Monday, July 28

Yearnin' For Some Learnin' – RainbowCon 2015

Educational content at GLBTQ conferences can sometimes be particularly slim. Sure, there are all those fun topics about fandom, and you'll probably learn something by attending them, but if you're looking for some content to really sink your teeth into? Most of the time you'll be out of luck. But not at RainbowCon!
RainbowCon is a four-day conference that focuses on GLBTQ topics and persons across various media. Our main goal with the conference is to bring people together who love and support the GLBTQ community through all the artistic forms. Our content spans from fiction, television, and movies, to fandom, theatre, and visual media like web comics, all with a decidedly QUILTBAG perspective. With GLBTQ topics slowly becoming more visible in the media, education can be exceptionally important, and we wanted to highlight such content at RainbowCon. Here are a few places you'll see educational material at our 2015 convention, which runs July 16th through 19th, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
  • First Exposure Panels – We have panels scattered throughout our con schedule that focus on education for topics that might be completely new to some con-goers. There are con-specific panels such as Con Etiquette 101 and Dealing With Con Harassment, for those who are attending a major event for the first time. There are also panels geared toward educating attendees about various parts of the QUILTBAG spectrum that are less visible or misunderstood (e.g. Bisexual Mythbusters, What is Genderqueer?, and the differences between CD/TV/TS). These panels are meant to be introductions to both the con-going and GLBTQ communities.
  • Social & Political Panels – Never ones to shy away from the tougher topics, we've incorporated a number of panels into RainbowCon that deal with social and political areas of the GLBTQ community as well. Stop by for discussions about current events, confronting bullying, how to be an ally, marriage equality, queerbaiting, and even tips for getting kids reading QUILTBAG-positive literature.
  • Workshops – For those looking for education on a skill level, writers can enjoy our offering of several workshops intended to improve various aspects of their craft. Perspective/POV, worldbuilding, dialogue, villains... There are plenty of topics to be covered, and we hope writers will have a fantastic time and find every workshop they take to be helpful with their writing, whether it's a hobby or a full-time career. Just be sure to jump on these when RSVPs open up; space is limited!
  • Field Trip – Our big field trip for the 2015 event is to take a tour at Tampa Bay's Big Cat Rescue, which has been providing a sanctuary to big cats from near and far. Even this trip will be an educational experience, as the guides on the tours share the stories of their various residents and details about the different species that make up this majestic sect of the animal kingdom. Space is limited, so if you attend, be sure to RSVP when you register. There is a small additional fee for this event, since it is off-site, but as residents of the Tampa area who have been on these tours ourselves, we can tell you that it's truly an experience not to be missed!
So, whether you're looking for something light and fun, or really want to delve deeper into the more complicated topics of the QUILTBAG community, RainbowCon really is a fantastic chance to expand those horizons in a safe environment amongst others who enjoy and support QUILTBAG art.

Saturday, July 26

Tentacles and Chain (Ch. 4)

Chapter Four

There was movement in the darkness and for a moment, Trellen thought the monster had left—but then the water’s scent turned acidic again and he knew the Unspeakable One was still near.
“You will come here,” said the monster. “And lower yourself to me.”
Swallowing back a mouthful of bile, Trellen did as he was bidden, slumping to the floor in front of the heavy bars, trying—and failing—not to tremble.
“You will not look up.”
Trellen merely nodded and lowered his chin, closing his eyes so that he felt rather than saw the arms that pressed between the bars and the hands—the fingers that seemed like his—that fastened something around his neck.
A collar.
As soon as the hands left his neck, Trellen reached up to feel it. It was slender and made of some kind of metal, like the bars—but it was smooth, not corroded, and held in place by some sort of locking mechanism he couldn’t open.
“Hands to your sides, now,” the Unspeakable One said in a gentle, patient tone that did nothing to allay the shame welling up in Trellen’s heart.
But he did as he was told. “Can I see you now?” He hated the weakness of his voice.
“In time. First you must tell me if you have ever tasted another male’s cock.”
Trellen’s breath caught in his throat and he shook his head. Cetaceans didn’t—no one talked like that, asked questions like that! He was aware of his sex, but to speak of it aloud…? Heat coursed through his body. Even when his father had taken him aside to discuss the way of nature, of procreation and pleasure, he hadn’t been so blunt. So vulgar. All in all, the talk had lasted a very short time and left both Trellen and his father feeling uncomfortable.
“Has anyone ever tasted your cock, Pretty?” the Unspeakable One asked unabashedly.
Trellen shook his head again.
Long, thin fingers—fingers that ended in black, hooked talons—grasped his chin and tilted it so he was looking up into the darkness, toward where he imagined the Unspeakable One’s face might be. The glow orb was too far behind Trellen for its light to penetrate the water beyond the bars. All Trellen could see was that the Unspeakable One’s skin was pale, but it was impossible to tell its color because of the orb’s strange green glow.
“Have you known any pleasure?” the monster asked.
Yes. He knew the pleasure of the Blue, the joy of filtered sunlight on his back. He knew what it was to breach the surface and taste the air, behold the scintillating yellow glow of the sun—it was blinding, but then Trellen would dive back below the cool waves, which felt all the better for the few moments he’d spent in the unveiled sunlight.
But that wasn’t what the Unspeakable one was asking, so Trellen shook his head. He had not known the pleasure of another Cetacean’s touch. And it’s doubtful I ever will unless I find some way out of this place.
As Trellen’s eyes became more and more accustomed to the never-ending darkness, he thought he could make out the other male’s shape, a shadow against the greater darkness beyond, that was vaguely hominid except for the long, thick tentacles that grew where a Cetacean’s tail would be.
“Well?” said the Unspeakable One.
Trellen shivered as the monster slid his thumb along his cheek in a caress both pleasant and uncomfortable: the former in that it made his skin tingle; the latter for exactly the same reason. Because if I enjoy the touch of a monster, what does that make me? It was a mightily unsettling thought.
The Unspeakable One continued, “This is an interesting turn of events. I had not anticipated the pleasure of breaking you in.”
“Wh-what does that mean?”
He chuckled. “I’m sure you can figure that out on your own, my Pretty.”  
A cold knot of fear congealed in his gut. The Unspeakable one might sound pleased by the prospect “breaking him in,” but Trellen was sure he wasn’t going to enjoy it at all.
Trellen was ordered to rise and did so numbly. The Unspeakable One reached attached a chain to his collar, further demoralizing his spirit. Then the hand was gone and Trellen heard strange sounds, metal on metal, and suddenly the bars swung open and there nothing between him and the Unspeakable One.
“Come, my Pretty.”
Trellen couldn’t move. “The glow—”
“Will not be necessary. Come.” He held out his hand—the one not holding the other end of the chain leash—as if he expected Trellen to take it. 
“Wait. Please.” But he’d agreed to this. He said he would submit, that he wouldn’t fight. It’s the only chance I have to escape. Clearly the Unspeakable One meant to take him from his prison, and that meant he could look for a way out. If I survive that long.  “Y-you never said, what am I to call you,” he said, stalling for time.
Trellen felt weak.
“Come,” the Unspeakable One repeated, gesturing with his outstretched hand, beckoning Trellen to lay his own hand within it. “You’ve given your word. You will submit to my pleasure or I will leave you here.”
It took all of his willpower, but he laid his hand within the…my Master’s hand. Master’s skin was cold to the touch and there was webbing between his long, barbed fingers that Trellen hadn’t noticed before. His breath caught yet again as Master twined their fingers together. The gesture was oddly intimate and sent a shiver of pleasure down Trellen’s spine. How could he hate somebody who excited his body with a simple touch?
But how can I take any pleasure from a monster who wants to use me, break me in? Because he knew what it meant—or at least he suspected. He will make me lie beneath him. He will force his…. He swallowed hard. There could only be one reason why Master wanted to know if Trellen had ever tasted another male’s member.
Master gave a gentle tug to Trellen’s hand, coaxing him forward into the darkness. “Tell me what you fear,” he said, his tone as gentle as his touch.
But it didn’t matter how gentle his tone, Trellen felt sure the Unspeakable One would use his fears against him if he admitted them. He shook his head, refusing to speak.
“Unless you wish me to become cross with you,” Master warned, “you must answer me when I ask you a question, and honestly, at that.”
Trellen swallowed hard and forced himself to speak. “I fear the dark.” It was true enough, especially when he was being led through the darkness by a monster—it just wasn’t what he feared most.
But Master snorted out a laugh. “All Cetaceans fear the dark, my Pretty. What do you fear?”
He opened his mouth but then shut it again. But he didn’t have a choice, he had to say something. “I fear what you’re going to do to me.”
“Yet you accepted my offer.” He sounded intrigued. “And if I am not mistaken, you don’t find my touch wholly unwelcome.”
“I can’t help the way my body reacts.” He sounded defensive even to his own ears.
“There is no shame in taking pleasure in another’s touch, Pretty.”
Trellen tensed as he felt the other’s hand—the one that held the end of the leash—snake around his waist.
“The passage narrows. You must let me lead you through the darkness you fear so much. Besides, one thing you must never fear is being close to me. Another is speaking your mind—especially when it comes to pleasure. I’ve never understood the Cetacean propensity to repress sexual desire.”
“We do no such thing!”
He laughed again. “You blush at the mere mention of the word ‘cock’.” 
“That’s because it’s a disgusting word.”
“Says who?” he asked, continuing to sound amused.
“What do you know of…?” But the angry words died behind the lips Trellen shut tight. It would in no way be wise to anger his Master by calling him a monster and demanding to know what he knew of common decency. If Trellen was going to survive this, he would have to learn to curb not only his curiosity, but his tongue as well. “How do you know what Cetaceans think?” he asked in a more civil tone.
“I know what I see. Your kind are a sad, repressed lot who take no joy in the beauty of the open sea, but rather hide behind your coral reefs, afraid of boogie men in the dark. All but you,” he added, and stroked Trellen’s chin.
It was all he could do not to recoil away from the unwanted affection. “I am afraid of boogie men in the dark.”
Master pulled him closer. “So you are, my Pretty. But fears can be unlearned.”
Trellen doubted that, but kept his thoughts to himself. He felt another door open, but the chamber beyond was as black as the one they’d just passed through. “What is this place?”
“My home. And yours, too.”
“Do you never light it?”
“I have no need to.”
So you really will use my fears against me.
Master led him a short way farther and then stopped, turning Trellen to face him, making Trellen wonder how much the Unspeakable One could see. It seemed to be a great deal. “Stay still, just where you are,” he instructed and dropped both Trellen’s hand and the long chain. Then he moved away and Trellen was suddenly very alone and very cold. He wrapped his arms around his midsection, wishing more than ever that he could see something—anything—in the darkness, just so he would know what was happening.
There was movement, the clinking of metal against metal. He felt the currents change again as Master moved around the chamber, and the knots tightened in Trellen’s gut as his imagination began to run wild. “What…what are you going to do to me?” he asked, when he couldn’t take it a second longer.
Out of nowhere, he felt Master’s fingers stroking his cheek and much to his shame, Trellen leaned into the cold, alien touch.
Master’s answer, however, chilled him to the bone: “I’m going to teach you something of pleasure, my Pretty, because it seems to me that your education has been sadly lacking.”


A number of people have asked me why I'm not charging any money for Tentacles and Chain and have suggested putting out a virtual "tip jar" for donations.
What I'd really like to do is ask anyone who is so inclined to donate a couple of bucks to my fundraising effort for AIDS Walk Detroit. (CLICK HERE to go directly to my donation site and hit the big red "Give Now" button; unfortunately, they only take credit cards *sigh*) 
Anyone who knows me, knows how important HIV awareness and education is to me. In the past few years, our funding has been seriously cut (along with everyone else's because let's face it, the economy has seen better days). That means that fundraising efforts like this are more important than ever. I know I always feel like my $5 or $10 isn't enough to make a difference, but believe me: every little bit counts, because those small donations (even $1 and $2 donations) add up. If you're enjoying this story and both want and are able to support me, please support a cause I believe in.
And if you're not in a position to give money (and believe me, I get that, too!) give some time. It doesn't have to be a big commitment, just take the time to make sure you understand HIV and AIDS, because the more people who understand it, the better off we'll be, not just in terms of stopping the spread of the disease, but in ending the stigma that goes along with it.
Thanks, guys!

About Our Organization

AIDS Walk Detroit provides financial support for programs in HIV prevention, education and services for HIV positive individuals. The organization promotes public awareness through events and activities to ensure people living with HIV/AIDS are treated with dignity and respect. To Contact Us: Phone: 248-399-9255 Fax: 248-399-3458 Address: P.O. Box 1618 Royal Oak, MI 48068-9879

Saturday, July 19

Tentacles and Chain (Ch. 3)

Okay, I'm just going to say it here. I sent this to print without double checking my #1 homophone nemesis.  I apologize. Please forgive me for "lightening" instead of "lightning." I'll get it fixed for the second edition, but winners of the first edition are stuck with the typo. *hangs head in shame* (unless that makes it a collectors edition?  *G*  Seriously, sorry guys!)

And now, back to your regularly scheduled update.... 

Chapter Three

Trellen slumped to the floor. The implication of the words was clear. This was a one-time offer. He could either accept it or…or rot here.
But what kind of choice was that? To belong to—to be violated by—a monster, or to never see the Blue again? Blessed Kaia…. But surely the Goddess had turned her back on him or he wouldn’t be there. And what makes me think that if I say yes, he’ll ever let me swim in sunlight again? For all I know, he’ll keep me in this cage no matter what I choose.
Trellen wrapped his arms around his tail and tried not to give into growing despair. The thought of never again tasting the air above the waves, never again swimming through the sparkling blue waters, never seeing the sun or feeling its warmth on his skin…. Why hadn’t the Unspeakable One just killed him? Death would be more merciful than this.
What does a monster know of mercy?
But perhaps, just perhaps, if he agreed, he could find a means of escape. Was it too much to hope for?
And is freedom really worth the cost? The Unspeakable One’s desires were clear. He would taint my body. My soul. The worst part was that Trellen wasn’t sure he would hate it. “Can…can I see your face?” Maybe it would be easier to say “yes” if the monster didn’t look like a monster.
“If you say agree to be mine to do with as I please, I assure you that you will see all of me, my Pretty, not just my face. If you decline, there is no need for you to see my face.”
Trellen swallowed back another lump in his throat. “Can…will you allow me some time to think about it?” 
“Of course, my Pretty. But I will expect your answer when I return.” The tentacles slipped back through the bars of the cage. But true to his word, the Unspeakable One didn’t touch him. He only dropped a small net full of thick sagren leaves near Trellen’s tail.
There was a shift in the current and the Unspeakable One was gone.
Trellen was too stunned to move for many minutes. Sagren leaves were his favorite, and they only grew in the Blue. And only inside the reef. Or reef. Though it wasn’t a common sea vegetable, Trellen was sure it wasn’t unique to his colony. But how far did he bring me? There were no other islands nearby.
Trellen picked up the net and unwrapped the leaves.
How did he know these were my favorite food? Or was it mere coincidence? But then why seek out one of the rarer leaves when there are so many more common vegetables growing all over the sea? Did the monster have a spark of mercy—or at least compassion—in his soul after all?
Or was it?
Hunger belayed further consideration of the question and he lifted one of the leaves to his nose; it smelled green and fresh, and made his mouth water and his stomach grumble with hunger. He bit into the leaf and sweet flavor filled his mouth. It could truly only have been picked within the last hour; sagren lost its sweetness after the leaves were plucked from their stems. Trellen quickly devoured the leaf and picked up another. Was this a hint of how he could expect to be treated if he accepted the offer, or a trick?
But why trick me? He could take what he wanted. The Unspeakable One’s strength surpassed anything Trellen had ever encountered or even imagined. And with tentacles as well as arms—or at least I think he has arms…. Uncomfortable images painted themselves in his mind.
Trellen shook himself. No, he had to believe that the Unspeakable One was similar to him, that he had arms and…male anatomy. He shuddered.
“If you agree to be mine to do with as I please….”
Goddess, how could he agree to that?
But would it make any difference if the Unspeakable One were female? If there was a difference between males and females of his kind.
Maybe it was both male and female.
Or maybe it was neither.
Only Trellen doubted that, because it had certainly known its way around his anatomy.
Heat rushed to his cheeks again. No matter how much he wanted to, he couldn’t deny the pleasure in the other male’s touch. He couldn’t deny….Lucien. Was that why he’d woken up in this dark, awful place, because Kaia was punishing him for wondering what it would be like to touch his best friend? For dreams over which he had no control?
He closed his eyes. Would it really be so bad to submit to something that had felt so good? Especially when it’s my only hope of finding a way out of this place? He could gain the beast’s trust and look for a means of escape. But to let my body be used, to let my soul be tainted…. It was too much to think about. He put down the leaves, no longer hungry. I wish I’d never left the safety of the colony today, never seen those stupid statues.
After a long moment, Trellen picked up the tiny glow orb again and reexamined his cell by its dim light.
Nothing had changed.
The walls were still solid and unyielding, and no matter how hard he hit them with his tail they wouldn’t break. The bars were secure. He was left exhausted and disheartened. As long as he was held here, there was no hope of escape.
And no one is going to come looking for me. When he didn’t return, they would all assume that either his curiosity had finally been the death of him or that he’d swum off into the Blue. No doubt his mother would worry and his father would be disappointed; his sisters and little brother would miss him, as would his friends. But it’s not as if I haven’t told them a thousand times how sick I am of the colony and the Elders and all the stupid restrictions they impose. Restrictions about exploring the sunken leviathans. Restrictions about leaving the colony alone.
Restrictions about males touching other males.
But it wasn’t just the Elders who said it was wrong. It was wrong.
Perhaps out in the Blue I could have found…something. Anything to fix all the things wrong with me. Maybe he would have found his True Self, like the heroes in his favorite childhood tales.
 Few Cetaceans made journeys out to the open sea anymore, but history was full of tales of intrepid heroes and heroines who left home in search of the true purpose to their lives, their soul mates, or simply to seek adventure. He was younger than the heroes in those tales, but he had what his mother called an “itchy tail” that longed to swim free.
He looked around his tiny cell again. Free. More than anything, he wanted to be free.
But even if anyone suspects what’s really happened to me, no one would dare come to rescue me.
Trellen wouldn’t want them to.

It was impossible to know how much time had passed before the Unspeakable One returned. Trellen couldn’t see anything beyond the meager, eerie green light of the glow, but he felt the other male’s presence, the shift in the current, the change in the taste of the water. After a moment of waiting for the other to say something, Trellen finally spoke. “I know you’re there.”
“You say that like as if it’s an accusation, Pretty.” There was humor in his tone—irony—but the sound of the Unspeakable One’s voice still made fear trickle down Trellen’s spine. “It’s not as if I’m hiding my presence.”
“But you won’t let me see you.”
“Whether or not I reveal myself is conditional. That is not the same thing as hiding.”
Trellen wasn’t sure he could fault the monster’s logic. “It doesn’t matter.”
“You’ve made your decision, then?”
He nodded. “I accept. I will be yours to do with as you please.” Kaia forgive me.
“And you will not fight me?” He sounded surprised…and…pleased? Trellen’s gut churned. “You will submit to my pleasures? Of your own free will?”
Shame flared in Trellen’s cheeks and he dropped his chin. “Yes.” It was the hardest word he’d ever forced passed his lips.

Wednesday, July 16

Life, Love, and Happiness

I've talked on and off over the past few months about depression and anyone who checks up on me via Facebook knows about the ongoing drama with the new house, the neighbor, and above all the water. (Still not sorted, but I have a much clearer picture of what's "wrong" with Detroit Water and Sewage: they have absolutely no system in place so that one person knows what the last person said or did; there is no communication between departments within the department, and I think their computer system must be related to HAL because it seems to do things all on its own. The people we have talked to are honestly awesome, but the *system* needs an overhaul).

Ahem. But. Today I wanted to talk about some of the awesome things the last year has brought.  :) Like most people, I sometimes (read: often) forget to focus on the positive.

Although I've been pretty bad the last week and not been to the gym, I've been working out pretty regularly since March or so and have lost about 40 lbs. Someone over the Fourth of July holiday asked me how I'd done it. The answer is really easy: I've watched my diet and gotten regular exercise. For the first month or so, I used a calorie counter online and spent a *lot* of days hungry. But I took off a good deal of weight and felt pretty happy. (Not a scary amount, like four pounds in one week, but the first few pounds are always water weight; if I'd continued losing like that, it would have been bad. My normal average is about one and a half pounds a week--some weeks one pound, some weeks, two.)  

I decided to drink more water and  cut out the sugar (except for in my coffee or the occasional glass of lemonaide). I switched to raw honey for cooking and started replacing a couple of my cups of coffee per day with cups of herbal tea because too much coffee makes my heart beat too fast. I happen to love cooking, so making my own food (i.e. getting away from boxes, cans, and frozen delights) was pretty easy for me. The crock pot became my very best friend in the kitchen. My rule now for packaged food is that if I can't read the ingredients without having to look them up, I avoid it. We never went out to eat too much, but when we do, I opt for the best menu choice possible and refuse to feel guilty over the occasional dish of calamari shared with my husband!

I don't follow fad diets, but I'm aware of things like the glycemic index and try to plan the best meals possible as well as the best possible over-all day for my diet. I practice portion control and eat smaller meals. Grandma used to call this approach "moderation." Grandma was seventy five years old when she died, stood five foot two and wore a size ten. I realize that by some standards she was "heavy" (yeah, right!) but in my eyes, she was lovely. 

I have about twenty pounds to go. I'll decide when I get "there" where "there" really is. Then I'll buy that corset I've always wanted but was afraid to buy because I always knew I would lose weight some day and I didn't want to buy a three hundred dollar corset twice (one for "fat" me and one for "healthy weight" me).  Ergo, I've been dreaming of corsets for fifteen years and probably should have just bitten the bullet and bought one for "fat" me anyway. 

But see, when you have the notion that you're fat, it can be hard to do nice things for yourself. And I've been living with the notion that I'm fat for a very, very long time, even when I weighed 115lbs (I stand about five feet tall, and really, I *am* big boned--or at least I have a larger bone structure. I have what I've affectionately deemed "good Russian hips, good for making baby!"  *G*)  

Back in high school, I stood exactly five feet tall. And, like I said, I weighed about 115 lbs (it fluctuated a bit, but that was my average weight.) If memory serves, I wore a size 10/12 in junior clothing--or a medium if it was sized that way. (And seriously, women's clothing *does* need to get standardized. Currently, if I'm shopping for day to day clothes, I'm a large or a an XL--still have those big hips!--but if I'm shopping for workout clothes, I'm a two or even THREE X.)

So anyway, back to high school. I looked hot. Okay, maybe I wasn't as thin as some of the other girls and I could have used more exercise, but I looked pretty darned good.

Only I didn't think so.

My aunts (including my aunt June who was... well...not thin) were constantly telling me that if I wasn't careful, I would end up like my mother (who wasn't especially heavy, just not as thin as she used to be.) Every time they saw my mother they whispered behind her back (but within my hearing) "Have you seen how fat Judy's getting???"  Seriously. She *wasn't* fat. She had health issues because she drank and smoked too much, but that's a different story. 

My self-image was further compounded by my band teacher/flag corps coach who told me point blank one day that I was seriously over weight and at my height, I should weigh about 95 lbs. (I honestly feel sorry for his daughter. Goddess only knows what kind of self esteem issues she got as a result of his attitudes.) I should be on a diet and exercising more. I wanted to grow up to be an attractive woman, didn't I? 

I got the same message less directly from my "peers." You knew who was popular and pretty and it was the skinny girls, the ones always on a diet, the ones on cheer leading and drill team, the ones in basketball and on track. The fit, athletic, outgoing, mainstream girls. 

I tried to lose weight, but I couldn't (maybe because I was smack in the middle of "healthy" and to lose weight would have been bad?) Eventually, I gave up. I stopped trying. I gained weight. Over the years, I gained a LOT of weight. Why? Because all those people telling me, either directly or indirectly, that I was fat made me feel worthless. Ugly. Hopeless. 

All of the ads on the tele didn't help either. You know the ones. Look at how fat I used to be but now I'm a size 0 and I'm happy. I will never, ever be a size 0. It isn't the way my body is made. 

But eventually, I also gained some self-respect, so that when a smart assed cook I worked with said (to his buddies behind the line but loud enough for the waitstaff to overhear) for about the sixth or seventh time that he didn't date "fat chicks" I turned around and said "That's okay, I don't date assholes. Guess neither of us has to worry, huh?" His face turned bright red. The other girls were gobsmacked (I was always the quiet one), but then laughed because somebody finally said what we were all thinking. 

Eventually, I got pregnant, put on more weight, had a baby, and really learned to love my body exactly the way it was. After all, I got this way all on my own and if I didn't like it, I could do something about it. I made an effort to make better food choices for overall health, but I was going to be happy as a two, sometimes three X and just live my life because newsflash: it's *my* life. Not my band teacher's, not my co-workers, not anybody's. (I also have a wonderful husband who knew me when I was thinner and who never stopped looking at me like I'm the most beautiful woman in the world.)

And now, at 45 years old, I'm ready to take the weight off. Not because of my aunts or Dr. Oz. Not for my band teacher. Not because of the Victoria Secrets underwear models or a screwed up society whose idea of "ideal" has caused so many young women to become anorexic (a society that tells girls to dress up and be pretty but not to be sluts or a tease; the messages sent to young women are only getting uglier). I'm doing this for me. Because it was frustrating to be winded after going up a flight of stairs. Because heart issues and high blood pressure run in my family and I don't want a bunch of problems down the road. Because I want that freaking corset that I've always been afraid to buy because as happy as I said I was (and mostly I was despite the best efforts of advertisers who assured me I wasn't desirable) I always dreamed of taking off the weight, I just wasn't quite ready to do it. 

Because next summer, I'm going to wear a bikini, no matter what my dress size happens to be. 

I have no idea what weight I'll end up at. Like I said, I have a goal, but it's hard to tell how I'm going to look when I get closer to it. I've had a baby and major surgery. My body will never look like it did in high school. But I can go up a flight of stairs without feeling winded (unless I've been on the elliptical that morning!) I have more stamina and I'm happier on days when I work out. I'm lifting weights because I love it, doing yoga because I love it, and hope to get back into the pool soon. (I sort of fried my hair the last time I did it, so I've avoided chlorine for a bit.)

And last week, I went out and did something I've wanted to do for twenty years. I got my nose pierced. Earlier in the year, I dyed my hair blue (I've always wanted the crazy colors but was never in a position to be able to do it.) I got my hair cut short and funky (thank you, Johnny! I have *the* most awesome hairdresser in the whole world! The "fried" was totally my fault; I bleached it at home, which normally I'm really good at, but then I started writing this hot sex scene....*sigh* the life of a writer. I went in and as Johnny was assessing the damage, he made faces you *never* want to see your hairdresser make. And then he said with confidence that we could fix this and gave me the most awesome cut to camouflage what I'd done to myself. I seriously love the style--it's what I'd wanted when I first got it cut short, by someone else. The first stylist gave me a perfectly nice but perfectly boring cut. Next time I went in, I didn't care who cut it, I just needed *something* done. So I got this sweet guy who saw right through my suburban housewife disguise and pegged me as fun and funky. *G*  He's the only person I'll go to now.) 

Not really my best pic, but I'm smiling
So it's been a year of ups and downs, but it's getting better. I should be moving into a house I love by the end of the month (although it still needs work, but I'm okay with that.) I'm working on getting back to writing; I have two WIPs and a couple of back-burner stories (one of them with a character whose experiences with weight and weight loss mirror my own). I have Tentacles and Chain with its awesome cover art by Gus Li. And just by living my life, I'm starting to figure out that there are some people around me that I really don't want to be around. They're not toxic per se, but they are toxic to me; I don't need the drama. I don't want it. Time to move on.  

Saturday, July 12

Tentacles and Chain (Ch 2.)

If you're here for the BDSM Blog Hop, you want the post just below this, where I talk a bit about how I got into BDSM, my interest in Dub Con (in fiction and role play), and a little bit about the inspiration for my novella Tentacles and Chain. (The first chapter is also there, or you can find it here: Tentacle and Chain archive). Also, it's still not too late to get in on the giveaway: A print copy of Tentacles and Chain (warning: story contains fantasy dub con, light pain play, a splash of bondage, and a virgin merman). 

To enter the give away, simply leave a comment below and make sure I have a way to get hold of you. I'll pick a winner on the 14th. (Book will be mailed out as soon as I get it back from the printer, theoretically in a week or two).

In the meantime, I'm continuing to post a chapter per week right here on my blog (and in the archive).

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget the rest of the Blog Hop. Click HERE for the main page.

Chapter Two

Trellen couldn’t tell if he’d dozed off or not, not when there was nothing but darkness whether his eyes were opened or closed.  It was impossible to even know how much time had passed. Hours? Days? It felt like a long time; he was numb with the cold and ravenous with hunger. Fear continued to claw at his heart while hopelessness ate away at his soul. Perhaps he would die there, alone in the dark.
Perhaps death would be a mercy.
His childhood had been filled with tales of the Unspeakable Ones, monstrous beings who lived in the dark of Below. But surely those were just tales to frighten children, stories made up to keep young Cetaceans safely within the colony’s reef wall. There was danger in the open sea. Sharks. Men and their leviathans. Those were real. But there was no such thing as monsters.
Was there?
Who else could have brought me here?
Trellen shifted and opened his eyes again—and realized wasn’t alone anymore. He couldn’t see anything, but he sensed it. Felt it. The icy water tasted different. Saltier. More acidic. Whatever it was, it was hovering just outside his cell. Watching. Waiting.  
Long moments ticked past, and fear mounted in Trellen’s chest until he was sure he would burst apart if something didn’t happen soon. Finally, he called out, “Hello?”
Heart-pounding moments passed by without a response. Was he merely imagining that he felt something there?
“Please…is…is someone there?”
Still nothing.
“What do you want with me?” It was the one question he was afraid to ask, because he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer. “Why did you bring me here?”
But still, there was only silence.
A spark of green light flared in the darkness, making Trellen wince and raise his arm up to shield his eyes. Before his vision could adjust enough for him to make out who—or what—was there, a tiny glow orb sailed through the water and landed next to his tail.
By then his eyes was accustomed enough to the unexpected light that he realized it wasn’t bright at all. The glow orb only gave off enough eerie green light to illuminate a very small area—it had only seemed so bright because he’d been sitting in the dark for so long.
Tentatively, he picked up the orb and held it out, hoping to see his captor’s face—praying he wouldn’t see anything. Only a monster would hide in the dark.
His prayer was answered. The light was too dim to penetrate the black waters beyond his cell. Trellen swallowed back a mouth full of bile and fear. “Who are you? Why did you bring me here?” he repeated.
Beyond Trellen’s circle of light, the darkness shifted, came closer. It was moving. The shadows were moving. He scooted back as far as he could, until his back was up against the rough wall, but still the tendrils of shadow continued to creep toward him.
Only they weren’t shadows.
They were tentacles.
Long and black and thick with muscle, slipping through the bars of the cage.
Trellen stared at them for a heartbeat more, then pushed up off the floor, flattening himself against the wall, clutching the glow orb tighter. He slid along the rough surface until he came to the corner—but to turn it would bring him closer to the bars, to the darkness.
To the Unspeakable One.
“What do you want?”
But it didn’t answer.
With panic mounting, Trellen went back the way he’d come. The tentacles followed him, moving slow and steady while Trellen’s heart beat so fast, he was sure it explode right out of his chest. There was no escape.
“Stay away from me! Please!” Don’t hurt me. He couldn’t wrench the words out of his throat. He swam up to the ceiling, beating his tail against the water—but it didn’t matter. There was nowhere to go.
One of the tentacles slipped around the base of his tail and Trellen screamed. In a blind panic, he thrashed against it, nearly dropping his only source of light—his only source of comfort. “P-please! Don’t! Let me go! What do you want!” He pounded against the wall with his fist, hoping to break it. It held fast.
The Unspeakable One tightened its grip until Trellen couldn’t do more than wriggle pathetically. How could anything be so strong? He was going to die there, he was sure of it. “Please don’t—”
“If I wanted to harm you, little one,” came a soft, calm voice, distinctly male, but so very alien, “I would have done so already. If you do not fight me, I will continue to not harm you.”
It was far from reassuring, but Trellen forced himself to be still. Or at least, not to do more than tremble. The creature loosened its grip, but didn’t let go. It took all of Trellen’s willpower not to try to break free or start thrashing again, especially when the tentacle began spiraling slowly up his tail.
“Please,” he whimpered. He could feel every suction cup, every ripple of muscle. Goddess, was the creature going to crush him?
Trellen bit his lip and stayed as still as he could and finally the tentacle stopped, just above his hips, its very tip resting on the smooth skin of his stomach. Instinctively, Trellen drew his arms higher up on his chest, not wanting to touch it. Wanting it off him. “What do you want with me?”
“For right now, I would simply like you to come closer.” And with that, he gave a gentle tug on Trellen’s tail.
Trellen’s breath caught and he squeezed his eyes shut.
“Come,” the monster coaxed.
Trellen gave a shaky nod and allowed himself to be pulled right up to the bars—but even when he opened his eyes again, he still couldn’t see anything but tentacles and black water. “What are you?”
His chuckle was a cold ripple in the water. “You know that already. But you…you are a pretty one.” He slid his tentacle higher up Trellen’s stomach and began to caress his skin.
Trellen shuddered both with fear and unexpected pleasure at the strange touch. He clutched onto the glow orb as if it could somehow protect him. “Wh-what do you want with me?”
“Pretty and persistent.” He sounded amused and Trellen imagined a wicked smile—did Unspeakable Ones have mouths?
They must. How else could they eat? And what did they eat?
Please, don’t let it be Cetaceans.
“What are you called, pretty?” his captor inquired.
He swallowed hard, but the lump in his throat remained. “Trellen.” It was a small triumph that he said it without stuttering.
“A very pretty name, too.” There was no mistaking the pleasure in his tone. He shifted his grip on Trellen’s tail so his tentacle rubbed obscenely against the twin slits just below Trellen’s waist. One slit concealed his anus, the other his penis.
Trellen’s breath hitched as unwelcome sensations flowed through him. He tried to pull away, but that only made it worse. Heat enflamed his cheeks as he felt desire rising; any second now, his member would slip out of its protective fold and betray his arousal.
Goddess, what am I to be aroused by a monster’s touch? Did he have no self-control? “Please. Stop.”
Trellen was only barely aware of the tentacles snaking their way around his wrists—but then his arms were pulled wide in a swift, sudden movement. The creature stopped rubbing against him and asked, “Would you prefer that I hurt you?”
Trellen gulped in water and tried to pull free, but it was no use. He wasn’t strong enough.  “Please don’t.” If the thing wanted to, it could probably rip his arms off.
But the Unspeakable One’s hold slacked, though he didn’t let go. “You asked what I wanted of you.” Another tentacle slid up Trellen’s chest and lightly cupped his chin. The Unspeakable One tilted it, so Trellen was forced to look straight ahead, presumably into the face of his captor.  “Here is my answer: I desire nothing from you. I desire simply you.”
Trellen’s eyes went wide. “I-I don’t understand.”
The creature chuckled, creating another icy ripple in the water. “Oh, I think you do, Pretty.” He dropped Trellen’s chin and eased his tentacles from Trellen’s wrists, gliding them down his arms, caressing Trellen’s skin. The sensual touch made Trellen shudder from both fear and pleasure—and the fear was as much from his own reaction as from the Unspeakable One’s words.
“But the choice is yours,” the creature went on. “You will be mine or not by your own will, not by force.” And with that, he let go and withdrew his tentacles fully from the cell, so that Trellen was left shaking, barely able to stay upright, his traitorous body  tingling everywhere the Unspeakable One had touched it.
Why did it have to feel good?
“What…what happens if I say no?” Trellen wanted—needed—to know.
“Very little. You will not leave here. But I will not harm you any more than I will touch you again unless you agree to be mine. Neither will I coerce you or threaten you, my Pretty. In fact, I will never ask you the question again.” 

Saturday, July 5

BDSM and Role Play (BDSM Blog Hop)

The B in BDSM stands for Bondage and, in this context at least, B is my favorite letter, because for as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the idea of getting tied up.

No, really, I mean for as far back as I can honestly remember, because it started with this:

Although I was entirely too young to understand why scenarios like these captivated me so much (pun intended!), they always gave me a strange sort of vicarious thrill.  (And yes, I'm dating myself by showing these particular images, but this is honestly where it started.)

There was just something about seeing someone tied up and helpless that appealed to me. I didn't know why or even that it wasn't a mainstream idea--at least not until I was playing superheroes with my friends and they didn't want to tie me up as part of the game.  (Truthfully, I think they were just worried about what their mother would say if she walked in on us.)

So I transferred my bondage fantasies to when I was alone playing with my dolls. Poor Barbie always ended up trussed up with yarn--but funny enough, never at Ken's skillful hands. No, it was always another female doll who tied up poor Barbie. Yeah. Without knowing it, I discovered my bisexuality at an early age, too.   ;-)

The story lines I played out with my dolls weren't terribly complex, but they were pretty consistent: allegedly villainous (but really merely misunderstood) female kidnaps Barbie, holds her hostage, and of course, ties her up (my poor aunt lost more skeins of yarn to my childhood fantasies.)

But here's where the story got interesting. It was only natural for Ken to (eventually) ride to the rescue--but by the time he got there, Barbie didn't want to leave. She'd grown to love (in a non-romantic sort of way--I was only 6 or 8 and didn't have much of a concept of romance) her captor. Barbie had seen the "villain" for someone who was lonely or shunned by the village and only wished for companionship--companionship Barbie was happy to give her. So she invariably sent a dejected Ken packing and stayed with her "mistress."

It doubtless comes as little surprise that one of my all-time favorite fairy tales was (and still is) Beauty and the Beast (and I do not mean the one with singing teacups!) in which a beautiful young girl is given to a hideous beast by her father--because if Dad doesn't hand her over, the beast is going to eat him alive. Of course, Beauty eventually falls in love with her Beast who isn't really a monster after all (in either spirit or appearance). 

In fiction, scenarios where someone is coerced into sex dub con, or dubious consent and for a long time, I thought I was the only person who found those situations (in fiction) to be very, very sexy (in reality, there is nothing sexy about it). Truth is, it's a common fantasy and it doesn't make me a bad person or a weak woman. It actually takes a very strong person to recognize and become comfortable with their submissive side (although that submissive side will manifest differently in different people; dub con fantasies are common but not universal. Some people react very strongly negatively so you should never assume anything.)

Whether you're a woman who enjoys giving up her power or a man who doesn't fit somebody's idea of masculine--or "worse" a man who looks that part of the macho guy but still enjoys giving up your power--it is very difficult to fly in the face of convention. Society tells us men should act a certain way and want certain things. It tells women...well, it tells women a whole mess of contradictory things, but one of them is that we have to be strong and independent, and that being obedient to a man (or another woman for that matter) is a sign of weakness.

And I think that's the appeal of dub con in fiction and in role play. When your partner "forces" you to submit and ties you up, the responsibility for your submission is taken out of your hands. It's liberating. And one of the reasons BDSM provides such a good place to explore our kinkier fantasies is because the guiding principle of BDSM is Safe, Sane and Consensual Play.

Okay, maybe you're scratching your head. Didn't I just say that dub con was all about dubious consent, the kind of thing that would get you arrested in real life? That's the difference between reality and fantasy--and between real life and a BDSM scene. In BDSM, nothing happens without all parties involved consenting to it before hand. For my husband and I, the exchange is short and simple (we've been together for 10 years and known each other for twice as long.) It goes something along the lines of  Him: "are you going to be good tonight, or are you going to fight me?"  Me (mischievous smile), "I don't know, what are you in the mood for?" Since we've spent years discussing and discovering our hard and soft boundaries (which are pretty much identical to one another's) not much else is needed. Obviously, when you first start playing with someone, a whole lot more conversation is going to be necessary to establish the ground rules for your consensual non-consent.

But whether you enjoy role playing (rape-fantasy, naughty school boy/girl, kinky cops and robbers) or a total lifestyle commitment to a D/s (Dominant/submissive) or M/s (Master/slave) relationship, BDSM provides a safe, healthy outlet for some of our "darker" fantasies. (I don't really think they're all that dark, I just think some people are uncomfortable shining a light on them.)

So. In that vein, I have a story called Tentacles and Chain that I'm giving away. It's dub con and it is fantasy--and not just because the main characters are a merman and an octopoid merman (think Ursula from Disney's The Little Mermaid only male, hot, and dominant.)

Tentacles and Chain is a grown-up version of the story I used to tell with my Barbie dolls as a little girl (but with guys because m/m is what I do). There's a dash of BDSM, a little pain play, a sprinkle of romance, and a very happy ending. And just let me say it again, it's fantasy. In real life, stalking is creepy.

So here's the deal:
  • Starting today, I'll post a chapter a week here on my blog as well as backing it up on Tentacles and Chain. (That way, anyone who misses a chapter can catch up.) 
  • I'm also giving away a print copy of Tentacles and Chain at the end of this blog hop (with that awesome cover from Gus Li!)
  • All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment below--and make sure I have a way of getting in touch with you
  • You can DOUBLE your chances of winning by subscribing to my newsletter; in it (I should have it out this week) you'll find a news-letter-subscriber only contest to win another copy of Tentacles and Chain
  • What's in my newsletter? About once a month, I send out a brief update on what I've been doing, a book review or two, and a fun recipe (I love to cook!)  Now...I've been slacking, but starting in July, I promise to be regular and on time again. (I also send out occasional special announcements and run news-letter-subscriber-only contests). 
  • I'll pick a winner the day after the hop--your book will be in the mail just as soon as I get it back from the printer. (I'll email the winner with details).

Now, don't forget to check out the rest of the authors participating in the hop!

Tentacles and Chain

Chapter One

Consciousness returned slowly, like haze lifting from the shore. The first thing Trellen became aware of was deep, throbbing pain. The second thing was bone-numbing cold. He opened his eyes—but saw only darkness.
Fear tightened in his chest. Either he’d been blinded or sucked into the world Below, a black place where no sunlight penetrated.
The place where the Unspeakable Ones lived.
Trellen’s pulse hammered harder in his ears. He’d never quite believed the stories about the Unspeakable ones before now. How could such monsters exist when no one had seen them? But no one who had ventured too far below the sunlit waters of the Blu had ever come back, either.
He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, pulling cold water in through his nose and pushing it out through his gill-slits in an effort to calm his thundering pulse and gather his wits. How had he gotten here?
Where is here? He had no idea.
 Slowly, fearful of what he might encounter in the dark, Trellen opened his eyes and stretched out his arms. He was lying on something hard and rough, but it wasn’t rock. It was…strange.
Like the leviathans from Above.
Sometimes he would explore the hulking wrecks, bizarre vessels brought down to the bottom of the Blue by storms that sometimes raged in the Above. The Elders didn’t approve of such explorations.
But they don’t approve of much at all.
At last his breathing calmed some, though the knot in the pit of his gut remained, and Trellen began to feel his way over the surface of whatever it was he was lying on. He moved carefully, praying his eyes would adjust to the darkness.
Please let it only be darkness. If he was blind…. Dearest, Kaia, please….
The only thing worse than becoming blind would be becoming so injured or infirmed that he could never swim through sweet blue waters again.
Trellen gulped back the lump in his throat and continued creeping forward. He quickly found a wall made of the same material as the floor, jutting up at a forty-five degree angle, and followed along its rough-hewn surface. In short order, he came to another wall and then another, each the same as the last.
Definitely like the leviathans.
Their innards were made up of sharp-angled rooms, most so small he could barely turn around. Yet Men, to judge by their skeletons (for Trellen had never seen a living man) were only a little smaller than Cetaceans, and only because instead of long beautiful tails, they had two strange appendages that they used for walking upright on land. 
Legs. That was it.
Rani, one of his teachers, had called them “legs.” She had seen a man once, and described him as a great hairy beast.  
“Men are without souls,” she said, “for souls come from Kaia, the Sea, and Men have no love for the Sea. Men would only conquer and tame, taking what is beautiful and making it into something weak by yoking it to their will.”
Men were selfish, arrogant brutes.
But they were still less frightening than the Dark Things, the Unspeakable Ones who lived Below.
When he came to the fourth wall, Trellen stopped short. It wasn’t made of the same strange material, but rather, something else: rough, cold, bars. Trellen had seen such bars, black and corroded by the waters of the Blue, in many of the leviathans he’d explored—but these bars held fast, no matter how hard he pulled on them. Again and again he yanked—then pushed—then pulled again.
Finally, Trellen slumped down to the floor of the tiny chamber, defeated.
Then he swam up—but didn’t get far. The roof of the chamber wasn’t but a hand-span higher than he was tall.
He slumped back to the floor and wrapped his long slender arms around his body, trying to warm it up. Trying to remember. What was the last thing he’d seen before the darkness….?
The rocks.
He’d been exploring past the reef wall, a massive expanse of jewel-colored coral that separated his colony from the great expanse of the Blue—and therefore the Below, which lay beyond the reach of the Blue’s filtered sunlight. Technically, Trellen was still too young to leave the colony alone, but that hadn’t stopped him yet. Today’s exploration had taken him to the far side of the little island the colony called home, where the seafloor fell at a steep angle into the darkness. There, just at the furtest edge of the shafts of sunlight, he’d spotted a strange rock formation, and curiosity took over.
“Curiosity will be the death of you.” Rani’s warning. If she wasn’t scolding him for his insatiable thirst for knowledge, she was chastising him for daydreaming. But Trellen was seventeen turns of age—nearly eighteen. He was tired of sitting hearing about the Blue; he was ready to explore it.
He looked around the darkness again—or rather, he turned his head from side to side, trying to imagine what his tiny prison might look like if he could actually see it. Maybe I wasn’t so ready to explore the Blue after all.
He remembered swimming toward the rocks, heedless of the growing darkness, and the thrill of discovering that they weren’t rocks at all, but carved statues of strange, hairy Men. Not that Cetaceans didn’t have hair on their heads, but Men had hair everywhere and it fell—if the images Trellen had found on the leviathans were accurate—in long, tight ringlets. Rani said that not only did they have hair on their heads and chins, but also had hair on their arms and chests and legs and everywhere in between.
At that moment, Trellen wouldn’t mind a body full of disgusting hair, if it would keep him warm. He pulled his tail up between his arms and leaned his head down on them. He closed his eyes. He’d been so delighted in his discovery of the huge statues that he never saw the danger hiding in the shadows—or at least that’s where it must have been. Something had wrapped around his tail and yanked him down into the darkness. He’d thrashed and pulled and cried out, but it was fast and strong and if anyone heard him, they didn’t arrive soon enough.
But chances are no one heard. There were only a few narrow pathways through the reef wall and little reason to guard them or patrol the waters outside the protective barrier. Men rarely ventured close to their island and there hadn’t been a dispute with another colony for as long as anyone could remember. And it wasn’t like anyone knew I was leaving. He’d snuck out like he always did, without telling anyone because after Lucien left, there was no one in the colony who understood him.
Luce…. Thoughts of his best friend made his heart ache.
 I must have blacked out after that thing grabbed me. Or maybe poisoned. Certain fishes carried poisonous barbs. Maybe Unspeakable Ones had poisonous barbs, too. It was an unsettling thought.
Trellen fought back the wave of despair, but it wasn’t long before it overwhelmed him. He wasn’t sure if he should pray for death to come by way of cold and hunger or if he wished for his captor to come and tell him why he’d been brought here. The only thing he knew for sure was that it was no use praying for rescue; even if they had known where to look, no one would come.