Growing up Foreign – Thoughts about Language & Culture

My ongoing efforts to streamline and consolidate my various writing and publishing activities have inspired me to to think of 2019 as the Year of Authenticity. It occurs to me that a lot of people who read my work have very little idea of who I really am, except for whatever I share in my bio. That’s about to change.

So, here goes. The first in what I envision to become a series of posts about random thoughts and situations that make me, “me”. As a perpetual foreigner, I think about national identity quite a bit, so this first post is about that.

I’m German. I don’t mean that in the “I did 23 and me, and guess what, it says I’m German!” sort of way. I *actually* am, and have the passport to prove it. But, I’ve never lived in Germany, which is kind of weird, I guess. Still, I’m more German than anything else, so I don’t really have a choice. The “Lorelei” part of my pen name is a nod towards my German heritage.

Born in the Netherlands (colloquially: “Holland”) during the 80s, to a German mother (and a Dutch father, who sadly did not live long enough to see me grow up), I’ve always been aware of my roots. She made sure of that.

I’ve also always been aware of how Germans are viewed by a lot of people in other countries across Europe. The kids who would call me a “Nazi” while growing up made sure of that. And that made me a bit prickly when it comes to how a lot of people deal with “foreigners”.

It’s a weird situation to grow up in. An in-between child. Stuck between the culture, traditions (and language) at home and the wider world we lived in. On the outside, you might think our white, Protestant Christian household, would be much the same as the white, Protestant Christian households of the native Dutch populace. Still, the difference – though subtle – were very obvious to me.

This feeling of “in-betweenness” of course wasn’t helped by the fact that my mom sent me to a private German school for the first few years of my education, because she was considering moving back “home”. We didn’t move though, and I switched to a regular Dutch school at age 11, which brought with it its own host of challenges (as well as more kids calling me a “Nazi”).

When people talk about migrants, multiculturalism and integration, it’s often aimed at people who *look* different. People with a different skin colour and religion compared to what is the norm in any given country. When I pipe up with my own thoughts, it’s often waved away. “No, not you. You’re different.” But I don’t bloody feel different. (I mean, I *do* feel different, which is kind of the point I’m trying to make).

Of course, growing up bilingually had its benefits, so I don’t regret any of it. Generally, growing up in Holland had its benefits too. Had we ended up back in Germany, I probably would have been writing this blog in German, not English. I wouldn’t have been able to express myself quite in the same way. I wouldn’t have had the experiences that formed my persionality and my thoughts as an adult. Life might have turned out very differently indeed.

I don’t want to get into politics, but I do feel people are often quite harsh about “foreigners”, “coming over here” and “wearing their weird clothes” or “speaking their funny language out in public”. The justification is often something like this: When you’re in xyz country, it’s your responsibility to speak in xyz language and do stuff however the locals do. Speak whatever you want at home, behind closed doors, if you must. Etc.

These are all things I’ve heard over and over again, often in the same breath as some statement about how that somehow makes our “multicultural society” better.

I call bullshit.

Sure, I was a weird little kid and I knew it. Initially, I spoke Dutch with a German accent, because that’s what I’d learnt from my mom. That was until I started interacting with more of my peers on the playground and in school, and then the accent went away. I obviously faced some prejudice, because *clearly* the holocaust was entirely my fault, even at age 6. Still, I’m fully aware that whatever shit came my way was nothing compared to what people who *look* different have to go through on a daily basis. White privilege is a thing regardless of nationality.

But just because I *looked* local, didn’t mean I was just going to agree to the cultural homogenisation many people like to advocate for. It didn’t matter to my mom and I that in the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December just like in the UK or US. For us, Christmas Eve (the 24th) will always be the bigger holiday. That’s when the gifts are given in my house even to this day.

Obviously you have to learn the local language, no matter where you live. You can’t function properly otherwise. But to expect that people communicate 100% of the time in a foreign-to-them language, even when interacting with their own family is utter madness. The idea that they have to cast off their traditions, embrace only the local holidays, ideally convert to a new religion, just to fit in, is insane.

Sure, some people take things too far and favour their own traditions over the local laws. That’s clearly wrong. But I think the way that this topic is dealt with by many people is so black & white that it just pitches the two groups against each other harder.

Think about it. Have you learned a foreign language? It’s hard, isn’t it? Fumbling over your words, messing up the pronunciation, trying your best to speak one broken sentence, but forgetting that one crucial word and thus not being able to get your point across at all. Practice makes perfect, as they say, but it’s still super tiring.

Now imagine you’re with your family, after a day of doing all that. How much of a relief it will be to slip into your native tongue and express yourself freely.

Language is what makes us human. It allows us to communicate and exchange thoughts and ideas. And most importantly: it allows us to express our feelings; our love for one another.. Expression is a bit pointless if nobody acknowledges it. Why anyone would advocate to take the most important form of communication away from people, just because they decided to move to another country is beyond me. It should be up to that person to decide what they’re comfortable with. Is there really a downside if their kids learn the local language in school, and a second or third language at home? I think not.

I still speak to my mom in German, though we try to switch to another, more suitable language in case someone else is present. Since she’s the only one I get to speak German with nowadays, I’m not getting much practice. Still better than my Dutch, because although I can still pass as native during short visits, I’m super rusty and often the right words evade me. It’s because I don’t speak it much anymore, or at all.

My husband and I speak English, and the in-laws speak English and Hindi (which I am somewhat conversational in now as well).

After years and years of speaking English day in and day out, it has become my language of choice. That’s why I write in it. Language skills are fluid. It’s really amazing how preferences can change over the years. Should we ever move to Germany for any length of time, perhaps that’ll become my language of choice again. Who knows?

But the point is, it should be *my* choice what I’m comfortable speaking and writing in. Not anyone else’s. And that goes for every immigrant equally, no matter the colour of their skin, or where they’ve decided to settle down.

2019: The Year of Authenticity

A couple of months ago, I “came out” and consolidated my pen names. It’s been a work in progress, but there’s no turning back now. My main goal for doing this was openness.  Although anonymity gives me the freedom I need to write freely, I didn’t want to hide anymore either.

But it occurs to me that a lot of “me” is still hidden.

I have a Facebook page, but it’s purely about my writing. I don’t share photographs or intimate details; not even my real name or my face.

While that’s going to stay that way, for a variety of reasons related to privacy and mental wellbeing, I am going to make an effort to be more open. More real. More authentic.

Why? Because there’s really no reason not to. It feels more honest and freeing as well. I miss the freedom of expression that comes with blogging; something I’ve dabbled with occasionally over the years and which I wanted to start again with the launch of the L. Moone name and website. And I’ll have nothing to write about, if I can’t share stuff about myself.

Here are a few things that you – especially if you’re a relatively new (2015 onwards) reader – might not know about me, and which I would like to get out of the way before I add more personal blog posts.

  1. I’m not British – I’m actually German.
  2. I don’t live in London (anymore).
  3. I don’t have kids, but I do have a family.
  4. The awkward goth phase I went through as a teenager never really passed, even if you wouldn’t know it by looking at me.
  5. I self-identify as a motorcyclist, but it’s been a while since I actually rode one. (Scooters don’t really count, do they?)

 

2019: The Year of Health

Where has the year gone? Spring feels like only yesterday, and yet it’s already October.

If you’ve read my previous blog post about the topic, or my Lorelei Moone newsletter from April/May you’ll already know I’ve faced a few challenges this year. Not that last year was any better, it was worse, actually, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions or lifechanging plans. If I can just stay on track with my writing, without neglecting my family or letting the house turn into a pig stye, that’s usually good enough for me.

Nevertheless, now that even October is running away from me, I feel like taking stock of what I’ve achieved, personally, so far. I’m not talking about my productivity and my career. I’m talking about my health.

Nothing to give you a big kick up the arse like a brand spanking new health condition you didn’t have before. Especially if it’s one that you’ve been conditioned to think only happens around “middle age” or later, and you’re not quite there yet on paper. (I might enjoy “old lady” things like canning and baking, but I’m only 33, dammit!)

So, since my unexpected hypertension diagnosis in April, what have I been up to and how successful has it been? Let’s analyse…

It’s all about the lifestyle, baby.

I fear I may have become that sort of person. Even our family doctor has started to tell people that I like to read about “alternative medicine” nowadays. Perhaps he’s started to suspect I’m about to turn to homeopathy to cure all that ails me and stop paying him his consultation fee.

Am I turning my back on modern medicine? Absolutely not! Far from it, in fact. I don’t believe sugar pills and endless dilutions of water are the answer either. But I do think that my lifestyle these past few years could have been a lot healthier than it was.

I’m a stress eater, always have been. While some of that is definitely down to conditioning (Hi, mom! *waves*), I can’t exactly pretend that I’m not to blame as well. I know better than to reach for a packet of biscuits to get me through a stressful first draft. Doesn’t mean I can always resist the temptation, though.

Has my decade long usage of hormonal contraceptives made me gain weight  as well (either directly or indirectly)? Yeah, for sure. But I did eat a ton of sugar to make it happen. Nobody forcefed me. I did it all myself, and enjoyed every mouthful of it.

Phase 1: No Room for Denial.

So, the first catalyst was obviously the blood pressure thing. I couldn’t afford to ignore my problems any longer. I start taking daily medication to get the hypertension under control. And because I suspected hormone levels were to blame, I quit my hormonal contraceptive immediately. Dr. Google told me to expect that it would take about 6 months or so for my hormone levels to normalise and my body to get used to the new IUD. That would be about now.

While I can’t say that my periods have become any easier or less painful (which is what supposedly happens once your body gets used to the IUD), perhaps there is a little truth to it. Exactly a year ago I already tried to lose some weight. It was a complete failure, and not just because of lack of willpower. The pounds just didn’t want to budge at all no matter how hard I tried, and my hunger and cravings were off the charts.

That has changed now, thanks to:

Phase 2: The Mindset Shift.

I didn’t want to make things too hard on myself right from the start, so I completed this year’s annual Germany trip to visit my mom without worrying about diets and weight loss. I enjoyed all the culinary delights Germany had to offer, and ended up gaining about 1.5kg overall. Not great, but not a disaster, as it turns out.

The real work began once we returned home; I committed to make real changes to my life and myself. I picked a weekend when the hubby was out of town to kickstart my wellness journey. Having read about the benefits of fasting (and experimenting with various forms of intermittent fasting since 2013), I knew what I wanted to do: my first ever water fast.

For those of you who don’t know what that is; it really is as simple as it sounds. You consciously decide not to ingest anything other than water for a set period of time. I decided to try 3 days for my first attempt (72 hours). It was tough, I won’t lie. But not as tough as I thought it would be. And the health benefits are supposed to be amazing. Once your body uses up all the energy from your last meal, it’s supposed to enter into “autophagy“. That’s when the body starts to repair itself. It’s meant to do wonders for your immune system and even has the power to cure health issues like hypertension.

I managed to make it 85 hours, before having a small glass of diluted fruit juice. Not because I couldn’t carry on or was particularly hungry, but because the hubby was back and I really wanted to enjoy a nice meal together after spending three days apart.

While my 85 hour fast did not magically cure my hypertension (believe me, I got that checked out immediately, only to be disappointed), it did do me a lot of good. For one, I felt super focused. My concentration levels were better than ever; I didn’t feel the constant need to procrastinate that I normally do. My body felt lean. My skin had cleared up and tightened (bye bye, arm flab and double chin!) and the sugar cravings I have lived with for years were completely gone. And, bonus: I lost about 2kg. Just like that. In 3 days.

It was a great success and I used this triumph to motivate me to make a more permanent change.

After a week or so of eating normal – beit smaller and healthier portions, I began:

Phase 3: Not a Sprint, but a Marathon. 

Water fasting helped me break my dependency on all things sweet and carby. I already knew from personal experience as well as anecdotal evidence from friends that carbs lay at the root of all my weight gain issues. But going low carb wasn’t an option for me permanently. Been there, done that, and failed already. I simply can’t sustain it; it’s too hard for me.

So what I did instead was turn again to my old friend, intermittent fasting (specifically the method called Alternate Day Fasting; ADF). I knew it worked, because back in 2013 (after Dr. Michael Mosley’s BBC documentary on the topic came out, as well as the first edition of his book, The Fast Diet), I’d successfully done it. I fondly remembered how easy it was back then to restrict myself one day, only to be allowed any food I wanted the next. And my tendency to snack and go overboard with sweets and biscuits was mostly cured after just one month of sticking to an alternate day fasting schedule. Easy choice, right?

Armed with fresh enthusiasm and determination (and a big chip on my shoulder for having resisted food for a whole 85 hours already), I dove right in toward the end of July. From the 22nd of July until today, the 18th of October, I have stuck to largely this schedule: 500 calories on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and unrestricted eating the rest of the week. This variant of Alternate Day Fasting is called 4:3 (4 eating days, 3 fasting days every week). I may have exceeded the 500 calories once or twice during this time, but I’ve been about 95% consistent.

The results speak for themselves.

I’m at a weight I haven’t been at for years. I feel better and more energetic. I still get to eat sweet stuff 4 days a week and sometimes I even go overboard. And I’ve lost a total of about 7.5kg. I went from a 30.5 bmi (obese) to 27.6 (overweight).  While I’m not even halfway yet, I know I can keep this up forever if I have to. It’s much easier to say “not today” when faced with sinful food you know you’re not supposed to eat, rather than say “not ever”. To me, a life without cake is not worth living. (You can quote me on that!)

And the best part? This week I had my 6 month check-up with the doctor, since my hypertension diagnosis. And he’s cut my medication dosage in half. Success!

With a bit of luck and determination, who knows where I’ll be in another 6 months’ time? Eventually, I hope to be off my medication entirely, and at a normal weight for my height and bodytype. I want to be able to look in the mirror and see “me” again, and fit into all those old clothes I’ve had to hide away for years now. Phase 4: Don’t fall off the wagon again, woman! (AKA: Maintenance) is in my sights.

Eventually I’ll get there. I’ll update the blog when I do.

Recommended reading:

The Fast Diet by Dr. Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer

The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung

Of women’s health and choices

I said I would start blogging occasionally, so here I am. With a topic I’ve dealt with in my personal life for a while, but only really decided to tackle a few months ago. The catalyst? Being diagnosed with hypertension. If you’re on my Lorelei Moone mailing list, you’ll already know about this last part.

I’m 33 and I have high blood pressure. Sure, my weight isn’t what I want it to be, and I have too much of a sweet tooth, but I have always been relatively healthy. Or so I thought.

I’m also married and do not have (or want) children. Birth control has been something I’ve always had to think about. For more than half my life I’ve been using hormonal birth control methods. Save for the implant thingy, I had tried just about everything and found that every single one I had tried, was basically shit.

We all know about the potential side effects, right ladies? We know we might get cranky, we might get fatter, develop pimples we didn’t have before, etc. For me, a major side effect was that my libido became non-existent. It doesn’t matter what I did, I just wouldn’t want sex. Ever. I realise that this is a weird thing to admit when you write what I write.

All the methods I had tried threw my hormones off. But what’s the alternative, really?

Six or so years ago, I got really fed up with my birth control and went off it for a while. They gave me a “cap” to use instead. What a load of rubbish that is. Condoms sound great in theory, but once you’re used to what things are supposed to feel like naturally, it’s hard to go back to those. I know some people successfully monitor their fertility to prevent pregnancy, but I wouldn’t know where to begin and was never given the knowledge or tools to track any of that. And having had an unwanted pregnancy before, I would rather not risk going through that again.

Well, once the hypertension diagnosis came in, it came as a shock to me. I was so ashamed of myself. Sure, when you’re taking the pill, your GP will want to check your blood pressure perhaps twice a year or so. Heightened blood pressure is a known side effect, and yet I always thought it wouldn’t happen to me. Certainly not at this age.

But it did. And now I’m taking pills for it every day.

That same day I got my diagnosis, I made a decision. I couldn’t go on like this. I wouldn’t accept that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I decided to quit my birth control immediately. As luck would have it, my period had just come on. I insisted that along with blood pressure pills, I would get a prescription for a non-hormonal IUD – something I had shied away from all these years, because I’d never heard a good thing about them. I was told that because I was on my period, this was the right time to get it inserted.

Spurred on by shame and desperation, I went for it.

Without going into too much detail, it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Afterwards, I had to see the doctor again for aftercare instructions and nearly passed out in her waiting room.

Now, 4 months later, my periods are still brutal. At least one day every month the cramps are so bad I can hardly bring myself to leave the house. This was something I had never experienced before. If there’s one thing hormonal birth control is very good at, it’s lessening PMS and period cramps. If my period was coming at an inconvenient time, I could simply postpone or skip it. That, obviously, is no longer an option.

And yet, I’m glad I did it.

You may wonder why. I can share a few reasons with you right now.

  1. I am done for the next 10-12 years. No condoms, no caps, no pills to remember to take. As long as the string is still there, I’m protected.
  2. I’m taking control of my life and my health. If the hypertension was caused by the contraceptives I’ve been taking, perhaps I can reverse it. Even my consistent weight gain over the years, I’m hoping to undo now. Estrogen can make you ravenously hungry, so it’s harder to keep your diet in check. And so on.
  3. I feel like a real woman. And I don’t mean that in any mystical, floaty sort of way. I have my sexuality back. Like a frog, slowly being boiled in a pot of water, I hadn’t noticed all the parts of myself that had gone missing. All the things I hadn’t truly felt all these years.

Sure, it’s annoying to deal with painful periods. But pain can be managed. Hot water bottles and ibuprofen are my new best friends during those days.

And I’m pretty sure that if men were the ones getting pregnant, there’d be a whole lot of better methods of prevention out there. But what can we do? These are the cards we’ve been dealt as women.

So yeah, I’m glad I took the plunge. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner, before the hypertension issue had even come up. Would I have done it, though, if someone had encouraged me years ago? Probably not.

I knew it would hurt, though I did understimate it. For future reference, when a doctor casually asks you about your pain threshold before a procedure, fucking brace yourself!

But, childbirth hurts a lot more. And when you don’t want to become a mother in the first place, it’s going to be even worse.

It’s been a long journey to here

Today, on the 23rd of August, I’m writing this after spending the entire day so far sifting through my old blog posts. This is as good a time as any for some reflection and analysis.

I’ve been at this writing business for a while, you see. And my life and career have undergone numerous changes over the years.

Hedonist6 on Blogspot

Back in 2012, I had a little blog over on blogspot. Some of those ancient posts are still available here on this brand new website. They’re my history and I can’t part with them, so I’ve decided to take them along into this new phase of my life.

Those days were a tumultuous time in my life and marriage. If you’re curious, check out the following posts:

These are the humble beginnings of my writing journey. I started as many do, autobiographically.

Hedonist Six – Quality Erotica (or so I thought)

But I swiftly moved on to fiction. With the release of my first story, Ladies’ Day in the autumn of 2012, my fate was sealed. I would be an independent author. And I have been ever since.

My books from this time include:

  • One Night Stand (I think my first story, Just for One Night, was expanded into this novella)
  • Beautiful Stranger (evolved from that first story, Ladies’ Day)
  • Just Another Day at the Office (currently being reworked, for re-publication in October 2019)
  • The Rebound List (The first quarter of this book is included as the story Virgin, in Gratis: Midwinter Tales)
  • Only a Taste (the beginning of which is the story, A Day in Brighton, which is part of Gratis: Summer Fling)

For a few years, I was content writing these stories I loved, under the weird (and I think, wonderful) name, Hedonist Six. I was never a bestseller, and that didn’t matter to me, because I loved this new creative outlet I had found.

Lorelei Moone – Shifters, baby!

But come 2015, I was ready to up my game. I was ready to take this writing business more seriously, and try my hand at something that I thought could give me both creative satisfaction as well as some monetary success.

A brand new pen name, Lorelei Moone was born.

Under the new name, I published a whole bunch of paranormal romance novellas, organised into four main series:

I did quite alright with these books, and I’m proud of everything I’ve achieved as Lorelei Moone. I still write under this name today.

Hedonist Six – Spectacular(ly underwhelming) Relaunch

During 2016, I decided to look at those old, unloved books, languishing under the name Hedonist Six. I had grand plans. I would take everything I had learned about publishing and marketing, and professionally rework and re-publish all my existing work and hopefully capture a larger audience for them. I did relaunch everything. I got new covers and updated my descriptions. I built a mailing list using giveaways and swaps with other authors. And I basically broke even on my investment.

It was hard that those books which I began my writing career with were not getting seen as much as I wanted them to. I had good reviews, so I was reasonably confident that readers liked them once they found them. But I could not get these books in the hands of enough new people. This failure would put me off writing contemporary romance and erotica for years to come.

L. Moone – Time to grow the F up

I’ve come to the conclusion that during all these years, (seven years, coming up in October or so), I made one crucial mistake. I wasn’t being real enough. This old blog I’ve ported across to the new website was as real as I’ve ever been, but I’ve always hidden behind an abstract sort of a name. Going forward, I’ll be doing no more of that.

Another part of the same mistake was that I launched my paranormal romance books as a separate “persona” from my original work. Lorelei Moone and Hedonist Six were always completely independent from one another. Hardly anyone knew I was the person behind both of these “authors”. That wasn’t fair to anyone, least of all to myself.

You see, I want to be able to openly share my activities and my life with the world. But I can’t do that, if I have to hide what I’m writing, simply because it fits under my “other brand”.

2019 is the year that I put my old pseudonyms behind me and emerge as myself. This is the year I become open about all of my writing, not just the books you happened to come across first.

From now on, my paranormal and contemporary romance titles will be connected. This website will serve as the new home for my blog. And if Facebook et al will let me, I’ll combine my social media accounts as well. I’m done confusing the issue, and look forward to simplifying my interactions with the world. Most of all, I’m done hiding.

I’ve already updated a few of my books on Amazon, changing the author name from Hedonist Six to L. Moone. Next up, I’m tackling an old project that has been pending for years. My first novel, Just Another Day at the Office has been unpublished for years (I think probably 2016 or so), because it needs a rewrite and a good edit. That’s what I’ll be working on during September 2019. My planned launch date is the 7th of October.

And I could not be more excited about it.

New Release: Gratis: Transformation

If you’re on my mailing list, you’ll already know this, but today Gratis: Transformation, the third of the Gratis Erotica Anthologies I’ve organised has officially been released! These short story collections offer sexy stories from numerous authors in a variety of erotic sub genres.

gratis3-boxset small

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Smashwords Google Play | All Romance Ebooks | Apple

 

Win amazing prizes!

To celebrate this release, we’ve put together an awesome prize package which one lucky winner could win, incl. an Amazon.com gift certificate and a selection of ebooks.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why Authors Keep Bitching about Reviews

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry, because I know I’m guilty of this: constantly asking, even begging for reviews.

I know it’s annoying, because I don’t always feel like leaving a review for books I’ve read either. I worry about what to write, and whether my review will look stupid among all the others which invariably seem cleverer to me. But there’s a good reason for my irritating behaviour, I promise…

Why Reviews Mean Everything

What do writers want? To write and sell books. Not necessarily to make money, but to fund future book projects. In order to be able to write (and have our work read by people, rather than sitting around on our computers in complete obscurity), we need to have some money to put into our books. Whether it’s for cover art, editing, promotion, gifts. It’s almost impossible to make it in this business if you don’t invest anything into your books.

So, how do we sell books? We rely on our existing readers to buy our new releases, and we try to grow our readership by making it easy for our books to be found by people who’ve never heard of us before.

How do we get found? Dumb luck is too unreliable, so the answer is: advertising.

How do we advertise? When a reader finds us via our advertising, how do we make our book attractive enough to buy?

Some Facts about Advertising

  1. Not every advertising service actually works
  2. The ones that do work, won’t accept books without a proven track record
  3. They choose to measure the success of a book by its reviews
  4. Even if your book gets accepted without any or with few reviews, any reader who clicks on it, is going to feel nervous parting with their money, if they don’t trust the reviews
  5. Because it has to be said: Buying reviews is bad, so there’s no easy way out but to somehow encourage real people to leave real reviews
  6. Amazon (and perhaps other retailers as well), are rumoured to give more prominent placement of books with lots of good reviews.
  7. Think about how you buy books? Given the choice between two interesting titles, do you go for the one with no reviews or the one with 100 of them, and a 4.5 star average?

Together with having a good-looking cover, and a convincing product description, plus attractive price, reviews are a crucial part of turning a book that looks like nobody wants it into one which people are willing to spend on.

So, while I apologise for being pushy and annoying, asking for reviews, I hope this information explains my motivation behind it. And I hope next time you read a book, whether one of mine, or another author’s, you remember some of what I’ve said, and leave them a review. Even if it’s just a couple of sentences outlining what you liked about it. You’ll be contributing directly to that author’s career by doing so. And they’ll appreciate it, so much.

Happy Monday!

This Monday morning, I feel refreshed. I may be at work, and have a ton of stuff to finish this week, but things feel right. It helps that I’m basically on my own today (a colleague who never speaks barely counts as company), so the peace & quiet is refreshing.

For those of you who don’t follow me much on Facebook, I’ve had a very trying few weeks at the day job. It’s been so busy I barely know what to work on first, and as a result my personal life and I suppose my writing has suffered. On Friday, I was so fed up with it all, I abandoned my long to-do list and went home at 5 sharp. I didn’t care anymore. If I stayed late and finished everything, there’d be more to take its place by Monday.

I thought once I get home, sit in front of the TV, complain about how tired I am and fall asleep by about 10 pm, I’d have two days of nothingness in front of me. Two days of sitting around, letting the hours pass by, before heading straight back into work for the last four days before a much needed holiday. That didn’t happen. This is probably a good moment to explain that I am boring as fuck in real life. So is the hubby. We usually don’t go anywhere and an “active” weekend means we’ve done a bit of home improvement or taken a vehicle to be serviced.

Instead, the hubby suggested something crazy and out of character on Saturday. We should go clothes shopping. To illustrate just how insane it is for him to consider such an activity, nevermind to be the driving force behind it, allow me to give some examples of his attitude towards shopping and clothes in general:

  1. He NEVER throws anything away: some of his clothes actually belonged to his dad. 
  2. He is terrible at making decisions, in the rare event that he does buy an item of clothing, he generally can’t choose which colour to go for, so ends up with both.
  3. Online shopping was invented specifically for him so he doesn’t have to go out and deal with other shoppers, or inconveniences such as having to walk from shop to shop.
  4. He’s picky and never likes anything anyone else buys for him, but will generally wear it anyway because it’s a better option than having to go out and shop for himself.

So yeah. After I had already tired myself out trimming the hedge in our front garden (a convenient excuse to be outside spying on our new neighbours, who were just moving in – yep I’m one of those people, apparently), the simple phrase “I need some clothes.” got me disproportionately excited and off we went. Four hours later, our feet ached and we were on the way back with more stuff than I ever expected anyone to buy in a single shopping trip. It seems he caught a bit of holiday fever: the urge to go out and buy new outfits specifically to wear on holiday. And it’s contagious, because now I’ve got it too. 😛

Still feeling all enterprising and stuff on Sunday, we took the cruiser out for a lovely ride through the countryside. Amazing how sometimes a weekend of rest can make you feel more drained than one spent out and about. We’re travelling to Italy on Good Friday, and I’m hopeful that a similar thing will happen throughout the holiday. The plan is to mainly just see a lot of places, there’s not much room for downtime until we’re back on the 27th.

BTW: I’m not going to be online much from the 18th until the 27th, so if you’re going to get in touch during that time, please don’t think I’m ignoring you.

Dear Reviewers

Not a week goes by that there isn’t some author-lashing-out-against-negative-review or alternately reviewers-lashing-out-against-bad-author scandal going on in this exciting world of digital publishing. It seems like a good time to blatantly copy other author blogs to make a stand myself.

Recently, I ventured into the virtual “wild west” that is Goodreads and stayed longer than I normally would. You see, Goodreads, is a reader site. One where a lot of passionate people come together and write exactly how they felt about a certain book or story. It is known to be a potentially scary place for authors who are easily discouraged. It is the home of the “star rating only” review, where anyone can give a book as many (or few) stars they like, without necessarily stating why they feel that way or perhaps even without reading the book, as demonstrated by many books which attract stars before even hitting the shelves.

My usual approach to Goodreads is similar to what a lot of other authors do: Go in, hold your breath, add any new releases or make (only vital) amendments to existing books. And whatever you do, never scroll down to read the reviews. If at all possible, don’t even look at the average rating.

But as I said, recently, I ignored my usual M.O. in favour of actually looking around with my eyes wide open. I read every single review I hadn’t seen so far, looking for not just the occasional pat on the back which would keep me going, but also constructive criticism to help me improve. My ratings aren’t brilliant on Goodreads, but they’re probably quite normal, not terrible. Informal advice for authors states that Goodreads and Amazon averages will normally differ by one star, and that’s about what I saw.

While reading, and taking note of some of the issues reviewers found with my work, I tried to work out which were worth keeping in mind, and which were just down to a difference in taste. After all, you can’t write something that’ll appeal to everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. I also was reminded of the “like” feature which allows you to give a bit of appreciation for reviews and other content, similar to the “like” button you find on Facebook. Then I felt tempted to “like” all my reviews, even the bad ones. I may not agree with everyone’s opinion, but I appreciate they took the time to share.

To the right reader, a negative review complaining about a certain aspect of the story can be a positive. Perhaps the thing one reviewer didn’t like is something another is looking for. In any case, I appreciate someone out there taking the time to read my work and commenting on it. That’s a lot more than I could’ve hoped for a couple of years ago.

I felt worried though. If I “like” a negative review, could this be seen as trying to be sarcastic? Would it seem invasive to think that a nameless, faceless writer who sells their work on Amazon actually pays attention to Goodreads? I’ve heard of people getting into trouble for thanking a reviewer for a positive review, as though simply entering Goodreads is akin to reading someone’s private correspondence over their shoulder, or eavesdropping on a personal conversation among friends. I suppose I can see where people are coming from, yet at the same time, this is unrealistic. When you post your views on a public forum – a website anyone can sign up for and read through – that’s not private. It’s exactly the same as sharing incriminating photographs of yourself on Facebook and then being surprised when the cops knock on your door. The internet is not private.

But I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes either.

So I’m explaining myself here instead, on my home turf. I do appreciate all the reviews I’ve gotten. Even the negative ones, because they give me something to learn from. Thanks, everyone! And please keep ’em coming because nothing is lonelier than an Amazon listing with zero stars.

My Boring First Time

Since a fair proportion of my thoughts involve the subject of virginity, I figured it’s only fair to share my own first sexual experience. It’s possible I’ve mentioned it before, actually I don’t really remember and can’t be arsed to search through my older posts, so here goes…

In a time, about a decade ago, and a place which was in a different country from where I am now, I was 17 and somebody’s (online) girlfriend. We had known each other (online) for about one-and-a-half years and had met I believe twice before. I’m sorry in advance, it’s been a while and the details are very blurry.

The first time we met in person I was 16, and he was 21, and we made out and fooled around a bit but there was no sex-sex. The second time, at his place, there were too many parents and other such people around to be able to get away with anything much. My memory is trying to tell me he wasn’t that interested anyway, didn’t see the need to hurry and might’ve even liked the idea of waiting, but I’m not 100% sure now.

I on the other hand was not (and still am not) known for my patience.

So, upon seeing each other again around the time of my High School Graduation, we were messing about a bit in my bedroom and I decided it was time. Rather than jerk him off or doing a sort of strange dry humping type thing, I wanted to know what the real thing would be like. I don’t recall being particularly turned on, just sort of curious.

“Let’s try it,” I said. “If you don’t want to after that, we don’t have to do it again.”

He sort of shrugged and mumbled something about thinking we were going to wait, then agreed and I took my panties off.

After climbing on top and trying to figure out what the right angle would be (I’d practised with a vibrator before, but that’s different), I soon figured out a way and the initial stinging went away pretty quick too. I rode him, he came, I didn’t, and it was overall alright.

A little while later we did it again and that was also OK. Then we had a shower together and my insides were on fire and I wondered if that burning feeling would ever go away.

It did by the next day, so we did it again, and a few times later I figured out how to make myself cum. If anyone’s taking notes, he was quite slim, I was as well, and him sitting with legs crossed with me on top, grinding into him while hanging on with my arms around his waist did the job at the time. Sadly, now that I’m not so skinny, any sort of thigh fat gets in the way, plus the hubby’s thighs are quite muscular, so that technique no longer works. Thankfully others do.

I always found it quite amusing that at 17 I lost it at the same age as my mom (yes, we talked about issues like this). Though to this day I wonder if her experience was more exciting. I should probably ask her next time we’re downing wine in front of the TV and expect a blushy, awkward, response in between coughs that starts with: “Why do you have to ask me stuff like this?”

There may be people reading this now, thinking “OMG that sounds boring as hell, don’t you regret it? Sure, he was your boyfriend at the time, but don’t you wish your first time was more… special?”

No, I don’t really care. My virginity wasn’t precious and it didn’t need to be guarded with my life and handed only to my knight in shining armour. And let’s be clear here, that guy was no knight of any sort.

There had to be a first time, and I’m glad it was consensual, that’s all there is to it for me. It might’ve been better if I’d been madly and passionately in love with the guy. But really, the first time is going to hurt and you’re not going to be particularly good at it. The second time it gets a little better, the third, fourth, fifth times perhaps you’ll start to see the point of it. Or not, I’m pretty sure I got over the novelty of it pretty quickly- with him, anyway. I have zero patience for regrets and what-ifs.

I think when you’re with someone compatible enough and you do find that passion, you’ll have an awesome experience anyway. And if it isn’t your (boring) first time, at least you’ll have the frame of reference necessary to know how great it was, plus you’ll know what to do. Sounds like a double win to me.