Just pass it to Herod and his hairy shirt

That’s what I thought the cashier at Lidl said to me as I was packing up my bags. Most likely not, but my life has been rather confusing lately. I’ve had to battle on without my hearing aids, you see. And without them… it seems that I’m a rather crappy lipreader.

This comes as a competence shock, because I used to be excellent at it. Once upon a time, I could decipher the drunken mutterings of South Africans in dark corners at parties—even when they were elecutionally handicapped by slices of pizza.

But since Wednesday, it seems like all my skills have gone into hiding. Either that, or I’ve been dropped into a parallel universe in which everyone else suffers a particularly dire form of aphasia. It’s possible, I suppose; it could be global brain trauma caused by the loudness of my voice when I don’t have as much control over it. I don’t have an ‘inside voice’ at the best of times (unless ‘inside a rock venue’ counts).

The shock started on Thursday morning when I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast, and he assured me that all would be fine after the passing of the lime penguin.

I fetched him some Coco Pops, which appeared to come as a surprise, but was thankfully satisfactory nonetheless.  He was very good about my silence in the car (only a seven-minute drive in the car) and as I waved him off, he partly fondly with “elephant juice, bum.”

“I love you too,” I hazarded, and headed off to the co-op to sit in my car with my book until the traffic had calmed enough to drive home. There’s something extremely unsettling about driving with absolutely no noise. Anyway, I passed the day aid-free and problem-free, since I work from home. Picking little man up from school was a further challenge. I greeted him cheerfully as he exploded towards me from the rear door of his class as if fired from a cannon. He went from sprinting to stepping back rapidly. He wiggled his finger in his ear.

“Still no hearing aids, mummy?”

“’Fraid not.” I grimaced apologetically. “Sorry. Am I being loud, again?”

“A teeny-weeny bit,” he admitted. “If you could bring it down a little bit…”

I uttered my next words more normally.

“Well done, mummy. That’s less like the noise of a plane landing.”

“Pardon?”

“You sound less like a plane landing now,” he reassured me, slowly and clearly, with a helpfully-angled forearm in graceful descent.

“Yes…. That’s what I hoped you hadn’t said,” I muttered. Then I noted that he was wearing a sticker saying ‘Musical mention’, which was lovely and surprising, since he doesn’t play an instrument. “What did you get that for?” I asked.

“I dusted monkeys in the shadows of the cliffs.” He looked so proud.

I encouraged him to talk all the way back to the car, hoping that something he said would add context to those mysterious syllables, thus enabling me to unravel the true facts of the matter. I just got more and more lost as lions hopscotched up the curtains to the sound of violins. His story involved lots of arm-waving and not many gaps between words, and our journey to the parking of the Skoda was enlivened by my detour into a tree. This happens when you’re lip-reading. I still have a tender patch above my right eyebrow.

“…and we followed caterpillars into the valley of the damned just before lunch,” he concluded, stepping into the car.

I’m going to blame that last bit of lipreading ineptitude on my ash tree headbutt.

A couple of days on, my skills are coming back to life. Bas’ breakfast request was Marmite on toast, which was far more normal. But frankly, re-learning to lipread with no contextual sound at all is a bit like learning a new language by being dropped into the culture. I’m working out that to lipread successfully, I need to be aidless for at least four days, which is a rather long time to put up with the situation.

I think… the time has come to start thinking about learning sign-language properly, and getting my husband and son to do it with me. I can’t spend this much of my life following the caterpillars into the valley of the damned.

And no, I still have no clue what he’d actually said… though I did get a better gist of the story when he repeated it for his daddy.

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PMT + FedEx = Bad combination

At the moment, the world’s favourite ring-and-run service should be sighing a breath of relief. Why? Because I can’t phone and complain at them.  And if I had enough hearing to complain over the phone, I would add to my pre-existing complaints the fact they don’t allow complaints to be made online.

Let me walk you through this little cloud of dust I’ve kicked up by jumping up and down on the spot with indignant wrath.

My husband is expecting a package. It’s an important one. We were expecting delivery from today onwards. But what do I find at the delivery address? I find a Fedex failed-delivery card which has been stuck to the front door using a hastily-printed sticker. This sticker is itself a triumph of customer annoyance.

Firstly, it says ‘final attempt’ at delivery on it. Bollocks! I was at the delivery address the day before, and there was no hint of a note showing a previous attempt at delivery. I find that claim suspect at best. Secondly, it threatens to return the item to the sender unless we provide them with re-delivery instructions. But it doesn’t give a deadline for this. Thirdly, the ‘final attempt’ was made on friday afternoon, but their phone line for redeliveries is shut most of the weekend, as the delivery guys would’ve known when they stuck their grim-o-gram to my door.

Fourthly – yes, there’s more! – the sticker truncates the telephone number, chopping off the last couple of digits. Really helpful. So now I have to find them online and see if I can track down the last two digits on that sticker.  But… wait! Hope! There’s a little note, saying ‘cut wood in yard’. Could they have tucked the item in the pile of kindling under the veranda by the front door, I wonder? In hope, I check. No, nothing.  And that doesn’t make sense anyway; why print out a ‘final attempt’ sticker letting me know they hadn’t been able to deliver if they’ve left it in what they think is a safe place?

So, I think, ‘sod the sticker’. I turn over the card the sticker is stuck to, and spend a moment feeling foolish and relieved to find their redelivery website tracker address on the back. Aha! All is not lost. I take a deep breath and set up the laptop. Ommmm. I just got flooded with impatience hormones, that’s all.

I log in… to find that their package tracker is literally just a tracker.

Well, splendid. What a chocolate teapot of a site.

You can’t give them re-delivery instructions on this site, you can only note with chagrin that your package is lurking at the Camberley depot (which is *&%!!!! miles away) awaiting imminent return to its sender.  And of course, to give them actual re-delivery instructions, you can always call their helpline number.

I have managed to convey the situation to my other half, who will call first thing on Monday morning before they can do anything dastardly with the package.

In the meantime I’ll do some boxing and try not to take it personally that so many businesses just assume that people can use the phone.

Gah.

The magic of unpredictable words

There’s nothing like spending a few days with people whose first language isn’t English to remind you how bloody awkward English can be.  Especially colloquial English.

If a native says, in passing conversation, “see you at ten-ish,” they mean “see you at approximately ten o’clock. Not necessarily on the dot, but within ten minutes either side of it.”

My in-laws grasped this early.  So, while were watching some particularly silly spaghetti western and a stand-off ended prematurely (I didn’t quite grasp why—no subtitles), my mother-in-law queried why the bad guys were being so standoffish.

My first attempt to explain the meaning wasn’t particularly successful, partly because I was fighting a fit of the giggles.

I got a grip while back in the kitchen, giving dinner another stir.  I wasn’t laughing at her, you understand.  It was a perfectly reasonable question, based on faultless rationale. But I couldn’t rid myself of the mental image of a group of hard men unfolding themselves from behind their various barrels and doorways with a collective, “fellas, I ain’t in the mood for this siegin’ bullcrap today. Let’s skin out.”

My second attempt was more successful. Being Dutch, they’re familiar with the word ‘Amish’ and they know that it does not mean ‘very much like an arm.’  I think I finally managed to demonstrate ‘standoffish’ with varied contrasting pictures of cats and dogs.

So, colloquial English can be sticky, but it can also be wonderful for evolution. I’d quite like to introduce the following couple of words into wider use:

  • GRIVING: A motional verb combining grimacing and jiving, most commonly performed by those wearing brand new shoes. You will find grivers out in force at any wedding or graduation ceremony.
  • URMERING: Speech verb. Urmering is very much like murmuring, but louder, and typically the result of someone being drunk. If you’re lip-reading, you know someone is urmering and not murmuring because when someone’s had a few too many, their consonants tend to go missing.

Please share the post 😊  And if you do, add words of your own creation to the list. That would be fun.

Author Spotlight: Belinda LaPage

As some of you may know, I’m a member (and currently Editor in Chief) of the Erotica Readers and Writers’ Association (ERWA) Storytime list, where people email their work for enjoyment and feedback from others who like a steamy tale.  If you’re interested, the subscription link is at the bottom of this interview.

Belinda joined Storytime as a member in April last year, and rapidly proved herself to be an excellent writer, generous provider of critiques, and to have a wicked sense of humour. I think she’d been a member for all of four months when I made the kitten eyes at her and persuaded her to join the Storytime editorial team. So now, when she’s not writing and marketing, and not helping others to improve their craft, she’s keeping a beady eye out for really good stories to put in the ERWA gallery (with the writers’ permission, of course).

So – here’s the low-down on Belinda, who is absolutely one of my favourite contemporary erotica writers.

Now, many a time I’ve heard you describe yourself as a relative ‘noob’ where this writing malarkey is concerned.  Do you mean that you’re fairly new to the joy of story-telling, or fairly new to the business of actually selling your stories?

I’m so new, I’m still picking bits of shrink-wrap out of places best not discussed in polite company. If you go to Smashwords, you’ll find my very first erotica, The Headmaster’s Office, published August 1st 2013. I wrote that story in June or July, and it was the first fiction I’ve written since school.

I published on Smashwords and some other free platforms for a couple of years, and then the lovely Phillippa from Uruk Press lured me blinking and stumbling into the glittering world of paid erotica.

You mean folks pay to read about people fucking?

Who knew? I wrote a short ancient world piece inspired by movies like Troy, and Uruk released it in Sex & Sorcery Vol 1 in August 2015.

So there you have it. Nearly four years writing fiction. Almost two selling them. Me = N00b.

 

Do you keep the majority of your stories based in Australia, or make the settings relatively generic?

I mix it up. Some stories have a distinctly Australian flavour, with recognisable places and landmarks that are deeply woven into the story. My favourite would be Goodbye, Miss Granger, which featured a day-trip to Manly on the iconic Manly ferry.

Most of the others are generic locations that could be anywhere, and most of my action happens indoors, so that helps. Broken Vows is a good example. I think the only thing that puts it in Sydney is a mention of how the buses work.

I don’t deliberately aim to set them all here. I’m really just lazy, and it’s hard to write convincing locations I’m not familiar with.

 

I know the feeling. London and West Sussex make startlingly frequent appearances in my stories…

One of the stand-out features of your latest book, Broken Vows, is the ab-crunching humour weaved throughout.  It’s not often that I get to spend half my reading time giggling, and the other half fanning myself.  Without thinking about it too long – can you name your top seven favourite comic influences?

Seven? Lordy, I don’t think I have that many. I do love comedy, though. Let me give you a sampler, and skip to the next question when you get bored.

For TV: I enjoy the irony woven into The Simpsons. I love that it’s something you can watch and re-watch throughout your childhood and get something new from it each time. “I WILL NOT WASTE CHALK” x100. Gold, I tell you!

For audio: As a card-carrying geek, I’m privileged to enjoy the comic genius of Monty Python, which I’ll happily recite verbatim with any other Python geek passing nearby. “HE’S NOT THE MESSIAH. HE’S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY!”

I’ll bite: “Nobody is to stone anybody until I blow this whistle!” [I’ve used this as chairwoman in hostile meetings before. It’s quite an effective ice-breaker…]

For prose: Anything Douglas Adams, may he rest in peace. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy for sheer frippery– “Joo Janta 2000 Super Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses … follow the principle ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you’ and turn completely dark and opaque at the first sign of danger” –but for pure comic writing genius, I love Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. It was this book that first piqued my interest in writing fiction, trying to imagine how an author can weave all those stray threads into a cohesive whole that ties up in a neat bow at the end. I still don’t know how he did it.

I’ll look out for that. I see that a series has appeared on Netflix, too!

For film: The Castle, and indeed anything by the gang from Working Dog. They’re the very definition of Aussie humour. “Jousting sticks? How much does he want for them? // $450 // $450? Tell ‘im he’s dreaming.”

 

Which of your stories seemed to write itself most rapidly?

Oh, definitely the first one, The Headmaster’s Office. 10K words, and it just fell out of me in about three writing sessions. Everything since has felt like a 3-day labour, although each one has its little sprints in the middle.

 

Do you have a special writing ‘place’ or do you put your muse into a headlock wherever you happen to be?

I write mainly at lunchtime (such as right now!), so I do a lot of work in the type of cafes that don’t mind you sitting around for an hour without ordering much.

It’s hard to write a whole story in one-hour snatches though, so I generally fit in the occasional longer session on the weekend. Especially useful to bash through a tough scene.

I use an ultrabook laptop and can write just about anywhere. My only real requirement is relative screen-privacy. I get embarrassed by the idea of someone looking over my shoulder and reading the smut that pours from my fingertips.

 

How do you handle writer’s block? Or are you one of those peculiar souls who just don’t seem to get afflicted by it?

I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. Not having my livelihood depend on writing probably plays a big part. I do love to sell a story, but I’m not (yet) so serious about it that I let it drive my writing. I think that helps. It means I can write the stories that interest me. Sadly, it does limit my audience when nobody else is turned on by semi-reformed stoners and naïve nuns.

 

I wouldn’t say that – your semi-reformed stoner is hugely endearing 😉  But, conversely, how do you cope with a glut of ideas? Do you round up those plot bunnies and play with them one at a time (like a strict, self-disciplined soul) or do you flit between projects as the mood takes you?

It was awful until I created my Ideas Folder, which is just a Word document full of story ideas. I used to let one new idea interrupt another. While I was writing Goodbye, Miss Granger, I knocked out two more short stories in the process. It was the same for the other long stories I wrote in those first two years.

Now, when my muse insists, I just take a few hours off and add a plot summary to the ideas folder. That usually cools her jets and lets me get on with finishing a project.

 

Legend says that you have a talent for buying entirely the wrong shoes. I don’t know if you’ve ever come across the word, but ‘griving’ is a motional verb, describing the movement of someone walking in brand new shoes. It combines grimacing and jiving.  How much of your life do you reckon you spend griving?

Not enough!!! Mangled, mis-shapen feet are a badge of honour—a sign of ultimate opulence. A woman who can both afford and tolerate that kind of permanent pain is not to be trifled with. Those bulging bunions and twisted toes are like tigers’ piss for marking your territory. See these feet? I’m the alpha-bitch around here, Toots, and don’t you forget it. <hobbles back to her lair>

 

That’s me told! I’m a wimp – I live in trainers, you see. Which of the following super-powers would you want

  1. Telekinesis
  2. Flight
  3. Spontaneous, superbly effective marketing?

Well clearly, spontaneous and superbly effective marketing. Marketing is a constant drain on my writing, but the only thing worse for a writer is obscurity. Every story that bombs is a little piece of my heart, so I do what I can to send them into the world with the best chance of survival.

Telekinesis? To move heavy stuff? Isn’t that what a man is for? And flight? If it comes with weightlessness, then maybe. But have you seen those birds with shitty wing-to-body-weight ratios like pelicans and puffins? Screw that. I’ll walk.

Realistically though. I’d take invisibility. For obvious reasons and comic consequences.

 

Finally, tell us about Broken Vows in your own words, and hit us with the buy links 😊

Well Sam, I’m glad you asked, but I can do better than that. I’ve got a free audiobook chapter, exclusive to your readers (haven’t even released this to my own mailing list yet). Read on.

Yay!

The original title was Sisters of Grace Sperm Bank, which give you the title and synopsis in one neat package.

I don’t quite remember how the idea came about. I’ve rounded up a few plot bunnies from the Literotica Story Ideas board, but I don’t think this was one of them. To the best of my knowledge, the idea just presented to me: what if a sperm bank offered “full service” collection? The obvious question, though—why? Possibly as a sneaky work-around for prostitution laws? Or … OR! What if, right? What if it’s the nuns trying to get men to stop masturbating, because it’s a sin?

The rest writes itself, pretty much.

Mother Mary Benedicta was maybe the most fun I’ve had with a character. (Yer not a Presbyterian, are ye? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I do love a good comic-relief bit-part.

So we have a wanker, a pretty nun, and a bit of awkward fun that goes further than either of them imagined. No problem so far. The only bit I struggled with was tying up the story with a satisfying resolution. Sending a guy to a nun-run sperm bank has a pretty obvious outcome, so I needed something to step it up from the levels of stroke-book to a hopefully fulfilling story-line. God came to the rescue—almost literally. I do hope readers enjoy the result.

Broken Vows. It’s out now on Amazon for just $2.99 // £1.99 // $0 Kindle Unlimited. Try before you buy? Listen in to the Free Audiobook Chapter on my web site, courtesy of my treacle-lipped narrator, Nikki. Tip: You might want to use headphones … and for the gentlemen, tissues.

* * * *

Belinda LaPage lives and works in Sydney, Australia. She loves scorching erotica about adventurous, curious women in new situations. Her first time (and his first time!) are favourites, but exciting new experiences like F/F discovery and beginners light bondage are a big turn on. In Belinda’s world, safety is never an issue; most of all she loves her heroine’s first experience of the explosive heat that floods her core when he finishes inside. Find her on the Web, Twitter, or grab a hot, sexy read on Amazon.

A vital advance in parenting techniques…

Yoda_meme

Even if I don’t hear very much of it, I like putting music on in the car. It takes my mind off the sheer vertigo-induced terror at having to do corners at more than twenty miles an hour. Because my son gets a bit fed up with my ancient CD selections, he’ll move fast to switch the media player to radio. At least with the radio, he thinks, there’s little chance of me recognising the song and drowning it out by talking about it.

This morning’s musical joy was a blast of Bond just as I was pulling off the terrifying roundabout by our estate. The orchestral stirrings of the Spectre theme (Writing’s on the wall by Sam Smith) filled the car. I remember the words, rhythm and pace of that song quite well. My higher-pitch hearing was a lot better last year, enabling me to enjoy even the helium-laden chorus.

When a song is particularly anthemic, I find it quite hard not to join in. Seb knows this. Still, I limited my audience participation to mouthing along. Enthusiastically, yes, and I’m sure that passing motorists suspected me of shouting at my passenger, but I was definitely mouthing. I might not always know when I’ve gone into Lady Loudsounds mode, but I do know when I’m not making any noise at all.

Yet, despite my sweet-natured, silent compliance, I could feel the glances of trepidation and suspicion coming from Seb’s side of the car as the song worked towards the rather operatic bridge. I refrained from roaring ‘will you break my fall’, and I wasn’t even going to try to squeak ‘how do I live? How do I breathe…(etc)’, but clearly Seb saw my air intake as a warning sign and bellowed “DON’T!!” at me sharply enough for me to jump and over-correct my steering.

Once at the traffic lights, I was able to take my eyes off the road so that we could argue. I fumed at him for startling the pants off me. He bickered at me for darkening his day by singing.

“I didn’t sing.”

“You very nearly did,” he protested. “I could see you brimming.”

“Brimming!?”

“Yeah, you get this really earnest look just before you shout right off-pitch. If you weren’t driving you’d be flinging your arms out right now, and making horrid noises. It’s so embarrassing!”

“It’s not my fault I can’t sing in pitch!”

He laid a soothing hand on my elbow, his face all apology. “I know, mummy. It’s a stinky deaf-thing and I know you want to be able to sing.”

“Hmph.” Still stung but slightly mollified, I pulled up outside the school gates, popped the handbrake on and leant over for a kiss before he got out.**  I grinned at him, trying to regain the amicable tone of our communications before he left for the day. “You really hate my singing, then?”

“Ah… um… don’t back me into a corner, mum.” He kissed me and legged it for the safety of school.

That’s a “yes,” if I ever heard one!  I was too deflated on the way back home even to howl along to Total Eclipse of the Heart. His harsh views hardly came as a shock—I sing alone for a reason—but it wasn’t fun to be reminded of my total inability to keep tune.

 

Once home and full of coffee, something struck me. My son has handed me a GIFT. There’s this old saying that when life hands you lemons, you should slice them into your gin. I can weaponise my singing! If he perpetually refuses to take his plate into the kitchen, or to do his homework, with just a few prods on my iPhone, I can bring Sam Smith forth on iTunes and inhale meaningfully. If he won’t come in from the playground, I can take my Bluetooth speaker out there, and fill the air with the terrifying first chords of Nessun Dorma. I can treat him to La Boheme if he won’t get out of the bath.

I feel hopeful and refreshed, like I’ve been given a brand new toy full of crispy-cold Prosecco. Let the games begin.

That said, let’s hope he doesn’t push me to ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’m not sure the world’s ready for that.

 

** his school has a drive-by system of flinging the kids out in the morning, which is rather convenient. Parents drive in one direction around the neighbouring residential streets, and stop only briefly to allow our kids to disembark in the presence of a teacher.

 

Supporting the Russian LGBT Network in Chechnya

A few weeks ago, I started seeing dreadful news coming out of Chechnya about gay men—and men suspected of being gay—being rounded up and taken to camps, out of the general populace. That, I felt was shocking enough. And then we start hearing that these men, dragged from their homes and their lives, are being beaten and tortured with electricity. I was horrified; how could humanity possibly wind back seventy years? At the last, most reliable count (discussed in Parliament on 20th April), there had been at least 100 men wounded within this regime, and at least four killed as ‘state-sanctioned’ deaths.

As May rolled in, the situation became bleaker still. There are now reports are of families being pressured to hand their own sons, brothers and cousins over to the authorities under threat of punishment if they continue to shield them. A third, apparently acceptable option, is honour-killing.

The situation is anachronistic and sickening.

The better news is that the Russian LGBT network has been working to evacuate people from the country, and they’ve been effective in doing so; at last count, 40 men have been removed from danger. But there’s a limit to what the Russian LGBT network can achieve without help.

I found myself feeling rather useless in this situation beyond sharing appeal notices on Facebook. Others have not been sitting around, wringing their hands, however. And thank goodness for that! Writers Olivia Helling and Dale Cameron Lowry have been vigorously active in finding ways of helping people to contribute to the Russian LGBT network. They’ve made a direct donations line accessible. Olivia set up an online auction, which Dale has been slaving over to make the admin as easy as possible for people. I’m full of admiration for their commitment and compassion, so that’s why today’s blog is about how to help this cause.

To learn more about the situation in Chechnya — including news updates and how to make a direct donation to a designated charity — visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens

 

How can book-lovers help?

 

How can authors, publishers and artists help?

If you’re an author or artist who would like help out, please sign up at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions about royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping LGBT Chechens, and more.

 

If you want to donate directly (or sign a petition/make your voice heard)

This page on Dale’s site has the best collection of support resources, all in one place:

https://dalecameronlowry.com/lgbt-chechnya/

 

Author Spotlight… Meg Amor

 

In between updates on my writing and little articles about life’s daily challenges, I’ll be hosting wee interviews with some of my fellow authors.

Now, just to be upfront about this, a very large proportion of these authors write adult fiction. And by ‘adult’ I do indeed mean that this is the kind of fiction you read alone, with the bedroom door locked. While the interviews are PG-rated, it’s all 18+ once you’ve hit the ‘buy’ links at the bottom of this article.

If erotica’s not your thing, then don’t click the links.

Now, with that said… please welcome Meg Amor!

Your environmental descriptions are just gorgeous and totally soul-consuming. If I spend a fortune I don’t have to buy a holiday in Hawaii, it’ll be all your fault. Since Hawaiian Lei, I’ve had a craving to visit. Would you mind sharing a little about your personal connection to Hawaii?

Aloha!! And thank you, mahalo, for having me and loving my descriptions. I love the Hawaiian Islands, they’ve become part of who I am as a person. Sorry, about the holiday!! LOL. But you’ll love it when you get there. I promise. And I know all the best places to go. Never mind a guidebook, just take my Hawaiians series on your Kindle. 😊

An excellent plan. I don’t like guidebooks, anyway. They’re always written by disappointed people, as shown through the selection of ‘vital language’ in the phrasebook section: “My wallet has been stolen.” “There are many dogs, and they are all smelly.” “Where’s the US Embassy?” etc. Kindle it is.

I love showcasing the islands in my books. I’ve been in love with the Hawaiian Islands since I was nine-years-old. Mum went on a world trip with her dad and bought me all these fabulous dollies from around the world back. But the one I treasured the most was a wee plastic hula dolly, with her jet-black, long hair, her ‘grass’ skirt and flower lei. The islands captured my imagination. And, being a Kiwi, I’m always essentially an islander.

I grew up in the cold South Island of New Zealand. The South Seas have always held my imagination and I’m sure we’ve got some pirate in there too actually. The aloha spirit is largely who I am as a person, so Hawai’i and the tropics call to my soul. It’s my American home state. The first place I landed in the US was Hawai’i, in O’ahu. Then we flew out to the Big Island for a holiday. I returned there to live and got my citizenship over in the courthouse at Hilo.

I’m so jealous. Jealous, jealous jealous…

I’m temporarily living on the Mainland in the States at the moment, and being too far from the water makes me feel antsy and claustrophobic.

Okay, now I’m slightly less jealous. I know what it is to be homesick!

When I’m home on the Big Island, I live in Kona and it’s the place I’m most at home in the world. My soul is fed. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. I fit there. I belong.

I still have my Kiwi accent and it’s fairly strong but when I’m home in Hawai’i, people assume I’m a local. It’s fascinating to me. But I’m very accepted there. It’s home.

 

And that totally comes through in the writing. But it’s not just the topography that gets me about your series. I can’t get through three chapters without wanting to stuff my face with food. Are you part of a cunning, secret conspiracy to make readers feel snackish?

Yes, and to send me threatening letters from their Weight Watchers class! LOL.

I’m convinced it’s a Kiwi thing. Jacqui Greaves has that effect on me, too…

Actually, I love good food. One of my great pleasures in life is dining out. Part of my travels are always about the food. They’re part of my memories. I still salivate over a mushroom soup I had nearly 35 years ago in Singapore. It was out of this world.

My mum was like that too. She went to Europe in 1972 when I was 9 and came back with amazing stories of Europe. We come from a family of Irish senachies (storytellers) and she’d tell us about amazing food she’d eaten. And decided that we kids would learn to eat at restaurants and know how to behave like the European children did.

Depends on which bit of Europe you’re talking about 😃 Some parts are more refined than others.

So we started going out once a week. Now back in NZ in the day, this was a rare thing. Children did not go to restaurants much with their parents in general. It was for adults, so this was the height of sophistication as far as I was concerned. And I loved it. It became one of my great loves.

I’ll happily eat at a restaurant by myself. But god help you if you take away my plate when there is still sauce on it. I might just stab you with a fork (until I’ve licked the plate clean) then you can take it away.

I approve. I always have my waiter-repelling fork at the ready

France for me is one of the most divine places in the world because of the beautiful alcohol, butter, and cream sauces. And I do have French heritage on my mum’s side as well, so it isn’t too surprising, but to me, sitting down at a table and eating, drinking, and talking for hours is one of life’s greatest pleasures. 😊

I love to try food from books I’ve read. And I’ve had readers who tell me they tried things because they read about them in one of my books. I think that’s terrific.

 

Do you have a favourite TV chef?

I have a few actually. 😊 These are such interesting questions! Thank you. I love to cook Gordon Ramsey’s food and think he’s an interesting man. I enjoyed his make-over kitchen programs. He can be very sweet with people and very straight up and I like that. I don’t watch his own cooking shows though. He drives me nuts. LOL.

LOVE Nigella Lawson. She’s darling, sexy, very interesting, and can cook yummy food.

Of the American chefs, I love Bobby Flay, his recipes and cooking style. His taste buds and mine match.

And I’m a huge fan of Master Chef, the British version. 😊 I love most cooking programs actually.

 

Your book boys seem to have unfailing powers for successful outdoor cooking. Have you ever had a profoundly unsuccessful luau (barbecue?) what went wrong?

LOL. Yes, I have been to one but never made one myself. In New Zealand, we do something similar to a luau called a hangi, a native New Zealand Maori do. And I once went to one out in the wop-wops, and the local cow cockies thought he’d put down a hangi. Well. Yeah… ish!

It wasn’t quite hot enough. You have to let the stones heat for hours. I actually write about one in Hawaiian Ginger. And then make sure you let the food cook long enough. So, it takes all day basically. The guy who put it down took a few short-cuts on the time and it was… Ugh… I shudder just thinking about it. It was greasy, ashy, and tasted disgusting!!

Grim!

A good hangi is really yummy. Smoky, melt in your mouth meat, root vegetables. Lovely. But to be perfectly Francis with you, I’ve never had a decent one that wasn’t put down by a Maori.

When I was a wee kid, we lived on a Maori Pa and boy, did we have GOOD hangi’s there. It was an all-day event, and they’d be Maori songs and dances. And I got to dance in one with my wee flax headband around my then super blond hair and pale, white skin among the gorgeous brown-skinned Maori kids, making an awful hash of the swinging pois. The ‘uncles’ made me an incredibly cool beer tab belt for my dress.

I would love to see that!

I think that’s partly why I’ve always felt very at home among Polynesian cultures. I’m drawn to the community and easy-going nature of Polynesian life.

 

This leads me rather conveniently to one of the chief pleasures of reading your books: your very sexy cast of some very laid-back men, like Beau and Rob. And the slightly less chilled fellas. Mattie, for example, has had my ovaries exploding from the first in the series, and in the third instalment, Danny’s passion has made my eyes water. When did Danny first come to life in your imagination?

LOL. Ohhh, thank you. 😊 I love my characters. They all capture me on different levels. Danny is one of the “lost boys” who were introduced in Hawaiian Orchid that Kulani hanais—which means informal adoption in Hawaiian culture. They were all kicked out of home for being gay and Kulani slowly took them in and gave them a place to belong.

Danny just popped up as my characters often do. And he had such a strong personality right from the start. I probably know Danny the best out of all the boys. He was so vulnerable, angry, and hurt, but he’s also intelligent. I knew Danny emotionally. And he does grow and heal through things that happen. My muse for him was the very beautiful, inside and out, French/Vietnamese/Senegalese model Willy Cartier.

WCartier_Danny
Willy Cartier: a marvellous muse

Watching Danny grow and become a young adult man has been amazing. He’s come from this pain in the arse, aggressive kid to a really nice, strong but vulnerable and emotionally more mature, whole man.

 

I’ve so enjoyed watching the growing bromance between Danny and his ohana brother Zane, particularly as they initially irritated the living daylights out of each other. Did you have it in your mind from the early stages that they would become close, or did their growing closeness take even you by surprise?

No. It took me completely by surprise. I never thought in a million years these two would become attracted to each other. I initially resisted this turn of events but you have to go with what your characters want. There comes a point in any book where you’re not really writing it anymore. The characters are just telling you their story. Your job is to get it down. So it was fascinating to me to watch Danny fight with his attraction to Zane. Because God knows, he and Zane used to butt heads all the time. They were shocking.

And they seem really different. But underneath, they’re emotionally very similar and that’s where we really connect to people at the heart of a good relationship. When you emotionally get someone and they get you—that’s golden. And rare.

 

What or who were your inspirations as Zane came to life? It’s so nice to see a profoundly deaf character taking on a significant role where deafness is just one aspect of their being, and not the centre of a plot construction showing how or why people become deaf!

Actually, you were, Sam! Seriously. You helped me enormously with getting Zane right. And any boo-boos I’ve made are my own.

Gone all pink and blushy!

Also, when I first started writing it, they had a deaf model on Dancing with the Stars who was trying to win the dance competition.

Oh! Nyle DiMarco? Yes, familiar with him. A good role model and hot as heck.

And I thought, how amazing, I’m just writing about a deaf dancer. And he was fascinating. People amaze me with what they can do.

Agreed. And I think it was a good move for them to silence the music for a few bars in one of his performances to show what he could hear of the score – nothing!

It’s not the first time I’ve written a deaf character but the first time I’ve had them as a central character. Throughout my life, I’ve had a number of friends who had various abilities that were limited in some way. And I’ve always admired them enormously for their courage, the way they did things despite obstacles at times. I found this incredibly inspirational.

I had a friend Janet in Australia who was severely deaf and had never had hearing aids. Nothing stopped her. It would take me about half an hour to get used to her speech pattern, then we were away talking up a storm. Our mutual friend Mikey (Michele Michael Rakes) is also hearing impaired. And another friend of ours is badly dyslexic and nearly gave up being a writer because of it. And people were so rude to her about the dyslexia. It made my blood boil. I thought, “screw you people. I will edit for you. You will become the writer you want to be.” She just sold over a thousand books in the last month under one of her pen names. I’m so proud of her for not giving up. As she says, “I write in Russian. I just can’t read it.” But she kept going, despite the hard time people gave her.

Good to hear it!

I went to an alternative high school and there were a few kids who were dyslexic. I got to see first-hand how things worked for them and their frustrations at times. I also had a friend who couldn’t read and write. He’d slipped through the system somewhere. But he had the most incredibly intelligent strategies for doing things: he’d shop by colors on boxes, pictures, size of letters, length of words for food products. He’d get stuffed up if they changed a box design. But he had this unbelievable amount of things memorized. And he was shopping for a stereo once and I asked him how he decided. He basically took a picture in his mind of the unit he’d been looking at, then copied the price numbers onto some paper. This is how he knew which one was which. I now suspect he was also dyslexic in some way. But it was incredibly frustrating for him at times and I felt for him enormously. I also admired him so much.

I was an odd kid growing up and I suspect that other people’s differences made me feel slightly less odd. Perhaps too, because my parents brought me up to see differences are something special in people. I spent six weeks in a burns unit as an eleven-month-old. I was walking at eleven months and poured boiling hot black coffee down my arm.

Ow. Ow ow ow. OWWWWW

Mum got me under cold water which saved my arm probably but I always had a big scar on it. But my parents were wonderful. I grew up thinking that was pretty cool and I was a bit special because I had this scar. LOL. So I think I always saw things that other people had that might have set them apart as slightly on the extremely cool side too. 😊

I imagine it’s an extremely impressive war wound! That’s one way to look at things, I suppose!

I also had a couple of friends who were thalidomide babies and were missing parts of limbs. One painted and wrote with her feet. How incredible! People inspire me that you might think are impaired in some way but they achieve fantastic things.

I see people’s prejudices I suppose on so many levels, about so many things, and there’s always a part of me that wants to show the world that underneath it all—we’re all just humans, needing love, attention, friendship, understanding, support, and to be treated with respect.

 

Right, we can’t say too much about your books because there’s serious danger of one of us inadvertently leaking spoilers, given the number of twists and turns. I’m not one for spoilers – even my Amazon reviews are mysterious. So, a writerly question: what are your top five tips for getting around the dreaded writer’s block?

Right. Just putting on my asbestos suit and locking myself in the Anderson shelter before I answer this one.

I don’t get writer’s block. Or very rarely.

What!? Begone, you prolific pariah, you! Actually, don’t go — Explain!

If I do, it’s because I’m trying to get my characters to do something they don’t want to do. And they just dig their toes in. I tried to make Kulani and Rob have a lovely romantic luxury weekend at Huka Lodge near Taupo in New Zealand in Hawaiian Orchid, and it was a bitch of a thing to write. It just would not roll. It sounded weird, boring, dull, stilted etc.

I sat back and thought, what is going on with this scene? I thought, they just want to go home to Hawai’i. But, but… I protested. I’m trying to give you this fabulous weekend, you wee ungrateful sods. I’d KILL to stay at Huka Lodge. Come on guys! It’s gorgeous. The food is out of this world.

I finally gave up, put them on the next plane to Hawai’i, and found them superb accommodation on O’ahu’s North Shore instead. LOL. And then the story just flowed. So…

  1. Listen to your characters. You might want to give them something special but if they just want bacon and eggs instead of a five-star dining experience—let them.
  2. I don’t write from start to finish. I write as the ‘hot’ scenes come up. And I don’t mean the sexual ones. The hot scenes are ones that are running hot in my head. And I literally am just taking dictation from my characters, typing like mad to get them down. If I get stuck on a scene, I just move on to another one. Cut and paste is my friend. I also don’t start at the start of the scene. I start from where it’s running fast and hot and get it down. Then go back and ‘fill’ in the lead up and wind down bits.
  3. I often write more than one book at once, so if one isn’t flowing or inspiration has gone to the Bahamas (my muses are on first name basis with EVERYONE in the whole of the Bahamas), then I can just switch to another story.
  4. I don’t write in a set time frame. i.e. From 8pm at night to 2am. I write when it comes to me. I get my best work this way and I don’t get blocked and waste time. I don’t write every day either. I write when I’m running ‘hot’ and then the words just fly onto the screen. Saves a lot of time and rewrites.
  5. And then if all else fails, I edit. Eventually, I’ll feel ‘pushed’ by the muses to write something or while I’m editing my work, something will pop in and off I’ll go again. I also edit for other people. It all helps to keep me unblocked and rolling.

That’s good advice. I do sometimes feel hammered by people who say ‘write at the same time every day, so your muse knows when to show up’. Well, they’ve not met my muse, who has a serious punctuality problem.

 Right, about you – I sense your love for animals. I’m betting you have fur-kids…

LOL. I do. I have a 21-year-old ginger and white, short haired tabby called Mr. Leo Ray Jr. He’s an American and has travelled all over the world with me. Leo is fighting fit for his age—literally. Even now, every couple of weeks, he still boxes Bob (one of the yard cats) round the ears, and anyone else silly enough to get in the way. And he usually wins. He’s on thyroid meds and he could do with a pair of glasses but otherwise, he’s going well.

I also had another huge ginger and white boy called Mr. Beaumont who is memorialized in Hawaiian Ginger and yes, he really did do all those things.

Having been lucky enough to see early drafts of Hawaiian Ginger, I can testify to ‘Beau’ being an utter pest, lol. Gave me the giggles!

He was a complete terror but I loved him. He was my lumberjack cat, whereas my Leo is my scholarly gentleman puss, who thinks when I call him a cat, I’m being funny. Not that he has a sense of humor. It’s decidedly lacking! He’s my gourmet puss and has a great love of Thai food or anything Asian. Beau-Beau had American taste buds but did like Mexican food.

I grew up with a lot of animals. We had a real menagerie: rabbits, guinea pigs, black and white cats all called Puss-in-Boots when I was younger, Siamese when I was older, and one magpie who was brutal to dad but would let me feed him thing with my bare hands. Also, we often had a boxer dog which are completely mad but a lot of fun.

But I love my cats, they’re my kids. I can’t abide men who don’t like cats. So if you don’t hit it off with Leo, there’s the door. Au revoir.

 

A reasonable philosophy! So -cats have the power of nine lives, they say. If you could have super power, what would it be?

Teleporting, so I could travel all over the place whenever I wanted. Although, I’d miss the airline meals. Seriously, I do enjoy those. All these little individual servings of things. You get a bit of everything. That’s why when I go to a restaurant, I usually order all appetizers, so I get a taste of several things.

Lol yeah, it’s like a secret, guilty pleasure, isn’t it?

And if I could teleport, then I could pop into France for decent crispy croissants and baguettes. Or a good tarte fraise. Or have a lovely potato and bacon soup in Ireland. Or I could pop in and see you, and have a full English breakfast in England. I could nip down to NZ and see my family and best friend down there. When I got a craving for fish and chips cooked in pure fat, I’d just whizz into Christchurch where I’m from. Imagine how convenient this would be!!

 

It’s a good power to have. I know many a parent with children at different schools who could do with that particular ability during the school run… and finally, I want the recipe for mac salad, please. I’ve seen it mentioned in many a place and I’m aching to try it, even if I can’t go to Hawaii.

And see, even here. This teleporting would be so handy. I could pop in to Matsu’s on the highway on the BI (Big Island) and grab you some mac salad, then nip over to you in England, drop it off. Stay for a cuppa or a glass of wine or three, and be home in time to give Leo his thyroid meds and be in my own bed at night. Failing that, I’ll just give you a recipe for now. 😊

Everyone has their own version they swear by, but this is close to the stuff I get at home. Although I also like to add tuna and cooked peas to mine and no onion. It’s very creamy, don’t skimp on the mayo. 😊 Yummm.

Ingredients

  • 1 (1 lb.) box macaroni
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 c. onion, shredded (optional)
  • 2 1/2 c. Best Foods (or Hellman’s) mayonnaise… no substitutes!
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • kosher salt & pepper, to taste
  • Add tuna and/or peas if desired.

Instructions

  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well and place macaroni in a large bowl.
  • While macaroni is still hot, sprinkle on vinegar and add carrot and onion. Toss together until well combined. Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes.
  • In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together mayo, milk, and sugar.
  • Fold mayo mixture into the macaroni until all the noodles are evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (best if overnight). Gently stir before serving (adding a little more milk if needed, no more than a Tbsp. or two).
Mac salad authentic
Easy ways to improve your mayo consumption #23

Then…and this is the important bit. Try not to eat it all in one sitting. LOL.

I think that would last me about six weeks, lol!! But thank you. And I will try that out this weekend!

Thanks very much for being my guest! Now… about those lovely books:

 

Hawaiian Fragrance

Book 3 in the series (RELEASING 2nd May)

http://www.loose-id.com/the-hawaiians-3-hawaiian-fragrance.html

 

Danny’s a fourth-generation Big Islander, from the wealthy Lucerno ranching family. He’s gorgeous—a mix of Portuguese male and Argentine passion, all dark haired, smoldering sensuality. His family disowned him for being gay, now he’s part of the Masterson-Mahikoa “lost boys” family.

When he meets the wealthy, sophisticated, sensuous Brazilian, Paolo Bastini, he’s swept off his feet into a glitzy Las Vegas lifestyle of money, and luxury—the world he grew up in. But it takes Danny away from Hawai’i where his soul roams free and his family live. He struggles as Paolo plays loosely with their partnership and thinks Danny is being “a baby” for wanting a monogamous relationship. And who is this past lover firmly wedged in Paolo’s heart?

Zane is severely deaf—finding new dance partners is hard. When he loses another one, Danny steps in to dance the tango competitions with him. Jealousy flares and things reach dangerous levels between Paolo and Danny. His adopted and birth family must bond together in a daring rescue of Danny from the depths of Brazil.

But he’s not completely out of danger. Now he’s fighting an attraction to the feminine Zane who’s always annoyed him. Which man has his heart?

 

Hawaiian Orchid

(Best Contemporary Gay Romance ~ Rainbow Awards 2016 ~ Runner-up), second in series

MA_HawaiianOrchid

Kulani Mahikoa is “The Orchid,” a young, insecure, pro surfer from a rough background on the Big Island of Hawai’i. He’s Beau Toyama’s cousin from Hawaiian Lei and a healer with a heart as deep as the ocean he’s part of. Like many of the great Hawaiians, Kulani epitomizes the spirit of aloha and love. Kulani’s healing his own wounds, and “The Lost Boys”, the young, homeless abandoned and abused gay boys he cares for.

He meets the lone and lonely New Zealand widower, Rob Masterson–a wounded psychologist who’s trying to come to terms with his husband’s death. When he died, they were separated but still living together. Rob needs to reconcile all the pieces of guilt and love to heal before he can fall in love again.

The age difference raises one barrier, and besides that, Kulani has more layers than Rob–with his own New Zealand heritage and tangled knot of emotion–ever bargained for. Traveling between the South Sea Islands of beautiful New Zealand and the exotic Hawaiian Islands, they forge a bond–two wounded men find a home for their shrapnel-laced souls.

Buy link on AMAZON

Publisher link: http://www.loose-id.com/the-hawaiians-2-hawaiian-orchid.html

 

The first in the series: Hawaiian Lei

MA_HawaiianLei

Beau Toyama, a “mixed plate” Hawaiian/Japanese/Tahitian man, is a flight instructor on the Big Island of Hawai’i. He’s a lovely, gentle, shy soul from a dysfunctional island. One day his wife Mikey said, “I love you, babe, but this isn’t working. I need a good man…” She’d paused. “And so do you.”

Matt Quintal, a New Zealand painter with a Norfolk Island and Maori background, has been living the “gay scene” in LA and knows it’s a crock. Needing to escape, his Polynesian soul is drawn back to the Pacific. He visits his sister Rach in Kona on the Big Island, where his spirit connects.

When Matt’s heart is drawn to the sound of a biplane’s radial engines flying overhead, his life is about to change. There’s an instant soul connection and heat between Beau and Matt. Unbeknownst to them, the spirit of Beau’s mom, Tehani, has guided Matt home to Beau.

Beau and Matt need to work together to overcome family dysfunction and abuse. Can they reveal their deep emotional vulnerabilities to find redemption and healing? What they both want is a loving relationship. But they must allow their hearts and souls to open before they can love and trust again.

Buy link on AMAZON

Publisher link: http://www.loose-id.com/hawaiian-lei.html?___SID=U