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Filtering Our Lives

From the archives

(This post first published on Erotic Readers and Writers blog March 2015)

 

I’m in the States at the moment having a wonderful visit with my nephew, his wife and their four lovely daughters, but I have been thinking about the filters through which we view the world — mostly social media and VR and this post seemed appropriate. Enjoy

 

I’ve been thinking about filters lately, going through one of my periodic stages of resenting smart phones, social networking and all things techno. That may well be in part because I’ve only ever managed to master what it takes to survive in that online world. I’m a klutz on my best days. But sometimes I’m an angry luddite wannabe, who grumbles incessantly while I bury my nose in my kindle to lose myself in a good book … Oh the neuroses of my life!

 

When I’m lost in the world of navel gazing and trying to connect to what matters without losing myself in the detritus and the trivia of a world online, I often find myself thinking about the filters we live our lives through, and what being once removed from everything, while at the same time up close and personal with the whole world and all the information in it means to us as a civilization – to me as an individual.

 

I can go online and hear the background microwaves that are the remnants of the Big Bang, the beginning of the universe. I have done, have listened over and over with goose bumps crawling up my arms.

 

I can go to Facebook or Twitter and have meaningful conversations with friends all over the world, people I’ve never met physically and yet I’ve connected with and feel somehow a kin to.

 

I can keep up on films and stars and gossip, I can join any group, be a fan girl, talk trash, be a part of any organisation with any cause imaginable – political, religious, medical, physical, magical, practical, any hobby, any sport, any obsession. It’s all there. All I have to do is log on. Easy.

 

When we were in Dubrovnik over Christmas last year, we found ourselves in a random café for lunch one day. The cafes that were open in the dead of winter were happy for customers, and when we arrived, we were the only ones there. About halfway through the meal a young man came in, eyes glued to his smart phone. He asked us if we’d read the reviews for this particular café. We said no, we’d just dropped in. The food was lovely. We had a local beer, local specialties, and the owners of the restaurant were friendly, and patient with us as we practiced our rusty Croatian on them. Meanwhile the man ordered without looking at the waitress, ate without looking at the food, all the time lost in communion with his phone. We left him that way.

 

Back out on the streets, after a wonderful walk in the sunshine around the medieval city wall, we stopped for coffee and once again were astounded by the number of tourists gripped by their phones even as they walked, obliviously, down the main street of the Jewel of the Adriatic, the sea the colour of sapphire and the sky a shade darker still, contrasting with the red tile roofs.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for lunch and observed three very lovely young women who came in and sat down at a near-by table, again completely caught up in whatever was happening on their phones. They barely spoke to each other during the course of their meal and never put their devices down.

 

I recently received an email from a friend of mine in the States, and I was saddened when the rather extensive epistle was all about what series she was now watching on telly. I know for a fact this woman used to be a librarian. We used to spend our time talking about books.

 

All of these events, and lots of others leave me slightly queasy, even as I sit here writing this blog post, hoping that a lot of people will go online to my blog and read this post. It’s the filters that leave me feeling this way. They leave me wondering about our connection with the real world, about MY connections with the real world. I wonder if we’re now more connected, and I just don’t ‘get it’, or are we less connected because we’re joined at the hip with our devices. I’m guessing it’s probably a combination of the two.

 

The world I live in is totally dominated by the technology my profession depends upon. The first thing I do in the morning is get up my laptop and see what I missed over night. I do what I need to do for PR on twitter and Facebook, I see what I need to do for the rest of the day, and some days that involves a good deal of being online and interacting with social media. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I have some control over the promotion and sales of my books, no matter how little that may be. The feel that I’m at least doing something is worth a lot, even if it is at times only the placebo affect. In a time when publishing is entering the strange new world of self-pub, when the gatekeepers are no longer the guardians of all things literary, when the gates are quite literally wide open, I see how important it is to be present online. But I fear very much that being present online often costs me the simple pleasure of just being present.

 

I remember when I launched Interviewing Wade after a day spent mostly in promo, looking at reviews spending time on Twitter and Facebook and blogging, at last I went into the darkened kitchen to reheat the pasta from lunch for dinner and discovered something truly amazing. Through the kitchen window, I had the most exquisite view of the thinnest sliver of a new moon in conjunction with brilliant Venus, and for a few minutes there was the added pleasure of red Mars just about to sink below the rooftops of the neighboring houses. I was stunned. I couldn’t take my eyes off what I saw. I reached for the binoculars for a closer look

 

The moon was illuminated with earthshine and, through the binoculars, the darkened areas were visible with the brilliance of the sunlit crescent making the whole look almost dark purple, huge and 3D. As I tried to focus on the bright smudge of Venus, my heart beat kept jarring the binoculars, so I couldn’t resolve the phase, but I’m sure it was as close to full as Venus ever gets.

 

Venus is always in phase. How amazing is that! We never see the full face of Venus because it’s in between us and the sun, and it’s only full when it’s on the far side of the sun from us – something that’s only true with the inner two planets. Mars dipped quickly and was gone, but I stood for ages, trying to hold my breath and brace my elbows so I could look. But no matter how hard I tried, Venus constantly quivered through the binoculars with the steady beat, beat, beat of my pulse. I shifted back and forth between the shiver of Venus and the pock marked darkened surface of the moon with its crescent of brilliance at the bottom edge. When my arms got tired of holding the binoculars, still I stood.

 

It was one of those rare moments of being in focus, of standing with nothing in between me and my little sliver of the universe; experiencing a moment, one raw, naked, aching moment without anything in between me and my heart. That tiny shred of time felt like skin freshly formed over an abrasion. And I wanted to stay there forever in that little sliver of
the present with nothing in between.

 

I couldn’t, of course. The moon set, and I had work to do. It occurred to me as I nuked dinner, that even that incredible few minutes of focus were filtered, brought closer through the lens of my binoculars. We’ve been filtering our world for probably as long as we’ve walked upright. Perhaps we can only be safe in – and from our little slice of the universe when we filter it, analyze it, look at it through eyes – and heart — well protected.

 

The next morning, online, there were more images of Venus and the New Moon in conjunction than I had time to look at. I was far from the only one bringing that moment into myself through filters that helped make sense of it, helped make it personal and, clearly, I was far from the only person needing to share it. Somehow that makes the world community seem just a little bit smaller, just a little bit closer. Somehow that makes the filtering of my universe and all the contradictions that involves set just a little bit easier in my mind. That and the knowing at least for a little while that earthshine, that sliver of moonlight, that conjunction with bright Venus was mine. All mine.

 

 

 

Solstice Heat

 

Happy Solstice, my Lovelies! Here in England it’s a hot one. With no AC in the house and this kind of heat so unusual
here, we tend to get up close and personal with our Heat Waves and everyone finds relief in different ways. Personally I prefer a cold drink in the shade, when there’s shade to be had. Somehow being out in it makes me feel like a willing participant rather than a wilted victim.

 

 

And really, why not celebrate? This is the fecund time of year. Seeds become plants that bud and make fruit, and lordy, lordy, don’t we eat like kings on that delicious succulent summer fruit? Plants grow like mad. I swear I can almost see my sweet corn growing. I half expect to hear it whisper urgently, ‘feed me, KD’ as the neighbors and their dogs slowly begin to disappear. The old saying ‘Knee high by the 4th of July?’ Well mine is already that and more! Anticipation! An-ti-ci-pa-a-a-tion!

 

 

 

 

Lots of things grow and come to fruition in the heat. I suppose as a writer I love the idea of the whole growth cycle – a seed is planted, it sprouts, then grows into a plant, which sets blossoms, then produces fruit. For those of us who write, that fruit is often the source of new seed as well.

 

 

 

 

Being caught up in the world of Medusa’s Consortium with Blind-Sided and Buried Pleasures at the moment, the excitement of ripe fruit is more than just me checking out my crops in the veg patch every day and eating enough British strawberries to sink a battleship. But this time of year always reminds me that I live and move and grow and change within the cycle. The heat, that intense push to growth and maturity is a part of all our lives, and I do wonder at times if we are actually the metaphor for the wonderful turning of the year, for the ebb and flow that grounds us, even when it roasts us.

 

 

 

 

British Summer is notoriously fickle. Everyone who lives here will tell you that. But it’s also in-your-face brilliant, filled with birdsong, long hours of daylight, and more shades of green than the eye can take in. And if you don’t take full advantage, it’ll turn it’s back and howl in a storm. Mind you it will anyway, but that’s just a part of the adventure. “It was a dark and stormy night” is just the flip side of the “summer lovin’” coin. I get a good bit of both writing paranormal, and I appreciate both, even as I grumble about them.

 

Happy Solstice everyone! Smell the roses, dance in the water sprinkler, have a cold drink and read a good book in the shade. Can’t you just feel the growth?

 

Don’t forget Landscapes, my Medusa’s Consortium M/M novella, is a FREE Download!download at the moment. Landscaper, Reese Chambers, is just the kind of bloke who would appreciate the fecund British Summer. So be sure to download if you haven’t already. Then grab a cold drink, a spot of shade and enjoy the heat.

 

 

 

 

Landscapes Blurb:

Alonso Darlington has a disturbing method of keeping landscaper, Reese Chambers, both safe from and oblivious to his dangerous lust for the man. But Reese isn’t easy to keep secrets from, and Alonso wants way more than to admire the man from afar. Can he risk a real relationship without risking Reese’s life?

Note: Landscapes has been previously released as part of the Brit Boys: On Boys boxed set.

 

Landscapes Excerpt:

The moonlight was bright and Reese’s night vision was good, but the path was rocky and steep. He stumbled and went down on his arse, catching himself on one elbow and cursing as the sensation of pins and needles shot up his arm. He forced his way to his feet slipping and sliding the last hundred meters on the dew-drenched stones. He was just about to call out, just about to shout Alonso’s name when the man moaned softly and Reese stopped in his tracks. Not only was Alonso no longer curled on his side, but the man was naked. He lay flat on his back, his knees bent, bare feet resting on the bench, one arm flung over his face, the other curved down low across his belly, his fisted hand moving up and down the length of his cock.

Reese froze, unable to move, unable to breathe. Alonso Darlington was beautiful, like no one he’d ever seen. His body was sculpted, not like polished marble, but with the ruggedness of the rocks of the fells, like he labored to be free from himself, like one of Michelangelo’s prisoners. The muscles of his belly tensed and relaxed and convulsed and relaxed again in response to his stroking. The movement of muscle beneath skin on his biceps and his forearms, on the rise and fall of his chest, on the tensing of the chorded muscles in his neck and throat as he swallowed was like a hypnotic dance. The muscles in his thighs twitched and bulged as he rocked and arched upward until Reese could see the clenched half-domes of his buttocks. He could smell the nutmeg and yeast scent of his heat, charged through with the crackle of ozone. He stood frozen on the spot, his own cock responding to the sensory overload, even as his brain demanded he give the man his privacy, demanded with a sense of half-frightened urgency that he leave as quietly as he could, but it was too late.

Alonso’s arm fell away from his face and Reese could feel the nearly physical press of his gaze.

I’m sorry,’ he managed around a tongue that felt too big for his mouth. ‘I saw you, and I thought that … I’ll go now,’ but even as he said it, Reese stepped forward, feeling reeled into the man like a fish on a line. Alonso eased himself up on one elbow, not taking his hand off his cock, not taking his eyes off Reese. ‘I should leave,’ Reese croaked, but instead he stepped nearer.

In a move that was not quite human in its grace, Alonso sat up and nodded to the bench next to him.

Cautiously Reese sat down struggling to keep his eyes off the man’s cock. He could still feel Alonso’s gaze on him as though he were the one who was naked. ‘I thought … When I saw you out here, lying on the bench at this hour … I was worried.’

 

‘That’s very kind of you, Reese, but there’s nothing wrong with me. My … afflictions, don’t trouble me much. I’m not ill. In truth, I’m the epitome of health. I’m just … different.’

‘I’m sorry. Of course you would be out after dark. I didn’t mean to offend you. I’ll go now.’ But before he could stand, Alonso’s hand shot behind his head with lightning speed, fingers curling in Reese’s sleep-mussed hair, and in that instant of reaction, the second Reese gasped for his breath, the man’s mouth was on his, warm and hard and terrifying in its command, a command Reese could do little but respond to. Even as fear battled lust low in his belly, he parted his lips, opened his mouth, welcomed the search and conquest of Alonso’s tongue, his own the white flag that instinctively yielded all else beyond the breach, all territories beyond the invasion.

 

 

 

Canal Walk Corrections

Sometimes my characters just aren’t satisfied with the plots I’ve sorted out for them. The worst is when they’re grumping about the endings I’ve given them. This is what has happened with Blind-Sided. No one was happy about the ice cream sundae of an ending I gave them. I certainly thought they would be. Who doesn’t like a happy ending all tied up with a bow and a cherry on top? Well apparently this lot isn’t too keen on neat and tidy endings. “I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do any of that,” Susan said, as she stole a glance over my shoulder last night just before I down tools for bed. Honestly, I didn’t even know she was looking. “I’m dying of a sugar overdose,” she added, wrinkling her nose.

 

 

And out of the corner of my eye, I could just make out Desiree sticking her finger down her throat in a fake gag while Reese sniggered into his pint. Michael and Alonso just sat on the sofa shaking their heads. Gawd, this lot has no appreciation for what I go through for them. SO, in desperation, this morning I pulled out all the stops and went for a walk along the canal.

 

 

 

It was only supposed to be a shortie, just to get my head on straight, and then back to the shops to pick up some fruit and some greens before I got back to work. But Desiree assured me that with an ending like I had in mind, I’d better just plan on walking all the way to London because no one was giving me any peace until it was sorted. And here’s me thinking I’d be home in time for morning coffee break.

 

 

But then Susan joined me just as I hit the canal path and, you know how it goes when two writers get chatting — one scribe to another. Anyway didn’t she start telling me exactly how it was going to be? Now I would be the last person on the planet to argue with a proper Scribe who can wield the magic of the written word like she can. So I listened very carefully.

 

 

And just when she was sorting me out with a proper upsetting of the apple cart sort of ending, I saw the poppies and stopped to take a few quick piccies. By that time both the Guardian and Cave were whispering in my ear. Well, the Guardian was actually sort of creeping me out with some kind of prickly crawly sensation up my spine. And Cave — he texted me, since morning sunlight doesn’t do him any good. You haven’t met Derick Cave yet, but trust me, you’ll like him when you do. He’s the king of the abandon subway tunnels, and he’s not a man I want to argue with.

 

 

By the time I got side tracked by two mute swans busily feeding on the water plants, Michael, and Alonso and Reese had weighed in along with Desiree Fielding, who was complaining about Magda infringing on her territory. The texts were flying, since sunlight isn’t a big favorite with some of Magda’s peeps.

 

 

It’s a hot day here in Surrey. It was well past coffee break and my stomach was grumbling for lunch. The water in my bottle, what little was left, had gone warm as dish water. I reluctantly turned back toward home, but not before I got this shot of some canal boats. That was about the time the lady herself showed up, right at home in the sunshine, all tucked away safely behind her prescription sunglasses, even if she did make a couple of dogs along the route bristle.

 

 

Magda Gardener didn’t miss her opportunity to let me know what she thought, about my birthday cake ending, taking time out to very sweetly flipped Desiree off when she tried to force the issue with a little conference call. By the time I got to the end of the canal path, there was a limo waiting to whisk Magda away to Heathrow. She’s off to Vegas to wrap up some unfinished business with our siren, Samantha Black. Oh yes, you’ll get to know her very well in Buried Pleasures, book three of Medusa’s Consortium.

 

 

You see, part of this writer’s struggle is that while Susan, Desiree and Reese are battling it out with Cyrus and some baddies from Magda’s past, Magda is busy in Vegas helping none other than Death himself rescue a siren so she can save the day. That means I’ve been writing Buried Pleasures and Blind-Sided at the same time. SO once Bind-Sided is out, you won’t have to wait long for Buried Pleasures. If you’ve not read book one in the Medusa Consortium Series, here’s a link to In The Flesh.

 

 

 

Before she hopped in the limo, though, Magda told me a few things that she reckons the gang may not be too happy about. Seems what happened with Cyrus and the one he works for is a real game changer. But I’ve got the skinny on a few things that Magda doesn’t know. Unbeknownst to her, our little scribe, Susan, has penned an “unauthorized” story involving Magda and a certain detective you’ll meet in Blind-Sided. But I think there’ll have to be a lot more long walks before either of these two tight-lipped women divulges all the details to this writer.

 

 

Writing Gives Me Hope

I’m an HEA sort of girl – have been most of my life except for a few years when I was a surly teenager. Being a novelist and loving a good HEA tale means that every time I put fingers to the keyboard to write a story, I deal in hope. Every time I read a good novel, I do it for hope. I understand that we too often don’t get an HEA in real life, and I realize that hopelessness is a constant battle everywhere. I suppose that’s part of the reason I write HEAs. I deal in hope in a world that’s sorely lacking it at times.

 

Yes, I’m well aware that there’s nothing more escapist than an HEA romance … unless it’s a paranormal HEA romance, one with plenty of steamy sex. I get it, and I don’t apologize for it. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I DO write my stories to escape. I’m not getting any younger, I don’t have any super power (you guessed it, I’ve seen Wonder Woman recently) and I’m never going to be an astrophysicist or a prima ballerina. But I have grown up to be a damn decent storyteller, and that, in itself gives me hope. Maybe that is my super power … Sometimes it feels that way when I’m in the zone and my characters and I are in close communion, when I create a world and a situation that broadsides me with possibilities I didn’t expect. Oh yes! Those are the times I definitely feel larger than myself, timeless, living beyond the flesh and bone of physicality.

 

Strange, as I started to write this post, I was going to share a list of the things that give me hope. As is often the case when I write – whether it’s a blog post, a journal entry or a story – I end up in a difference place than I thought I would. My list grows and changes, but at the core of it all, it’s writing that gives me hope. It’s knowing that I write tales of hope, it’s knowing that I do it for love. I do it for myself first and foremost because it’s at the very heart of who I am.

 

The truth of why I do it, why I write, when writers are struggling in the market, when worthiness of a work has less to do with success than luck, when I know the cynical side of the business, when I no longer have stars in my eyes, is that I can’t NOT write. The truth is that writing is as essential to me as breathing, and I’m never happier than when I’m penning a story. That gives me hope. That gives me great hope. My purpose is to write. In that hope I can safely explore my mortality as well as imagine my immorality. In that hope I can examine all the facets of me that can’t be lived out in one lifetime, all the secret depths of me that I keep hidden from the world – both the light and the darkness. In that hope I can face the dark fearlessly. All of the other worlds I create, all of the other people who live and breathe and are flawed and neurotic and sometimes frightening and wicked; who make mistakes and act impulsively and do impossibly heroic things are the hope inside of me, and that hope is steadfast. That hope doesn’t change with the flux of the world around me, and I rediscover it daily in the telling of the tale. That gives me courage to move forward, confidence to share what I write with anyone else who reads stories for an HEA and for a little bit of hope.

 

Urgency V Bluebells

There are deadlines. There are rewrite, there are new stories waiting to be written. There is housework – ironing, vacuuming, dusting. There’s gardening – sweet corn to get into the bed before the weather changes, weeding to be done, bulbs to get in. There’s the pile of stuff I never got done that comes back to kick my “good girl” conscious in the butt in the middle of the night. Every damn thing is urgent! And the older I get the more urgent it all seems.

 

 

Urgent is easy to confuse with doing it all and doing it well. Urgent, in my head, is my failure to do just that. Urgent all too quickly can lead to feeling completely overwhelmed.

 

 

Urgent, however, is at its best when it’s lived out in the moment, lived out in the present, lived out in only this glorious second. And there’s no better place to be reminded of that than smack dab in the middle of a bluebell wood.

 

 

Mr. Grace and I did our first long walk of the spring on Friday and went up to the Chantry Wood to check out the bluebells, which are gloriously early this year. Yes, there was gardening to do. Yes, it meant I left the ironing undone and the read-through I was working on unfinished. Yes, we did it anyway. We took a picnic in our rucksacks and a flask of tea and off we went – for the entire day.

 

 

 

We were more than well-rewarded with bluebells and bird song and a soft breeze through the trees. We feasted our eyes on downland views that we’ve seen a million times, and yet every time we see them, they’re different. For a whole day, nothing was urgent. Everything was present in a single moment in a bluebell wood.

 

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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