Heaven Or Hell At A Mother’s Feet

I was raised to belief that heaven lies at the feet of one’s mother – the woman that birthed you, loved you, nurtured you. Later, I heard someone (I can’t remember who) say that “heaven lies at the feet of a mother but so does hell”. So, what is it?

It’s is both and neither. To be honest, I think we all have to make up our own minds about our own mothers and then duplicate the good and try to be even better with our own kids. Depending on the type of mom you had, you could have been on the road to hell or heaven. The type of mom you are will pave the road for the type of children you set forth into the world.

road to heaven

Where did this all come from? Well, I just read an article by a mom who is a self-proclaimed ‘lazy’ mom. http://brightside.me/inspiration-family-and-kids/im-a-lazy-mom-besides-im-selfish-and-carefree-176805 

It got my blood boiling because as a mom, I have concerns about leaving a two year old to fend for themselves in a kitchen or allowing an eight year old to wander off by themselves. I could’ve let out an expletive at the author and left it at that but then I read the comments and was shocked by the number of women that believe in this way of parenting. Or rather, this way of neglecting.

As an expat in Kuwait, I probably live in one of the safest countries within which to raise children. People love children here and have an annual holiday to celebrate children where children are given sweets and gifts because they are children. If I’m crossing a road and the kids are with me, cars stop to let us go past. No one would intentionally harm my kids here – their punishment of crime in this country is severe. And yet, even here, I would never, ever allow my children to go off to a friend and they’re both older. They help themselves to yogurt and fruit but if the stove goes on or the kettle, I keep an eye on them.

Now, I’m not a perfect mom. Far from it. I’ve made mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make many mistakes in future but the difference between this ‘mama that has a life’ and that mama is that I do not take the easy way out. I work. I work my butt off.

When I was a working mom, I balanced work, kids, hubby, school stuff and my writing dreams. I thought I was supermom. I was involved with the PTA, I baked supermomcupcakes and arranged lavish birthday parties, I never missed an important school event and I spent every afternoon and part of the evenings with my kids. I worked in between all of that, spent time with hubby and averaged 3 hours sleep for months while trying to write novels. I was finished. I wanted it all and because I couldn’t, something had to give and that something was me. In retrospect, I realize that I could’ve cut down on my writing time and have taken longer to publish some of my books and that would have been fine. I could have done less or only have donated money instead of my time to the school and that would have allowed me to have a bit of balance too. I didn’t realize this then and frankly, I think I was so obsessed with having it all that I didn’t even consider letting up. I was expendable in my warped mind, not my goals. Stupidity at its blindest.

Then, hubby had the opportunity to work in the Middle East. The tax-free income gave me an opportunity to quit my day job and become a full time mom while pursuing my writing dreams. My dreams took a backseat after I made a shocking discovery. My children did not see me in the same ‘supermom’ light I expected them too. Don’t get me wrong, they noticed and appreciated all I did for them but having me at home highlighted how little time they spent with me. Just that. Time spent with me. Not time spent with me doing homework or time spent going to school functions or time spent doing, doing. doing. Just time spent with me. Them and me. Doing nothing and yet doing everything right. I never gave them that in my manic ambition to be the world’ best working mom. Well, I woke up, smelled the OJ and began making up for lost time. Yes, you guessed it, I went the other route… I put my writing dreams on the back burner and threw myself into making my kids the focal point of my life. Hubby came after that and I came last of course. (Believe me I am shaking myself at my head just as I’m sure you are.)

To be fair, I would have had to give a lot of attention to my kids anyway as we did move to a completely foreign country and the amount of adaptation – particularly to the vastly different British curriculum at an international British school. The South African curriculum is literally two years behind the British one and my children had A LOT to catch up to. They spent hours each day doing extra work. Never mind the language differences, the social difference and acclimatization. It’s been tough.

Then came the time when my kids had pretty much caught up. I suddenly found myself with time on my hands. Time to write, right? No. I had every intention of doing so but it didn’t happen. I was bushed. Absolutely exhausted. The fact that I’d been working since the age of 8 in my dad’s shop, keeping house since the age of 8 and then carried on working hard… it got to me. I didn’t have an emotional outburst – that would’ve taken energy. I was just finished. Writing took forever and all I experienced was growing creative frustration. Then hubby told me one day that if roles were reversed, he would absolutely have a daily nap. Nap? What’s a nap? I don’t do naps. Naps are for lazy people, right? … Wrong! Naps are normal as I discovered and so is reading, drinking coffee for the sake of it and having a Netflix marathon in my pajamas. And so I gave myself a break. I still did all I had to as a mom, hubby and I still had time together but I stopped doing PTA and other school activities and put my writing on the back burner. Bravo! I deserved every second. I wish many more women can have the opportunity to have a break such as I did.

Back to the article by the (self-proclaimed) ‘lazy mom’ – bullshit! My mother was ill and working and had an excuse for the responsibility I had placed on me. Even then, she always did her best for me and I am immensely grateful. She did not use laziness as an excuse ever.

I changed my blog name last week to ‘Mama’s Got a Life’ and my tag line is telling – ‘I’m  a mom pursuing her writing dreams while navigating life as an expat’. I hope I can get the balance right now. Being a mom is not about being perfect. It’s not about sacrificing them or sacrificing you. It’s about doing your best with what you have in the moment. It’s about learning to balance things out while honoring your responsibility to the lives you’ve been honored to take care of. It’s about taking things a step at a time while holding your breath and hoping that the road you’re paving is the one leading them to heaven.

Mama’s Got A Life – I Flipped My Blog

The Art of Juggling Balls. Yep, that’s me, ball juggler extraordinaire. It’s dirty work that can get sticky at times, make you wheeze from exertion and messy-dress in a hurry. That’s the mad, amazing reality of my life living as an expat in a country where I don’t speak the language and the customs take a moment or two to decipher while raising two girls, yo-yo dieting with intense determination, keeping the flame burning with my hubby, traveling to bucket list places and embarking on the the scariest, most personally demanding writing project of my life.

I’m a mom in pursuit of her writing dreams while navigating life as an expat wife and #YOLO (You Only Live Once) is my mantra.

Join me as I post about my travels, foodie adventures, writing musings and whatever other balls I may be juggling at the time.

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For the Love of Romance, Leave Us to Our Fabulous Sex Lives!

couple kissing in shower

Have you read a good romance lately? Did you recommend it to a friend or colleague only to have them say, “I don’t read such things” or “I read crime novels or autobiographies”? Of course, they say it with an immense sense of superiority as though they’re more present in the ‘real world’ and that there is something wrong with someone for enjoying a good ‘happy ever after’. It makes me want to regress to being a teenager, roll my eyes and reply, “whatever”. But I don’t. Until recently, I’ve smiled and nodded and changed the subject. On Facebook, I generally ignore the comments or provide a diplomatic response.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m neither referring to individuals who genuinely don’t have an interest in romance (much as some people prefer tea to coffee) nor those who prefer other genres and will only pick up a romance occasionally and if a friend coerces them to. I’m also not referring to people who don’t believe in romance. I respect that we all have pasts and can understand that some experiences don’t lend themselves to creating much belief in love. I am referring to the ‘heart haters’ – those individuals who believe that they have the right to judge the romance reader and writer.

The suppositions made by them are that romance readers are sadly disillusioned or are overcompensating for a lack of sex, love and / or dating in their lives. I even came across an article that refuted a statement that women who read romance novels “can become dangerously unbalanced”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/claim-romantic-novels-unbalance-readers) In the same article, a crime writer is cited as stating, “”My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos”. Really? Judge much? Okay here, I think regression is appropriate and an eye roll is absolutely deserving and maybe a good shaking or two. The irony is that the statement made by this crime-writer is soaked with the very melodrama us romance writers and readers are often attributed with. (And I think he is just jealous because romance novels sell more than any other genre.)

Thankfully, there are enough people out there who have the kutzpah, the tenacity, to challenge the fabricators of such dribble. I found another interesting article on the demographics of romance readers (http://www.lifescript.com/life/timeout/chill/romance_novels_who_reads_them_who_buys_them.aspx) and quite a few more on how romance can spice up one’s sex life, most notably, Teach Me Tonight (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html).

So here are the judgmental assumptions made about romance readers, facts I’ve found and of course, my take on things:

Assumption – Romance readers are sad and alone.

Fact – The majority of romance readers are married or in a committed relationship.

My take – I know many romance writers, being one myself, and even more romance readers. Most of them are not only in relationships but also in happy, supportive relationships. Who knows… maybe the hope and positive outcomes inherent within romance novels creates a mind-set more open to love and overcoming the challenges relationships present. Now I have what I refer to as a ‘gatvol’ stage. The direct translation of that Afrikaans word is ‘ass-full’ (LOL) and means, “I’ve had enough’. I’ve reached that stage where I no longer can ignore the disdain from others when mentioning romance and so I’ve begun asking them about their own relationships. I’ve found that those who don’t read romance novels have mostly been hurt in the past, are divorced or generally don’t believe in love. Essentially, a romance is about the belief that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties life presents it with and that this is only strengthened by love. I personally find it sad that others have lost that hope.

Myth – Romance readers are old and unattractive.

Fact – The age of romance readers ranges between 25 and 54. Romance readers are not predisposed to look a certain way.

My take – Most of my readers fall within that age range although there are a few older and younger too. As to whether or not we are an attractive bunch? Well, I beg to differ. We are all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Given that most of us are married or in committed relationships, someone obviously found us attractive enough to ‘put a ring on it’.

Myth – Reading romances creates unrealistic expectations of sex

Fact – “Most of the study participants (75.5%) reported that reading romance novels has had an impact on their sex lives. This occurred in several ways, including making participants more likely to engage in sexual activity and by making them more likely to try new sexual activities.” (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html)

My take – Many readers I know have reported an especially hot experience between the sheets after reading a romance novel. As a writer, I know that many of my colleagues and I feel particularly frisky after writing a sex scene and our partners certainly do not complain when we expend that energy in the bedroom. We also *clears throat* do extensive research for our novels. Does that sound like we have unfulfilled sexual relationships? Moreover, the fact that we don’t complain obviously means that our expectations were met. I’ve even heard of many women who use what they’ve read in romance novels in the bedroom. If it is legal and consensual then surely that’s okay? What puzzles me is why on earth folk want to know what goes on in the bedroom of romance readers? Are they projecting? In other words, are the ‘heart haters’ actually the ones who are unhappy with their sex lives? Are they threatened? I know what I think… I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

The fact that I found most interesting was that romance readers use the novels as a means of relaxation and escapism from life’s daily stress. The last time I checked, that is one the primary reasons why most people read. I know that I treat myself after every deadline to a long bath and a good romance novel. In fact, that is precisely why I read and write romance – I want to enable others to escape into the worlds I create and have a moment of bliss, shed a tear or two in commiseration and to feel happy that all turned out okay at the end. So my plea to all heart haters is to give it a try and if you insist on ridiculing us, then leave us to our fabulous sex lives! Now I’m off to think dirty thoughts, write them and then…

Body chocolate.

Does Bling Bring the Swagger to Book Sales?

Facebook, Twitter and every social network are inundated with ‘ebook and swag giveaways’. They started off with more affordable prizes such as bookmarks and postcards then progressed to bling in the form of necklaces, jeweled bookmarks and bracelets. Now the recent trend seems to be the amazing prize of a Kindle or Nook giveaway – with the Kindle Fire being the biggest draw card.

I resisted going the swag route – not because I’m adverse to it but simply because as a new indie writer, just starting out with absolutely no budget, every ebook I gave away ate into my personal bank account. So, you can imagine that swag seemed like a dream.

To Swag or Not to Swag?

I first gave into the lure of getting my own swag when I observed the huge interest it drew and to be honest, my sales went from looking hugely promising to despondently dwindling. Another thing happened – I got a bit of disposable income, which meant that I could carve out some of that for swag. The thing with being an indie is that you cannot discount that indie writers mostly have day jobs, family responsibilities and thus also financial responsibilities with the majority of their income coming from outside of the sales of their books. But, because I was worried about my sales and I needed to create some form of hype around my work, I bit the bullet.

 Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

What Swag To Choose?

The first thing I do before embarking on any venture related to indie writing is Google. Google is the most informative and amazing resource any writer has access to and Google gave me information on swag. My search led me to a blog by Curiosity Quills. What resonated the most was that the swag being given away should be functional as well as decorative and promotional. And even better, Curiosity Quills provided the website address of an international printing company called Vistaprint (www.vistaprint.co.uk).

I then spent hours poring over the contents of a variety of websites and settled on Vistaprint, who was affordable even with taking shipping into consideration. Having said that – if any indie writers are reading this blog and mosey over to Vistaprint or any other site – note that affordable is a relative term because what I paid still made me grimace.

In the end I settled for calendars, notebooks, postcards, tote bags, etc. The great thing is that you can build an online portfolio and order as little or as much as you want whenever you want to. So, I may not have a stock room full of swag – I have a small box – but I do have access to an on-site, personal portfolio for future use.

The Price of Swag?

Buying swag is one thing, shipping the swag from the vendor to your home is another. But the hidden cost that is not always taken into consideration pertains to shipping. Do not discount this because the indie writing and social literary networks are internationally spread and when you do a giveaway, what you send will be weighed and measured by your postal service or couriers.

Some authors are limiting giveaways to their home country. I can respect and understand why but what bothers me about this is that the literary community is an international one and by limiting a giveaway to a country, you exclude many from participating.

So now, I basically sit with a box of swag in the cupboard while I save money towards the shipping! (LOL – I’ve got to laugh at the irony of the situation.)

Has it Worked?

I’ve only recently started giving away the swag. Has it helped sales? Absolutely not (*grinning again*). But what it has done, which is why I’m a swag believer, is assist me in promoting me as a writer. The number of Author Page likes for Aneesa Price – Sugary, Spicy Reads has increased, so have the number of friend requests I receive and I’ve also been experiencing renewed interests from reviewers to host my work on their blogs and to provide me with honest reviews.

So, yes – it does work. I believe that Swag fits into the category of ‘short term (financial) pain for long term (sales and promotional) gain’.

The Future of Swag?

At the moment it seems to be flooding the literary social networks and to be honest, there’s a feeling of ‘you snooze, you lose’ if you don’t get onto the swag bandwagon. So my recommendation to other indie authors is to get out there and do the swag thing (but save up first – do not put yourself personally out of pocket).

What will swag look like in future and will I reap the benefits in the form of reader reach? Well I don’t know the answer right now but I’ll be watching.

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Is Erotica Literary Porn?

If a book contains sex scenes does it make it erotica?

hot couple 2

To me, the answer is no.

I write romance and recently, also erotica. With my first book I purposefully kept any descriptions of sex scenes mostly suggestive, however, with my second book, the sex scenes were more explicitly described. I did not describe body parts and the acts in detail. I did, however, describe the emotions and sensations in tantalizing depth and sex was a major initiator for many events in the book.

My first novel, Finding Promise, was not labeled as erotic. It was labeled as I meant it to be – a sweet, small town contemporary romance for adults. My intention with the second book, Coffin Girls, was not to be erotic either – it was to provide a realistic description of what occurs within adult romance, which in my book (both literally and figuratively speaking) means a description of sex. I purposefully curbed the level of detail provided. However, I was surprised (neither pleasantly or unpleasantly) when I received feedback that the book was in fact erotic. This confounded me.

I’m a firm believer that whatever the reader feels is their reality and thus true for them and so I accepted that to some, the book may seem to be erotic. This acceptance was shaken when most of the feedback I received was that Coffin Girls definitely fit into the erotic paranormal romance category. I then sat back and thought – very long, extremely hard (no pun intended *grin*).

What I was struggling with is that I had indeed read erotic literature long before the hype around “Fifty Shades of Grey” arose and as early back as when I was a university student. Back then I devoured the colorful descriptions writers such as Anais Nin and Henry Miller gave to carnal endeavors. To me, that was erotic. These classically acclaimed writers, to my mind, celebrated sex through the mastery of their words.

At this point, it may shed clarity to share my philosophy on sex in literature and other entertainment media. To me, sex is a natural activity that occurs between consenting adults and a very important one. As a romance advocate I cannot imagine a happily ever after for a couple who do not enjoy sleeping together. This is one of the many reasons I do not enjoy YA (Young Adult) reads. They seem to leave something to be desired due to the nature of the genre – like the proverbial ‘coffee without caffeine’.

I was baffled. Here I thought I was being very conservative with Coffin Girls and yet, the general consensus seemed to label it as “erotic with a bit of fang”. I then embarked on a journey to try and figure out if it indeed was erotic and if my definition of erotic was accurate or more akin to literary porn.

A series of events occurred. I read and reviewed a few newly released indie books labeled as erotic. I found that they weren’t actually erotic in my book and that Coffin Girls was indeed more explicit than they were. As I was outnumbered, I had to concede defeat. Next, I read explicit erotic short stories and here found that they made Coffin Girls look like a Disney production, which was more aligned to my original thinking. So, still in a state of confusion, I pulled out the old erotic classics and re-read them and reeled back in shock. They weren’t explicit in nature but what they were, were terribly illegal. A strong word but I cannot find any other to describe the grotesque acts I re-read in those books. Shocked and disappointed in writers I had previously looked up to, I then decided to read their journals. And that clinched it for me.

What I found in reading Anais Nin’s journal in particular was that she hated what she wrote.  The erotic works she created were commissioned by a benefactor that had no desire to read ‘poetry’. They wanted cold, hard, despicable acts of sex with an undercurrent of darkness and sometimes violence. Anais (also the name of the main character in Coffin Girls – and yes, I named her after the famous writer) experienced an enormous amount of dissonance but had been compelled to write those stories because she needed to earn money. She, in short, felt as though she was prostituting her art.

This was a revelation for me and it was is what led me to realize that what separates erotica, as a masterful literary art-form from literary porn is the story and the conscience within the work. If a book contains sex that discriminates and violates unless it is part of a story then it is porn. However, if sex is part of the story, adds richness and depth to the story and is not the story in itself, then, it is erotica. Erotica does not exploit its characters, instead the act of sex provides insight into how they think, feel and behave. It is not an attempt to fulfill a reader’s more promiscuous desires but to provide the reader with a full experience of the character’s hearts and minds. Erotica is then to me, a further development of adult romance. Sex is not implied, it is celebrated along with the other emotions and behaviors that characters possess.

And so I’ve discovered that I do indeed write erotica because my definition of it has matured.