Talk about your ‘oh, wow’ moments

So, it’s been a couple of days. I’m still reeling, but the shock has begun to wear off. I’ve begun to develop my strategy. What strategy you say? The one that takes my new awareness of society and warps it onto my hopes, dreams, and goals while trying to protect myself from the serpents who surround me with smiles.

Before I tell this story, let me say first, that I’m the lone voice of reason within my family and most of my profession. By that I mean, I’m not guided by false facts and usually prefer to deal with reality independent of other beliefs and prejudices. If my beliefs don’t hold up under scrutiny, then I tend to abandon those beliefs. If they are worthy beliefs, I don’t have to lie to myself to keep them.

So a few day before the election, one relative recently sent me a incorrect fact about Hillary Clinton, implying that she lost her license to practice law. Well, I knew that it wasn’t true, that’s called being disbarred and when you are disbarred its a really big deal. No, no, I was told, its different. I sent her back the Wikipedia article, asking for her to show me where this was true. She pointed not to an encyclopedia, but to a fear mongering conspiracy hate site. The actual situation was that Hillary had not renewed her license, probably because she had gone in to politics and wasn’t going to be practicing law in that state. (this happens often, and I’ve dropped certifications that were expensive to keep up for the same reason)

Talk about your ‘oh, wow’ moments.

That my nearest relatives got their information from shady sites produced by shady people which twisted facts to suit their purposes, and not an authoritative source. Sad to say, it wouldn’t have mattered or changed their vote. The crux of the matter is that this boiled down to not liking someone personally. In plain terms, it was a personality conflict that went back decades.

That personality conflict (Not liking Hillary) overwhelmed all other rational, sane reasoning. It was too much to ask, that they treat this like hiring a bureaucrat to run government instead of a football game. It was too much to ask for those women to hold their noses and vote for someone who would help their causes, make sure the social safety-net programs (Medicare, social security, etc) they depend on stay funded, men would not be slapped on the hands for using sexual intimidation in the work place, and that trade/jobs stayed steady. If that idiot Sarah Palin had run (because she is a female Trump), those same women would have put her in charge of everything. It’s shameful we can’t look forward to a competent first woman president someday, it will have to be a populist idiot to get past the voter stupidity.

So our mothers, grandmothers and saddest of all, some of their daughters (because we have to smear that hate on the children too so we don’t lose it) voted not just to put their boot on the neck of women in leadership positions everywhere, but at the same time, to elevate someone who would be all too happy to reduce our value to blonde hair dye, breast implants and a willingness to suck up to rich powerful men. Those of us who would lead were told, ‘don’t you worry your pretty little head about leadership’. Our middle-aged and elderly women loved every damn word Trump said, and all that he did, because it resonated with what they had believed was proper all their lives, validated the fact that women shouldn’t be trying to do those jobs, because they themselves were taught that they shouldn’t. They loved this archaic rhetoric so much that they they said “me too” and checked that box  -and with that check-mark reinforced the boundary lines that keep us from becoming equals.

The Horrifying Reality?  Not Trump (although horrifying). Nope, the horror is those women (and men) can still outnumber us at the polls. We will get rid of this repulsive jerk in a few years, but I’ll have to wait a few decades to see the people I love, the people who said ‘me too!’ die off before we can achieve true social equity (much sooner if with the repeal of The Affordable Care Act and its preexisting conditions clause for conditions like cancer). I’m not getting any younger, and now I don’t think it will happen before I die. I’ll be denied jobs I should have, and the white male establishment will feel vindicated in putting me back in my place. After all, the nation said that was okay again, so they don’t they don’t even have to keep up appearances and pretend I can lead.

The true result of Tuesdays election? I’ve lost any hope that I have anything at all with which to find common ground with my family and well-to-do colleagues. They are beyond help, and I’ve grown to be too different from them to relate to their small world view. We only make each other mad when we try to talk. They believe they are making a ‘Christian’ choice. Well, I just cannot believe that God would say that my feelings about fairness, equality and kindness are wrong. Ironically, those same relatives worry about my soul but don’t see the massive stain on their own. If confronted, they will simply say ‘oh, no, that’s not what that really means’ all the while knowing it really is true. They comfort themselves with the lie that their actions are not evil or intended to hurt anyone. For one, it hurt me and women like me. In ways those other women who don’t identify with us will never understand.

Another thing that hurts? I’m a lot like Hillary Clinton, and now I know they don’t just want to limit me professionally, they actually don’t like me personally either. I’m a strong, outspoken, professional woman. I’ve had success, but also made some mistakes in my career. That tends to happen when you do things and have an impact. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve been called a bitch by men I worked with. That happens a lot too when your not soft-spoken, have an opinion, or just plain know what your talking about. That the people who claim to love me truly do not wish me success, think I’m getting above myself and trying to do a man’s job in a man’s world. That they think its okay to ‘spank me’ when I’m trying to get out of line, purse their lips and imply ‘I told you so’. That’s not love, its not encouragement, and its certainly not an endorsement of my potential. As clear as day, on Tuesday, they all told me that they actually don’t like women like me. Well, I heard you. Loud and clear. I can say I don’t like you very much anymore either.

Of course, I’m going to pour every ounce of this betrayal into my art because it will help me heal. But that’s not all I’m going to do. It’s not enough to merely cry and mourn over the true opinions of those people. I’m going to take action too. I’ve decided to dramatically change how I deal with the world after this election.

First, if you voted to keep women down because you didn’t like her? I’m going to accept that you probably don’t like me that much either and quit pretending that you do.

Second? I’m not going to fund a single thing where the people involved could have been helped by making a different choice on Tuesday. Especially those who need government aid but voted for Republicans who will slash that funding while restoring the shameful tax cuts of the Bush era (because let’s face it, you can never be too rich). That’s going to be mainly white, rural America, but a few others too. I won’t waste my pity or sympathy on those who suffer joblessness from the tanked economy that is now almost certainly in our future. You asked to suffer, begged for it. Said you’d rather suffer like that than see a woman you didn’t think was enough like you do a frankly thankless job, so who am I do deny you your suffrage? Relieve your pain in any way? I’m starting to believe that the pain level must increase to see people change how they vote.

Third? I’ve been in the midst of a job hunt. I’m going to do everything I can to not work for the slimy bigots who made this happen. No longer will they make a profit off my talents, they do not deserve me or other brilliant people like me. That means I’ll be working for women, minorities, and probably a younger company, which means I’ll make less money. That’s okay. That’s my sacrifice for my principals that I’m willing to make. Maybe its not such a huge sacrifice at all, when I won’t be allowed past the glass ceiling anyway.

I’m going to pull my checkbook back in a dramatic way, and I hope young professional women everywhere do. It may be hard in some industries to find women owned/lead companies, but I’m determined that if I can’t hire one, I’ll learn to do a whole lot myself rather than hire a man, or a middle aged woman who are about as UN-Godly as they come.

Jesus would never have preached hate and would have helped the poor, the sick, the elderly, and so on. Jesus would have been washing their feet. So those who told themselves they were voting the Christian choice? Yeah, they are either idiots or they have some version of the bible I’ve never seen. What those people really did? Show the world that they are so full of hate and fear that they would rather try to keep others down than adapt to a fairer future for all.

Advertisements

There is no making this better

I’m still in shock and unable to process what just happened. Do I really still live in a country this full of hate, and bigots, and people so uneducated that they would do this to us?

I’m sad for myself, and our nations daughters, because many of their mothers betrayed them by voting for that man.

I feel betrayed by those who should have fought to move us forward instead of back in time. I don’t think I can forgive those women for that.

So if your one of them, the women who did this? Don’t wonder why you can’t get equal pay, or a promotion. Or anything else that requires respect. You obviously don’t really want it, or you would have made a different choice. Choices you may not have for much longer….after all back in the ‘good old days’ women didn’t vote at all, didn’t have the right to have a bank account, and died in childbirth after like 20 pregnancies.

Strong Heroines in RL vs. Knuckle Dragging Cave Dwellers

screenshot-2016-09-09-14-50-38
Two broadtail hummingbirds fighting over a huge amount of nectar

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

The quote above is usually presented in the context of class warfare, but I see it as more than that. It’s 2016, and I’m disappointed that women are still not considered equals in the workplace and life in general.

I’m watching the political show this year. It is a show. No matter what you believe, those people have a few short months to grab your attention and make you devoted to them and only them. Neither candidate is really perfect, but while I have my concerns about why there are no fresh candidates on either side of the political isle, and more concerns about dynasties and whether they are good for the country, I’ve been made uncomfortably aware of another issue that I had not expected to rear its ugly head. What could that be, you say?

While watching the chaos, I’ve been horrified to see videos of men selling shirts that promote ‘spanking’ the female in the race.

With everything controversial that has been happening with both candidates, am I really worried about this issue? Is it a big deal?

Yes. Yes, it is. So many have fought, sacrificed, and even died in the pursuit of our constitutional amendment providing the legal rights to equality. It’s a shame that we still haven’t made it a reality as it does not honor those that sacrificed so much to provide the possibility of equality.

Equality is a fundamental underpinning to just about everything I’ve ever tried to accomplish, and I find I just cannot ignore it or let it pass unaddressed. If this happened in my workplace, or even just a verbal with no shirt, I’d have a sexual harassment suit to end all suits and own the joker marginalizing me and trying to undermine my status as a professional. I don’t remember Bob Dole, John Kerry or any other male politician in recent history who had to have a caricature of his backside (or other bits) to make the point that they were not deemed competent for the biggest job in the nation.

My friends who will vote for him are quick to cry ‘he can’t control what other people do!” Not true. The male candidate has the ability to say ‘hey, I don’t’ want that guy in there selling those shirts, because I don’t disrespect women–so I believe that candidate is culpable whether he personally sells the stupid thing. What’s more–that candidate could take a stand for women and my friends who are going to vote for him will STILL DO IT. He risk NOTHING by discouraging such backwards attitudes, and yet he still lets it go on. That communicates louder than words that he condones the sentiment.

There’s one reason, and one reason only why this was allowed in what ought to be a professional setting. OMG! What do you mean? What on earth could be the reason for so disrespecting your opponent when competing for a job?

The great reason? She’s a woman.  Well, she might be wearing a short skirt (analogy for being a public figure), but that doesn’t mean it is okay to treat her that way.  No matter how you vote, the fact that an example of misogyny in the work-place is being practiced right before our eyes.

While it is just as bad form when women emasculate men, it was nice to see the tables turned in this specific situation. When another group posted naked statues of the male in the race and you had to use a magnifier to see his naughty bits and the rolls of fat made you shudder for the trophy-wives past, it was a way to show the men in the race that if you open that door–you too may be fair game. Men are just as sensitive about the size of their bits and bobs as we are, and I doubt anyone so sensitive about the size of his hands isn’t just as sensitive about the size of….erm…other things.

Why this matters beyond politics…our young women are getting mixed signals and some are ultimately deciding to forgo modern roles in favor of antiquated ones that limit their potential in society.  I write about strong, empowered women, who are capable of doing really important things, and who do not shy away from challenges or adversity. No matter how many strong, empowered, brilliant female characters we may read about in novels, when a lot of young women set those novels down, they go back to believing they cannot compete with men or have to marry in order to secure a middle class life.

Knowing that there are still huge numbers of people out there who feel this way? Strips all the hope for our daughters out of the world. Society still holds girls back, and even without intentionally doing so, grandmothers, mothers and of course men, are sending them messages like ‘you’ll never earn more than a man’ or ‘you can be the woman behind the man’.

When will our society accept our ability to be equal to men? The answer may be when we finally believe it ourselves.

We need to obliterate those rose colored glasses. You know the ones, they fill your eyes with the illusion of an easier, domestic-bliss-filled-life.  June Cleaver didn’t have an easier road. That is a myth. June cold have been anything at all, lead children or nations. Managed household projects, or major engineering projects. Ward, if he loved her, would have cheered her on.

The idea that our young women are not capable of become leaders is just not true, and what’s worse, their best champions and cheerleaders seem to perpetuate the myth that it is unfeminine to be bold. That’s just stupid, and I’ve never had a lot of patience with stupid.

I think we need to send a different message to our boys and girls, obviously the one about all of us being equal isn’t getting through the massive cultural conditioning. The fact that there could be any great number of knuckle-dragging cave dwellers at those rallies, buying those spanking shirts, is frankly alarming. Do they hide in underground bunkers in the off-season? No, they live in the real world, probably in the cube next to you or even more likely, in the corner office, deciding whether you have the ability to be promoted.

My day job is in male dominated field. Sometimes they just don’t ‘see me’ in that leadership role. It held me back for years until I finally broke free and started my own company (and proved I could actually do what they were so afraid I couldn’t do). Afraid is the word too. They didn’t trust me, didn’t trust that I could handle the job, manage the people involved, etc. As a consequence, they lost out on everything I had to offer, as every client I gained for myself….could have been theirs and added to the companies’ bottom line.

I read a very intelligent article discussing this matter recently. In it, the author pointed out that we are trustworthy enough to raise society’s young, nurse men, children and the elderly when sick and have all manner of responsibility for running anyone/everyone’s lives, but when it comes to leadership, men, and sadly, some women, believe women can’t be trusted.

Well those of you who long for the ‘good old days’, I got a news flash for you.

Germany is run by a woman today.

Britain was run by a woman twenty years ago.

The USA is way behind other first world nations because seizing power is seen as ‘unfeminine’.

I’m not particularly disappointed in the current jerk running for office. I never had high hopes for him to begin with. I’m not even angry. I’d call my current mood ‘intensely frustrated’. I’m frustrated that it is 2016 and women are not seen as good enough, or taken seriously by hordes and hordes of knuckle-dragging throwbacks.  It worries the crap out of me. I have nieces. I’d like to see them have just as much potential as their male colleagues someday. Right now, on average we make 20% less than men. Susan B. Anthony would be appalled that over a century later, after all her efforts, we still don’t have equal standing in our society. The reason for that persistent discrimination is that we happen to own the ability to create another human being, a fact that ought to elevate us to near-God like status but is instead used to marginalize our ability to contribute to the work-force.

I hope I see real equality in the workplace (reflected in equal pay) before I die, but recent emboldened comments by before-mentioned knuckle draggers makes me truly doubt I will. How many girls will read about their fictional kick-butt heroines, only to grow up depressed that the only place they can have that kind of life is when projecting themselves into the pages of a novel. I pray that it changes, for while it is too late for me to reap the rewards, I’d die knowing it didn’t stay this way, and that would make me very happy.

Hungering for something new

2016-07-01 18.45.17 - Copy

Pic is of Piginstein lusting after a bunny who is quite unaware of its tastyness….

Well, still not writing. I applied for a federal job. It was practically a dissertation to apply for a single job. I wonder that anyone sticks with the process at all. In the meantime I’ve been fantasizing. Just like Piginstein or Captain Ahab, I’m lusting after objectives that seem just out of reach.

It’s been a hard year. Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography that she knew she was a professional after she finished her WIP during her divorce from Archie. She was at her lowest point, but she made herself work because she had a contract to finish. I read that book, and while it isn’t my favorite, it has some dark tones that her earlier work did not have. I hope this years difficulties yield some creative benefit for me and allow me to see further into my stories soul than I did before. So what could I do that would stretch my writing muscles? A-ha. I have it.

I have managed to read some this year, and in reading really good material (necessary to state because I frequently read bad too) it has occurred to me that one of thing things I’ve never played with in my fantasy writing is realism. Blending the effects of gritty reality into my fantasy world. I’m seriously thinking of giving it a go just to see what would come of it. Its also something I can do to reinforce the habit of writing itself when my time is short. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere, and will probably yield some ideas. Much like brainstorming. Anything at all that can resuscitated sensation in my brain at this point in 2016 stands a good shot of being positive. Just like plucky heroines, I refuse to let the forces of darkness and evil win and my bright shining eyes will smile with determination to win despite my adversities. In real life? I’ve learned that not quitting is really the secret sauce to success anyhoo, so if that desire to persevere is still alive….well, then so am I.

 

 

Life & Story Revisions

 

2016-05-18 12.22.12

Picture is a flock of Turkey Vultures looking for flesh to pick from bones.

Life changes. No great revelation there, but sometimes the changes consume you and when that happens everything else that is important to you goes on hold. That’s  what happened to me this year. I haven’t written anything new in over two months. What? What? How could that be?

Well, glad you asked.

You see, like most aspiring authors, I have ye-old-day-job. I’m a technology professional, so my day job pays much better than writing ever will, so I’ve made my peace with keeping ye-old-day-job until retirement. A few years ago I realized that ‘the man’ was not compensating me fairly for my contributions, and so I started My Own Company (MOC). Oh, happy day. I had never truly worked hard until I started my own business, but I loved every minute of it. I charged more money for my work, which allowed me to do other things, etc etc etc etc.

Along comes the North Carolina law makers and Powerful Forces of Industry . They made some pretty big headlines with HB2 this year, but truthfully  they’ve been passing some questionable laws for a few years now. Mainly because they feel safe in their seats due to the completely over-the-top gerrymandering. NC is one of the worst (or ‘expertly’ depending on your POV) gerrymandered states in the union. So along with gutting our state’s environmental protection policies, stirring up civil rights issues, they also passed a little law that made it illegal for me to work for myself. In order to work– I must work under another type of professional. That certain-type-of-professional is not tech savvy and has no business governing my entire profession.

That didn’t matter. The Powerful Forces of the Industry (see Big Money Campaign Donors) were able to get law passed to shut down MOC. I’ve been slogging  along working for someone else again in the last couple of months. The effort involved sunk my battleship, leaving me no time to edit my WIP for KJ3. Recreational time? You  don’t get recreational time!

So, now that one of my life’s dreams has gasped its last breath, I’m turning back to some others that are still hanging on with life support systems like KJ3 (working title “Cat’s Paw”).

And here-lies-revisions too. Bunches of them. I’ve decided to rework the story to add another arc, and offer a little more depth to my MC. Of course, it will change her motivations for a lot of other things, so I’ll basically have to redraft the whole WIP with the new arc in mind. This type of revision doesn’t bother me near as much as determining my new day-time career path, but it’s still a major effort.

So–when asked “what did you do on your summer vacation? ” I’ll probably answer, ‘oh, I rewrote my whole WIP.” Who knows? Maybe it will be cathartic.

I’m not bitter. Nope. Not at all. Well….yeah, I guess I am. When all the dust settles and the Federal Fair Trade Commission comes to town to straighten things out there will be some survivors. I just won’t be one of them and that really stinks. For everyone that escaped the Titanic in a row boat, a whole lot more drowned a cold icy death next to an iceberg. Sometimes your the windshield, and sometimes your the bug.

Oh well, at least no one can take my writing away from me. Can we say Freedom of Speech? Right now, yes…we still can.

New Crit Partner-Yea!

2016-01-24 07.38.53Well, after months of looking and a few try-outs I finally found a match. I actually found my new partner through one of the critters who didn’t work out. I started with Maggie Stiefvater’s YA google group match-up. Sent off a few messages. Pages were swapped. One person I swapped pages with was an ‘almost fit’. Our feedback styles were just not compatible. Although we decided it wouldn’t work, I’m thankful for the help she gave me. She gave me a lot of really good input, including the suggestion to join RWA. I had not considered this before because I write cozies. I decided to give it a try, and the critique partner match up available to members was how I found  JJ. That alone was worth the price of admission.

Lessons Learned:

  • It is not enough to like the other person’s genre/story.
  • The style of commentary can add or detract from the process, so you need to match well in that respect too.
  • Time expectations need to align. Setting up a soft deadline for getting those comments back to each other is good while also making sure you both have realistic expectations.
  • You can work with almost anyone if they are coming at the critique with professionalism.
  • Giving first round comments is as nerve wracking as dating. You bite your knuckles before hitting ‘send’ on that email, hoping above all else that although you’ve never met in person they will get your snarky sense of humor and find your comments useful.
  • Comments are useful as long as the other person can hear what you’re trying to say. Brushing up on those soft skills is time well invested and ensures that your partner gets positive feedback (even if it’s critical). You say a little prayer that the comments you get back will be useful too.
  • Listening to comments never fails to evoke emotional reactions (for me). It’s good to read them, let them sit a while, then read again.
  • When you find a good match, you know it. It’s right almost from the start.

I really want to thank everyone who swapped pages with me. All the feedback I got was useful in one way or another. I think JJ and I will be very happy together.

 

A True Love Story

This is a love story.

It’s not a fast read. Takes about 10-15 minutes. It’s the longest post I’ve ever put on my blog. Hate long post? Me too. Don’t have time? Bookmark it for later. I’m biased, but I think it’s worth it-if you like love stories.

rings
This is a love story.

Names have been changed. Protecting those who deserve it, and unavoidably shielding villains too. This is my own true love story, but I’m writing it Fairy Tale Style for fun. I’ve always thought of it that way in my head anyway, and hey, this is my POV not a character’s. It’s not perfect, you may find a few errors. That’s okay. This isn’t something I’d ever be able to look at with my Super-Critical Eye anyway. I’m writing it partly to remember, but also because it is a story of hope. God taking pity on our Hero was the only thing that could possibly have led to her Happily Ever After.

Warning:

If you do not wish to root for Hero (I call her Hero in tribute to Wm. Shakesphere, but also because she IS the hero of the story), dislike a good HEA, or refuse to do any wistful sighing?  Stop. Just stop right now. Read no further. Oh, you like that mushy stuff? Then read on.

The Cast of Characters….
This story has all the usual suspects. A girl. A boy. A few evil doers and a few do-gooders. A dirty, evil, horrible situation, and, of course, a curse that has plagued Hero since she reached puberty. Despite all the harsh conditions, two people will fall in love.

TrueA hardworking boy. Smart, Brilliant really, and introverted. Not really looking for love, but somehow pressured by well-meaning friends into going on a blind date.
Hero
-A hardworking girl. Like many you know. Or at least she was like that girl.
Mama-Hero’s mother, The Strongest Woman Who Ever Lived
Evil Boss (EB)-Just as advertised.
Big Boss (BB)-Ditto.
Fixy & Upper-Hero’s distant relatives, also a couple of matchmakers.

A little about our character Hero….
So. Hero. She’s Every Girl. You know the one. There’s nothing wrong with her. She’s attractive, witty, educated and fun to be around. There’s just one thing not right about her. She’s single. Everyone who meets her immediately thinks to themselves “who can I fix her up with?” This is also known as Who Can I Fix This Nice Girl Up With Curse.
By the time I (oops, I mean Hero) was thirty she had a string of outrageous blind date stories that she still believes she could write up and get published as humor. Those boys got nicknames, a sure sign that they were never going to see her again. The Switch-thrower is Hero’s favorite. That guy tried to impress her by extolling the virtues of capital punishment (obviously not realizing she was a pacifist). He bragged he was on a list to throw the switch for the State’s electric chair. Seriously? Who tries to impress a girl that way? That one got Hero’s friends forever banned from fixing her up again.

Hero was that girl. Then, after she quit actively looking, following a debacle where a date ended up being ‘unofficially’ engaged to another woman, she found love in an unexpected way. When love happened? It was mind-blowingly easy. But I get ahead of myself. To truly believe this story, you need backstory.

Backstory….
Long ago, in a land far away from where she lives now, Hero, a database manager for a major non-profit organization, had just finished working her way through college. She had a career long before she had her degree. She didn’t graduate until she was over thirty. That meant that most days involved going to work, where she had serious responsibilities. Every evening, Mondays thru Thursdays, she stressed over whether she could leave in time to make it to night classes. To make it harder? Hero’s Evil Boss (EB) never planned to pay her more money. Human Resources mandated that a college degree would change Hero’s pay category, so EB stands in her way every chance she gets. (Travel, work-load, etc.) Paranoid, you say? Nope. EB was horribly disorganized. While looking through EB’s desk, handling something that EB was too lazy to do, Hero finds the little piece of paper on the desk where EB calculated to the penny how much she had to pay Hero to put her on salary, and thus avoid paying her overtime. (The result of all that unnecessary travel, but EB forgot Hero was an hourly employee).
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Hero had no time for love. She never met anybody because she was always working. At school. Studying. It was a very lonely way to live, and she when she let herself think about the situation, she was a little depressed at her inability to change it. At least in the near future.

Our Story Begins…..
Stage Left: Enter Hero’s mother (aka The Strongest Woman On Earth, but we’ll just call her Mama)
Mama decides to do some genealogy research, and unknowingly changes Hero’s life forever. Mama is the mother girls everywhere dream of. She believed in Hero, no matter what she does (although usually warning her doom lies straight ahead). She supports Hero, and teaches Hero to never settle for less than she deserves.
(Hero credits Mama for the fact that she became such an independent woman in the first place. One who would work hard to put herself through school, despite the fact she was raised below the poverty line, had no tangible reason to expect success. That’s another post, and one that doesn’t really belong on this blog.)
Anyway, Mama was made of material that would make diamonds look squishy. She’d had to be, having raised herself and ultimately living her life as a single mother after a divorce. That isolation made Mama want to know more about her own family. One day, just before retirement age, Mama started doing a lot of web research on her family tree. In the course of looking for her own family, she found a blog post by someone researching her ex-husbands family (Hero’s father). The post was general, the poster was looking for descendants of Hero’s Grandfather’s brother. Mama replied, and emails were exchanged. Result?

Stage Center: Enter Fixy & Upper

Hero is introduced to a distant cousin. Hero and Fixy hit it off, and Hero spends much time at Fixy and her husband Upper’s home. This time spent with Hero triggers the dreaded Who Can I Fix This Nice Girl Up With Curse.
Fixy and Upper are the Best Matchmakers in the Kingdom, and have done so many times, with much lauded success. They optimistically turn their attention to Hero’s plight. Twice they introduced Hero to nice men who were completely wrong for her. Very successful, but too old for her (This was later discovered to be mostly Upper’s doing, as he wanted Hero to be ‘well taken care of’). After two attempts, Hero tries to break the curse the only way she knows how. No more blind dates. (Thanks for playing, but no more.)

Meanwhile….back at work.

Hero has been removed from EB’s clutches and now reports to the Big Boss (BB) the leader of her organization. BB is much nicer, but even more demanding, and if she is being honest, she must admit BB is also a little insane. Thankfully, BB truly appreciated what it had taken for Hero to earn her degree. What BB didn’t believe? Employees who chose to live far away and commute to work had an excuse for not showing up in bad weather. Hero had a key role in BB’s organization, so that especially meant her.
(Hand to God, Hero is not making this up).

First Week of February, 14 years ago….
There came a terrible ice storm. Hero, lived in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. In order to get to work, she had to traverse a deep, ice covered valley between two mountains. She felt compelled to do this because of BB. It was a very scary trip, over ice sheeted roads. After sliding into one treacherous curve, Hero swears by all that is Holy, she will never risk her life again for a stupid job.
(There’s no carrot, but there was a lot of hand waving a-la Scarlett O’Hara’s “As God is my witness….)

Still First-ish Week of February, 14 years ago….
A second, terrible ice storm was predicted three days later. The Kingdom’s weather-guessers warned everyone how dangerous it would be to travel, especially since the sheets of the previous ice remained. Hero, knowing BB wouldn’t be reasonable, prepares for the worst. She arranges to stay in town at the home of Fixy and Upper, who were glad to help. (This was around February 9th or 10th. I’ll get to why dates matter in a second.)
Sitting in their living room the night of that second storm, Fixy turns to Upper and says “You know who we ought to fix Hero up with? “True Love?” Upper replies as if reading Fixy’s mind. (This leads Hero to wonder if this were truly the first time this came up, or being staged for her benefit. Hero wasn’t that gullible after two bad blind dates.)
Hero mentally crings, having survived two previous attempts without hurting Fix and Upper’s feelings, can she do it again? It was hard for Hero to say no. She wanted what every other person in the land had found easily in their mid-twenties. Fixy, unbeknownst to Upper, corners Hero at bed time and convinces her that the two previous guys were Upper’s doing. Fixy has picked True Love out herself. He’s young. Smart. Employed (He’s a programmer) and has his own castle. Concerns are expressed. Assurances made. Sighing….Hero gives in. Willing to give Fixy & Upper one final chance, but not expecting success.
(Hero believes she is truly not matchable)

Second Week of February, 14 years ago….
On February 12th (Hero does remember this date exactly) Fixy and Upper and a gang of friends including Hero and True meet up at a local restaurant. True walks in the door, in jeans that were painted on and a blue plaid shirt. (True’s jeans are indecent, but did showcase what Hero will insist to this day is the finest backside she’s ever seen. Seriously, art students would study it.) Hero was sitting shyly in the chair next to the wall. Upper shoves True into the chair right beside Hero, believing this will promote chemistry and ensure success. Hero and True cannot really talk because their shoulders are touching, the situation is not conducive to getting to know each other. Hero is good and trapped. She also cannot look at True without being nose to nose. Hero thinks True has the most beautiful blue eyes she’s ever seen, but wonders why there are deep dark purple circles under them. (She will later discover he works insane hours. A real life dragon.) Like Hero, it had been a while since True dated anyone due to his insane schedule. Hero doesn’t remember a single word of their encounter. She does remember being acutely aware of everyone watching them like a spectator sport.

Afterwards…
As Hero gets in her car, Fixy will ask her, “So, what do you think?” Hero, because she is good and pure, will speak truth. She tells Fixy she doesn’t know. Couldn’t really get a feel for the guy, attraction, or anything else. Thanks to Upper, the situation hadn’t been conducive to figuring out if she wanted True to ask Hero out. (Despite his obvious assets)

Upper gives True Hero’s work email. (Hero later suspects that Upper has also given him quite a lot of unsubstantiated encouragement.) Emails are exchanged. Hero and True agree to have their first date on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. They both agree they will not treat it like a Valentine’s Day date. No expectations. They will go ahead, have the date, and report back to eager friends on whether it was a go or no-go situation. Get it over with.

First Date….
True takes Hero to a local Thai Restaurant. Hero, who is not a fan of any type of rice except Jasmine or Wild, lets True eat all of it. (This is a big mistake. True loves rice. To this day True believes he should eat Hero’s food. Calls it a ‘food tax’. Had Hero known, she’d have taken some just to set a different expectation). Hero, due to a quirk in her personality, accidentally punned the whole time. True, a lover of puns (he will deny it) thought Hero excessively clever, that she was doing it on purpose. He gave her far more credit for wit than she merited.
Afterwards, it was screaming cold outside, so they sat in his Mazda Protégé while it warmed up.
True turns on the heat(er).
True surprises Hero with a kiss.
Hero’s lips tingled. (She thinks this must be how the Prince woke Sleeping Beauty up. Hero kids you not. If she hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t believe it either.)
This was definitely a go situation. They were at the very least going to have a second date.

Second Date….
True takes her to a ball where all the nobles gave money to support the Kings Museum of Art. True picks a clutch of daffodils out of his Castle’s yard, presenting them them to her when he picks her up in his carriage. Hero falls even further under his spell.

March (1 Month Later), 14 years ago….
Constant dates, and other areas of compatibility confirmed, Hero and True are falling in love. Hero stays in True’s castle almost all the time. (with quick trips home for supplies). One day, Hero tells True she has to go to a house viewing appointment, her Realtor has found a good property for her. True tells her “You shouldn’t do that. I want you to move in with me.” (Yup. Crazy. Crazy fast. Totally insane.)
What does Hero do? She swears True to secrecy, fearing every single soul she knows will think she’s lost her marbles. Also, any sliver of good judgement she may/may not have been credited with. (Nobody, but nobody, moves into the castle of a man she’s known a month. That’s just crazy.) She wants to do this more than anything, so knowing how fleeting happiness can be, she says yes and goes for it.

May, 14 years ago….
They confess the truth to friends, who have been suspicious and poking their noses into their affair. Just as well. It was getting hard to maintain the secret anyway.

June, 14 years ago….
The happy couple takes a trip to introduce True to Hero’s Grammy. Immediately upon arrival, Hero hugs her Grammy, introduces True Love. True immediately scopes the farm out, then drags Hero beneath the Muscadine Arbor. True drops to one knee and pops the question. (True insist he did this in self-defense. Hero was making him a nervous wreck, rummaging around in the glove box and car’s console, and was worried she would find the engagement right and ruin his surprise. FYI-She had found it while True was pumping gas on the trip, but due to its unique appearance, didn’t realize it wasn’t just a nice gift, but a very important piece of jewelry.)

This is where some of Hero & True’s memories differ a bit.
True insist Hero cried forever, making him worry she was going to say no, before finally putting an end to the suspense, saying yes.
Hero insist she said yes, then cried. Hero is certain of her memory. She doesn’t cry a lot, preferring laughter. True’s memories are usually suspect anyway, he mis-remembers things a lot.

January, 13 years ago….
Just after the New Year, some friends who became engaged after Hero and True get married. (In your thirties you do these things faster.) True says to Hero, “Let’s get married on Valentine’s Day.”
Hero scoffs.
True’s face is the picture of disappointment. She cannot bear it, so she changes her answer. She agrees to his naive plan, believing that it will all fall apart when they try to pull a wedding off in a month, and on the most popular wedding day of the year. Meanwhile, Hero tries to educate True. She tells him that Valentine’s Day wedding venues book up years in advance. Undaunted, True persist. (Wanting as he says “to seal the deal” so that Hero can’t change her mind.)
Hero decides it’s much better to let someone else tell him it can’t be done (Hero is squishy on the inside, and hates to deny True anything).
“Sure.” She says.
Thinking ahead, Hero swears him to secrecy. Again. This time it’s because she doesn’t want to start up a circus, only to have to inform every single person she knows that the wedding is cancelled. Today, thirteen years later, Hero confesses she may have been a bit lazy too. She wasn’t in a hurry now that she’d found her One True Love. What did it matter exactly when they got married? She makes her list of things to do, smug in her conviction that it’s never going to happen. At least not this year.  Little did she know, every single obstacle to their union would crumble before her.

Location? Their first choice was booked. Hero is not shocked at all. She smiles at the nice man, and in her head she is planning how to break the news to True. Perhaps over a nice dinner (counting on this being the end of this crazy idea). Ah, but fate has a surprise for her. As she’s thanking the nice owner and stands to leave, he says the words that will seal her fate. “Hey, I’ve got this other house I just bought….I don’t have anything scheduled yet, so I’ll let you do it there. I’ll only charge you $100.”(The first choice was five figures).
Officiator? Hero asks for a list of approved officiators (once again, expecting they will all have previous commitments). The owner picks up a portrait from behind his desk and holds it aloft. It is a very important looking man with dark robes and a bright sash. (We’ll call him Robes)
“Will Robes do?”
“Sure.” Hero agrees. She is unaware that Robes is the Chancellor of a Divinity School. (Funny story, after the ceremony, Robes leans down and whispers to Hero “You got him now!” True refuses to believe Robes said this. He didn’t hear it. It’s a running joke. )
Dress? Hero finds some discounted white satin and brings it to a humble seamstress with a picture of a sheath dress. The seamstress makes it in less than two weeks (true magic). It looks like something out of Vogue Magazine.
Photographer? Hero, after listening Fixy brag about her daughter’s wedding and how the Kingdom’s best photographer (Photog) has been hired. Hero contacts him. Because she’s still keeping a lid on her plans, she swears the photographer to secrecy when she request the meeting, unknowingly intriguing the man’s romantic heart (It was only a secret, because he knew Fixy). Despite Photog’s busy schedule, he agrees to meet with her.
Hero tells him her story.
Explains the silly request for secrecy.
Photog is enchanted.
He tells her his fee.
Hero deflates, realizing she has wasted his time.
He is so enamored by Hero & True’s story, he agrees to do it for what she can pay. (plus she owns negatives. See fabulous pic.)
Ring? Custom made in month by the King’s Jeweler.
Bouquet? Hero pays Fanciest Flowers In Town for a tiny bouquet with five or six roses, and is surprised on the day of the wedding with a much larger arrangement including white hydrangeas.

Bippity-Bobbity-Boo, her wedding forms right before her eyes. (True reminds her of this EVERY anniversary.)

They never did tell anyone they were getting married. Why? True begged her to elope, sparing him Kingdom’s standard fanfare and big crowds. Never able to deny him, she kept quiet. She just hit the ‘play’ button herself on the boom box with Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, descending a staircase to marry the most wonderful man in the world with no one in the Kingdom being the wiser.

After they swear their undying love….

Before taking a romantic weekend away, Hero and True hit ‘send’ on a mass email announcement, attaching a few grainy pictures taken with her digital camera (Photog’s wouldn’t be ready for a while). They hit the road. Their cell phones start ringing. Kept on ringing for the two hours they are on the road.

The Kingdom is stunned speechless!

Hero and True Love were not the type of people anyone ever expected to do something so impulsive. Too level headed. Too responsible. Too unlikely to cast their fate among the stars, heedless of where it scattered. What no one knew? Hero and True were secretly the hearts and flowers types, eager for a HEA.

Romantic? Hell, yes.

For years afterwards, whenever Hero tells this story to another woman, much wistful sighing ensues.

The End

Well, not really….

Fourteen years later, I’m still working my day job (GIS Consultant just like Kitty James) and writing about murder, hoping to someday get paid for my writing (Kitty is more successful than me). My family, the ones who know I write (I still like my secrets, don’t I?), think I’m a little warped. Am I jaded? Negative? See only the seedier side of life? Maybe, but I’m also a born romantic, unable to give up her ideas that love will conquer all. It leaves me conflicted more often than not, while I strive to achieve balance. William Shakespeare included humor in some of his tragedies specifically to give the audience some emotional relief from the tension he created. He knew they needed it, no one is able to stay on the edge indefinitely. It wears you out, and then you put the story down to get that break if the author didn’t give you one. I use humor the same way. Giving you a emotional break before we move on with the serious story.

I don’t just write cozy mysteries. I write Romantic Suspense, and I’m working on a Fantasy, Romantic Suspense. Love and humor are techniques I use to keep from exhausting my reader, but that’s not the whole truth.

The whole truth is I love romance, will take it any way I can get it. Will never get enough of it. After reading my true love story, can you blame me? Love is always there, in the ugliness of life too. It doesn’t need perfect conditions to happen.

This Valentine’s Day, Hero and True will celebrate fourteen years together. We’ve survived job changes, unemployment, family deaths, disease (including Breast Cancer), and we have been completely subjugated by two cats.

You know what? True is still Hero’s One True Love.

God blesses us when we least expect it, and Hero believes God reached down, plucking True away from his books, games and other interest, placing him directly in front of her so she wouldn’t miss him. Changing her story’s outcome in a way she would never have imagined. Could hardly believe at the time, and for which she will forever be grateful.
Which is why in every evil, horrible story I write, there is always another story arc for love.