Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Recipe: Alfredo Sauce

Once you try this, you'll never go back to the jar stuff again! It's quick and simple but oh so yummy!

1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Melt butter over med/low heat.
2. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through.
4. Add parsley.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Flash Fiction: Ghost Story by DC Juris

I watch you as you sit there, watching him. You don't know I'm here; you can't see me. You want to go to him so badly—I can see it in the way you lean forward in your chair, in the way your gaze darts away when he looks up, in the way your breathing hitches when you realize he's still looking at you. You want him. He wants you.
I've done all I can to stay with you. I've given you reminders of my love. I've left you notes, though my handwriting isn't as legible as it used to be. I've pledged endearments to you, though my voice is but a whisper of what it once was. I've tried my best to keep you with me. Chained to me. But you long to leave. If I had more time, maybe I could make you see. Maybe I could make you understand that, despite everything that's happened, I'm still here with you. I still love you. I still want you. I still long for your touch, for the slide of your lips against mine, for the hot tangle of our legs entwined in the sheets. For you to simply see me. Hear me.
He makes the decision for you. For both of us. He leaves his table and walks over to you. Walks right through me. Gives no mind to the rush of air or the sudden chill he feels as he grins down at you and asks if he can join you. You take a deep breath…uncertain. Hesitant. You look to your right, though you're not sure why. Your lips part in a silent gasp and you look up. But not at me. You will never look at me again. But you feel the press of my nearness even as a slow smile tugs your lips upward and you nod.
It's time. And I must go. I press an invisible kiss to the top of your head and you shiver.
"What is it?" he asks, reaching out to touch your hand.
"Live well," I whisper against your ear.

Your eyes widen and you shake your head. "Noth…" You clear your throat. "Nothing."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Geek Post: Dual Fandom Citizenship

I have a confession to make: While Star Trek was my first fandom, it’s not my only fandom. I’m not just a Trekker, I’m also a Super Freak. More specifically, I’m a Misha Minion. Yep, I’m a Supernatural fan.

I started watching Supernatural when it first came on, back in 2005. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here’s the gist: Basically it’s two brothers, Sam and Dean, traveling around the country, killing “monsters” and saving people. They face off against things like ghosts, vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, and demons. The show instantly captivated me, but it wasn’t until Season 4 that I became a hardcore fan. What was so different about Season 4? One word: Castiel.

**SPOILER ALERT** Castiel is an Angel of the Lord, and he rescued Dean from Hell in the beginning of Season 4. He quickly became a fan favorite, and went from an occasional character to a main character over the span of a few seasons.

When Castiel first debuted, we were supposed to see him as cold and unemotional. He’s entirely clueless about Humanity, typically not understanding colloquial terms, popular references, or jokes. He’s socially inept, and prone to simply blurting out the truth in inopportune moments. At first, he’s a good little Heavenly soldier – simply going about God’s work, following orders, and not giving mind to the consequences. It’s not until he starts really interacting with Dean that he begins having an internal struggle over blindly following orders, right versus wrong, and the whole “the ends justify the means” debate. He frequently tries to help, only to end up making things worse. Watching him learn and grow has turned out to be a fantastic ride, at times hilarious, joyful, and heartbreaking.

But my love of Castiel stems from something deeper than simply a well-written character.

I’ve talked about how dark my childhood was, but there’s an aspect I rarely discuss. My mother truly believed that I was an actual angel. It’s a long story, but basically she believed such because she had lost children before me, and before getting pregnant with me, she prayed for several hours every day. It sounds like a really nice thought, in theory, until the first time I did something wrong or wasn’t perfect at something, and ultimately disappointed her. My parents were emotionally crippled individuals, so I grew up in an emotional desert. For that reason, I often found myself at odds with the world – not understanding references or how to act around people. Like Castiel, I went through a process of learning by doing, and figuring out how to navigate the world all on my own. And just like him, sometimes I was woefully bad at it.

Over the years, I’ve gained a respect for Misha Collins, the man behind the role, as well. He has spoken several times about his difficult childhood, and I applaud him for sharing his experiences. He takes time with his fans, and it’s a true joy to watch him raising his children, and the ways he’s teaching them about being good people. These days, just like Castiel, he’s on a mission to change the world for the better with his charity Random Acts. I urge you to check out the website.

"Broken Alpha" Extra - The Candleholders

There's a scene near the end of "Broken Alpha," where Sokel and Sebastian present Rennett with a pair of matching candleholders, to symbolize their joined lives.

Here's the scene:

"I..." Rennett fought the urge to glance back at the stack of boxes and away from Sebastian's all-knowing gaze. He took a deep breath. "Korden's already done so much. But you and Kel...coming here like this, giving up your lives, your careers. This can't all be for me. I'm not worthy of this."

Sebastian glanced over his shoulder. "Chime in here anytime, sugah."

In answer, Sokel retrieved a wooden box from one of the large plastic containers. He joined Sebastian on his knees in front of Rennett, and Rennett couldn't suppress the notion that an Alpha like Sokel should never kneel, especially to an omega like him.

"We were waiting for Korden, but perhaps now is a better time." Sokel held out the box.

Rennett could see something written on the lid: Te-Belvane-de-Laveau, a combination of Sokel's and Sebastian's family names in the traditional Alpha/omega pairing, followed by Te-Encarit-de-Encarit his and Korden's family name, again in the traditional style. He ran his fingers across the engraving. "What is this?"

"Well..." Sebastian drew the word out and his cheeks blushed. He ducked his head and offered a sheepish grin. "Since we're doin' this whole cohabitation thang, Kel an' I thought it only right to get us somethin' that symbolized all of us. Don't ya wanna see what's inside? Go on, open it!" he prompted.

Rennett took the box at last and sat it on his lap, lifting the lid and sitting it on the arm of the chair. Nestled inside the box were two items, bundled up in white paper. He pulled back the wrapping to revel a pair of metal candleholders, like the ones presented to newly linked mates as a symbol of family unity. At six inches in height, each consisted of a top to hold a taper candle, an open circle in the middle, adorned with fine metal webbing and a golden spiderironically, the animal of both theirs and Sokel's family housesand a flared, bell-shaped bottom. The spicy, rich scent of incense clung to the metal, and Rennett found himself pressing his nose against the top. The top rim of each candleholder bore their family names, engraved into the metal, and on the bottom of each were the words bound by love in Earth script.

Sokel rested his hand on Rennett's knee. "Bastian and I are not here out of pity, or obligation. We are here because we love both you and Korden. You are our family, not by blood, but by choice, and we choose to follow you."

"Ya like 'em?"

"They're...they're beautiful." He swallowed hard and looked up at them. "I don't know what to say," Rennett admitted.

Sebastian scoffed. "Ain't no need to say nothin' at all."

Sokel rose and took Rennett's hand. "Come. Let's find a proper place for them." 

And here are the candleholders. I bought them several years ago from an antique store. And yes, they actually do smell like incense, because once upon a time they resided in our incense drawer. Now they live in my writing office. :-) 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Real Talk: Depression & Anxiety

Real Talk - Depression

Okay. Time for some real talk. A friend of mine asked me to write a blog about depression. She's never dealt with it herself, but her sister is in a difficult place emotionally, and she wanted some perspective. Since I'm pretty much an open book, (and her sister isn't, at this point) she asked me for insight on what it's like to have depression - what goes on in my head - and what things I could suggest that have helped me.

So. Little bit of backstory, for those who haven't been reading along up to this point: I grew up in a mentally, physically, and sexually abusive household. My father was an alcoholic, and my mother was a manic depressive, codependent "dry drunk." "Dry drunk" basically means she had all the destructive behavior of an alcoholic, although she had quit drinking before I was born.

My father never wanted children, and if he had to have one, he certainly didn't want another girl (he had two by a previous marriage). My mother, on the other hand, had suffered a miscarriage the year before getting pregnant with me, and had become obsessed with having a baby. She literally prayed on the hour every hour for months. When she finally became pregnant, she believed I was an angel sent from Heaven. Like, a real, literal angel. If you think that can't screw a kid up, you're all kinds of wrong.

Anyhow. So, my childhood sucked giant hairy donkey balls for a lot of reasons. When I finally started seeing a therapist - after I'd moved out of my parents' house - I was diagnosed with a laundry list of things, including: PTSD, acute depression, acute anxiety, social phobia, bipolar, dyslexia, and maybe Aspergers, though the jury was out on that one. However, by that time, I'd invented so many coping strategies that she felt I didn't need medication.

So what does all that mean? Well, the PTSD part means that certain things upset me - things that probably don't upset you, or don't upset you as much. Loud noises, for one. I startle very easily, and it can take a while to calm back down. For example, you might hear glass shattering and think "what did the cats knock over now?" I, on the other hand, am instantly mentally transported to a time in my childhood when the sound of glass breaking was a very, very bad thing. Coping strategies for this are kinda situational. Typically, I'll ground myself by touching something in the room - a chair or whatever - or looking at something specific, and reminding myself that this item didn't exist in my life back then, therefore I am not in my life back then. What can a person do to help? When avoidable, don't make loud noises. When not avoidable, warn me. Hubby and The Boy are very good about saying "loud sound" before a loud sound. I may still startle, but it's not nearly as bad because I'm expecting it.

The acute depression part means that sometimes I'm just sad. There's no specific reason. Nothing happened to make me sad. Nobody died, my puppy didn't get run over. In fact, I may be having a really good day otherwise. Coping strategy? Focusing on the positive things. Reminding myself that it will pass, because it has come and gone before, and I'm still here. What can you do to help? That's a hard question to answer. Ultimately, nothing. You cannot fix me. You cannot make my depression go away. You can however, make it easier by being nice to me. If you know I hate to do the dishes, then do the dishes. If you know I love fresh flowers, then stop by with fresh flowers - they don't have to be store bought, handpicked from the side of the road is just as good. If you know I like Star Trek or Supernatural, offer to watch a show with me. Or, better yet, ask me something about one of them. Ask me to explain something you don't understand, or ask for my opinion on something. Ask me about a time in my life that was fun, like a convention I attended.

Here's the thing: it's often very hard to find something that will truly bring me joy while I'm depressed. It's that way for most of us. So if your depressed friend wants to watch "Lake Placid" for the 900th time, watch it with them. If they want to color in a coloring book even though they're 40 years old, color with them. If they call you up one evening and want to ramble on about a recipe they tried, mute the TV and listen to them. If they want to sit on the couch and snuggle up to you while you read a book, let them. Things that seem trivial to you are monumental to us.

My acute anxiety means that I'm anxious about everything, all the time. Even right now, writing this, I'm worried I'm going to say the wrong thing and upset someone, or make someone mad. I live in a constant state of apology - I'm already sorry for whatever I'm going to screw up, and I know I'm going to screw something up because I can't do anything right. And I'm sorry that I'm sorry, because I know I apologize too much and that makes people uncomfortable, and for that, I'm sorry. See what I mean?

There are a couple ways to cope with the anxiety. For me, it's just constantly reminding myself that nothing is Earth-shattering. Barring killing someone, anything I screw up can be fixed. Maybe not easily, but fixed nonetheless. I haven't yet found a way that someone can help with this, other than keeping along those same lines - just reminding me that nothing is really going to end if I make a mistake. There's a quote I like: "The world will not end today - it's already tomorrow in Australia."

When you look at me, you see me. Curly hair, big, brown labrador retriever eyes, and round cheeks. When I look at me, I see every blemish on my skin, every scar, and they stand out like neon signs. I see everything I've ever failed at. I see everyone I've ever let down. I see every mistake I've ever made, be it a low grade or crashing my husband's car into a pole seven years ago. I see every time I wasn't good enough for my parents. Where you see a whole person, I see tainted, broken pieces.

One day, I was outside working in my backyard - raking leaves, pulling weeds, that sort of thing. I heard a bird chirping and looked up at my neighbor's tree to see this little house sparrow. I stopped what I was doing to watch it. After a few minutes, the bird looked at me and then flew away. It took me a solid five minutes of positive self talk, while I pulled weeds, to convince myself that the bird hadn't flown away because it knew I wasn't good enough to share space with it.

One of my coping strategies is this dollhouse Hubby and The Boy made me, which houses my sock monkey family. I like to dress them up and stage different things like tea parties, and then I share the pictures on their Facebook page. I took them outside one day to stage a camping scene, and during the process, misplaced the littlest one, Damien. I freaked the hell out. I was two seconds short of running into the house and screaming for Hubby to help me find him when it occurred to me - he's an inanimate object. He didn't walk off by himself.

This is what it's like in my head. This is what it's like in a lot of people's heads.

What can you do to make it better? Not a lot. The number one thing you can do is be supportive. Avoid saying things like "that's silly," or "you know better." Because no, it's not silly, and no, I don't know better. I don't know that I'm good enough. Try to avoid saying "I know what you mean/feel." No, quite frankly, you don't. Even if you have the same conditions as I do, everyone's experience is different. You don't know what it's like in my head unless I've told you. You can say, instead, "I understand that you're anxious/upset/sad," and then try to relate something to me. "A few years ago, this thing happened to me that made me anxious. I remember what that felt like. It may not be the exactly the same for you, but I respect what you're feeling. When I'm feeling this way, this thing helps." For God's sake, don't say "don't get upset." That's just invalidating, no matter if you have depression and anxiety or not. Everyone has the right to their own feelings. And don't say "you're okay." Hell no I'm not. Instead, try "it's going to be okay," or "we're going to make it okay."

Above all, try to understand that you can't fix it, and you can't expect us to respond 100% of the time. Sometimes, even though I know something should fill me to bursting with joy, all I can manage is a small smile. Understand the brilliance of that smile, though. Understand that whatever you did, it got through. Even if I can't give you the reaction you want or deserve, you did get through. Be patient. Nobody wants to be this way. Given a choice of any sort of personality traits I could have, I wouldn't pick any of the things I named off above. If there was a magic pill I could take and all this would go away, I'd take it in a heartbeat. I don't get depressed for attention. Trust me - I've got nice tits, a big ass, and plush lips - if I wanted attention, I could easily get it. Understand that, by and large, the issues I have are not my fault. Rather, they are a result of years upon years of torturous treatment from my parents. The things I endured left permanent marks on my psyche. Some of them have gotten better with time, but some of them haven't.

And understand that, all in all, I'm okay. Being depressed doesn't mean I'm dysfunctional. I raised two kids and ran a multi-million dollar company, all while dealing with my issues. I may be broken, in my own way of thinking about myself, but I'm not without value and beauty. Although depressed, I am kind, giving, loving, and compassionate. Although anxious, I am often ridiculously brave, especially when it comes to helping others. Although socially phobic, I will force myself out into the world and show up, especially when someone needs me. Although bipolar, I will stop what I'm doing and control my mood swings long enough to help you or to offer you comfort.

Although broken, I have worth. Although tired, I will fight.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Flash Fiction: Fresh Meat by DC Juris

I have stalked him for a long time. Days. Weeks. Months. A year? I am no longer certain. Time has stretched out and blended into one unending stream of craving. He is beautiful, though he does not know it. Even as an unkept mess, his inner light shines. In the ancient days, we would have called him a wretched beggar. Now the politically correct term is displaced. They assume him unwanted. Unloved. Perhaps he is. By them.
I walked by him as I did every night, hidden in the shadows. But that night, he raised his head and squinted into the darkness. Seeing me? Sensing me? I stood there waiting, for what I still do not know. Perhaps some sign I should leave off my course. But none came, and I stepped forward into the glaring light of the street lamp. It dimmed and hummed louder as I approached. His nose twitched. But his eyes never left mine.
"I can end your suffering," I whispered.
He backed away from me. "I don't want to die."
"Not death. Not exactly." I stepped closer and ran my hand over his arm.
"I'm not like that," he muttered.
"Not like what?"
"Men. I'm not into men."
I raised my eyebrow at him. "I have been watching you."
He nodded. "I know. I've seen you."
"Then you know I saw you sit by his corpse for days, unmoving, uneating, barely breathing. I thought you would die from it. Do not tell me you did not love him." I had no idea who the other man had been, but my vagabond had cared for him.
He turned away. "As a brother. Nothing more."
I chuckled and he looked at me. "I wonder..." I stepped close to him, leaned in and sniffed his neck. The tang of sweat and filth filled my nose, assaulted my senses. But the sweet scent of his blood hovered just under. "Would you kiss your brother's frozen lips so fondly, I wonder?"
He sighed and glared up at me. "I know what you are."
"Let us not go all Twilight, shall we?" I chuckled and he frowned, and I chuckled harder. "I am what I am. And you...you can be more than what you are. If you are willing."
"Does it matter if I'm willing?"
My turn to frown. "Of course it does." What kind of monster did he take me for?
"You're evil." He turned away from me.
I grinned and ran my tongue across one of my fangs. "Evil is a point of view, and I see from many angles.  In the illumination given us by truth, the right and the wrong become clear, clear as glass, pure as white snow.  But darken the room, search out those shadowy places in the back of your mind, areas where the gray and the pale look bright, and decisions become less important and easier, like kissing the one your mother warned you about behind the bleachers in the gym.  Or taking the offer of a creature you cannot hope to understand yet. Irresponsibility. That is what I am. Evil, if you will, but surely evil simplified." I laid a hand on his shoulder. "The decision is yours. Stay in this squalor. Unloved. Unnoticed. Unwanted. Or accept my offer of a different world." I leaned in and placed my lips close to his ear. "A world in which you are the one in control. A world in which you beg for nothing, and no one will stand in your way," I whispered.
He turned back to me, raised those dark eyes up to mine, leaned his head to the side in invitation.

Ah! There it was. The moment when skeptic became believer. When saint became sinner. When wrong became right. When meager need became raging necessity. I slid my hand around to grip the back of his head and pierced his flesh with my teeth.