Friday, April 29, 2011

The Perfect Way To Get To Know Someone

 Hey all,

It's Friday and you know what that means.  I have another great author for you to get to know.  Today's guest is Jessica Freely, a fellow Loose Id Author who writes some really great M/M books.  Here's a little about her...

Jessica Freely has been writing and publishing genre fiction under a variety of names for over fifteen years, but it wasn’t until she stumbled upon a stash of Jay and Silent Bob fanfiction that she found her true calling: male/male romance. She hasn’t looked back since.

With such great books such as Virgin, Instinct, The Ice Prince and the Eppie nominated Rust Belt, she delights her readers with hot, tender romance that always leaves you wishing for more. 

I've read several of her books and her characters are emotion driven and well rounded so you wind up living and breathing what they're going through.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys a good M/M romance, especially those who enjoy a little paranormal or fantasy with their reading.

So please help me in welcoming Jessica to CJ's Living Dreams...


Thanks for having me on your blog, CJ! And big thanks to CJ's readers for stopping by. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have.

When I started thinking about what to write for this, I was a little bit stumped. As an author and a writing instructor, there's not a lot I do in a day that doesn't involve writing somehow. Yet I really like the idea of this blog as a place for authors to share ourselves as people, beyond the next title we're marketing.

So to refresh my memory that I have a life beyond the written word, I started browsing through my photos file. I came across this picture and I thought, well, what better way to get to know someone than to meet their family?

The woman on the far left is my great-grandmother, Johanna Heysemann Marks. She was born in the mid-1800s in a little town near the Polish border called Flatow. There is very little left of Flatow now, after two world wars. Mostly fields and just a handful of houses.

Johanna was deaf and lived with her brother, a wealthy vintner -- until the brother got married and it was time for Johanna to move out of the house. A marriage was arranged for her overseas in America. As the family story goes, there were two brothers who were prospective husbands -- one was responsible and prosperous, the other was a gambler. Those acting on Johanna's behalf believed they had secured Wealthy and Prosperous for her, but when she arrived in Detroit, she discovered that there had been some sort of mix up, and she'd been saddled with Gambler instead.

They settled in the Gratiot Ave. area of Detroit, at that time heavily populated by German immigrants. When Gambler died, he left Johanna with four children and no money. Because she was deaf, she never learned to speak English.

So there she was, in a foreign land where she did not speak the language, with no income and four children to feed. She had to do something, so she took the children's wagon to a wholesaler's warehouse down the street. Since this was the Gratiot neighborhood, the people there spoke German. She told them that if they would let her take some of their goods -- soap, twine, sugar, flour, etc. -- and sell them out of her wagon, she would repay them their cost, plus a percentage, and keep the rest of the markup for herself.

They agreed, and Johanna went into business. She parlayed that wagon full of sundries into a brick and mortar general store with which she supported her family for years to come.

It wasn't until I was in my thirties that I learned from a cousin that Johanna was Jewish. There had always been a family story about how when my grandfather came to call on my grandmother, Johanna chased him down the street with a broom. The explanation given was that it was because he was a mechanic, which never made a lot of sense to me. However, if they were Jewish, and he was a Gentile, then it makes a lot more sense. Although really, just look at him. Would you want him around your daughter? He looks like a turn of the century James Bond. And by the way, neither of the women in that photo is my grandmother. I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, Grandma converted to Lutheran when she married Grandpa, and my mother, who endured some appallingly anti-semitic remarks from college classmates at the University of Michigan during World War II, never told my father or us kids about her Jewish heritage. (Below are my mom and dad, just before their marriage.)

The great irony of it all is that they settled and raised us kids in Oak Park, a suburb of Detroit that was predominately Jewish up until very recently. As a kid during the late sixties and seventies, I was often the only Gentile among my friends -- except I wasn't. According to Hebrew tradition, which follows the female line, I'm Jewish.

It was hard on my mom when the word got out. She'd kept that secret for so long, she was certain everything would fall apart once people knew. Of course nothing of the kind took place, and eventually she saw that, and I'm grateful that before she passed away she had the opportunity to know that it was safe for her to be all of who she really was.

It's popular nowadays to think of ourselves purely as individuals -- sole captains of our destiny. But the truth is, the lives of our ancestors echo in everything we do. And I'm good with that.

Thanks for reading!


A great blog and it made me look back at my own family and the wonderful things I've gotten from them.  We've got a horse thief and a Native American shaman in my background along with a few others we don't talk about in polite company.   But Jessica is right.  They are a part of us and should be celebrated.  I know I smiled when I read her blog and it made me give my mama a call just to say hi.

Learn more about Jessica Freely by going to her website and blog at

I'll see you next week!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Is it About A Bad Mood?

I was in a bad mood the other day.  Really.  I had my grump on like no one's business.  It wasn't something personal...not this time.  A moron jerkface asshole had hurt someone I loved and I was furious with him for doing it.  And, since I'm not someone who takes things like this rationally, I spent the next six hours thinking of slow and painful ways for this man to die.

Does that make me a bad person?  Or a loyal one?  I wonder.

I can honestly say if the moron jerkface asshole in question had passed by me in the street I would have been tempted to push him if front of an oncoming bus.  And I might have even smiled at the tire tracks on his face.

After a while I couldn't just stomp around the apartment anymore snapping out curses and planning my enemy's demise.  I need to breath and walk and maybe snarl a little bit more.

Bad idea.  Because as I may have mentioned once or twice (or a hundred) times in the past, some of the people over here are just plain rude.  And the last thing I wanted to deal with in the middle of my mad were rude people.  Talk about tossing gasoline on a blazing fire.

Let's just say the afternoon progressed from bad to worse.  I stomped.  I growled.  I glared.  But if you'll remember from a previous blog, since I'm mostly invisible to these people, (being a Westerner and all) at first they didn't even notice.  Well, I can tell you, when someone is in the middle of a grump, NOT being noticed is the worse thing that can happen.

The blazing fire was now a towering inferno.

Down the street I strode, my fury like a cloud of deadly wasps hovering around me.  Those who didn't use proper sidewalk etiquette (which these people don't seem to understand in the first place and seriously, how hard is it when you're walking two abreast to drop behind your partner for the split second another person has to pass you?) and move out of my way were mowed down like chattering little toy figures.  Cab drivers squealed to a stop, and their tires went flat in horror, foodcart vendors huddled behind their stands and prayed to the gods that I would pass by and leave them unscathed.  I tell you, by the time I was in full grump mode, even the dogs of Macau tucked their tails between their legs and ran the other way.

Damn, it was satisfying.

After several hours of scaring the residents of the city, my anger, while not gone, was at least manageable.  The decision on how to deal with the moron jerkface asshole had been made (and I promise you, that bus would be preferable to what I'm going to do to him), I'd walked at least a gazillion calories off, not counting those that rage burned off all on it's on, and for the first time--and this was the best part--I wasn't invisible any more.

Everyone knew who I was.

Now as I walked down the street, it was like the parting of the red sea.  Everyone saw me coming and either plastered themselves up against the building, stepped off into the street, or, as in the case of one small child (and I kinda sorta regret this part...but not much), ran screaming into her mother's arms.

When I do a grump, it's a good one.

And then I wondered...  Did I pass my bad mood on to anyone else?  Are grumps transferable?  Will that food vendor dump a bowl of ramen on some customers head?  Will that tiny little girl go home and throw a tantrum because she had the misfortune to see me at my crankiest?  Do I even care?

Now, thirty-six hours later, I have to say I don't think so.  I loved my grump.  It did exactly what I needed it to do.  Blew all the cobwebs out of my brain with the strength of it's rage.  And helped me think clearer.  Just like a good mad is supposed to.  So I can't be upset I gave in to my bad mood.

Besides...I was tired of being invisible anyway!

See you next time!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams


Friday, April 22, 2011

Arranged Marriages In India

Hey all,

It's Friday and I'm back up and running with by Friday Guest Bloggers.  Today's author is another fellow TMDRA blogger and once I read her blog I was so please to have her here.  Here is a little bit about this awesome author.

R. ANN SIRACUSA is involved in many activities, but her two favorite are traveling the world and writing fiction.  This talented author combines those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.

After receiving a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, she traveled to Italy.  There she worked in Rome for an Italian architecture and urban planning firm and married the Sicilian policeman she met at the Fountain of Love on her first day there.  When she and her husband returned to the United States, they settled down to career and family.  But the travel bug never left her.  While working for over thirty years in her chosen career, she made time to travel and began to write fiction that incorporated many of her experiences and observations.

Today, she is retired, lives in San Diego, California, and writes full time (which is as many hours as an Italian husband, three grown children, and eight grandchildren will allow on any given day).  She has been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and recently served two terms as Co-president of the San Diego RWA Chapter.  Her first novel was published in 2008, and since then Sapphire Blue Publishing has released seven more works.

Shall we see what she has to tell us about her travels?  Please join me in welcoming her to my blog...


I love to travel almost as much as I love to write, and I’ve managed to combine those two passions into writing novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue and foreign cultures, and make them laugh. In 2009, I traveled to India’s Golden Triangle, the cities of Jaipur, Delhi, and Agra, located in the heart of northern India. India is a large country with a population of 1.1 billion people and has an amazing variety of language, culture, and tradition.

When I travel, I’m always looking for something so unique about the country that only certain stories could happen there or for pieces of information about the culture that spark a story idea. When our Indian guide, Amit, mentioned that, even today, ninety percent of Indian marriages are arranged by the families, I was surprised and interested.

While readers and writers of historical romances are familiar with the arranged marriage scenario, contemporary romance novels generally deal with two people falling in love. What kinds of situations could occur in contemporary India where most marriages [I can’t vouch for the ninety percent figure] are still arranged even though women are out there getting educations and working in the work force?

In India today, there is a difference in the terminology used. “Wedding alliances” are arranged marriages brought about by parties other than the bride and groom. If the partners choose each other, the term is “Love Marriage.” “Love marriages” are more common in the big cities and urbanized parts of India.

Historically, because the religious caste system didn’t allow interaction between men and women, an arranged marriage was the only option. All the references I could find indicated that even today the instance of arranged marriages is very high [no percentages given], but―there’s always a but in there somewhere―the criteria have changed. More and more frequently the preferences of the bride and groom are taken into account in the negotiations. However, marriage is still considered a marriage of families rather than a liaison between two individuals.

Who actually does the negotiating depends on the community and the family. Sometimes it is the parents, but may also be uncles, aunts, or other older relatives. At times, an official matchmaker is called in, particularly when there are complications like a less attractive woman, a divorcee [divorced women are still treated as social outcasts], or previously broken engagements. [While the references didn’t mention gender, I assume these sources mean women who have broken engagements, not men, but I don’t know for sure.] Matchmakers may be individuals or businesses, perhaps the Indian equivalent of a dating service or
The Process

While the steps in arranging a marriage differ from one community to the next, they are basically the following:

• Announcement. The guardians of the bride or groom make it known publically they are seeking an alliance. The announcement is usually triggered by another event such as graduation from college, getting a job, or the marriage of an elder sibling.

• Horoscope Matching. This is big. Interested parties have to be astrologically compatible. The wedding date is part of this. The families don’t just choose a date. A muhurta, or auspicious moment, is chosen based on the time of the year and the horoscopes of the bride and groom. Sometimes the wedding has to be planned for nearly a year in the future, while sometimes the auspicious moment is within the month. Some sources say astrological compatibility is often used to reject an offer.

• Background Check and Interview. Well, I guess marriage is a little like getting a job. The families exchange photos or videos. If that pans out, they may arrange an interview, or darshan, between the couple with other family members present. Often the bride and groom have met only two or three times before the marriage. The process also includes a background check including bad habits such as smoking, drinking, drugs, as well as other issues like anger management. That one blew me away. The background checks are done through friends, relatives and sometimes by more modern means like record checks and PIs.

• Contract Negotiations. The dowry and the logistics of the marriage are negotiated by the families.

• Engagement. Once everything is settled, the engagement is announced. The “Eating of the sweets” marks the end of the negotiations, followed by gift exchanges between bride and groom begin. The engagement period and the actual wedding are whole topics unto themselves. Indian weddings are generally as elaborate and expensive as the family can afford within their economic range.

I also found in my research that divorce rates in India are beginning to rise, particularly in the new middle class and among working [empowered] women with independent incomes. That tells us something, doesn’t it?

An interesting case in point. A young woman originally from Sri Lanka, who worked for me in my prior career, had been in the United States for at least ten years and graduated from UCLA. She was a professional woman making good money. Upon returning from one of her periodic trips to Sri Lanka to visit her mother, she announced she’d gotten married. Apparently, her mother [concerned regarding her marital status] had hired a matchmaker who identified several eligible men. The mother had interviewed them, picked three she liked, and insisted her daughter meet them when she came to visit.

My employee [and friend] said she “kind of liked one of them,” and so they were married. Frankly, I was shocked that after her integration into American culture she would marry a man she’d met only once. It took three years for her to get a visa for her husband to come to the US. When he did, they had a child and not long after that she divorced him. When I asked her why, after all the brouhaha, she said he treated as he would treat a Sri Lankan woman, and she didn’t like it.
Well, duh! Bite my tongue. At least I didn’t say it aloud.

I’d love to hear comments from women knowledgeable about this topic. I’m dependent on what I was told in India, one Indian acquaintance and research on the Internet. Personal stories always offer new insights. What one reads and hears isn’t always correct, and usually leaves out some important facts or mitigating circumstances.

The high point of the trip to India was a visit to the Taj Mahal, one of the eight man-made wonders of the world. Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his dear wife and Queen, Mumtaz Mahal. Part of the wonder and allure of the Taj Mahal is the beautiful love story behind its construction.

Shah Jahan, whose real name was Shahab-ud-din and known as Prince Khurram before ascending to the throne in 1628, was the son of Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India. At the age of fourteen, he met and fell in love with Arjumand Banu, later named Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess of fifteen [born April 6, 1593]

After meeting her, Shah Jahan told his father he wanted to marry her. Five years later, they married. [I assume this was an “arranged marriage” but was definitely a “love marriage” also.] When Shah Jahan became the Emperor in the year 1628, he entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal and gave her the title of Mumtaz Mahal, "Jewel of the Palace". Shah Jahan had other wives also, but, Mumtaz Mahal was his favorite and even traveled with him on military campaigns.

In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she became ill and died due to complications. It is said that Shah Mahal was so heart-broken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years, and eventually undertook the task of constructing an unsurpassed monument to honor the memory of his beloved wife. The monument, completed in 1648, took 22 years and the labor of 22,000 workers to construct. It cost 32 Million Rupees.

I’ve used my travel experiences in writing a humorous romantic suspense series entitled The Tour Director Extraordinaire Series, published by Sapphire Blue Publishing. The setting of the latest full-length novel in the series, Destruction Of The Great Wall, is based on my travels in China.

For more, visit me at my website:


Sounds awesome, doesn't it.  Like me, she uses her travels to make her stories exotic and delicious.  Give some of them a try and see what it's all about.

And if you're looking for an exotic story, don't forget my FREE READ, Hustle into Love.  It's set in Macau, an island nation off the southern coast of China.  It's the Las Vegas of the East and the story will literally blow you away.

I'll be back next week with whatever catches my fancy!

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Monday, April 18, 2011

Not a U Turn, but More of a Kick in the Butt

Hey all,

So, as promised, I'm back with some news that sorta relates to what I was talking about a month or so back.  Remember the U turn?  Well, losing my online capabilities for the last few weeks wasn't a U turn, but more like a kick in the butt.

What do I mean?  Well, not being able to spend the time online was horrible in a lot of ways.  I missed my friends and fans, I wasn't able to do research when I needed to and I couldn't keep up with my online responsibilities like promoing, lists, emails and blogs.

As the days went by, I funneled that frustration into other avenues.  Instead of spending hours on emails and fan mail, I was able to dream out four new novels.

Instead of fussing on my blogs, I was able to create worlds and characters that not only made me take a second look, but made me want to stay around for more.

And instead of worrying about all the advertising, promoing and other "duties" of an author, I was able to do what an author is supposed to do.


No big deal, right?

Wrong!!!!!  As I spent my days doing what I loved, I realized how much I'd gotten away from it.  Don't get me wrong, some of that other stuff is important too, but it should NEVER be more important than the writing itself and somehow I'd forgotten that one salient fact.

I won't forget again.

So, things are going to be a bit different.  I'm not sure of all the deets yet, but instead of spending hours online, and doing all the promoing I was doing, I'll be doing what I really want to do.

Create those worlds, characters and romance that you all want me to.

I may not be around as much, but the trade off--better stories and a happier CJ will be worth it.

In the next couple weeks I'll be reworking this blog schedule as well as some of my other duties.  You may not see me around as you used to, but I'll be here still.

And hopefully it won't take another earthquake to make me understand how lucky I am to be doing the one thing I've always wanted to do. 

Hugs and I'll see you next time,

CJ England

Follow Your Dreams

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Quick Announcement

Hey all,

I'm sorry it's been awhile.  I've been unable to go online due to what was going on over here in Asia, but I'll be back on Monday with a short blog and some news, so make sure you check it out!


 CJ England

Follow Your Dreams