Not a joke

So, we saw Joker yesterday. I went in expecting a typical comic book film filled with action and larger than life characters.

What I got, though, wasn’t that. What I got was a disturbing, deeply troubling movie about a man who needed help in the face of a cruel, careless society. A man who was victimised over and over again. A soft soul twisted into something lost and desperate, someone who “didn’t even know he existed” until he went over the edge and was finally seen in his most intense moment. And all around him were people feeling the same way. A movie about mental health, about confusion, about illness and the poor ways in which we deal with it. A movie about the disenfranchised and what happens when they’re finally pushed too far.

We couldn’t even talk abut the film for the first half hour after we left it.

Am I glad I saw it? Yes. It’s a brilliantly acted film with a sociological message that resonates very strongly right now. It’s one-thirty in the morning and I’m kept awake by the haunting message of a society in chaos. But be aware that if you go see it, (and you should), you’re not getting typical comic book villains. You’re getting a dystopian vision of what happens when we fail each other as human beings.


Let the words out

So I’ve clearly fallen down on the attempt to blog weekly. Life gets busy, right?

I suppose it’s about priorities. I choose to read in the bath rather than blog. I choose to respond to emails, scroll FB, even play candy crush…instead of blog.

And I’ve come to realise it’s because I don’t feel like I have anything to say. I remain rather private, so sharing my daily goings on feels both like twaddle and a little too life-like. And I don’t want to bug people or bring them down.

And weirdly enough, today’s word is:


noun dih-TRYE-tus

1 geology : loose material (such as rock fragments or organic particles) that results directly from disintegration

2 a : a product of disintegration, destruction, or wearing away : debris

b : miscellaneous remnants : odds and ends

Odds and ends. That’s what the last few weeks have felt like. Rushing to hospital for our daughter, breaking fingers, foot, elbow, shoulder injuries, falling downstairs (more than once). Being told fat people don’t deserve compliments or kindness until they lose weight. And then crying through the rest of that appointment and trying not to let it show. It’s working out six or seven days a week to try and feel less hideous when I’m among people I don’t want to think poorly of me.

It’s all odds and ends and is hard to put into coherent form that means anything to a reader.

But that’s life, isn’t it? We all have our own detritus, the disintegration and destruction of odds and ends blowing through our days.

It’s picking through the leftovers, the unworn odds and ends that helps us find the important stuff, the things made of titanium. Those pieces of ourselves that remain, at their core, strong and untouchable.

I suppose, really, the words are there. I just have to allow them out. As do so many of us who hold them back for fear of being a burden, too opinionated, wrong, etc.

We should let our words out. Like the chihuahua in the photo.

Building, learning, flaying


1 a : a list or supply of dramas, operas, pieces, or parts that a company or person is prepared to perform

b : a supply of skills, devices, or expedients; broadly : amount, supply

c : a list or supply of capabilities

I’ve lapsed on my desire to use a word of the day for more regular blogging, mostly because I’ve been reading. Real, paperback books with ink and pages. And I’ve been loving it.

And so today’s word resonates, especially as I begin to put together a course and presentations for an upcoming trip.

I think, when you’re in your twenties, you believe you have the keys to the kingdom. There’s little you aren’t good at, and you’re ready to learn more, even though you know it all already.

And as you get older you begin to realise how little you know in the scheme of things, and you really begin to learn. That’s where I am now. I’ve learned quite a bit, and yet there are tomes of things I don’t know or understand yet. And the best thing about that?

I love it.

I love learning. I love adding to my own repertoire by learning from people who have a supply of capabilities far beyond my own. I love passing that knowledge on once I’ve got a handle on it myself. And I love knowing it will never stop. There will always be more to add, more to learn, more to share. I’m at a place where I can value what I do know, and yearn for that which I don’t. And that makes each day an adventure where I try to learn something new or take on something I don’t agree with, so that I can truly flay at my understanding of it until I reach the core and know why I believe and feel as I do.

Today’s word is repertoire, and I’ll be forever building mine.

Jabby little teeth

I seem to be out of words.

I sit down to blog, but there’s nothing there. There are personal things I could rant on about, but that feels a little too close to the bone and obvious and, and…And that leaves me not knowing where to start. I self censor to the point of muteness.

And then I thought about the courses I’ve taught, and how many of our quick writes start with just a word. So that’s what I’m going to do to get myself writing again. (I can’t seem to get into the headspace to begin my next manuscript, either).

I’m going to use the Word of the Day at Merriam Webster and simply see where it takes me. Like this…


1 : to break up (a region, a group, etc.) into smaller and often hostile units

2 : divide, compartmentalize

This was a weird fit today. I’ve been fighting the black dog all week, its jabby little teeth nipping at my already moth eaten confidence. And in order to keep moving I have to compartmentalise. I have to focus on my manuscripts and words and the gym and movies. Anything that muzzles the black dog for even a moment. But it’s always there in the background, a dark region spreading over the shadow of my soul and kept at bay only by forced balkanisation, where the regions shift and grind against one another in an ever present battle for the essence of what is left of me.

Perhaps, one day, they will be less hostile toward one another, these balkanised regions of me.

Let’s get steamy

Last year I was honoured to co-edit the Escape to Pleasure anthology with the wonderful Sandy Lowe. It was fun and we had a great time choosing the stories.

This year I’ve been given the opportunity to do it on my own. Silk and Leather is about losing your inhibitions, about taking a wild ride, and about chasing that dirty dream.

We had a ton of submissions, and it was really hard to choose. Some submissions came from total newcomers to the game, some came from old pros. They were all excellent and they were all hot. But at the end of the day we could only take twenty.

And those twenty are a sexy submersion into sublime sensuality that will have you turning pages.

We’ll release the list of authors included soon. It comes out in April so you’ve already got something to look forward to in 2020.

What’s in a name?

A number of times recently I’ve had discussions about pen names. It’s a subject that comes up in my writing courses, too.

Q: Should you have one? How do you choose one?

A: Maybe, and carefully.

Here is the primary question to start with: if someone Googled your real name and found your books, would you be 100% okay with that? One hundred percent. If not, if you have any doubts at all, get a pen name.

I write my novels under a pen name, but much of my published erotica and poetry is under my real (then real) name. I wish I’d used a pen name from the start; not because I’m in any way ashamed of what I’ve written, but because my place among many different types of marginalised communities means I’m aware I can be Googled, and there’s a sense of professionalism that makes me want to keep that writing separate.

But, it is what it is.

And that’s part of my advice about pen names. Think ahead, not just about today. Because once it’s in print, that’s forever.

The other part of my advice is to think it through. Choosing a name like pert butterfly butt is cute, but is it the professional writing face you want to turn to the world? Is it something you’ll answer to in public, at readings? Will it get you taken less seriously than a more standard sounding name? Does it make you sound like an amateur cyber writer? If you have a long and wonderful writing career, will you be happy you published under that name?

These are questions only you can answer for yourself. But give them real thought, because as I say…forever. It’s kind of like the tattoo of publishing. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And then you can decide how solid you want that wall between real self and author self to be.

And one last thing; someone asked me about having a second pen name, as they might be genre jumping slightly. This is a pronged question. Are you going to be doing lots of writing in a single genre? Do you have a solid fan base within that genre?

Then yes, you should consider it. Pen names allow you to play with different genres and still keep your readership happy. However, if you’re a natural genre jumper, if you write all over the place anyway, then there’s probably no reason to bother with it.

Happy writing, under any name you use.

Week 2: eerie history and traffic

If you’ve read any of the other blogs, you’ll know I’ve mentioned the insanity of driving in Italy. We thought it might be different near the bigger cities. But we found on our way to Pompei that they’ll randomly close roads, and the detours take you back to point A… What should have taken 30 minutes took an hour and a half. There was swearing. And radiating tension that required the windows down so they didn’t shatter. But we made it with five minutes to spare…

We’d had enough advice to know that a tour of Pompeii was imperative, as it’s too big to wander, and understand, alone. So we booked a two hour tour with a local archaeologist, whose specialty was mosaic reconstruction. She was amazing, and kept trying to find places in the shade where we could stop to talk.

Pompeii is immense. I’ve never understood the scale of it from photos and such. Our guide said it would take three full days to see the entire thing. We saw a lot. And though there were a lot of people there, it was big enough not to feel particularly crowded. And two hours was enough. It was 34 degrees and we were done in.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the spa at the hotel. We took the hotel shuttle up to the village and had a fab dinner, then walked back–down some 200 uneven, cobbled stone steps. It was wonderful.

We decided to forgo driving to our tour of Herculaneum the next day, and took the train. The receptionist assured us it was a better idea…

It wasn’t.

The train was an hour late, and we were again rushing toward the tour. On arrival, though, no one was there. Just a few tourists milling about. We’d been told it was much quieter but this didn’t seem right. Long story short, after much two-language broken conversation, Nic looked more closely at our tickets.

The tour was at 3:00. Not 10:30, which we’d arrived for.

So…they gave us our tickets and we wandered through it ourselves. Thanks to our guided tour at Pompeii, we recognised plenty of things. And still managed to spend almost three hours there, too.

It’s different from Pompeii. It’s more intimate. You can still feel the shadows of people lingering in the corners. You can still hear the children dashing down the streets. And you can still see the piles of skeletons in the caves where they took shelter. The colours in the mosaics are still vibrant, and the mud that covered the city is still visible on the window grates.

It left me feeling deeply affected, and most of the city is still buried beneath adjacent apartment buildings and shops. It’s a live excavation site. If you only have time for one thing in the region, go to Herculaneum. But take a tour…

The train on the way back was a short persons horror story. It was packed shoulder to shoulder, standing room only. It was boiling hot, and I had sweat dripping from every pore on my body. It was all sweaty backs and armpits thanks to my vertically challenged body. I stumbled off the train and swore I’d never complain about the traffic again.

We decided that seeing Mt Vesuvius was enough. We didn’t need to make the climb. We headed back to the pool.

A few photos: