Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Getting Old is Hairy

Those of you who read me on my various blogs know that I am not upset about aging. In fact, given good health, age is just a number. I really do believe that. My grandparents, the ones still alive, were OLD people at my current age. Truly, rocking-chair-stereotype old people. But we’re not that. I even wrote a post about the audience for “cronelit”.

My generation are active in lots of facets of life. Some of us used “a certain age”, with it’s retirement-money cushion, to pursue our dreams in TheThird Chapter of our lives.

But that positivity is being tested. And the culprit? Hair.

I noticed several years ago that I now have hair where I didn’t used to have it much (nose, face) and it’s disappearing where it used to be abundant (legs, underarms, head).

Huh? What’s with that?

My head hair used to be so thick I had trouble brushing it. I couldn’t get through doorways on humid
days. And forget trying to make all the strands behave. I had an unmanageable curly mess of a mane.

Leg and underarm hair left untended could be plaited after a few hours. (By the way, you need a friend to help with that. One cannot braid one’s underarms unaided.)

Okay, so it’s an annoyance to use a little electric gizmo to get rid of facial and nose hair. Kinda gross, even. But if kept up with, most people won’t notice the stubble.

And what a blessing to not have to mutilate, er, shave my legs and underarms every hour! That is pretty wonderful, I gotta say.

But my head hair? C’mon.

I am not happy that pulled back with a barrette, I have to search for bald spots and pull hair around to cover them. I am not happy that I have more forehead than in years past.

But my hair coming out in handsful? That’s just wrong.

I now look like I work in a fast food kitchen with my head wrapped up so I don’t scatter strands among the spaghetti. A hair in the soup? Not so appetizing.

And this is aging, folks. The dirty little secret that crones have kept to themselves. Well, I’m blowing the whistle. As you approach those happy golden years, I urge you to enjoy the less-hair parts and take charge to manage the bad one.

Yes, I mean shave your head and buy wigs in a veritable panoply of colors and cuts. Be a new person everyday. Live your inner life. And don’t sprinkle on other peoples’ parade--or food.

CAVEAT: This was a light-hearted take on aging, but you should see your physician if you are experiencing sudden hair loss to rule out causal medical conditions.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

All We Need is Love

A version of this post was originally published on August 26, 2014 at "Write on Sisters".

Love is one of those great terms worth pondering. Particularly, as an author, I am concerned about how best to show relationships in my books. I am blessed to be surrounded by love from family and friends. But as I pondered, I realized something that was never in my consciousness before. “Love” is a piss-poor word. (Excuse the French!)

How can we have a language with so many words for “pants” (trousers, slacks, jeans, dungarees, britches, and maybe more) and only one for love? Right. I hear what you’re saying; dungarees are not the same as slacks. There is a difference in materials and fit with the various words for “pants”.

Exactly! And that is also the case with “love”. “I love you, Sis.” “I love the color blue.” “I love Paris.” “I love bacon cheeseburgers.” “I love you, Honey.”

See the problem?

And the value we place on getting him to say “I love you”? Well, that first time is incredible. It’s as if him saying “I love you” comes with the whole package of now-I-am-committed-to-you-forever-let’s-get-married-and-have-five-kids. Uh, how has that worked out for you?

What if, just imagine this, what if we went the Greek route? I’ve mentioned before that I studied classical Greek in college. While we didn’t spend loads of time on it, as we were translating, we would encounter words for love. Our professor allowed us to translate the word as “love” as long as we understood the nuance and the context of the word usage.

Most of us know about “agape” and “eros”. There are more Greek words for love, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s start with what you remember of these two “love” words.

1) Eros (EH-rohs)
Eros, of course, is the physical love, the erotic, the passionate. It doesn’t really contain any caring for the other person. It is a selfish, self-gratification word for love. Maybe “lust” is our English equivalent. But how likely would you be to hop into bed with a guy who has just admitted to you that he’s “in lust” with you? Yet, of course, to over-generalize here, many men mean just that when they say, “I love you.” And we go all giddy and and start picking out towels.

2) Agape (ah-GAH-pay)
The other Greek word for love most of us know is agape, a kind of spiritual love. Pure essence. Untainted with physicality. It is totally unselfish and giving, even when there is no love returned. Christians have laid claim to agape in many of their biblical translations and writings about loving God. For sure, your guy doesn’t love you in an agape way! I mean really! (And if he does, run. You don’t want to be literally idolized.)

So how did the Greeks account for and name other aspects of love? I’m glad you asked.

3) Ludus (LOO-dus)
The Greeks had another word for love sometimes associated with sex. Ludus is the playful variant of love. When you first fall in love with someone, you go through a giddy period of teasing, laughing at nothing, and finding joy in the presence of the one you love. One might think of it as a purer form of eros because it can become sexual, but not the gasping, grasping sex of eros. To make the definition clearer, ludus is also the love that children might share as they play and learn together. Those in ludic love might cavort and dance for no reason with anyone who comes in their path out of sheer joy.

4) Philia (FEE-lee-uh)
You have family and friends you love, but not in an eros or agape way. The Greeks named that love philia. It is a love of give and take, back and forth, warm regard and affection. Still, it is a dispassionate, pure, and virtuous love of the sort you might feel for relatives and close friends.

5) Storge (STOR-geh)
Storge is the kind of love parents feel for their children or spouses. It is deeper and more passionate than philia. It is an acceptance of flaws and a putting up with behaviors and attitudes you wouldn’t tolerate in others. Storge grows out of a familial obligation toward the object of your love, but not just that. We seem genetically wired to have a protective kind of love toward those we are related to.

6) Pragma (PRAHG-ma)
Pragma is the Greek word for the love that couples who have grown old together or who find one another as seniors have. This aging love adjusts to the partner and finds ways to compromise and support to ensure the relationship lasts. This kind of mature love has a gentler feel. It is the counterpoint to “falling in love” as this is “staying in love”.

7) Philautia (feel-OW-tee-uh)
Of course the Greeks wouldn’t neglect self-love. Philautia, however, isn’t the selfishness of self-love; it is not narcissism. Rather, if one is confident in who one is, secure in him/herself, there is more love to spread around. When one no longer worries about him/herself and how perceived, one has more to share. Philautia is really a trait to cultivate. Aristotle said, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”

What does this mean for authors? As a novelist, understanding the nuances of love rather than mindlessly using and abusing the word can lead to more complex relationships in your stories. The Greeks didn’t believe one kind of love was superior to another. Rather, the whole person experiences a range of loves and explores the boundaries of each kind of love to create a more complete person.

Knowing the nuances of each kind of love allows you to set up situations. She’s in a ludic state while he’s in eros, so when she giggles in bed, he takes offense. How might pragma look with couples who are physically and mentally capable versus the couple dealing with dementia or cancer? Can storge love be taken to an extreme that the parent tries to justify as parental caring?

I just gave you a starter kit on kinds of love. There is much information on the Internet to extend this basic understanding. Please delve into love and see how much richer your novel's relationships can be the Greek way. Oh, and what kinds of love are there in Streetwalker? I'd "love" to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest Post: "Love and Romance in the Middle Ages" by Vijaya Schartz

Vijaya Schartz was the first person to greet me and welcome me to my first Valley of the Sun Romance Writers Association meeting many years ago. That she went on to become our president is no surprise to anyone who knows her. She is charming, prolific, and passionate about romance writing. Welcome to Romance Righter, Vijaya!

My Curse of the Lost Isle medieval fantasy romance series, required extensive research in early medieval legends and history. I discovered that many things have changed over the centuries... including the way we find mates. Arranged marriages, rituals, customs differ greatly, as well as the many external conflicts and ideologies two lovers must overcome in realizing their dream of finding their Happily Ever After. But the matters of the heart haven’t changed a bit. Romeo and Juliet remind us that teenagers did harbor burning passions even then. And the legends of the round table abound with instances of forbidden love and dire consequences. Watching “The Dove Keepers” and “Bible” episodes on the History Channel last week, I realized ancient history and the Old Testament are full of forbidden love stories as well.

While the Curse of the Lost Isle series is largely based upon authentic legends and known history, the crucial romantic element drives these stories. They involve a family of immortal ladies, related to Morgane the Fae, and oppressed by a curse. Torn between love and duty to their Pagan Goddess, they struggle in a world that is quickly becoming Christian. The stakes are piled high... and ready to burn.

Although these are romances, I refuse to sugarcoat the middle ages. The shrewd warriors of the time fought to kill, often savagely. The Viking raids in Scotland were bloody, and I do not shy away from such scenes. Some reviewers remarked upon it, and I often give a warning as well. Some scenes are not for the faint of heart. Yet, I owe it to myself and to my readers to give an honest description of the place and time, according to what I know to be true from extensive research. I do not apologize, not for my love scenes, and certainly not for my battle scenes.

I also enjoy the challenge of writing immortal women with Fae gifts. In this case, a mother and her three daughters. Immortality gives them a different outlook on life and love. How does a two-hundred year old gorgeous virgin approach her first lover? She is not young and certainly not  innocent, yet she has never been in love, and never known a man. What a thrilling challenge.

As for an immortal falling in love with a mortal, that’s another challenge. How are they ever going to find their Happily Ever After? That’s where imagination comes to play. As a romance writer, I absolutely insist on a HEA. Even when the odds are against them, and the outcome is grim, I will find a way. Maybe it comes from my own will to find a happy resolution, no matter what. I believe our intents, our decisions, our dreams shape our lives, and we can make a difference. So can my heroines.

Did I mention I write strong women? They carve their destiny at the point of a magic sword in this series (and with blasters in my futuristic stories). They choose, they fight, they make mistakes, they pay for them, they fall, but they always get back up and earn the right to their happiness.

Also, their extraordinary gifts come with a warning never to use them for selfish purposes... or else. Hence the curse, which results from abuse of power against mortals, usually in their late childhood, when their powers awaken.

There are five books in the Curse of the Lost Isle so far, with Book 6 scheduled for later this month. The Boxed set includes the first four novels for only $5.00 in eBook. Some of these titles are already available in paperback, and the rest will be soon. Also available from ARE, B&N, etc.

Book 1 - PRINCESS OF BRETAGNE - The early story of Pressine
Book 2 - PAGAN QUEEN - The resolution of Pressine’s story
Book 3 - SEDUCING SIGEFROI - The story of Melusine
Book 4 - LADY OF LUXEMBOURG - The later story of Melusine
Book 5 - CHATELAINE OF FOREZ - Another story of Melusine (standalone)
Book 6 - BELOVED CRUSADER - The story of Palatina (standalone)

Blurb for the boxed set:

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake. 5 stars on Amazon "Edgy Medieval, yay!"

Find all these books and many more at:

Vijaya Schartz
Swords, Blasters, Romance with a Kick

About Vijaya Schartz:
Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action, adventure, and exotic settings, in life and on the page. A world traveler, with over 24 titles published, she writes medieval and futuristic romance and often claims to travel through time. Find more at

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Suicide by Cop

On this blog, I deal with relationship issues. Often of the romantic flavor, but not always. Sometimes I deal with family, occasionally I touch on a topic that is about individuals. Today is one of the latter.

I had heard that some professions are more dangerous. We all have. There was even a TV show with that theme. But I was reminded recently how danger can come in many forms.

Usually when we hear or read the phrase, “suicide by cop”, we think of the sadly deranged individuals who are unable to take their own lives, so they bait police officers to do it for them. They threaten the lives and well-being of our officers so they will be shot dead.

Sad as this situation is, a more horrifying definition of “suicide by cop” is the one in which our law enforcement officers take their own lives.

Leading cause of death among police officers is suicide. Police officers are two to three (some say four) times more likely to die by their own hand than through a felonious act.

I recently got these statistics at the Left Coast Crime Conference in Portland. The panel, “Talking Shop: Getting Law Enforcement Details Right”, included Neal Griffin as moderator, Ellen Kirschman, Terry Odell, Adam Plantinga, and David Putnam. All but one of the panelists had experience in some aspect of law enforcement, so they knew what they were talking about.

Ellen Kirschman’s experience was as a psychologist with law enforcement. She has written informational books about issues that confront law enforcement officers and their families. But most recently, she published her first novel, Burying Ben, that is the story of a young police officer who blames the department psychologist for his decision to take his own life.

Disheartening statistics I found with some investigation was that the national suicide rate in 2009 was 18.1 per 100,000 officers. That translated to about 300 police suicides annually. (Other studies are not that high.)

91% of law enforcement suicides are by males. Ages 35-44 (depending on year) were at greatest risk over the years of the study. 63% were single. Time on the job: most risk at 15-19 years. Suicides occurred most often with their own service weapons.

In a study of law enforcement suicides in 2008-2012, there was a slight drop in law enforcement officer suicides 2012. This was the first drop since the group had been tracking suicides.

A number of factors have been identified as stressors that might lead officers to take their own lives: shift work, frustrations with the criminal justice system, alcohol/drug abuse, personal legal difficulties, and negative view by the public. Stress with alcohol and depression was the most likely combination in suicides.

A number of groups are looking at the risk factors and are trying to come up with support structures for troubled officers. Let’s hope they are given the resources to do so.

It is horrifying that so many of the people we depend upon for our safety, people who serve as our buffer between what is right and what is wrong, are in so much pain.

Next time you encounter an officer, in either an official or unofficial capacity, remember to thank him or her for their service. It is the one small thing each of us can do. With enough small things, maybe we get a starfish thing going for someone.

Read More:
I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know, Ellen Kirschman

Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know, Ellen Kirschman

“A Study of Police Suicides in 2008-2012”

“Law Enforcement Suicide: Current Knowledge and Future Directions”