Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How authors can use Pinterest to promote themselves

I have a guest blogger today who is going to talk about how authors can use Pinterest as another promotional tool to help get their name out there. Let me introduce you to Heather Green. She is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about rn degrees online
Hi everyone,
Pinterest has quickly become one of the largest social networks, and marketers are tapping into its vast potential to promote their brands, products, and services. In less than two years, the site hit 11.7 million users and became the fastest site in history to surpass the 10 million visitor mark. It is responsible for driving more referral traffic than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+ combined.
Writers can tap into the potential that the site offers to market their works and to connect with their readers. If you're new to the site, or haven't figured out how to use it beyond bookmarking some interesting cookie recipes, here are a few ideas for how you can use Pinterest to promote yourself as an author:

Create Character Boards
The boards you create on Pinterest are very similar to the mood boards or inspiration boards you can create while brainstorming or trying to drive the creative process. You can share your own creative process or give readers more insights into your work by creating character boards. You might share your characters favorite things like foods, movies and music, or you might share places where your character lives or works.

You can even invite readers to pin items to your character boards to share what they imagine for the character. This allows readers to become more engaged, and it gives you valuable feedback about how readers are connecting with your work.
Share Places Featured in Your Books
Some books create whole new worlds. Others are rooted firmly in a place. Help bring the setting of your novel to life for your readers by creating boards that share the places featured in your books. You can include cities or countries that serve as the backdrop, or you can share restaurants, theaters, or other places that your characters frequent in the story.
If the places in your book are all made up, create a board that shares the inspiration for those places or that shares places similar to what you had imagined.
Showcase Your Inspiration
Authors find inspiration in the strangest places. Sometimes it's a bit of music. Sometimes it's a picture. And sometimes it's a bit of someone else's writing. Share the things that inspire you in your writing or that inspired you for this particular novel. Create a board that shows off your favorite lyrics or art or other writers.
Besides helping readers connect to you by sharing your creative process, you'll also create a board that may serve to inspire you again when you are feeling a bit blocked by the blank page.
Create a Cover Album
Help introduce yourself to new readers by creating an album of your novel covers, with each pin linked to information about the book either on your blog or on Amazon. If your works have been printed more than once, you can highlight your favorite covers, or you can show the history of covers and share your thoughts on the changes.
Your current readers will enjoy reminiscing over past books that they have loved, and new readers will learn more about your work.
Share Details for Your Book Tour
Pinterest is a great way to promote a book tour as you need only create a board with pins for each of the cities you will visit. Include notes about where you'll be, and make sure you link your pins to more information about the tour or about your book. You can add optional pins with information about the city where you'll be.
Pinterest offers writers a great way to connect with readers and to promote their works. These are just a few ideas that authors have been able to use to promote their works on the site, but there are many more possibilities with just a little creative thinking.
Do you use Pinterest to promote your work? Share your strategies for success in the comments!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book review: Alligators Overhead by C. Lee McKenzie

Happy weekend, all. I am having a very lazy one so far. I watched four back-to-back movies with my kiddo today. My eyes are about to roll back in my head. That's what weekends are for, right?

Today, I'll review Alligators Overhead by C. Lee McKenzie. I stumbled upon it while I was clicking around the Bookblogs site, which led me to the author's facebook page and straight into the book's link on Amazon. The synopsis intrigued me, so here I am.

Synopsis: Alligators, witches and a spooky mansion aren't your average neighbors unless you live at the edge of the Ornofree swamp in the backwater town of Hadleyville. The town’s bad boy, Pete Riley, may only be twelve, but he’s up to his eyeballs in big trouble, and this time he isn’t the cause. This time the trouble arrives when a legendary hundred-year-old mansion, materializes next door and the Ornofree alligators declare war to save their swamp from bulldozers. Things only get worse when Pete’s guardian aunt and several of her close friends vanish while trying to restore order using outdated witchcraft. Now Pete must find his aunt and stop the war. He might stand a chance if his one friend, Weasel, sticks with him, but even then, they may not have what it takes.

I have so many books to read and review. When I woke up this morning, I chose this one because I was in a YA reading mood. I downloaded it for fun last week after seeing the offer on the author's facebook page. I read this book in six hours. It was an absolutely adorable story and lots of fun. 

Pete Riley, the young bad boy of Hadleyville, stumbles upon an unbelievable find one day when he bolted to his usual meeting spot, an empty lot next door to his aunt's house (where he's lived since the death of his parents), to meet his buddy Wilbur, a.k.a. Weasel. The whole story revolves around this boy going from troublemaker to responsible kid ... with powers. He soon finds out his aunt is a witch and he's a warlock with slowly developing powers. The best-known ladies of Hadlyville were also a clan of witches. They all had to band together to save the swamp lands and the alligators.

I must say, I always like when twists are added rather than authors writing about these common topics such as witches and magic in the same-old-same-old manner. McKenzie used alligators instead of cats, which are the animal most-commonly associated with witches. She gave the plot a meaningful "save the animals" theme, a heartwarming touch and make a scary animal like an alligator lovable. The story had a lot of adventure, from start to finish. Just enough spooky for me with the boys daring to enter the scary bewitched mansion and sneaking around at night with the mystical creatures, plotting to save the swamp. The characters were cute and very likeable. Wilber was my favorite character. He added some humor and silliness to the story with his scaredy-cat persona, love of over eating and reading. The dialogue was well written and believable; that's something I always notice early on.

I wish I had learned more about Wilbur and his family since he was my favorite character. He just seemed like a kid no one kept track of. The end was happy and wonderful, no doubt, but I had gotten so accustomed to the action scenes, I found myself expecting a sharper ending. All-in-all, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it! It gets my 4-star rating.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Self-published authors - Upward bound

Greetings, all!

Hope you're all fully recovered from turkey and Black Friday shopping. All I bought today was an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen, because I was kind of stressed out and needed a quick fix. That usually does the trick! Oh, and I just got two emails one saying I won a paperback from blog giveaway I entered last week and the other was a reviewer saying she will accept my book! Woohoo. That helps too.

So, today, I want to blab about us, self-published authors. We are a group of talented people who are slowly, but definitely, building more of a spotlight on ourselves, showing the world just how awesome we really are. I havea couple points I want to make, and I'm speaking for myself here, so I'd love to hear from you too.

Book reviews

I get so angry when people from the general populace leave negative reviews because of the following:

- My book took so long to come in the mail.
- The price is way too high.
- I didn't get the historical (or whatever the topic was) references, and I was lost.
- I only read the first few pages and hated it.

These things are not good reasons to bash a book. Snail mail is called that for a reason. Most people waste tons of money on stuff they don't need at Wal-Mart but complain when an e-book is more than $.99. If you don't get the topic, then put it down, or else prepare yourself to learn what the author is writing about and grasp an understanding. It's called logic. It's like saying you hated a Spanish film because you watched it without subtitles and understood nada. I think it's only fair to give a book at least 2 to 3 chapters before tossing it out the window. I felt that way when I read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but unless it's so unbearably awful that it makes me want to throw myself out of the window instead of the book, I will read until the bitter end.

I always try to give concise and honest reviews. Then again, I'm also a book editor, so I see a rainbow of things others may not. I know that a solid review (good or bad) is very helpful to an author when it's written tastefully. 

Continue supporting each other

I am not the wealthiest person. Well, hell, the distance between me and wealthy is comparable to Earth and Pluto. Lightyears, baby. (And Pluto will always be a planet to me!) But I dedicate up to $5 a month to supporting fellow indie authors. Most of us offer our books for $.99 to $2.99 or FREE. I admit I am one of those people who spend unneccessary money every now and then on stupid stuff that just makes me laugh like Porky Pooper over there. That was $3.99 at Walgreens. It's now on my desk at work. But somebody made that, and I supported them, ha!

I read tons of reviews written by book bloggers and authors I bump into on the net and in forums. If a synopsis really pushes my intrigue button, I will buy it. And I feel damn good knowing I just increased someone's book sales, because I personally know what a great feeling that is. (Although, not lately. *sigh*)

I also encourage other avid readers I know to give indie books a chance! That's why I decided to blog about them too, because it's my tiny means of supporting and spreading the word about these amazing pieces of work.

When I stumbled upon the world of book bloggers (back in February of this year), it was like I had discovered a new realm, kind of like Narnia without the evil! I walked through the wardrobe, lol. I was instantly impressed at the amount of support for indie authors. I also found sites dedicated to helping increase blog followers, fb likes, etc. Prior to that discovery, I had no idea how I would ever spread the word about my novella or my blog. Well, now I know.

And, with that, I sign off. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day book review - The Jazz Cage by Ray Chen Smith

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Man, I love days off! My feast is taking place later this evening, so I still have time to relax before getting serious inside kitchenopolis.

So, today, I'm writing a review for "The Jazz Cage," a book provided to me strictly for review by the author, Ray Chen Smith.

Synopsis: Prohibition-era mobsters collide with Underground Railroad abolitionists in The Jazz Cage.

It is 1924—sixty years after the South’s victory in the Civil War.

Frank McCluey, bounty hunter for the mob, is sent to help out a wealthy Virginian bootlegger. Frank’s job: track down two female slaves who’ve run away from the millionaire.

But the mob has made a bad choice. Instead of capturing the women, Frank decides to help them escape to Canada, his mission now aided by the pint-sized but steel-willed runaway Della and the outlawed Underground Railroad.

Soon Della and Frank become the target of slave catchers, cops, gangsters, and most chilling of all, a Confederate agent nicknamed the Hound for his ability to always sniff out and kill his prey.

* * *
First off, I love historical fiction. If you don't like history or a ton of historical references, know that this book is full of them. It's set in the Roaring 20s, so obviously you will have large servings of history. One lady left a negative review because she didn't get half the stuff he was talking about and said she had to constantly stop and Google things to understand. And, what's wrong with that? Come on, now. Don't give a book a negative review because it's not your style even though the author was spot on with his intended theme! An author doesn't write to cater to everyone. It isn't possible. This was similar to folks who leave bad reviews because the book took too long to be delivered. Really!? Anyway, I digress ...
Smith had the story moving from the first page. I was locked in from the second I read the first fight scene. The main character Frank McCluey is a gangster turned hero. He was hired by a millionaire to hunt down and bring home these two runaway slave girls. His change of heart earned him many enemies, and he had to put his intuition and motivation in overdrive to blaze through all the obstacles in their way of salvation. He made it his quest to not only capture the girls but make sure they didn't end up back in the cruel hands of Mr. Wills, their owner. With assistance from secret operatives with the Underground Railroad, they had a chance to escape to Canada, if only they could make the trek to get to the border via boat near Niagra Falls. I normally don't like gangster or "Godfather" type stories, but this one had a twist that drew me in. Frank ends up risking everything, even his own life, to help two runaway slaves and do the right thing against the odds.
* * *
 Here's my likes and dislikes list ...
  • Strong plot and action-packed, with each chapter ending in a turn of events. I gasped midway when a character who seemed invincible and very likeable gets killed in a very shocking manner, ending the chapter.
  • Very well written with no repetitive phrases, which a LOT of authors are prone to do. I can't stand that, but Smith was totally generous with his word variety. I did not find myself eye rolling at abused words and phrases.
  • The book presents you with a great mix of well-developed characters to both love and despise, my favorite being Frank, Mr. Tough Guy who can annihilate enemies without a second thought, with a soft heart for the worthy.
  • I felt like I was right there on the run with the characters on the road, through the fields, in dusty underground hideaways, experiencing the car chases and shoot-outs.
  • The tone changed often, which kept me wide awake. Every time I thought OK, nothing's going to happen, something surprised me and recharged my curiosity.
  • His use of profanity was tasteful, as oxymoron'ish as that sounds.
  • It was one of those stories that made me think about it long after I'd shut the book. 
  • And it compelled me to want to read more of this author's work.
  • The younger of the two runaway slave girls, Cece, kind of annoyed me. There was something about how she was 20 but reverted to being childlike most of the book as a result of sexual abuse by the master. It was a breath of fresh air when she snapped out of it, BUT she still seemed to be childlike and highly dependent on Della.
  • I felt like I had to wait too long to really know the whole story behind the frequently-mentioned Karol, past lover of Frank who was killed long before.
I highly recommend this book. It was a fantastic read, and I enjoyed it very much. I give it FIVE stars!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another indie author rises to the top

First off, let me share this great story with you, in case you haven't seen it already on your own or in my Twitter or facebook posts. (Add me, if you haven't already!) Hugh Howey is yet another success story that should serve to inspire the rest of us who hope and dream about this happening to us! -- Check it out.

Hugh Howey doesn't need a publisher, thank you very much

Mr. Independent


Yay for you, Hugh!

I've been in a slump the past two days, but I think I'm feeling better now ... two brownies and one ice cream cone later!

I'm so pumped up about writing all these new story ideas I have in my brain. But when I sit in front of the keyboard and monitor sometimes, I dish out the first few chapters like a champ, then get totally stuck. What next? Hello, brain? Anyone home? Nothing. I have a dozen of these half-baked stories on my desktop. Does that happen to any of you, and, if so, how do you combat this plague of creative loss? I think too much sometimes and make things more complex than they need to be. I know I need to just take a deep breath and chill, but, at times, I find that hard to do! I guess I need a log cabin in the woods to write. And how about we toss in a typewriter while we're at it. I wonder if that will motivate me, tp go totally old school. Don't you ever wonder what it was like to clunk out a whole novel on a typewriter? Well, not that I'm a relic or anything, but I do remember in grade school, I had to either hand write all my papers and stories I turned in OR bust out the fancy machinery (the typewriter) for extra points. I also remember handwritten letters I would mail to my family in Trinidad, and the Atari game system. Oh, yea!
I've pretty much failed at NaNoWriMo this year, so, meh ... at least I got to 6,000 words, and the same darn thing (as described previously) happened to me! The story was flowing like the Nile, then came to a screeching halt. I'm an editor as well as a writer, so I constantly want to stop and re-read, stop and re-read. I can't shut it off. The good thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gets you in the groove of writing every day, which I do anyway, but it adds a little boost to the process. Don't be shy! Share you November writing success story here. =)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Autism vs. Neesha: No pain, no gain

My heart is still pounding nearly two hours after my son let out a random shriek that made me JUMP!

Life with my autistic teen and his spontaneous violent meltdowns has turned my life into a psychological thriller. No wonder I'm a writer! Life gives me tons of material. I look at the positive side. Yes, I watch him scream and smash things. My heart pounds when I'm startled by an unexpected shriek. I cry a whole lot, sometimes until it feels like my eyeballs are on the verge of popping out. I miss out on get-togethers and events I want to attend so badly. BUT he's alive and healthy for the most part, and I also get just as much affection as aggression. At 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds, his hugs are to die for, literally. He's a big teddy bear, but, similar to Bruce Banner, that t-bear turns into Teen Hulk in a split second. His triggers are unknown, and his case baffles even the professionals who work with him. No one knows how to help me, and I cannot afford the ones who probably can.

No matter how huge he gets, how many things he breaks or how many times he spits straight in my face during meltdowns, all I see is that little 2-year-old baby boy who used to drag my enormous purse that was the size of him across the living room toward me every day (like clockwork!) when I would walk out of the bathroom after a shower. He knew I would need my makeup bag, which was in my purse. He used to perch on the dresser and watch me do my hair and makeup. He painstakingly dragged that purse to me in my bedroom almost every day. This act of his amazed me every time, back then and still to this day when I think about it. He didn't speak or have much emotion, but he would always do that for me on his own accord ... at two years old! So I know there's a sweet kid in that autistic bubble. And I'm determined to bring him out, somehow!

I barely have a social life. It revolves around my lunch hour Monday-Friday, because that's the only time I can meet up with friends without having to worry about a babysitter. I'm a newlywed who hardly gets to spend time with my hubby, even when we're home! Talking annoys my son, so we always have to be quiet and on opposite floors of the house. We text each other; how 'bout that for conformity! He's definitely a winner. <3

My optimistic POV?

I have writing material, for one. My stress level has an ease as long as Earth's chocolate supply never goes extinct. I'm happily married, unlike some, according to many facebook stats I see! I'm not financially sound, but I can still afford cupcakes, whew! Golden Girls marathons crack me up when I need it most, at the end of a long day. At least he doesn't scream 24/7. I'm a loner most times, so Cabin Fever ain't so terrible. I'm never lonely or sad for long, once I have my book collection. The world will never be void of laughter. The painful, turbulent times make me tougher and more appreciative of every simple and complex thing in life, right down to this fluffy pillow I'm snuggling right now.

There, now I feel better, and it's time to watch SNL! Cheers to all, and thank you so much for stopping by.

Randomness is bliss

Today, I wasn't feelin' too well, so I decided to eat an apple and make a cartoon. The end.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Guest post: Heather Von St. James talks about surviving cancer

Hey guys and gals,

Today, I am entertaining a guest post from a lovely lady who happens to be a cancer survivor with a moving story to tell. She's a mom, a wife and a fellow blogger. She's on a mission to spread the word about treatments and hope for those with mesothelioma. I always write about my experience with autism and my teen son who's going through some violent tantrums, but I always have to stop and be thankful for health and strength, and remember that there are folks in the world who are dealing with and who have survived much more turbulent times.

Let me introduce you to Heather Von St. James.
Learning About Mesothelioma

I was 36 years old, and the mother of a beautiful little three-month old baby girl. I hadn’t been feeling well, but I never dreamed that the doctor would look at me and say I had mesothelioma cancer.  Those three words left me devastated.  I was terrified that I might die and leave my daughter without her mother.  I lived in fear that I would leave my husband a widower.  More than anything, I was angry at the world and at life.  Mesothelioma was typically a “mans” disease. I wasn’t a construction worker. I hadn’t been in the military. I was a young professional, and a new mother. How could this happen to me? I had more questions than answers, and I felt like I had nowhere to turn.

The question of where the disease came from was easily answered. My father worked in the construction industry. He spent his days blowing loose insulation into attics and walls. We had no idea the dust that came home on his clothes was asbestos. When he hugged me at night, or I wore his dusty jacket outside to feed the rabbits, we couldn’t know that the particles were invading my lungs and starting to damage them. As he moved through the house, we didn’t know that the particles were mixing with the dust and would linger in the space for weeks.  

The fact is that I’m one of the first victims of a frightening trend of new mesothelioma victims. Instead of the workers who had direct contact with this dangerous substance every day, we were only exposed through second-hand contact. We are wives who washed the dusty clothes, sons who hugged their fathers after a day at work and daughters who slipped on his work boots to go out and check the mail. We are the new face of mesothelioma, and we are nothing that you would expect. We are young. We are professionals and housewives and parents with little babies at home.  

The mesothelioma community is an amazing one. We have supported each other throughout the misery of our illness, and we have learned a lot.  We now know that there is hope for mesothelioma victims.  We have seen advances in mesothelioma treatments and we’ve seen people survive this disease that used to be almost completely fatal to those who were diagnosed.

That’s why I share my story. I’m not a victim, but a survivor. My daughter won’t be left without a mother, and my husband will get to enjoy my company for a long time to come. The journey was difficult, but I share my story to bring hope to others. I share my tale so other mesothelioma victims will know that they can also be survivors. You don't have to live in fear, and there is hope for recovery.
- Heather

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Scandal promotes learning

I've never been all that great at coming up with creative headlines for my articles, but I have hit some good ones. My favorite was "General Betray Us," highlighting the Petraeus/Broadwell affair. Today, I was reading up on this scandal, and after about three articles from different big-name news sources, I realized I had learned three new words, steamy ones at that.

Journalists get totally career horny when there's a scandal and pull out all the million dollar words as each of them tries to garner the most hype over the bubbling brouhaha! One of these words, I'd heard vaguely before, but I've never used any of these officially. I swear I'm going to put them to use! I love learning new words. How could I not share with my fellow word-loving peeps? Hey, I'm just trying to take some good from this awful situation. One more sex scandal for the country, and Neesha learned some new words along the way. Woot!

1. an illicit lover, especially of a married person.
2. any lover.
1. lustful or lecherous.
2. (of writings, pictures, etc.) obscene; grossly indecent.

1. sexually unrestrained; lascivious; libertine; lewd.
2. unrestrained by law or general morality; lawless; immoral.
3. going beyond customary or proper bounds or limits; disregarding rules.

And this one was just Dictionary.com's glorious word of the day, which
seemed to fit in so well with my Petraeus Collection.
[dis-booz-uhm, -boo-zuhm] 
verb (used with object)
1. to reveal; confess.
Each day brings a new adventure, that is, if you pay close enough attention.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I miss the inky days

Last night, I finished editing yet another book for an indie author. It's just an invigorating feeling to me. It all began back in the 80s when I was a kid. Which of you remembers the days before texting? When note-writing was the thing to do. My girlfriends used to pen me their thoughts every day about boys and clothes and boys ... and boys. I remember dotting my i's with circles and hearts, writing in different colors of ink in the same note just to make it awesome.

Then I remember how irritated I would get when my friends gave me typo-ridden notes. I kid you not, I actually used to go through and correct all their typos before reading the whole thing attentively. Is that psycho? I would crumple up a note, even if I was half-way done writing, if I made an error that would require me to have a dreaded scratch-out! White-out didn't make me feel better. It was lumpy, and sometimes I could still see the color seeping through. =/

This obsession continued throughout my adult life. I would relentlessly discover typos in novels, magazines, newspapers, signs, flyers, worksheets, applications, everywhere! I couldn't turn it off! I was the ghost editor at this one clinic I worked at (before my journalism days). The management even held a special impromptu meeting with all the staff to confront the issue of the "red pen bandit." I used to go into the break room where the memo board was posted and edit their horrendously- written memos that had so many errors I had a hard time respecting those in authority who crafted them. They scoffed at the person who was correcting them and said it was very rude and disrespectful. I thought it was generous, to be quite honest.

This is all my mom's doing! Yea. It's her ... fau ... well, I shouldn't call it a "fault," because she gave me the power of the written word and prepared me for a life of English crime fighting. This little homemaker taught me how to read way before Kindergarten. I was so bored until 2nd grade. Thanks to my mom, I spent the first couple years in grade school thinking everyone else was totally dumb but me. A rude awakening found me later in life when I crossed paths with other, sharp-witted, would-be grammarians. Another lesson my good ole mum taught me was that I'm not better than anyone else; we're all here with a purpose, all with special talents and weaknesses just the same. She warned me not to be big-headed and pompous and that she was repulsed by such types. That stuck with me all my life, as did my love for words. I spent my childhood in the library while other kids were at the park, slumber parties or planning their next outfit. Even as I got older, my face was in a book alone in my room while others were at parties, dating, raving about the latest fashion trends and hot guys. I wouldn't go back to change it even if I could.

I miss the days when we actually could recognize each other's handwriting. I guess that handwriting excellence award I won in 1st grade was destined for worthlessness in this ever-evolving world. I used to be so proud (and sneaky) about being ambidextrous. I have three handwritings, one on the left and two on the right, and I loved to confuse the teachers when I was a kid, as they were totally keen on whose handwriting was whose. Once I was accused of having someone else do my homework because the teacher said the handwriting didn't match "mine." I sat down at her desk and demonstrated my abilities, and, after that, she was always in awe of me. Long gone are such days where you can woo someone with your penmanship. Does that word even exist in the minds of today's youth?

Anyway, what I'm getting at is the world is changing so fast. Those inky days seem like yesterday, and now I spend more than half my life behind a keyboard typing away, indulging in my happy place - the world of words. I love being a writer, a journalist, an author and also an editor. Wiping out those embarrassing typos, unintended innuendos, misuse of common or not-so-common words, confused tenses and all those ailments I discover makes my life happy and fulfilled. Well, one part of it anyway. The other parts are motherhood and wifehood, of course. <3

Then end ... for now.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I of the Storm - Chapter 3: Unhinged

Did the weekend reallly melt away that quickly! Sheesh! Thank goodness I'm off tomorrow. Hubby and I are going on a long-overdue movie date before the kids get home from school. Color me thrilled, lol.

Here is chapter 3 of my novella. This will be the last chapter I'm posting. Those hungry for the ending can clickety-click that book cover to the left, and get it on Amazon. Happy reading!

It was no secret that Gavin wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. I gave him the exciting news over a candlelit dinner of roasted red potatoes, green beans, corn on the cob, and a succulent steak, cooked medium rare, all items perfectly catered to his liking. He drooled over the menu but scoffed at the news. He got offended and accused me of using trickery to tell him what he was already entitled to know. He slammed down his eating utensils the second he heard the word “pregnant,” and his eyebrows quickly narrowed. My stomach would always churn when those unhappy wrinkles formed across his forehead.

“What! That’s what this fancy dinner was all about? Just to tell me you’re knocked up! I shoulda known. I shoulda known I couldn’t get a decent meal without strings attached! Great! Just great! Another expense! Just what I need.”

His reaction murdered the pleasant-surprise factor I was going for, and he stomped out of the house in a rampage. He returned six hours later around 1 a.m. I was awakened with a phony apology and kisses all over my face. He said he had an awful day at work, admitted that he unfairly took it out on me and that he was glad to hear I was having his baby. Lies, no less. This scene was a common occurrence since high school. After his pathetic apologies and placing the blame on his bad day, he would always insist on having sex. If I said no, I’d be forced, so I just complied. Noncompliance is what normally got me bruised. Inevitably, bruised and pregnant.

My baby was conceived one evening after I tried to refuse Gavin’s demand for sex. I had a nauseating migraine and didn’t feel like being intimate. He told me he didn’t need my participation, just my body. His belief was that the bonds of marriage lost me my rights to my own body. I didn’t care about his beliefs that day. I felt horribly sick, and I pushed him away.

“NO, Gavin! Please, this time I’m serious. I really don’t want to. Please, understand, okay? Please. This headache is killing me, Gavin, really,” I pleaded.

He squeezed my throat until my eyes watered, and pushed my head into the wall. I could feel his putrid breath in my face as he lectured me. I nearly vomited but managed to hold it back out of fear.

“Your headache is killing you? You should be more afraid of me killing you! I could do it right now, you know. I’m the man in this relationship, and I decide what’s gonna happen. I had a shitty day at work … in a hot garage … sweating my ass off in dirt and grease while you get to relax your sweet ass in the a/c all day. So I expect my wife to give a damn and help me relax after a hard day’s work!”

He dragged his tongue across my face from my jawline to my cheek while keeping a firm grip on my throat. The face licking was Gavin’s trademark. It was his way of proving my inferiority, belittling me, showing me who’s the boss. The closed airway increased the intensity of the migraine and made me feel like my head would explode. I stayed expressionless and cursed him only in my mind.

“Look at you. Just staring at me like you don’t even care. Like you don’t feel anything … I’ll make you feel something.”

He finally let go of my throat, but I didn’t get a second to recover before getting a hard smack across the face by his angry hand. I hunched over with my hands on my knees, coughing my way back to regular breathing. He humored me for a few seconds then pulled me to the bedroom by my hair. I was pinned down for the next half hour while my body was invaded against my wishes. He pounded himself into me as he kept my wrists locked down above my head and ordered me to look at him the entire time. I pictured Grandma Edan’s white canvas of hope instead of his greedy expression. The bright side was that my aching head was on a soft surface, and I convinced myself this act was acceptable since he was my husband. Not exactly the way I dreamed of entering parenthood.

Despite the six years’ worth of roundtrips to hell, I still loved him, as crazy as that sounds. I couldn’t even explain why. Perhaps I still loved the man he pretended to be in the beginning and for the sporadic good moments we had. He didn’t hit me every day, just every couple weeks or so. Once, he went a whole two months without a single swat. His job was very frustrating, so he had a tendency to bring it home. I’m sure lots of people behave this way … right?

I looked forward to the evenings when we’d go out to dinner like a normal couple. It happened about once a week. Gavin’s favorite seafood restaurant was Seashells. I tried not to notice the way he undressed the waitress, Mariella, with his eyes. I figured that’s why we always ended up at Seashells. Mariella was always there when we went. I hated her for being so graceful and alluring, not to mention heavy in the chest. I ran into her at a book store one day, and she seemed disappointed to see me, almost like I ruined her day by existing. I was just as perturbed about seeing her, because I feared she’d mention having seen me at the book store next time Gavin and I went to Seashells. Unless it was the grocery store, shopping of any kind, namely for books, was not on my approved list of activities sans Gavin. She gave me a superficial hello, wished me a great day and dashed away. Her behavior was weird, but I wasn’t exactly the epitome of cheer myself. I didn’t see her again at Seashells either, and I wasn’t surprised when Gavin stopped wanting to eat there after he realized his eye candy was no longer a member of the staff.

I looked forward to our occasional Sunday brunches by the beachside, and every now and then, I’d get flowers for no specific reason. Last year, I even got a nice necklace with a heart locket for Valentine’s Day. It mysteriously went missing from my jewelry box, but I dared not ask if he had anything to do with it. I noticed some of my things would go missing sometimes after big fights. He bought me a gold bracelet as one of his spontaneous surprises a few years ago. At a family get-together in the park soon after, he ripped it off my wrist and tossed it into a lake. Gavin said it was punishment for flirting with my cousin John and that I didn’t deserve such a nice gift. It was just an innocent conversation with my cousin while tossing a Frisbee around, but Gavin swore he detected a hidden meaning in our dialogue.

Watching TV together on the couch in complete silence was our most common form of quality time these days. Once he wasn’t angered, I considered it a good day.

Deep down, I felt like I was destined to be with him, like it was my calling to try and change him into a better person. I prayed that he would adopt my good nature so we could enjoy a long, happy life together. Have a big family. Take a vacation. Retire. Grow old. Breathe easy.

As the clock struck “Gavin-time,” I snapped out of my daydreams, startled by the sound of his heavy footsteps outside the door. It had the same effect on me as thunder. He walked in with a sigh and grimaced in my direction. I was still on the couch clenching my belly. Just as he walked in, an untimely contraction had hit me. I groaned as I struggled to sit upright to greet him. Gavin paced around complaining the house was dirty and untidy. Not a single mention of my apparent condition … or my birthday.

Dr. Hassan put me on complete bed rest until the baby’s arrival, because I was in pre-term labor and deemed a high-risk pregnancy. I was only allowed on my feet about 1-2 hours per day. “Shower, pee and eat. That’s it, because you’re already dilated,” the doctor warned me.

“Damn, Kira! Look at this floor! Pushing a vacuum isn’t strenuous! You’re pregnant, not helpless! Women in Africa climb trees while they’re pregnant! Then they’re back to normal a day after giving birth, working the fields with the baby strapped to their back!”

Gavin’s preposterous logic generated more nausea than my morning sickness ever did. It was hard to keep from rolling my eyes at him every time he spoke.

He made an executive decision that it was okay for him to have opposite-sex friends while I was not permitted to be friendly with any males, not even the mailman or store clerks, not even my own relatives. He didn’t even like that I had female friends.

My co-worker, Ally, from the dental office, became my second best friend, after Celia, of course. I was grateful for the way she always showed concern for me and enjoyed making me laugh. She came by to visit me one day after she’d learned that I was put on complete bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. Gavin was so cold to her she could hardly speak in his presence without stuttering. He didn’t like her after he’d eavesdropped on one of our phone calls and discovered that she was a lesbian and then outlawed our friendship. I told her the truth about his ruling, and she swore she wouldn’t allow Gavin to dictate the fate of our friendship. So after that, we’d secretly meet for a quick lunch sometimes after I finished grocery shopping. To him, her “way of life” was cause for automatic banishment. He couldn’t fathom that a woman didn’t need or want the touch of a man.

“Don’t even try to tell me how nice she is, Kira. Or that she’s a human being. I don’t care. Her way of life is pure filth. What kinda woman writes off men! And from what I seen, even gay people take on either male or female personas! One of ‘em is always the man, and I bet she’s the man in her relationship with those broad shoulders! Felt like I was lookin’ in a mirror the first time I met her.” He bellowed in laughter at his own senseless joke.

I still found myself attracted to him, although his points of view disgusted me. It didn’t matter that he made a sport of hurting me. For me, it had become a way of life, a normal day. At times, I hated him. And other times, I just tolerated him. I developed the ability to put myself on mental cruise control. I’d focus on his perfectly-carved face, fleshy lips and hazel eyes. On the outside, he looked like the perfect man. His deep voice and broad shoulders were also convenient distractions from all his ridiculous banter.

“You’re a woman. I’m a man. I can handle myself out there. You can easily get taken advantage of and ruined. When a man talks to you, whether a stranger or a relative or whatever, he is secretly lusting for you, Kira. That’s what men do. Women are after relationships, building bonds, friendships, coffee talk, and shit like that. Not men. Men just want to get between those thighs. You know, in other cultures, women have to stay all covered up and out of sight, because it’s understood that they’re the fragile and vulnerable sex. You think I want anything to happen to you, Kira? That’s why I protect you. You may not see it that way, but that’s what it is. You don’t ever hear about a man getting raped by a woman. When a man enters a woman (he stood up and did pelvic thrusts into the air as he described this), she’s never the same; she’s broken. But for a man, it’s totally different. That’s why you can tell if a girl is a virgin or not. But a dude? He can screw all day, and you can’t tell by looking at his junk what he’s done.” 

I would just purse my lips and nod during these lectures to act like I was agreeing. It was simpler than trying to argue. I never won. That was the law of the land.

“And as far as opposite-sex friends … Kira, you need to understand one thing. I have pride. I come from a long line of Dowling men who ruled with an iron fist and made a name for themselves defending their own and proving their manhood. I don’t love anybody but you; you should know that. At the end of the day, I come home to you. It’s just that, I always have an urge to prove that I still got that charm. That I still got the magic that pulled you in. That’s why I talk to these girls, okay. It’s a joke. It’s just for my ego. I don’t care about them. They’re just friends. That’s something you just gotta accept about me. I would never cheat on you. I’d leave you before I did that. That’s a promise.”

I gagged every time Gavin uttered the words charm or promise in reference to himself. Even though he wasn’t happy about being a daddy, he promised to go with me to all my doctor visits. That was one promise I wish he had broken.

The day we learned the sex of the baby was both exciting and humiliating. My regular doctor was a lady, Dr. Sheila Davenport. Gavin actually liked her because she made him feel welcomed during my check-ups. She honored his questions and opinions and made him feel important. He didn’t hate women who kissed his ass. But sadly, she took a leave of absence because her husband passed away. We didn’t find out until we arrived and checked in for our appointment. Gavin and I were equally sympathetic when the receptionist told us the news and alerted us that Dr. Davenport’s replacement was Dr. Hassan.

It’s safe to say we found out the sex of the new doctor and our baby on the same day. Dr. Altaf Hassan was a tall and handsome, middle-aged Indian man. He was about 5-foot-9 and had a thick head of halfway-grayed hair. Dr. Hassan was very friendly and loved to crack jokes and laugh loudly. I didn’t mind having a male doctor, but Gavin was appalled that another man would be touching my body. I could read his mind by watching the slideshow of his facial expressions as Dr. Hassan walked in and introduced himself and the agenda.

“Kira Persad-Dowling. Persad … hmm, you must be of Indian origin, is that correct?” Dr. Hassan inquired.

“Yes, my family is from the Caribbean island of St. Croix, and I have relatives in Trinidad, too. We’re of East Indian decent. I’ve never been to India, but I know some of its culture and traditions. My great, great grandparents on both sides were from India. I’m not too sure, but I was told my family originally came to the Caribbean as indentured laborers, and, well, here I am.” I smiled as I proudly explained my heritage.

“Ahhh, yes. I know that history very well. As you can tell by my accent, I am from India. I’m sure we cook a lot of the same foods despite our different origins! Indians will be Indians, no matter where we end up!” He roared with laughter and proceeded with the business at hand. “Now, let’s get you all checked out and see what this baby is up to! I’ve reviewed your records and Dr. Davenport’s notes. I understand you’d like to find out the sex today, correct?”

“Yes! We would!” I said excitedly. Gavin looked at me, stone-faced.

I couldn’t stop smiling. Since the day I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t wait to find out if I was to expect a son or a daughter. My smile halfway faded when I turned and saw the scowl on Gavin’s face as the doctor did a bimanual exam first. Despite my unyielding devotion to our marriage and his strict rules, Gavin always suspected infidelity.

I had my first well-woman exam at 18 when I tried to get on birth control pills shortly after we got married. It was my mom’s idea. She made the appointment with her doctor and went along with me. Gavin was furious. This gave him one more reason to hate my mom.

“You said you were going to the doctor to get birth control pills! You never told me the bitch was taking you to get screwed by a speculum! I thought you would just go, get some pills and be done with it!” He yelled. He swung at me for the first time that day but missed and grazed the edge of my nose with his fingernail. It hurt a lot, a whole lot. Kind of like that nagging paper cut that stings and causes your entire hand to throb, only it was my face.

Gavin ranted about the well woman exam for months afterward. He accused me of “liking it” and asked me if I preferred the speculum better than him inside me. He was so revolted by this event that I never went back. After the one-year prescription of birth control ran out, we winged it on pure luck and tactics since then. It’s a wonder it took this long for me to get pregnant. Gavin considered any medically-necessary pelvic procedure a form of diplomatic cheating, even with a female doctor. He was dead wrong to ever suspect me. I remained faithful, despite my deep-rooted misery.

I was very eager about the ultrasound results, so I tried not to pay too much attention to Gavin’s sour attitude. Whether a boy or a girl, I was intoxicated by the sheer excitement of finding out what I was having! My baby meant everything to me. I planned to be a true supermom and shower my baby with nonstop love and attention. I imagined I would be so busy with the baby’s needs that I wouldn’t be as affected by Gavin’s mental and physical abuse.

As Dr. Hassan ran the Doppler device across my gelled-up tummy, the amazing ultrasound images of our daughter appeared on the monitor. I was elated.

“A baby girl!” cheered Dr. Hassan. “Look, you can see the proof right there. These are her feet, and if you look up at this curved line, you will see there’s no doubt you have a baby girl.” He touched the monitor right in the area between her legs. Gavin jumped up from his chair at my bedside and started yelling at the doctor.

“What the hell! That’s it! I had enough of this shit. Dude, you’re sick!” Gavin said while pointing at Dr. Hassan. “How can you make a living doing this sick shit, molesting people’s wives and enjoying this … this … child porn!” Gavin pointed at our daughter on the monitor. Dr. Hassan still had the device on my abdomen. He turned toward Gavin with a look of astonishment and slowly stood up. I was impressed by his professionalism.

Dr. Hassan urged Gavin to calm down in respect of the patients in neighboring rooms. He held up an open palm and spoke to Gavin in a low tone.

“Mr. Dowling, I fully understand that you may be uncomfortable with these procedures, but this is not the way to express your dissatisfaction. Dr. Davenport and I are business partners in this office, and I am the attending physician in her absence. If you’re not happy with this arrangement, you will need to seek another physician for your prenatal care and delivery. I assure you, Mr. and Mrs. Dowling, I exercise the utmost respect and professionalism to my patients and their families. I urge you to make your decision about your medical care very soon as you are already four months into your pregnancy. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

With that said, the good doctor quickly ended the ultrasound, gave me a sympathetic look and said he’d send in his nurse, Theresa, to clean me up and give me further instructions.

Theresa came in and wiped off my stomach. I watched helplessly through the doorway, as Gavin scolded Dr. Hassan about his “filthy job” all the way down the hall. I was sure he’d get arrested!

“Don’t worry, honey. Dr. Hassan is a pretty laid-back kinda guy. I’m sure he can handle it. Got yourself a jealous one there, huh,” said Theresa.

“You don’t even know the half of it,” I said, still peering out the doorway at Gavin who was then following Dr. Hassan into the elevator with his lips moving nonstop.

“Well, I wish you the best of luck, sweetheart. I know that’s a tough thing to handle. I had me a jealous man once. But I’m a vixen, so he didn’t stand a chance!” She winked at me and giggled, but I wasn’t in a joking mood.

After I got cleaned up and discussed my directives with Theresa, I sat in a chair next to the nurses’ station, feeling a cold sweat of embarrassment as I waited for Gavin to come back from his rant. My chest tightened when I saw the elevator door open and Gavin’s angry expression as he walked briskly toward me. Before I could stand up all the way, he grabbed my elbow and said “Let’s go! We’re gettin’ the hell outa here.” As I was hustled to the elevator, I noticed several people staring at us.

In the elevator, Gavin went on a tirade about my behavior. “You loved that shit, didn’t you? Cheesin’ all over him about your Indian connection. Him touching you all over and sticking stuff up inside you, rubbin’ his pudgy hands all over your big, fat belly. I noticed your face in there! You never stopped smiling! Did it feel good, Kira? You want some more of that? Huh? You’re a whore. I can’t even look at you right now.”

“Gavin, I … I was just happy to see our baby. Our … our daughter … th … that’s why I was smiling and looking happy … I …”

“Shut up!! Just shut the hell up. Don’t talk to me right now, Kira!”

The rest of that day was miserable. I went from a few seconds of serenity after seeing my daughter into a depression after my husband made me feel like a tramp. Gavin acted like he caught me in bed with another man. He kept pacing around sulking and mumbling things under his breath. That same evening, Gavin claimed he needed to go for a drive to relieve the stress I’d caused him. He left around 9 p.m. His car peeled out of the driveway with music booming, and I heard his tires screech as he pulled onto the main road.

The constant episodes with Gavin started to take a toll on me mentally. I felt suffocated and depressed. I didn’t have anyone to confide in except Celia, but she would make constant sighs and distress noises while I talked, so it didn’t feel like she was truly listening. My stories were always the same, anyway. Bottom line – Gavin hurt me somehow, and Celia hated him since high school. I desperately needed a release, an unbiased ear. My natural instinct as a persistent daydreamer and hopeful writer was to turn my frustration into written words. I decided to start a journal. My storytelling wouldn’t be associated with the local newspaper or TV station like I’d hoped for but in the meantime, I decided to purge my anxieties on the pages of a journal.

Almost every day and every chance I got following any incidents with Gavin, I’d scribe my life away in grave detail. I was obsessive about logging dates and times. The purging felt good. I kept my journal hidden in a place I knew Gavin would never check – inside an almost-empty maxi pad box in my closet. I always left a few pads on top of it, just in case. The journal was small enough and easy to conceal with a few super absorbent maxis. Gavin banned the use of tampons since they were invasive, so the pads ended up being a better disguise for my journal. The sight of feminine hygiene products grossed out Gavin, so I knew he wouldn’t go searching there. That book became my substitute best friend. It almost reminded me of when I used to pour my thoughts out to Grandma Edan, and all she’d do was nod and listen until she got a small opportunity to inject a word or two of wisdom in the conversation.

At 3:31 a.m., I heard the front door slowly creak open. He showered before coming to bed, the normal routine after his frequent disappearing acts.

“Kira?” he whispered in my ear. “Kira, I’m sorry about today, okay. I just had a bad day at work. Right before I came home to go to the appointment with you, a customer verbally attacked me and tried to accuse me of keying his car. I was so pissed. I guess I just took it out on you. Kira? Are you mad at me?”

I stayed eyes-shut and motionless, because I loathed hearing his lame excuses for coming home in the middle of the night as well as his fake affection and concern about my feelings. His broken-record excuses made me daydream about knocking him out with a blunt object. Gavin was a master at rebuilding car engines, drawing, hacking my emails, gardening and music trivia, but telling believable lies wasn’t his forte. It was almost as bad as his deranged logic about life and marriage.

Being pregnant eventually saved me from unwanted penis invasions. Gavin was a bit turned off by my pregnant body. I didn’t miss him forcing himself on me all the time.

The disappearing acts became more frequent during my pregnancy. He often used “the guys” as his alibi. It was always an all-night fishing trip or an evening at a bar, drinking and watching a game. Odd, since I never knew Gavin to be a sports fan.

I was almost six months pregnant on Valentine’s Day this year. I had my hopes high that he would do something special for me. Last year, I got the beautiful heart locket. This year wasn’t just any Valentine’s Day. I was carrying a living token of our love, for goodness’ sake. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t sacrifice an opportunity to crush my hopes. I noticed his periodic attempts at niceness mostly happened when I wasn’t expecting it. He told me Valentine’s Day was a stupid man-made publicity stunt to pressure people into wasting money, and it made men look bad if they didn’t live up to the doctored, societal expectations. Instead of spending Love Day with me, he decided to go play pool with his friend Kenny. I cried, but he didn’t care. He laughed at my “silliness,” as he called it, licked my face like a St. Bernard and said he’d be back soon to give me a nice Valentine’s “baby poke.” That’s what he called our occasional moments of intimacy while I was pregnant.

I called Celia to vent about it, but she didn’t answer, so I wrote in my journal. Around 2 a.m. Celia called me back saying she was at a night club celebrating Valentine’s Day with some girlfriends and wished I was there, mainly because she had just seen my husband at the same club with a girl on his arm. I told her it couldn’t be him because he was out playing pool with Kenny.

“Oh, Kenny’s here too! But they ain’t playin’ pool, Kira! Pocket pool, maybe! Haha! They were on the dance floor with two hot Latina chicks, and I’m sorry Kira, but one of them had her tongue down your husband’s throat! I walked up to them, and the psycho almost died when he saw me! I pointed at the chick and said ‘Hey, that’s not Kira!’ That bastard had the nerve to pull me aside to sweet talk me into not telling you. He asked me to keep it hush-hush, because he didn’t want to upset you in your condition. Loser! Kira, when are you gonna come to your senses and kick that dumbass out of your life!? Anyway, don’t get me started, because I’ve been drinking … a LOT … (giggles) and I’m not so innocent myself right now. I grabbed Kenny’s balls right in front of his chick and kissed him, hahaha! You should’ve seen his face!”

The hyperventilating started. Celia kept apologizing for the shocking news but didn’t want to leave me in the dark as a pawn to Gavin’s lies. I appreciated her bluntness, as usual. She was a friend I could always count on to tell me the bare bones of a story. Celia’s phone cut off and when I tried to call back, it went straight to voice mail. I gave up and sat around restless, waiting for my knight in rusty armor to get home.

I paced the house with a racing pulse until I heard the car pull up. The minute he stepped through the doorway, I launched a big phonebook at him out of anger. I didn’t even realize I had done it until the book nearly nailed him in the head. He batted it away just in time to avoid being knocked out by six cities worth of directory information.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Kira! DAMN!”

“I know you didn’t go to play pool, Gavin! How could you! It’s Valentine’s Day, and you’re out on a … on a … date!? I can’t believe you could do this to me! I’m pregnant, home alone, and my husband is out on Valentine’s night with some slut!?”

“Listen, Kira. Let me explain before you overreact and end up looking stupid later on!”

Gavin had a talent for turning his wrongdoings into my fault. The story was that they were going to play pool, but Kenny got a call from this girl he was after. She asked him to go hang out with her and her sister at a club. Supposedly, Kenny wanted this girl all for himself and needed Gavin to tag along to keep her sister busy. So Gavin portrayed himself as the innocent fourth wheel, just doing his friend a favor.

“Is that why you had her tongue in your mouth, Gavin!? I guess that was all part of the favor, right! Keeping her occupied and all.” I was yelling and pacing at this point.

I couldn’t hold back my rage this time! I was furious that I was the woman who had to put up with all the abuse and meanness while he had the audacity to go wine and dine some other woman who does nothing for him. Our marriage was a wreck, but it was still a marriage, no less. The least I deserved was a baseline of loyalty.

“Kira, calm your ass down before you hurt my daughter with your craziness. You forget you have a baby in there?!”

“NO! I didn’t forget! But you seemed to forget because your ass wasn’t home with your baby! You were out prancing around having a ball while your baby, who you suddenly remember, was right here with me, your wife, you jerk!”


The slap stung my face so badly that my eyes started burning as though I got soap splashed in them. I cupped my hand over my left cheek and tried to blink away the sensation. That cheek always seemed to bear the burden of his anger. I stood there aghast that he had just hit pregnant me. I thought I was safe from battery at least while I was showing. As usual, I was wrong.

He hastily grabbed me by the shoulders and started apologizing, saying I made him do it because of what I said to him.

“You shouldn’t have said that to me, Kira. God … I’m sorry, okay. I just reacted out of self-defense. Your words really hurt, you know. I wasn’t even doing anything wrong. I was trying to explain, and you kept yelling at me. You know how I get. You should know by now what makes me tick. God … sometimes I think you provoke me on purpose just so you’ll have something to hold against me later. It’s like you want me to lash out or something.”

He held me as he blamed me for his palm’s collision with my face. He cradled me and walked me to the bedroom. For some reason, I was comforted by his embrace. It was the only embrace I had, after all. We got in bed together, and he groped me as he repeatedly explained his way through the events of the evening. He told me Celia was a drunk whore and that I shouldn’t listen to what she was saying, because she was fondling Kenny and tried to kiss him in her drunkenness. I couldn’t even defend her as that was a true statement, confirmed by Celia herself. In between words, he kissed my neck. Then he rolled me on my side with my back against him. He made good on his promise to give me a baby poke.
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