Saturday, November 8, 2014

Review of One Indulgence: Lisa writing for The Novel Approach. 4 Stars! =)

A New Review for One Indulgence from

*click banner ^ to navigate to full review
I want to thank Lisa from The Novel Approach for reviewing One Indulgence and giving it such warm praise, as well as a 4 star rating. The review was not entirely "positive", as some might say, but I disagree. A good author not one wants criticism, but needs it, and I do hope to one day be at least a half-good author, LOL. So I want to thank The Novel Approach for the review, the rating, and the constructive criticism. 
~LG

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Blogger Girls...Review of One Indulgence: "...the chemistry between Henry and Richard was spot on."

A New Review of One Indulgence from:


Full Review by Heather C., October 24th, 2014: Click Here

[excerpt]
  • "It should have been hard for me to believe that Henry and Richard loved each other after only one night together and with all the mistrust, but somehow the author made me believe it.  I’m such a sucker."
      I want to thank The Blogger Girls and Heather C. in particular for giving my first shot at published writing, One Indulgence, the time of day. I appreciate the honest criticism and can't tell you how happy I am that you liked it. Hope to see more reviews of my stuff--since that will mean I wrote more stuff ;)--from you guys in the future =D. 
~ Lydia Gastrell

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Boring Reasons for Using Pseudonyms

   

     The Boring Reasons For Using Pseudonyms

     I just finished reading a pretty shocking essay all about the topic of pen names, anonymity, and the importance of being able to separate your online life from your "real life". Why would anyone use a fake name? You hear that question a lot, usually mixed with "I bet they wouldn't write bad reviews if they had to use their real names," or "Who cares about the opinion of a phony, anyway?" We all know there are many reasons people use fake names, and we tend to focus on the most obvious and extravagant reason: protection. We don't want to be stalked or harassed in our real lives. There are crazies out there, people who won't just dislike a book, but who will hate it, who will--for whatever bizarre reason that exists in their heads--take the things they don't like personally. Then there is the flip side of this, the author who just can't stand that you didn't like his book and who decides he is going to argue with you about it, or worse. Self protection is the most important reason people use pseudonyms, to be sure, but there are also other reasons why someone would choose to use a "made up" name online, especially as a writer.

1) Politics: Let's face it. Politics are nasty. In this day and age, if you don't agree with someone on every political issue, you are quite likely to be labeled "one of them" and find yourself summarily black-listed. "Oh, you're thinking of reading one of HER books? I heard she supported [fill in the blank]...." A person's politics don't even need to be loud or explicit. It can take as little as an out-of-context screenshot of a Facebook comment somewhere and, before you know it, you're receiving demands to "explain" yourself. Let's not even get into the fact that campaign contributions are a matter of public record. If you know someone's real name and the county in which they live, there are apps that will tell you exactly how much that person donated and to which candidate they donated. Imagine seeing that in a Goodreads review, i.e. "Don't read any of So-and-So's books! She gave money to What's-his-Face!" 

This can also take the form of PC harassment (Yes, the so-called tolerant can be very intolerant when they think you aren't being tolerant enough. Say that three times fast). No adult likes to be scolded like a child, pulled aside by the arm and told that they "shouldn't have said that" or, worse, that they "need to apologize." Them's fightin' words.

(From my personal experience, I was once taken to task because a response I had written online featured the third person "him" as a generic substitute for a hypothetical. The alternative is to write "him/her" every time, or to use the singular "one" and end up sounding like Queen Elizabeth. Until English gets a gender-less, third person singular pronoun, we're kind of stuck. In this particular instance, my defense of using the generic "him" got me labeled a--let's see if I can remember--a "patriarchy brainwashed idiot". Yes, that's something I would rather NOT have follow me to my writing career, lol. 

2)Common Name: The issue of politics still sort of falls into the realm of protecting yourself, but what about something as simple as having a common name? If you're a writer or any kind of artist who is trying to make a brand of yourself, having a common name can make that nearly impossible. For instance, my real name, including the middle name, is shared by at least sixteen other people with significant online presences, and many more off-line, I'm sure. And several of them are underage. That isn't even that common. Some of us will get dozens of name match hits on Facebook alone (Smith? Gonzalez? Miller?). This is even more of a problem if there is already a published author out there who shares your real name or something close to it. Why go through the hassle of trying to make "a name" for yourself when your name is John Smith? Talk about a futile endeavor.

3) You Hate Your Name: Maybe your parents thought they were being clever when they named you Percival, and even more so when your last name is Merciful. Or maybe it isn't that your name is embarrassing or silly or whatever other hangup you have with it...maybe it's just strange. Guicciardi is a beautiful surname, if you can manage to pronounce it correctly, and spell it correctly, and fit it onto your ebook cover art without making it 10 pt. font. If you haven't noticed, some search engines are VERY unforgiving with spelling errors. 
"Oh! You can't spell this thing exactly right? Oh, well! Too bad! No book for you!" 
~ Sincerely, the search engines on Goodreads and Smashwords.  
     We also should acknowledge that even the most tolerant among us still have those ingrained "reactions" to things that have stereotypes, and names don't escape this. A woman named Candy will struggle to be taken seriously all her life, no matter what. A man named Ezekiel will have to explain that he is not devoutly religious to pretty much everyone until his dying day, because that name just makes people assume that he is. 

     And sometimes, we just want a name that sounds better. Many actors change their names early in their careers in order to make them more memorable, more flowing. There is, apparently, a science to this. Some name combination just work better to the human ear *See Name Nerds - Rhythm .For whatever reason, some people just don't like their real names, and that's just fine. It's their business. 

4) Pre-Established Name: This reason is probably less common, but still happens. In this instance, your real name is already noteworthy for something else and you just don't want to "mix media" so to speak. I know an indie published author of gay romance who is a pretty well known museum curator, with many editor credits for exhibition books very popular in their genre under her belt. It isn't that she is embarrassed or trying to "hide" her fiction writing...it's just that she doesn't want the two very different fields of her work to overlap and cause confusion. There are still people today who are confused every time they pick up a Stephen King novel and it isn't horror. Sometimes, people can only attach one limited reputation to a single name. 

     So, the whole point of all this is that people need to relax about the fake name issue (hear that, Facebook?). The simple fact is the vast majority of us will never meet or never personally know the people we interact with online, so what difference does it make if we know their real names or not? And even if we do meet them in real life, is it even necessary then? Is the author you geek out over and always wanted to meet any less talented, funny, kind, or anything else just because you STILL don't know what's written on their birth certificates? Get over it! =P 


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: His Fair Lady, by Kimberly Gardner


His Fair Lady, by Kimberly Gardner 

Loose-Id: April, 2014.

Blurb, via Goodreads

[Mark Talleo is something of a dog with the ladies. Any girl, anytime, anywhere is his motto until he meets Josie Frazier. The long lean redhead not only shares his love of musical theatre, but her smoky sexy voice and infectious laugh drive Mark wild and haunt his every step. Equally fascinating is his sense that she has a secret, one he is determined to uncover on his way to becoming her leading man.

Josie does have a secret, one she guards with her whole self. Although she has always known she was female, her name used to be Joey and she's still biologically male. As much as she yearns for love and acceptance, her fear of rejection is just as strong.

Mark's need to know the truth is matched only by Josie's need to hide it. But when malicious gossip reveals her deepest secret the price of honesty may turn out to be too high to pay. But if each can accept that the woman he wants is the woman she is then at last he may find His Fair Lady.]

Review: 

I loved this story. It is a short novel (though not a novella) that moves quickly and is heavy on dialogue. This is the first book I've read featuring a transgender relationship, and even though I have very little to go on by any personal experience, I still came away feeling that it was quite realistic. You could really sense Josie's fear and panic about being "found out" and drawing attention to herself, and I also felt that the reticence of her mother was another good mark of realism. The mother is supportive, but still has that hesitation and the "maybe you should just keep to yourself" mindset about Josie having relationships. Too often in stories like these, authors will make stark divides between those who support and MC and those who do not, ignoring the very real--and far more common--gray area that tends to exist, especially with parents. As to the plot, there is that delicious tension and suspense that comes with the sure knowledge that something bad is going to happen. You don't want it to happen (we love Josie and are rooting for her!), yet the plot driven reader will still appreciate the conflict, =). 

If I have any complaints, it would be that I felt the story lacked detail on the characters. In other words, I would have liked MORE, which is hardly a negative, right? =D Also, I suppose I was a bit frustrated that the subplot was not further explored (I do like it when villains get their comeuppance), but that's just me showing my aggressive side, lol. His Fair Lady is a tense, absorbing story, and I highly recommend it. 
~ Lydia Gastrell

His Fair Lady, by Kimberly Gardner is available at:
and others....

Thursday, September 25, 2014

5 Star Review on Loose-Id.com =D

Thanks so much to Meg Sinicropi for the review of 

One Indulgence. You made my day! =)  


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Grading Curves: They Don't Belong in High School, and They Don't Belong in Book Reviews

The Curse of Grading Curves:

If you rate books by comparing them to others, you're doing it wrong.



     Most people don't realize that just a few decades ago, figure skating judges were allowed to go back and change scores they had already made when they felt that a new skater had preformed better than the one prior. In other words, a better skater came along and "wrecked the grading curve." Suddenly, a performance that had been considered a 6 was now a 5.5, and so on. Judges said things like, "A few years ago I would have given this performance a 6, but that was before [insert awesome skater here] came along." The rules eventually changed, however, and judges were forced to be more technical in their assessments once they were no longer allowed to go back and alter scores. Still, in the world of figure skating, skaters are indeed judged against one another. One skater is better than another, gets a higher score, and that skater wins. 

     This works for athletics, but does it really work for literature? Can books be assessed according to comparison? If one goes by the star rating systems that dominate almost all online selling and reading forums, you would think the answer is yes. 

     How many reviews have you read that featured some variation of this statement?: "I would have given this book four stars, but I recently read Such-and-Such and it was awesome, so I had to give this one three stars." Or a better play would be, "I really REALLY loved this book!" followed by a middling three-star rating. Does it make sense for someone to say they really liked a book, to even gush over it, and then give it the rating equivalent of a big "meh"? No, actually, it doesn't. Is this a case of rating books according to some grading curve that exists in the reader's mind? Reading as many reviews as I have over the years, and participating in countless online discussions, I think that it is. 

     I am guilty of this myself. I went back through my own Goodreads account and noticed that years ago, when I first got online and starting rating books, I was much more generous. I was making it rain with 5-star ratings! And then, I started getting stingy. I started giving books that I had really enjoyed, that I had even gone back and reread, threes or even twos. Why? I think it's because subconsciously, I was beginning to feel like I couldn't give every book a five or a four, no matter how much I liked it. I started to think to myself, "Well, if I gave Such-and-Such a five, is this new book as good as that one was? Can I give it a five too?" By inches, I caught myself comparing books to one another, even books that were radically different from one another in both content and tone. 

     In short, I had stopped rating the books based on how they made me feel, and had instead started rating them on how I felt they stacked up against one another. It's a good thing I wasn't rating plays, because if you let Mr. Shakespeare wreck the curve, everything by comparison is trash. Right? 

     No. This is my opinion, true, but I think it's a valid one. It's pointless to rate books by comparing them to one another, by thinking that only the greatest book you've ever read warrants 5 stars, and therefore everything else must get less. Literature doesn't work that way. Literature is not a perfectly executed triple-axle or some other rote move that can be judged because the other writers/skaters are performing the exact same moves. They aren't. This isn't a waltz. It's free-form dancing in a night club!

     So, how should books be rated and reviewed? By one measure and one measure only: How they made you feel. That's all. Every person is different and has different standards. For one reader, realism might be a big consideration when it comes to whether or not they liked a story. For another reader, realism isn't very important. The ONLY thing that every reader has in common, the basis from which ever reader can rate a book, is simply whether or not they liked it and enjoyed reading it.

     So, you loved The Shawshank Redemption? You thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread? Awesome! Give it five stars! Did you also like Random Title, by Smashwords Indy Author? You thought it was amazing and you read it all in one 10 hour sitting? Great! Rate it according to those emotions. Don't worry that you gave 5 stars to The Shawshank Redemption. Just because that 'A' student came along and wrote an awesome paper doesn't mean that all the other students are suddenly dumb, suddenly deserving of much less, and it doesn't mean the teacher didn't enjoy reading their papers just as much. 

     

      

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Currently Writing Book 2 of "Indulgence" Series

Thanks so much to Jodi Aherns for the lovely review

As for the "connections left handing"...

I am currently writing the second book in my Indulgence series, which I plan to be a trilogy. The working title right now is One Glimpse, and our abused sub-character from One Indulgence, Sir Samuel Shaw, is the main character. 

I do wish it were possible to for me to label the fact that One Indulgence is just the first book in a planned trilogy, but I guess I can understand why the publishers and book sellers don't want to do that when they aren't certain the second book will ever come, LOL. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Don't Forget! Kindle Alexander and Varian Krylov TOMORROW!

Don't Forget! 

Kindle Alexander's Full Disclosure and
Varian Krylov's Bad Things 

Both available tomorrow, September 15th, from various outlets. I know what I'm going to be doing this week...a hell of a lot of reading, =D 


Click for Amazon link.

Bad Things, by Varian Krylov

Also available from Smashwords - Here

Click for Amazon link













Full Disclosure, by Kindle Alexander.

Also available from Kobo and Barns & Noble. 

 

Friday, September 12, 2014

My First Review on Amazon.com - I'm tempted to print this and frame it =)

My First Review on Amazon.com - 

I'm tempted to print this and put it in a frame, just like a business owner framing his first dollar! =) 

My heartfelt thanks to LovesToSingToo. To answer her question, there will indeed be a followup book to One Indulgence, and it will focus on Sir Samuel Shaw, the 'Sam' she mentioned. 
~ LG

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Indulgence Now Available On Amazon!

Now Available On Amazon! 

       One Indulgence has gone live on Amazon.com today.

 I must say, it happened much faster than I thought it would. I love that technology, =D.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Now Available!

Now Available! Book #1 of the Indulgence Trilogy

       One Indulgence is now available for purchase from Loose Id. I am so thankful to all the great people at Loose Id, who have answered all my novice questions and tolerated all my technology shortcomings with good humor (warning, guys. I still have stupid novice questions I have yet to ask, lol).

There is an excerpt from Chapter One available through the Loose Id link, and the full Chapter One excerpt is available via the Goodreads page for One Indulgence.

You can also read some ARC reviews on the Goodreads page (link above). There are three so far and I hope to see many more in the near future. =)

~ LG

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Year Is This, Anyway?

How writers can really confuse their readers with contemporary
anachronisms.

     We're all smart and well read, but just to be thorough, let's remind ourselves what an anachronism actually is. Specifically, it is "an act of attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it does not belong." This is why we typically only think of anachronisms being a problem with period fiction, right? We modern people trying to write about a time in which we did not live and which few, if any, can remember is likely to be tricky. But our concern here isn't a period fiction set in the 18th century, or a spy drama from World War II. There are rampant and problematic anachronisms in contemporary fiction...stories that are supposed to be happening now.

     Readers are left tilting their heads and asking, "What year is this, anyway?"

     To make my point, I will use the most recent novel that has been consuming my precious hours as an example. Despite this novel's sound plot,  amazing characters, and heart-warming romance, I was left distracted by the fact that I simply could not put an accurate time stamp on the story.

     Many may ask, "Why do you care?" If it's obvious that the novel is at least remotely contemporary--occurring in, say, the last 25 years--does it really matter? Typically it wouldn't, but in this case I'm talking about an m/m romance. With that genre, it absolutely matters because the way Western society views and/or accepts homosexuality has undergone massive changes in just the last ten years, let alone the last thirty. So, in order to wrap my mind around how the characters thought, how their friends were likely to think, I needed to know the damn year...and I couldn't.

     So, let's break down the most common anachronisms we see in contemporary fiction and how they can cause confusion when combined inappropriately (meaning, having them exist together in years where they would not have done so).

1) Cell Phones:

     If your novel is meant to take place at any time after the year 2000 or so, your characters need to have cell phones. They don't need to rely on them. The phones don't need to be a major plot tool, but they do at least have to be mentioned. Cell phones have altered the entire world, the way we do everything...from our jobs to our personal lives...everything. Having a novel completely devoid of cell phones tells the reader "this is taking place before the 1990s."

     In my example novel, cell phones are not mentioned even once. In fact, the MCs still have answering machines. Why is this a problem? I will reveal that later.

2) Answering Machines:

     Voice mail service became a common option of home phones in the late 90s, and by the 2000s didn't even cost extra in most places. Answering machines are dead. The only people who still have and use them are security nuts who want to record their phone activity and people who still write checks at the grocery store (generalized statement made intentionally. Relax ;). If your characters have answering machines and it isn't noted as being "strange" or "old", you are tacitly telling your readers that it's the 1990s or earlier. If that is not your target era, get rid of the answering machines. Once again, especially in a genre like m/m, this would matter. The social atmosphere surrounding homosexuality in the 1990s was nothing like it is today in the 2010s. It matters.  

3) Women

     There are certain occupations that are still a "man's game," as they say, but those occupations typically used to be even more so. Thus, having your novel bursting at the seams with female cops, detectives, doctors, and fighter pilots is a good way of telling the reader that this is happening now, or that it's more likely happening in fairy-tale-future-land. We all want to support gender equality, but I don't think we accomplish that by being historically inaccurate or making the past what we wish it had been rather than what it really was.

In my example novel, the MC works with three young, beautiful female detectives in just his own department, and it appears to be completely normal and no one makes any issue of it. It's not even noted as being unique. Trust me, that fact would be noted today, let alone in the 1990s when--I think?--my example novel is taking place.

4) Internet

     Dial up is a thing of the 1990s. Even if your novel is set in a rural, isolated area you're stretching the bounds of reality giving your characters dial-up internet service much later than 2006 or 2007. If you do add it at a later date, make a big deal about it. Have your characters bitch and moan about not having WiFi...something to make it realistic and to let the reader know that your novel is not set in 1997.

     In my example novel, the NYC detective is irritated that he has to get a second phone line for his dial-up internet service. In New York City? In the mid 2000s? Come on....

5) Laws

     When you reference actual laws that exist in the real world, you are putting a very real time stamp on your novel. You are bracketing yourself into a box that means everything else must--or should, I think--match that year for continuity. If you don't want your novel to take place after 2010, don't mention the Affordable Care Act.

     In my example novel, the MC notes the cigarette smoke in the New York City bar he's drinking at. Since NYC's smoking ban went into effect in 2003, and this was a big national story that everyone was aware of, I was now really confused, because... *see number 6

6) Video Games

     Gaming consoles are created and released at pretty regular intervals. Therefore, referencing them is a good way of noting the year--especially if the character is getting the device as a new item.  

*In my example novel, the MC's son wants a Wii for Christmas. The Wii was released in 2006. Yet another--unintentional?--time stamp.
~~
     All of these things by themselves, or combined in the correct manner, are fine. You want your novel to take place in 1994? Go ahead and give them answering machines. You want the story to take place before 2003? Great! Let them smoke in the NYC bars. But...don't give them video game consoles that won't exist for another 3 years while you're at it.

     In my example novel, everything seems to point to the book taking place in the 1990s. No cell phones, answering machines everywhere, barely a mention of the internet, smoking in the NYC bars...and then the MCs son asks for a Wii. Boom! Suddenly it's 2006 or later, and now the lack of cell phones and the internet looks bizarre and troublesome. Suddenly I'm wondering, "why doesn't he just call him on his phone and reschedule?" as the MC is racing across town to catch his lover before he leaves the house. Ah, I forgot. It's 2006, but no one has a cell phone. Because, you know, police detectives weren't carrying cell phones in 2006, right? =P

     Once again, you may be shaking your head and saying, "Why does she care? Seriously, this chick is a period-accuracy Nazi!" I know, I know. But the reason it matters is because this novel in particular was m/m romance. Believing for half the book that it was 1995-ish put me in a particular frame of mind. I was expecting the heroes to be mistreated, ostracized, or worse...and when other characters were miraculously so open-minded and supportive, it felt fairy-tale fake. I would not have felt that way if the novel had accurately portrayed the year as being mid 2000s.   


     Contemporary anachronisms, just like those in period fiction, only really matter when they effect the atmosphere of the era. We don't need to dissect novels to see if a particular cologne existed during the year the MC gets it for Christmas, because no one is aware of that crap anywa, and even if they were it doesn't matter. Big things that are a primary mark on society, like cell phones, laws, and the internet, matter. So, don't think you have to become a research hound just to write a contemporary fiction. All you have to do is observe the world around you, because that is, after all, what you're writing about. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Watch and Word Society: Romance/Erotica Book Reviews: Book Review: One Indulgence

One Indulgence Gets First Review: 4.75/5 Stars! =) 



Watch and Word Society: Romance/Erotica Book Reviews: Book Review: One Indulgence: Title : One Indulgence Author : Lydia Gastrell Publisher/GR Link : Loose Id (Release date 9/9/14),  GR Genre : Historical, MM...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cover art for One Indulgence has arrived!

I would like to thank all the lovelies at Loose Id, but especially April Martinez who designed the covers. I was especially pleased with the red sofa. Don't think it's just image filler. A very elegant, very comfortable Regency era sofa plays a pretty big role in the opening chapters of One Indulgence. Clever addition, April! ;) 
~Lydia Gastrell

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What's in a name? Or...in a pseudonym? 

If no one has guessed, Lydia Gastrell is not my real name. Having false names for public use is incredibly common and shouldn't imply that I am embarrassed or ashamed of anything or trying to "hide." Okay, maybe I am trying to "hide" from my parents, but that's pretty much it, =P.  It's a protective measure more than anything else. But, someone asked me yesterday how I came up with my pen name, so I thought I would give you the story. 

I wanted something as unique as possible, and what's the current definition of "unique". Well, it has a lot to do with how many Google hits you get. I wanted a unique name that would be mine, one that would not lead to anyone else or anything else but what I DID. Pretty tall order, I know. There are 7 billion people, after all. That's a lot of name combinations and a lot of repeats. 

I started by researching extinct or endangered surnames. There are actually a lot of these, especially in the UK (the trend of dying or extinct surnames is probably going to become a thing of the past in the West, since marriage and the traditional transfer of surnames from husband to wife, father to child, is becoming less popular). I discovered the last name Gastrell was reported to have only "27 surviving persons with this name". Wow. That's pretty small. I already knew I wanted the first name Lydia, since I have always thought it was beautiful name and rolls off the tongue easily. So...Lydia Gastrell? Was there one? Damn! Yes, there was!
But, the last known recording of that name (at least according to the almighty Google Machine) was a church register from 1791, indicating that a widow, one Lydia Gastrell, married and became Lydia Gastrell Thomas. Yes! A name that had no recorded use since the 18th century? Oh, I could do that =D 
**the picture shows a house in Bath, UK, where the original Lydia Gastrell lived after remarrying in 1791. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lapham's Quarterly 

A cheat book for art/culture rubes like me...

So I really like Lapham's Quarterly, and if you aren't familiar with it, it's basically a big quarterly magazine that compiles a bunch of literature/art/essays/etc. on a particularly chosen topic. The topics are always something singular and yet very broad. For example, this quarter the subject is "Youth". 

Back in "the day" (God, I hate that phrase), you would see big quote books that would organize various quotes by subject. "Gee, I need a quote here about unrequited love so I can sound super smart and well read. I know! My Big Book O' Quotes!" Yeah, pretty much like that ;). Well, Lapham's does that for more than just quotes. A cheat book? Sure, it can be, but I love the focus because you can instantly get a few DOZEN perspectives on one particular topic in one volume. Nice. And if some may view it as one of those intimidating snob publications of the elite art world, well....that's fine. I'm sure the people who make it view themselves that way too. After all, I hear the founder used to work for the New Yorker (stick your nose up in the air now, LOL)
I saw this in this quarter's issue and liked it a lot. It's mixed media, entitled Boy by Ron Mueck, 1999. Since all I'm seeing is a picture, and I have not yet bothered to look up the actual work, I find that I'm not sure which is real. Is the room real, and the artist made a gigantic squatting boy...or is the boy real and the artist made a miniature sized room? I can't really tell from the photo. 
PS: If you are the type who loves to butcher magazines for art materials, especially collages, you can't get much better than this magazine. Of course, you'll be butchering a $16 book. Mmm.... =/ 

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Comfort Zone....

I can't overestimate the thrill, shock, wonder, fear, and all the other things I have felt since I started venturing into areas outside of my "comfort zone". It's hasn't been a long journey. Only the last year or so, I'll say. Talking to people with views and life styles completely outside my realm of personal experience, getting to know strange things that, quite frankly, make me feel like a ridiculous newbie at times...and a bigot at others. I ask questions--lots of questions--sometimes more than I should, because it's hard for me to remember that people with alternative lifestyles still have private lives, still have things they don't want to just share with a stranger. I have even met people who get angry and offended at the term "alternative lifestyle."

Damn. I feel like I can't even speak English any more. What's the right thing to say? Was that offensive? Sheesh! Sorry, guys. Truly. No offence intended. I'm just so damn curious, I can't help myself. You know who you are, ;) .

But I've learned that comfort zones can be good things, though. They really can. After all, if you aren't a little reticent about things, if you aren't just a little uncomfortable...doesn't that make you jaded? I sometimes wonder if people who have no restraints at all aren't bored. I think I would be.