Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Support the Troops: Operation Paperback

Writers love to read. Moreover, we have to read. We read to see what genres and tropes are selling, we read to evaluate our peers (i.e., our competition), we read to absorb how others write with emotion, brevity, impact, style. We subconsciously dissect structure, plot, point of view and other tools. Only rarely can we afford to read solely for pleasure.

The result of all this reading? Books and more books, in every nook and cranny of our homes. Sure, we avail ourselves of the local lending library and are more and more often buying digital editions, but we also buy tons of print books. What to do with all those books once we’ve read and digested them?

A while ago my friend Tara Nina, whose son serves in the U.S. Armed Forces, steered me to Operation Paperback and I’m always happy to mention it to other folks.

As a result of some boxes returned to me this week as undeliverable (more on that later), I’ve learned new things about shipping to the troops. Information below came either from the U.S. Postal Service or Wikipedia.

Military Post Offices (MPOs) operated or supported by the Army or Air Force use the city abbreviation APO (Army Post Office or Air Force Post Office), while Navy and Marine Corps use the city abbreviation FPO (Fleet Post Office).

Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) was added as a valid overseas address in 2009. As of March 2009 there were sixteen U.S. embassy locations known as DPOs. The other approximately ninety overseas U.S. embassy post offices fall under the management oversight of the Services and so are known as either APOs or FPOs. However, many will be switching to the DPO address.

Three "state" codes have been assigned depending on the geographic location of the military mail recipient:

* AE (ZIPs 09xxx) for Armed Forces Europe which includes Canada, Middle East, and Africa
* AP (ZIPs 962xx - 966xx) for Armed Forces Pacific
* AA (ZIPs 340xx) for Armed Forces (Central and South) Americas

All mail must be addressed to someone specific; addressing mail to “Any Service Member” is no longer permitted.

Military mail between the U.S. and overseas locations is subject to customs inspection in the country of destination, and customs declarations must be attached to packages and larger mail pieces.

For APO/FPO/DPO shipments you pay domestic prices, even though items are shipped internationally. If you pack only books, you can send them at lower cost via “Media Mail” rather than “Priority Mail”.
Ready for Operation paperback
A 12”x10”x8” Ready Post box will hold 25 to 28 books; 12”x12”x6” Priority Mail boxes fit about 20-24.

Now for my tale of woe.

Having received a name and address from Operation Paperback, last week I shipped four boxes of paperback books to a DPO AE address, carefully following all directions and double-checking my printing. Two boxes were returned within 3 days marked “undeliverable.” A couple of days later I received an email from my addressee thanking me for the receipt of ONE box. Two days after that, the fourth box was returned to me, lighter by half and rewrapped with lots of see-through tape.

Turns out that the box was damaged and hastily repacked with
(a) 11 out of the 25 books;
(b) 2 small ceramic frogs that had apparently been involved in the collision and scooped up inadvertently;
(c) a wad of brown kraft paper to fill the spaces formerly occupied by books;
(d)  a form letter of apology from the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center. I will contact them to see if there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades that the 14 missing books will be recovered.

I don’t mean to bash the Postal Service; they do a fantastic job in the face of budget deficits and competition not only from private carriers but instant electronic communication. And my local carrier, Eileen, is wonderful. But it seems to me that maybe not everyone in the U.S.P.S. knows about DPO and they didn’t know how to route it.

My local postmaster suggested putting my return address inside the box as well as on the label. Unless he meant “affix it to each item inside”, I’m not sure that would have helped in this instance.

I will continue sending books as I accumulate them. I also take home any unopened shampoo and soap packets from hotel stays and, along with travel-size grooming items I add to my grocery list every now and again, to ship them as well. Small toiletry items are as much appreciated by the troops as reading material is.

If you support our troops overseas, thank you. Please share your stories here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What I'm Thankful For...

 My health, most of all. Having buried two husbands too soon (one from colon cancer, the other from emphysema), I’m all too aware of the fragility of life. I’m thankful that I have the health and strength to participate in Zumba and Silver Sneakers classes, to walk along the riverbank or in the woods, to ride a bicycle, to dance like no one’s watching.

I’m thankful my sister survived the fire that inflicted first-degree burns over her face, neck and chest and incinerated her shoulder-length hair. (She looks better in a short ‘do anyway.) Twenty-one days in intensive care, more than a year of physical and occupational therapy, five separate skin-graft operations and a laser cut on her throat have returned 60 percent mobility to her head and neck and a smile to her face. Her role model? DWTS winner J.R. Martinez.

I’m thankful for my brothers, who, while on opposite ends of the “different” spectrum, both play a vital part in my life. I’m grateful that my parents had long and fruitful lives before they died in their nineties.

Friends, both in day-to-day life and online, those I meet once a year at conferences and those too far to meet in person, sustain me more than I can say. Neighbors who come together during emergencies and help each other, who shovel my snow in winter and share their excess zucchini and lettuce in summer, are priceless.

I thank the United States Armed Forces who protect us, guard all our precious freedoms and sometimes give their lives for us, and preserve the power of the vote, no matter who your candidate is. This is a right that too many nations deny their citizens.

My publisher, Ellora’s Cave, my wonderful editor, Jilly, and the inimitable Cavemen, who not only are delicious eye candy but as nice as anyone you’d ever meet. Thank you to my readers, who buy my books, who comment on my blogs, who share my enjoyment of life and fun and dancing during conferences. Thank you to other authors, who give me hours of reading enjoyment.
Forest photo by Cris Anson

Warm sunshine, snow-capped mountains, tall shade trees, clumps of wildflowers with their attendant bees gathering honey, babbling brooks, the smell of the ocean, red caverns and striated cliffs in Canyon country, exploring forgotten byways to see the delightful surprises around the next turn. I appreciate Fresh Jersey corn and ripe peaches and the farmers who still grow crops that sustain us. Cold milk and warm cookies, Moonstruck chocolate truffles, Maine lobster roll or home-made vegetable beef soup with freshly baked bread. Hot mulled cider after a romp in the snow or fresh lemonade after a day pulling weeds.

I’m thankful for classical music to soothe the soul, whether the intricate perfection of a Mozart sonata or the uplifting strains of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. The beat of a Sousa March or a Joplin Rag, the sonority of Domingo singing an aria from Turandot, the hippie wail of another Joplin, Janis by name. Or the Boss who was Born in the U.S.A.

Peony photo by Cris Anson

Oh, and did I mention flowers? My garden, both the perennials that appear every year and the ones I plant every spring, delight the eye, the nose and the soul.

May you have a Thanksgiving full of love and peace and good food.

What are you most thankful for?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

BDSM Therapist & Sexpert Talks about Work & Romance

My guest today, Dr. Charley Ferrer, is a Clinical Sexologist, Educator and TV/Radio Host and Producer known as “the Latina Dr. Ruth”. Her first book won the Literary Hall of Fame Award for Best Self-help Book 2002 and since then she’s written eight more books on sexuality and relationships.

First I’d love to say thank you for having me on your blog. I enjoyed meeting you during my 3-day BDSM for Writers Workshop in New York City in August. I’m so pleased the workshop and the experience at Paddles was a memorable one. I hope other writers join us for next year’s workshop.  I’m also conducting a few workshops for readers and anyone interested in learning more about Dominance and submission.

As you know, I’m very open about myself and my participation in the D/s community. I love to help educate others and help men and women feel comfortable with whatever sensual and/or sexual connections they make.

I’m often asked how I found the BDSM lifestyle and whether or not I actually “practice what I preach” so to speak. The answer is, yes I do.  If you’ve read my books, BDSM for Writers or BDSM The Naked Truth, you will know that I “outted” myself in an attempt to help others accept themselves and bring factual education to the medical and clinical community as well as law enforcement agencies concerning the truths about Dominance and submission.  It was never my intent to out myself since there’s still so much prejudice and misconceptions in the world regarding D/s. And let’s face it, I have to make a living as well so coming out was a huge consideration. Yet, I hoped that by coming out I would encourage others to do the same and help further normalize the community. I’m still not sure if I should have, but then, as the adage goes, the cat’s out of the bag now. 

How has coming out affected your private practice, your professional life, and your relationships?

Well as you can imagine, coming out as a D/s practitioner has been a toss-up between good and bad effects. I’ve lost several friends and business associates as well as work contracts when individuals found out. Not everyone is ready for a BDSM therapist or college professor in their midst. I even had a colleague tell me I was doing harm to my patients because I approved of their D/s lifestyle. My only response to her was, “why should I judge my patients and their desires? That’s not my job. As a therapist, I’m there to help them find new avenues to improve their life, and if that means help them to accept their BDSM desires then I’d be glad to. Sometimes I’m the only one they can turn to who will accept them for who they are not what “I” want them to be.

As for my private practice, that’s actually increased, and over 70% of my clients/patients are seen via phone & Internet consultations as many are outside the NYC area.

Relationship-wise, well that’s always a hard one. Many want to know what I do with my partner and specific activities I perform. Tsk tsk…such voyeurs. *chuckles* I look at it this way, I don’t ask about your bedroom activities, you shouldn’t ask about mine. Unfortunately, dating is a bit hard at times since my partner is outted by association. 

What makes your BDSM books different from any others?
Well to start with, my books are non-fiction. Unlike most books on BDSM and the D/s lifestyle, mine aren’t focused on the “how-to” but on the emotional and psychological connections individuals make when engaged in these activities as well as the respect and love many share when embracing the BDSM lifestyle. That’s not to say that there isn’t information on how to “train a slave”, merely that that’s only one aspect of my book.

What’s it like to be a practicing Domme in a vanilla world?
This question makes it sound like I’m a Dominatrix, which I’m not. A Dominatrix is someone who engages in BDSM and power exchange activities for money. I do it because I’m a Dominant woman and that is the role I take in my intimate relationships. This doesn’t mean the men I’m with are weak or aren’t dominant in their own right, it just means that I’m the boss. Most of the men I date are military or in demanding jobs. The difference is when they walk through the door, they surrender to me. Imagine how beautiful it is to have all that manly essence at your fingertips.

Do you believe power exchange relationships are healthy?
Absolutely! In fact, we experience power exchange relationships in various degrees from the day we’re born and continue them in varying degrees till the day we die. Here are a few examples:  parent – child; boss – employee; leader – follower.  Who said power exchange relationships had to be sexual?  In fact, most of them aren’t.  It is merely one person being in-service to another, helping make their life better. Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

How do you plan to continue your educative efforts of BDSM?
Starting January 2013, I will be conducting workshops on BDSM in various states not only for writers but for the general community as well.  Some of the workshops will include trips to local BDSM clubs, providing writers and readers with the opportunity to go on a “field trip” as it were with me—someone knowledgeable and safe. It will be a night to write about.  Please review my website or for more information. Or email me directly at 

As always, it was wonderful sharing with you and I look forward to seeing you on one of my future “field trips”. 

Live with passion,

Doctor Charley…

Note from Cris Anson: The cover for BDSM The Naked Truth posted here is brand-new. So if you click on the Amazon buy link and see a different cover, it's just that Amazon hasn't gotten around to changing it yet.