A Look Back and a Step Forward

New Year

As the year comes to an end, I’ve found myself reflective about 2013. Overall, it has been challenging, but with every year I learn that growth comes through challenges.

There were a few firsts….

This was the first full year since I was 14 years old that I did not have a “traditional” job working for someone else. It felt strange.

First time I’ve received letters/emails stating a company went another direction in their hiring process (because I was overqualified).

Went to my first readers conference, Authors After Dark 2013 in Savannah, and had a blast getting to know other readers…and picking the brains of some of my favorite writers.

Took my first temp job representing an electronics company in retail stores, teaching their employees about the company’s products, how to sell them, position them, and overcome customer objections.

Milestone Firsts… The GOOD STUFF!

But…even with those negatives…it was also the first time, despite all my stops and starts, that I published my first book…an erotic short! Those of you who’ve known and followed me for a while are not even a little surprised.

I got to meet one of my favorite blogging buddies, Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson, in person. The day we spent together was priceless to me….and quite hilarious. (She’s now going through some tough times, though, and could use lots of good thoughts and prayers.)

I survived my first ever 5K…and I hate to run! But, with the help of a few friends, we killed ColorVibe‘s run. Our team name? “Taste The Rainbow.” Hehehe!

ColorVibe

ColorVibe

I wrote my first ever sponsored blog post, and it was a blast!

I turned 40. Fortunately this one won’t be repeated… overall, preparing for the party turned out to be very stressful, but the love and friendship I was shown was worth the effort.

I got to meet some of my favorite authors…like Cherise Sinclair (who tolerated me when I accosted her at the end of the autograph signing event).

She STILL autographed my book...

She STILL autographed my book…

And the lovely and talented Joey W. Hill who was gracious enough to take a pic with me at the elemental ball….

Me with Joey W. Hill

Me with Joey W. Hill

Not to mention the awesome author who transplanted to my hometown (Chicago), Julie Ann Walker…who bought me a drink and spent time chatting it up and laughing with me.

 

Me and Julie Ann Walker listening to my sister.

Me and Julie Ann Walker listening to my sister.

Or partying with C. J. Ellisson….at the pre-vampire ball party in her hotel room, then at her table.

Vampire Ball with C.J. Ellisson

Vampire Ball with C.J. Ellisson

 

There were a few heartbreaks

A dear friend of mine lost her battle to cancer. I tried to find a way to honor her memory…and share her love of life with you guys here.

My husband lost his job. That stung considering I had not found a day to day job outside of my writing. Fortunately he found a new one a couple weeks later.

Several more friends were diagnosed with various illnesses, mostly cancer.

I had to miss my half-sister’s wedding because of short notice and inability to afford plane tickets (they were nearly $1000).

~~~~~~~~~~

While I was listing a general recap of last year’s highlights, I was surprised at just how many positive things had happened last year. Why? Because the bad ones felt so big!

Overall, life is filled with good and bad…which makes it a bit bittersweet. It’s so easy to lose perspective and let the negative overtake you if you allow it to have a foot hold in your mind.

So, as I enter into 2014, I’m determined to go forward with my best foot forward and my attitude in check…and to make sure that I remember to celebrate all the positive milestones I’ll be experiencing along the way.

What about you? When you look back on this last year, what are some of your most standout moments, both good and bad?

I think The Verve had it right with their gorgeous song from Cruel Intentions….

3 Years, Leather and 50 Shades

My husband and I have a quirky sense of fun. From prior blogs you know that on our second anniversary (cotton) he bought me a “gag” gift of cotton balls. By the way, I kept those cotton balls. They’re useful. So this year it was my turn to get quirky. How appropriately funny that as I’m delving back into writing (and I have romantic and erotic tendencies in my writing) our 3rd anniversary lands on leather.

First thought that came to my mind? Buy him a leather cock ring. Adjustable, of course. Great gag gift…and who knows…could even be fun! Hey, we’re married and can play that way. Now most of the time if I were looking to buy a toy I may go online or host a pleasure party. Less awkwardness and embarrassment for women this way. But this was a last minute, spur of the moment “gag” gift idea.

So here’s the thing about Florida…and those of you who live here can attest. I have never seen so many strip clubs, adult book stores (aka porn shops) or bail bonds places as I did when I moved here. In Chicago there was a Starbucks on practically every corner. Around here, it’s these kinds of places. In fact, once I moved here I was helping a friend search for a job. It was in Florida that I saw “dead beats need not apply” for the first time in a want ad. (I know, I know. And I’m still here, right?)

Being female, I’ve found it’s less awkward if you bring a male friend with you to an adult book store, so I called up a buddy and he came with me.

The guy working the desk was the typical perv you’d expect to see at one of these establishments. He was large, with a rotund belly, stained shirt, balding and with one of those big hooking piercings through the center portion of his nose. Not exactly someone I’d be asking for sex toy advice from unless I wanted to take 10 showers after. Then again, he fit his environment. The place was dark and seedy looking. Nothing about the place said classy or inviting.

When we walked in he ignored us, allowing us to shop. Their selection in leather products was extremely limited. They did, however, seem to have a large quantity of blow up dolls or body parts that claimed to be replicas of porn stars. No big deal. I was kind of relieved. He didn’t even check for ID.

Not thrilled with my search, I was about to head out when I saw two women walk in. They were giggling together and talking. He stopped to say hello to them. He asked what they were looking for. I was surprised! This was the first sign from him that he knew what customer service was! I almost felt sorry for the women. The one lady admitted that she was buying her friend a toy as a gift for her birthday. He asked if she’d read 50 Shades Of Grey. He then proceeded to tell them that they had a special promo where if you bought all 3 books from the series you got 50% off a paddle.

When they mentioned that it wasn’t what they were looking for and that they’d already read the book he proceeded to get inappropriate. “Come on,” he cajoled, “You know you want to get spanked. It’s every woman’s fantasy! I’ll even help you pick it out.”

Ok, he’d just stepped past the creepy line to obnoxious. That poor young woman was disgusted and embarassed. It was written all over her face. She would never be stopping there again. Fortunately, her friend was much older and put the guy in his place. Irritated, I took this as my cue to leave…before I said something equally offensive to this guy.

As my friend and I started to walk for the door, he finally spoke to us. “Not buying anything today?”

My mouth tightened over what I wanted to say. I opted for a very safe, “Nope.” and continued to head for the door.

“What were you looking for?” he asked, suddenly persistent.

I rolled my eyes at my friend as I pushed the door open, “Nothing you have here.”

It finally occurred to me. He hadn’t spoken to me or anyone else in there initially because we’d come in with guys. The two women came in sans men…that was why he’d harrassed them. Well, on to the next adult shop we went.

This one had a woman working the desk. She greeted us the moment we walked through the door despite the fact that she was on the phone. The place was brighter and less seedy looking. In fact, despite the fact that the windows were blocked out to protect the privacy of the shoppers, it was decorated like a nice little boutique.

Immediately I noticed they had a better leather selection. They several different leather floggers, different crops, leather collars along with the cock rings. One of the little paddles even had naughty carved into it. 😉 This place seemed more fun!

The lady on the phone got off her call as quickly as possible and stepped around the counter. “What can I help you find today?” she asked in a friendly voice.

I explained that it was our leather anniversary and I was trying to find a fun gag gift. She immediately got into the spirit of the search. She thought it was great that we played these games. When I commented about how she had a lot of leather, she said she was actually running low. In fact, she said that due to 50 Shades Of Grey the floggers and paddles were selling like hotcakes. We laughed.

I mentioned that the guy at the store down the street had been trying to peddle the stuff to his last customers and that he’d mentioned some sort of bundle promo.

“Well,” she said, “he probably overbought on the books after he heard about how popular they were and now he can’t get them sold.”

I nodded.

Cocking her head to the side she asked me, “Did you read the books?”

I shrugged. “Nope. By choice. Especially after several of my friends told me about it.”

She raised an eyebrow, curious. “Why not?”

“I have issues with the message the book sends,” I answered. “Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with BDSM. I love authors like Cherise Sinclair and Joey W Hill. They are very good about getting the Safe, Sane and Consentual vibe across while maintaining a strong story with Alpha males and strong, vibrant females.”

She nodded. “Yeah. When all the hoopla started about 50 Shades I was curious and decided to check them out. I bought 2 copies of each book. One was supposed to be for me. The second was for sale. I took it on vacation with me and read it on my flight. I didn’t like the message either.”

I laughed. “You mean the one where the guy loses control, spanks his girl and …voila! Kink?”

Nodding, she said, “Exactly. And that girl was a wuss! A pushover. They don’t have any concept of what true BDSM is about. And with all these people out there suddenly exploring this stuff I should be happy. Instead I’m concerned. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t understand that this could get dangerous. Worse, they don’t know about safe words. It was never mentioned in the book.”

I shuddered. “I knew about the whole girl had only been kissed twice till her experience with Grey. And that she had 5 orgasms during her first time.” You could hear the scoffing disdain in my voice loud and clear. “And that he managed to give her those orgasms with no oral sex.” Yeah…we both snickered at that one. “But I hadn’t realized that safe words were never even discussed. I did know about the losing control bit. I wasn’t ok with that, either. A Dom MUST be in control. How else can he take care of you?”

She nodded. “Exactly. I own 3 adult shops. I’ve participated in some of the BDSM shows and events up in Tampa. Believe me. It’s not a game. It’s hot as hell…the real deal, but done incorrectly it can be downright scary. I keep encouraging these 50 Shades experimenters to try their hand at light bondage and blindfolding first before they go for the paddles and whips. Especially since they usually get the cheap stuff. It’s safer. And this way they can figure out what they like with minimal danger.”

The funny thing was, she’d already grabbed the adjustable cock ring I’d been looking at and walked me to the counter while we had this discussion. She was a fantastic sales person. I really liked her. She wasn’t in it strictly for the bottom line. She cared about her customers and her safety. I knew I’d be recommending friends to visit her store….especially my female ones.

And then, as only an aspiring writer can, I networked…LOL! I explained to her that I was working on writing, and someday down the line I may need her expertise. I asked if she’d mind if I stopped in and picked her brain sometime. She laughed and welcomed me with open arms. She’s usually in that particular store on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So now, if I have questions on sex toys, BDSM or other areas, I have a fun source of info!

Oh, the things I do to hone my knowledge of this craft… Such a hardship! LOL!