How Great Thou Art (amidst the mess)

(While Governing Ana is not a Christian blog, it contains unapologetic Christian content today. You are warned. Please return tomorrow for secular content.)

Earlier posts referenced:

I won’t talk about the details, but my dad has slipped into serious territory. He gets sicker and sicker, and instead of improving in the ICU he has required more intervention.

It’s pretty scary.

I’ve been vilified by a few toxic people for removing them from my life. (They know about my dad’s illness but don’t care, and my dad is more important.) While I made the best decision in a bad circumstance, the unfair assumptions hurt.

The quilting grannies have enveloped me in their love, warmth, and outrageous silliness. They have become so precious to me, and I am grateful for their laughter. I said to them, “It’s so nice to come here for a few hours where the biggest problem is forgetting whose turn is next.” One said I’d made her day, but the opposite was true, too.

Shrove Tuesday brought its annual pancake dinner with a huge turnout. Such a large group meant not getting to talk to many people (more than a pleasantry), but it was a wonderful sense of community.

I’m grateful that this week of difficult news and drama has coincided with Ash Wednesday and three days of church activities. I’m busy, as usual, and can’t spare the time to go to church each day. But in this time of fear, worry, and heartache, that’s where I most need to go. The benefit of an older congregation is that most of my friends have lost one or both parents, if not a spouse as well. When I talk about my dad, they’ve all been there. They’ve visited the hospital, fought with medical staff for safe treatment, and worried through scary procedures. They’ve been there, and they’re okay now. It makes this terrifying time seem more normal and less out of control. At least a little.

In other news, I’ve been saving picking up my violin for the perfect moment. I needed to clean up my living room, or I had to sort out my music. Or I had to take down my Christmas tree (don’t judge) or arrange everything to create a music corner in my office.

Instead, when I heard the latest news about my dad, I started humming How Great Thou Art.

I can’t honestly say it’s my dad’s favorite hymn, but it’s a favorite hymn of many from my parent’s generation. I had this sudden conviction that he was going to die right now, I needed to call him, and I’d play How Great Thou Art for him over the phone.

*cue Hollywood sentimental background music, swelling into a triumphant crescendo*

Sadly, no.

I haven’t played seriously in many years. I haven’t played at all for almost seven. I used to devote up to seven or eight hours a day to practice, rehearsal, and lessons.

Last night, amidst the gigantic mess known as De-Cluttering My Home, I said forget it.  I want my violin now.

I opened the case, took out the shoulder rest, and set it up. I tightened the bow hair and applied rosin.

Just tuning the strings was a challenge!

Then a tiny miracle happened. My metronome with its A440 tuning pitch, which I assumed had broken (it’s so old I can’t remember when I got it), was good as new when I put in a new battery.

I tuned.

And, because the violin had lain unused for so many years, it promptly went out of tune.

I tuned the strings again, slowly and carefully.

Then I stood up and started with a scale. A long, luxurious, slow scale (only two octaves, not the usual three) waltzing through whole notes, quarter notes, and working its way up to sixteenth notes. My wrist didn’t oblige and the shoulder rest didn’t sit quite right.

I felt like Leila picking up her violin after her injury and forced rest (though, of course, Leila is a professional musician of world-class caliber, and I am a former student musician who once had dreams of teaching).

My violin quivered. With joy, I think. It’s been neglected for so long that it can’t have been happy.

Normally, and especially after such a long hiatus, I would have continued with another scale or two plus some etudes before touching any performance piece. But nostalgia gripped me, and I started playing (from memory) one of my recital pieces.

My wrist, shoulder, and arm said No! in a resounding chorus.

I printed out the sheet music from Cyber Hymnal for How Great Thou Art, and I played through the melody line.

(It’s an awful setting for violin, by the way.)

I played through it twice, and then I thought…I can’t let anyone hear this. Not when I used to be one of the most promising students in my orchestra.

Then I read through the lyrics. I’ve never paid attention to much beyond the refrain:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,

How great Thou art, how great Thou Art!

This time, though, the last verse jumped out at me.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!

Then I shall bow in humble adoration,

And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

And nope, I couldn’t do it. I should probably be a good Christian and say God’s will be done, but nope. It’s not my father’s time to go. I, Ana Vitsky, issue this decree.

Even though I wrote my prayer request for church saying I want him well, but I don’t want him to suffer.

Mostly, I’d like for family drama to melt away in a wonderful, storybook fashion. I’d like for egos and pettiness to make room for the unmoving, unchanging, and eternal love parents and children have for each other. No matter what happens, no matter how much hurt exists, and even if considerations of safety make contact difficult–even if the external relationship is severed–we never lose love for our child or parent.

Never.

It took a visit to my father in the ICU to realize that I don’t owe anyone anything. If other people want to drag me into their dramas, I don’t have to participate. They can and are hurling abuse at me for walking away, but they’re not my parents. They’re not family, and they don’t deserve a place in my life.

Remember when I started the De-Stuff My Life challenge with such enthusiasm, only to peter out once things hit the fan? Now that it is Ash Wednesday and Lent for real, I’m starting again. This time, though, my goal is far more modest. I want to take out one bag per day, whether it’s trash or donations. (Not ordinary trash that accumulates, but trash from clearing out junk.) Or my goal is to de-clutter for 15 minutes a day. Whichever makes more sense at the time. (Two days ago, for example, I sorted through a lot of items on my entertainment center, threw out junk, and set out a lot of piles of items that need to be put away other places. Putting away those items can be today’s 15 minutes.)

My reward?

Fifteen minutes of violin practice. That’s about all my tight wrist and shoulder will let me do, and (again thinking of Leila) I don’t dare risk injury. Ten or fifteen minutes twice a day will have to be my limit for now, and I will be happy with that.

I want to play for church. I’d love to join the community orchestra, get involved with other musicians, and…

But for now, it’s the little things.

My father may be dying.

I can’t sing the last verse of How Great Thou Art.

I can’t control the scary parts of my life right now, but I can throw out the physical and emotional clutter.

I can pick up my much-beloved violin, and I can slowly, slowly, slowly inch my way back to proper playing.

I saved playing my violin again for the moment when I most needed it. For all those years of childhood lessons, orchestra rehearsals, and tears…I am grateful.

I can always wish my life were better and more stable, but I will never have everything I long for. Instead, I’ll set up my music stand amidst the de-cluttering mess and make my violin sing (or cough, croak, and splutter a few scratchy notes).

How great Thou art.

G is for Gifts, Simple

Connections

G is for Gifts. Not just any gifts, but Simple Gifts.

This is one of the most beautiful settings I have ever found. Allison Kraus and Yo Yo Ma, complete with gorgeous photos:

I’ve written about Simple Gifts before, including a few snippets:

The lyrics are here, although I use a slightly different version in the book.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

 

 

Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

Simple Gifts

Music. Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?

Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony. Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play. While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed. And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.

Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a friend, but also her potential soul mate?

For anyone who has read and reviewed Simple Gifts (or who does so now), I will send you a free copy of their short story sequel, “Complicated Gifts.” Please post a link to your review in the comments. 🙂
Offer is good through the end of the month!

On bullying, domestic violence, homophobia, and fear #HAHAT #IDAHOT

(Please click on the above image for a list of participants in this year’s hop.)

I learned fear the year I turned fourteen.

When I came out of the bathroom at school, a boy would knock my purse just hard enough to empty its contents. When I approached a classroom, another boy would ambush me with a homemade rubber band gun.

“She flinched!” he would crow, chortling with laughter until my so-called friends joined in.

“Did you flinch?”

It became a game to see how far they could push without getting caught. I carried all of my possessions with me so I wouldn’t have to stop by a locker. I mastered changing into and out of my gym uniform fast enough to prevent salacious comments or ransacking of my bag while my back was turned. I learned to remain as still as stone, never giving away my feelings.

Who am I kidding? My feelings were easy to read as the tears escaped. Gym class and bus rides were the worst. I counted each day as I went to bed. One week. Two months. Four months. I knew I would be told to “ignore” or that I was making a big deal out of nothing, so I told no one.

I became labeled a “c*nt,” and I was too naive to know it was an insult until someone told me.

At the end of the day, however, it’s not the boys I remember. I remember my so-called friends, laughing as they joined in. I remember my father asking, “What did you do to provoke them?” I remember my mother saying, “It’s your fault for not telling anyone.” Boys would be boys, and girls were to blame for fighting back or not fighting back.

Bullying. It’s a popular word these days, as parents, teachers, and officials scramble to find a solution to a complicated problem. What is bullying, what does it look like, and what can we do to help? Specifically, what does bullying mean for the LGBT community?

Welcome to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)! I’m thrilled to join the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia (HAHAT), a collective effort from authors, publishers, reviewers, cover artists, and others involved in LGBT fiction. IDAHOT has been supported by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as many, many others. The aim of IDAHOT is to encourage local efforts, and as an author of F/F fiction I’m grateful for the chance to participate.

We talk a great deal about homophobia, transphobia, and other fears about those deemed “different.” Too often, the response is a dismissive comment such as, “I’m not scared of anyone; I think homosexuality is wrong. I have the right to think that without anyone shoving a gay agenda down my throat.”

Today, I’d like to make a proposition:

Homophobia, domestic violence, and bullying all stem from the same fear.

What fear might that be?

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “different.” Fear, coupled with a desire to control others.

But mostly, fear of ourselves.

That’s right, ourselves. When we are secure in our own identity, confident and happy to be who we are, we have no need to knock anyone else down (physically or emotionally). The comments people have given me about F/F fiction reveal much about their insecurities and nothing about the love between two women.

What happens to a woman caught between multiple forms of this fear? She might face homophobia at work and domestic violence from her partner at home. But if that partner is a woman, resources may not be available to her that are available to a heterosexual woman. Consider these findings from the Lesbian Partner Violence Fact Sheet :

  • Domestic violence in lesbian relationships is as common or more common (1 in 4 or 1 in 3) as domestic violence in heterosexual relationships.
  • Women in same-sex relationships may not be allowed to request a court-ordered protective order
  • A homophobic environment allows a woman to threaten her partner with forced outing (to family, work, etc.). This also means a woman who is abused cannot seek help from the police.

According to a study by Little and Terrance (2010), gender stereotypes make it difficult for lesbian women to “prove” that they were the victim of domestic violence. Men tend to dismiss all violence perpetrated by a female to a female, and women tend to blame a female victim if she did not conform with stereotypically feminine traits.

Perhaps most shocking of all, many domestic violence shelters refuse to take lesbian women. That’s right. For the 16% of lesbian domestic violence victims who seek official help, they are then re-victimized with denial of legal protection and shelter.

(For more information: Domestic Violence in the LGBT community and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s New Data on Domestic and Sexual Violence

Special thanks to Myra Swintz for providing informative links.)

Do we hear about this in the LGBT news? Nope. We hear about people outraged that someone won’t make them a wedding cake.

I understand that discrimination of any type is wrong, but what is more important? A wedding cake or protecting lives?

As the anti-homophobia movement is gaining momentum, I would like to add this plea:

Let’s focus our energies on where it matters, not on trivial issues.

How do I focus my energies? I write stories of women who love women, and I use opposite worlds to help people understand what it would be like to live in a society that blames us for our identity.

Becoming-Clissine-Cover

Click here for the Becoming Clissine book trailer

Becoming Clissine (Bastia, Book One)

What if heterosexuality were a crime?

Betrothed at birth to the daughter of one of the most prominent Houses in the totalitarian theocracy of Bastia, soon-to-be-college-graduate Clissa isn’t sure whether she is ready to undergo the Mar. Once she becomes the Nur, or the submissive partner, to her betrothed she will have to submit all major decisions of her life to the beautiful Helaine whom she has only met once. She must marry a woman, according to the decrees of Bastian law.

Caught between his desire to “get along” and the growing awareness that he is “het” and is attracted to Clissa, Destral kisses her one day as they study in their college library. Shocked at the feelings the kiss awakens, Clissa begins to question everything she has been taught. Did Basti, their deity, really decree that it was sinful for a man to be with a woman? Will her growing feelings for Destral cost her everything that her parents have worked hard to give her?

In a mad attempt to subvert Bastian authority, Clissa and Destral run away to find the Het Pride, a group that preaches tolerance, equality, and peace. Z, their leader, promises that one day hets will achieve equality and freedom. When the Bastian police capture or kills most of the Het Pride, however, Clissa is assigned to new parents for “reeducation” in the doctrine of Bastia. Her new parents are given one mandate: Bring her back to rightness with Basti.

Clissa, lost in a system that is threatened by her very identity, must make her choice. Will she be broken by Bastian authority, or will she find a way to break free? Can true love overcome a harsh regime?

—-

For this hop, I will offer three prizes:

How to enter: Leave your name and a working email address in the comments. Respond to one or more of the following prompts:

  • What about this post surprised you or was new to you?
  • Please share any personal experience and/or wisdom to share regarding any of the points made in this article.
  • How could we make more resources available for lesbian women who have experienced bullying and/or domestic violence?

Winners will be announced on May 25th here on the blog (governingana.wordpress.com), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/anastasiapvitsky), and Twitter (@AnastasiaVitsky). Winners must claim their prizes within 24 hours, or I will re-draw for a new winner.

Extra prize entries! If you leave a new review on Amazon and/or Blushing Books for any of my F/F books (The Way Home, Lighting the Way, Editorial Board, Simple Gifts, Desire in Any Language, Mira’s Miracle, and Becoming Clissine), you will receive an extra prize entry for each book you review! All of my books are available on Amazon and Blushing, and you will receive a prize entry for every review (two per book, if you post both on Amazon and Blushing). Please leave a note in the comments telling me which book you reviewed and where.

Best of luck, and happy International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia!

Do it for me: #Satspanks, #SnippetSunday, #SeductiveSnS, and #Wewriwa (Advent Calendar, Day 21)

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Seductive Studs and Sirens, Snippet Sunday, and Weekend Writing Warriors!

Today’s offering comes from Simple Gifts, the prequel to “Complicated Gifts” in Love’s Reprise (links and blurbs below). Carene Moraghan and Leila Feran, childhood bunkmates from yearly summer music camp, have remained best friends even as their paths diverged–Carene to teach junior high orchestra in a small town, Leila to head the prestigious, world-renowned Philharmonic Symphony as concertmaster and principal first violinist. They keep in touch with letters, phone calls, and visits…at least until workaholic Leila cripples her wrist with her long hours of practice and performance. Confined to a splint and unable to work or even perform basic daily tasks, she moves in with Carene during her recovery period.

Never one to shirk from duty, Carene cares for Leila and enforces her one house rule: No divas allowed. None of the posturing that comes along with being a famous musician. No spoiled tantrums when she can’t get her own way. It takes more than one spanking to convince Leila that Carene means business, but finally Leila submits. In a symbolic gesture of her submission, Leila brings her beloved Stradivarius violin to Carene and asks her to prepare the instrument for use.

“Do it for me.”

No one except luthiers had touched Leila’s instrument before. The flamed reddish-brown glaze, the delicate wood, and the craftsmanship that had cost more than Carene’s down payment for her house were all Leila’s sacred territory. Wordlessly, Carene picked up the violin, careful not to soil the priceless finish with the oil from her fingers, and hooked the soft rubber gripper feet of the shoulder rest to the body of the violin. She tilted the shoulder pad. Next she set the violin back in its open case and took out Leila’s favorite bow, twisted the screw at the end to tighten the hair, and held the cake of dark green-black rosin in her hand. She unfastened the protective cloth around the rosin and slid cake up and down the fine white horsehair. She laid the prepared bow next to the violin, her eyes never having left Leila’s face.

 

SimpleGifts-AnastasiaVitsky-v1

Simple Gifts

Music.  Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?

 

Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony.  Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play.  While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed.  And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.

 

Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a friend, but her potential soul mate?

Love's-Reprise-cover

“Complicated Gifts” (short story sequel to Simple Gifts)

In this short story follow-up to Simple Gifts, Leila has recovered from surgery but faces a new dilemma: Go home to her symphony or stay with her love, Carene? She assumes Carene will jump at the chance to move to the big city, but Carene is surrounded by the small-town community that has nurtured her since her college graduation. Tempers fly and feelings get hurt on both sides until they each face their worst fears.

Does love mean getting your own way? Or does love mean making sacrifices for another? Carene and Leila must choose.

Choose the next Anastasia Vitsky book for the #Ndulgenthop!

Are you a fan of Guilty Indulgences? I am! To celebrate the three-year anniversary of their book review site, Guilty Indulgences is hosting a blog hop. Prizes include a large box of books plus author and book swag. Check out the link for more information about other authors and books.

Guilty Indulgences was kind enough to give a “five chocolate-dipped strawberries” rating, the ultimate guilty indulgence, to The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus.

The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus is a silly, laugh aloud Christmas tale like none other you’ve ever read. I giggled- yes, actual giggles – during some scenes. As the narrator and the main character argue about who should tell the tale, the author creates a relationship between the two women that seems genuine. This relationship adds depth to Claire, the main character, who is quirky and most definitely bratty. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that this book is a whole new take on what becoming an adult for Christmas means… which includes some perfectly naughty spankings.

In some countries, turning 21 means gaining the right to vote and drink alcoholic beverages. For Claire Labraun, the Christmas after her 21st birthday would be beyond her wildest imagination.

Minelle and Matthew Labraun believed in a traditional marriage. Matthew was head of their household, and Minelle was his helpmeet.  When it came to raising their headstrong 21-year-old daughter, however, they found themselves at a loss.  Minelle had always taught Claire to do the right thing for right’s sake. Claire, however, had different ideas.  She rebelled against their rules, flaunted authority, and connived to get things she wanted.  She had never been spanked in her life; Matthew and Minelle kept that adult privilege strictly between themselves. But this year, a visit from Santa plus Claire’s newly adult status would change her idea of Christmas forever.

For my post for today, I’m hosting a poll. Of all the books and stories I have published so far, which next installment or sequel would you like to see most? Why? Choices include:

1. Kat and Natalie (The Way Home, “Tomorrow” in Coming to Terms, and Lighting the Way)

The-Way-Home

Natalie always wanted a little sister.  Kat didn’t know she was allowed to want anything…or anyone.

Kat, a shy farmgirl, arrives at her freshman dorm with a backpack, a suitcase, and her mother’s wish for Kat to attend college “at least until you get married”. Her roommate Natalie, a confident and fun-loving social butterfly, decides sight unseen that Kat will become her best friend for life. Natalie teaches Kat about college life, academics, and friendship by taking Kat under her wing…and over her knee.

Then their lives fall apart one fateful night on campus, and for the rest of the decade Kat and Natalie struggle to find their way back to each other. Their way home.

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.

2. Mira and Hana (Desire in Any Language)

vitskydesire

Mira thought she wanted a spanking.  What she got was love.

On her own for the first time, Mira is studying abroad for her translator’s certificate.  Unfortunately, the heady excitement of dance clubs, late-night parties, and endless shopping quickly distracts her from her educational goals.  Mira’s advisor offers her private tutoring, but the combined pressures of culture and language difference threaten Mira’s progress at school.  She is unable to get her act together until she makes a discovery that horrifies and tantalizes her: in her new country, corporal punishment is a way of life.  The secret to her academic success just might also fulfill her wildest, unspoken dreams.

Sexy. Seductive. Dangerous. A poignant and compelling read.

3. Matthew and Minelle/Claire and Daniel (The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus)

See above

4. Spring and Rachel (Editorial Board)

Ediecover

Award-winning author Spring Meadows and newspaper-turned-literary editor Rachel Templeton have one thing in common: they can’t stand each other.  Spring is sure that her bestselling talents single-handedly keep her publishing company afloat, while Rachel would like nothing better than to take this smart-mouthed, button-pushing prima donna down a peg or two.  When Spring makes the fatal mistake of accusing Rachel of sexual misconduct, Rachel decides to teach her a lesson.

“What is an author to an editor?” Spring asks herself.  If only she had been prepared for Rachel’s answer…

5. Leila and Carene (Simple Gifts)

SimpleGifts-AnastasiaVitsky-v1

Music.  Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?

Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony.  Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play.  While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed.  And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.

Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a potential soul mate, but also her friend?

(Please note the two soon-to-be published works, Becoming Clissine (Bastia, Book One) and “Complicated Gifts,” the short story follow-up to Simple Gifts that will be published in early October.)

To enter my contest, please choose only one couple to vote for a next book or story. Tell me which couple you’d like to see in a future story and why! The best answer will be chosen to be a beta reader for your chosen sequel.

Thanks for joining the hop! Be sure to visit all of the other authors in this great event.

Lack of repentance: #Satspanks, #SeductiveSnS, and #Wewriwa

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Seductive Studs and Sirens, and Weekend Writing Warriors!

A few weeks ago, I introduced the concept for my new series, Bastia. The first book, titled Becoming Clissine, will come out on September 11th. In this book, we are introduced to a world where same-sex relationships are required by the totalitarian theocracy, and opposite-sex relationships are prosecuted by the church/state. Today’s snippet continues from last week’s peek at the prologue of Becoming Clissine. Clissa is brought before the Bastil, the governing body of Bastia, and charged with having a relationship with a boy. What makes this crime even worse? Clissa is the daughter of Lystel, one of the most prominent women in Bastia. The charge of heterosexuality is devastating enough, but that it comes from one of the premiere Houses of Bastia makes it nearly unbearable. Lystel and Methra, Clissa’s parents, are so ashamed that they don’t know where to look.

Clissa tossed her head back and squared her shoulders underneath the thick, rough cotton jumpsuit. She stared at one audience member after another, holding her face expressionless until each one turned away. They were used to seeing humble supplication. Even allowing for the arrogance of youth, Clissa’s lack of repentance must have been unnerving in its lack of precedence. She narrowed her eyes at a father who held his son in his lap. The son could not have been older than seven or eight, the age when Clissa had first been allowed to witness Bastil proceedings. How proud she had been, and what contempt she had shown the poor prisoner who was brought to court! Remembering that day, Clissa’s anger faltered.

Before the Bastil: #Satspanks, #SeductiveSnS, and #Wewriwa

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Seductive Studs and Sirens, and Weekend Writing Warriors!

A few weeks ago, I introduced the concept for my new series, Bastia. The first book, titled Becoming Clissine, will come out on September 11th. In this book, we are introduced to a world where same-sex relationships are required by the totalitarian theocracy, and opposite-sex relationships are prosecuted by the church/state. Today’s snippet comes from the prologue of Becoming Clissine. Clissa is brought before the Bastil, the governing body of Bastia, and charged with having a relationship with a boy. What makes this crime even worse? Clissa is the daughter of Lystel, one of the most prominent women in Bastia. The charge of heterosexuality is devastating enough, but that it comes from one of the premiere Houses of Bastia makes it nearly unbearable. Lystel and Methra, Clissa’s parents, are so ashamed that they don’t know where to look.

“Assistant, read the charges against Clissa, daughter of Lystel.”

Somewhere in the crowd the Dis and Nur of Lys, Lystel and Methra, watched the proceedings. They had forgone their usual seats of honor in favor of anonymity. Although a few other well-known Houses had had children run afoul of the Bastil, none were as prominent as the House of Lys—or as vocal in their opposition to leniency for criminals. Would Lystel ever be able to overcome her shame, or had Clissa ruined their House forever?

The bell-ringer unrolled an elegant parchment scroll. In recent generations, electronic and technological improvements had changed life in everyday Bastia, but not within the walls of the Bastil. Here, court scribes took notes in shorthand while using quill-and-ink pens.

#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.

If I like it: #Satspanks, #SeductiveSnS, and #Wewriwa

Welcome to Saturday Spankings, Seductive Studs and Sirens, and Weekend Writing Warriors!

Today’s snippet features Carene and Leila, the main characters from Simple Gifts. This fall, I will be publishing a F/F anthology with Lucy Felthouse, Kate Richards, Cassandre Dayne, and Olivia Starke. My contribution to the anthology will be a short story sequel to Simple Gifts.

The central conflict in my short story, tentatively titled “Complicated Gifts”, is how Carene and Leila will negotiate their new relationship and geographic distance. When Leila gets ready for her trip back to the big city, she and Carene decide to have a little fun.

As Joseph McNamara pointed out last week, Madame Big Shot got a Big Swat…or two or ten! Read the fun here as it is a setup for today’s snippet. Carene and Leila are having fun, but it’s tough to say who’s enjoying things more. (Punctuation has been altered to comply with the eight-sentence rule.)

“You said to hurry,” Leila protested, turning her head to look at Carene, “but this is kind of the opposite of hurrying.”

“Oh, I’ll hurry,” Carene answered, “and we can start this way: let’s get your clothes off.”

Leila froze in disbelief. “Did those words come out of your mouth–not mine?” Not that she was complaining; Carene was the one who needed coaxing in this area, not her.

Carene blushed. “All the better to spank you,” she managed to say, but her eyes couldn’t meet Leila’s.

“But you said it hardly counts if I like it,” Leila purred.

SimpleGifts-AnastasiaVitsky-v1

Music.  Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?

Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony.  Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play.  While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed.  And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.

Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a potential soul mate, but also her friend?

Rolling with laughter: Delighting in life

A few years ago, this video became an internet sensation. Even if you’re not a music lover, you should take a look. At first glance, it seems like a cute preschooler waving a stick in the air. Babies are born loving music and dancing, and this doesn’t seem unusual…until you watch a bit more closely. What’s amazing is that this little guy anticipates (yes, I realize he probably had listened to the recording a million times) the upcoming music and cues the appropriate instrument section.

Bored with the classical music talk? Try this. Click to 1:49 (this is the time marker) where he rubs his nose (perhaps even picks it), without missing a note.

Still not charmed? Click to 4:07 at the very end. He’s so excited by the music that the baton jumps out of his hand. Instead of stopping, picking it up, or continuing without it—he looks at the camera in disbelief, shrieks with laughter, and rolls onto the floor consumed with giggles.

Even the most hardcore (ooh, Ana said hardcore!) anti-classical music and anti-baby person has to find that endearing. Purely from a layperson’s standpoint (rather than a musician’s perspective), it’s touching and endearing to watch someone so absolutely, positively alive with joy. It’s as if every note speaks directly to him, and it lights his body into ecstasy.

From a musician’s standpoint, the video is phenomenal. I’m not a fan of child prodigies (although I am a fan of children and talent), mostly because it often results in weird behavior of adults around them. In my classical music romance Simple Gifts, Leila, as a child prodigy, reflects on the discomfort of possessing a talent disproportionate to her age.

 

She had made the rounds of local community orchestras as a pre-teen, back when she needed the experience. The level of professionalism had always been very low, but she still remembered the way adults had cried whenever she played. It was as if their lack of talent made them almost worship a child who possessed it. It had always made her uncomfortable, frankly. She almost preferred hearing Krugey howl at her and shouting right back at him that she wasn’t going to be his puppet. Leila smiled, thinking of the times he had threatened to kick her out and never let her come back. Each time, she had practiced harder than ever and forced him to admit at the next lesson that perhaps she wasn’t so horrible after all.

 

One of the neatest responses I’ve heard to Simple Gifts was, “I get to learn about music!” Of course, it’s a love story between Carene and Leila. Of course, there’s spanking. But in Simple Gifts, the music is almost a third main character.

Little Jonathan Okensiuk, now seven years old, has made the rounds conducting professional and amateur string players. For a wonderful discussion from a professional conductor’s viewpoint, read this article by associate conductor Robert Franz, who met Jonathan recently when he (Jonathan) won a contest to conduct the Houston Symphony.

He will develop and mature into a world class musician, if that is the path he choses. But today, right now, Jonathan has a gift that I have never seen up close and it is a gift I will not soon forget. Jonathan receives music like most of receive air or water. His gift is natural, and pure.

 

In a previous interview, Jonathan said his wish for his seventh birthday was to receive an orchestra. Dreams big, doesn’t he? 🙂

As Jonathan climbs higher and impresses more musicians with his gift for conducting, I think of Leila. I think of the people in my life for whom music is their entire life. I smile, and I sigh. It’s a tough life to be devoted to a jealous god, but the rewards are incredible.

The problem is, what if you have to choose between your dream job playing first violin for the best symphony orchestra around…and the woman you love?

While you’re waiting for Love’s Reprise, the F/F anthology that will feature the short story sequel, enjoy Simple Gifts. It’s the small things that make life worth living. Such as a three year old falling onto the floor because a recording of a Beethoven symphony makes him happy.

What makes you happy? What simple gift would make you roll with delight in being alive?