Crossroads of Humanity

May 31, 2013

Dear Daughter, I love you no matter what

Last night I stumbled across a blog post titled, "Dear Boys, we protect those who are smaller." When you're old enough, I suggest you read that letter as well as this one. I'll print a copy to place in the book I've been making for you since you were born. You know the one. It's small and purple with silver elephants on it, and it's filled with family stories and poems written just for you.

Right now, you're very young, and you've given me a challenge this year that I never expected. Your dad and I have been trying to teach you boundaries which means tempering a few of the qualities that I love about you. You're independent, strong-willed, friendly and you know how to stick up for yourself. You have no idea how much I want you to retain these qualities, and it pains me every time I have to discipline you for doing just that. But it's also important for you to learn that there are times to follow directions, there are times to stay within physical boundaries and there are people you should not approach even just to say, 'hello.' 

You probably won't remember this when you're older, but I hope you'll remember the lesson we were trying to teach. Just last week, Dada gave you a spanking (which is rare) because he wanted to impress upon you just how dangerous your actions were to yourself. You were in your room for some quiet time because you don't always take a nap anymore. You dad was tired too, and he fell asleep. A short time later, he woke and went to check on you. Your door was closed, but you were not in your room. He went downstairs to find the back door open and you and the dog both outside. You were across the way talking to some neighbors who were grilling out. Then you told him you had also taken his turtles (Russian tortoises) outside for a walk. He checked and saw that one was now back, but the other was indeed missing. He took you back outside to show him where you'd put the tortoise. You showed him the clump of grass under which you had buried Julius. He was relieved to see the animal was alive and well since the riding mower at our town home was being employed at that very moment. What you did that day was wrong on so many levels.

Daughter, you are so smart, and you know the rules. Yes, you really do. You know you're not allowed to leave your room during your short nap/quiet afternoon break. You know you're not ever allowed to leave the house without an adult. You know you're allowed to look at but not touch the tortoises. This last rule is more tricky. I've been trying to teach you which strangers are "safe" to talk to. The neighbors across the way probably are, and though I've spoken with them on occasion, I've never introduced you to them. Therefore, you should not have approached them on your own unless you were lost or hurt and could not find me or your dad. I know that's complicated!

Daughter, we want to see all the qualities that you displayed above. More than anything, we want you to be safe and happy. The other day, you did many things right. You let the dog out--she probably convinced you she needed to go. You put your shoes on before you went outside. You were courteous and friendly to the neighbors. You didn't cross the street. On a more gut level, you scared the crap out of us!

I hope, as we guide you through childhood and into adulthood that you will retain your fierce independence and that you will continue to be caring and kind, loving and giving. At the same time, I want you to learn that there are times when it is more than okay to be selfish which means to look out just for you. Eventually, you will date. Whoever you fall in love with, I want you to love yourself first, and no matter how much you love someone else, I want you to keep yourself safe: physically and emotionally. Don't ever let someone else touch you in ways that make you uncomfortable. If anyone ever does that, speak up right away, and if they persist, do whatever it takes to make them stop. Yes, that does include, hitting, kicking, screaming, gouging at their eyes, etc. And then tell someone else. Do not ever be ashamed if someone else does something to violate you, be angry and fight back. Speak out, don't hide. Take back control because you are precious, and you are worth it.

Why must I tell you these things? Because there are people in the world who are not kind and who are not going to look out for your best interests. There are some truly sick people such as the man who kidnapped three women. The only way I know to protect you from people like that is to make you aware of the dangers in this world and to teach you how to protect yourself.

I second what the mom who wrote the "Dear Boys" blog post said. If you ever find yourself in a tough situation or see that someone else needs help, even if it's because you broke some of the rules we set for you, please please PLEASE do not hesitate to call us. I will not ever mind coming to pick you up from anywhere at 2 in the morning if you're in trouble, no matter how you got to that point and no matter what happened as a result. I will be there if you call for me.

I hope you will continue to be loving and kind, friendly and accepting of others, fiercely independent and strong-willed, even if that means making decisions I disagree with. Stand up for what you know in your heart is right, stand up for others and stand up for yourself, always.

I say this to you often, and I'll say it again right here for the world to see. "I love you, Daughter. I always will. No matter what."

S.L. Wallace is the author of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy and Retrospection.

May 28, 2013

Is Unrequited a Romance Novel?

Please welcome author Jay Merin. This post was originally posted at

An Amazon review of Unrequited, by a user named Louise Shinko, reads as follows -

  • Due to the glowing reviews, I downloaded this book for free on my kindle. I was expecting action, romance, and a plot. It was a gentle letdown. The novel had little to no romance, constant thrashing action, a swirling, inconsistent plotline, and many grammatical errors. Unless you are very into fantasy and lengthy paragraphs that describe little to nothing, I recommend that you look elsewhere.

And that review has one comment -

  • “The novel had little to no romance”I see a lot of these freebies classified as ‘romance’ when really they are not even close, so I appreciate you pointing this one out!

This has stuck in my craw ever since I first read it.

For one, “Louise Shinko” has zero other reviews done.  What are the odds of someone only ever reviewing MY book and nothing else ever on Amazon?  It is possible, law of large numbers and all that, but it happened around the time that I was actively promoting on Amazon in their forums, and was witness to the hatred that is the anti-indie movement.  That’s a whole other thing, but it has always laid this review extremely suspect in my mind.

Not that it was negative – not everyone is going to like everything, and the potential that my novel is not as good as it could be is absolutely there.  Find a successful book that doesn’t have negative reviews, and lots of them.  Try.  It’s pretty hard, I can’t do it.

But, for the sake of argument, let us just accept, at face value, what the “one item ever critiqued” reviewer says as an honest opinion of someone who read it.

(And ignore all the other reviews that point out the romance in the novel.)

Is it wrong for me to have listed Unrequited under the “paranormal romance” category on Amazon?  What is a romance novel, after all?

Wikipedia has this to say -

  • Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”

Hmmm.  Well, there are two couples being focused on (Mason and Cordelia, Shayla and Richard) as well as the feelings that Mason and Shayla have for each other, plus, well, the title of the story hints at MANY one-sided love relationships that I won’t spoil here.  The driving force of the story are those relationships.  It might be iffy to some expecting a harlequin romance, but I honestly believe that romance is a major element of the story.

I have joked in the past that Unrequited is the “anti-romance novel”, and I still stand by that.  If you want to know what I mean, read the book then talk to me.  You may understand the sentiment if you’ve read the novel and if you don’t, I’ll explain it to you.  But it’s a tad spoilery, so no explanations here.  Suffice to say, however, I don’t think that categorization denies the book the “paranormal romance” labeling anymore than Watchmen deconstructing superhero comics means it cannot be called a superhero comic.

The other part of above is the “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending.”  Well, not all the main characters are happy at the end.  But the epilogue of the story is… whoops, that would have been spoilery too.  I think, however, that the ending is happy and optimistic and that I’ve even gotten complaints (from non-romance readers) that they don’t like how happy the ending is.

More importantly, however, is that “paranormal romance” is above and beyond what the traditional romance novel is.  The Sookie Stackhouse novels, or the Anita Blake novels, or dozens like them – they can be put in fantasy or romance, and the balance is delicate.  I blame Anne Rice and especially Joss Whedon for this genre existing (especially with monsters as love interests.)  Let’s go to wikipedia again (emphasis mine) -

  • Paranormal romance is a sub-genre of the romance novel. A type of speculative fiction, paranormal romance focuses on romance and includes elements beyond the range of scientific explanation, blending together themes from the genres of traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror. Paranormal romance may range from traditional category romances, such as those published by Harlequin Mills & Boon, with a paranormal setting to stories where the main emphasis is on a science fiction or fantasy based plot with a romantic subplot included.
  • As in the fantasy subgenre known as urban fantasy, many paranormal romances rely on the blend of contemporary life with the existence of supernatural or magically-empowered beings, human or otherwise; sometimes the larger culture is aware of the magical in its midst, sometimes it is not. Some paranormal romances focus less on the specifics of their alternative worlds than do traditional science fiction or fantasy novels, keeping the attention strongly on the underlying romance. Others develop the alternate reality meticulously, combining well-planned magical systems and inhuman cultures with contemporary reality.

I would definitely define Unrequited as “urban fantasy” so, yeah, if you look at all the above and have read my novel–well, I honestly believe that you can come to the conclusion that my story is fit to be called a paranormal romance.  But it certainly skates the edge, not solely because of the “anti-romance” concept but also because my writing is much more Neil Gaiman meets Joss Whedon than it is Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris.  And it is easy for me to admit that I lean more towards the action and fantastic world than I do towards the describing of romantic encounters.

And, I’m sure to some romance readers’ dismay, (minor spoiler) there are no described sexual encounters.  None.

(One scene has been misinterpreted by some readers as having sexual undertones, but that wasn’t the intent.  It isn’t absent of sexuality, but that is tertiary to what the scene in question is about.)

In the end, my decision to categorize Unrequited as “paranormal romance” as well as “urban fantasy” boiled down to several factors -

  1. the major motivating forces for all the major characters is love, and for most romantic love
  2. one of, if not the, greatest source of tension in the story is the relationship between Shayla and Mason
  3. the cause of the bigger world conflict in the background plot of the story is directly the result of romantic love, or the title of the book if you will
  4. the first and last chapters (prologue and epilogue, if you will) are about relationships and romance
  5. I didn’t want someone looking for a dark, gritty urban fantasy novel to be surprised and turned off by how much love and romance is integral to the story

Are those enough reasons for some readers of romance novels?  Maybe not.  But they were enough reasons for me.

What do you think?  Was I right?  Am I being too broad in my definition?  I am absolutely dying of curiosity to know!

Jay Merin's book Unrequited can be purchased at Amazon and Create Space.

May 11, 2013

Outsourcing Take 2

On September 24, 2011, I wrote the following: Outsourcing to China!

I bumped into a friend at the library today.  His life is changing in many ways.  In addition to expecting their second child, he's been laid off because his job has been outsourced to China.  Are we really still doing that?  US companies continue to take jobs away from hard working US citizens in order to avoid paying taxes that support our society, and on top of that, they pay hard working people in other countries next to nothing for a job well done.  How are any of us to survive?  Fortunately for my friend, his company has decided to pay their US employees tuition for new job training.

I'm sad to report that this trend continues. Earlier this year, IBM notified many of its workers that their jobs were being moved to its New York headquarters and to Mexico.* This, of course, is being blamed on the "declining economy." I guess the good news is that all of the jobs aren't being outsourced; some will remain within the U.S. In fact, it just may be that U.S. companies are beginning to see the value in keeping many jobs here at home.

Check out this Minute MBA video that highlights the disadvantages of outsourcing for companies and businesses.

*IBM Moving 200 Rochester production jobs to N.Y., Mexico

May 8, 2013

How could this happen? Easy.

Cleveland, Ohio - Three women who were reported missing 10 plus years ago are finally home with their families, and people are now wondering, how could this happen? Unfortunately, it is far too easy in a society that prides itself on competition over cooperation.

Now I agree that a certain level of competition can lead to advancements in technology and science. However, push it too far, and people begin to watch out for themselves over anyone else and put their friends and family before they'll lend a helping hand to a stranger. When we begin to divide our our society in such a way, crime begins to happen more frequently. Why? Because people look the other way.

If you want to help, begin by taking the first step. Say, "Hello," to strangers you pass on the way to work. Soon enough, many will become familiar faces. Ask, "How are you doing?" and really mean it. Be prepared to offer words of assistance and a listening ear to those who aren't having such a great day. These simple building blocks can bring us closer to our neighbors, and ultimately, can reduce crimes the like of what happened in Cleveland.

Suspects' Street Was Perfect Hiding Spot

May 4, 2013

Feeling Down and Needing a Bit of Cheer

Despite the title, I'm not going to share why I'm down. Those of you who need to know already do. And if you know me but don't know what I'm talking about, please give me a call.

For everyone else, it is enough to know that I'm feeling down and am looking for cheer wherever it may be found. My husband knows this well, and two nights ago, he did what writers do best. He wrote to me and made me smile.

It was May 2, and a snowstorm had hit with a vengeance. I'm not kidding.

That night, my husband recalled the last time we'd had a big snowstorm and realized he'd have to dig his car out the next morning. The only problem with that was that the shovel was in the trunk of my car, and I would be leaving before him. He asked me to please leave the shovel for him the next morning. I told him it would be best if he wrote me a note and put it by my Kindle which I always take to work.

I said, "Just put the word 'shovel' on a scrap of paper. That will be enough."

Here's the note he left.


I will require some manner of implement, though not a spoon, not a slide rule, and even a spade would not be quite the correct tool to remove the copious amount of frozen water that fell from the sky on Thursday. Perhaps a plastic device, one much like the collapsible one to be found in your car's trunk, meant for moving quantities of earth or (previously mentioned) snow.

So please remember to take the time to remove said item from the boot of your automobile and deposit it in our kitchen. Right next to the door would suffice.

My honest appreciation,
Your husband,
J.A.Y., I, Esquire

P.S. I do believe the word I had searched for earlier is SHOVEL.

*If you enjoyed reading this note, you may also enjoy his novel, Unrequited by Jay Merin.