A Real Life Love Story.

(originally published 6/25/2018)

This is the story of how I met my husband, Michael.

I was out with my cousin, Helen, at a bar in Minneapolis to listen to a beloved local band that had decided to reunite/play a late, impromptu gig. I was 27… and I never went to bars. Because I was chicken and didn’t like the predatory feel of the few romantic interactions I’d had in them. Meaning now there’s some irony to my forever-answer to the question, “Where did you meet your husband?” !! It had been more than a year since I’d been in a place like that after 10 p.m. on a weekend.

Anyway, the bar was packed – seriously, wall to wall people – but when we walked in, one of the guys playing pool near the back nudged his buddies and (as Mike revealed a few months later) pointed me out. This guy was/is a friend of my husband’s, and I’m told he said, “Look! There’s the next Mrs. Stevens over there.” Yep.

Eventually, Mike and his friends moved to the opposite side of the bar from my cousin and me… and they started trying to call me over to talk with them. I was not typically courageous in such situations, but I laughed at their airplane landing moves and walked over. The three of them were like wolves, surrounding me, standing too close and shooting rapid-fire questions – who are you, what do you do, where are you from – and I was so unnerved, I dropped my glass of beer. It shattered at my feet. All three guys immediately extended their own glasses toward me. “Here!” they said. I tried to laugh it off, to pretend this sort of thing happened all the time, but I was pretty freaked out by the intensity of their attention. I signaled to my cousin I wanted to get out of there.

Now, it must be said that Mike was the least aggressive of my male entourage that evening, and I found myself sidling toward him. He’s bigger than his friends, taller and more muscular… and I now think I was subconsciously seeking protection. And I’m 5’10”! No shrinking violet! Nonetheless, one of the other guys cut me away somehow to talk. During that time, a stranger slipped Mike a note – I’m truly not kidding – that said, “Get her away from them. She belongs with you.” I kept that note for years but somehow lost it during our last move, unfortunately.

As we were about to leave, Mike asked me for my number, and, sad case that I am, I said no, I didn’t give my number out in bars, but I would take his, which he gave to me. I slipped it in my pocket and expected never to call him. Helen and I left.

The next day – yes, the very next – I ended up calling him. I had tickets to a play at the Orpheum that evening, and the friend I was going with had a family medical emergency come up and couldn’t make it. So I called a few other friends, but they weren’t free, either. Over the course of two hours, I tried to contact every friend and acquaintance I had, with no luck. I called old high school friends. I eventually tried to give the tickets away to parents of friends, with no takers… meaning by the time I remembered I had Mike’s number in my coat pocket, I was in a snit. By then, going to that play with someone had become synonymous with not being a complete social loser. My self-esteem was fully on the line when I called Mike.

He later told me he knew – knew! – I was the one calling when the phone rang. I was courteous and professional. He was warm and confident. I told him I’d meet him at the theatre. He insisted on coming to get me. I let him.

We had a great time. Unlike the previous evening, Mike was reserved, respectful… which made me wonder if maybe he wasn’t into me. He kissed me chastely good night when he dropped me off. That time, when he asked me for my number, I gave it to him.

The final nail in our marital coffin, as I like to call it, occurred two weeks later when Mike took me out for Valentine’s Day. It was beastly cold out – I’m talking negative 30 with snow up to my waist. I was a working girl not making too much, but I did have a nice pair of leather gloves lined with rabbit fur, and I wore them to our dinner. When Mike dropped me off at my apartment afterwards, we realized one of my gloves had gone missing. We searched his car, didn’t find it, and I ended up leaving without it.

At noon the next day, the receptionist at my office called me up to the front saying there was a gentleman there to see me. It was Mike, looking semi-frozen and holding my missing glove. He extended it to me and reported, “I found it.”

People, I have lived in Minnesota most of my life and I know what someone who’s spent time in extreme cold looks like. In the space of a minute, I learned he’d taken the morning off from work, retraced our steps from the previous evening, and found my lost glove. My response? I thanked him, of course, but I didn’t have words to encapsulate the magnitude of what his effort represented to me. He watched me in that careful, intense way of his. I eventually confessed, “I have no defense against…. against whatever this is between us.” His expression relaxed and he smiled at me. “Want to go to lunch?” Yes. Yes, I did. I got my coat and took his arm.

Sometimes when I’m blue, I ask Mike to recount the story of when we met. He says for him, it was like getting “snake-bit,” was definitely love at first sight. I can’t say I was the same at our first encounter, but my ‘love at first sight’ moment happened two short weeks later. 😉

_____

Errin Stevens is the author of The Mer Chronicles series: Updrift (Book 1), Breakwater (Book 2), and coming soon, Outrush (Book 3).

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Smashwords, Anyone?

(originally published 4/14/2018)

There is seriously always something to learn in this ever-changing but opportunity-filled world of publishing for little folks like me. To whit, although I’m published on the IngramSpark platform, the ebook side of their distribution doesn’t cover the whole wide world as well as others do… have I lost anyone yet? Why should you care, you ask? You shouldn’t! You should dream your way through the process of reading and not pay one tiny bit of attention to the nonsense that goes on to throw a book out there! I really believe this.

I offer such musings with an intention and an offering, however. My point (it arrives!) is that I started offering both Updriftand Breakwateron the Smashwords platform as of last Sunday… and today I generated a coupon by which the interested can download e-Updrift at a reduced price starting tomorrow (April 15)through May 14. The coupon code, which is not case sensitive, is as follows: ZR64C  Redeem and share at will.

Want the link? I have that for you, too! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/812828

Feminism & Theme in Updrift.

(originally published 3/7/2017)

 

Updrift is first and foremost a love and adventure story with a little mythology mixed in, not a treatise on ideal womanhood or feminism… But. I did write in a theme addressing the challenges modern women face concerning work, family, and love; and I included the backdrop deliberately with the goal of enriching the narrative. The theme is not there to cast aspersions or further divide us, however. Quite the opposite.

In a nutshell, my heroine, Kate, is the daughter of a single, working mother. As Kate grows up, she looks to the three most influential women around her – her mom; her aunt, the corporate go-getter; and Alicia, the stay-at-home mother of her best friend – to try on the incarnations of adulthood each represents. She changes her mind twice in Updrift, changes her mind again in the sequel… and if I were to focus solely on Kate throughout the series, which I don’t, her circumstances and how she applies her values in light of them would change many, many more times.

I took this approach because real women who juggle real, whole lives, don’t have the luxury of adhering to one, pure professional or biological ideal. Real women adapt, with considerable intelligence and strength, to accommodate all the dichotomies inherent in having a job and family and lovers on the side; and they live richer, more communicative lives as a consequence. They’re also, in my opinion, a lot more relatable than the idealized women represented on either end of the spectrum in commercial literature, ones who I don’t think much exist.

If you’re like me, you’ve seen literally dozens of what I call anti-heroines come out of traditional publishing in the past ten years. The last book I read in what’s become a veritable slough of them had the hero and heroine falling in love because of their ability to physically harm each other, with the heroine (of course) being the superior fighter. It was very well written… but I find this trope every bit as one-dimensional and limiting as the damsel trope it’s meant to replace. I also find the arguments in favor of such scenarios too facile, certainly disingenuous, and worst of all, unkind.

Telling a young woman she needs to develop her combat prowess to be a competent romantic partner is no better than insisting on weakness for the same reason. If you don’t know a woman who wrestles with how to have a family and pay attention to it while holding down a job, you don’t know any women. If you think brandishing the banner of ‘either/or’ should be the goal of fiction aimed at young women, I would ask you to approach the idea of womanhood with more expansiveness, more empathy, and more love, both for yourself and for girls coming into adulthood.

This perspective led me to ponder in my writing, “What does ‘and’ look like instead of ‘either/or? What does it feel like inside a real character?” I gave Kate her professional passions because they are a part of her personhood and therefore her womanhood, and she sets aside her romantic compulsions for the man she loves in favor of professional discipline before she commits, which I believe can be hard for some girls but is a worthy choice to illustrate. I make sure Kate feels the friction between duty and love, as many of us do. I do not make her figure everything out at age 20 because I wouldn’t expect that of her, and because life in the real world doesn’t happen that way.

And I just wouldn’t do that to a sister.

Kate’s story contrasts with different heroines in the trilogy, which was drafted entirely before Updriftcame out. For those who are truly interested in this issue and where I take it, I’m happy to provide the following spoiler alerts: Kate will return to her professional interests in Breakwater, where she figures out how to accommodate motherhood and her career ambitions, but on her terms. Breakwater’s heroine establishes her own business and is professionally developed well before engaging with her guy. And in the third, Outrush, the heroine completes medical school and is processing a failed marriage before her romance takes off.

Maybe you disagree with my approach and have good reasons for doing so. I welcome your comments and invite you to share your perspective. And if you have a different story to tell that expands on the ideas I laid out above, I invite you to write the story out, publish it, and share it with the world. I think we need a broader selection of novels than the ones we have. The ones I’ve written, I’ll admit, are based on my musings and mine alone. What would be your theme?