All posts by Paula Houseman

Hack Off!

My computer was recently hacked. Some nebbish with no life and in need of a hug sent me an extortionary email. It was all the more disturbing because my computer login password was in the subject line!

He said if I didn’t pay him—in bitcoins—he’d send my ‘porn movie’ to all my contacts and every one of my social media connections. Which meant 25K+ people just as a baseline. That viewing would then multiply if it was shared or retweeted.

At first, it unnerved me. I didn’t recall making this video—memory compromised by sensory overload and all that—and I was tempted to write back to negotiate the terms and conditions. I wanted to tell him that payment via crypto-currency would be an issue because I’m a digital numpty who struggles to navigate online anything, and trying to get my head around another virtual whatever would do it in. But if he wasn’t flexible, then would he mind at the very least superimposing my head on a body that, unlike mine, didn’t have cellulite or a muffin top?

I didn’t write back, though—it’s never a good move because it would give this lot even more access. And when I woke the next morning, I thought, Go ahead, arsehole, make my day!

You see, I’ve been working exhaustively to grow my brand and get my books out there. This form of ‘promo’ would increase my exposure (every which way). It’d be a case of ‘work smarter, not harder’. Granted, a different slant on it, but still.

And still, the best hack when you’re faced with this sort of thing is to maintain your sense of humour. Also, when you’re dealing with wackadoodles … maybe think like one?

I’d written the following for a book blogger’s site* four months before I received the bloodsucking email. Hmm …  

Conspiracy on Cloud Nine

Ever had a nosy neighbour? The kind that keeps a constant eye on you and has a gob that won’t quit? What happens to this lot after they snuff it? I have an idea. (Note: it may border on a conspiracy theory.)

The backbiting codger who used to live next door to us, right dick that he was, dropped dead some time ago. I won’t use his real name because this morning I was left wondering if he was now undead.

So. Let’s call him Whack Job.

It felt like Whack Job had come back to haunt me, to exact an eye for an eye seeing as the last thing I said to him was, ‘Get a life, you old bastard!’

Two weeks later, I questioned one of the burly blokes loading up their removalist van with Whack Job’s rubbish furniture.

‘Is he moving out?’ Please, God.

‘Nah, love. ’E’s dead.’

I wanted to high-five the man, and felt bad about that. But it passed.

Now, post-brekky, all these years on as I sat at the comp ready to roll, I decided to first indulge in a bit of online shopping.

All over the Shop

I searched piping bag sets with nozzles, and found one on Amazon. Whack Job briefly came to mind because on the same cake-decorating page there were Despicable Me Minion silicone moulds juxtaposed with penis-shaped fondant moulds. I couldn’t resist, put one of each in the cart and checked out. Then I got stuck into researching espionage as a possible subtheme for my next romantic comedy novel.

Ads for piping bag sets with nozzles, and Minion and penis moulds followed me from site to site. I ignored them.

An hour later, an email alert pinged on my new iPhone X. One of my favourite shops was having a 24-hour online sale. I bought a pair of jeans and followed the purchase with a coffee chaser. All women know shopping is thirsty work.

Back at the desk, feet up on it, I sipped Nespresso and played with the phone. I wanted to Americanise Siri, and masculinise her (without resorting to cross-sex hormone therapy). I had Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice on my Waze GPS. At journey’s end, I loved hearing, ‘Hasta la vista, Baby!’ Could Arnie replace Siri’s droid-y phone voice? I googled.

Let’s Stalk

Bags, nozzles, Minions, penises, and jeans popped up. On the comp—okay. But also on the phone? It felt like an incursion!

‘Seriously?’ I said to no one.

The female-ish, Aussie-accented voice with no Terminator spin on it responded: ‘I’m here. How can I help you?’

Tension. ‘Wasn’t talking to you, Siri. Piss off!’

She did, but Google Assistant from my Home Mini weighed in: ‘Okay. Playing “Piss Off” on Spotify.’

More tension. ‘Hey, Google, I wasn’t talking to you either—shut up!’

Google Mini has maxi boundary issues. Last night she started yammering sans prompting while we watched Marcella on Netflix. It was the episode where Marcella’s techie colleague was spying on her through her webcam.

Shit.

Only days earlier, I’d given a techie remote access to my computer to help resolve an issue. That faceless, voiceless techie had a foreign name. And it wasn’t Schwarzenegger.

An Eye for an I

Was it an alias for Whack Job? Had he risen from the crypt and added piping bags, nozzles, Minions, penises, and jeans to my searches? Was he avenging me? I put masking tape over the spycam.

Working from home used to be cool—leading a cloistered life devoted to writing meant the only idiots I had to contend with were in my own head. Now, the innocence and trust of childhood had gone down the crapper, and adolescent delusions of persecution were back.

‘Why meeeee!’ I wailed.

‘Sorry. I don’t know how to help with that yet.’

‘Of course not!’ I yelled at Google Assistant. ‘It’s beyond your paygrade.’

But … 

Thinking outside that boxed-in voice and seeing the lessons inherent in every situation is our responsibility. It doesn’t come from out there.

And the lessons here?

  1. I’m versed in paranoia, so, stoking others’ in book no. 4 won’t be a stretch
  2. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Having your head in the Cloud(s) is akin to having your head up your arse
  3. Spend time with real people
  4. Love thy neighbour, unless he’s a mud-slinging twat (then forgive thyself for telling him so)
  5. If you want a penis fondant mould, don’t leave a digital footprint or paper trail. Buy in-store and pay cash
  6. No need to have dodgy boundaries even if virtual assistants do. If you’re predisposed to talking to yourself, disable them—the assistants, not the boundaries. Hasta la vista, baby!

 

*Originally a guest post (Conspiracy On Cloud Nine—Get Off!) for A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog (http://asoccermomsbookblog.blogspot.com/search?q=paula+houseman

Slut-Shaming the Protagonist?

Women! We’ve fought long and hard to liberate our sexuality from the shackles of shame. Yet, it now seems there’s a bit of an upsurge in the return to the literary chastity belt.

The bedroom door has been slammed shut. Again. ‘Clean’ romance is the amour du jour. Book sex is getting a bum rap and I’m crying in my beer.  (Or I would be if I drank the bitter brew.)

It’s not like I’m a raging feminist or even a non-raging one. I don’t much like being pigeon-holed, but I do have a feminist bent. Still, my resistance here is not about feminism, per se. What is it about, then?

I. Have. A. Pulse.

So do you. A pulse indicates life force. And our life force is our libido.

Breaking News

Libido is not just about sex, but sex is a natural and necessary part of libido.

Carl Jung said, ‘The libido is identified as the totality of psychic energy, not limited to sexual desire … [It] denotes a desire or impulse which is unchecked by any kind of authority, moral or otherwise. Libido is appetite in its natural state.’1

In that sense, clean romance, which wants to suppress the natural appetite, could be akin to being on a diet. No dessert for you!

No Dessert or Closet Eating?

I had a look at several online discussions about clean romance. Some women equated explicit sex with porn. Some said that filthy language cheapened sex.Others said it should be private; that it should stay inside the bedroom and not be on display for everyone to see. This last take could be considered a compliment if an author’s depiction of a fictional scene appears so real that readers feel like their own sex life has been exposed.

From Ho Ho! To a Mere Ho?

When the people spoke through the Sexual Revolution, and the powers that be lifted censorship of woman’s passionate expression in literature, it served as a celebration of our sexuality. Woot woot!

Almost fifty years later, Fifty Shades of Grey was released and millions of women were seduced. It was hot property. By all accounts, it was the ‘fastest selling adult novel of all time’, taking only eleven weeks to pass the million mark. The people had spoken once more. And loudly.

A year on, when clean Regency love story Edenbrooke was released, its author, Julianne Donaldson, said, ‘I think the pendulum has swung as far as it can in the erotica direction. What was once exciting for readers is getting a little old, and a lot of readers are ready for something different.’

A Good Licking To Backlash

I understand the concept of backlash. Another telling word for it is ‘counterblast’. The way it works is simple. When one way has held sway for too long, things flip 180˚ and we get the opposite.

Kept in check—>unchecked.

Ideally, through this process of turning the tables, we eventually find the middle ground. But when the ‘something different’ is yet another 180˚ swing of the pendulum, then this is just flip-flopping. And flip-flopping is the nature of shame’s extremes with its all-or-nothing MO: things are either dirty or clean—a black or white approach with not even close to fifty shades of grey in between.

And it’s not like we’re going back to where we came from—to our natural psychic state. The danger is that we’re coming full circle; that we’re heading back to those days of socially-prescribed chasteness where we’re not coming at all.

With stories reflecting and shaping our reality, this move would leave our womanhood wanting. And so that shame doesn’t blanket it again, better to keep the book bedroom door and our minds open.

1Jung, Carl The Concept of Libido, Collected Works Vol. 5, par. 194. https://frithluton.com/articles/libido/ 

2Check out my earlier blog posts to see how the organic meaning of ‘obscenity’ has been corrupted, and to understand its sacred, health-giving properties. https://paulahouseman.com/healthgiving-obscenity/ and https://paulahouseman.com/new-womens-anthem/

My, What Big Ears You Have!

I love Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park. I love their warped humour and their characters—foul-mouthed, politically incorrect bunch of yobs!

I admire Stone and Parker’s ability to satirise.

Apparently, I do a bang-up job of this myself, according to an Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer. She said it had been a really long time since she’d read good satire, and she ‘simply adored’ my book, Odyssey in a Teacup (Book 1 in the Ruth Roth Series).

I was chuffed, but I hadn’t thought of myself as a satirist. I thought I was just writing humour, Aussie style: taking the piss out of everything is one of our favourite pastimes. Then again, when you think that so much about life is stupid, it’s hard to resist sending it up.

Anyway, because most of my characters are parodies, I decided to commission a caricature of myself and add it to the cover images of all my social media accounts. Ha, ha, ha.

But now, it seems, the joke’s on me.

As we get older, our nose supposedly gets wider, our chin gets longer, our ears get bigger. I’m starting to look like that caricature and my Maker is laughing. Oh yeah, ha, ha, ha!

The Sag Awards

Occasionally, I’ll stand in front of my sometimes-bitchy mirror and push my droopy basset-hound jowls upwards. It reminds me of the way I used to look; makes me ask myself what can I do about this?

Well, there are lots of options. Many involve going under the knife. There’s also a heap of non-surgical approaches like dermal fillers, botox, etcetera. But I dare say none of these procedures is as painful as the process of self-acceptance.

Still, if I do decide to ‘alter’, why not go the whole hog? As above, so below. Top ’n’ tail. Yep. A face lift and a … vaginaplasty?

No way, José!

So, maybe a collagen boost for the lips and lips. An injection for the upper; vontouring for the lower.

Vontouring is the treatment du jour for a saggy twat. Non-surgical, laser vaginal tightening?

Nope, again. Should I consider opting for a vajaycial, then—a kind of facial for the vagina?

Nope to that too. No one’s going anywhere near my vajayjay with a vacuum glass, pore cleaner or a micro-exfoliator—I can barely weather a speculum.

A Stitch in Time

Self-improvement is different for everyone. And far be it from me to judge others for wanting to do what makes them feel good. The shift in appearance that comes with getting older is made so much harder for us women with the endless, subliminal body-shaming that fills the airwaves. And although I’ve been hostage to social mores at times, there’s no rhyme or reason to much of it.

There was, however, a reason for my rhyming when, as a member of an online writers’ community, I used to submit poetry. Mostly, it was because I was too bloody lazy to come up with short stories. But maybe it was because the power of poetry cuts deeper than a scalpel can.

By No Stretch

So, when the body-shaming tries to have its way with me in a weak moment, I can look back on this particular poem I wrote:

Just slide your numbing stent inside my vein,

And knock me out to make me young anew,

As botoxed brow and hoisted chops regain

a mirror casting back a luscious view

Two silicon balloons … augment my chest!

Please liposuck my dimpled thighs and hips.

With tummy tuck, my blubber you’ll divest,

Then give me JLo’s arse and Jolie’s lips

A cougar I’ll still be, but who would know —

my spandexed bod will surely hide the facts?

… Oh wait … inflation tends to reach a low,

And skintight stretching ends up looking lax

On second thoughts, it seems that I’ve been blind:

You have to wear a mask but mine’s not writ.

I’m outta here, I think I’ve changed my mind,

’Cause when it’s lost I’ll hardly give a shit.

At the end of the day, even if I haven’t lost my mind, I’d rather look at a caricatured version of my younger self in the mirror than a version I don’t recognise.

This was originally written as a guest post (Not A Big Stretch) for https://overtherainbowbookblog.wordpress.com

Utter Clutter Nutter

I mess. Yyeah, baby!

But wait up … that doesn’t mean I’m a slob/slug/layabout/slack-arse. I’m not. It’s just that once you have kids, any sense of structure, order, and control goes down the crapper.

Pre-ankle-biter days, I was anal retentive. Example: the bathroom of our very first house had a stainless-steel rim around the porcelain hand basin. Water spots on that shiny metal lip were verboten. My injunction didn’t cause any friction between hubby and me because he was an accountant, a neat-freak who colour coded the pegs when he hung the washing.

But in the early stages of parenthood, when he had to hang cloth nappies and mini-onesies, there wasn’t a whole lot of energy left for military precision. By the time we got to toddlerhood, we would have both been dishonourably discharged.

The Lore of My Jungle

Now, all these years on, I’ve found new reasons to keep up the chaos. Nine of them:

  1. My messy place was custom-designed by my kids. They’ve long since flown the nest, but I’m nostalgic. I’m reluctant to rearrange the twigs, leaves and feathers
  2. I have seven episodes of whatev I need to see on Netflix. Spruce up or watch TV? It’s a rhetorical question
  3. I have a bone in my leg
  4. A perfectly clean house is a sign of a misspent life
  5. Women with tidy houses don’t get important shit done
  6. Women with tidy houses rarely make history. And by God, I’m determined to leave my mark … a more indelible one than water spots on stainless steel
  7. Fifty Shades of Grey has become a synonym for success. I want that level of success (only, with quality writing). Still, my process is disorganised. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. So, the working title for all my books has been Fifty Shades of Look Who Did It and Ran. It had to sound real, which meant the research involved was akin to method-acting, you know, cultivating the experience
  8. I’m subversive. ‘Don’t edit your manuscript till the very end,’ they say. I edit as I go. ‘Tidy as you go,’ they say. I wait till the very end. Then again, I don’t subscribe to linear time; I respect circular time—no beginning, no end
  9. I like to keep up with the times, and apparently cluttered is the new clean*

Shiftless Technology

All of the above notwithstanding, when my place is tidy, even if it doesn’t last long, it makes me feel good. So, modern woman that I am, and as an author who thinks outside the box, I tried turning to my Google Home Mini for help.

Google Assistant is happy to tell me the time and current temperature when I ask for it. She also offers a whole lot of unsolicited, useless information. But she gave me attitude when I asked her to straighten up my apartment. Her response: ‘Let me try’—shimmery, sparkly, fairy sound—‘Did anything happen? Sorry, I guess I can’t.’

Lazy bitch!

Then again, maybe she’s not lazy. Maybe her developers programmed her with a tough love sentiment. In other words, to not rescue her users, but instead, to encourage them to find another way. Now that is the nature of creativity. And creativity is a messy process. See. We’ve come full circle!

For those of you who don’t consider yourselves creative, think again. Maybe you’re not a writer, artist, actor, singer or musician, but the I-don’t-have-a-creative-bone-in-my-body won’t wash. Living in itself is a creative process.

On Superlative Shitshows!

You’d never get through the day if you couldn’t problem-solve. And God knows life is unpredictable and challenging and full of curve-balls. Ways to do things can stop working, and what worked yesterday won’t work today. No one knows this better than a parent.

And like me, your children might have left home, but you need to ensure your inner child hasn’t. Without mine, I couldn’t write. Or laugh. Or experiment. Or trust or be curious and open to new experiences. Or be flexible. It’s like playing in the mud again. Messy joy.

There’s one more reason—and probably the best I can think of—to celebrate disorderliness/mishmash/omnishambles/dog’s dinner … or whatever you want to call it: apparently the chronically messy are intelligent.

That makes me a frickin’ genius! Are you …?

 

*https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/cluttered-is-the-new-clean-10-truths-all-messy-people-know-231816

This was originally written as a guest post (The Lore of My Jungle) for B-Gina™ Review https://bginareview.wordpress.com/2018/09/28/author-guest-post-the-lore-of-my-jungle-by-author-of-cupid-fcks-up/ An affiliate member of B-Gina™ Creations, B-Gina™ Review is an online literary journal 

 

A Novel Thing? Hardly

Do you have fictional character crushes? Do you finish a book and feel a little bereft, even if it has a happily-ever-after ending?  Do you get lost in the male protagonist with his six-foot plus of hot model gorgeousness? His chiselled jawline, strong cleft chin, Cupid’s-bow lips, and brown puppy-dog eyes; his toned and taut buns ’n’ guns, buff pecs and ripped abs?

Then spare a thought for us authors.

You get to move on to the next BILF in another book. But we’re stuck with our creation in what can feel like the worst case of unrequited love. It’s why my books have turned into a series. That above-description—it’s Ralph, my lead male character. And I can’t get him out of my head.

The Pull of Celebrity

Oh, I have the odd moment, you know, when I look at my husband. And he’ll look at me the same way. But the moment’s gone, just like that—pfft—when he says, ‘Pull my finger.’

You see, this is why I’m hooked on Ralph, why I hanker for him, why I wouldn’t climb over him in bed to get to hubby.

And it’s just one reason why we girls crush on book characters. Or celebrity-worship. There are many others:

  1. Fictional leading men don’t belch like a chainsaw
  2. They don’t pick out their belly-button lint and drop it in the indoor plants
  3. They don’t stand in front of an open fridge calling out, ‘I can’t see the cheese!’ And they don’t cut it
  4. They don’t drink orange juice straight out of the container
  5. They don’t scratch their nuts
  6. They don’t leave the seat up (because they don’t even go to the toilet)
  7. They don’t pick their noses and flick the contents willy-nilly, or scatter toenail clippings on the carpet
  8. They don’t hoik phlegm (loudly)
  9. They don’t check their text messages while you’re talking to them
  10. They don’t refuse to ask for directions
  11. And they don’t yell at the footy ref on TV, ‘Oh what was that?! Make a call, ya fuckwit!’

Ugly-Arse Home Truth

This inventory of gnarly habits that our non-fictional leading men have, does it sound cliché? Does it look like I googled it? Yes, it does, and no, I didn’t. My research is close to home, so to speak. Thanks heaps, Hubs and Dad.

When I was little, my mother told me my father had been raised by une paire de singes—a pair of monkeys. And where Mills & Boon became her drug of choice, I accepted her explanation for his behaviour. But it stopped making sense after I got married: my husband was raised by a pair of self-respecting humans. So …

It seems men are just hardwired as yobs. And women are hardwired with a certain je ne sais quoi. Finesse, shall we say? We might well have a potty-mouth, but we won’t leave skid marks. (Although, some women’s public lavs can leave one wondering, and hoping it’d been a shit-faced bunch of blokes who’d mistaken it for the men’s room and then let loose in there.)

Keeping It Reel

All things considered, for me it’s a double-edged sword because I admire the real. Writing ‘real’ and with depth is my stock-in-trade. But as a starry-eyed teen, I’d interpreted ‘he’s a real man’ as he’s a guy with ample testosterone—deep voice, decent muscle mass, a nice smattering of body hair (not like a gorilla, though), a good libido. I hadn’t factored the other stuff into what constitutes a real man.

We become more feet-on-the-ground as we get older, but the idea of the dreamy one still hangs about. And even though I think fairy tales are bollocks, when too much reality gets tired, a yearning calls from the depth: Please—please—just give me the goddamn storybook man!

And so, Ralph was conceived. He’s real-ish inasmuch as he has his foibles. I even had him vomiting a couple of times, although that’s where I drew the line. I foisted those rubbish tendencies on my other male characters, but I wanted to humanise Ralph, not make a monkey out of him.

. . . .

My girlfriends and I sometimes compare notes about our real-life men:

‘You’re not gonna believe what mine did! He blah blah blah …’

‘Oh, hon, I can go you one better!’

Sounds like a pissing contest, no? A male preoccupation—not the sort of thing fictional female protagonists do. Well, we’re not fictional. We’re real women. Could it be, then, that we women and our husbands are well-matched? Ugh!

*This was originally written as a guest post (‘Crushing [on] Celebrity’) for Chat About Books, Kerry Parsons’ book blog site: https://chataboutbooks.wordpress.com

Is a Beta Better?

They say there’s a new man in town. I say his days are numbered!

A stereotype called the beta-male is roaming the streets. Unlike a former holder of the post, the alpha-hole, Mr Beta is not cruising to pick up a one-night stand. Mr Beta has likely got a leash in his fist with a yappy toy poodle attached to the other end of it, dragging him along.

Where the alpha-hole—he of the chiselled jawline and sculpted body—inhabits bodice-ripping, historical or Mills & Boon novels, Mr namby-pamby Beta mostly inhabits clean and wholesome/sweet romances. A genre that allows maybe the odd kiss, but no kissy-kissy: Hands-off, no foreplay.

Kinda reads like a children’s book, no? And yet, this genre is growing in popularity. Do lots of modern women, then, want chasteness restored? Are women wanting to grow back their hymens?

COME ON!

Sorry, it’s like saying sex is unnatural; like saying sex is a dirty word (and you can’t use any of these either in clean and wholesome).

Well, I say, gimme dirty, baby, baby! You know, like in the movies. Go ahead and leave a trail of clothes strewn here and there—jeans, T, bra and panties discarded haphazardly. Go ahead and knock the tchotchkes off the side table en route to the bedroom. But …

When you remove my bodice, would you mind very much not ripping it? And can you please make sure that the stuff you knock off the furniture is unbreakable? I’ve probably forked out a shitload for the threads and knick-knacks, so can we just leave them intact?

Hasta La Vista, A-Holes!

These demands do not speak to the alpha-hole, who, in all likelihood, lost some leverage when female protagonists grew balls and started wearing power suits.

It would have been around this time that beta-man gained a foothold because a woman on top needs a counterpoise.

Oh, beta’s animal instincts might prevail and he could well drag ballsy chick off to the bedroom. But he’d likely stop to pick up and fold each item of discarded clothing along the way. Before long, he’d become pussy-whipped. It follows that she’d get bored with him.

Ostensibly, then, her perfect match would be the alpha-male. A nice balance between the two aforementioned male stereotypes, he seems the perfect man for all women. But is he?

Cutting the Cookie-Cutter

There are some variations in what constitutes alpha and beta-blokes. Here’s the thing, though. They’re constructed along the lines of the fairy-tale framework with its cardboard cut-out characters. And that’s the trouble with stereotypes.

They’re continually revised and cleansed versions of the preceding one, with the original—the archetype—buried under it all. And the new and ‘improved’ versions can lack substance, or don’t display much of it.

Personally, beta doesn’t do it for me. I don’t want the kind of male character I feel the need to breastfeed. And alpha-male? Warrior. Stand-up guy. James Bond-ish. Knight in shining armour. Probably doesn’t fart. Well, I do, so I’d feel un-alpha and inadequate against him. Anyway, I don’t need someone to rescue me.

The A-Z of Male Protagonists

Some of the male characters in my books are alpha-holes, alpha and beta-males. But they’re caricatures to draw attention to the idiocy of defining people by a limited bunch of traits.

My male lead, on the other hand, is so much more because, like in the earliest uncut stories—the Greek myths—I want a complete person. Not a barbarian who acts on all raw thoughts, feelings and impulses, of course. But one who can admit to these aspects of character that moralism has shamed us for even having.

So. You can keep your alpha-holes and your alpha and beta-males. I want the whole bloody alphabet. Give me an alpha-beta-gamma-delta-epsilon-zêta-êta-thêta-iota-kappa-lambda-mu-nu-xi-omikron-pi-rho-sigma-tau-upsilon-phi-chi-psi-omega man!

Complicated? Maybe. But real, and that much more interesting.

 

*This was originally written as a guest post (‘The ABC’s of Male Characters’) for Jess: reader, writer, blogger, reviewer from Jess Bookish Life—https://jessbookishlife.wordpress.com/

* Check out Mr Real’s counterpart, Ms Real, in an earlier post—https://paulahouseman.com/female-protagonist

 

Paula Houseman’s Odyssey in a Teacup takes readers along with protagonist, Ruth Roth, on a brilliantly crafted, classic hero’s journey. From her initial stirrings, awakenings, and blaring Call to Adventure, through her protracted Initiation of descents and dashings upon the rocks (during which phase Ruth’s internal “bullshit detector” becomes a well-oiled, exquisitely adept machine), to her ultimate, victorious Return to the Self, Ruth encounters and defeats a series of soul-sucking harpies, who time and again try to bite off more than they can chew.

The decided “black sheep” of her family, the ruthlessly undermining treatment Ruth endures as a child is almost too terrible to see … Almost. If it were not for Houseman’s brazen wit, keen understanding of the ancient, universal forces at work in the very roots of humanity, and magnificently bawdy humor, Ruth Roth’s Odyssey would be little more than a lonely trek. Instead, in the very first chapter, when Ruth triumphs in an unfortunate, embarrassing modern-day encounter with a “Cyclops”, we rush to back our champion with an unprecedented resolve—never leaving her side for the duration—and we are rewarded over and over with wretchedly wonderful, belly-shaking laughter, and liberating tears.

Houseman resurrects from the darkness (of fundamental, moralistic terrorism) the human soul, which we learn as children to regard as too grotesque as to be worthy of sight. In relating one such example of our conditioned belief in the shamefulness of our own humanity, she astutely observes the collective sentiment, “A cloud passed in front of the sun as if to stop it from seeing. Even nature was mortified”. But as the story progresses, such sentiments prove to be nothing more than our fearful, self-defeating human projections onto Nature, and Houseman’s heroine shines brightly—with moxie, and with the categorical approval of the gods and goddesses—in the sun.

Paula Houseman writes with all the verve, aplomb, and wisdom lauded of veteran authors. With rare authenticity and vigor, Houseman reveals the formative events of Ruth Roth’s life in a series of vignettes that infuse the pandemonium of Jackson Pollock expressionism with the clarity of purpose of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. We sense in each instance that Ruth ought to be asking herself, incredulously, How can this be my life? How can Nature permit another day of this existence to unfold? We feel we ought to avert our eyes, but we are captivated by a truth which strikes close to home for us, because it so aptly mirrors that most basic of human truths: we are not born knowing how to recognize, much less question, the aberrations of dysfunctional family life, as they comprise our normal experience.

Yet, despite the mythical monsters’ best efforts to thwart her, Ruth Roth prevails as our champion. She becomes our mouthpiece, articulating for us the question that has always been lurking there, beneath the living room’s imitation woodgrain wallpaper, by exposing the fantastic lie that has surreptitiously enlisted our complicity in maintaining others’ fragile illusions at the expense of our realities.

Odyssey in a Teacup is epically defiant, bold, painful, hilarious, soul-fortifying, and a must-read for anyone who has ever dared (or hoped) to look at themselves in the mirror and ask the question, How in the hell have I survived?

— Stephanie L. Harper, author

Paula Houseman’s Odyssey in a Teacup is an inspiring, funny story of an Australian woman’s journey, or rather, a series of journeys of self-discovery that will resonate with women—particularly those of the baby boomer era.

Odyssey in a Teacup’s main character, Ruth Roth (single syllables, deprived of a middle name) takes us through the ups and downs, madcap recollections and zany characters she encounters from a young age. You find yourself laughing aloud at some of the hilarious situations to which any woman can relate.

From an early age, Ruth struggles to deal with an overbearing, mordant mother, Sylvia, and a flatulent father, Joe, who diminish her confidence by telling her she’s a ‘mistake’, because she was conceived just two months after her brother was born. And as a girl, Ruth’s not encouraged to aspire to anything more than finding a nice Jewish boy to marry. The diminution of her spirit is further compounded by a bitchy mirror that slaps her down at every opportunity, as well as bullying doctors, teachers, colleagues, and cousins.

Ruth’s cousin Ralph Brill (also single syllables, no middle name—but he “doesn’t give a shit”) and her two close friends, Maxi and Vette, are her mainstay, while her irreverent humour, smart mouth and canniness also keep her buoyant, even though they sometimes get her into trouble.

Inevitably, the unpleasant people and disastrous experiences she has to contend with during her odysseys see her develop a number of phobias, not least cacomorphobia (a fear of morbidly obese people), and an insidious dread of Sundays, when as far as Ruth’s concerned, God invariably goes AWOL.

Ruth realises her life closely resembles a Greek tragicomedy, and with a passion for ancient mythology, it’s little wonder she relays her story through an anthology of Greek myths, identifying with the ancient gods—not least Baubo, the hideous goddess of bawdiness, who she comes to acknowledge as her protagonist.

Ruth does eventually marry a nice Jewish boy and has two children, Hannah and Casper. At first, she revels in their spirited personalities and irreverence, yet at the same time she struggles with disapproving teachers and the ubiquitous competitiveness of other mothers, causing her to regress and her confidence crumble. Until a disastrous function becomes the panacea when she finally recognises she needs to change course and begin a new journey—alone. But just as her latest odyssey begins, something happens that changes everything …

Odyssey in a Teacup is an uplifting, hilarious, yet at times, sobering story of how bias, religious and superstitious mores, bullying and self-doubt can hinder personal growth, but also how the love of close friends, a sense of humour, and above all, determination can help us to embark on new adventures throughout our life.

— Sally Asnicar

Another Ruth Roth journey through the pitfalls of love, with all the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from this author.

I really loved Apoca[hot]lips because I recognised the type of characters and some of the hilarious situations we get ourselves into. It had me turning the pages to see if things could get any worse, or any funnier! This is a laugh out loud book, and it puts love and romance right where it belongs—on the funny shelf.

—Suzi Braddic

‘Paula Houseman is at it again—wielding her razor-sharp wit in Apoca[hot]lips, a romantic comedy with twists and turns! Unputdownable.’

—Gabriella Kovac, Bestselling author.