Flash: X is for Xenophile

Image by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Original Photo description: In South Korea these sculptures are part of the light festival. Dragon vs. Tiger.

Xanadu halted, stunned, staring up at the two lanterns doing battle. A tiger challenging a dragon. Fortunately, this wasn’t their first paralyzation tonight as their xenophile brain completely shut down required motor skills, so I didn’t run into them and I was able to keep others in the festival crowd from bumping into my special American.

I wrapped my arms around them and placed my head on their shoulder. “What is it this time?”

“Other than sheer beauty?”


“The details of the flames lit from within by the lantern. I think I can…” They moved their hands as though chiseling or carving. “Please take a picture of them, Seok.”

Lifting my camera, I start taking pictures as we circle the lantern pair from different angles. Sometimes I activate the movie mode, because somehow Xanadu can capture movement in their sculptures and carvings and I think they will need to see three-D aspect which still just can’t. When I’m done, they hug me tight and tell me for the ninth time tonight how glad they were I brought them to the Winter Seoul Lantern Festival.

We move on, and I wait for their next dazed reaction.

(words 196; first published 4/28/2024)

Capturing the Tiger and Dragon Series

  1. X is for Xenophile (4/28/2024)
  2. X is for Xylotomous (5/19/2024)
  3. X is for Xanthic (6/9/2024)
  4. Exhibit (7/14/24)
  5. Exit Strategy (9/1/2024)

Flash: C is for Cheerwine Christmas Courtship Choices

Image from icecreaminspiration.com (https://icecreaminspiration.com/ten-party-ice-cream-punch-recipes/)

“So how about him?” I point at Randall from Sales where he ladled out the punch bowl concoction where someone had dumped Cheerwine, Reed’s ginger ale, a couple cans of adulterated pineapple juice, and some vanilla ice cream in a bowl. “Swipe left or right.”

“Oh, left all the way. I don’t date white boys.” Wanda responded.

“Well, that is racist,” I joke. Wanda and I worked the front desk at the company, covering twenty incoming lines plus all visitor badge check-ins. We judge everyone coming in that door. Not out loud, mind you, at least not when they are at the desk and we make very sure the mics on our headsets are on mute before comments start flowing. The politically correct boat sailed the first hour of me joining her at the desk, and had disappeared over the horizon by the end of that day never to be seen again. I recently got happily hooked up, the boyfriend promising me a ring at Christmas when we are visiting his family, so now I am working on matching her up for similar domestic bliss.

“Yeah, well, they always try and call the cops on me the first time I attempt to stab them.”

I choked on the punch, which actually is quite good, Cheerwine for the caffeine kick, Reed’s for the ginger kick, ice cream for the smooth, and the pineapple because fermentation. Someone in maintenance worked magic. “You stab your boyfriends often?”

“Only twice, but white guys just get so angsty when you threaten them with a knife or cast-iron frying pan.”

“So, you know how I said I was finally starting to understand black Southern culture after growing up as North White?” I rubbed shoulders with her. “Consider that statement retracted.”

“Bless your heart.” A sly smile crossed her face as she sipped the Pepsi-zero. Her diabetes limited her sugar intake.

“Hey now!”

We made eye contact and both fell into giggles.

“Well, if it isn’t the twins.”

Tyrone from accounting towered over us. CPA and thought he was god’s gift to numbers and the company ledger. Problem was, he was god’s gift to numbers, the company ledger, and sexy as hell.

“Left or right?” I ask out of the corner of my mouth. I may have been on my second cup of the punch. Maybe third. Who counts at the company mandatory holiday parties? Especially when you were the one who spent the day, being “only receptionists”, decorating the meeting room and entry way for the party, while still covering the desk and the phones. Yes, we are that good, but it was hot thirsty work and I was trying to rehydrate with the punch. Maybe not my wisest choice. My boyfriend will be picking me up after he gets off work, so not my worst choice either.

“Right.” Wanda said without hesitation. “In fact, right now. Hey Tyrone.” She stepped closer and pressed her arms against her sides, causing her cleavage to jump in her deep cut red blouse. Wanda both got it and flaunted it. Not normally, dress codes for a welcoming professional appearance being written by the HR sticklers, but today is for exceptions of all sorts of things.

I think Tyrone swallowed his tongue and I double-checked the floor as I took a step back, because his eyeballs had popped out of his head. Pity, they had been the perfect brown soulful set to drown in, when not hardened by the end-of-quarter recordkeeping. Oh wait, looks like he got them back because they managed to track up to Wanda’s face.

Good luck girl, I thought as I move away.

We, as the receptionists, had an unfair advantage for picking out dating material internally that Tyrone likely also had being in accounting. We know exactly what everyone makes.

Payroll drops off the paystubs with the envelopes at the front desk, claiming they didn’t have time to deal with stuffing them or handing them out and since everyone went through us anyway, and we were “only receptionists” it would be a perfect way to fill in all our free time. The results is we knew exactly who was being garnished for child support, who was putting money into their retirement accounts, who didn’t get regular raises, and who did.

Tyrone did not have any garnishments, put aside the max into his 401K, and got raises like clockwork. A good hard worker if obnoxious during the end-of-quarter accounting crunches. But at six foot, a regular at the company gym, especially for the inside running track, and no one regularly calling through the front desk asking to be put through to their “pudding” on his behalf, he had been always high on both our fishing lists.

If he didn’t mind being stabbed on the regular, Wanda just might be giggling beside me as we plan our weddings. I hoped he liked cast-iron frying pans.

(words 820; first published 4/3/2024 – text flash inspired by the FB meme of “I can’t date white guys. They’re going to try and call the cops on me the first time I try to stab them.”)

Book Review: Infamous Heart

Amazon Cover

Infamous Heart (Men of Vanguard, Book 1) by Ryder O’Malley


Glorifying superheroes is my job, being seduced by one is a perk.

One day, I was a mild-mannered designer for a premiere superhero magazine. Turned down for a promotion yet again, I let loose years of repressed anger. That’s how I got fired. Lesson learned. Now my career is as successful as my love life. But it’s hard being upset when I storm out of the office and into the huskular man of my dreams.

Sebastian is successful, confident, and the way he fills out those pants, it’s basically a crime. Working as the art director for a rival magazine, I beg for him to look at my… ahem, portfolio. But in this city, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a supervillain and, for reasons I can’t fathom, this one wants me dead. They were about to ruin my date. Thankfully, Sebastian has gifts of his own.

Now, I’m trying to get the job of my dreams, while I figure out how to be a sidekick to a superhero. Oh yeah, and not get myself killed.

Infamous Heart is a M/M, heart-felt adventure with an HEA and no cliffhangers. It features snark and sex, but not always in that order. This is book one in the Heroes of Vanguard series.



More M-M romance than the superhero prose genre, which makes sense as the Main Character (MC) is human. When the romance does turn steamy, it is not “closed doors”.

Note the MC is an artist from his heart-of-hearts to his layout-designer job, with all the hubris-insecurity mix that goes with creating arts. Some reviewers have found this off-putting, but I thought it was one of the most real aspects of the story. From the “I will save him and the world” hubris to the “someone didn’t talk or text to me for one hour and the world has ended and I’m unloved so I will destroy years of work” insecurity. It’s a wild, exhausting ride knowing creatives. (Yes, I’ve had to console friends after they destroyed notebooks by fire because they went through an insecurity phase.)

Writing Exercise: A Wink of Romance, a Kiss of Tropes

Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

Tropes are all the rage in romance – they really help marketing. Does your audience want a mafia romance or office romance? Should it be enemies to lovers or fake dating?

Some of the most common tropes in romance are: Meet-Cute; Enemies to Lovers; Rivals to Lovers; Friends to Lovers; Fake Dating; Boy/Girl Next Door; Brother’s Best Friend; Roommates; Escape from the Friend Zone; Forced Proximity; Trapped in an Elevator; Marriage of Convenience; Forbidden Love; He Fell First; Bad Boy/Girl Hero; Age-Gap Romance; Slow Burn; Fast Burn; Insta-Love; Love Triangle; Why Choose?; Single Parent; Already Pregnant; Second Chance; Interracial; Opposites Attract; Grumpy-Sunshine; Fairy Tale Retelling; Paranormal; Fated Mate

Not sure exactly what each of these are and how they work? Below are some blogs which could help you define them; if this blogs have been eaten up by time a quick search on “Romance Tropes” should bring back a lot of examples.

“Romance Tropes: What they are, and what they aren’t” by Natasja Rose. Posted Sept 2023. (https://vocal.media/writers/romance-tropes – last viewed 11/9/2023)

“13 Beloved Romance Tropes Every Reader Will Recognize” Reedsyblog. Posted November 2, 2022. (https://blog.reedsy.com/guide/romance/romance-tropes/ – last viewed 11/9/2023)

“Ultimate Romance Tropes List: 28 Tropes + Book Recs!” by Sonia Singh. Posted May 28, 2023. (https://brewingwriter.com/romance-tropes-list/ – last viewed 11/9/2023)

READING EXERCISE: If you read romances, take the three most recent romance you have read and record all the tropes that each of the books have. Which ones do you like the most? Do you have other other tropes you like in your romances? Comment below.

WRITING EXERCISE: Choose one of the tropes above and write a scene or a flash for it between 100 and 500 words. Your story can be the initial meeting or some other stage of the romance. What tropes did you use? Comment below how you explored the structure of the trope in your scene.

My attempt: Pixie Power – concentrating on Pixie Power 2 “I rather not” (10/22/2023) for this particular writing exercise. Browser is the epidemy of the “The Boy Next Door” who has so much “Unrequited” love it is painful to see him with the clueless Amie. “Opposites Attract” hopefully, eventually – maybe with a little help of “Forced Proximity” hinted at in episode 3.

Editing Rant: Romance is a Fantasy

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

One of the hardest things about editing is understanding the underlying tropes/messages contained in your genre.

I recently told someone that Romance was a Fantasy – and they said they didn’t realize I was so cynical. But I was saying facts from an editing point of view – Romance is firmly in the Fantasy genre as a subgenre.

  1. The Chosen One trope is strong in this one. Only one person can do.
  2. Happily Ever After (HEA) required.
  3. Two people can make it work no matter what culture throws at them. Color, job, distance, income levels, family upbringing. Unequal social status. Love conquers all.
  4. The sex will always be good. The partners will always make the big O happen for each other. Sexual experiments will be welcomed. Sexual preferences will match.

Romances aren’t about what happens in real life, but what we would like to happen. We want the Magic of True Love to work.