Giving Back Blog Hop

Strange Shifters

In the spirit of this week’s holiday of American Thanksgiving, Lisabet Sarai has organized a blog hop for authors who have participated in Coming Together anthologies called the “Giving Back Blog Hop”

I’ve taken part in three Coming Together anthologies thus far (Among the Stars, For the Holidays, and Strange Shifters) and I plan to continue submitting to them in the future.

Over the course of my life, I have benefited from many forms of help. The largest was government assistance in the form of money and food stamps as a child. I received college scholarships, without which college would have remained just a dream. Teachers sometimes covered field trip fees so that I wouldn’t be left behind. And when my daughter was in the pediatric intensive care unit at only a week of age, she was gifted with a hat and a blanket that someone had knitted and donated to Project Linus in the hopes of providing comfort to a child in crisis. So now, whenever I have the chance, I give back. I love that one of the ways I can give back is through my stories.

Young woman takes off bikini to swiming in the sea.

The first charity anthology I participated in was Summer Loving, edited by Alison Tyler, with proceeds going to help Sommer Marsden’s family during a time of medical crisis. As someone whose family has dealt with medical trauma, and a fan of Sommer’s,  I was eager to participate. This was the first time I had heard of a charity anthology, or considered the idea that the stories we tell could help people in real, tangible ways. I was so glad when “Baby it’s Hot Outside” was selected to be part of the anthology.

coming together for the holidays

I first heard about Coming Together when they put out a call for Coming Together: For the Holidays, edited by Alessia Brio. I had a Christmas-themed story, “New on the Naughty List” (which you can still read for free here until Dec 1), so I sent it in. I not only was interested in the theme of the anthology, but the charity it supported as well–Stand Up for Kids.  Being part of that anthology–as well as gifting copies of it–was the opportunity to share a story I loved and help homeless kids at the same time.

Strange Shifters

My most recent Coming Together anthology is Strange Shifters, which is also my second Coming Together anthology with Lynn Townsend. This anthology, feature sexy shapeshifters, donated all proceeds to Bat World Sanctuary. This was the first story I wrote (well, rewrote) after being critically ill this year. In a year where I am most thankful to still be alive and able to write this blog post, it is fitting that my only publication of 2015 be part of a charity collection.  My story, “A Reindeer by Any Other Name” chronicles what Blitzen was up to during the events of “New on the Naughty List” from Coming Together:For the Holidays.

 

Among the Stars

As a Sci-Fi fan, I leapt at the chance to participate in Coming Together:Among the Stars. While a fan of Lynn Townsend’s prior to participating in this anthology, I credit it as the catalyst to our friendship. If you read my story “Love is a Virus,” you won’t be surprised to know that I’m a huge Trekkie. (For the story of that one time Wil Wheaton saw my horrible TNG fanfic, go here).

As “New on the Naughty List” is currently free, and I’ve recently excerpted “A Reindeer by Any Other Name,” I decided to share a snippet from “Love is a Virus.”

When Lily turned to carry the plates to her table, the ensign was standing next to it. “You can be casual. This isn’t Central Command, and I’m too damn tired to be formal,” she said as she put the plates on the table and dropped into a seat.

“Yes, ma’am.

Oh for fuck’s sake. “Lily.” She pointed at herself. “Saanvi.” She indicated the other woman. Maybe that will calm her down.

“Yes, ma’—.” She closed her mouth abruptly. Taking a deep breath, she began again, “In that case, should I—? Can I—?” Saanvi’s voice trailed off as she indicated her uniform jacket.

“Sure, if you want to.”

Ensign Patel removed her jacket and carefully hung it on the back of the chair. Beneath the jacket, she was wearing a regulation black t-shirt.

Maybe this isn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Lily glanced out at the stars, drinking deeply from her wine glass, but it was too late. The image of Saanvi’s breasts straining against the fabric of the shirt had already burned itself into her brain.

“Lily?” Saanvi seemed to be testing the word on her tongue.

“Yes?”

“I like your hair down.”

“Thanks.” Feeling a bit flustered, Lily focused on her salmon. When she regained her composure, Lily began again. “So, tell me how things have been going. I heard you really stepped up this week. Still healthy?”

“I was happy to help.”

“Personally, I was hoping for the flu. Then I’d have an excuse to go back to bed,” Lily joked, trying to put the ensign at ease.

Saanvi glanced across the room at the Captain’s large bed and sighed wistfully. “If I had a bed that big, I’d never want to leave it.”

If you were in my bed I wouldn’t let you leave it. Shit. Stop it, Dawes. She saluted the bed with her wine glass. “Rank does have its privileges.”

 

Share the name and link of your favorite charity and tell me why you support them in the comments below between now and November 30, 2015. 

On Dec 1, 2015 I’ll randomly select a comment, and I’ll donate 25 USD to your charity (I’ll send a screenshot to you via email to prove it.).

 

ETA—Thanks-Giving Back Hop Links
Sunday 22 November
Monday 23 November
Tuesday 24 November
Wednesday 25 November
Thursday 26 November
Friday 27 November
Saturday 28 November

The most (potentially) dangerous thing I’ve ever done

When the time comes to talk to the girls about sex in more detail, and about making good choices there is a story I am going to have share that I’m not looking forward to.

When I was 20, I went did a short term abroad in France.  We were based in the South of France, about an hour north of Marseilles.  The school kept us busy between classes and outings, so there wasn’t much time for unsupervised travel, with one exception.  We had one three day weekend, and while going to Paris (my dream) was beyond my reach both in terms of time and money, I decided to go to Cannes.

Cannes was too expensive for me to stay the night, so I picked a smaller town along the coast to spend the night, Juan-Les-Pins.

It must be said that this trip to France was huge for me.  It marked my first time out of the Northeast of the US, the US itself, and my first time on a plane.

I hadn’t traveled solo previously.  What I had done, was filled my head with the idea of a fling with a sexy Frenchman.  I had done some hanging out in bars during my first few weeks (the drinking age in France is 18), but beyond a conversation or two, had made no progress in this area.  However, this was an opportunity I wouldn’t be able to repeat-I had a hotel room all to myself and no one to answer to.  So my mission that night was to hook up.

It was mid afternoon, so I decided to go for a walk before taking a nap and hitting the bar and dance scene.  I was enjoying the gorgeous architecture and snapping photos (pre-digital camera so I have nothing to show, sorry) when I heard someone call down to me.  I looked up and saw three men on a balcony.

From the vantage point of 14 years and a great deal of travel later, I can tell you that I was ripe for the picking.  It was blindingly obvious that I was a tourist–not only did I have the camera, but I was dressed in shorts, a tank top and sneakers.  No French woman would be caught dead in such boring/casual/rumpled clothes.  American women have a reputation as being easy (which, granted, yes in my case, very true).

They called down to me and invited me up.  I decided that this was my chance to get laid and told my better instincts to go to hell.  I was going to have some fun with a cute French boy.  So I climbed the stairs and entered an apartment where I was alone with three men.

Again, looking back, I’m pretty sure that they were a mix of stoned and drunk.  I was a bit too naive to know what pot smoked like (I’ve grown up a LOT since then), but there was ample alcohol around.  One of the guys began playing a video game and barely seemed to register that I was even there-I sometimes wonder if he knew what the other guys were thinking and just didn’t want to participate, or what.  Of the remaining two guys, one was geeky cute and I was hoping he’d like me in return and the other was over-muscled (past the point of being attractive) and over-tanned.

I spoke some French-enough that I could stumble along, but not so well that I understood much slang or every word spoken to me.  So there wasn’t a lot of talking.

Over muscled blonde guy asked me to go with him to the bedroom.  In the US I would never have been interested, but this was my one shot at a fling, so I needed to bite the bullet.  My fear of going home without having fucked a French guy was greater than my lack of interest, and I followed him.  There was a mattress on the floor with some sheets.  He pulled me down and we kissed.  It wasn’t bad at first.  We made out, and clothes came off.  Then he began pushing me to give him a blowjob.  I tried to say I wanted sex instead.  He pushed my head back toward his crotch.

It was at that moment my brain finally started to kick in.  I was alone in an apartment with three men.  I was alone in a city I’d never been in before.  No one knew where I was.  I didn’t have a cell phone and the internet was still fairly new, so there was no Facebook update or tweets about Juan-les-pins.

I’m not sure why I didn’t just say no and pull on my clothes.  I don’t think I was scared of getting raped, exactly.  I think I decided that a blow job was the path of least resistance to getting out of there.  So I gave him a blow job.  After he came in mouth he got up and went to the bathroom.  Part of me was still phenomenally stupid and I just lay there, trying to figure out what would happen next.

The guy I’d actually considered cute came into the room, and grabbed his crotch raising an eyebrow at me.  I was stupid enough to be shocked at the idea that they might take turns with me.  That shock was the moment I realized that they were going to take turns with me.  That they could rape me without consequence.

I said NO and pulled on my clothes. I ran out the door and down the stairs.  Once out on the street, I heard their laughter as they watched me run away, having resumed their positions on the balcony.

Back in my hotel I realized how phenomenally lucky I was that I didn’t get raped.  I stayed in that night.  The next morning I took the trip to Cannes, determined not to let those assholes ruin my weekend.  Then I took the train home.  I didn’t try to flirt or pick up another guy on that trip.

My biggest mistake was that I did things I would NEVER have done in the US.  I didn’t stop and think about what was safe.  I was stupid, and I was lucky that things didn’t turn out so much worse than they did.  Fourteen years later, many of the things I did at 20 have faded into memory, but that memory is still sharp.  I’m horrified by my poor choices that day.  Yes, the guys were assholes.  But I’m the one who chose to put myself into that situation.  And while they might have been assholes, I’m deeply grateful that they weren’t inclined to take my presence for blanket consent.

You might wonder why I’d tell my daughters about this story.  I don’t want them to be afraid of sex.  I do want them to know the difference between being adventurous and being stupid.  Hopefully they’ll never be as stupid as I was that day.