Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hunger by Lisabet Sarai

I’d like to welcome my friend and colleague, Lisabet Sarai, to my blog.

Note: A few weeks ago, Rochelle sent me a list of interview questions for this guest appearance on her blog. When I visited to see what sort of content she liked, though, I discovered that she and I had some things in common, and I put together this more personal and possibly more relevant post.

I dream of heavy-laden banquet tables. Crisp-skinned, savory roast chickens, their walnut-and-raisin-studded stuffing leaking out onto artfully garnished platters. Barbecued lamb skewers arrayed on beds of saffron-scented pilaf. Broiled salmon brushed with tamari and garlic. Brick-colored candied yams piled into gleaming, sticky pyramids. Sweet corn glistening with melted butter. As I wander from room to room in this endless, deserted mansion, I spy a dozen kinds of cheese, two dozen varieties of olives. Dainty pastel-iced pastries tempt me. Massive apple and pumpkin pies tickle my nose with cinnamon and nutmeg. A fountain dispenses an endless stream of vanilla soft ice cream.

The mingled aromas of my favorite foods assault me. Saliva gathers in my mouth. My stomach growls. I want to eat it all. Confronted by such bounty, I don’t know where to start.

Then I remember. I can’t. I mustn’t. Hunger tugs me toward the lusciously-arrayed buffets, but I must resist. Already I feel the flesh ballooning on my thighs and belly, from the mere thought of such indulgence. I run through the corridors, pursued by the scent of spices, roasted meat, caramelized sugar. There’s no exit. I’m trapped.

I wake into a full-blown anxiety attack, my heart racing, sweat drenching my skinny, naked body. Calm, I must be calm. It’s only a dream. I capture my bony wrist, encircling it with the thumb and forefinger of my other hand to reassure myself. I’m still thin enough. I’m still in control of that terrible hunger. I won’t give in to it, ever.

I promise myself that I’ll skip the slice of cantaloupe I usually eat for breakfast. Just in case. The gluttonous desires of my dream may have polluted me. Black coffee with artificial sweetener will be enough for today.

This is the nightmare of anorexia.
From the outside, anorexia looks trivial, capricious, especially compared to other forms of psychological illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. “Oh,” people think. “She thinks she’s fat. She doesn’t like her body. She wants to lose weight. Nothing wrong with that, she’s just taken it a bit too far. If she’d only start eating a little more, she’d be fine.”

The fact that our culture equates thinness with beauty makes anorexia seem almost rational. I can assure you from personal experience, though, that an anorexic is as crazy as someone who thinks she’s Queen Victoria or who raves about being possessed by aliens. Anorexics suffer from equally disturbing delusions. We see ourselves as eternally fat and feel constantly threatened by our own bodies. When I was anorexic, I was possessed too, by a voracious demon whose hunger could never be appeased.

What the heck? you may be thinking. Hungry? When you’re choosing to starve yourself? So if you’re so hungry, then eat.

If only it were that simple.

I’ve come to understand that anorexia is not really about food at all. It’s about control, or more precisely the fear of losing control. It’s no accident that most cases afflict women in their teens, struggling to deal with all the changes of puberty and the pressures of emerging sexuality. Girls who have a perfectionist attitude tend to be more susceptible—you know, the ones who despair when they receive a grade of 98 instead of 100 or who spend hours every day practicing so that they’ll make the varsity gymnastics team or the cheerleading squad or the All-State orchestra. That was me, the grind, the egghead, top of the class in every subject. We want to be good—the very best. And then we realize our bodies, our hormones, our desires are totally haywire. What we really want—oh, but it’s unspeakable.

We can’t control our carnal needs—indeed, consciously we might not even be aware of them—but food is something concrete, something we can manipulate and ration. We can apply the same discipline we exert in our studies, our athletics or our cultural pursuits, to cut down on the things that will make us “fat”. By depriving ourselves, we can prove how strong and pure we are. As our bodies shed the pounds, they become bright beacons advertising our virtue and self-control.

When I looked like a concentration camp victim, I thought I was beautiful.

Of course, food is symbolic of other things as well. Like many mothers, mine equated food with nurturing, comfort and caring. When I rejected the (quite delicious) meals she cooked for me, I was rejecting her love. At least was the way she saw things.  Meanwhile, I saw her as the enemy, trying to undermine my resolve to get my appetite under control—trying to “make me fat.”

The superficially rational aspects of anorexia and the hostility that often develops between the sufferer and those who are closest to her make the disease very difficult to treat. If the disease is about control, what is the remedy?

I can’t speak for others, but my recovery started when I learned to trust someone else enough to give up control. My therapist, whom I saw for more than four years, somehow convinced me that he could keep me safe, even if I started to eat again. He was the total opposite of the Freudian stereotype, a short, chubby, jolly Latin who had no qualms about giving me a hug. I guess I fell in love with him (Freud’s transference, perhaps, or maybe something more genuine). He told me once that I could do anything I wanted, and he would never judge me. “If you decided to go to the Moon,” he said, “I’d be here when you got back, applauding.”

It took nearly a decade for me to learn how to trust myself with food and eat “normally”. I believe I’m past the point where I’m terrified by my own hunger. Now I feel tremendous sympathy for the girls and their families still trapped in that nightmare. I’d like to tell them that there is a way out—that I escaped from that haunted mansion to live happy and healthy into my sixties. Perhaps that’s a message they need to hear.

(By the way, the images accompanying this post are scans of some of the art therapy work I did while I was in the psychiatric hospital.)

On a lighter note, I’ve got a blurb and excerpt for you from my outrageous erotic romance novel Rajasthani Moon. If you like steampunkor ménage—or shifters—or BDSM—or BBW heroines... you’ll love this book. In fact, I’m giving away an e-book copy to one person who leaves a comment on this post. Just be sure to include your email address in the comment, so I can find you!

Rochelle: I was diagnosed as an “anorexic who gave up,” when I weighed about 200 pounds. After I was also diagnosed as bipolar, meds caused me to reach 300 pounds, where I stayed for many years. Lisabet and I are at opposite ends of the same spectrum, although the “monster” in her drawing looks a lot like me. Yeah, I’ve relapsed. I wrote a book about losing 150 pounds and have regained 75. I’m back up to 200.

I admire you being able to maintain a healthy weight, Lisabet. I absolutely know what a struggle it is.


Neither kink nor curse can stop a woman with a mission.

Cecily Harrowsmith, secret agent extraordinaire, is a woman on a mission. When the remote Indian kingdom of Rajasthan refused to remit its taxes to the Empire, Her Majesty imposed an embargo. Deprived of the energy-rich mineral viridium, essential for modern technology and development, Rajasthan was expected to quickly give in and resume its payments. Yet after three years, the rebellious principality still has not knuckled under. Cecily undertakes the difficult journey to that rugged, arid land in order to determine just how it has managed to survive, and if possible to convince the country to return to the Empire’s embrace. Instead, she’s taken captive by a brigand, who turns out to be the ruler’s half-brother Pratan, and delivered into the hands of the sexy but sadistic Rajah Amir, who expertly mingles torture and delight in his interrogation of the voluptuous interloper.

Cursed before birth by Amir’s jealous mother, Pratan changes to a ravening wolf whenever the moon is full. Cecily uncovers the counter-spell that can reverse the effects of the former queen’s hex and tries to trade that information for her freedom. Drawn to the fierce wolf-man and sympathizing with his suffering, she volunteers to serve as the sacrifice required by the ritual—offering her body to the beast. In return, the Rajah reveal Rajasthan’s amazing secret source of energy. In the face of almost impossible odds, Cecily has accomplished the task entrusted to her by the Empire. But can she really bear to leave the virile half-brothers and their colorful land behind and return to the constraints of her life in England?

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Val Tobin @valandbob Author of #Paranormal #WalkIn

Please welcome Val Tobin, author of Walk-In, The Valiant Chronicles, and Storm Lake to my blog today.

RW:        Tell us about your latest book. What motivated the story? Where did the idea come from?

A:           My latest release was a novel called Walk-In.

It’s a paranormal romance about a young psychic woman who fights an attraction to a handsome, but skeptical, novelist while she battles a centuries-old evil determined to make her his next conquest.

The idea evolved from my interest in the subject of walk-ins. A walk-in is a spirit that enters a body to take over its life when the original soul wants out. The entering soul contracts with the exiting soul to take over the body. It’s an exchange of souls within a body.

In the accepted definition, the exchange is mutually desirable. The existing soul in the body wants out without going through the process of death, and the incoming soul wants life without going through the process of birth.

I wondered what would happen if an evil entity wanted a specific body even if the current resident didn’t want to leave. From that evolved the story for Walk-In.

RW:        I’ve also heard of walk-ins who share a body with the other person. In fact, I know one. They’re diagnosed as persons with dissociative identity disorder. In the case of my friend, the walk-in and host personality negotiate for conscious time in the body. The host was in his fifties when the walk-in showed up.

RW:        Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?

A:           Generally, it takes me two to three months to write a first draft, then another six months to do the revisions and polishes.

RW:        Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

A:           I have a set schedule, but it’s flexible. When I’m working on a first draft, I write at least 1,000 words per day.

RW:        Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?

A:           My latest book is a prequel to my Valiant Chronicles stories. It’s primarily a paranormal suspense, though it crosses into science fiction.

The Valiant Chronicles series is SF.

This novel is called Earthbound, and tells the story of a woman who becomes trapped on the earth plane when she learns her death might not have been from natural causes.

Readers have been asking for more Valiant Chronicles stories, and, while I’ve got an idea for a sequel to A Ring of Truth, I had a desire to visit with previous Agency victims. I’ve always had a curiosity about what might make a spirit remain on the physical plane rather than cross over to the other side.

Some might stay out of fear of what’s on the other side. Others might not want to leave what they have here. Still others want retribution.

I asked myself, “What if one of Michael Valiant’s victims refused to cross to try to stop him? How would that play out, considering he’s not the stone-cold killer he appears to be at first? From this, I created Jayden McQeen and gave her a voice, starting at the moment of her death.

RW:        How do you come up with story ideas?

A:           My story ideas typically evolve from questions that arouse my curiosity. I contemplate them, and a story idea forms. From there, my mind typically conjures interesting images, showing me characters or scenes. Then I must write them down.

RW:        What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels?

A:           I enjoy reading love scenes and writing them. They are an important part of any healthy relationship, so I believe they are critical to a romance story. People are at their most vulnerable during lovemaking. A love scene is a huge opportunity to develop character or move the story forward.

RW:        What does your husband think of your writing?

A:           My husband is my greatest supporter. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have been able to get as much done as I have.

RW:        What can we expect from you in the future?

A:           I have an idea for another Valiant Chronicles prequel, this time from Carolyn Fairchild’s past, and I’ve got another romance novel idea in the works. And yes, I have a Valiant Chronicles sequel planned. I’m not sure in what order those stories will be written. I’ve also been asked by numerous readers to continue the Storm Lake story.

I hadn’t intended to continue Storm Lake. It was a short story that showed a slice of the characters’ lives and what becomes their horrifying new normal. But readers got attached to Rachel and Jeff and want to find out how they survive going forward.

RW:        Do your fans’ comments and letters influence you in any way?
A:           Yes. If it weren’t for readers requesting continuations for The Valiant Chronicles and Storm Lake, I wouldn’t have ideas percolating in my brain. I thought I was done with these characters, but now readers have stimulated my own curiosity for what might happen next.

RW:        Among your own books, do you have a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?

A:           It’s hard to pick a favorite. As with my kids, I love them all, equally, though perhaps differently. But if I had to be on a deserted island with just one of my books, I’d pick A Ring of Truth. Michael Valiant and Carolyn Fairchild are my favorite hero and heroine (I know the question said “or” but I’m cheating and doing “and.”)

I love all my heroes and heroines, but Michael and Carolyn suffered more than all the others. We’ve been through a lot together.

RW:        Those are all the questions I have for you today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog.


The Plot:

Questions plague psychic reader Viktoria Kovacs when her twin sister, missing for five years, appears at her door. Why did her sister leave? What happened to her memory? And how did she end up living with the mysterious millionaire who claims to be her protector?

When journalist Aedan McCarthy visits the occult shop where Viktoria works, he’s researching a novel, not looking for love. Unprepared for the jolt of electricity that sparks between them, Aedan wants to explore the possibilities.

But evil lurks, and not everyone is who they appear to be. Getting entangled with Viktoria might cost Aedan his soul.

A fast-paced romantic thriller with paranormal elements, Walk-In provides edge-of-the-seat entertainment.

Val’s Bio:
Val studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto to get a diploma in computer information systems. She worked in the computer industry as a software and web developer for over ten years, during which time she started to get serious about energy work and the paranormal and occult.
In October 2004, Val became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. She acquired Angel Therapy Practitioner® certification in March, 2008, in Kona, Hawaii from Doreen Virtue, PHD.
Val started work on a bachelor of science in parapsychic science from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in March of 2007 and received her degree in September 2010. After obtaining her master’s degree in parapsychology at AIHT in April 2016, Val has set her sights on the PhD, which she’ll pursue as time and finances permit.
At the end of October 2008, Val returned to Kona, Hawaii to complete the Advanced ATP® training and in April 2010 to take the Spiritual Writing workshop and the Mediumship Certification class. Val wrote freelance for online magazine Suite101, and was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resources at Suite.
A published author, she contributed a story to Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. Her novels are available on Smashwords, Amazon, and from other retailers.
They are also available in paperback on Createspace, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.


Viktoria Kovacs’s stomach lurched when she flipped over the Death card.

Hunched over the Celtic cross configuration of Tarot cards spread on the coffee table before her, she mentally slapped herself. Served her right for reading herself after a long and tiring Saturday doing readings for others.

Her job at The Green Witch, the new age store where she worked from Tuesday to Saturday, entailed doing psychic readings and manning the cash register when need dictated. Despite fatigue after the busy day, a sense of impending doom had compelled her to do a reading for herself.

Viktoria had barely kicked off her shoes before she’d sat down to it and now regretted the decision. The Tarot, of all things. What had possessed her to use the Tarot when she had oracle cards available?

Too late now. All she could do was take the bad news. She examined the spread, hoping to coax something uplifting from it. Hadn’t she suspected it would be bad news? All day dread had hovered over her.

It had taken all her self-restraint to wait until she’d arrived home to break out the cards. Sure, she could have asked one of the other readers to do it for her, but then they’d know how frightened she’d become. They’d either not believe her, which would frustrate her, or they’d take her seriously, which would kick her terror up another notch.

Certain something horrific was coming, Viktoria came home to figure it out on her own. Now she sat staring at the Death spread.

The Death card didn’t signify death, regardless of the implication inherent in its name. It meant change or renewal. Based on its position in the cross, though, the change it heralded had negative connotations. In the near future, a man would enter her life, and he would cause her harm. Family would influence the situation.

Viktoria gazed down and to the right, the stance she assumed when she received clairvoyant information. She preferred to call the images received “impressions.” They never appeared crisp and clear in her mind. She could describe what she saw in detail—could even draw it—but the image always hovered just outside of distinction.

This time, her face floated before her, but instead of mahogany waves, her hair was blonde and cut to shoulder length. Blood-red lips formed an “O” of amazement, and the deep brown eyes went wide.

The image vanished, replaced by another: A pen and paper.

Then that, too, disappeared.

A teak coffin, new and shiny. Gone.

Flashes of images flickered by so quickly she couldn’t identify them.

Viktoria leaned back, breathless. Too fast. She couldn’t understand what she’d seen.

Walter, her orange and white tabby cat, thumped into her lap, and she jumped.

After her heart stopped hammering, she stroked him, letting him settle his warm body on her thighs.

Should have used the oracle cards.

Again, she pushed the thought away. Regrets were useless and, in this instance, unnecessary. The oracle cards would help her get clarity as well as provide positive guidance. She scooped up the Tarot cards without completing the reading and set them aside.

As she tipped the cat from her lap and rose to get the other deck from her home office, her apartment buzzer sounded. Not expecting company, she froze.

An image of a swarthy man, face hidden in shadow, flashed into her mind’s eye.

She considered ignoring the intercom, but when the buzzer went off again, she walked over to the door and pressed the speaker button.


“Viktoria Kovacs?” The voice was soft, feminine, and tremulous.

“Yes?” Viktoria sucked in a breath. Her hands shook, and a knot formed in her stomach. The uneasiness that had plagued her all afternoon returned full force.

“May I come up?”

“Who are you?”

Silence, except for the slight static of the intercom, stretched out.

“Hello? Are you still there?”

A loud exhalation of breath came through the speaker. “It’ll be easier to explain who I am if you let me come up.”

Viktoria imagined buzzing the woman up and then opening the door to a home invasion.

“I don’t think so.” Too bad she couldn’t see into the lobby and at least get a glimpse of the stranger. What if others were with her?

“Please. It’s just me.”
“Tell me who you are and what you want. You might be a jewel thief.” Viktoria recalled a sitcom where one of the characters had let a jewel thief into the apartment building. No way would she buzz in a stranger.

But the woman had used Viktoria’s first name, and that wasn’t listed on the directory.

A light chuckle floated up through the intercom. “I’m not a jewel thief.”

After a pause, the woman continued. “I’m sorry to tell you like this, Viki. I wanted to avoid it.”

The woman paused again, and, in that quiet moment, the voice echoed in Viktoria’s mind. Her heart thudded with recognition.

No. Impossible.

Breath held, Viktoria waited.

“I’m Eszter.” A choked sob carried up to Viktoria, and she staggered away from the intercom as if she’d been struck.

The buzzer zapped again and again like an angry swarm of bees.

Viktoria pressed the intercom. “Eszter’s gone.”

“Please. Let me up. I’ll prove it to you. Viki, please.”

Numbness spreading over her, Viktoria released the intercom and pressed the button to open the lobby doors. In the ensuing silence, she backed against the wall and slid down to the floor.


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