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The Bet: Part 2 of a Brand New Medusa Consortium Story

 

While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.

The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.

 

PART TWO

He had arrived at Buried Pleasures with nothing more than his name on the guest list, and the house had covered him in accordance with what he was willing to gamble. They were generous that way when someone was willing to go for broke. Buried Pleasures was happy to deal in unusual bets. No one was allowed in unless they were willing to risk it all, and Jack Graves always knew who was willing to take that chance. Michael confirmed Magda’s suspicions when he bet everything in the first hand. He wasn’t there for the adrenaline rush. He just wanted it to be over with. She, on the other hand, liked to linger over a good game, especially when she knew just how delectable the pay-off would be.

He proceeded to win hand after hand, becoming more agitated the more chips he raked in. At Magda’s request, a waitress brought over a bottle of Moet and Chandon and two glasses. She didn’t ask him if he wanted any, she just nodded to the waitress who poured. “A toast to winning big,” she said, lifting her glass and watching his response over the top of her shades.

He took it cautiously and sipped, as though he feared she might have slipped him a roofie. “I don’t drink,” he said with a blush, but he finished the glass in a single gulp anyway. She smiled to herself. She could have bought the cheap stuff for all it mattered to him, but it mattered to her. Besides she could afford it, and anyway, Graves didn’t stock the cheap stuff. She refilled his glass and nodded back to the cards. By now it was clear that for Michael it would be a test of endurance, a test of how badly he wanted what he thought he wanted. The old saying was never truer than it was for those who came to gamble at Buried Pleasures. Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it. But the truth was, Magda didn’t care if he really wanted what he thought he did. She only cared that he got it.

When he pushed all of his chips into the center of the table and nodded to the dealer, it was clear that what Michael wanted was to lose, big time, and Magda was about to find out just how much he was willing to risk. She offered him her best predatory smile. As her Ray-Bans slid down her nose just a smidge, she had the satisfaction of watching him shudder and grab onto the edge of the table as though he feared he might fall off the chair. It did her heart good to know even his kind were just as susceptible to her special brand of magic as anyone else. “All right,” she said stretching back languidly in her chair as though she had just awakened from the most delicious nap, “I suppose I’m up for one more hand.” She nodded her consent, and the tension drained from Michael’s broad shoulders as though he had just received a stay of execution. He had no idea, she thought.

He pulled a full house and cursed under his breath as she shoved the mountain of chips back in his direction. If Magda didn’t know better, she’d almost think there was some divine providence at play, for Michael’s own protection, of course. While he might be punished for his actions, for the results of accepting Graves’ invitation, he’d already gotten all the outside help he was likely to get.

From the corner of her eye, she could see Graves, in his regular uniform of bespoke black, watching with interest. Oh he wasn’t concerned that Michael was cheating. No one cheated at Buried Pleasures. It was simply that allowing Michael in, allowing Michael to bet, put the casino, and its owner, in uncharted waters. Very few of the punters had connections as weighty as Michael’s, though a hand full of priest and religious nutters, along with the usual smattering of filthy rich, thought they did.

Without so much as a pause, Michael shoved all the chips back into the center of the table. But this time Magda shook her head. “I’m going to quit while I’m behind. Why don’t you go cash in and enjoy Vegas.” She nodded to the chips. “You certainly can afford to. Hell,” she added with a little chuckle, “you could buy half of Sin City with what you just won, then retire and sit back and enjoy yourself.”

“I can’t retire,” he said.

She knew he couldn’t, but there was just enough cruelty in her nature to want him to squirm a little bit, to want him to sweat over the possibility that he might just fail in his mission.

His mouth was a thin line and his square super-hero jaw looked like it might have been carved from granite. “Don’t you want to win back what you’ve lost?”

She heaved a sigh that sounded like it had taken a lot of effort and toyed with a long strand of hair, which had escaped containment from the black ribbon that held the rest of her tresses in check. “I don’t want to lose any more.” At her response, his shoulders looked as though they would split the seams of the jacket.

“If you don’t have anything to bet, I’ll spot you,” he said and started to push half the chips back at her.

She raised a hand to stop him. “It’s not that I don’t have anything to bet,” she let the Ray-Bans slip again, and he squirmed and caught his breath, no doubt wondering why he suddenly felt the tightness in his chest, the sense that the floor was tilting beneath him. From her peripheral vision, she caught Grave’s frown. He didn’t appreciate her toying with the clients. She turned just a tiny bit and smiled up at him as she gave her glasses a gentle push back up the bridge of her nose. Then she focused her attention once again on Michael. “It’s just that this game has become boring, darling, what with you winning every hand.” She gave him an evil smile, and nodded up to Graves. “One could get the impression that you’re cheating.”

He ran a hand through dark hair in need of a cut and tugged at the collar of the white polo shirt he’d buttoned all the way up to the corded muscles along his throat. “I’m not cheating. Honestly I’ve never even played poker until tonight. Surely you know I’m not cheating.”

She drummed her mauve nails mutely on the felt tabletop. “That may be, but how do I know that you’re not some sort of savant or a card counter? That’s against the rules, you know. If you get caught.”

“I’m not! I’m not either one of those. Honestly. I don’t want to … I’m not trying to … cheat.”

The poor guy. As much as she loved toying with her victims, she couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. She shoved her hair over her shoulders; the ribbon had all but lost control of the heavy locks, and she leaned across the table, nearly into his personal space. He moved back as far as he could in a chair that barely contained him. He was a big boy, and yet he was uncomfortable in her presence. That was to be expected, but she figured he’d be uncomfortable in just about anyone’s presence. Poor shy lad. Still, she was sure he would do what he had to. She was counting on it. “Michael, darling, let me give you just a little bit of advice. You don’t mind, do you?”

He blinked dark blue eyes, looked for a second as though he might protest, and then only shook his head.

She didn’t sit back. In fact she slid into the chair next to him watching the hammer of his pulse in his throat speed up at her nearness. It was the usual response from prey to predators, but there was so much more going on here than just a shy boy being uncomfortable in the presence of a beautiful woman. She shoved his shaggy hair away from his ear and his eyelids fluttered. His whole body went rigid as she whispered, “what you need to understand about gambling, Michael, is that while there is an exchange, never at
any point is that exchange fair. Consensual, yes, but never fair. And sooner or later, everyone loses.”

He squared his shoulders and with the kind of effort she’d seen often in the very shy and met her gaze. “That’s what I’m counting on.”

And there it was, the truth of the matter she’d known from the beginning, the implications of which he could not possibly comprehend. At least not just yet.

 

The Bet: Part 1 of a Brand New Medusa Consortium Story

 

While I’m away in China, I have a very special treat for you lovely lot. I’m sharing with you a five part story, never been read, never been published before, from the Medusa Consortium Series. Ever wonder how our fallen angel, Michael Weller, once lover of the Guardian, now Susan Ennis’s lover, and long time friend and member of Magda Gardener’s consortium lost his angel hood? Well wonder no more. This is a little peek into Michael’s backstory, taking place while Michael is with the Guardian and wants very much to give his lover a very special gift.

The Bet is complete in five parts, all of which will be posted here during the next two weeks. While I’m in China, I’ll have no access to my blog, nor email, nor Facebook, nor Twitter, so this is my gift for you to enjoy until I get back.

 

The Bet: Part One

Magda had arranged for Michael to arrive at Buried Pleasures Casino in a white
stretch limo. Oh it certainly wasn’t done in an effort to impress him. In fact it would embarrass him, she figured. But a white limo for his last night seemed appropriate under the circumstances. She had known for a long time that he would come. Endlessly patient, she watched and waited, knowing that when the time was right and everything came together as it must, he would never truly be able to imagine the knock-on effects of the cataclysmic change he thought he so desperately wanted. But then his kind tended to be naïve, kept so sheltered as they were.

Jack Graves, the casino owner, usually furnished transport for those he had invited. But this time she asked him to allow her the honors. Buried Pleasures was by invitation only, but rules had been broken and lines had been crossed in order for Michael to be here.

She’d been careful to arrive just before he did, waiting in the shadows so she could see his response. She’d asked the driver to take the long route and make sure he gave Michael a tour of the Strip and the Downtown area before bringing him to Buried Pleasures. She wanted him impatient, even a little intimidated. She needed to see just how willing he was to do what was necessary. And she wanted him off-balance, at least a little. Though really, it was difficult for one not to be off-balanced by first impressions of Buried Pleasures. There was no glam, no glitz, only the gaping maw of a storm tunnel. Even the limos were allowed just a quick drop-off on a cracked concrete slab under the constant buzz and flutter of an aging sodium streetlight. There were very few pick-ups.

The storm tunnels beneath Las Vegas were a mind-boggling engineering feat began in the seventies to offer flood protection to a city built on bedrock and totally surrounded by mountains. The individual segments always reminded Magda of giant hollow Lego blocks made of concrete. Originally there was to be over a thousand miles of tunnels serving Vegas and the surrounding area. They were all designed to channel the waters of any flash flood that threatened the financial heart of the city into Lake Mead some thirty miles away. The project was never finished, but there were still an impressive two hundred miles of tunnels beneath the city. They now provided shelter for the homeless who didn’t mind playing the odds that their meager belongings wouldn’t get washed away in the next deluge. They also had provided a hiding place for murderers and thieves and who knew what else? Well actually, Magda knew what else. She was there when the tunnels were built. She was there long before. There were lots of reasons why Buried Pleasures was the most talked about secret hidden beneath Sin City.

The real attraction of Buried Pleasures was that everyone was dying to see what was inside, what was very literally buried under the storm tunnel façade. But only a select few were allowed in. And that exclusive clientele had nothing to do with wealth, power or fame. Beneath the dank passages crawling with scorpions and ripe with urban legends, oligarchs placed their bets next to waitresses. Beneath chandeliers the size of steamships, rock stars and famous athletes played black jack next to farmers and janitors.

Michael hadn’t waited for the driver to open the limo door. He’d unfolded himself from the back seat and stood for a moment with his hands thrust deep in the pockets of an ill-fitting sports jacket. With a quick glance he took in the complete lack of anything that would have given away the fact that he was about to enter the most exclusive casino in the world. There was no shock, no doubt, no surprise on his face. Just chiseled determination.

As he straightened his jacket and stepped toward the entrance, she made her move. For a moment she simply stood there in front of him letting the impact of her presence wash over him, a presence that assured he’d never even notice her dark glasses. No one ever did until she removed them, and then it was too late. Sometimes beauty was not only untouchable, but deadly, for a split second its subconscious impact a reminder that the sublime often exists only a hairs breadth from destruction. And once the initial moment of surging pulse and rising goose flesh had passed, she approached him casually. First impressions were lasting impressions, after all, and he would remember her for a very long time to come. “You’re first time here?” She asked as they walked into the tunnel, which would have been pitch black if not for the utility lights glowing in their protective metal cages.

He only offered a grunt of affirmation, and blushed furiously – something anyone else would have missed, but Magda saw way more than most.

“A silly question, I suppose.” She slid a hand into the crook of his elbow as though she were his date, and he tensed at her touch. “Very few people come here more than once.”

“I only need once.” He was softer spoken than she had expected, but then she doubted he’d had much experience interacting with people.

She smiled to herself. He was right. He only needed once. What he would do afterwards, though, that was what interested her.

They took one of the two service elevators down, both seeming more suitable for forklifts and men with jackhammers descending to a construction sight than for the steady stream of people anxious to bet everything. Some were dressed to the nines in designer originals, some wore faded jeans and tee-shirts. There was no dress code, and no matter how much speculation the place generated, what went on in Buried Pleasures actually did stay in Buried Pleasures. Those select few who returned from a visit to the casino never talked about it, no matter how much they were offered for their exclusive exposé.

He chose poker – after she’d recommended it. He’d never played before. In fact, he’d never gambled before, but then a lot of people invited to Buried Pleasures hadn’t. It didn’t matter. Ultimately everyone played the odds. While most people who came here weren’t very skilled, Magda knew there was far more to gambling than cards or roulette. It was all a matter of just how far they were willing to go and if they were they willing to bet it all.

Michael spoke with the careful elocution of someone who had worked with a coach to perfect the accent in a language that wasn’t his own. That was to be expected under the circumstances. And even if Magda hadn’t known who he was, what he was, she’d have assumed this was his first trip to the big city. Not that Vegas was big, and it didn’t really qualify as a city, but Michael seemed a bit overwhelmed by it nonetheless. In all fairness she doubted if he got a lot of time for recreation in his vocation. It was a risk for him to be here at all. But then he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t willing to take major risks.

“Must be beginner’s luck.” She spread yet another losing hand onto the table,
studying him from behind her dark glasses. “Looks like the guy upstairs might just be giving you the edge.”

He flinched as though she’d slapped him, and she shoved the pile of chips his way. The jerk at the corner of his mouth could in no way be misconstrued for a smile. “The guy upstairs never gives anyone the edge.”

 

Down the Rabbit Hole with Dangerous Characters

 

Like many writers, I’m convinced that my characters have minds of their own, and they sometimes take me into that twilight zone where nothing goes according to my well-laid plan. It happens like this. First, I become aware that the plot is veering into unmapped territory. It’s never as simple as me changing my mind about where I should take the story line, though that does happen often enough. But this is different. I am no longer the one calling the shots. The character I’m writing about at the moment has hijacked my story. At this point, all I can do is take a deep breath and hold on tight for the wild ride.

 

Then, when my character has my full attention, what he does reveals something about himself that I would have never expected and would be far too timid to write anyway, except I’m no longer left with a choice. Not to write it his way would be dishonest and, frankly, when I actually have such an encounter with a willful character, I’m a little bit frightened of what he might do if I don’t write it his way.

 

I don’t always enjoy it when a character takes me off the map and into the dark. Here be monsters. Besides, I don’t want to see his flaws up close and personal. I suspect that’s because it’s too much a reminder of my own darkness and flaws. But once I’m no longer in control, there’s a shift that happens, and I realize that I’ve been taken deeper down the rabbit hole of my own inner workings than I would ever be brave enough to go on my own. Denial may not be just a river in Egypt, but it’s most definitely a state I’m totally at home in.

 

My characters, however, don’t like denial, and the ones that like it least are the villains. One of the scariest and most unredeemable villains I ever wrote was Terrance Jamison, the baddie in two of the four Executive Decisionsnovels I wrote under the name Grace Marshall. If ever there was a character I wanted to hate, it was him. If ever there was a character I felt uncomfortable with, it was him. And yet, Terrance Jamison also compelled me to feel the same lust and rage toward him as the heroine of the story, Stacie Emerson did in The Exhibition.

 

When she allowed herself to think about that horrible time, it was always with thoughts of what might have been if she could have gotten Zoe away from him, if they could have gone somewhere he couldn’t find them. Strangely, it was his scent that permeated all of her memories of him. Every time she had ever been with him it had surrounded her, practically drowned her; when he held her, when he stroked her hair, when he caressed her. He always smelled like the desert, with everything that was dangerous about it. Everything that was poisonous or desolate or sharp-angled and deadly seemed to seep through his pores in a way that was both dark and compelling. How was it that something as simple as the way someone smelled could elicit such desire, such hope, such terror, such rage? How was it that the scent of the man was the first thing she remembered about him and the last thing that haunted her in her dreams?

 

It was a summer evening, one of those glorious times when daylight lasts forever and you can’t bring yourself to go inside the house. I was ensconced on the patio sipping Malbec and tapping away on my laptop well into the first draft of The Exhibition.I remember distinctly how everything shifted when Terrance Jamison took control. The encounter he forced me to write was not the one I had planned. There was never any question that he had taken over, and none too gently. Jamison didn’t do gently. He didn’t tell me what to write. Instead he dragged me right into the disturbing, uncomfortable thick of it all. Being with Jamison was not an out of body experience; instead it was a little too much in the body for my comfort. And yet I might have been a million miles from my homey little patio in Surrey. When the scene was finished, he left me feeling euphoric, aroused, disturbed and in need of another glass of wine.

 

Here is an excerpt from my time under Terrance Jamison’s influence.

 

When she remembered that night, the night she truly realized just how in over her head she really was, she recalled it with the sounds of sex. Perhaps that was because when she revisited that night in her dreams, she always heard their lovemaking from a long way off – if you could call it lovemaking. It was only much later, too late, that she learned just how cruelly Jamison had used Zoe. In her dreams, she could hear them the moment she entered Zoe’s building. She could hear them in the elevator all the 29 floors to the flat as she road with her heart in her throat, fearing for her friend, wondering why she hadn’t shown up for their dinner meeting, or at least called. Zoe hadn’t been herself since – well, since Jamison came into the picture as more than the distant presence Zoe spoke about from time to time. In her dreams, she heard their moans and gasps as she exited the elevator and walked the interminable distance to Zoe’s front door. In her dreams, the door was always wide open with a view into Zoe’s bedroom, with her naked on the bed, with Jamison on top of her.

 

In reality, she had heard nothing, been aware of nothing, until it was too late. In reality, she feared the worst. So when Zoe had left no messages and not returned her phone calls, when there was no answer at the door, she let herself in with the spare key Zoe had given her. In reality, it was the fact Zoe’s bedroom door was closed that had led her to knock softly, call Zoe’s name, and push the door open, fearing … She wouldn’t have dared name exactly what it was she feared. And looking back, even in dreams, she could never visit that unnamed fear without its true horror being thrust upon her in reality far worse than any of her nightmares. It was the beginning of the end – or at least in her memories that’s how it felt. But in reality, the end had begun the moment Zoe had introduced her to Terrance Jamison, with her still flushed from the excitement, from the glitz and the triumph of her second exhibition.

 

Even after she pushed the bedroom door open it took her a few seconds to make the connection, to figure it all out. At first she saw only a man’s back, a man lying face down on Zoe’s bed. For a split second, she thought someone was assaulting Zoe. It was then she heard the sounds of sex, as though someone had just turned up the volume, as though a tidal wave of noise and smells and connections had washed over her, threatening to drown her. And then she heard Zoe’s yelp of surprise, saw a naked arm shove from under the fully-clothed man, and Zoe called her name.

 

‘Stacie, Jesus, Stacie, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I meant to call. Really I did.’

 

It was all so disjointed in her mind, even though at the time every second of it felt like a pinprick to cold skin, so vivid, so powerfully focused.

 

It was then she realized the man was Jamison. He rose from the bed, still wearing that same smile he always wore, as though he owned the world and he were greeting a favorite vassal. She had interrupted their lovemaking and he welcomed her as if he were inviting her to tea at the Ritz. ‘I wasn’t expecting you, Stacie,’ he said. But she knew that he had been. She could see it in his eyes, feel it in the way he looked at her. She was exactly who he was expecting, and it was as though he had forgotten Zoe was even there.

 

‘I’m … I’m sorry. I was worried. I was worried,’ she managed before turning and fleeing. In the back of her mind she could hear Zoe’s voice, high-pitched and thin with words staccato and clipped, the way she always sounded when she was drunk. But her words sounded like gibberish against the hard hammering of Stacie’s pulse in her ears as she fled, feeling mortified and humiliated and other hot prickly things she didn’t want to think about. Then Jamison yelled something that had silenced Zoe. Stacie heard the bedroom door slam with a loud crack, and then he was calling after her.

 

‘Stacie! Stacie, wait!’ He caught her by the arm in the hallway by the door, his grip talon-tight. His white shirt was untucked and unbuttoned to show the mat of hair across his chest that glistened with the heat of arousal. He’d made no attempt to do up his fly, and his erection fought against black boxers. He smelled faintly of whiskey. Mostly he smelled of sex and something else, something that prickled along her skin and made her shiver. He had never been anything but pristine, never been anything but under control, and the sight of him like this frightened her, confused her.

 

‘I’m sorry.’ She forced the words through the desert of her mouth. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know.’

 

And then he pulled her to him with such force that she cried out, and he kissed her. It wasn’t a kiss she had ever dreamed of or hoped for. It was a scorched earth kiss that took no prisoners and left no hope for survivors. As fear rose to the surface over lust and confusion, he crushed her hand to his bare belly, his muscles tightening as though she had punched him. He slid her palm down into the tent of his boxers, down over the prickle of pubic hair, and forced her fingers closed around the obscene heft of his erection, the erection he’d elicited by what he had done to Zoe. Before she could utter a sound, he took her mouth again and shoved her hard against the wall, his hand bruising an irresistible path up under her skirt, over the tops of her stockings and into her panties.

 

From her bedroom, Zoe was repeating the same gibberish over and over again like a mantra, like a hypnotic spell. And whenever she remembered that night, Stacie felt as though she might well have been hypnotized or drugged or maybe temporarily insane. Or maybe, she’d hoped against hope, maybe she had only dreamed it.

 

All of it, the noise, the smell, the fevered touch of his body, of his mouth pushing at her until, at some point in an eternity that couldn’t possibly have taken more than minutes, Stacie kissed him back. At some point, she curled her fingers in her hair and cried out in frustration, in confusion, in fear, pushing back, clawing and gripping at him where he still held her hand to his cock. And then he shuddered against her and she felt the warm stickiness of his semen erupt over the tight grip of her fingers, and still he held her. Zoe’s high-pitched mantra became mere background noise as he stroked feverishly between Stacie’s legs and dug thick fingers between her raw folds, grunting to gain his breath, cursing and shoving at her.

 

‘I keep waiting for you and you keep running from me, making excuses,’ he gasped against her ear. ‘So I’ll take what I can get. For now. But I won’t wait much longer. I always get what I want. Always. You should know by now, those are the rules.’ With a nearly painful rub of his thumb, she came in a trapped animal cry that drowned out the high-pitched rhythm of Zoe’s mantra as it clawed its way through her lungs and out of her throat. Then he stepped back, his chest rising and falling spastically, his eyes locked on hers, and that was the first time she ever remembered his eyes joining in the emotions of his face. It was hunger that stared back at her, like he would devour her whole, like she was prey and he had already taken her before she even knew what had happened. He jerked her hand from his boxers and wiped it on the hem of her skirt. With a little kitten cry, she shoved him away and ran out the door.

 

While all of the characters I write, no doubt, represent some part of my psyche, the dark characters, the monster, human and otherwise, are the ones most able to drag me, often kicking and screaming, to places I fear to go. Perhaps that’s why demons and dark passages underground play major roles in my novels. And while those monsters may leave me trembling and disturbed, they never leave me there without new insights into who they are and into who I am.

 

 

Making the Word Flesh

‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us.’

 

No, I’m not waxing Biblical on you this lovely spring day. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about the power of the word. Duh! Writer here. When am I not thinking about the power of the written word?

 

At the moment, I’m still struggling with A Demon’s Tale, the fourth novel in the Medusa Consortium series. Like all the Medusa tales, it’s a big book. In fact what is taking me so long is that almost three quarters of the way through a novel that still needed LOTS more space, I realised that I was trying to write three novels into one. SOOO, I’m now unraveling the three so that A Demon’s Tale will truly be the Guardian’s story. The other two stories are for another time. As I work through this unraveling, occasionally I find myself wondering how we writers can create something out of nothing, from the tiniest seed of an idea. As much as I love a good TV binge, there’s nothing like a good novel – whether you’re reading it or whether you’re writing it. Few things engage the creative process quite like a novel does. In the mind of both the reader and the writer, the word becomes flesh and the world of the story becomes as real as the world we live in … at least if the author has done her job.

 

The very best novels are the ones that pull us in to the point where the writer’s world seems more real to us than our own, to the point that we physically feel the story, not simply take it into our mind. That’s also true for the writing of a tale. Some days the Guardian’s world seems more real to me than my own, and honestly, if I’m not pulled into the story physically, if I don’t feel it in my gut and below, then I can hardly expect my readers to, can I?

 

You see, the thing about being a writer is that we’re entirely self-entertaining. The stories seemingly come out of nowhere, and expand to fill our days, and often our nights and any moment we can spare in our efforts to get them down, in our efforts to create something real. Even when I’m not plopped in front of the computer writing, the story, the characters, the next scene – they’re all going through my head. Some of the best, most creative writing happens when I’m not physically writing at all.

 

If you’ve read the Judeo/Christian creation myth in Genesis, then you know that God simply speaks the world into existence without any seeming order of plan. That’s writing in a nutshell. I have an idea. I shape it enough to anticipate what the ending might be … might be, and then I write and let the story unfold and surprise me.

 

Eeep! I guess I am waxing a bit Biblical, but you have to understand, there’s a whole lot of mythology going on in the Medusa books, and as a lover of myth, how can I not get pulled in and end up contemplating the connections and meanings?

 

While a writer brings her world into existence using nothing but words, she has to do a little more than that with the characters. They can be created with words, but they need life breathed into them, they need chemistry, connection, personality, pasts, flaws, feelings, neuroses and a driving force that’s greater than themselves. The world unpopulated is a lonely and boring place. Let’s just say Magda Gardener’s world is anything but. And there comes a point when I’m not entirely sure if I’m breathing life into my characters of if they’re breathing life into me. And like Adam and Eve, my characters, at some point, become autonomous and don’t always do what I want them to do, what I command them to do. What I discovered early on is that the story only truly takes flight and evolves into something alive and powerful and real when my characters leave the Eden I’ve created for them and step out into the wilderness of flawed humanity. What I am certain of is that my world is brighter, more textured, more three-dimensional because of the characters I’ve created to populate the worlds I’ve written, and especially because they choose free will over my commands. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, since the stories we writers create are a part of ourselves yet to be discovered and the discovery is absolutely an adventure in creation.

 

Silent Sexual Heritage

I know quite a lot about my heritage. I can tell you that my family all hails from the
British Isles. With family names like Harvey and Mckenzie and given names like Elizabeth and Harold and Charles, that’s no surprise. I can tell you that I inherited my dad’s broad shouldered bone structure and my mom’s mousy brown hair. I inherited my mom’s fear of almost everything, but luckily that fear got balanced out by my dad’s more adventurous nature. And I got both of their fiery tempers, as my husband would tell you. The older I get the more I see my parents in me. That doesn’t always make me happy, but it does make me a little more sympathetic toward them.

 

Then there are the learned behaviors that are also part of my heritage. I grew up drinking iced tea no matter the weather. I still do. I grew up loving the outdoors because we spent so much time out. At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python song, my father was a lumberjack, and he was, for the most part, okay.

 

My parents were already well into middle age when I came along, and I grew up hearing, ‘I’m too old for that’ ad nauseum from both or them. They were of an era when being too old meant you were over thirty, which thinking back at their lives of hard physical labor, was probably more than just an excuse.

 

My sister and I often talked about our physical inheritance, as well as those traits we learned – both loved and hated. Since she was nearly seventeen years older than I, there was a significant difference in our non-physical heritage. What neither of us had any idea about is our sexual heritage. I’m sure a lot of people might cringe at that thought and think TMI. Here’s what I mean. My parents were kinder to each other than many married couples I’ve observed, but when my little friends whispered and giggled and made faces out behind the woodshed about how babies were made, I swore to them they were wrong. My parents would never do anything like that. As I got older, of course, even I had to admit that they surely must have done it three times because there was me and my brother and sister.

 

I understand that people didn’t show THAT kind of affection back in my parent’s day. And I understand that no one ever talked about it. Honestly I would have been mortified if my parents had even tried to give me the talk. Anyway I figured I knew more than they did. While I was rather inexperienced in my younger years, I was well versed in the biology of “doing it.” I’d done a lot of seeking out information when I accidentally discovered masturbation at the ripe old age of eleven. That discovery began my adventure of learning my own body and the pleasure it could give me, pleasure that seemed almost boundless. But I have to admit, I often wondered where I got the tremendous drive toward pleasure. There always seemed to be an underlying sense that sex was nasty, that sex was dangerous. Because no one ever talked about it and because I never knew who it was safe to talk about it with until I was in university, I couldn’t help wondering if I had inherited this crazy secret libido that drove me to want to touch and explore myself, that made me think about sex A LOT, or if I was just an anomaly.

 

I wonder just how many people out there find themselves like me, feeling like a sexual orphan. What I mean by that is the information, the knowledge of love and lust and the major role it plays in all our lives and relationships seems to be as sealed and kept secret as the records in orphanages used to be. So many of us, even now, grow up with absolutely no sexual context and so much shame and fear that we have to try and secretly create a context for ourselves.

 

That makes me wonder if the using of sex to sell, if the blatant sexualization of our culture, if the easy availability of every kind of porn online isn’t all an attempt to create that context. And yet we still seem to fear talking openly about what goes on “down there,” even worse about how it makes us feel, about how it connects us or doesn’t in our most intimate relationships. In spite of sex in films, books, advertising, sports, social media, sex in almost every aspect of our lives, the underlying fear, the shame, the guilt doesn’t seem to have diminished since my parent’s day. And neither has our self-doubt about our bodies, about our own sexual identities.

 

That lack of sexual knowledge, that lack of understanding our bodies, leaves us open and vulnerable to all of the misinformation that’s out there, and there’s a lot! The biggest fear, the one shared over and over again, seems to be the fear that something is wrong with us. Why don’t we feel the way we’re supposed to feel? Why can’t we perform sexually like porn stars, or like in the movies? Why isn’t there fireworks, and why doesn’t the earth move? The shame, the guilt, the fear, the self doubt, it’s still all there. It’s just in nicer packaging with solutions we can discretely buy online that will make us better, that will make us feel like we’re supposed to feel.

 

Looking back, perhaps the true sexual inheritance from my parents, the one that matters most, was that while they never talked about sex, while they were not overtly affectionate toward each other, neither did they ever shame me nor feel they had a right to invade my privacy. My sexual inheritance may well be the space they gave me as an angsty teenager to figure it out. They never felt they had the right or the need to raffle through my belongings, to check up on what I read, to come into my room uninvited. That meant space to explore sex in my own way. Being a bit socially awkward in my high school and university years meant I did most of that exploring alone.

 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that what I’d learned about my body made the transition quite nicely into sex with someone else. I don’t think my parents understood completely that I was the kind of a child who did discover things on my own if I wanted to know something bad enough. Mostly they just didn’t talk about it. No matter, it worked for me. Later, much later, my mother’s internal editor spent a lot more time off line. As an old woman, wonderfully crotchety and ever so slightly
raunchy when it suited her, she grew past the age of caring what she said. She had stopped looking at me as a child to be protected and started seeing me more as a friend. By that time, in those final years of her life, I was a married woman with a rich sex life of my own, and I was far more demonstrative of my affections toward the son-in-law she adored than she’d ever been toward my dad. It was then that she let a few little spicy tidbits slip into the conversations here and there that made me believe maybe, just maybe I wasn’t an anomaly after all. Maybe I was just my mother’s daughter.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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