MWF Seeking Woman With Gun

This week I’m working on the cover art for the sixth book of my series, and I’m wading through images that range from OMG to WTF and everything in between.

As you may have noticed, the visual theme for the Never Say Spy series is “woman with gun”.  Try searching that phrase on a stock photo site.  You won’t believe the range of results.  Apparently there’s an enormous need for stock photos of women from all walks of life holding firearms.

Brides, women in schoolgirl uniforms, soldiers, police officers, business women, rednecks, slutty cops in lingerie, bikini models in sky-high heels, punks, cowgirls, pregnant women, pioneers, spies, pirates, Cossacks, construction workers, Muslim women, duck hunters, and female SWAT personnel are just a few of the variations I’ve found.

Wardrobe choices range from leather, lace, fur, camo, denim, and spandex to more unusual garb like plastic wrap, tartan micro-minis, hard hats, headscarves, men’s pajama tops, parkas, sailor suits, a Napoleon uniform, metallic gold body paint, and nothing but a hat.

Clearly most of these women have never actually fired a gun, though it would be fun to watch them try using those grip positions.  And maybe I’m just a strait-laced old lady, but I’ve never felt the urge to shoot in the nude (or even wearing a nice conservative string bikini).  I prefer to keep my tender parts covered when there are hot brass cartridges flying around.  I guess I’m just a wimp.

Weapon choices vary wildly.  There are the usual assault rifles, semi-auto pistols, shotguns, revolvers, and air rifles, but bananas seem to be an extremely popular choice of weapon, too.  I wonder if the gun control advocates realize that these deadly weapons are readily available in every supermarket, stored within easy reach of children.  It’s shocking, I tell you.

If you’re looking for more unusual weapons, there are dangerous-looking women brandishing paintball guns, water pistols, fingers, hair dryers, tattoo guns, drills, cannons, gasoline nozzles, muskets, flintlocks, nerf guns, cameras, caulking guns, or a heavy-duty perforator.  If I ever write a thriller about construction workers, I’m gonna use the photo of the blonde with the hard hat and perforator.  That chick’s got muscles.

And… in all the thousands of photos retrieved by searching “woman with gun”, there was one picture of a cowed-looking young guy in a shirt and tie, holding a little-bitty gun and looking apologetic.  I’m not sure whether the photo was tagged wrong or whether they popped that one in there just for fun, but I got a good laugh out of it.

Which was nice, because I figured they owed me after making me look at a naked woman posing with a bleeding, severed pig’s head.  No matter what you need, there’s a stock photo out there for you.  Though if you need that one, please don’t tell me.  I’d rather sleep tonight.

But I really can’t complain.  There are worse ways to spend a day than looking at pictures on the internet while blasting my favourite tunes.

I’m off to work now…

What are you up to today?  Brandishing your banana?  Decapitating pigs?  Do tell.

I’m Losing It…


Motorcycle season is still a few months away, but I think it might be time to get out my boots and leathers anyway.  In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been referred to as “dear”, “little”, and “girl”.  I’m in serious danger of losing my badass self-image.

Note I said “self-image”.  In reality, I’m probably more good-ass than badass, but I’m a loyal and happy resident of the state of delusion.  I like it here.  I’m staying as long as I can.

My image crisis started in a restaurant in Parksville, BC.  The ten-year-old (okay, fine, maybe she was eighteen) waitress called me “dear”.  Repeatedly.  Just like the group of sweet little old ladies beside me.  Granted, I don’t know if they actually were sweet.  I couldn’t overhear their conversation, so maybe they were swearing like sailors and swapping stories of their latest sexual conquests.  I kinda hope so.

But the point is, she called me “dear”.

And just like Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect.  Later at the airport baggage carousel, I was waiting for my luggage when a guy pushed past and stood right in front of me.

Hey, buddy, am I fucking invisible?

I wistfully contemplated giving him a nice solid elbow strike to the back of the head, but I had a feeling my apparent invisibility wouldn’t fool the security cameras.

Then “little” and “girl” got thrown at me at the gym.  At 5’10” and 48 years old, neither of those words have applied to me for a very long time.  I’m willing to concede that “little” might have been a comparative term since it was used by my muay thai instructor, who’s over six feet of muscle.  It wasn’t like I was going to argue with him.

But then I was waiting behind a couple of guys at the security gate to the change rooms, and one turned to the other and said, “Let the girl go first.”

I glanced around just to be sure, but I was the only female in the vicinity.  What the hell was that?  “The girl”?  Reminded me of the “good” old days, when the boss used to say, “I’ll have my girl do it.”

Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily offended by being called a girl.  In fact, one of my most treasured compliments was one I overheard a couple of years ago when I was at a show & shine (outdoor classic car show, for those who aren’t car nuts).  I was checking out a 1970 Challenger with the 426 big-block when I overheard a guy behind me:  “There’s a girl over by the car that just makes you wanna…”  His more politically correct companion interrupted with the words, “…go over and say hello.”

I checked surreptitiously, but again, I was the only female in the vicinity.  At 46, I took it as a high compliment, cheerfully ignoring the possibility that I might have misinterpreted his sentence structure and it was actually the car that made him wanna.  Hey, I don’t judge.  There were lots of cars there that made me wanna.

But I digress.  My point is, short of starting to spew f-bombs publicly (and as I mentioned before, I’m too Canadian to do that), I need to find a way to polish up my badass image.

Wonder if the gym’s dress code allows boots and leathers?

That Ain’t Funny

I recently followed a link on one of the blogs I read regularly.  The blogger is normally a very funny guy.  The link was to a site containing an extensive catalogue of sex acts (which was clearly stated in his post – no surprises there).  I’m hoping the site was meant to be funny.

As a general rule, I can laugh at just about anything, including accidental flashers, farts in the car, and naked men dangling (snicker) outside my hotel window.  I clicked through to the site knowing that it would contain adult content, and I fully expected that I’d find some things that were not, um, up my alley.

But a large percentage of the acts included punching and/or kicking a female partner, breaking bones, non-consensual acts (which we old-fashioned types still refer to as “rape”), and murder.

Yeah, really.  Gang-rape her and chuck her in the dumpster when you’re done.  Or smash her head against the wall until her brains smear all over it.  Their words, not mine.  “Bitch” and “whore” were the words of choice when referring to a female partner.  And apparently one method of birth control is to smash her pelvis with a hammer.  “By the time she’s finished at the hospital, she probably won’t get pregnant anyway.”

Some of the acts came with the endorsement, “This one’s really fun”.  Like this one:  Punch her in the eye and kick her in the shin hard enough to break it.  Then she’ll look like a pirate with an eye patch and a peg-leg.

Wait, why am I not laughing?

I didn’t read the entire site.  Maybe it got funnier.  Or maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere and missed the humour.

I didn’t know how to react.  I expected ripe language and adult content.  But for me, this site stepped over the line.  Hell, who am I kidding?  This site launched itself so far over the line, it achieved low-earth orbit.

I went back to the blog again and read the comments, wondering if anyone had reacted negatively.  No.  Comments from both male and female readers, none of whom apparently had any problem with the link.

I don’t know what to do.

I know that my blog may offend some people.  I can be pretty vulgar.  I assume that people who don’t like my style will simply go away and never come back.  Nobody’s forcing them to read this.

So now that I find myself offended by a site, is it “my fault” for reading it?  It is hypocritical to comment on his blog about it?  Should I just shut up and go away?

Or should I go whole-hog and report the site as hate-mongering and inciting criminal acts of violence against women?  I’m sure the site owner(s) would insist it’s meant to be funny and I’m clearly some tight-assed do-gooder who can’t take a joke.  Free speech and all.  But where do you draw the line?

What would you do?

How Do I “Like” Thee?

Last week’s post was based on some interesting conversations about “appreciating” people besides one’s significant other.  That got me thinking, which is usually dangerous.

A few days ago, I was at the gym, surreptitiously ogling the magnificent upper body development of a couple of half-naked guys.  And no, I’m not going to tell you where I work out.  That’s my eye-candy.  I don’t share well.

The point is, I enjoyed looking, and I wasn’t the least bit interested in doing anything else.  But it made me wonder:  would they want to know I was appreciating them?

If the situation was reversed, I’d like to know.  Then again, I’m at the time of my life when being appreciated for anything pretty much makes my day.  (You:  “That’s an unusually-shaped freckle.”  Me:  “Thank you!”  *beams*)

I don’t want to go back to the days when we lived with the fact that we’d get groped and leered at and propositioned wherever we went.  I’m not talking about appreciating people to the point where you sidle up to them and lovingly run your sweaty tongue down their neck.  I’m pretty sure that kind of thing needs to be restricted to your significant other.  Preferably in private.  ‘Cause, y’know, the rest of us don’t really want to see that.

But how about a no-harm, no-foul code word that just means “I appreciate you”?  The equivalent of a “Like” button, minus the contact with sweaty anatomical bits.

I’m not just talking about appreciating members of the opposite sex, either.  I’m talking about appreciating anyone you find attractive, physically or otherwise.  Personally, when I notice an attractive person of any age or gender, my brain says, “Nice!”

I realize that this is not particularly eloquent, but it’s versatile.  It can be applied with equal appropriateness to the old lady who smiles at me with joy written in every wrinkle, and the hot hunk in his well-filled jeans.  Though in the latter case, I find that extra vowels and/or syllables may get added.  “Niiiiiice!”  And sometimes, “Ni-yi-yi-yi-yice!!”  But that might just be me. And I usually remember to use my inside voice.

How would it feel if you were out getting groceries one day, and a total stranger walked up to you, smiled, and said “Like!”  And then walked away.  No innuendos, no pressure, no lingering drool.  Just simple, innocent appreciation.

True, you wouldn’t know whether you were being appreciated for your face, your shoes, your kindness in allowing them to precede you through the lineup, or the fact that they’ve never before seen a person who’s capable of causing a landslide of produce by removing a single apple.  But it wouldn’t matter.  Just like Facebook, you don’t know exactly why you’re being “Liked”, but it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling anyway.

I realize this is a ridiculously naive and possibly dangerous idea.  I know that some people wouldn’t appreciate being “Liked”, no matter how innocent it might be.  And I know there are far too many people out there with no sense of appropriateness or boundaries, so it couldn’t possibly work.

But… I kinda wish it could.

What do you think?  Would you like to be “Liked”?

Better Left Unanalyzed

I’ve just been reading a fascinating dialogue between Charles Gulotta at Mostly Bright Ideas (Better Left Unsaid, Part 1), and Priya at Partial View (Better Left Unsaid, Part 2).  Go and read both posts, along with all the comments.  It’s well worth it.  I’ll wait.

Now that you’re back, here’s my two cents worth. 

I was intrigued by the fact that both Priya and Charles seem to use the words “attraction” and “appreciation” interchangeably.  I think there’s a fundamental difference between the two.  Appreciation is window-shopping.  It’s harmless, enjoyable, and free.  Attraction is walking into the store to buy.  Attraction can cost you big. 

It doesn’t bother me a bit if my husband appreciates, or is attracted to, another woman, celebrity or otherwise.  My husband and I are both geeks, so our minds work a little differently than the rest of the world. 

Geeks believe that all issues can be resolved using a flowchart.  Look below for my take on the whole “Better Left Unsaid” discussion, if you dare.

WARNING:  Viewer discretion is advised.  This flowchart reveals the horrifying inner workings of the geek mind.  May cause warping, distension, or catastrophic failure of normal brains. 

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Flash Fiction: Freedom, Too

This is the companion piece for “Freedom”.  For those folks who wanted to know more about Beth, here you go. 

This is the first time I’ve intentionally written a story where the readers already know the ending, but what the heck, if George Lucas can do it, so can I.

All constructive criticism welcomed and appreciated, as always.

Freedom, Too

She gazes up at the giant, dripping trees and draws in a deep breath of pure joy and spicy forest scent. 

Thanks, Dave.

He’s the one who got her here.  She’s never hitchhiked before, but a car would have been too easy to trace.  She knows people will interfere if they find her.  They all want something from you.  Except Dave.

She walks slowly through the soggy undergrowth, her feet squishing in the mud.  She’s soaked to the skin, and her body quivers uncontrollably.  She smiles, accepting the sensation without judging it. 

She hasn’t spoken to another person in days, but she can hear the busy traffic on the highway.  She carefully dodges a couple of hikers, staying out of sight.

Her mind ticks over the checklist again.  She set up the out-of-office notification on the home and work emails before she left.  Watered the plants, left a cheque for the cleaning lady, paid all the bills. 

She struggles up a rise and stops, her entire being possessed by delight. 

A long vista of wind-blown, rain-swept coast.  Silver mist hanging in the tops of the trees.  The briny ocean smell mingles with the peppery scent of cedar.  She breathes open-mouthed, tasting the air, savouring it with all her senses.

She’s probably seen dozens of views like this since she arrived, but each one is a precious gift.

Thanks, Dave.

She’s done everything, now.  Got the promotions, the respect, the money.  Had the loving husband, mourned his early death, got comfortable living on her own again.  Did the charity volunteer work, nursed her parents until the last, helped her friends through sick kids and cancer and divorce.

They can always count on Beth.  She always gives them what they need, even when it feels like she’s sucked dry.  Even when she has nothing left to give.

She’s pushing fifty now, and this is the last thing in the bucket list.  She’s not much of a traveller, but she’s always wanted to see the Oregon coast.

When she set out, she hadn’t really believed she’d get here, but she didn’t know Dave then.

She smiles at the memory of his steady eyes and his plain, honest face.  He let her ride without questions, never intruded on her privacy.  He didn’t expect anything from her, didn’t even ask.  Not for her attention, not for the details of her life, certainly not for her body.

She chuckles softly, remembering the stunned “Who, me?” expression on his face when she’d offered.

A curtain of rain sweeps across the view, and she turns to stumble down the slope again.  Vividly green ferns drip liquid diamonds.  Invisible traffic hisses on the wet highway.

She’s a little shocked that she offered.  She’s never been easy.  Since her husband died, there was only one guy, one time.  She didn’t return his calls afterwards.  She doesn’t need any more attachments.  They all want something from you. 

She’s finished giving.

The wind whistles through the pines and looses a deluge of cold silver.  She feels the icy droplets soaking through her long hair, dribbling down her neck.  Her body shudders, but she stands smiling, cherishing the sound of the sibilant song.

The trickles on her scalp remind her of Dave’s fingers stroking through her hair. 

“Beautiful,” he whispers.

She blinks, and Dave is gone.  She returns to the checklist.  All the loose ends tied up.  No husband, no kids, parents long dead, friends all doing fine.  Everyone’s needs fulfilled.  She’s finished there.

The university is going to offer her a Senior Fellow position.  There’s a sweet, patient man she’s rebuffed repeatedly; a stray cat that’s been hanging around; the next big charity fundraiser.  Another whole set of others’ needs, poised to bind her again in the delicate, merciless chains of love and duty.

But this freedom is just for her.  Pure selfishness.

A pine cone thumps down beside her, dislodged by the wind.  Like Newton’s apple, it brings inspiration.  She sits under the tree and pulls out the journal she brought in case this trip delivered some profound insight.

She laughs out loud, her unused voice trembling on the mist.  The journal is blank. 

She rips out a page and finds her pen.

“Stuff like this doesn’t happen to guys like me.”  Dave’s tired eyes, full of wonder.

She kisses him and whispers, “Sometimes it does.”  She gives herself gladly, because he doesn’t ask or expect. 

He understands the burden of others’ needs.  He sends every spare dollar to his estranged college-age kids and his ex-wife, still loves them with fierce, bewildered devotion. 

They said he wasn’t there for them.  But he’s been there for them all these years, every hour of every long, aching day on the road, every hour of tossing and turning alone at night in cheap hotels.

He was there for Beth, too.  Not knowing why this was so important to her, but doing what he could to help her anyway.

Her old will is tucked away at home, leaving everything to the charities she’s supported all her life.  Always giving.  But the faceless charities seem cold and distant.

Maybe she can give Dave some freedom, too.

She dumps her shampoo bottles out of the plastic bag and carefully folds the handwritten will into it.  Slips it inside her shirt, next to her heart.

She looks up at the underside of the fern and studies the slow progress of the water droplet down its stem.  When did she lie down? 

The raindrops are millions of perfect crystal spheres.  Her breath makes a thinning plume of vapour in the air, but the rain on her face feels warm.

Her shivering stills as the slow warmth envelops her body.  So this is hypothermia.  It’s so comfortable.  Comforting.  Her thoughts spiral lightly through the misty air. 

Thanks, Dave.  Blessings.

Now the rain is falling up, not down. 

She’s free.

Too Girly For Comfort

Roni Loren just posted “Battling the Romance Novel Stigma”.  It made me uncomfortable.

It’s best to read the whole thing, but if you’re short on time, here are the parts that rattled my comfort cage:

“…women often are embarrassed to admit it’s a romance or apologize in some way when they admit it.”

“Why are we made to feel that if we’re reading romance we’re something less than – less classy, less educated, less evolved? Or even worse, that something must be wrong with us because we can’t find a real man and instead look for them in books.”

I just hate the fact that those attitudes are real.  I tried about six times to write a comment on her blog, and each time I flailed. 

I’m not a romance reader.  I read romance novels for about six months when I was a young teenager.  I grew up on a farm in the back of beyond, so the tiny library in a town twenty miles away was my only source.  Let’s just say that their selection was limited.  After a couple dozen, even my thirteen-year-old mind identified the formula.  I got bored.  End of reading romance. 

Not to mention the fact that there was no sex in them whatsoever.  Boring.  I started reading fine literature like Stand On It:  A Novel by Stroker Ace instead.  Which probably explains a lot.

Back to the point.  I’ve always been a tomboy.  If I have a choice between listening to somebody discuss relationships or cars, I’ll choose cars every time.  I assumed that my discomfort with the romance genre was due to the fact that I’m not very girly in the first place.

But it bothers the hell out of me to think that women who do enjoy reading romance would feel embarrassed to admit it. 

Why should they?

And yet…  I was reading a novel at the airport.  It was an urban fantasy, but the cover art showed a couple locked in a passionate embrace.  And yeah, I kinda hid the cover.

Because… because… here’s where I start to struggle.  Why would I be embarrassed?  Because somebody might think I’m reading a romance.  Okay, so what the hell is so bad about that?

Well, somebody might think I’m girly.

Which is bad, why?



I’m a child of the sixties.  Back then, women were fighting for equality.  A lot of women tried to act more like men in an effort to prove that we deserve equal respect.  Maybe there’s some of that in there.  Men don’t read romance novels.  Ergo, reading romance novels is a sign of weakness.

Which, of course, is pure bullshit.

But it may be part of our collective psyche. 

Why should we apologize for our gender?  “Girly” is used as an epithet.  You don’t see guys sheepishly hiding the covers of their books and mumbling, “Oh, I’m just reading some of that silly manly stuff.”

Now, I’m really wondering. 

Is there a particular demographic that’s embarrassed about reading romance?  Maybe my generation is still dealing with the last of those old attitudes.  But what about our teenagers and twenty-somethings?  Are they embarrassed to be girly?  If they are, we as a society are doing something very wrong.

I guess I’m upset because I was getting complacent.  We’ve come so far, both legally and socially, in my lifetime.  I really thought we were getting there. 

Somebody please help me out here.  Is it only my generation that’s embarrassed to be girly (or only me)?  Is it a sign that we’ve become too complacent and we’re actually losing ground on equality?  Does it just mean that we’re not quite there yet?

Or am I making too much of this?