frenchie nor Sabrina were in evidence, it having been decided that they should stay in the rooms. Zora was sure animals were not normally allowed at all so Axel must have done some fairy hocus pocus. She looked outside, wondering if they should give the familiars some exercise later on. Now that she was more aware of her surroundings she was curious to see the grounds, but of course now was not the right time for that.

“Would you like to walk to the main building, or get a ride on a buggy?” Powers raised his eyebrows at them as a group.

“I’d like to walk, I need to stretch my legs.” Sara looked at Zora. “If that’s ok with you Zora?”

Zora smiled and agreed while the rest of their small group nodded and smiled.

“Ok, walk it is. Let’s go guys.”

Powers took the lead and the rest of them followed him out the door and up the path. Zora gazed around her at the well-kept grounds. It looked like any upmarket hotel, except for the pyramids in the background reminding her that they were in Egypt. This close she could even see the doorway into the massive structure, and the people going in and out. She couldn’t help a thrill of excitement – she was in Egypt, walking in the shadow of the pyramids! How quickly a life could change.

Over lunch talk stayed casual, with Shax and Axel fielding the excited questions and comments about the pyramids. Zora tried and failed to damp down a buzz of excitement, it seemed inappropriate when their task here was so serious. Wondering how her companions felt she looked around at them: the five fairy guard as always alert and watching their surroundings, Shax looking nothing like a witch and everything like a harassed tour guide, Axel the fairy prince also looking faintly harassed, Sara who was the other Defender and Joe her Guardian who were both staring at the pyramid in awe and not appearing to listen to a word, Marcus the vampire looking tired and irritable, Sunny her friend and apparently also a witch sitting beside him and trying to persuade him to smile, Jake the werewolf (but a good one), and lastly Powers. Zora sighed as she turned her gaze to him. Powers, her erstwhile work colleague who she had always preferred to ignore, and who now was unveiled as Guardian to her Defender.

Sensing her gaze he turned his head and smiled at her, a smile that sent tingles right through her body. Cross, and wondering how she could control this unwanted and bond stimulated attraction, she turned her head away, staring instead at the great pyramid that dominated the scene through the dining room windows. The people going inside it looked like ants in comparison, which made her wonder about the size of the blocks that made up the structure. Hearing her name Zora tuned back into the conversation.

“Little Zora? Is that ok with you?” Axel was watching her with one eyebrow raised, as he waited for her response.

“Sorry Axel, what did you say?”

“I was saying, I think we should rest for today, and begin our search tomorrow. We know the concert is not for a few days, so I think we would all be better able to begin our search refreshed.”

Zora nodded in agreement. “I still feel strange Axel, I guess it’s the effects of the jetlag.” She glanced at Jake as she said that and was unsurprised to see his lips thin in annoyance. He didn’t think she was good enough to be the Defender for this quest. He had been quite upfront with his criticism just before they left, and as a result was almost not allowed to come. Axel wanted them all to be united against this threat, a sentiment with which Zora wholeheartedly concurred. The problem was that she felt Jake had a case, and she may not be enough to defeat this rogue werewolf. Dismissing the werewolf from her mind – she probably would never be good enough for Jake until she defeated the rogue – she focused her attention on Axel.

He was watching Sara who was still staring at the Great Pyramid and who clearly had not heard a word of the conversation.


Sara swung her gaze to Axel, blushing as she realized she had not been listening to him. “Axel, I’m sorry, I was so distracted.”

Zora fought a brief internal war before flicking her gaze to Jake. He was smiling indulgently at Sara and Zora began to steam. It was ok for Sara to zone out but not her, that seemed so unfair. Pushing down her resentment she resolved, again, to forget about Jake.

“Sara, I was just saying that I think we should all use this afternoon to rest and acclimate. We will start our search tomorrow. This will also give the fairies who reside in Cairo time to do some digging for me. So, I was thinking, perhaps we should all go to the pyramids and take a look around before the concert. What say you?”

Registering the old fashioned way of speaking Zora realized for the first time that Axel spoke contemporary English, even though he as the fairy prince was several hundred years old. She supposed that speech patterns changed easily with the times when you lived that long and wondered if the little slip meant that Axel too was feeling the effects of the long journey.

Sara, meanwhile, had begun to glow, her eyes shining with excitement. “Really? We can go today?”
Zora felt the same excitement, it was impossible not to thrill at the prospect of visiting the structures that were so close. She looked at Sunny and was not surprised to see her jumping up and down in her seat. Friendly, smiling and easy going, Sunny was the closest thing to a human labrador she had ever seen. It astonished Zora that someone as transparent as Sunny had been able to keep secret her identity as a witch.

Axel was smiling at Sara. “Yes Sara, I think it would be good for those of you who have not been to walk around the area. It may be vital during the concert that you all know where you are going.” His smile became a grin. “Besides, it’s the pyramids, older even than me. I could not deprive you of the chance to be a tourist when we are so close.”

Sara squealed with excitement, the mood of the entire table becoming lighter. They were all relieved to postpone the grim nature of their quest Zora supposed. She wondered if the fairy guard considered them frivolous, but when she looked they were all smiling. Perhaps they too wished to be tourists. Did fairies like being tourists? Were they ever? She sighed at all the gaps in her education about this supernatural community in which she still felt like an imposter.

Lunch broke up after that, everyone keen to get to the pyramids. Axel told them to go and get ready, and when asked agreed that the familiars could also come. Zora briefly wondered about how that would be possible, but then remembered that even though he was over six foot tall and impressively muscular, Axel was a fairy and well able to deal with minor logistical issues. She hurried with the others back to their rooms to change into more suitable clothes. Even though it was afternoon it was still chilly, much colder than winter in Mackay, and she was feeling the need for a heavier coat.

Back at their room she forgot even her discomfort at sharing with Powers – an edict issued by Axel so that she was protected at all times – as she hurried to get ready. Knowing that Joe and Sara were also sharing did help her to put that into perspective, although they did not seem to have any problem with an unwanted attraction. Perhaps that meant that over time she would be able to control the way her heart sped up whenever he was close, or the disturbing thoughts that she was constantly suppressing these days.

She grabbed her phone, the only camera she had thought to bring, and slipped it into her bag. Powers was sitting in a chair, waiting patiently.

“I didn’t know you owned any sensible shoes.”

Zora looked down at her feet, clad in pale blue trainers instead of her preferred stilettos. “Of course I do, I’m not a complete idiot.”

Standing, Powers frowned slightly. “I never said you were, just that you usually wear stilettos. I like them actually, but they aren’t suitable for tramping around the pyramids.”

“You don’t say Captain Obvious.” Stomping to the door Zora wondered at her bad luck in getting Powers as a Guardian. That fact that he irritated her so much (conveniently forgetting here how much she had leaned on him for support in the preceding days) proved to her the attraction she felt was only due to the bond. She made a mental note to ask Axel about that, and then pushed thoughts of Powers away. She was about to see the pyramids, she was going to touch thousands of years old blocks, absorb the history, and forget about the annoying man of the present.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New story - Zora's Light

Good morning/afternoon/evening. How was your week? I've been busy working on three separate projects, two fiction and one non-fiction. 

As I said last week, Cassie's Story is finished,  the book that is. The book on Saffron is next, and Cassie will be in that, so her story continues. I'll keep you updated on Cassie, as the book progresses towards publication. Right now I'm working on the cover. Here is the rough idea for the cover: 

This week I'm beginning a serialisation of Zora's Light. This is book 2 in the Defender series, which is a fantasy series - complete with vampires, witches, shifters, werewolves, fairies, and Zora - who is none of those. If you want to read the first book in the story the link is here:

However, I think you will be able to follow most of the story by reading the posts here each Monday. 

Here is the first part of Zora's Light:

Zora was woken from restless sleep, fractured by visions of baleful yellow eyes, to a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear.

“Zora, Zora wake up. The plane has landed and it’s time to get off.”

She stared uncomprehendingly into Powers face, her mind still asleep.

“Axel has a hotel ready for us, and we will be taken there as soon as we clear customs.” Powers stared into her sleepy eyes. “Zora? Are you awake now?”

Zora flexed stiff muscles and rotated her head to release the tension in her neck. Looking out the window she saw the tarmac, a multitude of runway lights and the dull beige of the desert. Covering her mouth with her hand she yawned, before looking back at Powers.

“What time is it?”

He glanced at his watch. “Just gone 5.00 am, remember they are eight hours behind us here. Did you get your coat ready? It may be summer in Australia but here it’s winter, northern hemisphere and all that.”

Coming more awake by the second she narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not a total idiot Powers, I do know that and yes I have a coat and even a scarf.”

Powers smiled at her, a smile that caused a frisson of warmth in the pit of her belly. She shook it off, it was just the effects of the fairy spell that bonded them, it wasn’t real. And besides, as her Guardian she was sure that Powers was off limits in any other way.

She looked out the window again. “I can’t see the pyramids, will we see them on the way?”

“Oh, I think you will little Zora.” Axel had come up behind her seat. “Come now, let’s get the red tape out of the way so we can get to the hotel.”

“Doesn’t your mother maintain a home in Cairo, Axel?” They had stayed at a royal residence at all of their stops in Australia so Zora felt it was a reasonable question.

“She does indeed little Zora, but it is not close to the pyramids and I believe that we need to be in the same area.”

Zora’s curiosity was piqued. Even though this quest they were on was dangerous and – for her at any rate – downright terrifying, the pyramids were something she had always wanted to see. She looked out the window again. Apart from the desert they could be in any airport in the world and she was a little disappointed. Although perhaps if she had been awake she would have seen Cairo from the air, and would now be feeling like she was really in another country. Right now she felt that they could be anywhere.

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she reached for her coat and bag. Axel and Powers had continued walking down the aisle so she moved up a few seats and joined Sunny and Shax. Shax was looking cool and collected, fair enough since she had been living in Egypt for quite some time. 

Frenchie the French bulldog, her familiar, snuffled at her feet. Sunny was bending down to peer through the window while her familiar, the pure white cat Sabrina, perched on her back. Sabrina looked a bit irritated, also fair enough Zora thought. Sabrina had been brought to Australia by Shax and had claimed Sunny as her person. Perhaps she didn’t wish to come back to Egypt, or maybe she was just unimpressed with her perch on Sunny’s back.

“Do Frenchie and Sabrina need to be quarantined or something?”

Shax snorted. “Nah, they’ll let them in ok. And if they say not Axel can make it happen.”

Zora supposed that was right, since Axel was a fairy he could probably make almost anything happen. Not for the first time she wondered why the fairies didn’t just take care of the rogue werewolves themselves.

Customs and immigration finished with, they exited the terminal to a chilly winter morning. Zora sniffed the air, smelling dust, exhaust fumes, smoke and an indefinable something that marked this as a foreign land.

“All countries have their own unique smell little Zora. It’s a scent of history really, as it is the result of centuries of layers of smells.” Axel was smiling at her, his expression serene.

“I don’t think the exhaust fumes I’m smelling are the result of centuries of layers.”

“No little Zora, but close your eyes and pay close attention. What else do you smell?”

Zora obediently closed her eyes. “Sweat, dust, oil – not cooking oil but some scent I don’t recognize, and spices.” She opened her eyes and looked expectantly at Axel.

“Yes little Zora, you can smell the fragranced oil and the spices that have been used in this country through the ages. They leave a signature that contributes to the overall scent. Over time you will be able to distinguish even more scents, it is a valuable skill.”

Axel clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “The cars are just over this way, follow me.”

They all followed, Zora thinking that they must surely look like a tour group with Axel as their tour guide. She smiled to herself – in a way that was exactly what they were.

The press of people at the entrance doors thinned as they walked to the cars. Zora had heard a multitude of languages as they walked through the airport – German, English, French, Japanese and some guttural language she wasn’t sure of but thought was maybe Russian. Floating over the top of the tourist voices was the lyrical rise and fall of Arabic. Finally, Zora felt like she was in a foreign country.

That feeling was compounded on the drive to the hotel. There wasn’t much traffic at this early hour for which she was thankful. She remembered Shax saying that her terrifying brand of driving was simply the result of having to drive like a local in Egypt, so Zora was not looking forward to the experience of driving on busy roads.

She looked out the window as they drove, seeing tall date palms lining the side of the road while the traffic seemed to be mostly trucks covered in fairy lights, and other trucks painted in bright and complex patterns. There were a few cars even at this early hour - ancient vehicles that would be taken off the road in Australia, driving next to brand new cars. Once she saw a donkey pulling a cart loaded with fruit.

Graceful buildings could be glimpsed behind the date palms. As they drove closer to the city these gave way to apartment buildings that looked ready to fall down. Every vehicle on the road seemed to communicate by blowing the horn, little beeps and long honks which she imagined was some sort of code for polite and irritated. Zora could only imagine what it must sound like when the roads were busy. Their driver exhibited a cheerful disregard for line markings, making Zora again thankful for the light traffic.

The tarmac gave way to dirt, smaller buildings lined the road, and convenience stores appeared, each one carrying what seemed to Zora’s tired eyes to be hundreds of bottles of water out front. She saw small cafes with tables and chairs on the dusty footpath; even at this hour men sat drinking tea. Zora wondered if they were up early or if they had not yet gone to bed.

Finally they turned into the hotel entrance. Their car was stopped by an armed guard, and Shax explained airily that every hotel in Egypt had security guards at the entrance. Once through the gate the driveway opened up to a grand looking hotel. Zora was so focused on this building that looked more like a palace, that she resisted Sunny’s pull on her sleeve.

“Zora, Zora! Look!”