Monday, October 21, 2013

So what the hell's going on?

This is a very hard post for me to write. But I need to get it 'out there'. Perhaps it'll be cathartic, perhaps it'll just be a reminder that no one should ever take anyone for granted.

Earlier this summer my husband, Peter, started having some stomach problems. At first we (and the doctor) thought it was just acid reflux. Some appropriate medication was prescribed and we moved on. Unfortunately, the medication didn't work and the episodes of reflux became more frequent and more prolonged, to the extent that Peter started losing weight. He's one of those people who can lose weight very quickly. He returned to the doctor, to a different one this time. He chased up the request for an endoscopy that a previous doctor had (perhaps) forgotten about.

The endoscopy showed Barrett's Oesophagus, a condition that comes about as a result of a hiatus hernia. Some samples were also taken for biopsy and a scan was booked for two weeks further on. The results of the biopsy showed cancerous cells in the oesophagus. The scan indicated that the cells hadn't gone walkabout. Still, to hear that word 'cancer', is a shock. And that, frankly, is putting it mildly. It's like staring into the gaping, dark maw of a formless monster. There's no sugarcoating the word. There's rogue cells making busy in my husband's body and I want the fuckers out.

Today we went to Oxford, to the Cancer Unit at Churchill Hospital. This is a very good place, Peter couldn't be in better hands. We went, hoping for a way forward. What we're facing is more tests. There's a more detailed scan scheduled for three days from now, then there's an ultrasound endoscopy for two weeks after that. Then there's a laparoscopy. The doctors want to be assured that the cancer hasn't spread.

If it hasn't, then it's surgery. Go in, cut that bastard tumor out, and hopefully, that will be that. On the other hand, if it's spread. Well, I'm going to just stick my head in a pile of sand for now. We'll deal with that if it happens.

What this means is that, I'll be sticking with the day job. It keeps me busy, it keeps me focussed on something else, means I'm not staring the monster in the face. The writing, however, may have to take a back seat. As much as I love to write, I can't write with so much in the air. I need security and certainty before I can relax into a writing frame of mind.

So that's pretty much it. I don't think I'll be blogging much about the cancer. There's plenty of very good blogs out there that cover all aspects of the disease and its effects on people. I'm not going to add much to the discussion. I just thought that I'd better get this news 'out there' in case anyone wonders about vague Facebook status updates, or passive aggressive tweets. All of this business has made a few of my personal 'filters' slide a little. I may be blunter than usual, I may be less inclined to offer sympathy for broken fingernails or faulty fridges. There are more important things to worry about.

There's my husband, my best friend. He drives me mad sometimes but he's gotten under my skin over the last 17 years. I'd like to think he'll be around for many more. Ten years from now, I want to hear his key in the lock at the end of the working day. Twenty years from now, I still want to wake up with him hogging the bed. I can't imagine him not being there.  There's also our son. I want him to know that his Dad is going to be around for a while, to tell him off for slouching on the settee and for parking his nasty feet on the coffee table.

I'll be staying online. I work from home. The virtual world is my lifeline. I have good friends there and, if the power of positive thinking and virtual hugs has an effect, then the cancer will be banished for good.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Now you know what's what.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hey! Waiter! Someone stole my story!

I woke up to a very unpleasant shock on Thursday morning. A sharp-eyed reader (thanks, Arthur), sent me a message, via Goodreads, asking if I'd rewritten my free short story, Tumbleweed, under a different pen name. When I had a look at the link that I'd been sent, I started shaking. Yep, it was that big of a jolt. Someone had taken the story that I'd written for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group 'Love is Always Write' event, moved the setting from Arizona to Yorkshire, changed the names, embellished it and has had it published by a reputable UK publisher of Erotica. Not only that, but the author had given one of the main character's my pen name. That, in particular, was a slap in the face.

I had a look at the sample pages on Amazon and my own lines jumped out at me. Lines I'd written, taken care with, polished and published. My friend, who'd edited my original story, bought a copy of the offending book and started doing a line by line comparison, highlighting the lines that had been stolen. She gave up after 11 pages because the similarities were glaringly obvious. Those 11 pages are more yellow than white.

Knowing that I had more than enough grounds for complaint, I informed the publisher of a copyright infringement and attached the highlighted copy of my manuscript. Fortunately, they responded almost immediately, promised to keep me informed and they did. The book has been temporarily removed from sale pending a full investigation.

I feel happy that the publisher has responded so quickly and I hope that the author, whoever they are, get their arse kicked from here to kingdom come. I have no idea who they are. There's no blog, nothing in the online searches to show that they made any kind of effort to promote that book, which strikes me as peculiar. There's no one I can hit out at, and perhaps that's a good thing. I am still angry that someone had the brass-balled ignorance to steal my words and make money out of something that was free. Was it because Tumbleweed was free that the thief decided it was fair game? Did they like my writing so much that they wanted to claim it as their own? Is it some twisted fan-fic? What?

In spite of plenty of one-star reviews on Goodreads, the plagiarist (let's not beat around the bush here, that's what he/she/it is), has yet to come forward and deny it, or say anything. Has their mission been accomplished? Steal a book, piss off the author, get some attention? Are they sitting in their mother's basement wanking off to the fuss and excitement? I hope they're laid up in bed with an unpleasant genital complaint.

I feel angry, violated, impotent. I can't fight someone who's too gutless to own up to their actions. It's too easy to create a fake persona these days. I may never know who did it. I hate that.

By the way, if you want to read the original, it's here

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop Interview with Erin Lark

Welcome to a stop on the Absolutely Erotic Blog Hop, where we’re showcasing erotica and erotic romance authors from the Absolute Write forums. Each day, interviews will be posted, and when it’s all said and done, some lucky commenter will win a huge prize!  Click here for the entire blog schedule and details about the contents of the prize, and how to win an armload of ebooks, a $25 Amazon gift card, and more.

Today, I'm chatting with the multi-talented Erin Lark , who I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with over on the Absolute Write Forums. Not only is she an extremely productive writer but she also does amazing cover art.

What draws you to romance?
I think my stories have always had some piece of romance in them. I’m not entirely sure as to why I write it. Maybe it’s that first kiss, or the very first touch of fingertips to flesh. All I do know is a story that has romance in it (even if it’s just sweet romance) feels better to me than one without.
What’s the best part of publishing your book, from start to finish?
Watching it go from being an idea that I’ve slaved over for months to something a person can read on their screen. It never ceases to amaze me just how different my first drafts are when compared to the final product. I’m not just talking about what I have out with publishers either. Even my own publications take on a transformation that is in no way similar to the plot I originally had in mind.
What’s the worst part?
The worst part of publishing can sometimes change on a day to day basis. Working on deadline, while exciting, can also be stressful as hell. But like most things you need to work hard for, it’s almost always worth the anxiety and restless nights once the book is out.
What do you think is sexy?
Eyes. I don’t care how someone looks like, so long as I can stare at their eyes. I have a thing for abstract art, and the iris of every eye is different. You have the usually lines and waves of color, as well as flecks.
However, when it comes to my husband, seeing him in a button shirt is more than sexy enough for me. *swoons*
How often do you Google yourself?
Maybe every other week? I know I usually Google myself a week or so after a new release to check up on blogs and reviews. I try not to do it too often though.
Do you read reviews of your book?
Yes, but before I do, I distance myself from my work. The whole purpose of looking at reviews for me isn’t to boost my ego but rather to see what problem areas I may have that I can work on in my next book.
I think I’m fortunate because I can look at a review and, so long as I prepare myself, I can look at it subjectively instead of personally. I have gotten a few emailed to me though that were unexpected.
What’s the one thing readers can always count on when they pick up a book written by you?
Character development. I try very hard to change every single one of the characters from start to finish. Like adding sexual tension and romance, chipping away at a character’s personality is a must when it comes to writing erotic romance. In most cases, this happens naturally, but there were a few books such as the one I just released where I really had to work on to get everything right.
When you're not writing, what do you do for fun?
I’m a two-track mind. If I’m not writing, thinking of writing or something similar, I’m working on cover art. And if I’m not doing either of those, I’ll go for a nice walk with the hubby or play a video game such as Allods Online or Darksiders 2.
How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
Took the hubby and I out to dinner at Uno’s J
Can you tell us a little about your latest release?
Nowhere to Run is close to my heart. Simon is essentially a survivor of sexual abuse, but for the last six years, in order to keep himself and his family safe, he’s changed his identity and hasn’t spoken to his family at all. Not even his sister. He struggles with personal identity, and whenever he thinks of his old name and the life connected to it, he can only remember the abuse and not the fond memories he once had with his family back home.
This piece was heartbreaking to write. It has triggers in it that I had to be careful of writing since I’m also a survivor. But, with a lot of support from the folks on Absolute Write along with my husband, I was able to finish it and get it published.
How did you get into cover design? What do you love best about it?
Cover design completely happened by mistake. Back when I was writing my middle grade series on Kind Arthur and Merlin, I was having a very hard time finding a cover artist who did work in that genre or who was affordable enough for me at the time.
So, I figured why not? I’d painted in Photoshop, so how hard could putting a few photos together be?
Let me tell you, that first cover took DAYS of non-stop work to do. I had to learn what a mask was, how to use it and just how important lighting was and where to place it on the model as well as the background and anything else I put on the cover.
I started doing most of my self-published covers after that. I showed them around last year when I made the covers for my All He Desires series and was immediately told I should offer my services to authors. I thought long and hard about it, then early this year, I bought a stock subscription, designed a few pre-made covers and, they sold. And they keep selling.
So now, like it or not, I’m hooked. I’m designing even more now, and loving every minute of it.
How can readers connect with you? Do you have a blog?
I have a main website, a blog and Facebook. I have Twitter as well, but I don’t really post much on there.

What’s your current book list and where can we buy them?
I have way too many books to list! You can see a full listing of books on my website:
Most of the titles can be found on Amazon, All Romance, Barnes & Noble and sometimes on Kobo and iTunes.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Of Prejudice and Ignorance

Fact: Autism is the fastest growing disability in the United States

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'prejudice' as: dislike, hostility, or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

There's a small town in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. The town was established in the 1920s, but there had been people living there long before, descendants of the Hohokam. The Hohokam had carved canals into the rock-hard caliche to divert the life-giving water of the Gila River, they grew cotton, they grew their own food, their civilisation flourished. However, the arrival of Manifest Destiny in the mid 19th century drove the indians onto reservations. Europeans settled in the area, fought off Apache raids and, diverted the Gila River and eventually dammed it. As a consequence, people starved, the Akimel O'odham--the People of the River, lost their lifeline, part of their cultural lifeblood. 

There are two communities. The town that was thrown up after the damming of the river, the one whose economy thrived on cotton and there's the reservation. There's only a mile or so of desert separating them, but the gap is so much bigger. The elementary schools still teach kids that Columbus discovered America, in spite of the fact that evidence of the original inhabitants' presence stands at the north end of town. People still think that tribe members do nothing more than sit in their free houses and collect their share of the revenue from the reservation's casinos. It's not just a local thing, though. That's the problem. In spite of cultural leaps forward like, the very corny, 'Dances with Wolves', reservations still exist. Prejudices still flourish. Injustices still happen. 

I find it sad that, in this day and age, some lessons are never learnt. That prejudices which grew partly out of ignorance and partly out of 19th century government policy, still remain. I know it's not something that's limited to one country, it's a worldwide thing. There are displaced people everywhere, separated from 'society' by ignorance and prejudice.  It's a fairly lofty wish, but it would be nice to think that one day, we can put aside one of the bad aspects of human nature, and sweep our prejudices aside. 

So, what experience do you have of prejudice as a result of cultural differences? Leave a comment below along with an email address and you could win a signed print copy of either 'Stolen Summer' or 'Lord of Endersley', both of which involve cultural misunderstandings and differences in one form of another. 

And don't forget to visit RJ Scott's blog to find links to all the other bloggers taking part in this month-long Autism Blog hop--a series of posts revolving around prejudice.