#Fifty

The banquet hall dazzled with gold lanterns and flickering tealight candles.  Before me stood  everyone who ever mattered.  Some gave small  waves of greetings, while others smirked with pride and sympathy.

As I walked down the aisle, I nod.  My lips curled in an unsure smile. Each step marked my way to new territory.  A sense  of freedom like Moses and the Red Sea.

It felt funny.  Kind of like someone on the ascend  of laughing gas – part euphoric, part desensitized.  I knew this day would come. Never knew who  would be on the journey. Fortunately, I’m the lucky one.

Just like 1968, I appeared at the end of the aisle.  Him on the right.  Me on the left.  Only difference today,  his image loomed from a wooden frame.  The mahogany urn, containing his remains, sat on a pedestal nearby surrounded by more candles. Oh  the symbolism.

A tear slid down my cheek which I wiped away  quickly. No sense in getting everyone in a tizzy,  worrying about my welfare or giving pity.

I took my place behind a clear, plastic podium. I  felt naked.  Speaking in front of people was never my thing.  That belonged to Harold.  He’s dead now.

I closed my eyes wishing for a thick wooden lectern of yesteryear. I’m sure most think I’m stopping to  pray.  Why am I not praying? Could it be because my prayer was finally answered?

Air left my nostrils, emptying my chest and releasing the remainder of my heavy load. I open my mouth, but none of the words planned escape.

“Today I celebrate my pardon. My release from a  prisoner’s hell.”

Eyes widened as loud gasps departed the open mouths  of friends and family.  My son and his self-entitled wife rush to my sides like two prison guards ready to take me away.

He covered the mic before speaking through gritted teeth, “Mom! What are you doing? This is Dad’s memorial!”

“And this is the memory I have of him.”

I slapped his hand away from the mic, dismissing  him and his bobble-headed companion to their seats.

“Let me explain. Or as the younger generation says,  speak my truth.”

I inhaled.  Not for need of air, but to build courage to continue.

“Harold and I were married for fifty years.  Fifty!  That’s an achievement in the eyes of most.  But fifty years of what?  There was no love. There was no commitment.  No respect!”

I grabbed the podium sides for balance.

“That man belittled me at every turn under the  guise of a joke.  He handled the finances, made all the decisions, while treating me like hired help.  In the eyes of everyone he seemed like a great husband, devoted father, and a pillar of the community.  It was ALL lies. Not only did he verbally abuse me, but  he’d hit me too if I said or did anything that  seemed to oppose him. Or just because. I wasn’t  away at ‘retreats’.  I was locked away in the attic.  Told to stay there until I ‘behaved’.  No food. No water.  For days on end.”

I looked over at my son’s tear-stained face.  I wanted to stop.  In my heart.  For his sake at least.  But my lips and resolve wouldn’t let me.

“I was so hungry. I’d eat the accumulation of dust and dead bugs. One time, I lucked up and found a rat. Never in a million years would I have touched or eaten such a filthy creature. But I wanted to survive.  I had to survive.”

I refocused on the crowd.

“Why do you think I lost all that weight?  Why do you think I have this limp?  The cuts on my arms?  Oh, and this one above my lip.  There was no ‘hiking accident’ or ‘fat camp’.   The real accident…I met this man and married him.”

A whimper left my mouth. I pointed to the urn.

“I can barely see out of my right eye because of him.”

I paused and lowered my head. Shame conflicted with my courage.

“Why did I stay?  Why didn’t I tell anyone? I did… to both. Each time he found me and the beatings worsened.  I told Mama who said, ‘I needed to do better and it would stop’.  My  sister was no Macy’s Day Parade. ‘Wives are  supposed to obey their husbands and serve them’.  What was I!  A dog?  What about husbands loving their wives?  Ain’t that what the good Book says?”

A few guests nodded in agreement.

“What about the many affairs Harold had? And children he aborted to save his image. The hush money stolen from the company till, excused away as an employee with sticky fingers. Bob Myer was fired behind that. And all the while, the  money went to help Harold sin and then cover it up.”

I raised my hands in pretend surrender.

“You didn’t come to hear all of this. I know.”

I returned my hands to the podium.

“But I’m truly done. I’m free! Fifty freakin’ years. Fifty!”

My shoulders lowered. Calm and relief filled my soul.  But one inkling of rage just wouldn’t leave.

My legs see-sawed towards Harold’s portrait and urn.  I swatted at both, knocking them to the floor.

“Now get up and clean yourself off!”

I stood there shaking. Actually believing his  ashes would reform to a human-like being.

My son somberly walked over and escorted  me from the banquet hall. I held my head high, knowing that on this next side of life, I’d live in freedom.

Build Your #Brand and Grow Your Audience: Our Best #Advice

We all have dreams we’d love to see become a reality.  And the plan for the new year may be to  break out big.  But how can we be successful if no one knows us or what we’re offering?

These tips by Krista Stevens may be the kickstart to building a brand that the masses will recognize and want.

Discover

Whether you want personal or financial freedom or you started your labor of love to scratch a creative itch, you did it: you started your own business. Now it’s time to build your brand and grow your audience (and customer base!) with your business website.

Here’s a roundup of our best advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs who want their site to stand out from the crowd.


Branding ABCs: Simple But Striking Typographical Logos


You don’t need to hire a designer or spend a lot of money to make a positive first impression with your logo. This post offers excellent examples of memorable logos that use initials in creative ways and tips on how to make your mark.

Look for fonts with strong shapes, or try your hand at a drawing of your own. Every font has a broad personality like “simple” or “fun” or “sophisticated,” and more unusual…

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Interesting People in #Writing: Jackie Carter

Melanie V. Logan

roanoketimes_jackiecarterIt’s amazing the jewels you find when you least expect them.  Last week while perusing the newspaper of my former hometown (Roanoke, Virginia), I came across the obituary of Jackie Carter.  Some of you may have known her already, but for me it’s all new.

Mrs. Carter was not only an author and editor of children’s books, she also made an impact in racial diversity in learning materials for kids with companies such as Scholastic, Sesame Street, and Disney.  But, when you read about her legacy, what is most fascinating (at least to me) isn’t want she accomplished in the writing world.  It was three things.  She continued to work and flourish as she battled lymphoma, advocated for the education of boys of color, and was buried in Roanoke.

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We’ve Only Just Begun

Redux

Melanie V. Logan

Robyn yawned as she turned the page. The book was interesting, but her eyes and mind were too tired to comprehend. Helping her ailing mother was taking its toll. Books had become her vacation – a mental break from the reality of her world.

The damsel was in distress.  No longer could she care for the manor.  The storm brewing would be its end as well as hers.  Sitting on the disheveled porch, she cried. Then a man stood before her.  It was Tobias.  He cupped her face in his hands, gazing into her eyes before pulling her close to his heart.  He vowed to make everything right.  She looked up at him with hope.  He reassured her by passionately kissing her ruby lips.

Robyn swooned.  Her attention was glued. Adrenaline pumped through her body providing a jolt of energy and excitement she didn’t know she had.  She longed for…

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The Future of #Writing: Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Humans in Deciding the Fate of Manuscript Submissions?

This quote from Georgina Cromarty’s post about writing and artificial intelligence practically blew my mind.

“Some writers will see AI manuscript evaluations as a blessing since it takes the subjective human out the loop.

…And some may see it as a threat.”

Yes, I’ve worked in the IT field for 20+ years.  Yes, I understand what the ones and zeros are all about, and the inner workings of software and hardware.  Yes, I know technology brings about modern convenience, and can spout an answer to the hardest equations with speed and ease.  But with all of that, do I trust it wholly?  No!  Here’s why.

Mankind believes computers are smart.  The reality is that technology is only as great as the humans that make it.  And of course we know that humans are bound to mistakes.  So, technology is too.  Nothing is perfect.

So when I think about artificial intelligence playing a role in evaluating manuscripts, a smile crosses my face because it means the process of submitting and getting a response will be shortened.  But then my smile fades, and my head cocks to one side like a questioning puppy.  What algorithm is used to decide what’s publish-worthy and what’s not?  How often is the artificial intelligence maintained and updated for optimal performance?

I get it from a productivity perspective. There’s a lot of reading and publishers want to watch their bottom line.  Technology can help, but in the end will it really?  When people read, they have the ability to experience feeling and emotion.  Can technology do that?  Of course not.  It can only do what it is told (and even then it’s not the real thing). So an award-winning manuscript may never see the light of day because it didn’t meet the criteria of a computer.   Not sure I like that.  What are your thoughts?

Check out the rest of  Georgina Cromarty’s post on other interesting takes on artificial intelligence and it’s place in various industries.

10 Ways To Develop A Unique #Writing Style

Just like snowflakes, no two people are alike.  And that includes writing style.  But how can a writer stand out?  lists 10 ways writers can develop a unique writing style.

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Creating and refining your own unique style of writing is important, particularly in the modern Internet age, where a high content turnover means readers are constantly in pursuit of something original and clever. However, it’s often difficult – especially when you’re just starting out – to fine-tune the way you write and embody the qualities that make your voice distinct and innovative.

So how exactly do you tease out those qualities? How do you then apply them to the actual process of writing? Here are ten hot tips to get you started today.

1. Use experiences as a springboard

Start with what you know. If you begin your writing process in a world that you’re familiar with, it’ll generally be much easier for you to slip on your characters’ shoes and immerse yourself into the setting of your story. In fact, J. K. Rowling herself based one of her best-known and most complex characters, Professor Snape, on her chemistry…

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