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Recent Events

Hello all.

I had meant to write earlier today but it’s been a busy weekend, and really, a busy month for me. Most of all though, my mind has been on other things, besides updating here and writing anything at all, really. If you watch the news, you may have seen something of the recent events here in Southern Alberta. I know not everywhere will have coverage of what’s going on, but as I know people in the eastern and southern US states, I do know the news has been getting around.

Southern Alberta, parts of the B.C. Interior and now east and north of us, there are massive floods occurring, due to heavy rainfall over the past several days, combined with the late snow melt flowing down the rivers from the mountains. It’s had a devastating effect on Calgary and a community just south of us, High River. I don’t even know what to compare it to because I’ve never seen anything like this in this part of the world. Ever. Tens of thousands of people are without homes or power. The entire downtown core of Calgary has been shut down, all bridges to and from blocked off to prevent anyone but essential emergency personnel from going there. High River is all but empty with the Canadian military lending assistance to make sure people are still getting out safely, though I believe now that most people have been removed to safe locations. As far as I know, no one has been injured or killed though I did see a report that some people are unaccounted for, which is never a good sign. All in all though, considering the number of people affected, this could have been so much worse. I just thank God that it wasn’t. Yes, this is horrible, and yes, some will have lost everything but the lives of those displaced and the lives of their loved ones are so much more important than all the rest.

I’ve been trying to limit my intake of news coverage. I’m lucky enough to not have just moved to an area that was flooded – though I’m closer than many of my friends or family – but it’s upsetting to see the devestation. I don’t mean I’m just burying my head in the sand. Rather, watching the images over and over again aren’t going to change anything. Also, checking on-line coverage and articles just makes me angry when I get to the comments sections. There are some cold-blooded people out there, making insensitive and ignorant remarks.

OT: Why do people believe they can say or do anything, so long as they’re on-line? It’s a sad comment on humanity these days that you can look at the destruction of a place that’s home to over a million people and make a crack about the Calgary Flames being extinguished by all the water. Or make a comment that we somehow deserve this as a province because of the oil sands in the north. You just come off as a stupid, sad individual with no heart, no compassion. I’d like to know how you’d handle the same sort of disaster in your own community.

End rant. Sorry, but it’s bothersome to me all the time, these sorts of comments in the on-line community. Not just because this is a tragedy occurring in my home town, but any time something awful happens, anywhere, these people come out of the wood work and they think it’s OK to share these poisonous thoughts.

Ok. Moving on for real now…

As I mentioned above, I did just move back to the city but I’m fine. My neighbourhood was thankfully unaffected. My family, south and west of the city, are also fine. I’m thankful for that, as I am every day. I’ll do what I can over the coming weeks, even if that’s something as minor as staying out of the way of the professionals. If you’re interested in helping, in any way, I believe you can visit the Red Cross website or the City of Calgary website. Don’t take me at my word though – beyond knowing the basics as any average citizen would, I haven’t done any research. I’m sure there are links everywhere but I have heard The Canadian Red Cross mentioned a few times, so start there. News coverage is everywhere as well.

Anyway, I’ve got to get back to my Sunday chores. I hope you’re all safe and happy at home this weekend. If this past week has taught me anything it’s that you need to count your blessings, no matter how small. And I’ve written this before – but I’ll write this again! – hug your loved ones. If they live far from you, call them on the phone and tell them that you love them. Don’t ever let them wonder if you do.

Do take care, and happy reading.

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I am Woman, You are Man

I’ve been lucky over the past couple of years that I’ve been living close enough with my family to see my niece and nephew as regularly as once a week, or more sometimes. I’m sure most people would agree that the early years of a child’s life are the most impressive. You never realize how much an individual can grow and change and learn until you see it happening in those first few years. Of course, over time, our growth process slows.

I’m sure I’ve written about my niece and nephew enough for you to know how much I love and adore them. Living so close allows me to see all the changes in their personalities and learning, as I said, and to see how different they are, as a boy and a girl. Make no mistake about it, girls and boys are different and they develop differently. I’m not saying that that means they’ll always have different interests or limited in their life’s options. It’s just an evolutionary fact, that the two sexes are different.

There are many reasons for it, and I don’t care about the reasons really. I find it fascinating to watch though. Who wouldn’t? Kids are awesome!

The very first book we ever read and discussed in my old book club was “The Female Brain”, by Louann Brizendine, M.D. She’s a neuropsychiatrist and the subject of the book is the basic differences between men and women, from birth to old age. I’m not saying I’m an expert or that I can confirm or deny any of what she’s written, but I found it a very interesting book and study. Brizendine discusses her findings with regards to the patients she’s had over the years – their identities protected of course. As a writer, I found this a useful book in some ways, as well as a good read, period. And you know me, I’m not a fan of non-fiction, so that’s saying something.

It’s not just children I find interesting when thinking of the difference between men and women. As we grow too, the differences remain obvious. I don’t just mean physically. Men and women have different thought processes and reactions to the same events and memories. No, don’t argue with me. It’s true. 😉 I’m not saying all women have the same thoughts or reactions, or all men, but you can’t deny it. I have enough men in my life and enough discussions with them that I can see and hear the differences. I’ve had enough arguments and long talks with all the women in my life to get the same from them.

I know what you might be thinking. Some of that is due to individual personalities, and you’d be right. I never form opinions about men or women simply based on their sex. Actually, I try not to form opinions about anyone, at any time until something settles it for me, in some way. 🙂

As a writer, I love to observe the differences around me, in personalities and the sexes. Speech patterns and turns of phrases are different. The way a man relates a story is different from the way a woman will. Think about the men and women in your life. When you talk to them next time, and I don’t just mean a ‘hi, how are ya’ in passing, just keep it in the back of your mind.

When I write, I try not to rely solely on the stereotypical differences between men and women. I think women can be just as inclined to be commitment-phobics as men, and men can be just as emotional as women. I remember having discussions – or debates, if you like – with a friendly reader at one time about the conversations I wrote between some of my male characters, the hockey players, to be specific. Not only were they all men in this case, but they were athletes, or ‘men’s men’ if you’ll forgive the generalization. I had written them having a certain kind of discussion, about a woman, and the reader – a man – said that conversation would never happen between two men. I had a hard time buying that. He argued endlessly with me over it and I did end up altering the conversation somewhat, to make it more believable that two men were talking about relationships. But I still had a hard time believing men would never discuss relationships with each other. Wrong or not, I disliked pigeon-holing my male characters as the kind that never discussed their relationships with friends. Who else would they talk to about it? Their mothers??? 🙂 I also don’t like to write my female characters in the same manner. I don’t want to make them only emotional basketcases or the ones constantly talking about their feelings. I hope I strike enough balance between my male and female leads to keep them interesting… and believable. What do you think?

As we’re getting ready to sit down to Easter dinner together, and with my 4 year old nephew and 18 month old niece, I wonder how they’re going to turn out in a few years. They’re constantly surprising me, every time I see them. I can’t wait to see how they continue to grow. Then again, I love them and just can’t wait to see them all the time. 😀

I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend. Take care and happy reading.

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A Good Start

I came across an article a little while ago while browsing headlines on-line. It was a brief rundown of a survey that had been conducted of some 11000 couples in committed, monogamous relationships. The focus of the survey was whether or not the couples had had sex before or within the first three weeks of their relationship, and how satisfied they were overall with their relationship now. The result was that apparently, the longer a couple waited to have sex, the more content they were now with their relationship, in terms of communication, stability and current sexual satisfaction. The results were the same for several different age groups, race and religious affiliations.

I found this very interesting, not just because I write about relationships and romance, but because I think everyone has at some point or another faced the decision of doing it now, or waiting. As always, every couple is different and who’s to say someone who starts with a one-night stand isn’t going to last fifty years? I did actually work with a man once who – in the time I knew him – dated a woman he’d had what he thought was only a one-night stand with, got engaged and married her, and proceeded to have a family. As far as I know, they’re still happy together but I’m no longer in touch with them, so who knows?

The article went on to suggest that because of this evidence, there’s something to be said for waiting. Now, they don’t say specifically whether a couple who’s happy now waited 3 and a half weeks or 12 before having sex, so saying that only couple who wait at least 3 weeks are going to be that much happier is a very broad generalization. They also theorize that it’s the women making this decision to abstain longer or not. I don’t know if that was the case in every couple surveyed. Though, they do make a good point at the end of the article: “Healthy relationships lead to good sex. Good sex doesn’t create healthy relationships.”

True. And yet, incomplete. I dislike broad generalizations, in case you couldn’t tell by now. 😉

I think placing all the blame on an early physical or intimate connection is a bit of a mistake. It’s up to the people making these decisions to decide if they’re going to give the relationship a fair try with or without the early sex. All the same relationship rules apply whether or not you’re naked within one day, or thirty. You can’t spend all your time sexing each other up. I don’t care how early you do it, sex alone is not a relationship – be honest with yourself before disagreeing with me on that! You need open and honest communication, unabashed affection, respect and support. Sex is important, I’m not saying it isn’t, but it’s only one part of a relationship.

Maybe the article is right in that the earlier you have sex, the more you tend to focus only on that aspect of your relationship. Things like discussing finances, future goals and dreams, or being able to spend the quiet moments together, become less important. To me, that is a mistake.

I won’t lie, this article did remind me a bit of a movie that came out a couple years back, He’s Just Not That Into You. I don’t know if any of you have seen that movie but it’s all about different relationships and relationship dynamics, and whether or not women should believe all those things they tell themselves, and each other, about men. It’s an ensemble movie with numerous different intersecting storylines. There’s a couple who have been married for some years, they’re renovating their dream home and talking about having kids. But they don’t have sex. There’s a woman who thinks the married man she befriended would leave his wife for her, because they have awesome chemistry and sex. There’s also a couple who have been together for seven or eight years, with no sign of a marriage proposal in sight. I’m sure, even if you haven’t seen the movie, you can imagine any number of ways those storylines would turn out. You’d probably be right. 😉 There are a couple of surprise endings to these romantic threads, but for the most part, they end the way you think they might. The theme of the movie is that you can tell yourself all the stories you want about relationships starting one way or another, but the stories of ‘it working out’ are few and far between, while the reality of is something else.

In my writing, as you may know, I’ve tried to hook my heros and heroines up in a few different ways. I did have a couple starting with a night of sex after just meeting each other, and that did lead to some complications early on in their relationship. I also had a couple becoming friends over a period of time before dating, and then even longer before sleeping together. Of course, in my writing universe, I’m able to write a happy ending, no matter how they get to the first kiss and the first time they have sex. 🙂

I often find I’m writing these scenarios because I’ve asked myself, can it work? Again, I’m dealing in fiction, so I can guide the characters somewhat towards a satisfying conclusion. In real life, things aren’t always so cut and dry, and it’s not always easy to find the solutions.

I’ve always said that every couple is different, and they are, from the way they meet, to how they handle each other, to how long they’re going to last. I’m definitely no expert but having been through a few endings and even more false starts, I have some idea of what works or doesn’t. For me. And in the end, that’s what’s important. If you know yourself, and know what you want, that’s a good start. I would just make one suggestion: if you meet someone and want to get naked with them now, ask yourself why? Is it because they’re hot? Or because you’re scratching an itch? Or because you think that’s the way you want to start a relationship with them? Just food for thought… 😉

Take care and happy reading.

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Discussing Erotica

There’s been a recent influx of erotica novels and stories to the mainstream in recent years. You could say the rise to infamy of a certain trilogy of novels has played a large part in this newfound popularity. Whether or not that’s a good thing, or that the certain trilogy of novels is a good barometer of what’s good quality out there, is in question. However, you can’t deny the way the new demand has opened up opportunities all over for writers of the genre.

It has also raised a lot of discussion about what’s right or wrong for erotica, about whether it’s just straight pornography, and whether or not it’s a good thing that so much content is considered a good thing. I also wonder how publishers or book sellers – I’m not sure who makes the decision – classify some novels as erotica and others as mainstream romance.

I’ve been reading romance for a long time. I was also reading some erotica before it became popular in recent years. I still couldn’t tell you what the main differences are. Maybe romance is more story-driven and less sensual but that’s not entirely accurate. I don’t think I could consider that certain trilogy of novels as erotica. As I said, I’ve been reading romance and erotica for a long time and that set of books isn’t more erotic than a lot of mainstream romance that I’ve read.

Like I mentioned above, there does seem to be a lot of debate over whether these kinds of novels are considered just straight-up pornography. Uh, no. They’re not porn. Porn is all sex, no story to speak of, no character development, nothing but graphic depictions of sex in all it’s forms. Yes, I realize this is my opinion only and I’m sure there are more than a few people who would consider what I write to be porn. (It’s not!!)

I think some of the appeal for people reading and enjoying those three novels, as well as any of the other offerings out there currently, is that they don’t know or recognize all the different levels of eroticism or romance. To them, this is the height of titillation and they think they’re reading something that’s the first of it’s kind. It’s not. However, it is the first of it’s kind for those people reading.

I do find it interesting that people who might not read a lot, are reading these stories all of a sudden. I had lunch with a friend of mine this week and she’s never been a big reader. I’ve known her for ten years and don’t ever recall her talking about books with me but this week, she said she’d read that trilogy of novels.

So because all these people are reading these novels, and the myriad of books like them, they’re also discovering that it’s OK to explore their sensuality. I had a friend tell me that, while she’s not into the whole domination/submission phenomenon, she’s so happy that since reading these books, she’s been able to open up to her husband of almost eleven years. Not that she never shared with him before but she did tell me that reading those stories let her know that it was OK to say that she wanted something outside the norm with him. Since then, it’s opened up a whole new world for them. That’s a good thing. On the flip side, it’s a little worrying that people are trying things they read in these novels, assuming that the author was the authority on sub-dom situations. Before exploring certain aspects of the sex life, do your research!!

Moving on, while I’ve already admitted before that I didn’t enjoy that particular book myself, I’m enjoying the conversations and debates that it has brought up. I love the fact that more attention is being given to the entire romance genre – whether you view it as erotica or not – and I love how it’s opening up the market for so many talented authors who otherwise might have been dismissed because of the content of their novels. I have yet to be ‘discovered’ but then again, my writing isn’t as graphic or overtly sensual as a lot of the books that are considered hot right now. That’s OK. I like what I write and I am going to keep writing what I like. That’s just how I roll.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After

I find when I read something new, I spend some of the time while reading wondering how this book is going to end. I don’t mean reading a mystery and wondering whodunit. I mean, I wonder how this can reach a happy ending. Granted, sometimes I’m reading something that might come to a rather ambiguous and not necessarily happy ending, but there’s always a conclusion.

With romance though, the desired ending is pretty basic. I don’t wonder so much about the lead characters getting together in the end. That’s the formula. Do any romance novels deviate from the formula? Not often. Maybe they don’t end up with you think they do, but in the end there’s a couple together, having overcome some kind of adversity.

My question today is, why is the most requested ending always marriage and kids?

I realize that that is the course most relationships take but why is marriage and kids such a widely required happy ending? What if a couple doesn’t have the ability to conceive? What if same-sex marriages aren’t allowed where they live? What if a couple agrees that they just don’t want those things together? Does that automatically mean that they won’t be happy in life without those things?

I’m not knocking those people who make those decisions in life, and I’m not saying that I don’t necessarily want those things myself. I’m just questioning why so often a story or novel is considered incomplete without these things concluding the story. I’ve written a few romances, mostly short stories, and only once did I end a story with a marriage and a pregnancy. And one other time, I ended a short series with a marriage proposal. Only those two times did that feel like the right conclusion for a story.

In my other stories, I’ve ended with declarations of love, sometimes a desire to move in together, sometimes just a promise to be better together, with no long-term plans. Yet. Did any of those stories – if you’ve read them, and I’m assuming you have 🙂 – feel incomplete to you? And I don’t mean, did you wish there was more to the story or that you wish it just hadn’t ended. Did any of my stories feel incomplete to you?

With my longer story, “Breaking Through the Ice,” it was a slower build-up to the main leads even getting together. The entire story was longer than my other work but I still feel that I brought the characters to a sound conclusion. That doesn’t mean their story, or their lives, stops right where I stopped writing, but for me, that’s where the story ended. I had a few comments asking where the proposal was? When the wedding would be and when the children would arrive? It left me scratching my head. Did I miss the part where their relationship progressed to the point where they were ready for those kinds of decisions? I finished with mutual declarations of love and commitment. No, that’s not a proposal or even a request to live together. But that story would have been another ten chapters at least before I even got close to that point. 🙂

Maybe I’m just being nitpicky about comments. I shouldn’t complain or make it sound like I am. I love my readers and I enjoy that some people feel strongly enough about my work to want more. It just makes me wonder why some readers need to see those things like marriage proposals or pregnancies to feel that a romance is really finished.

Except it’s not finished at that point. A relationship doesn’t stop and ride off into the sunset after that milestone. Anyone in a marriage or long-term relationship, with or without children, will tell you that the story is always going on. Always growing, always morphing into something else.

Yes, I realize I deal in fiction. I know my creations aren’t real and I can take them in any direction I want to. But they are based in reality, are they not? Don’t you enjoy reading my work because there’s a touch – or more – of real life? I like to write them for that reason. Although, I’ll admit, writing about hockey players falling in love with regular women every day is a bit fantastical. 😉

I’m not saying that I’ll never write another story that ends with those things – marriage, promise of kids, etc. – but to me, I end the stories how I think they should end. If, at some point, the urge to continue the story for those couples hits me, I’ll continue with it. In fact, just to tease the hell out of all of you, I’ve just started a sequel to what was quite possibly my most popular and well-loved hockey romance. I haven’t written about these two in so long, I’d forgotten how much fun they are and how much I enjoyed writing their back-and-forth banter and chemistry. 😀 There. Have you figured it out? What I mean by telling you this, is that there are some stories that beg to be continued. If it feels right, I will continue them. I won’t just do it to satisfy the popular notion that every happy ending is the same.

The truth is, every happy ending is what you make of it. For my characters, as well. Sometimes, a couple gets married. Sometimes, they don’t. Some have kids, some adopt, some live without children all their lives. The only way to know if it’s a happy ending is to decide for yourself. For me, I’m still figuring it out. I’m happy right now but I’m not at the end of anything. 🙂 How about you?

Take care and happy reading.

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