Woman Marries Dog

Current mood:  breezy
Category: News and Politics

It’s my turn to blog at The Many Shades of Life and Love today and here is what I wrote:

By A.J. Llewellyn

Some years ago, I was languishing in a three-story Victorian terrace house in London. I was home alone in sub-zero temperatures, my three flatmates all out on dates. I was so poor I didn’t even have 10p for the gas meter, so I sat huddled in blankets listening to Michael Franks.
There was a line in one of his songs I have never forgotten. You could say it’s become my motto, the theme of all my books:
Loneliness makes you strong. Love makes you free.
I never will forget how I felt during that year in London, the lessons I learned, the strength I developed, the friendships that continue.
So when I read the story yesterday about Emily Mabu, the 29 year old woman who married her dog, I felt, unlike many who mocked her, deep anguish that her loneliness is so acute, she has no trust in humans.
Emily, who lives in Aburi, Ghana, married her 18 month old pug in a ceremony boycotted by her family. Her brother David described it as “a stupid step to combat her loneliness.”
Maybe, maybe not.
I have no idea what the wedding night was like and I really, truly don’t want to know. I am betting however that this new husband won’t be getting on the Internet anytime soon to download porn or chat up hookers.
On the downside, he won’t take out the garbage, or cook much of a meal…but I know very few human men who do this either.
He won’t do much but give her unconditional love.
If she were a member of my family, I would have attended the service, then quietly worked out ways to keep her busy and social. I would also find her a good therapist.
I am an animal lover and I’ve seem how much pressure other friends of mine put on their pets. Their loneliness is so strong, it created undue pressure on them.
Emily is an extreme case. How sad it is that she is so dependent on a small dog.
We have become a species of increasingly isolated, fearful people who seek solace in those who won’t hurt us. I feel for Emily because she is fumbling in the darkness toward freedom…yes, she’s taken a wrong turn but in the dark, most of us can’t see.
The beauty of being married to her dog is that if a divorce ensues, she can keep him and they can still be friends…more than friends.
He probably won’t go after her money or her best friend…unless a meaty bone is involved.
I hope he teaches her that it’s okay to love, that her loneliness has made her strong and his love can set her free.
Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
The Michael Franks Anthology: The Art of Love
By Michael Franks
Release date: 2003-05-13

Michael Mania

Current mood:  contemplative
Category: Movies, TV, Celebrities

It’s my turn to blog at Nice N Naughty today and here is what I wrote:

The chips have fallen and the fabled 875,000 tickets to Michael Jackson’s funeral services this morning have been distributed. The lucky recipients of the pairs of tickets have their mottled-gold arm bracelets on – or they don’t.
My friend Lizzie called me last night, all excited that she’d won, except that she had planned to sell the tickets on Ebay (there are plenty on there already) and couldn’t because when she went down to Dodger Stadium to pick up her tickets and credentials, they forced her to don the bracelet right there and then.
Once it became obvious that ‘fans’ were selling these free tickets online and, apparently, right outside the stadium, the organizers of today’s memorial service in downtown Los Angeles, started insisting that the ticket recipients put the bracelets on immediately.
Lizzie and countless others were warned they would not be admitted to the memorial service without it.
She’s skipping work therefore to attend the service and was ecstatic and giddy. I listened to her for a moment and said,
“Lizzie, you make it sound like you’re going to a concert. It’s a funeral.”
“Oh, my God,” she said. “You’re right.”
I am a Hollywood resident and writer and many people know that I read screenplays for studios for a living but all of a sudden, after a long dry spell, I’m getting emailed requests from companies for coverage of screenplays.
Hey, I can use the money, don’t get me wrong. But like a growth attaching itself to the heart with long, grasping tentacles, I have been dismayed to see the flurry of screenplays shooting for the Green Light — all about Michael Jackson.
A few are unauthorized bios, a few are made with the participation of family members, most are screenplays that have been sitting on studio shelves for years…coming of age type stories, where the young singer is inspired by MJ.
It is sick.
He was an amazing talent, one we’ll never see again. But I have a hard time separating the legend, the talent, from all the other weird stuff. Sorry, but I do.
I wish him a nice rest in heaven. I wish his tormented soul some peace. I will always love his music. I will live with the knowledge that nobody else will ever make a video like Thriller.
And I wish that the people who ‘won’ the right to go and say goodbye to him this morning really, really wanted to be there. I know many of them do, but just as many of them just want to say, “I was there!”
Wherever he is in heaven, Michael is probably telling God, “See, I told you what it was like for me down there. I’m dead, and they want even bigger pieces of me.”
I hope the madness dies down, that people don’t keep trying to cash in on the cow whose milk has not only dried up but who cries in mortal agony.
Judging by the way people continue to cash in on say, Tupac Shakur’s untimely passing, I would say I’m dreaming.
The legend of Michael is turning into the fastest way in town to make a buck.
And this is just the beginning.

Aloha oe,
A.J.

Currently listening:
Michael Jackson 25th Anniversary of Thriller
By Michael Jackson
Release date: 2008-02-12

The Storyteller’s Creed

Current mood:  energetic
Category: Writing and Poetry

It’s my turn to blog at Seven Wicked Writers and here is what I posted:

By A.J. Llewellyn

I was on an author chat the other day and a woman who’s never read gay erotic romance…anything gay for that matter, asked me if my books have happy endings. I wrote back, “Yes!”

She seemed stunned. I was surprised by her reaction. “But Gay men are so promiscuous. They can’t be faithful,” she said.

I wondered how many gay men she actually knew and decided she probably reads the trashy supermarket magazines where gay and straight celebutantes hop on and off each other like fleas. Sure, I know a few gay guys who play around, but I know plenty of straight guys who do too.

Most of my gay friends are in longterm, monogamous relationships and work hard at them. They are my inspiration. When I was a young adult, I worked for a company here in L.A. that sold products online, most successfully late at night when lonely, insomniac people feel their money burning a hole in their pockets.  I worked the phones, armed with a computer. We were shown a demo of the ad running that night. We’d all groan when we’d see it was an ab cruncher – people who buy those want to talk to you for hours about their problems. People buying the onion chopper were more business like…whatever. We were armed with the ad schedule across the country and banged out those orders like crazy when people called in to liberate themselves from their money.

The pressure was intense. My paycheck was deducted if I took more than a minute to respond to a call and if I took more than three minutes with each customer. My eyes would fly between the electronic clock on my phone bank and the computer, where I typed in the customer info. So many times people’s credit cards were maxed out…or they couldn’t find them…man, people are dumb!

But I digress…

I worked a horrendous schedule, 10pm to 4am. During my two breaks, the women I worked with – there were twelve women and two men – sat glued to their romance novels in the break room. They passed a few well-thumbed paperbacks onto me. I remember reading one by Betty Neals set in Holland. I have to say Betty influnced my own work all these years later because her detail on Amsterdam was rich and had such texture to it, I felt I was there.

For the fifteen minutes I raced through a couple of chapters, I was there with the heroine, walking those cobblestone streets, sipping coffee in ancient cafes. It was a blessing to be carried away on such a carpet ride and those books got me through one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had.

Gay or straight, I believe in happy endings. I used to pine for my breaks so I could back to those books we all passed around. Let me tell you, those women I worked with would have been pissed – PISSED – if the hero said at the end, “You know what bitch, you’re cute but I’m just not that into you.”

Readers want happy endings…there is a formula and I believe a happy ending is essential. If I want an unhappy ending, I’ll call up my last ex boyfriend to remind myself how happy for now feels. Or I’ll just read a different book.

Because I believe in The Storyteller’s Creed. I follow it. It is my law:

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,

That myth is more potent than history, that dreams are more powerful than facts,

That hope always triumphs over experience,

That Laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Gently Weeps
By Jake Shimabukuro
Release date: 2006-09-19

Unreliable Narrators

Current mood:  creative
Category: Writing and Poetry

It’s my turn to blog at The Many Shades of Life and Love and here is what I posted:

I am a voracious reader and writer and when I find a new author I love, I consume all their books with an obsession that keeps me awake nights until I’ve read each and every last tale. Right now, my love affair is with Agatha Christie. I remember reading a couple of her ‘cosy mysteries’ as a teen but never went beyond that. At the library where I volunteer, we all know each others’ tastes and we keep an eye out for the books our co-workers might like. About a month ago, one of my dear old ladies gave me a copy of And Then There were None, by the great dame herself.
“Agatha Christie?” I queried my co-worker.
“It’s set on an island and it’s one of her best,” she said. “I know you’re an island guy.”
I dutifully read it, touched that my co-worker thought to grab this book for me out of weekly donations given to us for our monthly book sale.
I devoured the book, the denouement of which came as a big shock to me. I honestly did not guess that ending. I googled And Then There were None and was not surprised to learn it is indeed considered one of Christie’s best works.
It even survived the controversy attached to its first printing, entitled Ten Little Niggers, based on a British nursery rhyme.
There is debate over whether Christie had any clue she was doing anything offensive, but she quickly agreed to change the title for U.S. release to Ten Little Indians. It was re-released as And Then There were None but there are film versions of both of these titles.
I finally nabbed almost all of Christie’s works from our last book sale for about $6 which thrilled me. Everybody who was there said I should read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which is considered to be her best book.
I started it that afternoon and could not stop reading it, even as I walked the dog.
What a story!
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of it should they wish to read the book themselves, so I will say only this: I have never read such a clever piece of crime fiction.
It is the first time I’ve read a mystery from the POV of an Unreliable Narrator.
I am now hooked.
Once again I turned to Google and found that Christie’s use of an Unreliable Narrator was at the time (1920s) unique and was both lauded and criticized.
Still, it sold her millions of books (we should all be so lucky) and she used this plot device again for the book Endless Night, which is an incredible examination of an evil mind.
Endless Night is especially shocking to me because it is a love story as well as a murder mystery.
Christie understood human beings in a profound way.
I’ve become obsessed with Unreliable Narrators and am contemplating creating one of my own.
She created the syndrome, I’d like to pay homage to it.
But what about you? Do you like the idea or is it cheating the reader?
I’d really like to know your thoughts…

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Ka ‘Eha Ke Aloha
By Sean Na’auao
Release date: 2002-05-06

Make-Up Sex

Currently listening:
Putumayo Presents: French Playground
By Various Artists
Release date: 2005-10-04Make-Up Sex
Current mood: loved
Category: Romance and Relationships
It’s my turn to blog at Seven Wicked Writers today and here is what I posted:

By A. J. Llewellyn
A couple I know very well, a straight couple I might add, argued last night and after it was all over and the sloppy kisses were exchanged, he wanted sex. She wanted to start a whole other argument.
He emailed me and asked what he’d done wrong.
“Did you indulge in enough foreplay?” I asked him. “Did you grovel enough?”
Here’s the thing. Men and women see sex differently. Guys are ready for it – generally speaking – almost all the time. I dated a guy once who told me on our first date that he liked sex twice a week and I quote, “any more and you’re bugging me.”
He told me from the get-go and being young and foolish at the time I was certain I could change him. I learned pretty fast I was wrong. So, I am saying this by way of explaining that some men, very few that I know, don’t want sex all the time. We love it. We want it. We want it now.
The wonderful British author and columnist Jilly Cooper once observed that she and her husband had sex one night after a long, dry spell. They’d both been fussing at each other for weeks. A brief argument led to a warm romp in the sack. Afterwards, he smoked a cigarette, she scribbled notes to herself: why did we wait so long? I forgot how good this feels! We both forgot we NEED this!
Many of my friends complain about the lack of sex in their relationships and most are jubilant when they get make-up sex. That blow-out bang makes up for the drought. Who doesn’t like feeling good? I mean, really. Making up your differences between the sheets beats a long, drawn out discussion any day.
I told my friend to softsoap his wife up a little with kisses, hot chocolate in bed and promises of massages, a spa day. “Hey, I know,” I said in a moment of sheer brilliance, “tell her you’ll spend the whole day Sunday taking care of the kids so she can have some time to herself.”
He called me an hour later. Apparently, my suggestions freaked her out ebcause they were so out of character for my pal. She asked him if he was having an affair.
“What do I do now?” he asked me.
“Don’t ask me,” I said. “I’m the one with the lousy suggestions, remember?”
My friend loves his wife and went back to bed and assured her with kisses and er…other things. This morning she emailed me and said since it was my suggestion he should hang out with the kids today, I should take them for a couple of hours so she and her hubby can have some adult time together.
I agreed, only because I was pleased to learn the kids were keen to go get ice cream and walk around Chinatown with me. And because when it comes to make-up sex, I believe in paying it forward. I like the idea there is love being made in the world, not just war.
How about you, do you believe in make-up sex?
Aloha oe,
A.J.

Romance Novels Pulped for Road Resurfacing

Current mood:  animated
Category: News and Politics

It’s my turn to blog today at The Many Shades of Life and Love and here is my post:

I have a mate who constantly ribs me about my erotic romance novels. He sends me snide little emails asking how the business is treating me. He asks how the panting and kissing and slobbering are going.

I email back, telling him I am making a living from the books he sneers at…well, I’m able to pay some bills, anyway. He, however keeps tilting at windmills. Not that I have anything against him tilting at windmills. I am a dreamer, myself.

But I am sick and tired of people putting down romance novels. This morning, he forwarded me an online item all the way from Wales, written by Robin Turner who reports that thousands of Mills & Boon novels [the British equivalent of Harlequin romance novels] have been pulped ‘into tiny fibre pellets, called bitumen modifiers, and are used to hold the ‘black top’ in place, resurfacing roads such as the M6 and M4.’

According to the article, ‘a mile of motorway consumes about 50,000 books and several million Mills & Boon novels have gone into them.’

That’s better than burning them, I suppose.

If you check the quoted lines above, it is clear that not only romance novels have gone into filling roadways, but romance novels take a licking and despite all the teeth gnashing, they keep on ticking.

The truth is, the publishing industry world-wide has been trashing, pulping and otherwise destroying books for decades.

This is the big ugly secret that publishing doesn’t tell it’s starry-eyed new authors. I knew about it because I worked in bookstores for years and I used to cry at night when I was forced to rip the covers of perfectly good books to be shipped back to publishers.

It was like killing babies to me.

I also work in a public library and I know how quickly newly released books become obsolete.

I am also a published author and I learned early on that the average shelf life of a new book in the stores is two weeks.

That is why ebooks are breathing new life into publishing.

An ebook can live forever. Paperbacks resulting from them also can live forever because most are POD, meaning when you order from Amazon or whatever, the book is printed immediately and shipped to you. Most of the big NYC publishers are going POD now for this reason.

No more pulp, no more street fillers.

I want to remind all the high-falutin’ authors out there that it is predominantly romantic and erotic fiction that sells in ebook format.

We have paved the way, literally, for the rest of you. So remember that as you pen your next Great American Novel, Romance Lives Forever.

 

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Simple as a Sunrise
By Daniel Ho
Release date: 2005-07-04

Eat, Drink and be…Emailed??

Current mood:  hungry
Category: Food and Restaurants

 

It’s my turn to blog at Nice N Naughty blogpost today and here is what I posted:

I was having a rough day yesterday and my friend Cindy took me to lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant. The lone waitress was slammed and we were very patient and understanding. Cindy and I haven’t seen each other for a while and we had a great time catching up.
Except that I was getting hungrier and hungrier and I noticed people all around us rubbing their chopsticks together in happy anticipation.
And then the wait went on…and on…
I saw food coming out of the kitchen, but none of it reaching the tables. I strolled past the assorted Buddhist shrines and Japanese screen prints and realized all the food being prepared was heading out the back door for home delivery!
The desk manager was taking calls, running credit cards, scribbling illegible food orders and manning the computer. She was taking email orders!
I sauntered back to the table and reported my findings. Everybody around us fumed. One guy pulled out his cell phone and called the front desk.
It rang and rang and we all watched as the desk manager hauled out a huge order and ran out the back door.
She scrambled back again and answered the phone. By now, the entire restaurant was watching her.
“Hai!” she answered, panting and leaning on the counter.
“Hi yourself,” huffed her hungry patron. “I’m in your restaurant and I want my lunch!”
She looked so startled I thought she was going to cry. A flurry of small dishes arrived and Cindy and I got one of our appetizers: spinach with sesame seeds.
We fought over it.
What a man I am!
Our iced green tea arrived – just one – so we split it and I glimpsed a guy beside me licking his miso soup bowl clean.
And then…nothing.
“I’m sending her an email,” said the guy who’d been clever enough to call the desk manager.
The phone was ringing, there was a line at the door and the waitress was carting around a tray of drinks, but still no food in sight.
The desk manager focused instead on her emails.
She obviously read the one from her in-house patron. He gave her a finger wave when she glanced in his direction. Her look was venomous, to say the least.
“You think she’s gonna spit in my food?” the guy asked the rest of us.
“Prolly,” said Cindy, eyeing the check. “Let’s blow this Popsicle stand.” We took some cash to the counter and left the check beside all the outgoing orders.
“You no like?” the desk manager asked. I realized she was talking to somebody else. A very pregnant woman and her small son stared at her.
“No, I don’t like,” the pregnant woman said. “If I wait any longer, I’ll give birth right here.”
“You have mail,” the tinny, electronic computer voice announced.
“Please excuse,” the desk manager said and TURNED BACK TO HER COMPUTER!
“She’s an addict,” Cindy said, waiting to refute the multiple charges on our check.
“I’m sending her an email,” the pregnant woman said and whipped out her cell phone.
It’s good to know in tough times like these that customer service is alive and well, ha ha. I won’t say I will never go back to my fave haunt again…but I’ll email first and check that they want my business…

Aloha oe,
A.J.

Currently listening:
Let the Truth Be Told
By Laura Izibor
Release date: 2009-06-16

Pelo’s Heart

Currently listening:
Hawaiian Man
By Brother Noland
Release date: 2009-03-24

Superstition

Current mood:  amused
Category: Life

Have you ever realized how much of our daily lives and therefore movies and books are ruled by superstition? I had a grandmother who would say a woman was coming to visit if somebody dropped a fork. If it was a knife on the floor, a man was coming to the house.
Sometimes they did, making me and my brothers think that mad old bat was a witch.
Fear and ignorance have fueled mass hysteria for centuries and we, the writers capitalize on these things.
Actors are probably the MOST superstitious people I have ever met.
I know people are laughing this morning over actor Nicolas Cage Cage hiring a voodoo priestess to remove what he perceives to be a whammy from the set of his new movie “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
This doesn’t seem all that bizarre to me actually. I worked on two movies at Haleakala Volcano in Maui, Hawaii and kahunas were regularly brought it to leave offerings for Goddess Pele. I immortalized all this in my book Beyond the Reef.
Pele never said yes. She wants what she wants. And she doesn’t want movie stars on her precious crater.
Boxers are a superstitious bunch, too.
I once interviewed former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and he had a near-meltdown when a new assistant tried to lace on his right glove first for a morning of sparring at the Kronk Gym in Detroit. In boxing, you lead with the left and Lewis lives by the rule.
A few years ago, I took the job as personal assistant to an actor on one of the back-to-back movies shooting in Maui. He had so many superstitions I lost count of them. As a matter of fact, I had to write them down to keep track.
He was so deluded, the superstitions kept piling up. They made no sense to me, but hey, he was making the big bucks, I was making Walmart wages, so I shut up and did my job.
I lost sleep over his phone ringing four times before being answered. After the fourth ring he believed, he would hear of the death of someone close.
He was so irrational I sometimes feared the ‘someone close’ might be me.
I had to count the number of flowers in the bunches that the hotel staff routinely put in his room. They had to be odd numbers. Even numbers meant bad luck.
He held onto childish superstitions of not stepping on cracks on the sidewalk. He would spin his coffee cup around three times before taking a first sip…it went on and on.
I swear…he made up this stuff on a daily basis, but none of this is new.
Superstitions of black cats, vampires…you name it, have always fueled our fears and fantasies.
In 1576, when the plague gripped the city of Venice, some of the unfortunate victims were thought to be vampires. A recent mass grave discovery showed the skeleton of a very young woman buried with a brick shoved down her throat.
They thought she was a vampire. I was haunted by the image and it prompted me to write the book Quartetto, a paranormal, vampire tale set in the year Venice was almost destroyed.
My co-author Stephani Hecht and I had fun researching the period and actually a lot of our present superstitions about money and love seem to have come from that era.
I have my own superstitions but the less said about those, the better.
It might bring me bad luck.

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Growing Pains
By Mary J Blige
Release date: 2007-12-18

The 99 Cent Store

Current mood:  artistic
Category: Life

It’s my turn to blog at Seven Wicked Writers today and here is what I wrote:

One of my secret, guilty pleasures is trolling the aisles of the 99 Cent Store. My goodaughter Eleanna and I have become proficient afficionadoes of the chain and whilst some of my friends are aghast that I shop there, many others are just like me.

Poor.

Recently, I’ve had so many bills – April was a wicked month with a major dental bill, personal taxes, property taxes and a drop in my freelance work – that I was on the hunt for food bargains. I normally shop the 99 Cent Store for things like paper towels, remaindererd picnic ware – I have an entire, eight piece tiki bar set I collected from 12 different stores over a 10 day period. Even my snobby sister in law covets this find! I buy Black Crow candies (the only place I can find them), candles (I burn a lot of those), bird seed, liquid hand soap, dish washing liquid, that sort of stuff.

Eleanna loves the makeup aisles for the pedicure kits, hair ties and budding woman that she is, she still checks out the dolls. At thirteen, she is blossoming at a scary rate. The bees are already buzzing over my beautiful, precious flower so it comforts me to see the little girl in her still checking out those dolls.

This week, I had a whopping twenty bucks available for groceries and my favorite partner in crime was anxious to blow her weekly allowance, so we motored on over the hill down Coldwater Canyon to what we feel is the best 99 Cent Store in the business, the one in Beverly Hills.

We swarmed the fresh food aisle of the Wilshire Boulevard location and were dismayed at the quality of fruit and vegetables. Flies buzzed in and around bags of dirty, rotting fruit. the vegetables were misshapen and otherwise peculiar. The watermelons looked awful and the freezer section was worse. It was crammed with mystery meats in packages with a lot of foreign writing we finally deciphered as “chicken breast” but underneath it said, “chicken-like meat.”

What the hell is chicken-like meat?

“Chihuahua,” Eleanna proclaimed, making me laughing out loud.

Closer inspection revealed these are the new ‘pressed’ meats made up of grains and possibly some actual meat…they are the food equivalent of chipboard. Eeeeww! 

Eleanna scored big. She found huge, summery tubes of Bonnie Bell ‘lipsmackers’ in tasty flavors like key lime pie and birthday cake, a butterfly-shaped lipgloss ring and a red Hawaiian hibiscus tote bag that matches her purple and blue ones.

She had a basketful of goodies but had spent only five bucks, champion shopper that she is. We left the store and treated ourselves to veggie burgers at one of the few remaining Johnny Rockets, this one on La Cienega. We ordered our burgers, split a plate of fries and Eleanna ordered Diet Coke (she must watch that figure, you know) and I ordered coffee. I was so pleased when our ketchup arrived on its own plate, the waiter having squeezed it on in the shape of a smiley face. Thank God some things don’t change.

Fortified, we braced ourselves for the ride back home. Eleanna suggested we hit the best 99 Store in the valley – for our 99 cents anyway – way up on Van Nuys Boulevard in a not very nice part of town made safe by heavy police presence. Boy, that girl must be psychic! We arrvied as they were unloading a truck full of fresh fruit. I bought a watermelon, two pineapples (for 99 cents), a bag of fresh green, red and orange bell peppers, eggs, milk, rice, a box of Black Crows, frozen peas and beans and a bag of baby zucchini you would normally get for around $4.

She found more lip gloss and a red hibiscus-print pedicure kit to match her new tote bag and we drove home happy. It just goes to show, the 99 Cent Store is still the deal for poor people…and their favorite side kicks.

What about you? Do you shop the 99 Cent Store? Have you found any cool bargains there?

Aloha oe,

A.J.

Currently listening:
Adam Cohen
By Adam Cohen
Release date: 1998-07-28

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