Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Staying Productive

I'm reading three books right now -- so, to start, the two books that I won't talk about here (as I doubt they really interest many blog visitors) are The Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Force and Motion by Jeffrey Lang.  Both are good so far. :)

The third book is Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.

It's a short, quick read.  I sat down with it and ended up reading half of it on the first day.  The book compiles short essays from leading thinkers on the areas of productivity and creativity.

While many of the essays focus on singular topics that often don't really impact me, there are little nuggets of useful information to be gleaned from almost every essay.

The first two sections (the ones I've read) are entitled "Building a Rock-Solid Routine" and "Finding Focus in a Distracted World," both of which are pretty self-explanatory from the section titles.  I've started the next section, "Taming Your Tools," which is about using email, social media, and computers as tools, rather than feeling obligated to connect with them 24/7 to the detriment of our health, productivity, and creativity.  The next section, which I'm looking forward to the most, is "Sharpening Your Creative Mind."

This book is meant primarily for people who are in a creative profession -- but that can be an "artsy" profession like writing or painting, or it could even be a generic business profession that involves creative thinking (like a marketing coordinator, CEO, or social media managers).

This book was handed to me (by my mom) at an interesting time.  I'm struggling to remain productive.  Like with any profession, the "business-y" side of things has taken over.  I write when I can, but that's in between blogging (here and on my own blog), managing Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, starting up an erotica and erotic romance publisher, hosting blog tours, coordinating author interviews (of authors who want to be featured on my blog), and more.  And that's on top of a full-time day job, a relationship, and something resembling a social life with family and friends.

By the time I'm ready to write, I'm either exhausted or out of time.

I had a super productive weekend earlier this month, where I wrote over 11K words in two days.  However, I haven't written a single word since then.  And that 11K finished off a novella, but I still haven't sent it to my editor, who's waiting for it.

I'm in a period where I feel a little overwhelmed with the writing and business choices I've made.  I've got three erotica pen names, another pen name I'm trying to build in a different genre, and I'm trying to start a publishing business, while working at a full-time job.  Oh, and I'm also still trying to learn the violin and, for a while, I was practicing for 30-60 minutes per day.  (But I haven't touched it in a week now.)

I know it's just a matter of sorting my various tasks into routines and organizing my time better.  I've already figured out that Monday to Wednesday, going to a coffee shop before I go to my day-job is the best time to be productive.  (By Thursday, my morning productivity runs out, and Friday I start earlier and don't have time for a coffee shop.)  I'm there right now, hammering away at this post -- something I wouldn't be able to do at home with my super-cuddly cats that demand attention in the morning.

With yesterday morning dedicated to start-up-publisher-business work and this morning dedicated to writing this post, I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll finally get cracking on the next erotica piece I need to write.  Even then, that's one hour this week.  Not enough time.  I've made a recent decision to reduce/limit social engagements until I can get my routine back in order.  Once that's done, I can work my social life back into my routine.

A lot of this book -- did we all forget this was actually a post about what I was reading? I know I did... oops! -- focusses on making choices to strengthen your creativity and productivity.  One of the nuggets of wisdom I picked up was that creative work should be the first thing you do in the day, which justifies me spending money on a coffee and cookie three times a week at this coffee shop.  If I don't do it in the morning, then I'm not likely to do it in the evening.  And in the section on taming tools, I'm picking up some useful information that I'm hoping will allow me to structure my new publishing business in such a way that I'm not inundated with emails and work -- rather, I can make email and the systems work for me.

Hmm... I just noticed there are two sequels to this book that focus on building a career and building a business.  Based on the strength of this first book, I'll definitely be picking up the sequels (and they might be featured on the next "What I'm Reading" post).

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Seduced by My Best Friend’s Dad (co-written with Sandra Claire). He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.

Wabi Sabi (and the Manure of Experience)

In a few weeks I’ll be giving a sermon at my local Unitarian Universalist Church called “Wabi Sabi  Universalism and the Beauty of Brokenness.”  A lot of it is based on a book called Wabi Sabi by Agneta Winqvist, along with general ideas I’ve been learning from the works of Pema Chodron on the subject of Buddhism and the nature of suffering.  These are the books that are on my mind these days.

Wabi Sabi is a distinctly Japanese idea of beauty based on three principles:
         Nothing is perfect
2     Nothing Lasts Forever
3     Nothing is ever finished.

These are three principles we as writers know all to well, when we look back at our work with a sigh.  We might have a moment in the sun or too, but it doesn’t last.  But this impermance is also our blessing, because it means no feeling is final.  Joy is something we have for a little while, but no matter how much we want it to last, it will pass away.  Suffering a fact fo life that will come to us, sorrow or grief, but these feelings also are impermanent.  We can’t avoid them.  But what do we do with them?

Experiencing joy doesn’t seem to require anything creativiely from us.  You just enjoy what’s in front of it while you have it.  Suffering is different.  In the Wabi Sabi notion of life, it is suffering in way that counts more, because when we suffer we experience our humanity and vulnerability most vividly.  No one tries to avoid joy, but we try to avoid suffering and hardship if we can, we want to protect that tender inmost part of ourselves from pain if we can.

There is a great deal of suffering in nature.  As Tennyson said “nature is red in tooth and claw”.  Charles Darwin’s faith in a loving god was deeply shaken when he saw the horrors imposed on caterpillars by parasitic wasps.  Ideas of good and evil, right and wrong are distinctly human qualities.  These ideas don’t exist in nature as we find it.  What we find is an element of chaos and randomness in existence that nature incorporates into the creative process, which is also what a good artist does.  The philosophy in Agneta Winqvist's and Pema Chodron’s books is to gradually over time discipline ourselves not to avoid suffering or the feelings that suffering creates but to use them as an aspirational  platform to develop compassion and connection.

These concepts make me rethink my ideas of what it means to seek a relationship with God, or for theists who imagine God as a God of love, but see the world as wicked and doomed to a cleansing apocalypse.  What is Heaven?  Heaven can’t be that place in which there is only one side of experience, which is eternal bliss.  There can be no depth of soul in that place.  Heaven in the end must be that place where we love what there is to love about someone or something, where we don’t fear what we see coming towards us, and where we honor God by loving what God has made in the way that it has been made, including ultimately ourselves.

Monday, August 29, 2016


By Lisabet Sarai

Although I’m always reading, usually several books at a time, nothing I’ve encountered in the last month or so has impressed me enough to be worth talking about here. However, I did recently see an amazing film, The Handmaiden, which was based on one of my all time favorite novels, Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith. Hence, I thought I’d cheat a bit by sharing my reactions to the movie, with some references to the book as well.

I read Fingersmith not long after it was released in 2002 (having adored Water’s previous novel Tipping the Velvet). The book is a tour de force upending of Dickensian tropes we all grew up with: the penniless orphan raised by petty thieves; the lonely mansion with possibly mad inhabitants; revelations of secret pasts and hidden connections between seemingly chance met characters. Waters leads you along what seems like a familiar narrative trail, only to pull the rug out from underneath you. She’ll suddenly twist the story into a different (but equally familiar) shape, only to surprise you again in a few hundred pages.

Layered on this clever and exquisitely crafted plot is a lesbian love story hot enough to satisfy any reader of this blog. The final result is a seamless masterpiece. My reaction when I finished Fingersmith was heartfelt applause.

Korean director Chan-wook Park’s adaptation of Water’s novel moves the action from Victorian England to nineteen thirties, Japanese-occupied Korea. Sookee, an orphan raised by a band of pickpockets, is chosen by the master criminal Count Fujiwara (who is neither noble nor Japanese as he claims, but expert at feigning both) to implement a complicated scheme of fraud, seduction and theft. The count finds her a position as lady’s maid to a lovely, sheltered heiress, Lady Hideko, who resides with her book-collecting uncle in a massive half-Western, half-Japanese chateau. Sookee is supposed to get close to Hideko and encourage her to elope with the ersatz count. Once the marriage has been consummated, the two crooks plan to commit the high-strung noblewoman to an insane asylum and split her vast riches between them.

All is not as it seems, however. (That’s a profound understatement!) For one thing, Sookee and Hideko find themselves irresistibly attracted to one another. Meanwhile, as the plot progresses, viewers become less sure just who are the villians and who is the victim. The director handles the plot shifts almost as deftly as Ms. Waters herself, peppering the action with clues that you notice but dismiss as unimportant, until they turn out to be keys to the real story.

Many aspects of this movie impressed me: the richly textured historical setting, the gorgeous cinematography, the multi-level characterizations, the subtle and effective script, the observations on ambivalent Korean attitudes toward their occupiers, the scary and convincing portrayal of child abuse. What I want to talk about in this post, however, is the eroticism in the film.

As it turns out, The Handmaiden is more than a dark, engaging tale of deceit, betrayal and revenge. It’s also a movie about pornography. Hideko complains from the earliest scenes about the readings her uncle requires her to perform for the rich Japanese book collectors he invites to his library. Gradually we discover that the uncle’s vast collection of rare volumes consists exclusively of sexually explicit writing and drawings. Hideko has been groomed from childhood to provide aural erotic stimulation to her uncle’s guestsand she does so with consummate skill. Wearing heavy silk kimonos, her hair elaborately coiffed and her face thick with make-up, she reads the filthiest of stories aloud while members of the audience squirm in their tight Western trousers.

The reading scenes (there is one involving Hideko’s aunt as well, a woman who hanged herself before Sookee arrives) rank among the most erotic moments I’ve ever seen on screen. Hideko injects the most lurid images into the imaginations of her listeners, all the while retaining an air of untouchable purity.

Even the suave, handsome count finds himself obsessed by the need to possess her. Accustomed to bedding any woman he chooses, the would-be seducer discovers that her sexual coldness inflames him almost as much as her enormous wealth.

Growing erotic tension between Sookee and Hideko also heats up the film. When their mutual desire finally explodes into explicit lesbian sex, though, some of the erotic charge disappears. The sex scenes feel obvious, shallow and formulaic after the slow burn that leads the characters into them. Somehow seeing the sex on the screen (and you do see almost everything) is not nearly as arousing as thinking about it.

In fact, the fucking scenes feel unsatisfying, like bad porn. Which is why I titled this post “Self-referential”. In thinking about this film after the fact (and I’ve done that a lot), I wonder whether the directory deliberately made the most graphic parts of the film the least interesting. It’s almost as though he wanted to create a pornographic movie about pornography.

In any case, I recommend this movie highly to anyone who writes or reads erotica. I’ve rarely encountered a movie that so effectively demonstrates erotic power of words.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Right to What?

by Jean Roberta

When I reached puberty, my father began warning me about “girls” (which in his vocabulary could mean females of any age) who “asked for trouble.” This was the kind of thing I was never supposed to do, because, presumably, if I “asked” for trouble, it would show up.

“Asking for trouble” could take a wide variety of forms: wearing clothes that were “too tight” or too revealing (all subject to the viewpoint of the observer), drinking or doing dope of any kind, swearing or discussing unladylike subjects, such as sex.

“Trouble” was equally vague, but ominous. The word always implied the righteous use of force by someone who was entitled to use it. Presumably, if I did, said or wore the wrong thing, I would lose the right to be treated with any respect. I could be grabbed, beaten, held in place, groped or raped by someone who assumed I deserved it.

Since then, there has been much discussion about rights, boundaries, respect, communication, and consent. Various analogies have been used to persuade potential rapists (masculine people) that sex must always be based on clear consent, and that it must be given each time; there is no such thing as “the kind of girl” who can always be punished or used with impunity (aside from clearly-negotiated BDSM relationships). I sometimes wonder if educational material based on a feminist concept of consent has much effect on an age-old credibility gap between those who feel entitled to dish out “trouble” (only when it is “asked for,” of course) and those who have reason to fear being seen as trouble-magnets.

A sense of entitlement can lead to all sorts of coercive behaviour. Years ago, I noticed that certain students (most of them male) felt entitled to negotiate with me for higher grades on assignments, and not to accept no for an answer. In most cases, these guys had a certain charm, and they smiled a lot. I came to suspect that their approach to me was parallel to their approach to the girls they dated, except that in each case, they were pushing for a different outcome.

For some people, “no” doesn’t sound like the end of a discussion; it sounds like a challenge. The concept of assertiveness (and guidebooks with instructions in how to practice it) probably arose in response to the sense of entitlement that goes with unequal power. The reason why assertiveness is not universally accepted is because it prevents someone else from getting what they feel entitled to have.

No one I’ve ever met has claimed to be in favour of “abuse,” however described. Of course not. That goes without saying. However, I’ve heard cringe-worthy conversations among other people of a certain age and income-level about how Group X (especially service workers in restaurants, stores, hotels and planes) should never say no to a customer, no matter what. The diner got roaring drunk and demanded to know why Grilled Rhinoceros is not on the menu? The server should apologize, and if asked, should fetch the manager to apologize again. The customer ruined an item of clothing, then brought it back to the store for a free replacement? The salesclerk should provide it, instantly. The customer is always right.

The customer is often much older and whiter than the service-provider. What a coincidence.

This attitude reminds me of the traditional heterosexual dating game, in which the Alpha or host is expected to pay for everything that costs money. Presumably, he’s not really paying for sexual service, but if he doesn’t get it, he feels entitled to complain that he has been misled, scammed, taken for a fool. Or he feels entitled to take what he thinks he has earned.

I would like to believe that a sense of entitlement is dying out of the culture at large as a sense of empathy rises like a tide. That’s what I would like. Alas, it’s not what I’m entitled to.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

God’s Gift

By Annabeth Leong

(CN: Harassment, self-harm)

“You can’t just walk around like you’re God’s gift, cuz you ain’t.”

The voice is strong and cruel enough to cut through the fog of my self-loathing and tear-soaked worry. I glance up and realize this thing has been said to me, by a guy standing on the porch of his building, just to my left off the sidewalk.

I’m too broken today, too lost and fragile, to do anything but nod mutely and keep walking, a little faster now.

I think back, replaying the last few moments and focusing on my surroundings instead of the thoughts inside my head. “Hey, beautiful,” he’d said, and I guess that must also have been directed at me, though I didn’t notice at the time.

I can piece the narrative together now. He “complimented” me, and I “ignored” him, so then he lashed out and insulted me.

Today, the insult strikes me deep. You ain’t God’s gift. You ain’t. You can’t just walk around.

I know. The cruel voice confirms what my heart was already telling me. Tears slip down my cheeks. This isn’t supposed to be a big deal. I’m supposed to walk this sort of harassment off. Maybe not even see it as harassment.

Today, I can’t. I can’t just walk around.


I’ve been thinking about cutting myself for about three months, toying with the thought the way I sometimes press at a scab or a bruise. It hurts, but I also can’t seem to quit that imagery.

It’s been more than a decade since I actually cut myself. I trust myself not to turn thought into action. I go to therapy. I’m so much more aware of how my brain works and what I can do about it.

Still, the thoughts have been ever-present lately. They’re wearing me down. I barely have energy to do anything. It feels like a miracle that I get dressed, that I eat. I know that not everyone can when their brain is working this way. I tell myself I’m lucky I’m so functional, that I can still work a little even though I miss all my deadlines.

I’m fighting with someone dear to me. I don’t want to share the details here, but the fight has turned nasty and impossible and deep. Nothing I do is right, no matter how hard I try to come up with something helpful. I can’t do what this person wants of me. They are telling me how hurt they are, and I feel like a villain. A villain who ought to go away. Who ain’t God’s gift to anything or anyone. Who ought to die, or at least be physically maimed. It can hurt so much when it feels like your insides don’t match your outsides. I want to hurt this body so my pain can show. You can’t just walk around.

Today, I feel so delicate, like a page that’s so old it’ll crumble if you breathe on it. I need to do something good, something safe. I ask my partner if I can meet them at the train station. I put on clothes and let myself out the door and start to walk there, partly because I’ve cried so much lately that I don’t feel I can see well enough to be a safe driver.

I try to keep it together, to look around at the world. I know it’s important for me to remember that things exist outside my brain. The sun still shines. The grass still gets overgrown. Whenever my attention slips, though, I’m back to the old, evil treadmill: Why can’t I fix things with this person? Why can’t I just do what they want? Why can’t I just be good enough? I want to hurt, I want to hurt, I want to hurt. I see the razor blade in my mind. I remember how I used it, those handful of times I crossed the line. What was going on when I did that? Was I finding courage or losing courage?

“You can’t just walk around like you’re God’s gift, cuz you ain’t.”

I know. I know. I’m so sorry. I know.


I’ve written essays about harassment before. I’ve written about the ways it makes me feel unsafe and exhausted. I’ve tried to explain how it isn’t a compliment even when it uses words that overlap with compliments.

But this is the worst I’ve been hurt by harassment that I can recall. This is worse than the time a guy groped and harassed me at my favorite movie theater, leaving me nervous about returning there to this day, despite knowing that’s illogical. This is worse than the time a guy interrupted me while I was trying to comfort my crying girlfriend, so he could hit on us. This is worse than the time a guy followed me with his car while I tried to run away, and I had to plunge through overgrown bushes to escape him, and then when I called the police later they asked me what I was doing walking on that road at that time of day.

The reason it hurt so badly, I think, was entitlement. Right then, I didn’t feel entitled to live, to breathe, to be in the world without being hurt. I needed a little entitlement. I needed it to be okay that I couldn’t satisfy the person I was fighting with, to see that I still deserved to exist and be loved even if I wasn’t what someone else wanted me to be.

If I had been walking around like I was God’s gift, that would have been a huge victory for me.

That insult, though… What that guy said to me was an effort to take down someone he saw as entitled. “You can’t just walk around like you’re God’s gift, cuz you ain’t.” What was I doing that seemed so entitled to him? Walking down the sidewalk? Breathing? Having breasts? Not responding to his demand for my attention?

I felt guilty, even, when I realized the insult (and the “compliment”) were for me. Had I hurt his feelings by being so lost in my depression?

I’ve learned enough now to know better than that, at least. That guy felt entitled to my attention. That was the entitlement. He said, “Hey, beautiful,” and thought I owed him something for that. I was supposed to look at him, at least, or say thank you, or somehow respond.

How dare I think I can walk past him without paying that tax of attention? Who said I had any right to get so caught up in my own thoughts that I wound up walking down the street without being available to every person around me? Who gave me the right to have my own mind, my own private problems, my misery when someone else wants me to be sexual and fun.

And I can’t help thinking these things go together a bit. I want to believe it’s okay for me to breathe, to walk, to be, to not always do what someone else wants. But I go outside, desperate and hurting, running to my partner for comfort, and get told, “You can’t just walk around like you’re God’s gift. Cuz you ain’t.”

I know.


(About a week after this happened to me, I found out about the new National Street Harassment Hotline. From the website:

A growing body of research shows that street harassment negatively impacts women emotionally. It can be traumatic for them, especially for survivors of sexual abuse. “Mild” street harassment can escalate into physical harassment without warning and many women and some men have an underlying fear that verbal harassment will become physical.

I would add that people of all genders can feel this way, and trans and nonbinary people can also be particularly vulnerable.

Anyway, if I’d known about this then, I probably would have called the number that day. I thought I’d leave this link here in case anyone else needs it.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Suck Wind

By Daddy X

Last week Giselle posted an effective rant about abuses at her local cemetery, citing, among other trespasses, bicycling in a graveyard. Well, I’m here to belabor those entitled bicyclists themselves.

Momma X and I live in one of the most scenic and exciting locales in the country, boasting glories such as the Golden Gate Bridge, G.G. National Recreation Area, Muir Woods, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. We serve as a gateway to the Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino wine country. Vacationers come from all over the world to enjoy a wide menu of choices. Did I mention the sophistication of San Francisco? Right across that gorgeous bridge. We are lucky to experience a mild climate without the dangers and drudgery of snow. Year-round opportunities to ride bicycles to wonderful places abound.

This is not about kids who ride bikes to school. This is not about those who commute to work or do errands on bikes. My gripes are for those to whom bicycling is more than transportation. The enthusiasts. The advocates. Thrill seekers.

You probably have the breed in your midst too. They typically dress the part. Helmets sporting assorted mirrors protruding at geeky angles. Spandex is also big (less wind resistance) especially in day-glow colors.  The bikes they ride, with all available extras, cost thousands. They strap their feet to the pedals.

The bicycle ‘community’ petitions legislators to enact rules that favor bicyclists, without regard for those who actually pay for roads through licenses and registrations. They’ve even lobbied to eliminate the law requiring bicycles to stop at stop signs and red lights. They won’t stand for license plates, so nobody can be identified if they cause an accident.

Like the local guy who mowed down a 65 year-old hiker while speeding on a trail across a one-lane footbridge. He wouldn’t even slow down and wait for the woman to get off the bridge. She was lucky the accident had been observed by witnesses or the perp would never have been charged. His defense was that he hollered “Heads up! On your right,” and that she didn’t react fast enough. The nerve!

A law recently passed requiring a car to give a three-foot clearance when overtaking a bicycle. That’s all well and good, except that most of our popular cycling roads tend to hilly and winding, so they have a double line down the middle. A line that can’t legally be crossed, because visibility is limited, given the obvious danger of going into the oncoming lane. Of course, many bicyclists don’t ride single-file or pull to the right when being passed, so a car has no choice but to in some way break the law, simply by being on the same road.

There is a phenomenon in San Francisco (and other American cities) called ‘Critical Mass’ that has been going on here for 25 years. Every last Friday of the month a huge contingency of bicyclists rides through the city at commute hours ignoring stop signs, red lights, and heavy traffic to try and further screw up the flow. They are quite successful with their efforts, requiring cars to wait for many cycles of cross-traffic signals. They won’t give an inch or separate their ranks to allow for anyone to try crossing the intersection. Bikers pound on car hoods, calling out obscenities at everyone on four wheels. Fights break out.

I could go on and on about the various transgressions of bicyclists, but I wanted to get to the deeper, more manipulative aspect: The one-issue voter.

In this area, the bicycling community votes as a block. Promise bikers something and they’ll all vote for it, no matter if a proposal is good for the community or not.

Want to develop open space areas, fill in a creek, pour more concrete anywhere? Just add public access bike paths to your proposal and it will likely pass. Developers understand this, and most ill-concieved projects now include an offer of a bike lane. Adding bicycling interests to a proposal greatly increase the chances of acceptance. 

Not that bikers necessarily get anything on completion of said project. Developers who play tricks like that also don’t keep their word. The bicycle concession either disappears or becomes greatly reduced in scope. But by then, it’s a done deal.

Suck wind, bicyclers.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Who, Me, Entitled?

Sacchi Green

I’ve been puzzling over the difference between entitlement and privilege. I’ll look up definitions shortly, but first I’ll just do a little freestyle noodling around. Because I can. I’m entitled to.

I’ve been assuming, when I thought anything about it, that entitlement originally meant the benefits of being, literally, titled. Titles signifying levels of nobility, in the sense of class, not character, carry with them certain specific entitlements, or at least they used to. Of course “Droit du Seigneur” (or, alternately, “the right of first night") springs first to mind, especially dirty minds like mine; the right of the feudal Lord to have first dibs on the brides of his underlings. While this particular entitlement may be mythical—apparently there are no firm records of it actually being done, just references to a past when it used to be done but was outlawed by one king or another. Pretty much a case of nostalgia for the good old bad old days.  

Then there’s privilege. We’re often told these days to check our privilege. I understand that what’s meant is that we should admit that our privilege gives us un unfair advantage, and not judge others who don’t have the privilege that goes with being white, heterosexual (if in fact that’s how one identifies), male (not my problem), and having grown up in moderately comfortable circumstances, with a good education (guilty.) People with an inflated sense of entitlement tend to be that way because the privilege they may not even admit to allows them to feel worthy of the best things in life.

Moving on to actual definitions of the terms, ones source defines entitlement as:

:the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something

: the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)

: a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group.

Another source says:

1. The act or process of entitling.
2. The state of being entitled.
3. A government program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group: “like the Medicaid entitlement for the poor".

Hmm. I’m familiar with the governmental context for entitlement, almost always used in a negative sense, and almost always referring to government programs that benefit a particular group that is not one’s own particular group, rather like “special interests” always referring to somebody else’s interests, not the perfectly acceptable and patently justifiable interests of one’s own.

Another source has a definition of “privilege” that comes close to “entitlement”:

Privilege is a special right or advantage available only to a particular person or group of people. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly in regard to age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, sexual orientation, religion and/or social class.

Further Googling turns up examples of entitlements that most would not see as negative, such as the right of a someone charged with a crime to confer with a lawyer and to be considered innocent until proven guilty (although that last part seems to be largely ignored), or the right to a publicly provided education through high school (although not necessarily as good an education as someone in a wealthier community might have.) These, along with Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are rights codified in law, which seems to be the major difference between entitlements and privileges. It turns out that entitlement and titles of nobility are only connected in that both are written down in law, not derived from each other as I thought.

Still, “entitlement” tends to evoke a knee-jerk negative reaction, whether in a political context or a social one. Having a sense of entitlement is frowned on in others, but unrecognized in oneself. Privilege is much the same. Perspective is everything. It’s even been reported (which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true) that some people who rail against government in general and entitlements in particular will say, in almost the same breath, “the government better keep it’s hands off my Social Security!” What’s really disturbing is that those people may be voting for the very politicians that are hell bent on getting rid of Social Security.

What’s also disturbing is the sneaking suspicion that my feeling of superiority over those people is a sign of my unexamined privilege. But at least it’s not entitlement, right?

Friday, August 19, 2016

False Sense of Entitlement

At the end of last year, all of us here at the Grip made suggestions for topics. This one actually happens to have been one of my suggestions. Yay me!
All right, so entitlement is something we’ve probably all experienced before. After all, the word technically means “the fact of having a right to something”. That could be something as simple as your weekly wage. You’re entitled to receive that as recompense for doing your job. Or something as basic as respect, which should be afforded every person until such time as they show they’re not worthy of it.
Where the trouble starts, and indeed where my inspiration came from to suggest this as a topic, is really that ever-growing bugbear, a false sense of entitlement. Truly it seems to be more rampant with every passing week.
We authors usually experience this phenomenon in the form of piracy. Folks uploading our books to pirate sites, and others taking advantage of it. There was a reasonably large furore a few months back when someone on Facebook made a public post requesting links to download books for free. That was dealt with in the way you’d expect… most people piling on and saying “yeah, we want the freez too, maaaaan”.
The occasional voice of logic and reason got in there and pointed out it was actually stealing. That these people were essentially taking the money from the authors’ pockets. To which one person replied “I think [the authors] make enough”, and to which another replied “yo, but we’re poor” (I don’t guarantee I have those quotes verbatim).
Look, in all seriousness, I don’t have a lot to add to that. People steal stuff and claim they were too poor to buy it. That might be true, but it’s one thing to ask for something and explain you’re doing so because you’re poor. It’s a whole other to be running down the street with it and yelling over your shoulder “yo, but I’m poor, man”. Doesn’t quite feel the same. And seriously, if simply being poor was the problem, I doubt they’d be stealing books rather than food or clothing.
The thing about it is, though, it’s not just books. And the other thing about it is that most humans, including authors, are totally cool with all kinds of entitled shit… until it hits home.
Comedian Bill Burr observed a few years ago that in the case of stand up comedy, people were generally happy to laugh at edgy material that poked fun at religion, race, sexual orientation etc. That is, right up until that material infringed on their particular edge. When a comedian was making fun of others, then it was jokes. Now he’s making fun of me, “he’s making statements”.
How is this relevant to the point I was heading for?
It’s not a real biggie. I have just observed many authors who moan about their books being pirated, even going as far as doing the math. That the five thousand books downloaded from that pirate site would have been worth whatever… ten thousand dollars, perhaps. Yet so many of those same authors think nothing of finding a torrent and downloading, say, the entire Breaking Bad series. For free. As pirates.
Now it’s entirely possible the production companies who make those TV series (and movies, and albums etc) DO “make enough” and won’t be destitute because of the false sense of entitlement of those particular authors. And it’s entirely possible the authors are “poor, yo”, and equally possible their situation has been caused by, or at least exacerbated by, book piracy.
But are those authors acting any less entitled than the book pirates?
Personally, I don’t think so.
It’s really important to note, of course, that I’m making no sweeping statements here. I’m not suggesting it’s all, or even a majority, of authors behaving this way. I’m simply pointing out that I know some do. Some others take a much more laissez-faire approach. They don’t think twice about downloading a TV series illegally, but by the same token turn a blind eye to those who are pirating their books. Still not an ideal setup but at least not hypocritical.
Personally, I strive to keep everything above board. I do not download from torrent sites, and I do not actively pirate anything, nor do I accept pirated items. The trouble these days is how hard it is to avoid doing it even passively. Watched a song on Youtube? Was it on the artist’s own channel, or their company’s? If not, then it was probably there illegally and the artist makes no money from it.
On the author side of things, we’ve had a hand in exacerbating this situation. Offering ten novels in a box set for 99¢ was a great idea when it would get that bundle to the top 100 on Amazon, and perhaps bestseller status on USA Today and maybe even New York Times lists. It worked then, and because of that, it became a bloated market.
And now, the general buying public gets upset if they get ten novels for 99¢ and only like three of them. “I liked less than a third of these books… it was a waste of money”.
Meantime, the ten authors are each making under 4¢ per copy sold. So yeah… they’re poor, yo.
I’m sure we’ve all noticed the cyclical nature of it all.

So I suppose the end point of all this is that I’d urge those who create items which can be pirated to be part of the change they wish to see in the world. If you don’t want people pirating your books, then don’t pirate someone else’s movie, or album, or TV series. 
Will it stop your books being pirated? Hell no. But at least you won’t be contributing to the vicious cycle, and you can sleep long hours and wake to bright sunshine and everywhere you go pretty birds will land on your shoulder and sing sweet songs to you while your excess kilos evaporate from eating magical chocolate.

* * * *

EDIT: I also forgot to mention that, among other things I've been doing lately, I've also moved into creating pre-made cover art. These are quick and painless covers from the author side of things. Pick one, tell the artist the title and author name and, as they say in Australia "wah lah"!

I've made nine covers so far, in various genres. If you'd like to check them out, come on over here ––––> https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/designers/willsin-rowe/

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Please Respect the Grieving

by Giselle Renarde

I wish I'd written this post when I was in a bad mood, because writing it now is going to destroy my good mood and I thoroughly enjoy a good mood.

As I've mentioned before, I grew up in an impoverished neighbourhood. Now I live in an affluent neighbourhood. Does that mean I'm rich? HAHAHA no. It means I moved here when the rental market was in the crapper. I got lucky.

When you transition from an area populated by poor people to one that's populated by rich people (many of them "old money"), you notice a lot of behavioural differences. I've lived here 12 years and I'm still shocked, constantly, by the arrogance and entitlement I see around me. I hope I'll always be shocked by it, because the moment I don't notice it I've become ONE OF THEM, god help me.

It's one thing for me to say people around here don't think rules apply to them--that doesn't exactly paint a picture. Let me paint you a picture. Let me use the local cemetery as my canvas.

I'm not a religious person (I'm not even a person with a religion), but I do believe we have a social responsibility to preserve the sanctity of spaces that possess a spiritual importance to a great many people.

The cemetery in my neighbourhood has a history of being used as somewhat of a public space, so you're going to find people jogging, cycling, (unicycling, practicing the bagpipes) along the pathways. I'm usually there to walk, although I often stop and say hello to a family friend whose memorial plaque is there.

For the first 130 years of this cemetery's existence, no dogs were permitted on the property. I need to restrain myself because I could easily rant about the exasperatingly entitled nature of the dog owners in my neighbourhood (who truly believe leash laws don't apply to their dogs), but despite their socio-economic heft I never imagined they'd get the cemetery to back down and changed the dog policy. As it now stands, leashed dogs are permitted within the grounds on paved pathways only.

Do you think that stops people from letting their dogs loose like this is some giant off-leash paradise? Or leading their pooches directly to convenient headstones and ENCOURAGING their pets to piss and shit all over graves?

The first time I witnessed this, I almost threw up. I was scandalized by the sheer disregard for what a final resting place represents--not just to the spirit or soul of the departed (if applicable--I don't know what goes on after death), but to the spirit AND the soul of the cemetery itself, not to mention the memory of that individual and the regard their living friends and family members still hold for them.

Is it really too much to ask people not to allow (much less encourage!) their dogs to shit on people's graves? Really?

I'm describing only the beginnings of the bad behaviour I see. A couple weeks ago it was a pair of fancy-ass cyclists in fancy-ass cycling outfits that probably cost more than I pay in rent. We're not talking about kids, here. Teenagers get a bad rap, but I don't want you thinking these were young people. The were grown-ass adults.

Anyway, I guess they're ready for a break so they hop off their bikes, smoke some pot and crank the tunes to full-blast on their awful tinny radio--all while leaning against a sign that reads: QUIET ZONE. PLEASE RESPECT THE GRIEVING.

I could go on. I could tell you about the jogger who spotted the lush green grass on one grave and decided that was the perfect place to take off his shirt and do a bunch of sit-ups. Lord Almighty, I apologize profusely any time I'm forced to step anywhere near someone's grave. Yes, I apologize to their spirit or soul or whatever it may be--out of respect. I can't imagine being the kind of person who does a goddamn exercise routine on someone's grave. You're not at the gym, asshole! This is a fucking cemetery!

Now I feel really complainy. I just see so much entitlement every time I leave the house (or look out my window) and I have this policy of being non-confrontational at the cemetery. My sisters call me a New Yorker because I'm always yelling at people on the street (it's not as crazy as it sounds--they're usually trying to run me over with their cars). I get very argumentative when I see people who lack the fundamentals of respect, but NOT losing my shit on strangers is my way of respecting the grieving.

Trust me, it ain't easy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Fifty Ways to Be an Asshole" A song of entitlement

In the book "Assholes:  A Theory"  philospher Aaron James delineates three guidelines by which a genuine specimen of Asshole may be distinguished from his closely associated sub species - the Ass Clown and the Ass Hat, speaking specifically of the male of the species as delineated apart from the female, otherwise classified as "Bitch".

An Asshole may be identified thus:

1)  He is motivated by an entrenched (and mistaken) sense of entitlement
2)  He allows himself special advantages in his social relationships, and does so systematically.
3)  He is immunized against the complaints of others.

This is extended to Mr James sequel "Assholes:  A Theory About Donald Trump"

I've been fascinated by this election season and I've also been taking some refuge in rediscovering some of my old Paul Simon CDs.  How about this - I've written a song based on Paul Simon's hit "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover".  Everybody sing along  .  .  .

             Fifty Ways to Be an Asshole

I told my lover these elections got me down
Want to throw myself off the 9th Street Bridge and drown.
She said your only problem is the rumbling of your soul.
There must be fifty ways to be an asshole.
There must be fifty ways to be an asshole.

She said its possible if you'll just pay the price,
Man up and grow a pair.  Stop trying to be so nice.
If you really want to win the highest office in the land
you'll have to rearrange your ideas of how to be a man.
There must be fifty ways to be an asshole.

Just jump on the stump, Trump.
Just wave a big wand, Don.
Just serve it up crude, dude.
Ain't nuthin' but true.

Just pull a big flip, Mitt
Don't need to explain shit -
Just pass on the blame, James.
But tell 'em, they're free.

I told my lover I may not be the guy to do that job
Call women pigs, wear my hair red, and act up like a slob.
But it'd sure be nice to if Air Force One was my private plane.
Oh, but can you please explain
about the fifty ways to be an asshole.

She said, why don't you let me write you out a check
Say, a hundred million dollars, just take it and I'll bet
You'll surely find your troubled conscience is all set. 
               There must be -
Fifty ways to be an asshole.
Fifty ways to be an asshole.

Just get off the pot, Scott.
Just jack up the facts, Mack.
kick up a big fuss, Gus -
Just strike a low blow, Joe.
This chicken ain't free.

Just keep up the scare, Jer.
Just wind 'em up tight, Mike
Here comes the Sharknado!
Just build a big wall, Paul.
We're gonna screw 'em all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Entitlement Can Be Sexy

As an erotica author, there's ample ground for sexy fun with a character who has a sense of entitlement. Quite often, us erotica authors take that entitled character and put them through some punishment -- usually in the form of a spanking (promptly followed by a fucking).

Sometimes, though, it can be fun to let the entitled character get what they want. After all, they've developed that entitlement somehow -- likely through lived experience of getting exactly what they want.

The only time I've really explored entitlement in a character is through Ken in my five-part series, Go-Go Boys of Club 21. Ken and his buddies are go-go dancers in a hot NYC gay club. The series follow their sexual exploits both on and off the job.

Ken has long been my most favourite character I've written -- yes, he's cock and entitled, but he's also surprisingly sweet and a bit of a ditz.  While he doesn't get the comeuppance that happens often in erotica (the spanking), he does have his sense of entitlement shattered over the course of the series, primarily through the process of falling in love.  He learns that life is more about just him and what makes his dick feel good.

I thought that today I'd share a short scene from the Go-Go Boys. This is Ken's first scene in the first story, Bump and Grind. He's on his first break of the evening, having just danced up a storm and, Ken being who he is, finds himself horny and in need of a quick release.

(Heads up, there's gay sex in this.)

- - - - -

Break time.

The washroom door clatters closed behind me. I admire the hot asses packed in tight denim, lined up along the urinal wall like grocery store merchandise. I saunter to the lone empty urinal at the end, admiring. I’ll have a lick of that, a bite of him, and good God, I’ll bury my face in that one!

As tempting as each ass is, I’m not here to rim or fuck. No time for that and no way to clean up before going back out to dance. All I’m here to do is guzzle some fucker’s hot, salty cum.

I swivel on a heel as I stop at the final urinal and steal a glance at the cock beside me. It’s thick, semi hard, and has a fat, delicious vein snaking up the shaft. It unleashes a golden stream that splatters against porcelain. I look up at him and take in the rest of his gorgeous body. He’s all muscles and body hair and sweat; he is one hundred percent man—exactly what I lust for...except for his douchey ball cap, but I’ll let that slide.

He notices my stare of seduction and gives me the nod that says, “Game’s on.”

I recognize him from the dance floor. He knows how to use his body, how to move it in all the right ways. I’ve had my eye on him for most of the evening.

Around us, a symphony of flushes and footsteps fill the air, but neither one of us moves until the washroom empties out. Alone. Mmm.

Ball Cap finishes pissing, shakes his cock until it’s dry—and hard. Wide, not too long to take in my mouth, this is gonna be good.

I hook my shorts under my balls. My sac sticks out and pushes my hard prick upward. Now my to-be cum-donor’s stroking his rod, entranced as I let out a stream of piss.

A golden arc like half a McDonald’s “M” lingers in the air, reminding me of a particularly exciting hookup. When I’m done pissing, I shake it too, hand hard around my cock, enough to make it tingle. Ball Cap wants to make a move, but he’s holding back.

“Touch it,” I command. I back up half a step, angling my protrusion toward him.

He looks over his shoulder, checking that we’re alone. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, he reaches out and grasps my cock. Poor boy is probably stunned that he gets to touch one of the go-go boys. We’re the stuff of dreams. His hand is warm and soft on my dick.

“You’re really great out there,” he says, barely above a whisper. “You’re so hot when you dance. I’ve watched you so many times.”

I reach out to tug his dick. He moans, closes his eyes. This is his fantasy, I can tell. I bet he’s beat of fifty times thinking of this very moment.

Leaning in close, I lick his earlobe and whisper, “It’s your lucky day.” No more watching and fantasizing. Time for real stuff. “I’d love to get a taste of you. Do you think you can feed me?”

He shudders. I lick down his jaw line and nibble at the skin on his collarbone. This boy definitely has pleasure points; he gasps, his knees wobble.

I grab his bicep—fuck, he’s jacked—and push him into a stall. He stumbles backward, crashing through the stall door, wood rattling and echoing. He falls ass-first on the toilet and I fall to my knees in front of him, slamming the door shut behind us.

The moment I set my lips on his cock head and slide it into my mouth, Ball Cap groans now like the animal that he is. I use a hand to stroke the base as I slurp the chubby length in like an uncooked noodle. He’s delicious. I suck in my cheeks so that every bob of my head pulls the skin of his cock up and down, making him harder, making him louder. He bucks his hips, tickling my throat with his stubby cock head.

He puts his hand on my head, pushing me down more, but I swat his hand away, gripping his thigh hard in punishment; I don’t let no fucker tell me how it’s done.

I just want his cum, and I’m gonna get it. I suck deeper, harder, fiercer, swallowing, suctioning like an Electrolux. His head’s wedged now in the back of my throat and I’m kissing his bushy pubes.

Time to finish him off. I bob lightning-quick and he loses his shit. Moaning, panting, grating, wailing like a fucking seventies porn star. It’s like I’m torturing him or something.

I have three options—tell him to shut the fuck up, gag him somehow, or just get him off faster. The third option is my favorite; it’s something I’m particularly good at. I press my lips together tighter and bob faster, pulling everything out of my cocksucking bag of tricks. I massage his nuts, squeezing and tugging them.

“Oh, fuck, yeah. Keep doing that. Fuck! Fuuck! Fuuuck!!” So he does know how to talk when the pants come off. But he follows it up with more of that stupid moaning of his. I give his balls a sharp tug—the littlest passive aggressive part of me wishing I was wrenching them off, and if there was some way I could talk with my mouth full, I would have told him, “Come on buddy, feed me your seed and shut the fuck up.”

He’s close. From years of sucking hundreds of cocks, I know when a guy is about to shoot. Fuck, this is the hottest part, wailing banshee recipient or not. I put my free hand on my cock and start to beat it.

Beneath my grip, his balls rise and hug closer to his body. I clamp my lips harder, creating a cum-tight seal. Ball Cap shouts like this is the Inquisition, then a salty geyser blasts against the back of my throat.

Mmm. Cum. Fuck yeah, I swallow him, filling my stomach with his juice.

The flood, the taste, the knowledge—it pushes me over the edge for the third time today. I beat my meat harder. I grunt around a mouthful of cock and my sac empties in thick shots that spatter Ball Cap’s shoes.

“You’re good,” he says, after I’ve sucked him dry and let his stub flop against his thigh. “I’m glad I ran into you.”

I chuckle and stand up. His eyes follow my crotch until it hangs limp and spent in front of his face. Before he gets any ideas, I pull my shorts up.

He stands, bringing his face close to mine, like he’s gonna fucking kiss me or something. “Do you want to grab a drink sometime? Maybe after your shift? We could go to my place—”

“It’s just a blow job, buddy, it ain’t a date.”

I open the stall door and push him out. These boys are all the same, thinking us go-go dancers are looking for dates. We live for the heat of the moment, nothing more. I grab some toilet paper, wipe my lips, then clean the mess on the floor.

Back to work.

- - - - -

If you'd like to read more, you can find Bump and Grind here, or you can find Go-Go Boys of Club 21: The Complete Series here.

Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Seduced by My Best Friend’s Dad (co-written with Sandra Claire). He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.