What Do Dresses & Fajitas Have in Common?

I’m back from Portland, Oregon, where I attended the Golden Crown Literary Society’s (GCLS) annual conference. While most people have blogged, or will be blogging, about their experiences there (including me at Women & Words), I’d like to explore something else.

Where I work, there is a large Hispanic community and many of the women I work with are of Hispanic heritage, which is how I came to learn the word faja. Faja is a Spanish colloquial word for “compression garment.” Why am I talking about this? I’ll tell you.

This was my first time presenting an award during the ceremony, and it also would have been my first time accepting an award (on behalf of Ylva Publishing for When The Clock Strikes Thirteen, although we didn’t win). I felt that I should look especially nice this year.

So I bought a dress. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not particularly confident about my body, and I was concerned about how I was going to look in it. I found the dress the week before the conference and when I tried it on, I thought it looked pretty good, but that I should probably buy a compression garment of some kind. Spanx are popular now; in the old days, it would have been a girdle, and in the old, old days, a corset.

During the course of that week, I was extremely busy getting my stuff for the trip together and finishing up some tasks, as I knew that I wouldn’t get anything done for a solid week until I returned from Portland. On top of that, I had an extremely stressful last few days at work. Consequently, I had no time or brain capacity to go shopping for anything.

faja

Faja

As I matched up my dress with shoes, bag, and jewelry, I kept going back to thoughts about my curves, and when I finally packed the dress the day before my flight, I grabbed a girdle, something that I had purchased the year before, also for a dress for GCLS, and threw it in the suitcase. Up until last year, I was dead-set against wearing any such thing—I thought that items like that were abusive toward women and torture devices used to make us feel inferior and brain-washed. Then I saw my ass jiggling in the dress and caved in.

To make this increasingly long story short, when I got to Portland, I let my insecurity get the best of me and ran to the Target down the road from the hotel and bought a compression garment, known among Latinas, at least in New York, as a faja. I had wondered for a long time where the word faja came from. It seemed so odd and random. Then one day, I was talking to someone about it and she was so amused by the word that she looked it up, and when I saw the word faja on the screen, I had a moment of clarity. I instantly knew that faja was derived from the same root word as fajita.

Fajita

Fajita

A fajita is a bunch of stuff rolled up in a tortilla. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out the connection.

Being the word geek that I am, I had to get to the bottom of this. I looked up faja and found out that it means “belt” or “sash” in Spanish. Both faja and fajita come from the Latin fascia, meaning “band” (the tying kind, not the musical kind). Also, interestingly, fascia is “a sheet of connective tissue covering or binding together body structures (as muscles); also : tissue of this character” (Merriam-Webster.com).IMG_3137

Again, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make the connection.

My stuff was rolled up like a fajita, all right. Getting that thing on was a chore. But it did the trick and I was able to get through the ceremony fairly confident that I looked nice. And I received many compliments attesting to that.

On that note, I thought I’d end this blog with a recipe for a fajita. Why not?

Vegetable Fajitas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 flour or corn tortillas
1/4 cup salsa
1/4 cup sour cream (optional)

1. Heat oil in a large skillet; add onion and bell peppers. Saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and salt and continue cooking over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 more minutes.

2. Warm the tortillas in the oven or directly on the burner (a few seconds on each side). Place equal amounts of the vegetables on each tortillas, then add equal amounts of salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 fajitas.

Checking in From GCLS

As this blog goes live, I’m in Portland, Oregan, at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual conference. It’s their 10th anniversary and they have gone through some growing pains. But I think they’ve come a long way and this should turn out to be a good gathering.
 
I’m going to be pretty busy with events I’m involved with. Yesterday I did a coffee chat and tomorrow (Saturday), I will be on 2 panels: “Reading about Food” and “So I Had This Idea…” After the panels, I have to attend a rehearsal for the awards ceremony in the evening–Andi Marquette and I will be presenting the awards in the Romantic Suspense/Intrigue/Adventure category.  
 
But it doesn’t end there. Ylva Publishing has a finalist in the Anthology category: When The Clock Strikes Thirteen (YAY). And because I am one of the authors in that collection, Astrid Ohletz, publisher and owner of Ylva, asked me to accept the award (if it wins) on their behalf. I have a good feeling that it will win one (they usually give out two or three in each category). The only thing is that the Anthology category is the first award that will be given, and I’m not too pleased about that. I don’t want to be the first one up there! Plus, it doesn’t give me any leeway to be late. I decided I would go really girlie this year. I bought a dress and shoes and borrowed a clutch bag. I have to do my hair and makeup and make myself presentable. And all of that takes time!
 
So, while I won’t be accepting an award for myself this year, my writer’s group members keep telling me that it will be practice for when I DO accept an award for myself. Okay, I’ll go with that.
 
I just pray and that I don’t trip going up the steps to the dais. 
 
I’ll report back and post a few photos when I return. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Westward Bound!

This is my last blog before leaving for GCLS in Portland, Oregon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with GCLS, it’s the Golden Crown Literary Society. It’s an organization that promotes lesbian literature. Every year, they hold a conference, where authors and readers can gather, meet, discuss, and learn. There are discussion panels, writers’ workshops, coffee chats, and readings. But it’s not all work and no play—they throw in some fun activities as well (not that the above activities aren’t fun). There have been karaoke nights, bowling, and dress-up parties (in Dallas, everyone sported their cowboy boots and hats for karaoke). This year’s meet-and-greet will be in the form of an ice cream social.

But I don’t travel halfway or all the way across the country for karaoke and ice cream. I go because it’s an opportunity to get to know readers and other authors. The world of publishing is smaller than most people realize; the world of lesbian publishing is even smaller. I mean, really, really small. Everyone knows everyone—or, at least about everyone—and interaction with readers has become a very important thing. Your readers want to know who you are, whose work they are reading. And you have to let know you exist; otherwise, you will get lost in the sea of authors.

Aside from that, it’s always nice to know who is reading your work, who is supporting you. It’s nice to see the faces and hear the voices of those who are allowing us, the writers, to continue doing what we do. Human interaction is becoming a lost art these days and it’s events like these that allow that art to continue, at least in our little world.

I’m busy packing and preparing and I’ll soon be seeing my fellow authors and readers in Portland. Westward ho! (I know some of you will be laughing at that one.) I’ll see some of you there. Bon voyage to you!

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Again With the Spotlight?

My entire life, I’ve avoided getting up in front of people. I simply don’t have the foundation for comfortable public appearances. I was never in the drama club or on the debate team (although I was briefly in the glee club—not the best choice for me). And, except for a brief stint as an instructor at The Learning Annex, I was never a teacher.

Then, over the past couple of years, I have found myself repeatedly standing up in front of people for one event or another.

I will say that it’s gotten easier. I still get ansty but I don’t break out into a cold sweat. And I think I’ve overcome my biggest issue which was delivering my reading/spiel in a monotone voice and as quickly as possible. I always hated it afterward. But at a recent event, I actually stood in front of a room full of people and was relaxed enough to joke around. I made them laugh, and that made me happy. They responded to my joking in a very positive way and I got what I wanted from them, while I gave them what they wanted from me.

Once you get them to laugh, they’re yours.

So, I’m finally at a semi-comfortable place with reading and presenting (as in a panel) in front of an audience. Now I have hit a new public appearance challenge: getting up on stage, in the literal spotlight, to both present and accept an award. The acceptance part is not for myself, unfortunately. I will be accepting for someone else, in the event they win. But I am definitely presenting, and that’s a whole new experience for me. I’m sure that most of you would say that it’s nothing—you’re just saying names and titles and handing over awards. But those of you who, like me, have a fear of public appearances will understand what that means for me.

I’m nervous and atwitter all over again. But I’m looking at this as the next rung on the experience ladder. Life is supposed to be a continuous learning experience, right? I just hope that if we are reincarnated that they go easy on me in the next life.

Happy Gay Pride weekend to my fellow New Yorkers and to everyone. Be proud, be safe, and enjoy to the fullest.

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Setting Priorities

As I write this blog, I am sitting in the family waiting room in a hospital where my father is having hip replacement surgery. My brother and I are discussing our course of action over the next few days, since my father will not be discharged for about 3 days. I have a full-time job and my brother runs a business, so bringing my mother to the hospital and visiting has to be done in shifts.

Where I work, taking time off is a hassle. It involves filling out forms, getting signatures, coding time sheets, and keeping an eye on a payroll department that is notorious for making errors in people’s paychecks. In short, it’s a pain in the ass.

I was working under the assumption that my father would be discharged the day after surgery and, therefore, planned accordingly. Now, having found out that he will be in the hospital a few days, I have to rearrange my time.

My brother and I were in a restaurant, having some lunch, and we were discussing all this. I told him about my concerns about changing my time off. Then it occurred to me—whatever I need to do for my family, I need to do. And whatever the consequences at work are, well, I’ll just have to deal with it.

The truth is that no matter what I do at my job, I will never be promoted (there’s nowhere to go) and I will never get a raise (they pretty much told us outright that no one’s getting anything anytime soon), so what exactly am I striving for? They’re paying me to do a job, and I’m doing it to the best of my ability. But to say that I’m going to go above and beyond or neglect my family in the hopes that it will advance my position at work is absurd, a waste of time, and a misuse of my energy.

Not everyone has a family that is worth their time, sad to say. But I think most people would agree with me when I say “family first.” As much as I’ve gone rounds with my parents, they’ve always been there for me, and I need to be there for them when they need me.

So anyone who doesn’t like it can just suck it.

My Writing Process

Okay, I was tagged by Dejay, author of Redemption, Strangers, and Sisters, in the #mywritingprocess blog series. Authors blog about their writing process and then tag someone else to do the same. We all answer the same four questions. So, here are mine.

#1 What am I working on?

I’m on high gear right now with all four burners going. Speaking of cooking, I’ve just completed edits on the stories that will be appearing in All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance and Erotica, which will be released in August 2014. On the heels of that, I will be editing stories for the Ylva Publishing anthology Unwrap These Presents.

This is the year of anthologies because I am also working on an anthology with my writers’ group, The Penheads. We will be releasing a Kindle-only edition that will feature a story from each of us. I’ve been spared the task of formatting it by one of my fellow group members, who has bravely jumped into her first Kindle experience. However, I am doing the cover. In addition, I’m trying to get stories finished to submit to another one of Ylva’s anthologies—a follow-up to last year’s Halloween collection, When The Clock Strikes Thirteen.

Within the next couple of months, I will be launching a novella series and I just finished up the draft of the first volume. And, at some point, I will resume work on my second novel.

#2 How does my work differ from others in the same genre?

I think there are two things that mark my work as mine: wry humor and an obsession with food. My first novel, Twice Bitten, didn’t have much in the way of either, but that was an exception to the rule. I had a whole different mindset when writing that one. But most of my other works—short stories, as well as longer works—all include some level of dry or sarcastic humor and food being used in some way (these days more than ever).

With regard to the food thing, I’m a food writer in my real life and went to culinary school, so food has always loomed large in my life. I finally decided to bring my two worlds together. I dipped my toe in the water when I wrote about an erotic interlude with a restaurant chef for the anthology Women In Uniform. Then, I dunked my head in with my novella Add Spice to Taste. And I decided that the water was fine, so I launched the anthology All You Can Eat with Andi Marquette. And now, the novella series that I’m launching also involves a chef. But there’s a twist. Stay tuned to find out what that is.

#3 Why do I write what I do?

My penchant for vampires and creatures of the night started when I was a child. I read a lot and I was drawn to dark, gothic characters, probably because they were “other,” and I felt like I was “other” as well. As an adult, my interest turned to creating these creatures, not just reading about them. I imagine myself as those characters, living fearlessly, knowing that they can do whatever they want (well, almost). I also like to show these creatures, who have been vilified throughout history, as sympathetic characters. They may not be what they appear at first glance, and they may not be all bad. They have a vulnerable side, and there’s a part of them that knows that eternal life and/or supernatural powers are not all they’re cracked up to be.

And I stated above, I incorporate food into much of what I write these days because food is an intrinsic part of my life, and I find that when I use food as a tool or mechanism in my story, I can do so much with it because my imagination soars. Food can be the entryway to so many emotions, human interaction, and events. It just flows naturally for me.

#4 How does my writing process work?

I’ve tried many times to do the outline thing, but it just doesn’t work for me. I usually come up with a character first, a core character that I then need to create a story—i.e., a vampire yearning to find her one true love (Twice Bitten), a chef who falls for one of her students (Add Spice to Taste), woman who meets a vampire and will do anything to have her (“Love Bites” in When The Clock Strikes Thirteen), a butch stripper in a Marine’s uniform (“From the Halls of Montezuma” in Best Lesbian Erotica 2010), a cool, hot chef who just happens to be—ah-ah-ah, not yet.

Once I have the character, then I have to figure out what I want the story to do to help her get from point A to point B. And with a basic skeleton plot line, I proceed to write. Once I get into the writing process and the story begins to reveal itself to me, that’s when I try to create an outline so I can have some sort of structure to work with. Even then, the outlines just call out the major highlights that I want each chapter to explore, the next “big event” or issue that my character needs to deal with, and it changes and evolves as I continue to write. I can’t be more detailed than that in my outlines, unlike some writers who outline every movement. Hats off to them, but I just can’t work like that. I just write and see how things shake out.

And that’s it. Okay, I’ve tagged:

Yvonne Heidt, GCLS Goldie winner and author of Sometime Yesterday, The Awakening, The Quickening, and The Deadening.

Victoria Oldham, a UK writer whose stories have appeared in Skulls & Crossbones, Women of the Dark Streets, Blood & Lipstick, and Where the Girls Are.

AND I’ve taken Jae, author of almost 20 novels, including books in the Moonstone, Oregon, and Shape-shifter series.

All three of these ladies also have stories in the upcoming anthology All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance and Erotica. Woohoo!

All You Can Eat

ANNOUNCEMENT

Can I be more excited? I don’t think so. After having it on hold for the past several years, I can finally announce the upcoming release of

All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance & Erotica.

This is an anthology of stories that have food as a central theme. Andi Marquette, myAllYouCanEat-600x914 co-editor, and I gathered a group of great writers who whipped up some amazing stories that are romantic, erotic, or somewhere in between. And all bringing food into the action in some way—either in very tangible ways or as a trigger for a romantic or erotic interlude.

I got this idea immediately following the release of Skulls & Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates a few years back. Although it was a lot of work, Andi and I had a blast doing it. And when it was released, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction. So I twisted Andi’s arm and threatened her into doing another one with me.

Okay, I didn’t have to twist her arm. Or threaten her. She was on board right from the start. But due to circumstances in both our lives, and many personal projects that we both had to juggle, the anthology had to be put on the back burner, so to speak.

Finally, we were able to bring it to the front and crank up the heat. And did we cook up a good meal! This collection is sure to please you, whether your favorite part of a meal is the appetizers, the main course, or dessert. Or maybe it’s after-dinner cocktails? Whatever it is, I think you’ll find it here.

All You Can Eat will be released in August, and I can’t wait. I hope that you’ll partake with us.