Friday, May 30, 2008

The List

This week we are making out our Bucket List, the list of everything we want to do before we kick the bucket. My list is ever evolving. Most of the things that were on my list when I was in my early twenties, I’ve accomplished. Never one to be satisfied, every time I cross one off I add a new one. Here is my list as it stands today, they are in no particular order, but they are numbered for the sake of convenience.

1. Spend a week in Bali, surfing until my body is too sore to move.
2. Return to Egypt, this time as a civilian taking part in an archeological dig.
3. Throw a toeside melon 720 off the kicker and a switch 270 to front board, to frontside 270 gap over the fun box in a single run on my wakeboard (this is OH MY GOD difficult maneuver).
4. Skydive into Lake Mead with my wife and son on either side of me and have a nice leisurely swim to shore (they’ve both gone cliff-diving with me, so this one is not a big a stretch as it sounds).
5. Write a NYT bestselling novel.
6. Visit Beijing.
7. Develop the world’s first perpetual motion device.
8. As a parent, of course I want to see my son grow up, grow old and be happy with whatever he chooses to do with his life.
9. Ride my motorcycle from coast to coast.
10. Become a superhero.

Other than that, I just wanted to live each day to the fullest, never squander an opportunity to make my family smile, and of course, one day rule the world.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Bucket?

I have always been a firm believer that the more you do, the more you see, the more you try, the better. So many items on my list are kind of open-ended. I don’t really expect to see every square inch of this planet, but until I have, there’s always more to see and more to do, new activities to try, new music to hear, new foods to taste.

So the list, such as it is:

#1: live to a ripe old age, firmly ignoring the existence of said bucket for as long as possible, with my husband by my side, surrounded by kids, grandkids, even great grandkids, and just as importantly, friends.

#2: I’m a mom. Of course I want to see my kids grow up to be happy, productive members of society, happily mated with families of their own.

#3: Travel. Like I mentioned above, I’d like to see it all. England, Scotland, Ireland for starters. The Mediterranean, the Amazon, Egypt, the Great Wall…

#4: Swim with dolphins, take the Orient Express, ride a camel in the desert, an elephant in India, and a Land Rover in Africa. I don’t want to just see places from a sanitized tour bus and hotel room, I want to really experience them. Surfing was on my list until last summer when I got to try it. Was horrible at it, but who cares?I tried it.

#5: As a writer, I’ve got to echo a few ideas mentioned earlier in the week. I’d love to have an NYT bestseller. I’d love to have one of my books made into a movie. I’d love to hear some of my favorite authors say, “Cindy? Yeah, her stuff is really good.”

#6: Make a difference. I want to be remembered by someone, somewhere as a person who did at least a little bit to make the world a better place.

I’m sure there’s more. I’m a greedy little thing when it comes to experiences. There are at least a zillion places I want to have sex with my husband, just for starters...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A List for the Ages!!! Well...Not Really

As I sit here listening to the rain, sipping tea and munching Cool Ranch Doritos, I'm thinking life doesn't really get a whole lot better than this. Maybe I've just reached a point in my life that I feel a sense of satisfaction in the way things are turning out. If you'd asked me to make a BUCKET LIST a couple of years ago, my answer would have been oh-so-easy. PUBLICATION. I lived for that moment and now I'm actually living my dream. Lucky me!!! Funny. Today I was sitting out on my back patio and a Cardinal flew up and perched on the fence. Grandma always said red birds were for wishes and you should make one every time you saw a Cardinal and I've done exactly that for my entire life. Today, I watched that bright bird for a good twenty minutes and couldn't think of a damn thing I wanted for ME so I gave my wish away and it made me happy to do it. So...that being said here's my Bucket List. The things I'd like to do before I KICK IT!

1. See my children grown and happy with their lives.

2. Travel to England. I'd love to visit London and travel the countryside. As a writer who loves regency stuff, it's a place I've always wanted to go.

3. Travel to Italy. Rome, Florence, Milan (for

4. See my name on the NY Times Bestseller List

5. Write a movie screenplay. Well, I just think that would be the coolest!!!!

6. Visit Ireland and Scotland. This is the home of many ancestors and I might even see a faery or two. Ireland seems such a mystical place to me.

7. Have grandchildren. Yep. Love kids and the children of my children would be a blessing.

8. Rent a little house near a beach and have a week long slumber/writing party with my friends (who are ALL writers btw). Bring laptops and junk food. Brainstorm plots and talk. That would be the BEST.

9. One day I want to move to the mountains. My greatest dream is to live there among the aspens and pinon pines and look over valleys and snow-peaked mountains. I want to breathe that fresh air and enjoy the solitude. I want to write my days away in a little cabin. Sit outside and just look at things. That would be food for my soul. It would be just me but I wouldn't be lonely.

10. Nope. Don't have a ten. At least not that I can think of now. Nine, for me, will have to do!

Till tomorrow....happy living. Happy life!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where's the Bukkit? Gotta find the Bukkit...

When I think of bucket these days, I think of those LOLcats and the seals waiting for their bukket. At any rate, there are always things I want to do. Sometimes they shift and evolve into new things. For the meantime, here is mine...

1. Make the New York Times bestseller list. I don't care if it's print or ebook, I wanna get there. Although I do think it would be pretty great to have "arrived" as an ebook. Think of all the attention ebooks would get, the free publicity for green reading. Now that would be an eye-opener!

2. Take a cruise. I've seen the Alaska one where you fish for salmon (my faaaaavorite fish), the Mediterranean, where I've been but not as a luxury thing, or around the Gulf. I think the most interesting one is the old fashioned wind cruises with huge billowing sails. Yes, I think that one is the one I'd enjoy most.

3. Take my immediate family to all the countries I've lived in so I can show them the house, the school where I grew up. They don't get it now and I can't drive down a street and point like normal people. I'd love to share that part of myself with them.

4. To have some of my favorite authors, Julia Quinn, Sabrina Jeffries, Elizabeth Lowell, Jude Devereaux tell me they've read my work and LOVE IT! Really, do I need to elaborate on this?

5. Be asked to make one of my pieces into a movie. Even if it never happened, I want to be asked. (I seem to have a theme around writing. I know, it's hard to tell how passionate I am about success in the industry, right?)

6. My grandkids. I want to see my children grow into fabulous adults and raise their own fabulous adults. I wanna see it happen if to only show myself that I didn't completely screw them up.

7. Go back to England. Last time I was there, I was a child. I didn't "get" the historical significance or appreciate the age of the castle ruins I climbed all over. I'd like to see it through adult eyes and share that with my family.

8. Have a foreign vacation every year with the kids and husband. May not seem like much, but it is. We haven't had a vacation in years that didn't involve everyone under the sun. I'd love to take them exploring around the world, open their eyes to cultural diversity and show them how very very awesome it is to be a part of it.

9. Hugh Jackman and Orlando Bloom. Sorry Scott, but it is a wish list.

10. Time travel. Yes another impossibility (see above) but it truly is something I'd like to do before I die. So bite me over the technicalities.

What are your must do's?


Monday, May 26, 2008

Anny's Bucket List

Hmmm. This week we're sharing our personal "what I want to do before I kick the bucket" lists. I've never had such a list so I had to think about it. It's funny how such a list will change with time. I suspect that the "reality" bug has bitten me. While I envy my fellow writer, Jenyfer, and her trek around the sights in Egypt, I know in my heart that I would find the walking far more than I could comfortably handle.

So I tried to compile a list of things that are possible as well as personally desirable. Saying that I would like to go to the moon if fine, but it's not likely. This is my list of possibilities.

1) I would like to see the Redwood Forest and the Sequoia Forest. All my life I've been drawn to the big trees. I would like to touch one. They're so big, it would almost be like touching heaven.

2) I want to travel to Alaska. Preferably in the spring or fall. I have no idea what I want to see there, but I want to go. I expect I could look it up on the Internet.

3) I want to travel to Australia and New Zealand. Again, I have no idea what I want to see there, but I suspect that there's plenty to see.

4) I want to try pottery, glass blowing, weaving, and spinning before I die. I don't expect to be expert at any of them, but I would like to try.

5) I want to meet Richard Dean Anderson...just to say "Thank you" for the hours and hours of enjoyment I received from watching McGyver.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Lay Down the Law

Swats, licks, the occasional cuff to the back of the head in a store, we’ve all experienced these I’m sure. Is this tough love? Some might think it so, but I don’t. It is merely a parenting tool to teach your children that every action has a consequence. When my son was younger, a swat to the diaper was the quickest way to get his attention. Mind you with the padding in place, it was the noise that carried the message, but he still seemed to get it.

As he grew older, swats were all but phased out. It has to be a rather severe offense to garner a “whuppin” out of me. Having said that, I still have other forms of punishment, but we’ll get to those in a moment. I’m sure every kid is different, but my son seemed to learn what offenses were worthy of a spanking and subsequently steered clear of them after the first infraction. He is ten years old and I’ve only had to spank him once in the last three years.

For minor offenses, I still use grounding, removal of favorites like TV and/or video games, but my favorite punishment is administered in the good ol’ front leaning rest position. Yep, he does push ups. From the time he was five up to nearly six, I thought I was going to have to turn him into a little clone of Sylvester Stallone, but I could tell were making great progress, so I kept at it. This is a punishment that is dished out anytime and anyplace, giving it a bit more power than the first two options. It also adds a certain psychological element that is an extra incentive not to mess up in itself. Can you imagine the horror of having to pump out twenty push ups in a crowded restaurant? My son can. He threw a fit over not getting desert even though he hardly touched his meal. The tantrum was loud enough to draw stares. Was I embarrassed a bit, but apparently not as embarrassed as he was while he was face down by the table. He never acted like that in a restaurant again.

Have you ever been in a store where a kid was throwing a hissy fit for not getting their way over something. I usually see it handled in two different ways, either the parent starts wailing on the kid, exasperating matters and just generally raising the ire of most parents around them or they let them carry on and pretend to ignore them as they finish their shopping. Neither one really appeals to me.

When my son was nearly five (he still had a couple of months if memory serves correctly) I took him to the grocery store with me to pick up a couple of things I needed for dinner that night. We walked through the sliding doors and he immediately took off at a sprint for the coin operated horse across from the registers. He wanted a ride, but I was in a hurry and explained to him as much. He wasn’t buying it. He could ride while I get the stuff. Well, there’s not a chance in hell, I’m leaving a four year old to their own devices. I promised to let him ride when we came in for our regular weekly shopping. Not good enough… the hissy fit ensued, but it was short lived.

“Give me twenty!” I told him in my sternest voice.
He stopped crying and just stared at me.
“Front leaning rest position now, or I’m taking you out to the car for swats.” (by this time he was well acquainted with what a FLRP was.)
He looked at me, looked at the crowded lines at the register, most of which were already looking at us do to his behavior and looked at the door. Sliding off the horse as if he were in pain, he dropped to the floor and starting his set. A nice elderly lady rushed up to me about that time and said, “That’s not right!”
I smiled at her and said, “Nicely done, ma’am. I almost forgot. Sound off, boy.”
She stormed away to the sound of my son counting out, “ten, eleven, twelve.”

Incidentally, my son is one of the most well behaved boys in public you’re likely to come across and has been for the better part of three years. Coincidence?

Some may say this is a form of psychological abuse. To them I say, “drop and give me twenty.” I’m quite happy with the end result. I have a wonderfully behaved ten year old boy and I don’t have to worry about my son cringing every time I raise my hand around him.

Now, if I could just figure out how to apply tough love to my elders when they ask too much of me…

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tough but Fair...

We’ve talked a lot this week about tough love as it relates to raising children: about the need for discipline, for giving our children the room to make their own mistakes, and the need for them to then live with the results of those mistakes. As a parent, I agree. Those are all enormously important and incredibly difficult things to do. Looking into your child’s eyes and saying “no” is hard. Letting him suffer the consequences of his behavior can be harder still.

But the concept of tough love has other implications as well. It isn’t just about raising children. And oddly, it can tie into our topic from last week: time management. I live near my father, who is an utterly wonderful man, and quite possibly the world’s best grandfather. I am grateful every day for the time and effort he puts into being part of my sons’ lives. But sometimes I have to say no to him, too. Since I work at home, it’s so easy for him to suggest we do something during school hours—whether it’s shopping for this or that, or he’ll offer to come over and help fix something around my house, or suggest today is the day we take my car for an oil change, his treat—how can I say no? He’s been there for me every day of my life. But this is work. I have to remember that. So sometimes, I do have to say, “not today, Dad,” even if it kills me. Same goes for friends. In-laws. (And I have fabulous in-laws, too!) My RWA chapter—this is the first year in forever I said no to chairing a committee or being on the board. And even the dh, when he asks if I can run this errand or that, when I really need to be writing.

Saying no is never fun. It’s so much easier, for me at least, to go with the flow and have everyone smile at you. But that’s not fair to you, and it isn’t really fair to anyone else.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Magic Number

I remember thinking, as each of my two children were placed in my arms as newborns, they would never be more PERFECT than they were at that exact moment. Over the years, I've kept it in mind, knowing full well they would make mistakes just as their fallable parents had done. We play good cop/bad cop at our house. Always have and you guessed it, I'm the GOOD cop. I've always been the emotional cornerstone of our small family and my husband the disciplinarian. Fortunately, we never had serious problems with our kids. They had a tendency to choose their friends wisely, did well in school (most of the time), and are compassionate young people of whom I'm extremely proud. We've always been quick with praise when it's deserved or willing to "have a talk" when things went wrong.

But kids do grow up and mistakes happen. What is it about our kids turning 18 and suddenly they're supposed to be grown and capable of making life decisions? The chief question kids are asked when they're ready to graduate are: where are you going to school? What are you majoring in? Honestly. I've asked those same questions but later remember the period before I graduated from high school. I had no CLUE what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. None. At 18 the world seems full of hope and possibilities and the roads ahead led in many directions. Sometimes those roads can lead a kid the wrong way and as a parent, you ache for those bad decisions. Perhaps we come face to face with our own wrong decisions and remember trying hard to climb out of that ditch in the road and getting back on track.

As parents, we want to help with that. Remember that poem that says...if you love it, let it go? Read it when I was a teenager and thought it was beautiful and applied to romantic love. I've always been a sap. But now I realize, it could just as well be talking to parents out there who have a hard time letting their children go, make their mistakes, and eventually, grow up. It's as painful as birth. As definite as death. Our kids do grow up, just some more slowly than others. Sometimes tough love is necessary, even for a loving parent. So is 18 a magic number for adulthood? Twenty? Twenty-two? Who knows?

Our backyard is full of Dove and the other day I counted around twenty babies pecking away on the ground, their mothers close by. Tiny little things. Sweet. They got out of the nest somehow, I realized, watching them. Yep. Their mothers pushed them out! Nature does have a way of taking care of those things.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Toughing it Out

I figure I'm going to get a rise out of some of you but, enh, who cares? Tough love is something I have to employ with my eleven year old all the time. She's a challenge. J is a first born. She's alpha and she's stubborn. J can be willful, obstinate, argumentative, and moody. She's also has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and my metabolism rate which you wouldn't think could go hand in hand.

J is incredibly intelligent too. J was walking at ten months and speaking in full sentences before her first birthday. At one and a half I watched her use the microwave to heat a sippie cup of milk, then shake it before she took a sip. She knew how to work the television and the VCR and she knew exactly how to use her big blue eyes and pixie grin to get what she wanted. She's funny and her sense of humor has always exceeded her age group often surprising nearby adults with her insight. J can out debate you if given a chance. Often her ideas make a lot of sense and may actually better than yours.

For example, "J, time for bed. Please go brush your teeth and come get hugs for bed." "If I brush my teeth and clean up first, will you read me a bedtime story?" (mom thinks. Hmm. No, it's late and she's been pushing for extras all day. I do want her room clean but...) "No, brush your teeth and come for hugs." "If I brush my teeth, clean up and help P clean her room, will you read me a bedtime story?" (mom thinks. P is having trouble cleaning her room. J does a great job cleaning. It could be useful. I don't really mind reading her a story. Wait, no, J needs to go to bed.) "No, J. I said brush your teeth. It's very late. Go." "Mom if I---" "Stop right there." This is a frequent occurrence, by the way.

J is my challenge kid. She is also a delight and because her mom (that would be me) won't tolerate disobedience or rudeness, she is a very good kid. She might not be thrilled if told to do something she doesn't want to, but she will do it because I said it. Having said that, once she decides she doesn't like something, it is a dickens to get her to do it. Dogs make her freak out no matter the size. Bugs have her squealing. Different foods make her pout and push it around her plate with attitude worthy of an Emmy. New experiences have her stomping her feet. She doesn't jump into new groups easily or make friends with kids her age. J is a drama queen who could out drama most queens. Including clutching her chest as she runs across the field or throwing the back of her hand across her brow. (I think she does it to annoy me.)

It is this stubbornness and metabolism and difficulty making friends, are the reason I instituted a new rule in our house. J MUST take on a sport each season before she can say she doesn't like it. She has to go out for it, go to all the practices and games, COMMIT to giving it her all. If after that sport she doesn't want it again, fine. I posted this on my own blog and got all kinds of negative reactions. This is my kid. I'm not mean. I just know what she needs to get over herself.

The sport mandate is one she hates. Little sister P is thrilled to death (of course little P is also the kid that asks for fruits and veggies while turning down anything sugary. Not surprisingly, P is J's opposite at making friends and cheerfulness). Anyway, the sport mandate changed minutely. Why? Because as I suspected, once trying Basketball and Soccer, J loved it. I knew she would cause her brain works that way. At any rate, the new law of the land is, she may pick any sport she wishes to so long as she is doing a sport every season it is offered. This thrills her. Mostly because she was dreading track and field. I don't blame her.

J's grades have improved. Her peer group has expanded and she has new friends who don't treat her like crap. She is proud of herself. Both Scott and I attend all her games and most practices with her little sister in tow. And we always make her favorite dinner after games. But it is tough love.

I adore J. She's my first born and while of course I have equal feelings for P, my relationship with J is very, very different. She's my daughter and my friend. She's tough, not showing her inward feelings unless they spill over. She's stronger at 11 than I was as a teen and I have always, often unfairly, expected more from her than from P. She soothes her little sister. She cares for her and looks after me. It is odd to house both the panicked freak and the staid calm in a single person. But it happens.

As I mentioned yesterday, there are even occasions where spanking is in order. We have rules around that too. 10 swats if I have to find out about it, 5 if they tell me themselves. The bonus result her is that my kids tell on themselves ALL THE TIME, so I usually don't wind up spanking because of their honesty. Spanking only ever occurs when they lied or were in danger. I never spank angry and the above swat ranking applies. By the way, my kids are fully aware that I love them, it's the act I didn't like and they never fail to hug me after administering punishment. We hug, they apologize. I tell them I love them and not to repeat the act. They agree and don't repeat the behavior. As a result, I have spanked J once in the last year and a half. P, not at all. I'd call that a successful measure.

Okay, bring it on. Let's hear from all you people who think I'm wrong. I know you're out there.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Tough Love?

For the last thirty years we've heard a lot of stories bandied about with the phrase "tough love". What is it? How much is too tough? And when is it appropriate?

There are extreme examples of tough love. A parent beats a child and declares that they're doing it in the name of "tough love". That's not tough love. That's child abuse. When I think of tough love, I think of that phrase, Just Say No!

Too often in today's world, no one says NO. No one! In a gimme, gimme culture the time must come when someone finally says, "No." No, you may not go there. No, you may not have that. No, I won't buy you the latest electronics or car even if everyone else has one. Because if we don't ever teach our children that sometimes the answer is going to be "No", they never learn how to deal with that.

As our kids grow into adults, that lesson becomes more important. It sounds obvious, but an amazing number of parents don't get it. The time will come when your child cannot have everything they want. You will not be able to provide everything they want. And when that time comes, it might not be pretty.

We live in a bankrupt culture where no one know how to delay gratification. Want it? Charge it. Except now, we've run out of charge cards, bank loans, and all those other strategies that we used to acquire a bunch of stuff we really didn't need. As a society we haven't learned the value and meaning of "no".

I confess that I was late in learning this lesson. Like many parents in my generation who did without "things" when growing up, my husband and I truly wanted to provide those things for our children. It didn't occur to us that we weren't doing them any favors. They had tough lessons to learn as young adults when we could no longer help them. We as parents had tough lessons to learn, too. We had to learn to step back and say no. How much easier it would have been if we had learned our lesson sooner.

Anny Cook

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Time Wrangler

Time management is a struggle, but without at least a semblance of order, I could easily spend so much time trying to figure out how to fit everything in, that I actually get nothing done.

Back in November of 2006, I took a new job with a large EPC firm whose engineering staff was headquartered in Corpus Christi. Nothing unusual about that, people change jobs all the time. The kicker is I live in Oklahoma, which is a bit too far to commute. They had no branch offices to speak of in my area, so we worked it out for me to conduct all of my business from home.

The first couple of months were pure hell. It’s hard to leave your work at the office when your office is in your living room. I’d flit from project to project, specifying instrumentation, designing control systems, helping various family members with things that were more convenient for me to handle since I was at home during the day, writing and knocking out home improvement projects to boot. I’d find a good stopping point on one and bounce to the other. On a typical day, I’d get up at 5, run myself ragged and crash about 10 (more often than not, it leaned closer to 11) at night. Granted my output was through the roof, but my sanity was in peril for the efforts.

I’ve never been one for a written schedule. To me it is just a really easy way to set yourself up for failure. I don’t like to fail and have a tendency to beat myself up over it when I do. That would not be conducive to creating a more balance day and would likely be even more detrimental to my fragile mental health. But I had to do something, because what I had wasn’t working.

So, I brought structure to my life with a mental check list and daily goals that were attainable. I’m adding times to the list below, but keep in mind that from 6:30 on they are fluid and subject to change depending on the demands of the day. And to be fair, the list reflects a day without any disasters.

I still drag my sorry butt out of bed at 5 during the week, but now as soon as my feet hit the floor, I’m in my workout clothes and on my way. Every other day, I jog with my wife and on the alternate days, I lift weights and practice my forms (martial arts), but I limit my exercise to one hour a day. A quick side note here to say, that it has gradually increased to the point where I had to put a limit on it. I blew out my Achilles tendon in a sparring match nearly two years ago and it has taken me forever to get back into good enough shape to sustain an hour workout.

By roughly 6:30 I’m at my computer, checking email (both personal and business) and preparing my blog posts for the day. After I’m caught up, I usually take a moment to stroll through my blogroll for new posts. Then I work on the day job checklist until 7:30 when my son comes down from his morning grooming routine. I continue to work, but still make time to chat with him and make sure he’s ready for his day. I save the routine work stuff for this time of morning, so I can focus on what he has to say while I type. These are the things that I’ve done so long, they no longer really require thought. My mind’s on my son, my fingers know what to do with the business agenda.

From 8 to 11 my primary focus is the day job. I’ll still answer emails, but I try to take them in groups, only checking it every thirty minutes or so. I have three computers at my desk (and yes, I’ve been known to have something going on all of them at once, can you say the king of multitasking?). My personal one, my company laptop and a laptop whose sole purpose is to provide me remote access to control systems in different states so I might do programming and design work. Often once I set a routine in motion, I have several minutes while I wait for it to execute. I use this time to catch any blogs I might have missed earlier.

From 11 to 12 I either write or work on promotion depending on the day or the status of my current WIP.

12 to 4 finds me back at the complex calculations. I have to be wrapped up by then because that’s when my son comes home from school.

After that, I help him with his homework on the days he has it and try to catch his ear long enough to find out how his day was before he scampers off to play with his friends. Then I usually get a good fifteen to twenty minutes of writing time in before I have to start dinner. My wife comes home at 5 and we chat in the kitchen while I finish preparing the meal. I cook and she helps clean up the dishes afterward. It’s a good system.

After dinner, I just spend time with my wife and son until around 7 when the reality shows dominate the TV. Wife occupied with Dancing with the Stars, Survivor or whatever has caught her fancy that evening, I write (or read if I’m between projects) until 9. Then well… I think I’ll leave it off there.

Oh and Thursdays are a special day. That’s when I get to add laundry into the mix. I hate laundry days…

As you can see, it’s still a rather full schedule, so I’ve had to limit “favors” to absolute emergencies. Family and friends all know better at this point than to even ask. I may be at home, but I’m still working.

The weekends are all about hanging out with my family. Sure, I still manage to get some writing done, but generally it’s all about blowing off steam and having fun.

And this is how I’ve managed to salvage most of my sanity.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Time Management?

There is no such thing. We might as well be talking about tornado management... You don't manage time, you don't direct it, you watch it as it carries you along the river.  

Must have been in a dire mood when I wrote this...

There’s a clock in the room where I sit
That loudly goes tick, tick, tick
The constant barrage, destroys the mirage
That my life will ever be fixed

As each moment is measured by clicks
I’m reminded of all that is fixed
The more things change, the more they’re the same
Oh the pain of being betwixt

It is then that a plan comes to mind
With brute force I will make it benign
With my fist I will bash it, my chair I will smash it, 
But still it goes tick, tick, tick
(This bad poem belongs to me and may not be reproduced without my permission :)

Moses said, teach us to number our days. What that exactly means I am not sure. What is clear is that we don't control the clock...we fill it...we cram it full of meaningful moments or sit idly by as it marches on. 

Personally i am tired of missed minutes, moments, and opportunities. I am working really hard to redirect my mind from the expired minutes of the past or the anticipated but not guaranteed moments of the future. I am trying to live this moment, no this one, no this one... see how fast they come and go :)

(By the way, side note - Joseph Brodsky has a great little essay called "In Praise of Boredom". I believe it was an address at Dartmouth - In it he warns the graduates that the moments of exhilaration and greatness will be few and far between. He says it's our ability to live in the "boring" moments in-between that define us.) 

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Time Managment is not my forte. Not even close. In fact it is probably the single largest factor in the smallness of my paychecks. Scheduling, making lists, sticking to them...I know, at least in theory how to do these things, but they still never seem to happen. About the only way I can really motivate myself to maximize my output is with some sort of external deadline. I can write a 50,000 word book in two weeks. I've done it. So why did a 65K book take me a year? Who knows?

I am lucky enough to not have a regular out-of the house job anymore. My kids are teens, old enough to feed themselves, and my father who lives nearby absorbs a lot of the chauffering duties. I am convinced that all of us benefit from this arrangement, so I don't feel too guilty about it. But like any other person who works at their dining room table or couch (I don't have a desk--nowhere to put it) I find myself at the beck and call of family. My friends know better. Besides, most of them have real jobs. I try to sneak in a couple of hours a week doing exercise classes at the local pool, but then a one-hour class ends up taking three by the time you get ready and get home. Some days it's easier to "forget."

Balancing promotion and writing is probably the most difficult knife-edge to walk in this crazy business. I freely admit, I haven't found the right mix yet. Chats are time-consuming but necessary, and so, IMHO is the occasional "water-cooler" conversation with writer friends. That's necessary for my sanity. Writing is a lonely business with lots of emotional highs and lows. If I didn't have a chance to talk to others who understand, I would truly go nuts. Then there are blogs. Many of my friends manage them every day. I have trouble with once a week. And then there's MySpace (have one) and FaceBook (don't have one) and all those other things that eat, eat, eat away at our precious writing time. Today, for instance I have two all-day chats on loops, and another tomorrow. The exposure is great, but OY! I have three WIP's and am getting nowhere on any of them.

These and other great de-motivator posters are available at:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Time is NOW!!!

Kelly talked about that elusive butterfly, trying to catch it and fulfilling that nagging little muze without losing your mind over the everyday details that conspire to keep us from our dream of getting those stories down on, computers. I've been writing since 1992, starting out this process with little little kids and a husband and home to care for. I shopped for the best cartoon movies, carefully arrainged play dates and booked afternoons of Mothers-Day-Out hoping to buy myself a wee bit of time to pen my novels.

Maybe distance makes it all seem like it was a dream deal but memories are tricky things. Burned dinners, fighting children, chores left undone were a part of my life. No one was happy, least of all me. I don't know how I did it. Well, I did it but obviously not very well since I didn't see my first book published until last year. For what it's worth, my closets are full of finished manuscripts that will certainly never see the light of day. I call them my contributions to the "writing goddess". My kids grew apace with my determination and I don't think they remember a time when I didn't write.

The strangest thing was that as they got older they started to really admire my determination. They'd come into the office...hey, Mom, what's this one about? OR...hey, Mom, what's the heroine's name? Things like that. For me, I think by gradually pulling them into the process of what I did and including them, managing my writing time got easier. It became a game to title my stories and that's a good thing, because I soooo stink at that. They started to help me in little ways sometimes pitching in, grabbing the phone, answering the door. Of course, their rooms looked like crime scenes but you can't have everything.

Due to necessity, I lived in organized chaos and that was okay. I produced. I managed.

Now, with one gone and the other "almost gone", I'm finding a new way that's far more structured. But since I have a big, wide lazy streak running down my back, this is a good thing. Oddly enough, I've grown just as my kids have. I start the day by making my phone calls, answering email and blogging and then, if life is kind, I'll start writing. I'm not much of a "night writer" so it's essential that my mornings are free. I swill coffee, forget to eat, and write away most of the day usually in my most comfortable jammies. A cave dweller, for the most part, I'll emerge from the house maybe once a week, sometimes two, to hit the grocery store, dry cleaners or whatever and carefully arrange all of these chores so that I can get back home in a timely manner. Nope. No lunches with friends. No pedicures. Getting my hair appointment takes months of planning. Okay. It's not quite THAT bad but pretty close.

My closest friends will tell you I'm lying through my teeth if I were to say I don't get back on the internet to chat. I do. It's the hugest, biggest time eater in the world, but for me it's necessary. I write in blocks and must stop from time to time. Finishing a scene means break time. I'll write an email or two, grab another cup of coffee, throw some clothes in the wash and break time's OVER. It's just enough to keep me from burning out for the day. I'm fresh and more ready to tackle the work. Right now, it's all about the work. Yeah, I spend time with the family. Go to an occasional movie or watch a basketball/football/whatever game on tv with DH but just about every second of my day is spent doing what I love.

Truth is...I'm happiest right HERE behind my computer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

That Illusive Butterfly

Imagine a gorgeous 5 karat ruby has been given into your protection. Its facets are perfectly arranged and though the stone is absolutely clear, the color is deep, intense, startlingly red-black. It's rare and beautiful. As you stare at it, a butterfly (just work with me here) settles on it and then takes flight, removing the stone from your palm. The little guy is weighted down and his flight is erratic but you are responsible for the safety of that stone and must get it back. The butterfly dips and spirals while you on your toes chase madly after it. Pebbles skid from beneath your feet, you dodge small bushes and now you are teetering on the edge of a precipice with that illusive little butterfly just out of reach.

That's what I equate with time management.

I'm one of those people who, if given the opportunity, will plan her calendar to its nth degree. Right now, for example, it bugs me endlessly that my moving schedule reads "arrive June 12, 13. leave for Texas June 16, 17". I would much prefer a single date with the exact hour of departure. A map with the precise duration of the trip along with incidentals such as tolls penciled in and road construction accounted for. In the absence of knowing all, I try to grit my teeth and just accept that there are some things I cannot plan for.

And then there are those things I can plan for but don't, exactly. Like writing.

My husband and I trade off on driving the girls in to school so we each have a morning to "sleep in". Today was my day and I still couldn't manage sleep beyond 8:30a. Either way, once I'm either awake or the girls are taken in (hopefully I was awake for that. driving in your sleep is frowned on), I start my writing day. I don't typically set a goal for myself to accomplish a certain amount, but as I answer morning emails or post blogs (ahem), I am already thinking about the direction of my novel. I handle business after the blogs. That's promo, letters, emails to businesses, chat set ups or calendar events. It also includes real life stuff which might otherwise interfere with writing, like the charity I do grunt work for once a month, kids' practises, band presentations, games, brownies, and general smooth running of the house which doesn't include cleaning.

Then my writing day begins. As I said, I don't really plan it, it just sort of works out that I write about a chapter a day unless I'm really stuck. Like lately when my mind is on moving. I usually forget to eat. I never answer the phone unless it is family. I don't go to the door. I stop for bathroom breaks, water, and to get the mail. IF I REMEMBER to eat something during those moments, I will grab something fast and then get back to writing (I know I promised to eat breakfast and lunch, Anny, but I keep forgetting).

All said, I spend 10-12 hours a day, six days a week with 2-3 hours minimum on that seventh day, working. It's insane looking at these numbers. Anny posted that she does 40 and arranges her day like a work schedule. I envy that because I cannot sit down without a computer on my lap. I always see that butterfly just out of reach--my work load completion--and chase it to the precipice. Then at the precipice whine that I can't quite reach it, so I begin swatting the butterfly with wide-spread fingers. I WANT it. I really WANT it to settle back in my palm. I want that jewel where it's carefully managed and without the headache of chasing it down. But life doesn't work that way.

I spend many, many more hours working at writing than I ever did in a 9-5 job. Even in salaried positions which have overtime built in... can't come close. I hated institutional jobs for taking me from my family and setting limits even though I liked the work I did. But here, working crazy hours from my couch with kids running in and out and a husband talking out loud about nothing in particular and then chuckling over it.... this is where I happily commit my time. Why is that?

So I figure I'm not the best one to talk about time management. I get it all done. I write like a fiend. I promote like a pusher with inventory. But organized chaos is the only way I get through it. As I sit here, I have yet to shower and dress for the day. While I have brushed my teeth, I haven't eaten or grabbed my glass of water yet. There is laundry waiting and dishes in my sink. I see a pizza box from Sunday night on my dining room table and there are three pairs of shoes in the middle of my living room floor. And I don't care. That butterfly just took off again and I gotta go catch it.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Working From Home

Time management is an interesting concept. It brings to mind a vision of lassoing Father Time and putting him in a cage. Cool idea. Too bad it doesn't work. How do you manage time?

I'm in the advantageous position of not needing to work outside the home. But that leads to a mistaken impression that I have nothing to do. If I'm going to work as a full time writer, then that means a minimum of forty hours of "butt in chair, hands on keyboard" (BICHOK) time. Doing the dishes, vacuuming the living room, sorting the laundry--those are not included in the forty hours any more than they would be if I worked outside of the home.

Quite frankly, most spouses, family members, and friends don't get that part. "You're home all day... What are you doing?"

"Writing." I haven't found any way to do it except just do it. Sounds good. But raise your hand if you've been interrupted by phone calls, door bells, whiny spouse or child, well meaning parent or sibling... and the list goes on and on.

So, when I'm in work mode, I have a couple of rules. Generally, I don't answer the phone. When I do (the house hunk gets cranky otherwise), I note down how much time was spent on that call. And then I take back that time. Same for calls from my parents or my children.

I don't answer the door. Oh, I look through the peep hole. But if you're not the UPS man or the post man, a maintenance man from my apartment complex, then you're just out of luck. You're not on my schedule! A woman that used to live in the same building didn't quite get this concept. She stood in the lobby and called my apartment. When I didn't answer the phone, she banged on the door, yelling "I know you're in there!"

Heh. I know I'm in here, too. Doesn't mean that I want to talk to you just 'cause you bang on my door. A couple days later, she jumped me when I was out walking my dog. "Why didn't you answer the door?" "BECAUSE I WAS WORKING!"

I keep track of time spent working as opposed to fooling around. It's easy to lose a lot of time fooling. So I write down the time. Fooling around time doesn't count as work time. I still have my forty hours to put in. If I waste an entire morning on e-mails and blogs, that's four hours I'll have to make up in the evening when I would rather be doing something else. Like reading!

It's hard. There are always distractions. But the nitty gritty truth is that if indeed I was away at an outside job, I wouldn't be allowing those distractions to interfere with getting my work done. Why should I allow it just because I'm working at home?

How about you? How do you manage the distractions of life?

Anny Cook

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Online Predators

We’ve covered the inequity of our legal system, the perils of pedophiles using the furry fetish movement to cop feels, using religion to sexually exploit children, the corporate predator and pub predators. It’s been a busy week.

My post today is only meant to serve as a warning, if not for you fine reader, then for your children. I want to discuss online predators, but first let me set the stage…

A man sat hunched over a cluttered desk, eyes glued to a computer monitor. His right index finger moved rhythmically as he clicked his way through a barrage of web pages. He was searching for something special, something he craved in a way he was sure no one else in the world could fathom. His desire grew from a whisper at the back of his thoughts to a scream demanding to be acknowledged and acted upon. It had been weeks since last he played the game. His resolve all but gone, it was time to feed the beast that lurked within the shadows of his mind.

He paused on web page displaying the profile of a perky twenty-something. She had strawberry blonde hair that hung to her shoulders, dark eyes, and her full lips were drawn into a playful pout. He leaned even closer to the screen and ran his finger across her picture, tracing a line around her cheek.

“Ah, there you are, my pretty,” he whispered huskily. “Do you want to come and play with me?”
He tore his gaze from her photograph, quickly scanning through her personal info.
“Hello, Maggie Dugan. Did you use your real name on here?” He harbored a near certainty that she did as he read on. “Broomfield, Colorado. Interesting… How can a woman as young as you afford to live in a place like that? Do you live with your parents? Are you bored? I bet you would love to have a little excitement in your life.”

He quickly scrolled down the page and let out a low chuckle that almost sounded like a growl. “Only twenty-five and yet so alive. Single and looking, what a coincidence.”

He licked his lips in anticipation as he clicked on the link to add her to his “friends list”. If she accepted, he would begin the process of winning over her heart, mind, and eventually, her soul.

“Oh, Miss Maggie, please don’t keep me waiting for long.”
He exited her page and resumed his search, clicking through profile after profile. There was always the chance that Maggie wouldn’t take the bait, and he still had a ravenous hunger to sate after all.

I’m sure you get the picture and I’m also sure you know all of the warning signs that the person wooing you over the internet owns stock in duct tape and loam. The big question is… does everyone in your family know?

When my book The Dance was accepted for publication , I thought it would be a fun idea to create Myspace pages for my hero and villain. It is the page for the villain (Kyle) that brings me to my point. I created a dark themed page and listed his interest as:

Music, sharp objects, duct tape, fishing wire, killing, becoming immortal, fear and let’s not forget the screams. I live for the sweet song of terror realized.

I went on and on about all of the wickedness that made up the character. I even listed his occupation as serial killer. Kyle is a really big, muscular guy. So, I found a picture of bodybuilder that matched the physique I had in my minds eye and posted it as his default picture.

I set him up with a couple of dozen friends, made a few comments and left him alone for a bit. Before long, friend requests were coming in on a fairly regular basis. The vast majority were from girls between the ages of 16 and 21.

It wasn’t long before he was being propositioned by these young women. I would kindly ask them to go back and read over the page again. This was usually enough. Some still persisted until I finally broke down and told them that Kyle was a character from a book.

One particularly eager teenager wrote back and said,” So, you’re into sharp objects, what’s the big deal? Hey, my parents are going away this weekend. How long do you think it would take me to drive from Dallas to Tulsa? Maybe you could teach me how to dance.” Without going into too much detail, Kyle’s definition of a Dance and hers weren’t exactly the same.

She was clearly blinded by biceps.

My point? The predators are out there and unlike Kyle, they’re more than willing to meet with unsuspecting victims. So, parents watch your children. You never know who is really on the other end of that IM or text message.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Famous Predators

I have to say, I am truly impressed by the depth of insight and variety of postings by my fellow bloggers. Wikipedia has a fascinating discussion about predation worth checking out - (does a Baleen whale eating millions of microscopic plankton really conjure up scary images of a predator?)

Today being Friday i thought i would simply list a few of the more famous predators.

Remember this guy? The original predator movie was all guts and gore as this bad mamma jamma made his way around the forest maiming and hanging up his prey to "cure". The scary part was he could virtually disappear at a moments notice so you never knew quite where the attack was coming from.

Then there is Dwight from the office. In one episode he is asked to pick a new health care plan, a task which he approaches with glee. He reveals his predator status by cutting the plan down to the bare minimum and even issues this great line...

"In the wild there is no healthcare in the wild i fell broke my leg i can't run i can't hunt and a lion eats me and i am dead. Well i am not dead i am the lion Your dead."

No shortage of these little guys and gals running around every office and organization with their "kill or be killed" philosophy of life.

Next, the pick up artist. This guy's name is Mystery. He makes a living teaching guys the tricks of the trade for picking up girls in bars (as if the hat alone wouldn't be enough!). He uses a combination of NLP, wit, and disarming strategies to lure women under his spell and under his sheets!

In part, Mystery and others like him were born out of response to the female predator (we'll call her the "hey buy me a drink because I am hot even though I have no intention of paying attention to you once i have my vodka cranberry" predator - HBMADBIAHETIHNIOPATYOIHMVC for short! Ha!) These girls use tight skirts and flirty eyes to lure guys in only to leave them standing there holding nothing but a big bar tab.

Guy or gal they make the whole meeting great people that you might enjoy getting to know thing a little precarious.

At the end of the day, we probably all have a little bit of predator in us. Call it what you want... the will to survive, animal instinct, pride... Maybe one of life's biggest struggles is learning how to resist either role, predator or prey...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Two-Legged vs Four-Legged

I’ll admit that as a zoologist, and as a reader, I have a soft spot for the predators in the animal kingdom. I’ve been enthralled by bears since I was old enough to talk, I’ve done research projects on wolves, African hunting dogs, and hyenas. I talk to the coyotes at the nature center where I used to work and still volunteer. My primary task there? Live bird of-prey-shows. (Yes that’s me holding the owl in one of the pics below. He’s a nasty little bugger who would love to take a finger off if I ever gave him the chance.) I adore hawks (the one in the pic is an old friend who is gone now) and can watch seals and dolphins for hours, not to mention the big cats. I have a really freaky fascination/phobia when it comes to snakes. And yes, I love predatory shifter stories. Give me werewolves or werelions or werebears and I'm happy. And then there are dragons. One word. Yum.

But vampires I have no use for. Not the fictional ones with fangs and a taste for blood, or the kind whose DNA is fully human. The ones Rita mentioned come to mind. Those men who used religion to subjugate others in every way including sexually are powerful and frightening predators. Many politicians (in ANY party—I’m an equal-opportunity cynic when it comes to politics) fall into this realm as well. They tap into the hopes and dreams of the voters for personal gain. And of course there are the outright sociopaths—the thieves, murderers, and rapists. All hunters in search of human prey. But in my opinion the most deadly predators are the ones who do everything perfectly legally.

I don’t like the corporatocracy that has evolved to a point where it sucks the life force and the humanity out of our society, and I really don’t like the people at the top (shareholders? directors?) who not only allow it to happen, but deliberately scheme to make it so. I find people who prey on other people even more offensive than the pale-skinned neckbiters of Dracula and Nosferatu fame. Drug companies create medicines that can cure the sick, and then charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a month’s supply. Yes, they have enormous research costs, but if you look at their profit statements, you’ll see that the corporate officials and big shareholders are getting bigger and bigger dividend checks every year. In my state they’ve even lobbied for a law to make them immune from wrongful death lawsuits. And they won. You cannot sue a drug company if their product causes the death of a loved one. And the oil companies? Even while gas prices soar, their profits are going up at an even higher rate. Not net income. Profits. Look it up if you don’t believe me. The list could go on for hours. And the really cool thing about this kind of predator? As I said before, their actions are all perfectly legal. Give me a nice rational winged or four-legged predator over these any day. At least with them, you know you're liable to be bitten!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Predators on the Prairie

I'm going to talk about a different type of predator today. The kind who hides behind the law of the land. As a Texan, I join the rest of the world is being appalled by the Polygamist Sect that has sprouted up in my neck of the woods. If you're new to the subject, let me fill you in, whip quickly over the story. Let me start by saying American's enjoy freedom of religion. Worship how and who they choose yet now we're faced with a major dilemma in the form of the FLDS off-shoot of the Mormon church. It is a polygamist society where men, who are rewarded for their contributions to the faith, are allowed numerous wives.

That in itself is just...well, weird. What makes it criminal is that many of those "wives" are 12 and 13 year old girls. EWWWW.

Recently, authorities were contacted by a 16 yr. old girl who supposedly made several frantic calls to police claiming abuse. Naturally, they investigated, a raid on the "compound" ensued. Over 417 children were taken from the place along with the many women in residence. You might have seen this craziness on television. The women in pioneer style clothing, the odd hairstyles, etc. Now, this is a rural area and it's beyond strange to find media vans clogging the streets and lawyers from every part of the state converging on one small town (each child had to have legal representation).

Bottom line: authorities found that some of the "mothers" taken from the compound were 16 and under. One 16 yr. old had four children and was expecting another. Do the math. She wasn't alone in these circumstances. These men have multiple wives, many just teenagers.

Have they broken the law? Yeah, you'd think so. Men in their 40's and 50's are having sex with underage girls but there's a catch. They are protected from the law because of their right to religious freedom and the taking of multiple wives is part of their religion. There are "age laws" in every state and laws against bigamy but they get around this little problem by only legally marrying the first wife. Subsequent marriages are called "spiritual" marriages.

To add to the ick-factor here: when authorities went into their TEMPLE, they found a bed. Ummm. Ewwww. Sick. The people who live here have given no explanation for THAT.

So here's the question. The search for religious freedom was one of the things that brought our forefathers to these shores. It's important. Necessary. But how far are we willing to take it? Once we've started interfering in religious freedom, where does it stop? Should fringe religions be allowed to practice what amounts to legalized child abuse?

I wish I had an answer.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Furry Preditors

Okay, I saw a television show about people with Furry Fetishes. It was a crime show and I was instantly fascinated. I mean why would grown men and women dress as animals to get their groove on? They hold conventions etc. I don't think I've ever heard of a shoe fetish convention or panty fetish convention, have you?

As the above mentioned show progressed, there was some talk about Furries using their outfits to hug children. That it could be a way for a pedophile to get a welcome hug from a child. Think Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or a mascot at your favorite game. No one suspects they are out to get their rocks off. So I nabbed this topic with gusto thinking, "Surely the web has some info on this type of predatory crime." Sadly (in the case of my blog) there isn't one. Not a single solitary one.

Now I refuse to believe that any grouping of people, including religious nuts (waving hand high), won't have a least one deviant in there to mess things up. Maybe the Furry crime I'm looking for just hasn't been uncovered. So I am taking a spin on the predator blog. Hang on.

First off, what is a Furry? Wikipedia gave me this definition: a context of sexual fetishism in which a person becomes sexually aroused by descriptions or depictions of transformations, usually the transformations of people into other beings or objects. This definition is a bit off the beaten path but refers to those who enjoy a little anthropomorphistic sexual play. In particular Furries find that being an animal is cuddly, soothing, and sexual.

Of course I delved further. Apparently there have been a few articles on the subject. I found this one too, at The Register: Furry is a word which has probably been asked to do a little too much work. It has numerous meanings, and it's not particularly easy to find two people who agree on the precise definition for any of them. The original two definitions we supplied in the first version of the FAQ are: 1. an anthropomorphic animal character. i.e. an animal with human characteristics. 2. a human who relates strongly, in whatever way, to the idea of the characters outlined in the previous definition. This may involve anything from a person who simply enjoys viewing furry fanzines or films, to someone who actually desires to be a 'real' furry, or believe that they are literally a non-human trapped within a human form. But not all ALF regulars are interested in anthropomorphics. Some are largely unaware of the 'furry fandom,' or are simply uninterested in it for a variety of reasons. Most of us who created ALF were 'fans' of one kind or another, and this coloured our view- point perhaps more than we realised. So, after much discussion, we'd like to add a third definition, one that tries to include everyone who has made ALF a home. 3. a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic.

Note that the latter definition does not center on sex. This was a problem for the purposes of my blog. How dare they (please note the sarcasm)! My spin is this, animal predators. TADAAAA!

We see them everywhere right now. There are people like those mentioned above you really enjoy dressing or fantasizing about furry creatures. They practice life this way, the associate with the animals, they spiritually connect. And guess what? Many of our readers do too. I don't mean that they dress up. I mean that they crave the primitive link with something mystical that is a-human to their experience.

Exhibit A: The Vampire. This is anthropomorphic. There is shifting involved between the human and the "other" paranormal embodiment of something basic and primitive to our fears. And the Vampire book is everywhere.

Exhibit B: The Werewolf. Even more obvious than above because we are actually talking about a shift between human form and full-on animal form, right? RIGHT. There are other types too involving the panther craze, the hawk, the bear.

And what do these things have in common but the predator. We humans are fascinated by the predator. It speaks to the core urge of self-preservation. It takes us back to early humans grunting to create fire and save ourselves in a night where predators lurk. It produces adrenaline and in a romance can hint at desires too instinctual to put a name to. It offers an excuse for accepting those urges because we claim them to be a part of the "animal" within.

Where am I going with this, you might ask? Well, humans are drawn to the things which logically defy us. We, or at least I, don't understand the desire to dress like an overgrown stuffed animal (by the way, Furry Community, that doesn't mean I don't want to understand. In fact, contact me if you are one, I'd love to interview you on my own blog.). And I'm not claiming that doing so is the overriding instinct of humans as a whole.

However, think of the predator. The predator is what we have feared from the beginning of time. Some Furries act this out... being taken by a predator... because it is stimulating to them whether spiritually or sexually. But in our common experience you are more apt to find society fearful of the predator. And yet, we gawk, we explore their psyche through books or prison interviews. We want to know why, don't we? We want to understand how someone becomes a predator when humans are supposed to have evolved above that primitive, instinctual crime into a cohesive, communicative environment.

Perhaps it's why this blog topic appealed to the six of us. We want to understand. Our morbid curiosity demands it.

I don't know. Maybe the Furries have it right. Maybe if we allow people to safely act out their aggression, we will find fewer deviants in normal social intercourse. If it means one less child is harmed, I say dress up the Mansons and Dahmers of the world. Go Furry.


Monday, May 5, 2008

How Long is Long Enough?

This week we're discussing predators. I'm sure you're wondering what could possibly be controversial about predators. After all, we're all agreed that they're bad, right? I have a slightly different slant on that. What about a youthful mistake? How long do you make a man pay for that?

Recently, there was in the news the story of a young man charged with rape by a teenage girl who later recanted. Her Father even went to court to ask the judge to drop the charges. No deal.

In my family there is a similar story. As a young man, X went to the wrong party. There were underage young ladies, pot, and booze--never a good mix. He was eighteen. The inevitable young lady was sixteen. She cried rape. Her granddaddy was the district attorney. He went to prison. Two year later, she had an attack of conscience and recanted in court. Nothing happened. He served seven years in prison plus thirteen years of parole.

All of that would be bad enough, but because she was underage, he was charged with having sex with a minor, which classifies him as a child rapist. He's married with a family, but can't move without notifying the authorities of his new address. In some states, he must put a sign in his yard. He can't live within a certain distance of a school. His children have been picked on because someone found out about his record.

So my question is... how long is long enough?

Anny Cook

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Wrap Up

Erotica is simply high-class pornography; better produced, better conceived, better executed, better packaged, designed for a better class of consumer.
~Andrea Dworkin

The difference between pornography and erotica is lighting.
~Gloria Leonard

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Matter of Perspective

Well, we’ve had several intriguing discussions this week. Is it erotica or is it porn? We’ve read the definitions, identified the characteristics that allow us to distinguish between the two and now are better equipped to assuage the bite of those naysayers who would lump them together.

The research for this week has been interesting, to say the least. My wife thanks you kindly.

I’m reminded of a skit Adam Sandler did back in the 90s called Sex or Weightlifting. The premise was fairly basic: he played an audio clip for random strangers and they had to guess whether it was someone having sex or lifting weights. Invariably, whichever answer they gave was wrong.

What does this have to do with porn vs. erotica? Well in both instances, it really comes down to perception. We’ll come back to that in a moment. First, I want to revisit the definitions from Wikipedia:

Pornography or porn is the explicit depiction of sexual subject matter, especially with the sole intention of sexually exciting the viewer. It is to a certain extent similar to erotica, which is the use of sexually-arousing imagery for mainly artistic purposes.

Erotica (from the Greek Eros - "desire") or "curiosa," works of art, including literature, photography, film, sculpture and painting, that deal substantively with erotically stimulating or sexually arousing descriptions. Erotica is a modern word used to describe the portrayal of the human anatomy and sexuality with high-art aspirations, differentiating such work from commercial pornography.[1] "Curiosa" is generally used to refer to erotica and pornography as discrete, collectible items, usually in published or printed form.

Various sub-genres of erotica exist. As with fiction as a whole, there are erotic stories with a science fiction, fantasy, horror or romance focus. Additionally, erotica can also focus on specific sexual behavior or fetishes such as BDSM, wearing uniforms, cross-dressing, polygamy and sexual promiscuity. Fan fiction featuring characters engaging in male homosexual acts has become known as slash fiction.

Distinction is often made between erotica and pornography (as well as the lesser known genre of sexual entertainment, ribaldry), although depending on the viewer they may seem one in the same. Pornography's objective is the graphic depiction of sexually explicit scenes. Pornography is often described as exploitative or degrading. Erotica, on the other hand, seeks to tell a story with sexual themes. It attempts to explore desire through mystery and intrigue.

In my humble opinion, it all boils down to what we want to believe. If a particularly narrow-minded person chances upon erotica book, hits the first sex scene and instantly labels it porn, there will not be enough definitions or persuasive arguments in the world to convince that person the book is anything but a sexual account and therefore dirty and all things dirty, as we know, are porn… or at least some would have us believe.

Sexuality is a marvelous thing, a glorious thing, a beautiful thing… a natural thing. Yet, there will always be those among us who are ashamed of their baser desires. I feel sorry for them.

Artistic merit, the empowerment of women and the eternal quest for love aside, why do we read erotica? We can find the above characteristics in any number of novels that take us to the bedroom door, offer us a tiny peek and gently shut it before they get down to the nitty gritty. No, for me (and I realize I may be alone here), the only reason I have ever read erotica is for the arousal factor. Are you not aroused?

A great storyline, vivid characters and an emotional journey make for a memorable read, but it’s the lure of sex that brought me to the few erotic romances I’ve indulged in, in the first place. True, the sex is usually that much hotter, because if written properly, you can almost feel the love between the characters and for me sex doesn’t get much hotter than when it’s done with someone you truly love.

In the end, it’s the sex that draws people to both erotica and porn. Yes the distinction is clear, but whether you choose to turn to erotica or porn to get your arousal fix, it really becomes a matter of taste and… perception.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Hot, hot, hot...

Brahma said - "When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels leave heaven itself and come and sit in that place and sing for joy!" The physical connected with the spiritual, connected with the emotional is bliss! Two people, connected, bodies melting together, souls intertwined, call me a romantic but that is as hot as it gets.

I have never been a fan of the "you can look but you can't touch". That's why i have never plunged full throttle into pornography (that plus i am afraid i would like it too much and end up in a 12 step program! :) Pornography and Erotica are pointers. They are road signs. They point to the destination but are unsettling as destinations in and of themselves (at least for me). It's like getting stuck at the roadside attraction on your way to Disney World.

God? Sex? He invented it! Sex, making love, is emotional communion. It is as close as you can get to another person (and God) in many ways. It is true union. The shame is that the 'church' has missed this for many years. Stop in any town and ask where the people who have crazy, intimate, passionate sex is and i doubt they point to the local church but isn't that how it should be...

A friend of mine is proud that i have never been to a gentleman's club (and all my buddies want to be the first to take me!) In reality, it is as much about not wanting to torture myself (and spending money to do it!) as it is anything else. C.S. Lewis said its like putting a steak on the stage and having people salivate over it. What is the point if you can't eat it! (Yes, i know what you are thinking! :)

Maybe erotica tends to arouse and point to the object where pornography attempts to become the object on its own. I don't know, i am so confused. All i know is anything that stirs the body, mind, and spirit to a large degree has to point somewhere.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

“To porn or not to porn, that is the question…”

Okay. After three great blogs by eloquent authors of high-class, sexy ROMANCE, what more is there to say on the subject?

Hmmm. How about that I don’t particularly object to the word porn? After all, one woman’s porn is another woman’s romance. It’s just a word. Sticks and stones, remember? Except that words can and do hurt, of course. But when your fifteen year-old son introduces you to his buddies by saying, “this is my mom, she writes porn,” the word quickly loses any sting. My kid is bragging, you understand. He’s horribly proud of my success, even while not wanting to read a word of my “chick books.”

My books range from slightly steamy to heavily erotic. I’m in a position to be open about that. My husband’s career is safe, my sons are too old to care and young enough to be impressed when they see a book with mom’s name on it. I could care less what my neighbors think, and my relatives gave up on me a long time ago. So what you see is what you get. If you buy an Ellora’s Cave “Quickie,” you’re gonna get a lot of sex and not much plot. That’s the nature of the beast. The name alone should tip you off. On the other hand, if you buy my Cerridwen Press book, you get a fairly complex paranormal romance with a smidgen of sex. And that’s how it’s labeled. Take the hint—all of the books are rated by their publishers. And if you’re still not sure, I’ve happily answered emails of the people who have asked. I want the readers to be happy—I’m never going to steer someone to read a book that will make them uncomfortable. But hot doesn’t mean poorly written. I agonize over each and every sentence of a Quickie as much as I do one of my “Spicy” cowboy stories for the Wild Rose Press.

E-publishing lends itself to hotter, more explicit literature. People like buying their super sexy stuff on-line. No disapproving sales clerk shaking a finger, and a lot of towns don’t have a store that will even carry the really steamy stories. As the song (click here to see a video that will make you laugh your ass off, if you have a sense of humor about this sort of thing) says, “The internet is for porn.” That’s a fact of life. In the world of e-books, hotter sells better. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m in this business to hopefully make a living some day.

So I write what the market demands. Does that make me pornographer? Depends on your definition. Does that make me a slut? My husband only wishes. And yeah, I get a little crabby when people start calling me names. Doesn't everyone?

I call myself a romance author, and tell people I write very steamy books. I refuse to write anything that degrades women or men, or is just sex for sex’s sake. Even in my quickies, you’re going to find an HEA, limited though it may be due to space. Humans (or vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, etc.) are sexual creatures, and sex IS a big part of romance. I have no problem taking you behind the bedroom doors. If you don’t care for that in a story, I have some lovely friends who write sweet romances, and I’ll be happy to send you to their web sites. I'm not being snarky here. There are great books out there, no matter what your preference, and I think people should read, and write, what they enjoy. The bookshelves, real and virtual, are big enough for all of us.