Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Few Tips To Navigate Paris

Hey all,

I thought I'd take this blog to mention a few off the beaten path things I've noticed here in Paris.  Some are silly, some are scary and some are just plain weird.  So, in no particular order, here we go.

1. Driving in Paris.  In a word, don't.  I've been all over the world and can tell you sincerely it's one of the top ten scary places to be behind the wheel.  And let's not even talk about being in a cross walk.  You may have a little green man saying you have the right of way, but no one told the drivers.  They blast up to the line and sometimes stop...sometimes don't.  I think it just depends on their mood.  LOL

2.  So let's move on to the little green man.  He's not someone you can trust in Paris.  Honestly.  In every other country we've been in, the little green man across the cross walk means something.  Here, he's just there to lull you into a false sense of security.  You see, what happens is you'll have a red man and you'll wait as you should, but then he changes to green.  So you know, as you've been trained since childhood, it's safe to walk.

But that's not really true.  Yeah, you can walk for a little bit, but then, with no warning, your little green friend just up and disappears!  No warning, no little yellow man or flashing lights or sound to let you know you're running out of time. 

Suddenly you're in the middle of the street and there are dozen of cars flying around you.  And all because for some reason Parisians don't think it's necessary to give pedestrians a bloody warning.

3.  You have to admire a people who spend so much time relaxing over a cuppa.  There were times I'd walk by a cafe on my way to a museum and two hours later I'd walk back by and the same two people were still sitting there enjoying the coffee.  Add an eclair or quiche and they will literally sit there for hours. 

You don't see a lot of take away food or drinks here.  People would rather sit and take some time to enjoy their meal.  It's the hardest part of the culture for me.  Relaxing is not very easy to do when there is so much to see and do.

4.  And finally, now let's talk about something near and dear to my heart.  Toilets.  Or, should I say the lack of them. I swear, I've been to tiny hamlets in Thailand that had more facilities that the big huge city of Paris.

Now they tell you they have "Public Toilets", but it's a misleading phrase.  There are a few around the city but they are few and far between.  And the ones you can find are these little round booth like things on the big main streets.  It's kind of a scary thing to use one.  First off, it's all in French so it's hard to understand what to do if you've never used one before.  You can tell a newbie by the dance they do outside.  The door opens and someone leaves, so they go inside, but it's too early.  The machine has this cycle it has to perform before the next person can use it but if the next person goes in too early the whole thing stops.

You hear online about the machine suddenly opening before the person is finished.  They say you have twenty minutes to do your business, but I don't trust them.  When I use one--and that's only when I absolutely HAVE TO--I pee faster than I ever have before.  LOL

As you walk around Paris you learn where you can go pee.  I'm very aware of every McDonalds, Starbucks and mall.  They usually always have a bathroom you can use.  But I think the thing I found the most crazy was that you can always find a bathroom in a place I'd never have considered looking.

A graveyard.

That's right.  All the graveyards I visited had several toilets, all neatly kept and ready for use.  You can't find one easily under the Eiffel Tower or down the Champ Elysees, but you can go put flowers on your grandmother's grave and take care of business.  What's up with that?  Are they more aware of dead people than the living?    It's a conundrum.

Anyway, I've learned to go whenever I can.  Even if I've gone just an hour before.  After dancing down some of the streets searching desperately for anything I can find, I'm not picky anymore.  Give me a hole in the ground or a machine that talks French.  It's either that or a bush in a park.  And I hear they frown on that.

Now, if I could just get over going into a toilet and seeing a man using the urinal right next to my stall.  But I don't think that's going to happen any time soon!  

I'll be offline for a few days.  The holiday, Jonathon's birthday and the museum hopping I'll be doing will take up all my time.  But I'll be back for a quick museum round up sometime next week.  

Until then have a wonderful and safe New Years.

God Bless!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Side of Paris - A Museum to Make You Blush

Hey all,

So it’s the day after the day after the day after Christmas. Try saying that a few times fast. LOL 

I’ve been getting my house in order over here. Trying to finish getting over this head cold, starting back on an exercise regiment, doing a little writing, and then going sightseeing. It would be so easy to just go play every day, but I have to start as I mean to go and make sure I’m doing a little bit of everything as necessary.

I’ll have some writing news in the next couple weeks. As soon as I know the juicy details I’ll post it here on the blog. Until then I’m just doing the regular stuff—my blog, working on  the FREE READ, as well as any new stories I’m dreaming up.

It’s nice not having to have a big house to take care of. Easy to keep picked up and it gives me lots of time to do other things. I figure I’ll spend the mornings here at the hotel doing writing, then in the afternoon I’ll go see the sights.

Except for next week. I’m getting this special museum pass for six days so I’ll be spending every minute I can museum hopping. Get this!  I’ll get to spend as much time at the Louve as I want! It’s the one place here I haven’t had a chance to visit yet. I also get to see the crypts and climb the towers of Notre Dame, see the palace of Versailles, as well as a bunch of others.

I’ve been going to a bunch of free museums here in town, but the other day Jonathon and I went to one that I just have to write about. I was so tickled that he enjoyed it as much as I did. Ready for this?

Musee de l'Erotisme.

For you that can’t figure out what that means, it’s The Museum of Erotica. And it’s seven floors of all kinds of erotic music, films, statues, cartoons and objects d’ art. I gotta tell you I was pretty agog. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a porno film from the 1920s. And the surrealist art? You have to see it to believe it. 

Check out some of these pictures. A little of everything.


I have never seen so many variations of cocks, quims and ways to use them. I thought I was pretty well read until now.

This place is definitely not for the faint of heart. You’ll have to leave your inhibitions at the door for sure or else you won’t enjoy yourself. One lady did nothing but hummfph her way through the exhibits. Her hubby would point something out, she’d wrinkle her nose up and sniff, “hummfph”. Made me wonder why they put out the euros to visit if they were going to disapprove of everything they saw.

We, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And like good erotica, the exhibits did the job and Jonathon and I went home and got VERY snuggly. But then again, we don’t need to stare at a plastic T-Rex and girl boffing each other to do that.

So if you are in Paris and are bored of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, go on down to the “red light” district where the Moulin Rouge gals kick up their feet and the sex shops do a booming business. 

Find the window where the chair has a moving tongue (I think you can figure out what THAT’S about) and head on inside. I guarantee you will be awed, amused and maybe even a little aroused by the time you leave.

Now you know why they call it, “Gay Paree!”

See you next time!


Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone! God Bless You All!!!

Hey all,

I hope you all had a great Christmas. It’s such a special time of year, filled with fun and family. But this year was a little different for us. Since we were in Paris, things were very different indeed.

Last year in Macau we were able to Skype with our kids, but here in Paris our internet is SOOOO bad we can even use it. So the best we could do was send a note and a text on the blessed day. It’s the first time I’ve ever been completely incommunicado with my babies and it was pretty hard on me.

But Jonathon knew and set out to make the holiday special. We had a wonderful time just the two of us. While he had to work Christmas Eve day, he got off early enough that we could go do something special.  Something I was hoping we could do from the time I knew we were going to be in Paris.

We started off with a great meal at a sidewalk café. Even though it was cold outside, we sat under the heat lamps so we could people watch. We started out with a sweet aperitif and some of their delicious bread. Then we had a quiche and salad which were both some of the best I’ve tasted.

The main dish was next. We shared beef bourguignon over rice. (awesome) And then something we really wanted to try. Cheese fondue. Three different cheese and wine, eaten with bread and potatoes. I’ve got to tell you…that whole Velveeta thing I grew up with? After eating real fondue, I’ll NEVER do it the Velveeta way again. EVER!!!

Desert was equally good. Crème Brulee (naturally). And chocolate mousse. Wow. It was a delicious way to end the meal.

Of course we had wine. A perfect rose that we’d never tried before. A glass wasn’t enough. We shared a bottle and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

And then on to what I was truly looking forward to. Something to feed my heart and my spirit. Though I had to share it with about a gazillion others, it was worth it.

Christmas Midnight Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Now, please understand, I’m not Catholic. In fact I don’t have a specific organized religion. I’m just a believer. I’ve attended services at Westminster Abbey and been blessed by a Mayan holy man in Belize.  I’ve heard mass said at Saint Paul’s in London and listened to a Hindu Shiva (is that right?) being sung in Nepal. Each religion has it’s own message and I’ve learned a little something from each of them.

But I love Notre Dame. I’ve been to the church before—even sang there as a young girl—and it’s always been special to me. Even after three times in Paris I find myself going back again and again. The age, the architecture, the inspiration I get just walking around. I just adore it. So when the opportunity came for me to experience a midnight mass at Christmas time, I didn’t mind standing in line with the thousands of others who also wanted the experience.

And it wasn’t so bad. Everyone was in a good mood and they had a big screen out in the square for those who couldn’t get in. We queued up and were finally showed in after it had started. The music was beautiful and though I couldn’t understand the Cardinal who gave the sermon (it was in French) it didn’t really matter. My spirit was fed and that was what counted most.

The people standing around me murmured amen and sang along with the choir and I counted myself fortunate that I was able to be a part of such a moving ceremony.

It was a lovely Christmas Eve and a blessed way to start our Christmas day. It might not have been the family Christmas I was used to but in it’s own special way it was just as beautiful and lovely as any we’ve done in the past.

I'll be back with more about...just stuff later this week!
Hugs to all,


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas In Paris

Hey all,

I admit it.  When I first heard we would be spending Christmas in Paris, France, I did the happy dance.  What could be more romantic than sipping hot wine and snuggling together as we wander under the Eiffel Tower?

Well, I have to say, the reality was even better than the dream.  The first night we had off we rode the metro down to the Trocadero and visited a French Christmas market.  It was amazing.  Although I've been to many Christmas bazaars in my time, these were quite unique.  Little chalets and the best spreads of food I've ever seen.  And crafts of every kind.  We visited several markets, and it's like stepping into another world.

The food is beyond belief.  You name it, they have it.  Bakery goods, sausage and sandwiches, candies, dozens of cauldrons of hot wines and something you don't often see in the states... Foie Gras which is another name for goose liver.  And for a fraction of what you'd pay in the states.  I don't eat the stuff, but if your palate leans toward the rich and fancy, you can go crazy for less than 5 euros.

What I enjoyed the most were the displays of foods and crafts.  They make them so beautiful each booth was a work of art.  I took a few pics just to show you.  Check 'em out...

Candy.  Bullet type chocolates filled with creme.  Totally yummy and airy.  All for only a euro.

Bakery goods.  A little out of focus, but you can see the variety and display.  Beautiful.

Clothing.  You name it, they got it.  Right now they're doing great business with scarves, mittens and coats.  And the fur lined boots are selling like hotcakes.

 And of course Christmas items are huge right now.  I bought a stocking for myself.  We buy a stocking in every country we visit if it's Christmas.

And the food....seriously, you can get very fat...very fast.
Anyway, these are just a few of the things we saw.  It's a wonderful way to spend an evening with your sweet baboo.  Wandering the streets with your hot wine (or in my case hot OJ made with honey, lemon and cinnamon) in hand.  Christmas in Paris is an exciting start to our amazing traveling adventure.

We'll end our Christmas season with a midnight mass at Notre Dame cathedral and then spend the next day on a very special outing.  More on that next week.

I'll try to be back again before Christmas, but with things being so crazy and the internet so iffy here, I'm not sure as to when I'll be back on.  Until then, may all your days be filled with love, laughter and joy and I pray you and yours with have a very Merry Christmas!

God Bless!


Friday, December 16, 2011

We're Here in the City of Lights!

Hey all,
Well we're here!  In gay Paris!  Gay, cold, windy gloomy Paris, but Paris none-the-less.  It's been an interesting journey to say the least.

Saying goodbye to the kids was hard, but in a way it was a relief for us all.  I think we were all beginning to wonder if we’d EVER leave Orlando.  As Jessaca put it, “You can’t say ‘one last time’ anymore.  You’ve had so many ‘one last times’ we don’t believe you anymore.  LOLOL

Our flights both took off on time and we were on our way...

The overseas flight wasn’t too bad itself, US Airways is one of the better carriers we’ve been on.  Seats were comfortable and there was space for your feet.  Downside was the meal wasn’t great.  Airline food at it’s normal and they wanted to charge you to use headphones.    (I always bring our own—I’ve learned.)

The bad thing was there were two babies on board and they cried non-stop the whole way.  I understand about babies.  Took one on an overseas trip myself, but it was obvious these moms didn’t get why the babies were crying.  And they didn’t want to learn.  The attendant tried to explain about air pressure and it could be eased by them sucking, but neither mom apparently breastfed, used pacifiers or were willing to give a bottle to the child.  The pain those kids must have been in was frightening and even though the moms were embarrassed they wouldn’t do what was necessary to stop the crying.  Bad form.

Needless to say NO ONE got any sleep.  Baby Johnny would finally slow down and we’d all breathe a sigh of relief but then baby Janey would step up to fill the breach.  I finally gave up and watched a movie.

But we arrived in Paris an HOUR early.  Tailwinds the pilot said, but I think he wanted to get away from screaming babies, too!  ;-) 

Immigration was it’s usual crush.  Disney snake lines and we did the immigration line dance.  Shuffle, shuffle, elbow someone, apologize.  Shuffle, shuffle, curse your carry-on as it hits someone’s abused shins, apologize.  Slide in front of someone, grin in satisfaction and hug your success to yourself.

But once we got through all was good.  Our luggage came through with no problems (thank the Lord) and we jumped in a taxi to go to our hotel.  Which turned out to be surprisingly nice.  I’m not sure what I expected...we've stayed in MUCH worse! A hole in the wall or fighting for bed space with cockroaches, but the residence hotel was a pleasant surprise.  Basic, but we have a microwave, fridge and even a hob (hotplate) so I can cook for myself when Jon does show calls.

We dumped our stuff and then took a short walk to blow out the cobwebs.  We are only a twelve minute walk from the Cirque tent (it's white now) so we went and took a look at it.  Wow!  Can you say amazing.  It’s huge.  We found out later it takes 80+ trucks to move it and the rest of the gear around the country.

After a quick lunch, we headed home to get some rest before we went to meet Jon’s boss and see the show.  We were exhausted, but really looking forward to it.

Once we got to the back of the tent, we met Jon’s boss.  (Really nice!  So different from the asshole Gerard) and then we met the tour service’s gal, Stacie.  (Another great help to us and a sweetheart.)  Then I went and drank coffee while Jonathon did paperwork.  And then we saw the show.

In a couple of words, surreal and astonishing.  It’s a long show…close to three hours long with an intermission included.  I’m not sure what it was about—that is often the case with a Cirque show at first, but the talent involved is beyond astonishing.  Flyers, acrobats, clowns (not scary ones), musicians, singers…I could go on and on.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Even almost comatose with exhaustion we enjoyed it thoroughly.

But when we headed home we ran into a problem.  Our key wouldn’t work in our hotel room and the front desk had gone home for the night.  Apparently in France there are NO 24 hour desk help.  So we were pretty much stuck.  Then…enter our fellow Cirque family members.  And though they couldn’t wave a magic wand and get us in, they did the next best thing.

Johan, who speaks French made phone calls to see if he could find a way to get us inside.  Layla, offered us a room to stay in for the night, and Sherry took us upstairs and gave us a drink while we waited for word from the locksmith.

So getting locked out was serendipitous.  We met several Cirque people and I’ve got to tell you…I was so blessed by their openness to help us…someone they’d never even met.  If all our new show family as is gracious as these three, I know we will love our time here.

After an enjoyable visit, we finally went up to our borrowed room and hit the hay.  We’d had enough adventure for the day and we REALLY needed to get to sleep!  LOL

More later!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Did You Miss Me? This time I'm Really Back!!!!

Hey all,

Sorry it’s been a while, but I wanted to make sure my news was 100% true before I let everyone in on it. I’m so excited, and that excitement has helped me heal and feel better more than anything else could.

What am I talking about? Well here’s the latest CJ gossip…

As you all know, Jonathon and I were working in Taipa, Macau, a small island west of Hong Kong, for almost a year. While he loved the show he worked, his manager Gerard was a real ass. He was one of those control freaks who cared more about how he looked than taking care of his men. He got people hurt, literally broke equipment and blamed others and lied to his bosses left and right. Jon stood it for as long as he could before finally giving up and giving notice. Life is too short to deal with idiots.

So we left the country of Macau after enjoying much of what the Asian life has to offer. (He did have another offer at another casino, and we thought about staying, but the paperwork to keep us there would have taken too long. We’d have had to leave and then come back and that was too much of a pain.)

Now he didn’t leave without employment. No sirree. Stupid my man isn’t. In this economy leaving one job before having another is just irresponsible. So he tossed his hat in the ring and was offered several other opportunities.

In just one week he was offered jobs in Abu Dhabi, Jakarta Indonesia, Japan or Europe.

Pretty cool, huh? So we went through them, did our pros and cons and finally decided.

Drum roll please.....

We are now the proud employees of Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo Show, which is now touring all over Europe!!!! 

That’s right. As you read this we are winging our way over the ocean to the city of lights…Paris. The show is there right now until the second week in January. Then it moves on to Barcelona Spain, Amsterdam The Netherlands and after that (we think) to Switzerland, Germany and many others.

How awesome is that???!!!! We will be able to do midnight Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral AND celebrate the New Year watching the fireworks go off at the Eiffel Tower. Not too shabby for a couple of poor kids who grew up with itchy feet, huh?

He is the Electronic Maintenance Coordinator, which basically means he is in charge of anything electrical in the show. Jon is super excited over the opportunity and he can’t wait to get started.  If you want to see more about the show, check out these links...

And me? Well, hell. I don’t have any excuse NOT to write now. Romantic foreign lands, new things to see and do everyday, sexy French, Spanish or Danish men. If I didn’t have any ideas before (seriously, I’ve already got a backload—I didn’t need any more help!!!) I sure will now.

Plus, since my health is better, I’ll be able to get back in the track on all my blogging, writing and online activities. Travel is stimulating for me and I thrive on it. So look for more in the future. I plan on being back on track 100% by the new year. But I’ll be blogging again immediately at least twice a week. Once I get Jonathon’s schedule I’ll be more specific.

The first thing I’m going to do is bring back and continue my free read—Hustle into Love. I have it almost finished now and I KNOW my fans are waiting to see what happened to Mace and Chantal.

So keep me in your thoughts and prayers. We arrive in Paris on Wednesday the 14th and begin our new adventure. It’s so great to be back in gear again, and I hope you all check back to see what I think of Paris at Christmastime!!!!

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update From CJ

Hello everyone,

I am so sorry that my health prevented me from being here over the summer.  I owe you all an explanation and was too emotionally fractured to do so before now.  I have the doc's okay to slowly pick things up by the end of the year, but I wanted to say something now.

Bottom line is that several things hit at once.  We moved from Macau back to the states where I got really sick and was put on bed rest.  Then, to add to that misery, when I went in for another checkup, I had my routine Mammogram done.  And it didn't turn out as expected.

Cancer is such a scary word and to add it to the other health problems I was having, plus such a huge move...well, I didn't handle it well.  And because Jonathon doesn't start his new job until December...NO INSURANCE.  Can you say OMG expense wise?  To say the least I had major stress as well as being sick.

We did another mammogram, ultrasounds and none of them came back conclusive.  They don't do them quickly, so I was stuck waiting to find out the results for long periods of time.  The constant worry exasperated my other health problems and all I could do was survive day to day.  Finally, we did surgery.  I admit to being terrified.

The thing is, I was pretty sure I didn't have cancer.  My gift told me I was okay, breast cysts run in my family, and I was 99% sure that was what they were seeing.  But I think because I was so emotionally and physically depleted, that little 1% scared the beejeezes out of me.

The final surgery was just a couple weeks ago and I am so grateful to say after all the worry, pain and desperation, it turned out to be a benign cyst and NOT the big C.  But it was an emotional and physical roller coaster of an experience I hope to never go through again.  It cost me almost six months of time where I was literally unable to do anything except wait for the next test to be read.

The scare of having cancer was huge.  I can't imagine actually getting results that said I DID have breast cancer.  I have to tell you, I'm a huge supporter now of breast cancer research.  While I tossed them a few dollars here and there before, now I am full bore, 100% behind them.  No woman should go through even a minute of the terror I did.

So, now that I am pretty much healed from the surgery, the doctor says I can slowly come back to life.  I figure I can pick up the reins to a few things, but other circumstances in my life are so up in the air I doubt I will be back online 100% until after the first of the year.

I hope to be more forthcoming in the next week, so keep your fingers crossed that what I need to get dealt with does so I can get you in the know.

BUT...  The good news is I've been dreaming up a storm so when I finally get to writing again, I'll have plenty of new material!  LOL

Take care all and I hope to be back on track soon!

CJ England

Monday, August 29, 2011

News From CJ

I know my communication has been few and far between and I'm so sorry for that.  I want to thank all of you for your personal letters of support as well as the prayers and good thoughts sent my way.

If all goes well, it should be over soon.  Without going into detail, I will be having surgery in the next couple weeks and if what the docs say is right, I should be able to get back on track.  Once I go through the recovery time, I can even start using the computer again to write.  (So far I've got about six stories on my tape recorder :->)

Being so ill, moving from Macau back to Orlando and getting ready for another move overseas (place is a surprise, I'll let you know once the contract is signed) has been very difficult.  Something had to give and it was my time online.  I hated it in so many way, missed so much, but in a weird way it was good for me too.  I think I needed time to reflect and maybe regroup.  I know my life will be different once this is done and my hope is it will also be better.  I know my goals and thoughts have changed a great deal.

Please don't give up on me just yet.  I'm itching to be creative again, but I don't know when that will be with what's happening right now.  All I can say is I'm glad I have people who love me and lift me up when I'm struggling.

Hopefully will talk with you all again soon.


CJ England

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Note From CJ

Hey everyone,

Where ya at?

It's been slow, but I think I've finally made it the distance.  Right now Jonathon and I are relaxing in sunny/rainy Florida awaiting final orders as to where he is going to be sent to next.  We may stay domestic, but we also might head overseas again.  But the PTBs have been kind enough to give us this short vacation here with the kids while the final choice is made.

I'm doing much better.  I'm even been given the green light to start writing again!  Yippee!!!!  Once the 4th of July festivities are done with, I'm going to pick up with the FREE READ again.  It's my first priority.

This time away has solidified my earlier decision about how to approach my writing.  And I can't wait to get started up again.  It drives me crazy that so often once you've had a revelation, something comes so soon afterwards to test or thwart it. may have slowed me down, but it didn't stop me.  Starting next week I'll slowly pick up the threads and began weaving this new tapestry of my life.

I hope you all enjoy it.

Thanks again for all the emails, thoughts and prayers.  If I didn't respond, it was only because I couldn't.  You are all the best and I look forward to talking to everyone again.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

News From CJ

Hey Everyone,

I just wanted to touch base and let you know that I'm doing better and hopefully will be back on track soon.  It wound up that I picked up a nasty virus and then contracted pneumonia on top of it.  It knocked me for a loop and while I'm still exhausted, I'm getting better every day.  

Jonathon and I are back in Orlando while I recover and, as I mentioned before, he is waiting for his new work orders as to where we are going next, but until then, we are taking a restful vacation visiting the kids.  It's nice to be with them and we are having a wonderful time.

I hope to be back in gear by the end of the month, especially with my FREE READ, and again I apologize for having to put that off until I'm feeling better.

I'll keep this blog updated with news as soon as I know it.  I want to thank everyone for your patience and kindness over the last month.

Hugs to all,

CJ England

Saturday, May 14, 2011

That U Turn Was a Little Something More!!!

Hey everyone,

Well, it wasn't an earthquake that kept me away this time, but two somethings, one scary and one more exciting. In fact, since I had a book come out this week, and couldn't be around for the fun, you know it was something serious to prevent my attendance.

I was in hospital.

I can't go into all the details right now, and for the most part, I'm alright. But without scaring you all (or myself more) I've been away having some tests and procedures done. I'm still in the middle of things, but I made Jonathon take out my computer so he could send this letter out to everyone. I knew (depending on who you were) you'd be worried or irritated or just flat out shaking your head over my odd behavior.

I'll probably be in here through the 30th of May.

Then, part II of the something comes into play. Right in the middle of all this, Jonathon finds out that we are being sent elsewhere to work. He's got a choice between several locations, both foreign and domestic, but we will be leaving Macau as soon as I'm healthy enough to do so. AAAARRRGGGHH!!!!! Once I know more about that I'll share.

But talk about getting hit with everything at once!!!! So, between that and the medical issues I've been unable to go online or do any kind of work at all. Though laying in bed does offer a lot of opportunities for dreaming, I must say. LOL

It is said that life hits you all at once and now I can surely attest this to be true.  So, please don't worry if you don't see me for awhile. Jonathon and I have talked and we've decided for my health and so we can get us packed up and moved to wherever without adding to my medical problems, I'll be taking a hiatus for awhile. I'll keep in touch with those key people I've already mentioned before, but right now I just don't have the strength to do more. Please forgive me for that.

My personal FREE READ... I'm so sorry all. I made a huge mistake not writing ahead because I was enjoying the cliffhangers right along with you. But it doesn't help to have a predated blogger set up if you don't have something to put on it! I won't do that again. I will say if I can find the time to write installments, I will put them up. But that probably won't be until after the first of the month and I'm out of hospital. And I will promise NEVER to do it this way again.

My chat group and chat blog... I'll drop in when I can, but if you don't hear from me, don't worry. If something unusual happens, I'll get a note to you somehow and I thank you all in advance for the prayers and loving thoughts I know you'll be sending my way.

Blessings to all and I'll miss you so much!

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