#YesAllWomen deserve to live with dignity: The misogyny wars and what should have happened

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It’s unclear why three men died in Elliot Rodger’s self-proclaimed war on women, but apparently all women everywhere denied him sex and therefore drove him to kill. Yesterday, Twitter erupted into a #YesAllWomen outpouring against the misogyny and violence underlying his unprovoked murder of six innocent young adults. Barely old enough to vote and too young to drink (except one), these college-age girls and boys were killed for no other reason than sharing a home with Rodger or possessing a vagina.

George Chen, age 19

Veronika Weiss, age 19

Cheng Yuan Hong, age 20

Christopher Michael-Martinez, age 20

Weihan Wang, age 20

Katie Cooper, age 22

Source: Daily News, “See the names, faces of the six victims of Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger”

Enough time and space has been devoted to Rodger, his videos, and his presumed alliance with men’s rights associations. I have no desire to give attention to a killer today, and you’ll have to go elsewhere to ponder his motivations, upbringing, and need for mental health care. Instead, let’s talk about the lives lost and how we can move forward.

Yesterday, I read the #YesAllWomen feed with growing horror. Women and men talked about a rape culture in which women are treated as objects of sexual desire, to be owned and abused by men. I was honored to be quoted along with Neil Gaiman in the Daily News.

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Throughout the day, the feed brought out some profound, saddening, and frighteningly true sentiments.

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One person (whose name I unfortunately can’t remember and therefore can’t credit) pointed out that the number one cause for injury and death of women is…men. Guess what is the number one cause for injury and death of men? Their own hearts (I’m assuming heart attacks, failures, etc.) Elizabeth Veil (@AnimeJune) tweeted, “because we’re somehow more responsible for Elliot Rodger’s virginity than our own.”

Christopher Ferguson takes great pains to explain (in small enough words for us lowly women to understand) that misogyny is a perception rather than a reality.

It’s not difficult to understand why women would perceive the deck being culturally stacked against them.

Perceive? I don’t think targeting women for death is a “perception.” Jessica Valenti also disagrees, saying that this shooting is “further proof that misogyny kills.”

I have to wonder how much police dismissed Rodger’s video rants because of the expectation that violent misogyny in young men is normal and expected. [. . .] So when we say that these things are unstoppable, what we are really saying is that we’re unwilling to do the work to stop them. Violence against women does not have to be inevitable, but it is almost always foreseeable: what matters is what we do about it.

Katie McDonough points out that the objectification of women has far-reaching roots.

These things matter because the horror of Rodger’s alleged crimes is unique, but the distorted way he understood himself as a man and the violence with which discussed women — the bleak and dehumanizing lens through which he judged them — is not. Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm. We must examine the dangerous normative values that treat women as less than human, and that make them — according to Elliot Rodger — deserving of death.

Why, as an author, am I writing about this today?

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As creators of stories, our fictional world matters. Our words matter. When we write “alpha heroes” who batter and abuse women in order to demonstrate their sexual prowess and manliness, we contribute to a culture of violence and misogyny. When we write “feminist” characters only to belittle feminism as no longer relevant because all women need and want to be “taken” to satisfy their needs to be dominated, we teach men to abuse and women to accept abuse.

When we romanticize violence against women in our stories, we give our permission for the violence to continue.

George, Veronika, Cheng Yuan, Christopher, Weihan, and Katie…I wish you and your families Godspeed and grace. Your young lives, unbearably young, deserved so much more. You should have lounged in your parents’ home for a visit, picking on your younger siblings and sassing your parents for bugging you to study harder and get a job. You should have bubbled with excitement at landing your first internship, your first job, and meeting the special person who would become your life partner. You should have slogged through work, hating the daily grind and grumbling about hellish commutes, micromanaging bosses, and skyrocketing rent. You should have driven your friends crazy with your neurotic first-time-parent woes and worries, acting as if no one ever had become parents before you. You should have fretted about retirement, and then found so many things to regret once you did retire. You should have blinked as you looked into the mirror, wondering when the wrinkles and gray hair turned you into your now-deceased mom or dad. You should have heard the laughter of grandchildren, spoiling them rotten as your adult children complained that you never allowed your children half the fun your grandchildren received. You should have closed your eyes one final time, peaceful and safe in a hospice bed surrounded by loved ones.

May your lives be remembered, cherished, and honored. May your light continue to shine in a world grown dimmer, poorer for your absence. May your loved ones find comfort and sense in a world suddenly grown cold and senseless. May the next little boy, feeling rejected and unliked, find the courage to face his faults, own his issues, and work on becoming more likable. May boys and men all over the world learn that they are not entitled access to anyone’s vagina.

May your lives not have been lost in vain.

We offer today our prayers and thoughts for you, your families, and everyone who loved you.

Meeting Oscar: Donor Sabbath (Win a free book!)

This post is part of an event called National Donor Sabbath that encourages organ donation. I have not received incentives, financial or otherwise, to post this story but do so out of commitment to the cause of organ and tissue donation.

If you’re here for Snippet Sunday, Saturday Spankings, Seductive Studs and Sirens, or Weekend Writing Warriors, please click here.

If you want to read the new Kat and Natalie story, “Spanking the Cockroach,” please click here.

If you want information about Ana’s Advent Calendar 2013, please click here.

A few days ago, I met Oscar*. His wife, Debbie, sat next to me.

“We want everyone to know about the importance of organ donation,” she said. I was a little puzzled. Sure, organ donation is a worthy cause, but why would busy folks take time out of their lives to volunteer at educational events and donor recruitment? Everyone else I’d met had a personal connection, such as receiving an organ transplant years before.

As most of these affairs go, we went around the table to introduce ourselves.

“Hi,” said one woman. “I’m Sara Jacobs, and I received a heart transplant ten years ago.”

“I’m Aleesha Drake, and I had renal failure before receiving a kidney three years ago.”

I heard about dire prognoses and the years of health that followed these transplants. Truly, looking at these recipients I never would have known a doctor gave them a limited amount of time to live. Surely this group was unusual in representing the success stories rather than the failed transplants, but it still amazed me.

To have all of my organs in working order?

A blessing I had never considered a blessing.

Something to add to my Thankfulness Thursday lists, for sure.

Thank you, heart, for pumping blood and doing your job.

Thank you, kidneys and pancreas, for keeping me off dialysis.

Thank you, lungs and liver, for allowing me to breathe and process the necessary chemicals for me to live.

Thank you.

One woman grew teary as she told us that she received her kidney from an eighteen-year-old girl who died in a motorcycle accident. “I need to go home and write to her family,” she said. “I used to write them more often, but…” and she choked up.

Another woman said, “I’m a donor family. My husband died, and he wanted his organs donated.”

Then Oscar spoke.

“I’m Oscar Matthews,” he said. “I’ve been on the waiting list for a kidney for four years, and I’m still waiting for that special day.”

He paused, his jaw working up and down while his eyes reddened around the edges. Several listeners looked down or away to give him some space. After a moment, he flicked his hand toward his wife. As Debbie began to speak, Oscar took out a white handkerchief and pressed it to his eyes. A murmur of sympathy rippled around the room.

“We want everyone to know that donating organs can save lives,” Debbie said. “I’ve signed up as a donor, I’ve gotten all of my family to sign, and now I want to tell everyone how important it is to donate.”

Every day, an average of 18 people die while waiting for an organ transplant.

There are some common myths about organ donation, so common that Mayo Clinic has listed each myth with an explanation of fact. Examples:

  • Myth: I’m too old/young/sick to donate. Or: I didn’t qualify to donate blood, so I won’t qualify to donate organs.
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  • Fact: In the US, anyone age 13 and over (with parental consent) can register as a donor. If a child dies .before he or she turns 18, parents will have final say about organ donation.
    Fact: There is no upper age limit for donation. In fact, the oldest recorded donor (so far) was a 91-year-old who lived in Texas. Even if some of your organs are not great, others might work well enough to give someone a chance.
    Fact: The criteria for organ donation is more flexible than blood donation, and the criteria change frequently according to need and supply.
    Fact: A very small percentage of deaths qualify for organ donation. You must die in a hospital (or else the organs deteriorate and are unsuitable for transplant) and, at least in some states, be pronounced brain dead by two separate doctors who are not in any way connected with organ transplant services.+ For this reason, organ donation registries ask everyone to sign up, regardless of illness or other conditions, and allow transplant coordinators to test for eligibility at the time of death.
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  • Myth: I don’t want my family to pay for costs associated with organ donation.
    Fact: Organ donors are never charged for the donation.
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  • Myth: I don’t want to break rules of my religion by donating.
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    Fact: With a few exceptions, most major religions either encourage or permit organ donation.
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  • Myth: I want to be an organ donor, but my family will want an open casket funeral
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    Fact: You can donate your organs and still be presentable for an open casket funeral. Do you want to know how? Haven’t I squicked you out enough already by talking about death? 🙂

Besides the Mayo Clinic article, here are a few other common misconceptions:

Myth: If I checked “donor” on my driver’s license registration, I don’t have to do anything else.
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Fact: While “first person consent” (consent of the donor rather than the family) is now legally binding, transplant coordinators will have to work with your family members. In some cases, family members can make details so difficult that the transplant cannot go through. Please let your family know your wishes to make sure they are carried out.
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Myth: I don’t have to sign up on a donor registry because I’ve got it listed on my driver’s license.
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Fact: Your driver’s license registration is a simple “yes” or “no” to organ and tissue donation (more about that later). By registering at Donate Life America, DonateLife Australia, or  Organ Donation (UK) (sorry, I don’t yet have other international links…please share if you do!), you can specify your wishes and simplify the process. If you are not listed on a registry, it will take extra steps to verify that you did indeed wish to donate.

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Myth: I can only sign up for one state organ donor registry.

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Fact: There is no national registry for organ donors. Yes, you read that correctly. If you are visiting friends or family in a state other than where you usually live, or if you regularly go between two home states (such as college students or snowbirds), you should register for each state.

Click here, if you live in the US, to register on your state’s donor list.

If you have links for donor registries in other countries, please share them in the comments. I’ll add them here.

At the end of the meeting, I took Oscar’s hand in mine.

“Would it be all right if I shared your story with other people so they can understand the importance of organ donation?”

His composure restored after the inevitable coffee and treats available at these types of affairs, he patted my hand. “I’d like that,” he said.

I nodded, a plan already forming in my mind. “Would it be okay if I prayed for you? I know there are many people who would pray for you, too.”

He caught his breath, paused again, and nodded. “That would be wonderful.”

If you have registered as an organ donor, please let me know in the comments. I will randomly choose one registered donor to win one free book from my backlist (excluding the anthologies).

If you are a registering as an organ donor for the first time today, you will receive TWO entries. 🙂

*Names and identifying details have been changed.

+”Brain death” is a specific definition that does not include “persistent vegetative state” (think Terry Schiavo or Karen Ann Quinlan). Neither Terry nor Karen would have qualified as organ donors.

#Freebook of your choice! Fundraiser for Corinne’s family

Corinne Alexander, also known as Sassy Chassy, is a name most authors of spanking fiction will know. She reads our books, reviews them, and opens her heart to the stories we want to tell. I count myself lucky when I receive a note from Corinne about my latest book. She always connects with my characters and story in a way I hadn’t anticipated, and it makes me see them in a new light.

I am not the only one. When I mentioned her on a Goodreads group, the response was immediate. “Oh, yes! She’s a loyal reader. Such an active participant.” Authors and readers agree that she is wonderful to have in our community.

In the past few weeks, Corinne’s mom has been undergoing therapy to recover from a stroke. She is unable to work and without medical insurance, and she needs some financial assistance until she is able to get back to work. As anyone knows, dealing with financial stress makes recovery all the more difficult. We want Corinne’s mom back on her feet!

If you are able to contribute financially, her family has set up a fundraiser at this site. Even a small amount will help a great deal. Please note that you can remain anonymous and/or hide the amount you contribute. It will be confidential.

If you are not able to contribute financially, Corinne says that prayers are the best support possible. Our community rallied together for Bas, for Emily, and for Christina’s fundraiser. If you haven’t been touched by Corinne yet, I hope you will get a chance. She is truly a gem.

Whatever you are able to contribute will be appreciated with utmost sincerity. And because I know that a small incentive can sometimes encourage people, I’d like to offer a free copy of any book on my backlist (The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus, Desire in Any Language, Editorial Board, The Way Home, Lighting the Way, or Simple Gifts) to anyone who donates to this fund. You can either leave a comment below or email me privately to let me know you’ve donated–not the amount, but just that you have done so. Also tell me which book you want to receive.

Let’s put together our love and help out one of our own, shall we? I know we can do it.

Five Minutes for Emily: A community message from Kat

I click through a few blogs and pause at one. Red Booty Woman…isn’t that the Christina who came a few wweeks ago with Rogue and gave me the birthday paddle? I’ve always been too shy to comment on blogs–and not permitted by Natalie who is hyper-concerned about internet safety–but this message strikes me cold. I read it again, sure that I’ve misunderstood, but the letters remain the same no matter how many times I read them. I don’t quite understand “encephalitis” or “meningitis”, but vaguely I remember that they must be serious. I shudder, thinking of when my mom’s medications failed to control her pain and she slipped into a state of not knowing anyone, not my siblings or our dad.

“Natty,” I call, but she shushes me.

“I’ve got to get this done by tomorrow or we won’t get the contract,” she says, her eyes glued to her computer screen as her fingers fly across the keyboard. “Can you tell Mom for me that I’m sorry but I can’t talk to her today?”

That’s right. It’s Sunday, and we haven’t called Dad and Mama Jane yet. “Okay,” I answer, picking up the cordless phone and punching number one on speed dial. Suddenly, I want to talk to Mama Jane more than anyone in the world.

“Kat!” Mama Jane’s voice sings out from the phone as if she is right next to me. “I’ve been waiting for you girls to call. Is everything okay?”

No, I think. But Natalie wouldn’t understand. I glance at her, and she waves her hand at me.

“Tell Mom I’m sorry,” she says.

“Natty’s got to do some work, so is it okay if I talk to you by myself today?” I ask. We usually call together, and I half-expect Mama Jane to tell me to call back when Natalie is available.

“On Sunday? Tell her that a day of rest is…”

I shrug at Natalie, mouthing “Sorry!” as Mama Jane changes topics.

“But you’re the one who called, so you shouldn’t have to listen to this. How are you?”

I get to my feet and take the phone with me upstairs to my room, closing the door behind me. I can tell Natalie that I didn’t want to interrupt her while she was working.

“Mama Jane?” I ask, and it’s hard to keep my voice from shaking.

“What’s wrong?” she responds, in the warm mother voice that never fails to make me feel safe. At least until now.

“A friend of mine, her name is Christina, well she and her husband Jim’s daughter is in the ICU and her family is all worried about her, and she’s only six and…” I have to stop before the tears overwhelm me. I may have met Christina less than a month ago, but her wisdom could only have come from years of life experience nurturing, guiding, and loving the people around her.

Mama Jane tsks in dismay. “Oh dear, will you visit her?”

“I can’t!” I wail. “They’re in Canada, and they barely know me and I can’t do anything at all for them.” I didn’t cry when my mother was in the ICU, but I am crying now. “What can I do?” I beg, knowing that if anyone can make things better it is Mama Jane. “Some of her friends are saying we should have five minutes for Emily and to pray at nine o’clock at night, but…” My voice trails off. Out of respect for Mama Jane, Natalie and I attend church weekly. She was raised to believe, but I wasn’t. I don’t really understand what it’s all about, but praying together as a family makes me feel safe. On my own, though, I have never tried. It doesn’t make sense to talk to someone you can’t see.

Then again, I’m talking to Mama Jane when I can’t see her, right?

“I’ll pray for her too, honey. What is her name?”

“Emily,” I choke out. “She’s six. God will listen to you if you pray. God will make Emily better, right?”

Mama Jane gives a heavy sigh. “I wish it were that easy. And God will listen to you just as much as me. There’s no preferred membership.”

“Wait,” I protest. “So we’re going to pray and it won’t make her better? What’s the point of praying, then?”

“Honey,” she says, with a gentle note of reproof. “You don’t pray to God only because you get what you want. What if Natalie only talked to you when you did what she wanted?”

I smile in spite of myself. Natalie does talk to me when I don’t do what she wants, but not in a way that I’m willing to tell Mama Jane! “I don’t mean to be rude,” I say, “but if the point of praying is to make sure Emily gets well, why pray if we don’t know that will happen for sure?”

Another sigh. “That’s the topic of a lot of theological discussions, Kat, and some people might think there is no satisfactory answer. But we pray because we need to be centered, because we need to be connected with our Creator, and because life can sometimes be so cruel that our only recourse is to trust in God.”

I’ve sung Christmas carols and held hands around the dinner table with Kat’s family, but I’ve never asked in this way before. “Mama Jane?” I pause, not wanting to sound childish. “I don’t think I can pray for her, I mean not if it won’t make her recover.” She starts to say something, but I forge on. “Can you pray instead of me?”

Mama Jane might say God will listen to me, but I’m not sure. If it’s this important, it’s probably better to have the expert do it.

“Of course,” she agrees. “Now, over the phone?”

I meant later, after we hung up, but I agree. It can’t hurt. And maybe God won’t mind my listening in, since I don’t know how to do the prayer myself.

As I hear rustling, I picture Mama Jane closing her eyes and bowing her head.

“Dear Lord in heaven,” she begins, and I rush to imitate her from several states away. “We thank you for all that you have given us, and for your loving care that you shower on those around us. Thank you for this day to celebrate you, and thank you for my daughters who are safe and well. We have many things for which to thank you, Lord, but today we gather in your name because one of your youngest servants needs your special care. Emily, daughter of Kat’s friends Jim and Christina, is in the ICU. To watch a child suffer is the worst thing that could happen to a parent–”

Involuntarily, I remember Mama Jane and Dad’s anguish when they found out what had happened to Natalie. I swallow hard.

“–and you know how much I pleaded for you to save my Rachel.”

The daughter she lost in infancy. I blink, surprised that I hadn’t made the connection before.

“It was the worst time of my life, Lord, and I beg for you to spare Jim and Christina the anguish of losing a child.”

For the second time, I think. The only thing worse than losing a child is to lose a second.

“We ask for you to restore her to health and to bring her safely back to her parents, but we understand that your ways are too infinite for us to understand. We ask your blessing and guidance on the medical team who treats her, and we especially ask for your loving care to surround Jim and Christina. They have other children who are frightened, and their duties as parents are split between caring for their children at home and little Emily at the hospital. Please shower them with your love, and gather them into your arms for comfort, rest, and renewal so they can return to caring for your little ones.”

I am sniffling, wondering for a mad moment if it can actually work. Will a prayer do something even if I’m not really sure I believe in it?

“We ask also for your guidance for Jim and Christina’s friends as they gather around the world to lift up Emily and her family in prayer. Please help us to pray for the right things, to accept your will, and to send positive energy instead of our fear and worry. Help those closest to Jim and Christina to be strong for them, to be supportive, and to know what is needed.”

Tears trickle down my cheeks. How did Mama Jane know?

“Most of all, Lord, we ask you to help us trust in you, to trust in your goodness and mercy, and to trust that you will do what is right. We ask all these things in your name because you promised that whenever two or three of us gather in your name, you are with us. In the name of your son Jesus who taught us to pray, Amen.”

“Amen,” I whisper through my tears, unable to say anything more.

“Kat,” Mama Jane says, and her voice makes me think I can climb mountains if she only asks. “When the world seems dark and scary, that’s the time to pray. Do you understand?”

For the first time in my life, I do. “Mama Jane?” I ask. “Can you keep praying for Emily? I know you said God will listen to me, too, but you do it better.”

“Of course,” she says, and her voice seeps out of the phone to envelop me in a hug. “Why don’t you call me at nine o’clock every night so we can join in the prayer vigil? And we will pray together.”

I want to say thank you, but instead I fumble for a tissue and wipe my eyes. “God will listen?” I ask, knowing what she will say but needing to hear it again.

“God will always listen, my dear.”

Emily, I think. Maybe we can’t do much, but we can pray. And Mama Jane is one of the best prayer allies you’ve got.

As Rogue told us, Jim and Christina’s youngest daughter is extremely sick. Emily is in the ICU with encephalitis and meningitis. They have already lost one child, and to have their six-year-old going through seizures and scary medical treatment is a nightmare no parent ever wants to face. At one point, it seems that the doctors asked them about a do not resuscitate order. Another nightmare no parent ever wants to face.

As a community, we are doing “Five Minutes for Emily”. Because we are worldwide, if each of us spends five minutes at 9 PM (our local time) praying for Emily (or sending her your positive healing energy in the manner that fits best with your style), we can have round-the-clock prayer vigils.

Kat and Natalie’s cooking class, from Celeste Jones (add to the story!)

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Thank you to Celeste Jones for providing today’s birthday fun! (By the way, she is hosting a discussion each Friday on the short stories in Coming to Terms. Jump in! Kat and Natalie’s short story, “Tomorrow”, will be discussed next month. Oh, and be sure to read Celeste’s story, “Reconnecting”. It is my favorite work of hers so far.)

Celeste said to me, “I felt sort of funny writing your characters. Like I was having an affair or something.” Ha! Kat and Natalie are loyal to each other. Don’t worry, Celeste. 🙂 She also suggested, “Maybe you could have people take turns writing the next part of the story.”

I think it’s a great idea! What do you think will happen next? Add your bit in the comments!

 

 

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“Are you sure this isn’t too expensive?” Kat looked around the pricey high end gourmet supply store located in the pricey high end fancy mall. “I saw a spatula for $20.00 out there. Who pays that much for a spatula?”
“I’m sure that people who are desperate to impose a spanking on an ungrateful girl might be inclined to spend that kind of money.”
“Natty!” Kat looked around the elaborate classroom kitchen located at the back of the store to make sure that no one had heard, though the crimson blush covering her face probably told people who might notice the two women whispering together that something was amiss. Or maybe she just had sensitive skin.
Nat squeezed Kat’s hand. “Let’s enjoy your birthday. I can’t believe I agreed to do this.”
“I can’t either.” Kat pulled on a bit of Nat’s hair and giggled. “I bet I get a better grade than you!”
“Oh, there is no grading here,” a perky woman in a pristine chef’s coat walked to the front of the room and addressed the class, though Kat was sure she was talking directly to her. “We are all here to have a good time. No judgments. I’m sure that all of you will succeed in making a special cake today. Isn’t that right?”
Everyone in the room, including Kat and Natalie nodded along.
“Great,” the instructor said. “Please call me Pat. As in Pat A Cake.”
Kat laughed. Nat rolled her eyes. “This is going to be a long afternoon.”
“Natty, stop it. You promised!”
“I know I did. I’ll be a good little cake baker just for you.”
“Thanks, Natty.”
“Let’s get started. First, at your station you’ll find all the ingredients and equipment that you’ll need for today’s class. Let me just go over all of these with everyone so you all know what each item is called. Creates less confusion that way, I’ve found.”

Kat looked at all the items and was proud to realize she knew all their names. Nat picked up a wooden spoon, slapped it against her palm a couple times and said to Kat “I’m pretty sure I know how to operate one of these.”

————

Lighting-the-Way

College roommates, best friends, and family. Can Kat and Natalie find a way to stay together…without killing each other?

Kat Astra knows one thing: everything is her fault. A dead-end job. A fear of confrontation. An inability to speak up when necessary. Desertion of her best friend in her time of need.

Natalie Mestecom knows one thing too: everything Kat does is Natalie’s fault. The relationship rule is simple; Kat has problems, and Natalie fixes them. But what worked in adolescence becomes more complicated with adulthood, and new developments in their relationship challenge these roles. Kat is no longer sure whether she is willing to be disciplined according to Natalie’s rules, and Natalie is no longer sure whether she is worthy of Kat’s trust.

Can Natalie allow herself to be vulnerable? Can Kat believe in her own strength? Can Natalie believe in Kat’s strength? How will they, each in their own way, learn to move beyond guilt and blame in order to forge a new relationship together? In order to make peace with themselves and each other, Kat and Natalie reconnect with family, re-visit memories of their past, and make plans for taking steps forward in the future. To light their way home.

Tuesday with Ana: On dealing with author burn-out

Hello, my lovelies. I’ve missed you. 🙂 I’ve missed your shining faces, your silly comments, and your sweetness and camaraderie. To those of you who are reading this, I thank you for sticking by me even when I’ve been off and on for the past few weeks. Issues with internet, electricity, health, job deadlines, and some exciting news have all conspired to keep me peddling furiously on the great hamster wheel of life.

(Can you actually peddle on a hamster wheel? Ah, well, you know what I mean.)

Today’s topic is author burn-out, although it can apply to any profession or endeavor. If you’ve experienced it, I don’t need to explain. If you haven’t experienced it, I envy you.

We often see burn-out in high-labor, low-profit jobs such as teaching, nursing, or childcare. We can also see it in high-profit jobs such as business, but many times we become burned out because we work too hard at a job. Not because we are driven to earn a profit, but because we care passionately about our job and want to make a difference.

Sometimes, we forget that we are a community. In our drive to succeed and to perhaps be just a little bit better than the competition, we isolate ourselves in an attempt not to give away our secrets. We worry that we are not as productive, as accomplished, as recognized, or as successful as others.

Being an author in the ebook publishing industry is both the worst and best job I can imagine. Long after I gave up my dream, I’ve become a published author who is able to write the stories I love best. I get to connect with people who read my stories and care for the characters I create. I write for publishers who support me, support my work, and believe in me. I get to talk with other authors and readers who have touched my life and allowed me to touch theirs. What could be better?

At the same time, the competition is intense. There are several million (okay, perhaps I am exaggerating slightly) new ebooks on the market, and even writing at top speed I can’t hope to keep up with the most prolific writers. I pour time and effort into social media, only to find that I’m missing a crucial element or need to learn about a new technique or outlet. And, no matter how much time and energy I invest, there is always someone who outshines me in multiple areas. And darn it if I could break through the unspoken ban on reviewing F/F stories. People read, buy, and enjoy F/F. Why can’t we get more reviewers on record to say so?

I’m often asked (though not recently) how I can manage to do all that I do. The answer is that other people manage to do far more. The more I think about it, the more depressing it is.

Have you ever felt the same way?

The advice I’d like to offer today is this:

  • If you want to drive yourself crazy, compare yourself to others.
  • If you want to overwork yourself into the ground, focus on your inadequacies.

Simplistic? Perhaps. But sometimes truisms are called that because they contain truth.

We may not have been given equal and identical skills, talents, and connections. I may long for someone else’s achievements without recognizing my own. I think many of us secretly wonder, deep down, if we’re quite as good as the person we use for a comparison.

Today, I’d like you to do something for me. For yourselves.

Find someone whose work you admire, either someone established or someone new, and let that person know how much you like his or her work.

Here’s the catch:

Without comparing yourself.

I find that the authors I most genuinely enjoy reading and getting to know…are the authors who are generous in their praise of others. I don’t mean flattery in the hope of getting reciprocation, but genuine, no-strings-attached recognition of another’s talents and accomplishments. It doesn’t have to always be about work, either. The small notes of friendship, both writing and receiving, have brightened many of my days when I have been stressed.

It’s a funny thing. When I think about my own accomplishments or lack thereof, I get dispirited. When I find reasons to rejoice on someone else’s behalf…pretty soon I find myself happier as well.

How about you? How do you handle burn-out? Whom will you recognize today? (Feel free to keep the second part private, if you wish.)

Cover reveal for The Way Home, free spanking story, and a birthday wish!

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Didn’t we just do this? Why yes, we did. Surprise! Here we go again. Here is the cover for The Way Home (Kat and Natalie, Volume One), published by Lazy Day next Wednesday, March 6th! So neat that you need to see it twice!

Whenever I post a cover reveal, I write a bunch of stuff and people only comment on the picture. This time I’ll keep my comments to a minimum and only say…pink carnations for Kat, red poppies for Natalie, a rather somber interior peering out into the glorious world, the softness of the colors, love and longing and hope mixed up with a hint of darkness.

Oh, Kat. Oh, Natalie. It’s nearly your big day that we have anticipated for six months. We’re almost there.

 The Way Home (Kat and Natalie, Volume One)

For ten years, Natalie has been Kat’s rock, the one person Kat could always depend on to be there for her whether she needed a hug, a giggle-fest, or even a punishment. Natalie has been the confident and fun-loving social butterfly who teaches Kat about college life, academics, and friendship by taking Kat under her wing… and over her knee. But as they grow up, the darkness of the grown-up world creeps in and pulls them apart.

So when Kat wakes up one morning to find Natalie shutting her out for the second time, she is at a loss. In trying to make sense of Natalie’s abrupt alienation, she thinks back to all the good times they had together – and all the bad. It has been nearly a decade since the last time Natalie shut Kat out, and now she knows that they must make peace with that fateful night all those years ago if they are ever to find their way back to each other. Their way home.

Available March 6th from Lazy Day Publishing

FREE SPANKING STORY!!

Chuenn won the custom-written short-short spanking story, and PK has hosted it today for Fantasy Friday. I wrote (gasp) a M/F story!

Bas and everyone who wanted more M/F, here it is for you.

Go and check out “Christmas in March”!

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BIRTHDAY WISH!

Thank you to Minelle for this lovely surprise birthday wish! Sneaky lady. 🙂 Aw!!

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Oh, and check out Celeste’s discussion of Jade Cary’s To Love a Woman today!

My birthday wish for today is simple. For my new books to do well and for people to like them. To achieve this next step in my career. To return to full health.

But most of all, to always have the love and support from my community both on and off the screen.

Thank you, everyone who visits here. You bring me more joy than you can ever know.

xoxo

Ana gets a spanking, and other such nonsense

I can’t believe I’m getting spanked! This is NOT fair! Minelle posted an unbearably gloating message today for all of blogland to read, saying that I am getting a spanking. It doesn’t matter that I wrote her getting a spanking in The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus (and its sequel, not yet published) or in her birthday story. She deserved it…and she liked it! I’m sweetness and light, nothing but a misunderstood girl with high hopes crushed by a tyrannical, unfair story.

(Okay, secretly I am SO proud of Minelle for trying this story-writing stuff! She is having fun with this, and it’s only–I believe–her third attempt at a story. What guts to not just try something new but to share it with the community! And I am thrilled to see some F/F in her writing. We always need more F/F stories, right?)

But back to the topic. PK posted Minelle’s “Train Shack Mystery” as today’s Fantasy Friday story. Word on the street is that Ami, Bas, Cat, and goodness knows how many others were asked to pre-read the story to give feedback. (To be fair, I was offered a chance to pre-read but my squawks of “NO NO NO! NO!” were completely ignored.)

Please!! Help out an innocent Ana! I was framed! Please visit both Minelle and PK’s blogs to tell them in NO uncertain terms that I do NOT deserve a spanking and never will! I’ll offer cookies to anyone who does so. (I learned a trick or two from Sue…hehe)

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In nicer news, our wonderfully kind friend Joey laughed so hard he cried last fall when I said he was like the Mr. Rogers of the spanking community. He posts wonderfully thoughtful introductions to bondage, implement-making, spanking party etiquette, and so on. Just last week, he sent me this wonderful photo of himself standing next to Mr. Rogers. After several months, not only did he remember but he also thought to send a photo! I laughed such a good hard laugh and asked him to put it on his blog. He did. Go and see it!

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Don’t forget that today is the last installment of Celeste Jones’ Desire in Any Language book club discussion! If you missed the earlier weeks’ discussions, here they are:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

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Look for Kat and Natalie snippets for Saturday Spankings tomorrow and Weekend Writing Warriors on Sunday! Plus an upcoming post, in honor of The Way Home’s release date on March 6th, titled “Everything I need to know I learned writing spanking fiction.”

Oh, and on Monday we have Breanna Hayse visiting for Fika. Quite a week!

Spankful for Bas Day: Words of Basdom

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Today in blogland is a special day.

A dear friend of almost everyone’s, Bas, has been declared the VIP of the day.

It hasn’t even been a year that Bas has been blogging, but he has made an indelible mark on more of us than seems humanly possible for one person.

Today is dedicated to sharing favorite stories of Bas, his words of “Basdom” (Bas-type wisdom), and giving back a tiny portion of the open-hearted, generous love that he lavishes on everyone he meets. With just a sentence or two, he gives a keen insight and sage advice to the people he cares about…and that number grows larger the more and more I have talked to people in preparation for today.

“Let’s call it Spank Bas Day!” Rogue chuckled. “Ack!” I squealed. “He already thinks I deserve a spanking!” (Rogue has promised to hide me if Bas comes after us.) We settled on Spankful for Bas Day, as a play on the “thankful” rhyme and *ahem* our perhaps slightly less than stellar giggling what it would be like if Bas got spanked.

Oh, come on. It’s not as if you never had a slightly naughty wish.

Then Chelsea made the most wonderful banners, using a space theme because of Bas’s story.

So. Favorite stories and words of Basdom to share with you.

Last summer, Bas described being on the boat and spanking Lisa for spilling water on him. I later described him as “water-soaked”, and he plaintively asked, “Will this ever end?” Obviously, it didn’t. 🙂

Then I called him a curmudgeon, not in a serious way but as an affectionate term, and he looked it up in his dictionary. Could not understand why I called him such an unkind word!

Oh, and his lovely, lovely story of Sinterklaas that he put up to celebrate the release of Vennie.

His patient, long-suffering wish to finally be featured in one of my stories…only to sigh because his character spoke one line. He good-naturedly told me that he couldn’t expect to play Hamlet in his very first role. I tried to give him a lot more lines in the sequel to Vennie (not yet released), but ah…it just didn’t work.

His horror at my first F/M story as part of the Spank or Treat festivities last fall, and his entreaty to return to F/F stories.

How he threatened to tell the person in charge of me about my (supposed) misbehavior, and when I sassily gave fake numbers for him to call…he said that they didn’t work from the Netherlands.

His kooky sense of humor.

The tears that he cried when I mentioned that I might need to give up my blog, telling me that he had just gotten to know me and I couldn’t leave now.

His unfailing support each time I became discouraged.

His constant presence as I made the transition from a personal blogger to a professional author, supporting my stories while still remaining a friend to “Bas’ naughty little Ana”.

His declaration that he would be a godfather to Vennie, and his vow to be the one person who would like my books just a tiny bit better than the others.

How he would read my entries, no matter how long, and carefully respond to each point.

How he cheerfully let PK and me blame him for everything, turning “Blame Bas!” into a kind of game.

Bas dear, today I have only one hope…that you know how much you are loved. You have touched an amazing number of people in blogland, and today we stand together to say, “Thank you.”

That’s all. And yet so much.

We love you, Bas.

(If you have been touched by Words of Basdom, please join in! Copy the banner, write your own post, and comment here with your link. I’ll put all the links together into one page, the way I did for Bonnie’s Day.)

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This is a “Spankful for Bas Day” from Viola, who doesn’t have a blog but wanted to add her own “Words of Basdom”

My wife is an Angel.  You’ve got to admire that little woman of mine.
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Lisa and I fit together  very well.
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But we don’t look like each other in any way. Usually we are complete opposites.
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I see us as puzzle pieces, we fit together snugly, but we never overlap.
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We also differ in our opinion about relationships.
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When I found DD on the internet. I recognized what it could do for us.
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 I wanted to feel safe in my own house, I wanted to be able to talk to my wife, without always starting arguments about nothing.
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It is sadly very common to treat the loved ones as badly as one might have wished to treat the strangers. After a day of being polite to idiots, your family gets the full load of exploding frustrations.
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The great thing about DD is that we have made showing respect and being polite and understanding, to the norm.
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It’s not about I’m right and you’re wrong anymore.
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It is just, what is best for the two of us.
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Listening to each others ideas and arguments will almost always lead to a satisfying course of action. No polarisation of viewpoints, but building a common idea.
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DD, the DD that I love,  does not centre around who does the dishes. That is not a DD subject.  DD is not a dish washer.
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My kind of DD enhances love, enhances connection and brings great joy to both parties.
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I care about Lisa. Caring for her and fulfilling all her wishes is the only important thing in my live.
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Yes, it is amazing, but ttwd can really free you, because you can stop letting your life be spoiled by things that are in the core, unimportant.
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Did I already tell you that I love her?
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(If you have been touched by Words of Basdom, please join in! Copy the banner, write your own post, and comment here with your link. I’ll put all the links together into one page, the way I did for Bonnie’s Day.)
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This is a Spankful for Bas post from Lillie and Ian, who had to take their blog private. Because we wanted everyone to see this post, I am adding it here:
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A Dutchman Named Bas
 
There’s a man, a dear man, and we love him so much, 
Bas is his name, did I mention he’s Dutch?
He’s as Dutch as they come, and he lives in the land
of wooden clogs, cheese wheels and windmills so grand.
 
There’s a man, a Dutchman and we think he’s da bomb,
he brings to this community a serene sense of calm.
Through the magic of this fancy internet technology,
we’ve come to know our Bas and his love of astrology.*
 
This stargazing Bas,  collects Donald Duck comics,
and is relishing retirement from a career in economics.**
He lives with the cattiest cat/dog of them all,
his sweet Corgi, Unique, is the belle of the ball.
 
But here’s the thing about Bas, that is really amazing
it’s the love for his Lisa – it’s so hot …it’s blazing.
Lisa, his sweetheart and wife of 35 years,
is the sweet grease that’s oiling this Dutchman’s gears.
 
Lisa’s Bas, our Dutchman, is a wee bit of a spanker,
but it sounds very loving, and never with rancour.
He admits to a penchant for smacking her bum,
for whacking it madly, like playing a drum.
 
Yes Bas, our accountant, a number-loving thinker,
fell hard for charms of his lady –  hook, line and sinker.
We ladies in blogland love to hear Bas declare
of the swell in his heart for his Lisa, so fair.
 
What I guess that this poor poet is trying to say –
is, we ARE spankful for Bas – each and everyday.
With a broad smile on our faces and a warm cozy glow,
we send love to you, Bas & Lisa,  from the land of the snow.
 
 
 
Hugs and Love
Ian and Lillie
 
 
 
 
*it’s actually astronomy, but it didn’t rhyme as nicely
**well,  economists both work with numbers….and chartered account doesn’t rhyme with anything – it is almost as bad as “orange”.
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 (If you have been touched by Words of Basdom, please join in! Copy the banner, write your own post, and comment here with your link. I’ll put all the links together into one page, the way I did for Bonnie’s Day.)

A heart full of prayers: the sisterhood of spanking

Call me silly, but here in blogland we make some wonderful friends. There’s something about discussing spanking/discipline that allows us to let down our guards, talk about things that normally would remain behind closed doors, and giggle like schoolgirls about wonderful silliness of life.

It also brings us close in a way that vanilla friendships are not. Back when sex was taboo and showing a lady’s ankle was scandalous, I imagine that sharing discussion of sexploits had a similar bonding effect. Pun not intended. Except now that I mention it, i suppose the pun could be rather apt in certain circles. 🙂

I’ve gotten to know some wonderful, capable, intelligent, and immensely caring individuals here in blogland. I won’t name names because then it turns into the inevitable exclusion of leaving someone out, but if you are reading this you are one of those individuals. No, that’s not just a line. Whether it’s a comment or phone call or instant message or email or even a package in the mail, we touch each others’ lives here in blogland. To share our journeys as authors, readers, practicing DDers and TTWDers, and the curious…there is something so special and intimate about “this spanking thing” that it becomes a sisterhood. A brother-and-sister siblinghood.

There are some who write about it and don’t practice, and there are some who practice and don’t write or read about it. There are some who wish for it in their lives but live vicariously through stories and blogs and imagination. There are some who enjoy the fantasy but say a resounding “NO THANKS!” to spanking in real life. There are some who believe DD is foundational to save troubled marriages, and there are some who like spanky sexy fun and can’t understand why one adult would discipline another.

Yet each of us, in our own way, brings something to the community. There are times when we feel that we are not part of the community. Maybe we aren’t married, or if we are married our spouse doesn’t practice DD or practice it the way others seem to. Maybe we don’t feel like we belong for one reason or another.

But in this community, so many people have touched my heart in one way or another.

There are some who are on my heart and mind today. Some who are no longer with us, for one reason or another. Suzie of This Thing Called Life. Poppy St. Vincent. Others I am sure I will remember as soon as I post this message.

Today, my heart goes out to a few of our friends who are struggling with health concerns. Our dear Bas, who has a heart full of love and the most generous, tender-hearted spirit of anyone I know. My day is the poorer for not reading his sweet, loving messages and posts. We miss you, Bas, and we love you. I hope you are back to your curmudgeonly water-soaked self soon enough to scold your favorite naughty Ana. Don’t worry about writing back. You just take care of your health, and in the meantime I’ll be sending you love. So will everyone.

My heart goes out to Minelle, yes Minelle of The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus fame (perhaps I exaggerate slightly). Anyone in blogland surely knows our sweet, sassy Minelle who always has a funny story, technical issue, or loving comment. She is the first to support all of us as spanking fiction authors, and she has such a heart for everyone here no matter what their particular bent might be. (Even if someone us are very bent.)

As you probably know, Minelle’s husband was rushed in for emergency surgery last week. There are some complications with his recovery, and they are anxiously awaiting further consultation and decisions about treatment.

Minelle and her family would greatly appreciate any prayers, love, good wishes, or whatever spiritual form of good thoughts that you are able to send. We need her husband up and healthy again so that he can give her the sound paddling the naughty lady deserves. 🙂

I know there are others who are struggling with various hard times, and today I’d like us…in the name of community…to hold virtual hands and send positive energy to each other.

This sister-and-brotherhood of spanking brings us closer together. Let’s use our combined energy to send healing and love.

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P.S. Please add Ami’s Starman to the list of prayers and good wishes. He is going through some medical challenges, and their family can also use our positive energy.