Today is Cinco de Mayo here in the States, so I basically have two options: 1)Stay up really late and post this week’s “Literary Libations” before heading off to drink at a friend’s party tomorrow, or 2)Wait until 8 PM tomorrow, when I’m exhausted and really just want to see the “Amazing Race”finale. Because I am a responsible blogging diva, I will opt for the first one. So, hello, world…this is me at 3 AM!:)

Today’s interview is with author Stacy Bender, who has successfully published a number of books in the fantasy genre, but her writing is original, descriptive, colourful, and really defies any specific genre. Whether you like fantasy, sci-fi, romance, or simply a well-developed story, you’ll enjoy reading what she has to offer.

Sit back, relax, and depending on what time you read this, either grab your authentic Mexican Coca-Cola, or the nearest margarita, and take a journey with Stacy through a more colourful and vivacious world!

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1) Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from, where do you reside now, and what is your latest project?

Hi, my name is Stacy Bender, and I’m originally from Michigan, a place where UP is not a direction, it’s a place. Both Hell and Paradise really do exist, you can find it on the map, and depending on which side of the bridge you reside on signifies whether you’re a yooper or troll. I’m a troll.

Right at the moment, I live in Cincinnati and have been here for a few years. I like the area very much. I love being able to walk around town without fear of being run over.

As for the my latest project, between trying to find a job, editing Word Branch Publishing’s new Sci-Fi Anthology, working on my next book and getting my garden ready….. not much. Did I mention that I am a tad bit hyperactive?

2) If you don’t mind, share a little bit about your latest book? What is it about your writing that gives it a unique voice and appeals to readers?

‘Real Men Don’t Wax’, and yes, I purposely named it that to grab everyone’s attention. Quite honestly, I usually don’t do romance novels. I much prefer sci-fi and fantasy. However, I wrote the story for several reasons. First, as a challenge to see if I could do it; second, for a friend who is a romance fanatic, and third– to have a bit of fun. The first line says it all.

“Why is it that in every romance novel, the girl is always a virgin and the guy has more money than he knows what to do with? When in reality, most of us lose our virginity in a drunken stupor to some jackass and most guys don’t have a pot to pee in,”

The rest is just poking fun at the gene and of course and everyone falls in love with Mephistopheles. If I get the reader to laugh, I’ve done my job.

Real Men Dont Wax
3) When it comes to the creative process, what inspires you? Tell us a little bit about how your latest book came into being.

Inspiration can come from anywhere even on a gloomy day. It can follow you home from a walk in the park, wake you up in the middle of the night, drop in your lap for no good reason or show up, as ‘Real Men Don’t Wax’ did, in a conversation on romance novels.

4) Did you decide to go with a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publish your latest work? What do you consider the benefits and the drawbacks of the particular route you’ve chosen?

When I first decided to try and get my work published, I knew that I didn’t want to self publish it. Going with the traditional publisher seem daunting because it seemed like in order to get published, you had to be published. Confusing, I know.

Therefore, when a friend of mine introduced me to Cathy I thought that I hit the jackpot. She was just starting up Word Branch Publishing and took a look at ‘Emerald Tears’ and she loved it, though at the moment ‘Ursa Kane’ is now her favorite, and her husband would love to see it as a movie.

The benefits of Word Branch is that it’s a small publishing company and even though artist, owners, editors, proofers and authors are all scattered across the country we still are accessible to each other. Granted, being new is a bit of a problem, as well as the biggest drawback. There will be bumps along the road, but it’s amazing, the opportunities that the Internet presents.

5) Where, when, and how did you get your start in the writing world? Is this your first publication?

Where, when and how? Oh dear, I’m not quite sure. You see have always made up stories but had few people to tell them to. Plus, I was told that I couldn’t write and I admit that I still can’t spell. I’ve always dreamed of writing a book ever since I saw the movie, ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’. But it seemed like just that a dream until a friend of mine managed to convince me to start writing my stories down and so ‘Ursa Kane’ is my oldest surviving written story, even though ‘Emerald Tears’ was published first, followed six months later by ‘Hands of Onyx’.

6) Your work is highly imaginative. Where does that inspiration come from? Are there times when you experience “writer’s block”, and what do you find is the best way to get past that?

Highly imaginative, I find those words rather odd. For me, it’s normal state of mind. I guess it’s because I see the world rather differently than most, and have been accused of living in my own world. When I have trouble with a story I usually tuck it in the cubbyhole in my mind, or if it’s written down, toss it on the shelf for a time. Time is really the only answer and trying to force a story out doesn’t seem to work very well for me. Sometimes, talking to someone about a particular story helps the brain organize thoughts and brings the obvious to light.

7) In addition to being a writer, you’re also a blogger with a social media presence. How do you feel social media helps or hinders artists in pursuit of their goals?

Right at the moment I’m still trying to get used to the SM thing, (Social Media) and sometimes I think the acronym sounds accurate.;P But it seems that this is the way the world is turning and it’s unavoidable, so it’s just a matter of getting used to it. Luckily, one can link many of these sites together making it a little easier and less time consuming.

8) Other than yourself, of course, who is your favorite author? What’s the last book you read that really spoke to you in some way, and why?

Correction, I’m my own worst enemy. However, one of my favorite series is Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, there is something about the character. It’s had a big influence on when I wrote ‘Emerald Tears’. There is just something about a man in a fedora and wearing a suit, it’s sexy. You just don’t see that anymore. As for the books that I read, I always try to find something to take away with me and I tend to lean towards stories that have a somewhat positive ending. (Please don’t confuse that with a happy ending.)

9) Is writing a full-time career for you, or something you do in your free time? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a writer?

Writing so far has been nothing more than a hobby, and I am not really sure if I want to go beyond that or not. As long as it kept its ‘fun factor’, that would be great. I wouldn’t mind a movie deal either. I wouldn’t want to act in it or direct it. However, can I slap the director if he screws it up? But seriously, I write because I love doing it. One should not get into writing expecting to make loads of money, but if you are one of the lucky few who can, my hat’s off to you.

10) If there were one thing you’d like to improve about your life or your writing at this point in time, what would it be?

How about getting the day job so I can keep my house? Sorry, that’s just been at the forefront of my mind here lately. After almost 20 years in the same company, I’ve found myself laid off and a bit out of sorts. Getting back to the question, one can always find improvement in everything they do. Life changes and so do we. If we aren’t willing to change, we stagnate.

11) Do you enjoy other types of media and artistic creation, such as television, magazines, movies, music, fashion, social media, etc.? What are some of your favorite things?

Television has so few shows that actually require a brain cell or two, so I tend to stick to PBS, mysteries and mayhem. Magazines are mostly advertisements. Movies and music depend on my mood at the time as to what keeps my attention. I do have a love of cooking, especially when there are others around to enjoy it. Opera (yes, I know everyone usually dies) and various other live performances.

12) What’s your Zodiac sign?

Occidental or Oriental? Taurus, if you’re asking about the occidental or Greek zodiac most of us know. Dog, element of metal, for the Oriental—and just for shits and giggles, in numerology my full name adds up to eleven. Yes I could go on but basically it all ends up being a double whammy and a contradiction in terms. All in all I’m stubborn and dependable.

13) Of course, we both want readers to rush right out and grab a copy of your latest book! Please tell us where we can find it. Additionally, if you have a blog, website, Facebook, or Twitter, please let us know so we’re able to follow you.

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You can order direct from Word Branch Publishing or go to

If you wish to follow me, pick your poison I’ve got them all linked together:

Thank you to Stacy for joining us today, and for bringing along her witty and upbeat sense of humour. Anita Lewis, who appeared in a previous installment of Literary Libations and conducted an interview with me earlier this week, has a guest post written by Stacyon her blog, so I encourage you to take the time to hop on over and read more about this very colourful and unique lady!

I’ll see you all again next Sunday, when we’ll be speaking with the lovely and multi-faceted author Devorah Fox. Please don’t forget about me in the meantime! I’m always conversing over on Facebook and chatting about books and such on Goodreads, so don’t hesitate to be my friend!:)

“Just for the record, one night with me and you’d remember it for the rest of your life. ”

“I’m sure I would. But, out of curiosity: how…exactly?”

“You’re a smart man. How do you think I landed such a rich husband?”

“I never really thought about it. You mean….”

“That’s right. I’m just that good.”

“Big Bang Theory”

Since today’s blog is about relationship advice, I will begin by saying that I am not a good source for relationship advice, unless you’d like to know more about the phenomenon known as feeling sad because you’re consistently being rejected by people you thought liked you. I am so good at this phenomenon, apparently, that my analytics tell me when people Google “You’re attractive, but you’re not my type”, they end up on this page.

I kid you not. Yesterday, I broke up with Domino’s. Today, I am now even being rejected by Google.

WTF, Google? This is how you let me know you don’t like me as much as I thought you did?

Anyhow, I’m blogging about love and relationships again today, because I came across one of those annoying articles on Yahoo! that people are so fond of posting, and women are largely fond of reading to remind themselves how they’re “working on their self-esteem” when truly, they’re looking for reassurance that “If I look hard enough, there’s a person out there like this that meets some of these criteria and will totally like me.”

Articles like this annoy the crap out of me, and I don’t know why, except there’s something formulaic and unrealistic about all of them. So, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting the article to reflect my particular view on the “11 Things Every Woman (if you’re really a girl, you’re 16, and don’t need to be reading this doesn’t apply to you.) Should Hold Out For.”

The first flaw in all these articles is that they’re written to a specific demographic, namely straight, monogamous, marriage-oriented women. No matter what your orientation or view on relationships, most women (and men, for that matter) want the same thing on a fundamental level: to be loved in the way they *should* be loving themselves (but probably aren’t.) So, I am replacing the typical “guy” with the more generic “person”. If you’re looking for more than one partner, the same criteria likely apply, and if you’re happily against the institution of marriage, never fear—”holding out” doesn’t mean waiting for the right person to marry. “Holding out”, in my definition, simply means not settling for someone who doesn’t bring the right things to the table because you’d prefer not to be alone. And, for all my poly readers, this applies to you, too: adding a secondary partner who is fundamentally incompatible with what you need from a relationship just out of novelty is demeaning to everyone involved. “Holding out” simply means knowing what you want, what you’re worth, and having a somewhat realistic view on human relationships untainted by chick flicks and advice columns. (hehehehehe…the irony!)

So, that being said, here goes:

1) A person who is truly interested in what you have to say. Every list you’ll ever read says a sense of humour is the best quality you can find in a person, laughter is the best medicine, and someone you find funny is much more endearing than someone you find smart, good-looking, or a great cook. Respectfully, I disagree. We live in a world of quips and one-liners, 140 character texts and “keeping things light”, and the result is that the more easy it is for us to connect, the less often we truly do it. If you find someone whom you find not only funny but intriguing, and who is willing to talk as well as listen, connect as well as superficially entertain, you’ve found a gem. This is number one on my list—if we can’t connect easily, or I find myself having one conversation and you’re hearing another, or you’ve shown you just don’t care about certain aspects of my life, my interests, or putting in the work necessary to click on some deeper level, it’s not going to work. Humour is a part of this, yes, but it’s like isolating one crayon in the whole box and saying it’s the most important. The whole range of emotion is significant in life. You want the whole box of crayons, even the garish neon colours.

2) A person who will “get” you. Sometimes, these articles get it right, and this one is on point. It’s not about finding someone who will laugh at your jokes or who can complete your sentences. It isn’t even always about finding the person who thinks just like you or feels just like you or acts just like you. That person may quickly drive you insane. When you’re on the same page in life as another person, it’s intuitive. You just know that you mesh, and it’s a step in the right direction. Nothing is more frustrating than a relationship where you’re constantly having to explain every thought or feeling. Innate understanding is cool. When someone “gets” you, you just know it. It doesn’t make it easy, but it’s a fundamental building block.

3) Someone willing to be involved in your life, and vice versa. “A Guy Who Will Attend Your “Lame” Things”? Really, Yahoo!? If you care about something, it’s not lame…it doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend’s wedding, a night at the ballet, a political rally, or whatever else you’re into. You should be proud of your interests and accomplishments, and you should run at the first sign that you’re with someone who minimizes them. Likewise, this requires you to be willing to be supportive and interested in someone else’s life. A relationship is not a fusing of identities, but it is a sharing of worlds. If you’re not willing to do that for someone, that person either just isn’t right for you (it can be really hard when you have absolutely nothing in common), or you’re not actually ready for the committed relationship you think you want. I remember once telling an ex-boyfriend, an architect, that I wasn’t interested in reading the books he gave me on the subject because they were “boring”. I realise now the level of immaturity that showed on my part (cut me a little slack here; I was 21 or so.) I also remember falling out of love with one person and immediately becoming infatuated with another simply because I met someone who shared my interests and cared about them, whereas I was used to someone stuck inside their own comfort zone. Bonding is powerful stuff.

4) A person who will do “nothing” with you…but will also expand his or her horizons. Some people are, by nature, less laid back than others. Some people need a certain amount of time to do nothing, where others always have to be on the move. Some people are constantly exploring, while others like a certain level of comfort zone protection. I’d argue that this goes back to finding someone who is on the same age as you are. However, if being around someone and not doing anything makes you feel nervous or awkward, or silence makes you feel insecure and unloved, you need to take a step back and evaluate your relationship. Are you really “connecting”, or just doing stuff together all the time? Trust me on this one. There’s a huge difference.

5) A person not afraid to express his or her feelings about you. Yahoo! says to hold out for a guy who will give you a gift or card, but years of reading on psychology has taught me this is BS. There are a number of different ways in which human beings express emotion comfortably, and in which they find it most significant to receive that emotion in return. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking for the person who was going to write me heartfelt and romantic letters, because that’s how I communicate, and that being constantly touched, hugged, or kissed didn’t evoke the same response from me. However, that’s simply a difference in how people communicate and feel love. Physical expressions of love don’t mean much to me; I largely distrust them. Yet, for others, they’re the cornerstone of a relationship. I wouldn’t discard someone who is a sucky gift giver in your eyes, because you value expression of love via objects. All it means is that person likely communicates love differently. Talk with your potential partner about how you communicate love, what you find romantic, what means something to you.

6) Someone who gives you a sense of security when it comes to being loved. Again, Yahoo! says “A guy who will say he loves you”, but it’s not always that straightforward. Some people are of the opinion that actions speak louder than words, and hearing “I love you” doesn’t create that level of trust and security. There are different ways in which different people express their love and ability to be loved. Knowing that about one another and understanding those differences is key. For instance, I don’t say “I love you”, and it’s difficult for me to hear. You have to know me better to know why. Does it make me any less loving or any less capable of being committed toward someone? Hardly. I’m one of the most loving people you’ll ever encounter. The fact I don’t say those words doesn’t diminish that in the slightest. It just means I have emotional baggage, and if you care about me, you should take the time to learn about that.

7) Someone for whom you have respect, and shows you respect on a daily basis. Most of the things people do to harm relationships annoy me because they’re plain disrespectful; lying, cheating, putting another person down, making someone feel insignificant, putting your own needs first all the time…they’re all synonyms for “I care about you, but I care about me more.” And while a certain little bit of that is healthy, natural human nature, too much of that means a relationship is becomes disposable, an accessory, something that exists for your benefit. It’s impossible to be in a healthy relationship with a narcissist. Don’t accept disrespect from anyone, because you can and will find someone who values and respects you enough not to treat you that way. And, certainly, don’t disrespect others, because taking advantage of someone else’s love is something that hurts you as much as it does the other person…and karma’s a huge bitch.

8)Someone with whom you have good chemistry. Like emotional connection, chemistry is elusive. You may want it to be there, but it just isn’t. When you gravitate toward another human being without wanting to know why, that’s chemistry. When you sense you want to sleep with someone you barely know, or aren’t even that attracted to on a physical level, that’s chemistry. Call it pheromones, hormones, biology, whatever..there are things that attract people to one another on a physical, intellectual, and emotional level. Beware any relationship where all three aren’t present. Chemistry is often the easy part. Understanding it and making sense of how it fits into your relationship with another person…well, that’s another thing entirely. There have been many people in my life with whom I’ve had chemistry, but the other pieces didn’t fall into place, or there were too many extenuating circumstances. That’s why I write poetry instead of mistaking infatuation for the love that’s going to come along and magically change my life. ;p

9)Someone who agrees with you on travel. This one, I have to give credit where credit is due. This has always been a HUGE problem in my relationships; I like a certain level of stability, but also the freedom to explore, travel, have adventures. I haven’t, in a very long time, dated someone who wanted to or was able to just get in the car one weekend and go on a random road trip. It has made me doubt all these relationships…because I know eventually, I don’t want to live where I live for the rest of my life. What a well-known personality tests calls “openness to new experiences”; well, I’m big on that one. Yet, I attract people who are very much the opposite. I almost always travel alone. It makes me a little sad; sometimes, I want that romantic vision of someone with whom I can see the world and share adventures. This is one of those topics that reinforces my worldview that perhaps I am the kind of girl who needs more than one “someone”.

10) A person with similar family goals. Anyone who jumps into a relationship where one person wants kids and the other doesn’t; one loves animals and the other is allergic; one has a family that doesn’t accept the other…well, it’s inevitably a no-win situation. Asking people to sacrifice fundamental pieces of who they are, or waiting for them to change, isn’t something you’re entitled to ask. There are people out there with similar views on these things, and you will inevitably find one. Don’t make the mistake of trying to mold yourself into another person’s idea of a soulmate. No relationship that works was ever built on illusion, or losing aspects of yourself in the process.

11) Yahoo! says “Wait for someone who sees you as you want to be seen”. I don’t know about this one. I’m with Victor Hugo, who said “The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved, loved for ourselves; or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” You may want to be seen as the most perfect person to walk the planet, but it doesn’t mean your soulmate is one who is going to feed your delusion. :P While you certainly should never settle for someone who sees you as less than you are, being blindly idealised is also a recipe for disaster. (see: muses and manic pixies.) If someone can see through layers of artifice and protective walls and proper behaviour and posturing to make yourself look as good as possible, and love the spirit that lurks underneath, that’s someone worth waiting for. Don’t be disappointed when you discover it comes around rarely, as most people can’t see through that many layers of crap, and most of us don’t want to be seen in a way that leaves us vulnerable. Find someone who sees you as you are, as you once were, and as you’d like to be. It’s probably one of the best keys to finding a soulmate that’s out there.

Why, you might ask, am I an authority on relationships and romance, when my own life has been one of chaos and colourful stories? I’m not married. I have plenty of relationship woes and dramas and unwise choices that epitomise my life. Why do I think I know people better than Yahoo!?

Easy. You don’t get to be this colourful without learning a thing or two about human beings along the way. Trust me, if you really want love in your life, it’s going to have to be a lot less pretty and a lot less bullshit-free than every dating advice column you’ve ever read. Before you seek advice, just as before you seek love, the old dictum of “Know thyself” is more than apropos.

Oh, and Google? I can totally do better.

It’s good to know I have a few friends/loyal blog readers who care, but you guys truly don’t let some stuff go, do you? *laughs*

Earlier in the month, I posted a piece on synchronicity, in which I shared a sweet story about reconnecting with a childhood crush at a cafe in New York City, and our subsequent love story/short-lived engagement. The point of the piece was not to vent about my personal life, but to share why I believe in synchronicity, and the power contained in the signs the Universe tries to send you on occasion. However, the most common feedback I’ve gotten over the past two weeks is “What happened with the rest of the story?”.

I didn’t really want to go into the rest of the story, because it’s personal, and also because I wanted to avoid exactly what happened: spending more time thinking about my ex-fiance than I have in a dozen years. :P

Since everyone wanted to know what happened to Avery, and why I cut the story short, the answer is a simple one. Life happened to Avery, and he ended up making largely the same choices most conventional Americans make.

After we broke up, Avery finished grad school, and went on to law school. He met a nice Jewish girl who is also the uber-ambitious, driven type, and helped him overcome his overly romantic, idealistic tendencies. In short, he found the polar opposite of me, the girl who’d always loved him precisely for his brooding demeanour, depressing poetry, and desire to change the world.

He still lives in New York City, is with an accomplished civil law firm, and is still, I assume, married happily enough. We keep in touch enough to say we’ve kept in touch, yet not enough to imply any real connection or stir up any issues. We have lunch or meet for drinks perhaps once a year when I pass through town. It is all very adult and civil, and there’s nothing serendipitous about it.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have regrets about Avery, but not the part where we didn’t stay together, didn’t get married. I think I intuitively knew he needed to be someone and pursue something other than what I had to offer, and I would only encourage him to take his life in a different direction, one that may have brought him much less happiness in the long run.

If anything, I sometimes feel sadness. I feel a sense of “Why did you need to choose the conventional, the obligatory? Why couldn’t you travel through life the way we always talked and dreamed about, off the beaten path, with me? Why did you end up wanting to change me, rather than let me help you encourage the authentic, adventurous you shine through?”

The answer is, few people are strong enough to choose the road less traveled, which is why it’s called the road less traveled. Doing so means hardship, sacrifice, lack of stability, being judged by others. For Avery, he felt always that his personal happiness was secondary to doing what was expected of him.

Although it sounds judgmental, and it is, I’m of course equally guilty. I fell in love with the idealist who wanted to become a journalist in a war-torn country and write a powerful piece about life in other places, the intellectual who saw himself as a professor who’d publish papers and give lectures on how to make the world a better place. I wasn’t any better prepared for a future that involved me being the wife of a civil litigator, any more than he was prepared to show off an outspoken, bohemian wife without an Ivy League pedigree.

People change, and they do not always change or grow together…and that’s just the sad reality of life. That’s why over half of marriages in the United States end in divorce, because people aren’t static creatures.

I am inordinately proud of Avery and everything he’s accomplished in the world, and the happiness I hope he’s found. I have a close friend who, over the years, I’ve seen gone through a similar transition, and I am equally proud of my friend and his happiness—though a part of me will always be sad he didn’t choose a different path, and that’s simply selfishness. We all have those weaknesses.

And while I still adore and admire Avery, I believe everything worked out for the best. The person—or persons—destined to end up with me are those who chose a path a little less conventional, who retained a bit more idealism and commitment to artistic and intellectual growth throughout the thing we call life, even if it means a crappier apartment and a heart that is broken and disappointed more frequently, and parents who are a little less approving. :P

I didn’t share this part of the story, because I am still romantic and idealistic enough that when I think of Avery, I think of the sensitive, idealistic, protective 16-year-old boy I ran through rain and mud just to hug goodbye…and how the Universe found that moment as meaningful as I did, because goodbye wasn’t goodbye.

The infrequent times I meet up with Avery to catch up on old times and talk about how different our lives are now, I always carry an umbrella.

Old habits die hard, and undue romanticism never does. ;P