Prompt: It’s nearly 2017. Go ahead and rant about 2016 or what you want to see happen in the new year.

So, in 2016

  • I wrote 11 site newsletters for Writing.com
  • I wrote 2 short stories
  • I wrote two novel chapters
  • I wrote 113 poems
  • I wrote 172 blog entries
  • I read 159 books

These were my five star reads for 2016:
A Restored Man by Jaime Reese (audio version)
A Mended Man by Jaime Reese
My Viking Vampire by Krystal Shannan
Demon Possession by Kierstan Fay
Demon Slave by Kierstan Fay
The World As He Sees It by A M Arthur
The Heart As He Hears It by A M Arthur
A Sorceress of His Own by Dianne Duvall
Nameless by Jessica Sorensen
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Tall, Tatted and Tempting by Tammy Falkner
Let It Go by Mercy Celeste
The Bloodline War by Tracy Tappan
Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg
Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg
Ridiculous by D L Carter
Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon
This Isn’t Me by T.A. McKay
Don’t Tempt Me by Lori Foster
Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher
Signs of Attraction by Laura Brown

It’s not true!

Earlier this year I made the decision to make a lot of my writing public. For a long time I kept the majority of my writing visible to Writing.com members only, not the general public, and I decided that it was time for me to make that leap.

Most publishers will not accept submissions that are freely available on the internet, but will accept ones that are restricted-access, such as those only visible to Writing.com members or only to Livejournal members. I decided that publication was not my goal, so why was I maintaining this restriction? Time to go public!

The first thing I noticed was the assumptions. About half of my poetry is autobiographical, which means that I wrote it about experiences and emotions that I personally experienced. The other half are based on observations of other people’s lives, prompts and just plain imagination. Most of my darkest poetry is fictional.

I recently wrote The fight is over which is written from the perspective of someone whose marriage has failed. And I find it incredibly awkward that people assume it is autobiographical. My husband and I are very happily married, and yet family and friends (and random strangers!) assume that we are having serious relationship issues because I write poetry about fictional situations. I always remind myself that it is a compliment that someone thinks I have expressed a fictional situation so well that it rings true. And trust me, I’m honored that they think so, but at the same time, it’s not an assumption I’m comfortable with. Similarly, I wrote a couple of poems from the perspective of someone who had experienced domestic abuse, and found myself having to give disclaimers every time someone read them. I think people are really starting to worry what sort of man I’m married to! Poor Steve.

I have had a number of reviews of my poetry where the reviewer has made a comment regarding the situation described in the poem, with the most common being sympathy. It is totally fine to make a comment on how a poem makes you feel, what it makes you think of or reminds you of, or why it spoke to you in particular (maybe you’ve been in a similar situation), but be very careful about assuming that the poet has written from personal experience. When I encounter these poems and wish to make a personal comment of sympathy or similar to the poet, I always note it with a disclaimer. ‘I don’t know if this poem is autobiographical or not, but if it is….’ This leaves the door open for the poet to respond without making it awkward.

So, the next time you’re reading a poem, please take a moment to pause and think. Yes, it may be a personal expression of the poet’s thoughts, experience, and emotions. But on the other hand, it might be observational or entirely fictional. And trust me, you can’t always tell just by reading it.

Forging Friendship

I jolted out of my daydream as a foot caught me across the shins, sending me sprawling. The heels of my hands skidded along the grass as I tried to break my fall, smears of green and brown streaking up my wrists. My breath wooshed out as I landed, my backpack thumping into my lower back. As my chin thumped down on the ground, I was grateful I hadn’t been standing on concrete.

A shoe-clad foot smacked into my ribs, dislodging the left earpiece of my ipod, and the jeers and taunts filtered through.
The slurs and obscenities were unimaginative, to say the least. I knew better than to point that out though. I rolled in the direction of the kick, but my backpack was still on my back, preventing me from facing upwards. Not sure there was any point in seeing their faces though. They weren’t hiding from me. They knew damn well they were safe from any consequences. Even if I went and saw the dean or the principal, their rich-ass parents would pull some sob story and save them from any fallout. I’d probably end up expelled, knowing my…

I yelped as a foot caught me in the jaw, damn lucky that I hadn’t bitten right through my tongue. I was still reeling from the blow when a kick caught me on the side of my stomach. I gasped for air, drawing my knees up and wrapping my arms around my head. Someone placed their foot on my backside, shoving hard, causing my defensive pose to unravel and I sprawled forward. A blow to the temple had me seeing stars, and it took me a minute to register that something had changed.

“You all right?”
The voice came from close by, as if someone were kneeling beside me. A guy. I whimpered, unable to expose myself in case the danger hadn’t really passed.
“Jesus, you okay? They’re gone. Can you sit up? Shit, do I need to call an ambulance?”
I shook my head, but I wasn’t really sure. That last blow to my head had left me dazed.
Large warm hands grasped my shoulders, and I whimpered again. Despite myself, I winced. Could there be a more pathetic sound? Puppies whimper, not men. Only, I wasn’t much of a man, was I?

“Sorry, sorry,” came the voice again. “I’m trying to help you up, not hurt you. Can you sit up? Um….” He trailed off.
I pressed my palms against the ground and heaved up, my arms shaking. I rolled to a sitting position, wincing at the pain in my chest and my jaw. My backpack pulled me off balance, so I struggled to pull my arms through the straps.
“Let me help.” He gently tugged the straps down my arms and helped me ease the backpack off.
I slumped forward and pressed a hand to my ribs. With effort, I lifted my chin to look at my rescuer.

Just my luck. I’m a pathetic, dribbling mess and he’s gorgeous. I lifted one shoulder to wipe my chin on my t shirt just in case I really was dribbling. Drooling? Ugh. I bet he didn’t even need to style his hair, it just fell into perfect waves as he rolled out of bed. And those eyes! They should be illegal! I stared into them, imagining myself disappearing into their depths.

I jolted when his hand landed on my shoulder, my whole body lurching with the movement.
“Sorry,” he apologised again, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he frowned at me. “Are you with me? I think you need to get checked out. Maybe you have concussion. What’s your name?”
I dragged in a deep breath and pressed my palm harder against my ribs as pain shot through me. “Mason,” I said.
“Okay, Mason. I’m Ben. How’s your vision? You seeing double of anything?”
“Nope. Not unless there’s only one of you,” I joked.
He smiled at me. “Wanna try standing?”
I grabbed the warm hand he offered me. I swayed slightly on my feet, then released his hand and stepped back when I realised I was still holding on to him. My foot landed on the side of my backpack and I went sprawling backwards, my fall only arrested by his grasp as he snatched me back upright.
“Shit, maybe you were better off sitting. Damn it.” He looked around, but I wasn’t sure what he was looking for. “I really think you need to be checked out. I wonder…” His warm gaze stroked over me and I felt like I was about to melt into a puddle where I stood. “You think you could make it to my car if I helped you?”

He had a car? I had figured he was a high school student, same as me. Maybe a year older, but… I cut off my train of thought as I realised he was still waiting for an answer.
“Sure?” I offered.
He flashed me a quick smile then wrapped an arm around my waist. “Let’s give it a go.”
I found myself concentrating so hard on the warmth of his arm and the strength of his shoulder beside me that I barely noticed the aches and pain from my beating. I glanced up at him, only to find him staring down at me, our faces just centimeters apart. I quickly looked back down.

I didn’t understand why he was helping me. He was gorgeous and built, clearly one of the popular crowd, and didn’t he realise I was gay? If anyone saw him helping me…
He paused our journey toward the car park that was still a few meters away and turned to face me. “I don’t give a shit what people think. If they’re so small minded and bigoted that they’d judge me for helping someone in need, then their opinions are irrelevant. Who cares if you’re gay? You’re still a person, and no one deserves to get beaten up for something they have no control over.”
My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. “Ahhh….” I scrabbled to get my brain back on track. “Did… Did I say that out loud? I only meant to think it.”
“You shouldn’t even be thinking it. You shouldn’t even… Argh, don’t get me started.” He took up his position beside me and we started off again. As we reached a dark brown sedan that looks like it had seen better years, I leaned back against the cool metal and realised I’d left my backpack behind. “Oh shit, my backpack! It’s got all my school stuff in it and my…”
He swung it off his shoulder.
“Oh. I didn’t see it there.” Duh, obviously. I didn’t even remember him picking it up. Maybe I was concussed. Or maybe this guy, Ben, was so freaking hot he was melting my brain cells.

He asked me questions as we drove to the hospital. About myself, what I was studying at high school, my family, even questions about the family dog. I was puzzled by his interest, but flattered, until we pulled up at the hospital and the metaphorical lightbulb in my brain came on. Of course, he was just checking I was alert, and wasn’t going to doze off into a coma. He wasn’t actually interested in me. God, I was stupid. I would have smacked myself in the forehead, but frankly I hurt enough already.

We had to wait an hour to see a doctor, and by then I was stiff and aching and my head felt like chipmunks were practicing the anvil chorus in there. Ben knew pretty much my entire life story by then, but hadn’t shared a lot about himself. Typical. No, I shouldn’t think like that. A typical guy would never have bothered to check if I was okay, let alone take me to A&E to see a doctor. Really, typical was about the last word I should use to describe Ben.

The doctor said I had mild concussion, and was told to take some over-the-counter pain relief and ensure someone checked in on me over the next 24 hours. Ben drove me home, and I wasn’t sure if he was unsurprised at the dump I called home, or if he was just very clever at hiding his expression.

“There’s someone here who can check up on you?” he asked as he parked up against the curb.
“Yeah,” I replied, careful not to nod in case my aching head rolled straight off my shoulders. “One of my folks will be home at least.”
Even as I said it, the front door opened.
“Mason! Where have you been? Your boss rang.”
I groaned. I had totally forgotten about my after school job at the bookstore. “I forgot to call him. I, uh, had an accident and Ben took me to the hospital.”
Ben climbed out of the car, and walked around to shake my mother’s hand. Seriously? Who does that anymore?
“Sorry we didn’t think to call, ma’am. Turns out Mason has concussion and so he probably shouldn’t be working in any case. The doctor said he needs to rest for at least 24 hours.”
Watching my mother fall under Ben’s spell, I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one who found him irresistible.

“Mason,” he said, nudging me.
I glanced up, my cheeks heating as I realised I’d been lost in my daydreams again. “Yeah?”
“I’ll pop by tomorrow and make sure you’re feeling better, okay?”
“Why?” I waved my hand at him. “You don’t need to. I really appreciate your help today though. Thank you.”
“You have so many friends that you can afford to turn a new one away?”
“What?” I frowned at him, then tried to uncrinkle my forehead as frowning apparently doesn’t go with concussion headaches. “You… What?”
He laughed, and I knew I was doomed.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He nodded at my mother. “Ma’am.”
I stood stiffly by my mother as we both watched Ben clamber back in his car and drive off.
“So, new friend?” she asked as I shuffled my way up the path to the front door.
“Mum, don’t start. I’m 99% sure he isn’t gay. I’m sure he would have said so.”
“Maybe not. But he seems like a lovely young man. Now, you park yourself on the couch, and then I want to hear the whole story.”
I groaned. “Can I at least have some Panadol before the interrogation?”

Books read in November

It Was Always You by various authors *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

In The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Crash by Nicole James  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Breaking by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Resurrection Heart by Wendy Lynn Clark *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Three Dirty Secrets by Nikki Sloane *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg
Harper has been released from prison after serving 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He runs into Malachi several times by chance, and the pair hit it off.

Malachi has his own issues, and the two lean on each other, learn from each other and grow close.

There are unresolved issues on both sides, and plenty who don’t want to see them happy. The obstacles seem insurmountable, and both men are struggling to find the inner strength required.

The book didn’t gloss over all the ways that Harper’s life had changed, now that he had a criminal record, nor the attitudes he received from people regarding the crime he’d been committed of. That felt realistic.

When we first meet Harper, he is paralysed with indecision after spending 10 years without having a say over even the smallest aspects of his own life. Choices simply overwhelm him. However, after that first meeting, this issue appears to vanish. He becomes decisive and even demanding, bargaining like a pro. It was this huge discrepancy (it felt like huge because I had been led to expect one thing and got another) that prevented me from giving the book five stars. It needed to be either toned down in the beginning so that it was more believable when he got over it so quickly, or he needed to take longer to get over it.

One other thing – Harper took a HUGE risk at one point, doing something he knew breached his parole restrictions. I couldn’t understand why he would. It was such an unimportant thing to do, yet could have such huge repercussions, and he just…did it. Like he didn’t care if he went back to prison or not, when we had been led to believe he did. It was out of character and it annoyed me.

It’s hard to say too much more without giving away spoilers. The book felt real, mixed sweet and gritty very well, and I enjoyed it.

Sweet As

Prompt: Rewrite one of your existing poems.

From the midst of a puddle of
vocabularic vomit,
I plucked the word that defined
the intangible,
the irresistible…


…and wondered
if I was the only one
who knew the truth –

that beneath the shiny foil
and the rich chocolate,
you’re just a marshmallow.

But I do love chocolate.

Everybody loves chocolate.

Books read in October

A Gypsy’s Kiss by Susan Griscom *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Redeeming Hope by Shell Taylor *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Hell on Wheels by Z A Maxfield *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Alaska With Love by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Starw**Starw**Starw**Starw*

An Honorable Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Selfless Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

The Arrangement by Felice Stevens *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Selfless Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion
This was very easy to read, but there wasn’t much conflict. Michael was in love from very early in the book and never faltered in that. Also, although Michael claimed that he wasn’t perfect, the author never showed us any of his flaws.

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan
The book was easy to read, but the relationship didn’t feel believable. The heroine was still nervous and wary, and all of a sudden she’s inviting him to her place for hot monkey sex? I don’t think so. And with a history of abusive men in her life, his violent outburst at a family gathering (which was NOT okay) was forgiven by both her and her sister? I don’t think so. And how come Martin never pressed charges? It would have been in character for him to do so.