The Amazon Iowan

Blog of Author Heidi Cullinan


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The little things matter: how my kid’s school schooled me on reacting to sexual bullying

I just returned from a meeting with my kid’s school counselor addressing an issue concerning her, and while there are others getting a talking-to right now, I can’t stop thinking about what just happened. I’m humbled, and I’m so incredibly glad my kid goes to school where she does.

The essentials are this: my daughter loves horses. LOVES. Horses. We own one. She has a million Breyer models and various toy horses. Half her clothing has horses on it. If she has an assignment and can turn it into something horse, she does. Horses are life. Her dream is to own a barn someday, and a stable full of horses, so much so that she’s basing her career choices on paths which would best fund her dream and still leave her free time to ride.

She draws horses too, and has for years, always trying to draw them better. She’s very proud of her work, sometimes taking hours to work on her pieces. Sometimes she colors them, sometimes she doesn’t. She customizes My Little Pony figures, adds mods to games to add horses. She doodles at school when she has time, and brings pictures to school to show her friends.

She’s also a pre-teen, and she loses her work sometimes. One picture was lost recently, only to be found again, then lost a second time. After that loss, it was returned to her by a male classmate…with an addition.

The texts I received from her bus ride home that day were full of hurt and fury. I was proud of the way she’d gotten angry, not let the incident make her cower and destroy the drawing. She had many emotions, but she understood feeding the fire would make it worse, so mostly tried to convey anger and then ignore it. We talked about it, processing her hurt, and I did my best to explain I don’t think it was personal–I doubted they understood how much that hurt her, that they were simply being dumb boys. She understood and was still hurt, which I said was very normal. I encouraged her to fix the drawing, erasing and then adding background to rub it out completely. I also applauded her new drawing, which was a bit…bloodthirsty. I also suggested maybe don’t take that one to school, just enjoy it at home.

Unfortunately, the incident wasn’t over. When she returned to school, the teasing kept happening. From everything I could gather, it was subtle, infrequent, but just enough to keep the wound open. My daughter was upset, still angry, but her anxiety began to pick up, and she didn’t want to go to school. I suggested she tell her counselor and teacher in the class where it happened, and she sent them an email once she was back home. One teacher wrote her back promising this would be addressed, and it seemed to be over for the night.

But as we went to bed, fears of what the next day would bring haunted her, and talking to her teachers and counselors wasn’t enough. When I offered to go with her, she said that was what she wanted.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. I wanted to be passive as much as I could, to let this be her solving the issue, but I didn’t want to leave her to hang out to dry, either. I asked what she wanted me to do, and mostly she seemed to simply want me there. So we sat in the office and waited for her team’s counselor to be available.

First of all, while I’ve talked to this guy before, I’ve never seen him in action with my child. He greeted her with a warmth that came from really knowing and caring about her, and she responded with the kind of ease that said they’d had a lot of conversations and she was clearly glad to see him, to talk with him. I think that’s when I began to understand how serious this was in her head–she felt this comfortable with this counselor, but she still needed me present for this conversation. This point was driven home when she panicked as she found out he hadn’t gotten her email yet and she’d have to relay the story out loud.

She did great, though, repeating the email almost verbatim, her voice only wavering a little. She was calm, cool, and composed.

And that’s when I got schooled.

I am ashamed to say, I expected her to be soothed but told this was how boys are. To say this wasn’t okay but point out this was pretty minor, that this was about defacing property and kids being hurtful and clueless. I thought maybe the boys would be spoken to, maybe, but I wasn’t sure. What I wasn’t ready for was the counselor essentially treating this like sexual assault.

I hesitate saying that, because it feels so serious, implying more invasion than I think my child felt, but basically he took this incredibly seriously, making room for her to feel whatever she felt, to say in no way was this okay. He validated her, thanked her for coming forward, gave her a script to say to her bullies and made it clear the names she gave of those who teased her would be talked to. He explained emphatically any additional teasing especially after they were warned would have immediate consequences. The assistant principal was referenced several times. He repeated these things several times in different ways, made sure my daughter felt okay with how things were going, and when he dismissed her for class, orchestrated an elaborate set of timing so she would not meet her harassers in the hall as they came to the office to be talked to.

Please, please note this is a male counselor, and he’s got at least five years on me. Probably a few more. I’m forty–feel the generation he’s from. Please note the assistant principal referenced is also male. This next bit only matters for the full picture of awesome my daughter is subconsciously digesting: the counselor is a white man, the assistant principal is black. They’re both stereotypical “tough guys.”

My twelve year old was just told, with no blinks, no excuses, no nothing but validation, that they have her back. That she deserves to have strong, powerful people, men included, on her side. That her feelings are valid and her dignity should be protected. That peers, boys or girls, have no write to draw on her pictures, but that when it’s sexual it’s very serious and will be stopped right now. Any attempts to keep things going after the perpetrators have been told to stop will be met with swift justice.

This was the message I watched my girl get. My very pretty, anxiety-carrying, passionate, deep-feeling child. I could not pay money enough in the world to set up that kind of empowerment, and it just happened because that’s a day of doing business at her school. I don’t even think I affected the outcome much by being there. I think this would have happened without me present. I’m selfishly grateful she needed me there so I could witness.

What do I say? Thank you? I did, but it feels so tawdry. I’m ashamed at some of my own thoughts, like I didn’t take it seriously enough. Like I was going to give these guys permission they didn’t deserve. Because I was raised in a different world, in different schools, with different counselors.

For all time, for her life, my child will believe differently. These people pass hundreds of young men and women through their building each year, teaching them this kind of different too. They will carry this into the world. Those boys, who very probably did not mean anything as cruel as it was perceived, will learn they must mind their accidental cruelty. They will live with that message too, and carry it forward to their own children, their sons and daughters.

I just…thank you? What useless words.

What amazing, incredible educators. If only the whole world could go to this school.

 


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KA Mitchell is giving away more stuff, we’re all reading everything, the boys are still chatting, and small side note about sadists.

First the admin stuff:

  • KA Mitchell is still having a buddy read. We’re sliding slowly into book 3 (I’m still behind, but I’m catching up today). She’s still taking questions, and so are all her characters. We’ll start book 4 Tuesday when it releases!
  • KA Mitchell is giving stuff away. A $10 certificate and a $25. One contest is fast, the other gives you some time to enter.
  • There’s a Tough Love buddy read. Please come join those chatting. I’m staying out of it until they drag me in, which they did because they wanted to talk about Gordy, and fuck, I wanted to talk about Gordy.
  • I extended the Special Delivery character interviews because I had a rough day yesterday and didn’t get to respond. They’ll be there through the weekend, so stop by and ask whatever you like.
  • The blog tour has had some interviews and guests posts on it, including one where I talk about drag. Also tons more chances to win Tough Love. (Some of the links haven’t been updated yet—Dan does that, and he’s been working and taking care of me as I feel lousy. Sorry.)

Speaking of Tough Love

I’ve been trying to think of how to say this, and I can’t ever find the way to climb on top of it gracefully, so pardon the sight of my slip here. What I want to address is the dichotomy of responses I’m getting from reviewers and readers. As always it’s a spectrum, but this time it’s really something amazing to behold, and it keeps bringing me to my knees, more easily probably because I’m tired and a bit sick again and all my emotions are on the surface.

Reactions to Tough Love so far seem to be somewhere on this line: readers either instinctively know they need to give this one a pass, but many are frustrated because they feel like they’re being left out of a party. Some of those then end up reading, and they merge with the next set, the ones who thought they’d read my kink before and would be fine and found…whoa, hey, there’s the edge of my comfort zone. Some of you went over, some of you kissed it. Beyond that are the readers who discovered a third wall beyond the edge of the boundaries they thought they knew, and they seem to be mixed on whether they’re excited or freaked out or both or IDEK, I need to lie down now.

A whole, huge pack of you flat-out loved it, maybe didn’t like some parts which is normal, but mostly yay, book, boys are back, new boys, YAY!  A step further than these people are the hard-core kink lovers, who grunted and RAWR’d and called for more right now please, thanks. Some of you waxed poetic about your love for this kind of book, some of you just made incoherent noises. Loved all the responses, so thanks.

But then there is the last land of responses I’ve received, and they knock me over, make me shake. They’re actually the people I wanted to write for all along. I wanted a story for everybody, but what I really, really wanted, was to write to a group of people who aren’t usually heard, who are usually written off as freaks or bad guys or both. Who have to hide who they are and what they love. What I wanted to do above all was write for you, to show you that I love you too and you too deserve happily ever afters and fiction which represents you.

And the thing is, you sadists, you pain kink-ers, you edge play people–you keep writing me, you keep messaging me, and you make me so glad I went here.

This is the kind of moment that’s hard to explain to media when they ask me about what I write. Usually someone is trying to get at the titter-worthy angle, the nice little mom in Iowa writing erotica, and isn’t that funny—but sometimes media actually ask me about what my work means, and it sucks because I don’t know how to describe this.  I do my best, but whenever I write to a group and they tell me they felt heard, I usually cry, and it’s like something in my soul eases into place.

I think it’s because when I was young, the age my daughter is now, I felt cripplingly alone, unheard, unloved, and lonely. I don’t feel that way now, but I will never forget what that pain and isolation felt like. And while it’s true that mostly what I want to do is write love stories and give readers a good time, a part of me is always reaching for another group or even single individuals who haven’t been asked to dance. Who would love to have a party and yet nobody ever comes or even sees them there with a basket of streamers and drinks. I have been that person, and I think I’m both trying to honor that pain and erase it by helping others not feel that lousy.

In Tough Love, several of you have had to give it a pass or say, “this one wasn’t for me,” and that’s totally, utterly okay. I hate that it’s your turn to feel left out, but for each one of you who’ve had that reaction, I’ve had at least one, sometimes two basically say, “You just heard me.” Sadists especially, they don’t get a ton of leading roles. Masochists some, but sadists usually don’t get to be–and if they do, they’re the bad guy or they’re cured. Pain kink is similar, but sadists, man–they don’t get a good shake almost ever.

The sad thing is I don’t know if I did it right. I did my best. I researched like all hell and had tons of smart people read and react, but I’ll still fall short even for those I most wanted to write for. It makes me so good, though, to hear that I did at least some of it right for some of the people. Those were hard places to go–not so much because this is or isn’t my kink. That has nothing to do with it. I mean, I’m not a 19th century gentleman, or a stammerer, but I wrote those people too. Nope, I’m not a sadist, or a masochist, or even in the Lifestyle. I’m not even really a tourist. But Tough Love challenged me because I knew how important it was to get it right, to not be another fuck up writing a sadist wrong. I didn’t want to accidentally further marginalize a group that gets too much flack as it is. Add in Gordy, who was supposed to be a sweet, sad puppy and then became a monster, and….yeah. I wrote most of that book thinking I’d throw up. So fucking nervous.

I love writing all my stories for you, but this one was extra special to me, and basically a whole bunch of you have told me you appreciate what I did. I wanted to acknowledge you, to thank you right back, and I wanted to share this too in an effort to further validate you, to let some of the frustrated/left out people see why I pushed so far this time.

I feel like I’m cycling now, so I’ll stop and just hug everybody, and let Ethan have the last word. Because this was his quote, to Chenco in Tough Love.


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Forum Stuff: Character Interviews and Buddy Reads (Tough Love and Bad In Baltimore)

I will admit I’m posting this here so I can disseminate it to Facebook and Twitter and all the places this stuff usually goes. And to you, blog readers. Basically this is to let you know

 

  1. The Bad In Baltimore buddy read continues. We’re finishing book two. We’re starting book three. KA is scheduled to do another contest there, maybe tomorrow? I need to email her…
  2. There is a Tough Love buddy read thread too. Someone has even started a conversation, and I’m all bouncy because she’s bringing up the plot line I really, really wanted to talk about. So come talk too so it’s just just the two of us. Except I’m not sure if she wants me to talk yet. I have to go ask that. Which is another email or post. So this blog post is now giving me a to-do list.
  3. There’s a Q&A with any character from the Special Delivery series. So far everyone but Crabtree and Mitch have shown up. Feel free to try and change that. Technically I said that closes tomorrow night but you can ask whenever, really.
  4. There is a Special Delivery Quiz. It will tell you what character you are. I’m Randy. No one is surprised.

 

That’s about it. I have a crazy stupid to-do list and someday may blog something that’s not promo, not me carrying on about my health, and not a cat death. Speaking of all those things: Sidney is still here, though beginning to wane a bit. He’s taken to peeing in the wrong places, which makes life fun. But he still coos and follows me around and looks at me adoringly, and he seems happy outside of the weird peeing and getting his fluids, so I’ll take it. Me: I’m okay. Fighting Blue Cross Blue Shield about a drug, scheduling surgery (July) and trying not to take too much Percocet. I’ve been trying to eat healthy, and mostly I’ve done well, except for tonight when dinner was a stack of Lays chips, a 20 oz Squirt, and 4 green Peeps. I ate a chia bar mostly in an attempt to apologize to my body.

Promo continues. Still several days left on the blog tour, lots of reviews all over the place but I have not yet managed to get them on the website because I am drowning in to-do things still. But I shall soon be ready for RT, all the books will be edited and proofed and ready to go for you all the way through the end of the year. Plus I’m working on things for next year. The wheel rolls on. With or without uterus.

LOL-cat-is-going-to-be-very-busy.


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Release Day, A Special Delivery Quiz, Blog & FB Takeovers, Blogger Newsletters & Stuff Like That

If you have read my newsletter that just went out, you know a lot of this already. Or rather, all of it. A small summary of what you deleted without reading, skimmed, or just experienced.

  • Tough Love is out. Several of you stayed up late to download and read. I send you virtual coffee.
  • I’m taking over Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews blog and Facebook Wednesday. There will be a quiz. That quiz will tell you what SD character you are. Be there or be sadpants.
  • There’s a newsletter just for bloggers. I keep saying that because I think somehow you all keep signing up for the regular newsletter instead, which is awesome, but this is the one you want, guys. Seriously.
  • There will be Tough Love buddy reads, character Q&As, and the usual on my forum. Email assist@heidicullinan.com and my sexy husband Dan will get you a login or help you if you forgot yours. But you have to wait until he’s done saving the world, one drug at a time.
  • The Bad in Baltimore buddy read is still going on. We’re in book two and will switch over to book 3 soon. Book 4 out next week! Same drill as above: email assist@heidicullinan.com to get in.
  • I will be in a lot of places, virtual and actual this year. You can read about that in the sidebar of the newsletter, as well has experience much linkage to books you can buy/download for free of mine and ones which you’ll be able to purchase soon. Ish. This year.

I will let you read the newsletter to experience all of that in detail. But because it’s release day and it’s probably a law somewhere, here is the cover of the book, again, and the blurb, again, and the linkage, again.

Do check the blog tour. There are a TON of posts today, and giveaways at all of them. A lot of the giveaways are doing all three books, so you can try for second editions if you don’t have them, or ammo to infect a friend.

ToughLove300

Book Three of the Special Delivery Series

It takes a strong man to be this fabulous.

Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.

There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.

Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.

Warning: This story contains glamorous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and no-holds-barred BDSM play, including watersports. Readers advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.

Buy links: SamhainAmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

Excerpt on Heidi’s website


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The Fab Four Winners of the Win Tough Love Early Contest, and a Meditation on Anticipation

Well that was one hell of a good time.

When I started this contest yesterday morning, it was mostly a wild hair, but it turned out to be an incredibly good time, and I’ll totally be doing this again. Probably not every single book…though hey, maybe. I’m crazy that way. Next time I do it, I’ll give you more warning for sure.

First, though, let’s get to the winners. I’ve emailed them all, and hopefully they email me back quickly so they can claim their prize—if they don’t in 48 hours, I’ll re-pick, though by then the book will be for sale. (Feel THAT FACT.) Out of [x] winners, these are your champions.

  1. @lovesfabromance
  2. Lisa
  3.  ♥J ♥ – LoveMeSomethingYu(MM)y
  4. Crissy M

 

Congrats to all of you! Enjoy the thrill of having the book early. Feel free to brag and taunt your friends. You know they’d do the same to you if the tables were turned.

have your baby2

 

The thing I hadn’t counted on was how much fun you’d have (and how much fun I’d have watching) beating the drums and rooting for the next trigger level. The thing is, this is just a little over a day early, and all three books together cost less than a nice lunch. But that doesn’t matter, does it? It’s the lure of the chase. The thrill of maybe. The joy of anticipation.

While this has been going on, my husband’s friend Matt is undergoing Hulk Watch 2014: Dan gave him a grow-a-Hulk in a cage, and Matt has been beside himself for days on Twitter waiting for the green guy to bust free. There were heartbreaking decisions like do I go to bed? Should I go to dinner with my family, or watch for another crack? Every time there’s been remote progress (and sometimes just because it’s been hours and nothing has changed) Matt posts another photo. I’ve found myself looking forward to the tweets, not so much because I give a shit about Hulk entrapment, but because it’s fun seeing people excited.

Contests like this, I’m realizing, are more of the same. It’s not so much about the prize but the thrill of it might be me. And that thrill is only so much the greater because the odds are actually high it won’t be you. Except for four people, it was them. That’s the prize, not the book. Because this time, it was you, when you knew it shouldn’t really be.

I think that’s the joy of reading romance–we love watching two (or more) people find their this time, even against the odds. It reminds us not to give up, to believe, to hope, to try. Because it might not be us this time. But it always might be.

In my head Ethan is saying this is why he plays craps, and Randy is rolling his eyes. But I’ll point out Randy has a ring on his finger, and he’s leaning on Ethan’s sturdy shoulder. I think when he did play craps, he did pretty damn well.

Whether you’re an early winner, a loyal reader, or someone taking a chance on me for the first time—I hope when you read Tough Love it’s a risk you enjoyed taking. And I hope your payout is huge. ;)

 

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TOUGH LOVE

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Book Three of the Special Delivery Series

It takes a strong man to be this fabulous.

Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.

There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.

Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.

Warning: This story contains glamorous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and no-holds-barred BDSM play, including watersports. Readers advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.

Buy links: SamhainAmazonBarnes & NobleGoodreads

Excerpt on Heidi’s website

 

Read about the rest of the series here.

 


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Win It Before You Can Buy It: EARLY Giveaway of Tough Love and the Special Delivery Series (also info about blog tours, buddy reads, and stuff.)

Boring stuff out of the way first. (Well, the buddy read is not boring! At all. But we all know you’re here because I said WIN TOUGH LOVE EARLY, OMG.)

Miles and the Magic Flute Blog Tour Signup is Live. Read this newsletter for info. Use this signup form to join. Join this newsletter to be the first to hear about the next blog tour campaign. Any blog can join, of any flavor or size.

Bad Boyfriend Buddy Read Happening Now, Plus Eli Wright is Taking Your Questions. KA too, but you know Eli’s going to bring it. Email assist@heidicullinan.com to get a username and join in the conversation, or lurk in the distance.

Tough Love will have a buddy read and character chat sometime next week, starting Wednesday. Details coming soon.

Now that we have that over with, the contest.

***

postcard-4inx11in-h-front

Pre-Release Giveaway

Special Delivery, Double Blind, and Tough Love

Win all three books in the Special Delivery series in the ebook format of your choice. Prizes will be emailed Sunday, April 6, which means you can start reading and tease your friends about how you had it first by Sunday night. All three books are offered: you can decline the first two if you already have them, replace your first editions, or give them to a friend. Already pre-ordered Tough Love? Thank you! You can still read it early, then give away your won copy. I always support infecting your friends with my work.

Rules and disclaimers: 

This contest is void where prohibited by law. Must be 18 to enter. Only one entry per person. No purchase necessary. Contest open worldwide unless contest is illegal in your country. Contest winner will be chosen at random by online randomizer. Prize is as specified above.  This contest will open at the posting of this blog and close 11AM CST, Sunday April 6. To enter participants must fill out this Google document form. Winners will be announced within four hours of contest end by email and on Heidi Cullinan’s blog/social media accounts. The number of winners will be determined by the metrics stated below. If winners do not acknowledge receipt of winning email within 48 hours of announcement delivery, a new winner will be chosen. E-certificate will be delivered via email within 48 hours of winner acknowledging receipt of notification email. Use this form to enter the contest.

How many winners will there be?

Why, that depends on how many of you enter.

1-50 entrants: 1 winner

51-100 entrants: 2 winners

101-150 entrants: 3 winners

151-200 entrants: 4 winners

201 and above entrants: 5 winners

I’ll do my best to let you know on Facebook and Twitter and this public forum post how many entrants we’re at, but your best bet if you want more winners is to promote this contest. I’m not sure how the odds things works, if you’re better off having less entrants or what, but you have to admit it’s more fun if we’re all running around making an event of it. I would love to be handing out five winner packets, so here’s hoping.

Want to be more official about spreading the word/add a splash of color? Go here to the Special Delivery Series Press Kit to find images, blurbs, info, reviews, picture quotes, cover art, and more.

But you don’t have to pimp to enter. You can simply enter. Which you should do now. Ready? Set? GO.

 


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Eli Wright is in the house: Bad Boyfriend buddy read starting soon, with another contest

We’ve been having a great time at the Bad in Baltimore forum reading Bad Company, and now we’re about to start reading Bad Boyfriend, containing the infamous Eli Wright. If you’ve read Special Delivery but not Bad Boyfriend…you’re a silly person. In fact, this morning in bed I thought about what a treat it would be to let Eli and Sam go at it. If we could talk Quinn into letting Randy supervise…

As she did for book one, K.A. is giving away a $10USD gift certificate to the e-retailer of your choice, though this time you can find the giveaway directly in the thread on my forum. You don’t have to register with a user ID to enter the contest, though you will need one to participate in the discussions. Email assist@heidicullinan.com, and we’ll get you taken care of!

Stop by and peek at some of the questions readers have asked K.A. Mitchell, and her characters—and see how they wander into the book discussion too. I’m sure Eli won’t butt into the discussion of his book at all

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