Friends or foes?

Prompt: 'You don't want to go making friends with the wrong sort.' - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J K Rowling

Two girls with pretty names
and ugly tempers
seem fated to persist
in a friendship
better suited
to foes.
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My 2016 playlist

A few times I've wished I'd written down my music tastes at various points over the years, because my tastes do change over time.  So here's my 2016 playlist.

An Innocent Man - Billy Joel
The Boys Light Up - Australian Crawl
Can't Get Enough - Supergroove
Creep - Radiohead
Dream On - Aerosmith
Everybody Get Up - Five
Everything's Gonna Be Alright - The Babysitter's Circus
Ex's and Oh's - Elle King
Fake It - Seether
Flagpole Sitta - Harvey Danger
The Impression That I Get - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
I Was Made For Lovin' You - Kiss
Jump Around - House of Pain
Little Lion Man - Mumford & Sons
Never Tear Us Apart - INXS
Paint The Town Green - The Script
Party Like A Russian - Robbie Williams
Place Your Hands - Reef
Pour Some Sugar On Me - Def Leppard
Pure Morning - Placebo
Reckless (Don't Be So…) - Australian Crawl
Run Like Hell - Pink Floyd
Run Through The Jungle - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Rush - Big Audio Dynamite
Santa Monica - Everclear
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Sex and Candy - Marcy Playground
Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Shout - Disturbed
Sitting Inside My Head - Supergroove
The Sound of Silence - Disturbed
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Stay - Jackson Browne
Take Me To Church - Hozier
Time - Pink Floyd
Turn Me Loose - Loverboy
Us & Them - Pink Floyd
Verona - Elemeno P
Whistle (While You Work It) - Katy Tiz
Why Worry? - Dire Straits
Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
Working For The Weekend - Loverboy
You Don't Own Me - Grace
You Gotta Know - Supergroove
Young Lust - Pink Floyd

Yeah, sure, let's celebrate

Prompt: 'I'd worked that much out for myself.' - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J K Rowling

An opaque chunk

of rock, clasped in
greedy metal fingers,
symbolic of drama
and a sizeable new dent
in his pocket.

Oh, and love.

"We're engaged!" she purrs,
glee and tawdry triumph
smeared across her face,
but I'd already worked that much
out for myself.
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Prompt: '"Wet," he said, truthfully.' - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J K Rowling

He draws it out,
s t r e t c h i n g it,
the tension building...

...until I snap.

...until I scream.

A smug smirk
slides across his face
as I shudder.

He knows
                                      to push.

The Science Behind Why People Hate the Word 'Moist'
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Prompt: 'Scars can come in useful.' - Harry Potter and the Philosoher's Stone, J K Rowling

I trail fingertips
over the Braille map
she wears,
a badge of honour.

       can be useful,"
she whispered.
Whatever that means.
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Books read in December

Downtime by Tamara Allen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Fractured Hymns by A M Arthur *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

The Alpha's Hunger by Renee Rose  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

An Ordinary Girl by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Ricky by Ashley John *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Cowboy's Christmas Promise Maggie McGinnis *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Downtime by Tamara Allen
Morgan Nash is a 21st century FBI agent. He is somehow accidentally 'summoned' back to the 19th century by some scholars who were testing their Latin.

The book with the spell in it is stolen and as they hunt for the means to send Morgan back to his own time, he becomes embroiled in the legendary Jack the Ripper case (irresistible to an FBI agent!) and starts falling for Ezra, his housemate.

Sometimes when writing time travel novels, authors go to the ridiculous (or tedious) trying to convince us that they are familiar with the time period and to help us 'see it'. In this case, the author focuses on the characters and the plot, and the time periods are secondary, to the point where they feel natural rather than forced. It's well done.

I actually ended up researching 'Prince Eddy' online to find out more about the real man and what happened to it. It's always great when an historical story prompts you to do real research.

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg
The plot was good, but I would have enjoyed it more without all the gratuitous sex scenes.

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg
Kate is kidnapped by Jack.  He not only rapes her, but threatens every good Samaritan that Kate tries to seek help from, and kills the one man who does try and help her.  Then Jack kidnaps a child from a McDonalds and takes Kate and the child to live in a remote house in the woods where they are going to be happy families.  The raping and violence continues, and Jack threatens the child to help keep Kate in line.  She tries desperately to seek freedom for herself and the child, enduring increasingly more violent punishments each time she is caught.  Meanwhile, Jack's half brother Nathan has been stalking and monitoring Jack ever since he came out of the mental hospital he went into after sleeping with Nathan's fiance.  He doesn't really have any better motive than revenge, but it does mean that he is the one that notices that Jack has disappeared right after buying flowers for a mystery woman.  He hunts Jack down and when Kate appeals to him for help, Jack draws Nathan into his sick and violent plot.  When Nathan and Kate finally manage to escape with the child, Jack goes straight to the police with a twisted sob story that is practically impossible to unravel.  Now Nathan and Kate are wanted for kidnapping and the police believe that Kate is not only mentally unbalanced, but involved in an S&M relationship with Jack and not only enjoys the pain but invites it.  There is little hope of ever being free of Jack's machinations.

For me, this wasn't a romance.  Kate and Nathan don't even meet until 75% through the book, and by the time the book has finished, they've probably only known each other a week.  That week has been spent either in the hospital or on the run and filled with constant danger.  They really know nothing of each other.  On top of that, Kate has just endured rape as well as physical and mental torture by Nathan's half brother.  There is no way she is in any state of mind (or body) for what is her first consensual relationship.  No way.  It was completely unbelievable.

The plot was incredibly convoluted.  I haven't even gone into all the twists and turns the plot takes.  Not only is there the current events which are convoluted, there is Jack's twisted interpretation of events which are exceptionally complicated, there are events from history which feed into the current events that we learn about in bits and pieces, and on top of all that, there are other people manipulating the main characters.  By the end of the book I was so confused.  It would have been a better story without all the drama from the past, and without the other people who were doing the manipulating.

It is an incredibly dark story.  There is a lot of violence, both sexual and not.  The violence escalates as the book progresses, and I simply can't imagine that Kate could come through it without horrific mental scars to go with the physical scars she would bear.

The writing style itself was good, and easy to read.  It was the convoluted plot and the fact that the romance was not only far from the focus of the plot but also utterly unbelievable that led me to give it two stars.

It's not true!

Earlier this year I made the decision to make a lot of my writing public. For a long time I kept the majority of my writing visible to members only, not the general public, and I decided that it was time for me to make that leap.

Most publishers will not accept submissions that are freely available on the internet, but will accept ones that are restricted-access, such as those only visible to members or only to Livejournal members. I decided that publication was not my goal, so why was I maintaining this restriction? Time to go public!

The first thing I noticed was the assumptions. *Rolleyes* About half of my poetry is autobiographical, which means that I wrote it about experiences and emotions that I personally experienced. The other half are based on observations of other people's lives, prompts and just plain imagination. Most of my darkest poetry is fictional.

I recently wrote The fight is over which is written from the perspective of someone whose marriage has failed. And I find it incredibly awkward that people assume it is autobiographical. My husband and I are very happily married, and yet family and friends (and random strangers!) assume that we are having serious relationship issues because I write poetry about fictional situations. *Rolleyes* I always remind myself that it is a compliment that someone thinks I have expressed a fictional situation so well that it rings true. And trust me, I'm honored that they think so, but at the same time, it's not an assumption I'm comfortable with. Similarly, I wrote a couple of poems from the perspective of someone who had experienced domestic abuse, and found myself having to give disclaimers every time someone read them. I think people are really starting to worry what sort of man I'm married to! Poor Steve. *Blush*

I have had a number of reviews of my poetry where the reviewer has made a comment regarding the situation described in the poem, with the most common being sympathy. It is totally fine to make a comment on how a poem makes you feel, what it makes you think of or reminds you of, or why it spoke to you in particular (maybe you've been in a similar situation), but be very careful about assuming that the poet has written from personal experience. When I encounter these poems and wish to make a personal comment of sympathy or similar to the poet, I always note it with a disclaimer. 'I don't know if this poem is autobiographical or not, but if it is....' This leaves the door open for the poet to respond without making it awkward.

So, the next time you're reading a poem, please take a moment to pause and think. Yes, it may be a personal expression of the poet's thoughts, experience, and emotions. But on the other hand, it might be observational or entirely fictional. And trust me, you can't always tell just by reading it.

Books read in November

It Was Always You by various authors *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

In The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Crash by Nicole James  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Breaking by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Resurrection Heart by Wendy Lynn Clark *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Three Dirty Secrets by Nikki Sloane *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg
Harper has been released from prison after serving 10 years for a crime he didn't commit. He runs into Malachi several times by chance, and the pair hit it off.

Malachi has his own issues, and the two lean on each other, learn from each other and grow close.

There are unresolved issues on both sides, and plenty who don't want to see them happy. The obstacles seem insurmountable, and both men are struggling to find the inner strength required.

The book didn't gloss over all the ways that Harper's life had changed, now that he had a criminal record, nor the attitudes he received from people regarding the crime he'd been committed of. That felt realistic.

When we first meet Harper, he is paralysed with indecision after spending 10 years without having a say over even the smallest aspects of his own life. Choices simply overwhelm him. However, after that first meeting, this issue appears to vanish. He becomes decisive and even demanding, bargaining like a pro. It was this huge discrepancy (it felt like huge because I had been led to expect one thing and got another) that prevented me from giving the book five stars. It needed to be either toned down in the beginning so that it was more believable when he got over it so quickly, or he needed to take longer to get over it.

One other thing - Harper took a HUGE risk at one point, doing something he knew breached his parole restrictions. I couldn't understand why he would. It was such an unimportant thing to do, yet could have such huge repercussions, and he just...did it. Like he didn't care if he went back to prison or not, when we had been led to believe he did. It was out of character and it annoyed me.

It's hard to say too much more without giving away spoilers. The book felt real, mixed sweet and gritty very well, and I enjoyed it.

Forging Friendship

I jolted out of my daydream as a foot caught me across the shins, sending me sprawling. The heels of my hands skidded along the grass as I tried to break my fall, smears of green and brown streaking up my wrists. My breath wooshed out as I landed, my backpack thumping into my lower back. As my chin thumped down on the ground, I was grateful I hadn't been standing on concrete.

A shoe-clad foot smacked into my ribs, dislodging the left earpiece of my ipod, and the jeers and taunts filtered through.
The slurs and obscenities were unimaginative, to say the least. I knew better than to point that out though. I rolled in the direction of the kick, but my backpack was still on my back, preventing me from facing upwards. Not sure there was any point in seeing their faces though. They weren't hiding from me. They knew damn well they were safe from any consequences. Even if I went and saw the dean or the principal, their rich-ass parents would pull some sob story and save them from any fallout. I'd probably end up expelled, knowing my...

I yelped as a foot caught me in the jaw, damn lucky that I hadn't bitten right through my tongue. I was still reeling from the blow when a kick caught me on the side of my stomach. I gasped for air, drawing my knees up and wrapping my arms around my head. Someone placed their foot on my backside, shoving hard, causing my defensive pose to unravel and I sprawled forward. A blow to the temple had me seeing stars, and it took me a minute to register that something had changed.

"You all right?"
The voice came from close by, as if someone were kneeling beside me. A guy. I whimpered, unable to expose myself in case the danger hadn't really passed.
"Jesus, you okay? They're gone. Can you sit up? Shit, do I need to call an ambulance?"
I shook my head, but I wasn't really sure. That last blow to my head had left me dazed.
Large warm hands grasped my shoulders, and I whimpered again. Despite myself, I winced. Could there be a more pathetic sound? Puppies whimper, not men. Only, I wasn't much of a man, was I?

"Sorry, sorry," came the voice again. "I'm trying to help you up, not hurt you. Can you sit up? Um...." He trailed off.
I pressed my palms against the ground and heaved up, my arms shaking. I rolled to a sitting position, wincing at the pain in my chest and my jaw. My backpack pulled me off balance, so I struggled to pull my arms through the straps.
"Let me help." He gently tugged the straps down my arms and helped me ease the backpack off.
I slumped forward and pressed a hand to my ribs. With effort, I lifted my chin to look at my rescuer.

Just my luck. I'm a pathetic, dribbling mess and he's gorgeous. I lifted one shoulder to wipe my chin on my t shirt just in case I really was dribbling. Drooling? Ugh. I bet he didn't even need to style his hair, it just fell into perfect waves as he rolled out of bed. And those eyes! They should be illegal! I stared into them, imagining myself disappearing into their depths.

I jolted when his hand landed on my shoulder, my whole body lurching with the movement.
"Sorry," he apologised again, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he frowned at me. "Are you with me? I think you need to get checked out. Maybe you have concussion. What's your name?"
I dragged in a deep breath and pressed my palm harder against my ribs as pain shot through me. "Mason," I said.
"Okay, Mason. I'm Ben. How's your vision? You seeing double of anything?"
"Nope. Not unless there's only one of you," I joked.
He smiled at me. "Wanna try standing?"
I grabbed the warm hand he offered me. I swayed slightly on my feet, then released his hand and stepped back when I realised I was still holding on to him. My foot landed on the side of my backpack and I went sprawling backwards, my fall only arrested by his grasp as he snatched me back upright.
"Shit, maybe you were better off sitting. Damn it." He looked around, but I wasn't sure what he was looking for. "I really think you need to be checked out. I wonder..." His warm gaze stroked over me and I felt like I was about to melt into a puddle where I stood. "You think you could make it to my car if I helped you?"

He had a car? I had figured he was a high school student, same as me. Maybe a year older, but... I cut off my train of thought as I realised he was still waiting for an answer.
"Sure?" I offered.
He flashed me a quick smile then wrapped an arm around my waist. "Let's give it a go."
I found myself concentrating so hard on the warmth of his arm and the strength of his shoulder beside me that I barely noticed the aches and pain from my beating. I glanced up at him, only to find him staring down at me, our faces just centimeters apart. I quickly looked back down.

I didn't understand why he was helping me. He was gorgeous and built, clearly one of the popular crowd, and didn't he realise I was gay? If anyone saw him helping me...
He paused our journey toward the car park that was still a few meters away and turned to face me. "I don't give a shit what people think. If they're so small minded and bigoted that they'd judge me for helping someone in need, then their opinions are irrelevant. Who cares if you're gay? You're still a person, and no one deserves to get beaten up for something they have no control over."
My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. "Ahhh...." I scrabbled to get my brain back on track. "Did... Did I say that out loud? I only meant to think it."
"You shouldn't even be thinking it. You shouldn't even... Argh, don't get me started." He took up his position beside me and we started off again. As we reached a dark brown sedan that looks like it had seen better years, I leaned back against the cool metal and realised I'd left my backpack behind. "Oh shit, my backpack! It's got all my school stuff in it and my..."
He swung it off his shoulder.
"Oh. I didn't see it there." Duh, obviously. I didn't even remember him picking it up. Maybe I was concussed. Or maybe this guy, Ben, was so freaking hot he was melting my brain cells.

He asked me questions as we drove to the hospital. About myself, what I was studying at high school, my family, even questions about the family dog. I was puzzled by his interest, but flattered, until we pulled up at the hospital and the metaphorical lightbulb in my brain came on. Of course, he was just checking I was alert, and wasn't going to doze off into a coma. He wasn't actually interested in me. God, I was stupid. I would have smacked myself in the forehead, but frankly I hurt enough already.

We had to wait an hour to see a doctor, and by then I was stiff and aching and my head felt like chipmunks were practicing the anvil chorus in there. Ben knew pretty much my entire life story by then, but hadn't shared a lot about himself. Typical. No, I shouldn't think like that. A typical guy would never have bothered to check if I was okay, let alone take me to A&E to see a doctor. Really, typical was about the last word I should use to describe Ben.

The doctor said I had mild concussion, and was told to take some over-the-counter pain relief and ensure someone checked in on me over the next 24 hours. Ben drove me home, and I wasn't sure if he was unsurprised at the dump I called home, or if he was just very clever at hiding his expression.

"There's someone here who can check up on you?" he asked as he parked up against the curb.
"Yeah," I replied, careful not to nod in case my aching head rolled straight off my shoulders. "One of my folks will be home at least."
Even as I said it, the front door opened.
"Mason! Where have you been? Your boss rang."
I groaned. I had totally forgotten about my after school job at the bookstore. "I forgot to call him. I, uh, had an accident and Ben took me to the hospital."
Ben climbed out of the car, and walked around to shake my mother's hand. Seriously? Who does that anymore?
"Sorry we didn't think to call, ma'am. Turns out Mason has concussion and so he probably shouldn't be working in any case. The doctor said he needs to rest for at least 24 hours."
Watching my mother fall under Ben's spell, I was glad to know I wasn't the only one who found him irresistible.

"Mason," he said, nudging me.
I glanced up, my cheeks heating as I realised I'd been lost in my daydreams again. "Yeah?"
"I'll pop by tomorrow and make sure you're feeling better, okay?"
"Why?" I waved my hand at him. "You don't need to. I really appreciate your help today though. Thank you."
"You have so many friends that you can afford to turn a new one away?"
"What?" I frowned at him, then tried to uncrinkle my forehead as frowning apparently doesn't go with concussion headaches. "You... What?"
He laughed, and I knew I was doomed.
"I'll see you tomorrow." He nodded at my mother. "Ma'am."
I stood stiffly by my mother as we both watched Ben clamber back in his car and drive off.
"So, new friend?" she asked as I shuffled my way up the path to the front door.
"Mum, don't start. I'm 99% sure he isn't gay. I'm sure he would have said so."
"Maybe not. But he seems like a lovely young man. Now, you park yourself on the couch, and then I want to hear the whole story."
I groaned. "Can I at least have some Panadol before the interrogation?"