Female aphids really don’t need male aphids, and biology professor Hattie McLean in Plan On It (A Contemporary Romantic Comedy) finds this reassuring. (I will admit, I had some dating moments when I would have been in total agreement!)
Hattie’s story of a science experiment that falls apart outside the lab, is FREE until midnight on Amazon. You can start with the excerpt below… Hattie’s just encountered an adorable little boy who runs by her saying Mama and reminds her that her reproductive clock is ticking!
She wasn’t sure how she’d gotten to the radio station, but she’d managed to walk across campus and take a seat in front of a mic. Rose, the afternoon d.j., was smiling at her and finishing the introduction, just like every month Hattie had done a spot for the department.
“And now for a Biological Moment, sponsored by Iguana World, located on Seattle’s west side. Be sure to stop in for something green. Biological Moments, an educational service of the Excelsior Biology department, with Professor Hattie McLean.”
Rose pointed at her, and Hattie realized her notes were missing. Twelve times a year from three-thirty to three-thirty-five her notes sat neatly typed just below the mic, and she read, as best she could, what she had so carefully researched. She couldn’t even remember what the month’s topic had been.
“Uh.” Uh was not it. “Well.” Not better. That boy had done her in. He’d called to her basic animal instincts and temporarily knocked out her capacity to think. She’d probably left her notes on the sidewalk, right where he’d kick-started her urge to reproduce.
“Reproduction.” That was a start, although Rose was raising an eyebrow at her as if questioning the subject. Hattie recalled talking about the large intestine once. No one could tell her she wasn’t capable of edgy programming.
“We think of sexual reproduction…” maybe she’d planned to talk about fungus. It was starting to come back to her, the oxygen needs of fungus.
Rose looked more amused than concerned about a Biological Moment Meltdown. “Sexual reproduction?”
Not her original topic, but she’d taught dozens of biology courses. She’d just keep it academic. “We think of sexual reproduction as needing both a female and a male. Many people don’t realize even flowers and trees also have female and male designations.”
Rose shook her head as if it was definitely news to her.
Hattie wondered if there was actually an audience out there for this kind of information. “But it’s possible, evolutionarily speaking, for the male to be completely obsolete.” And didn’t that sound like the best news ever? She stopped. God, had she said that out loud?
Rose motioned for her to continue.
“Uh, and many sexually reproducing organisms have asexual episodes and are quite successful.” She was right in the middle of an asexual episode herself, apparently for the past three years, although she hadn’t been able to reproduce during her drought. She tried to think of an example of a luckier creature. An octopus? Slipper Limpits… “Aphids.” She said it so loudly, the force of her breath blew like a gust of wind across the mic. She cringed, but Rose waved her on. And aphids were such a fine model of how the world could be.
“Aphids are nearly all female during the summer then most of them die off. But those females strong enough to make it through the winter, you know, the ones who’ve known adversity and sure they may wear a few signs of aging on them, but they still have a great deal to offer…” she stopped. Where had she been going with that? Little boys saying Momma, old aphids…
She had it. “Older female aphids…” she paused for what she hoped was effect, “can reproduce all by themselves. No male required.” She felt nearly dizzy at the prospect. “And there are strong females in many other species.”
Rose coughed, and Hattie took it as encouragement. “A human female can have a great job and control her own destiny and just because she doesn’t, right now, possess the capacity to self-fertilize, and sure, time is running out for her, doesn’t mean she needs a man, does it?” A child running toward a momma on a sidewalk. There was no man in that picture.
“We could embrace it.” She grabbed the mic and drew it closer as if someone was about to take it away. “We may be on the threshold of an evolutionary leap for human females, and like aphids we could find a really efficient way to reproduce, a Plan B so to speak.” She thought of her own Plan A, the Ph.D., the tenure, the home ownership. She’d focused on the profession of biology and maybe ignored her own biology. “Biology and babies.”
Rose cleared her throat, pointed to the clock, and Hattie scrambled to complete her usual close. “Uh, this has been Professor Hattie McLean with a Biological Moment. Remember, the biological perspective is an outstanding way to make sense of our world.”
Make sense? That was a good one given she’d rambled on about sexual reproduction for her five minutes and completely neglected the oxygen requirements of fungi.
She glanced up at Rose who was raising the volume on the next program, a pre-recorded retrospective of big band music beginning with Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else but Me. She’d certainly put a damper on the monogamous forties with her dirty aphid talk, but maybe no one was listening.
Rose pointed to the studio window, and standing in the hallway, Hattie saw the entire female staff from the building. It was mercifully silent with the soundproof glass between them, but she could feel the vibrations as a couple of them high-fived.
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The bad hair day (in addition to mine!) is suffered by the main character of Back To U, Gwen. The novel is a free download today on Amazon, and the beginning of the first chapter is below (and yeah, she’s having the kind of bad hair day you wouldn’t wish on anybody).
But if your Sunday is less than stellar, have a novel on me! It’s free just until midnight, so let your girlfriends know (even the ones who never have bad hair days.)
The addition of a powerful ingredient can change the whole recipe.
Missy loved chili. That’s what was important. She’d just keep telling herself that as she chopped the onions and tried to ignore the sharp vapors that stung her eyes. Gwen felt the first tear seep out and stepped away from the cutting board, chef’s knife still in her hand. And there, in the middle of her butter-yellow kitchen, two months after Steve walked out twenty years into a lifetime commitment, her eyes gave up.
A flood of tears unleashed, and flood was all she could think when the cascade began down her face. It fell over her jaw like Niagara, and along the neckline she felt lacked the smoothness she’d taken for granted until her last birthday, the sneeze away from forty, thirty-nine. She lifted her face to the farmhouse reproduction pendant light she’d shopped for all fall when Missy started her senior year. She felt the deluge of tears pour into her blouse, soak the collar, run in a rivulet between her breasts. She loved that light. That light was never going to leave her.
She lowered her face to check the time, but the clock on the Viking Stove wavered in a black and white blur. She’d have to estimate since her eyesight was swamped. She’d started the chili at four. She’d browned the meat, chopped peppers. Had to be four-forty-five when she’d hit the onion. Missy wouldn’t be home for an hour. Gwen didn’t want her to see her mother like some kitchen serial killer, onion soaked knife in hand, unhinged and venting tears. It would be the last night to even wonder when Missy was coming home. She’d be gone too.
Gone. Gwen could cry every night alone in her kitchen. She looked at the light again, the tears not even slowing. She thought some moisture had traveled down to the waistband of her capris. That damn light. The two of them would be left there. Steve in his condo. Missy in her dorm room. She hated the stupid farmhouse reproduction pendant light, and she was going to do something about it. First, she’d stop crying and finish the chili. Missy had to come home to eat it. It was the last supper. Gwen shifted as the tears made their way into her underwear. And after the last supper, Missy would get in her graduation car that Gwen had filled with a coordinated mini household. There was the Egyptian cotton duvet cover and poppy red towels with a monogrammed laundry basket. It was everything Gwen had wanted that first year of college. And when the graduation car and the matching hangers left the drive-way, Gwen was going to yank out that damn farmhouse reproduction pendant light and do nothing but chop onions and weep until she was dry.
She’d need a job too. Yank out the light and get a job chopping onions to pay the utilities for a house no one lived in. She took in a breath. Had she been breathing in the deluge? It was like getting air under water with no possibility of coming up to the surface. It was a surface where no one lived, not even her. She’d be there with her twelve inch chef’s knife and onions and do what? Keep getting up? That had been hard enough when Steve left in the spring and there was only the occasional sighting of Missy. For months the possibility that Missy would share a meal or at least say hi had kept her going. She’d wait for the moment Missy would sail in to grab something out of her bedroom, her first bedroom that had become her second all those nights she’d stayed with her dad. But even the chance of a Missy sighting would be gone in about fifteen hours if her water-soaked estimation was accurate.
She had to pull herself together. Her mom had suggested a good bra and a new haircut, like that had helped her mother ever steer them in a useful direction. Gwen knew she could get control of herself again. Hadn’t she held her life steady for years? She shook her head to clear it and felt the tears fly like water off a dog’s fur. It had even soaked her hair. The salt would frizz her curls for a week. She wiped the back of her free hand over her cheek, the knife still in the air. Maybe the flow of tears had slowed. Like a hard summer rain, it couldn’t last long. She felt her eyes still producing plenty and her vision remained blurred, so she could just be kidding herself.
She tried to set down the knife but missed the edge of the counter. It was the same light shade as the floor, and she couldn’t trust that she could see it well enough. Maybe her eyes hadn’t slowed their leaking after all. She shuffled across the kitchen, one palm out and one hand led by a blade. She felt her way to the living room, jerked as her progress was stopped by the knife digging into something solid. She felt with her other hand. It would just take a little wood filler to repair the chunk taken out of the back of the dining room chair. No one would know but her.
Luckily, the August sun blazed through the high south window of the bathroom, and she could, thank god, follow that much light. The feel of carpet gave way to tile, and she knew she’d arrived. Slowly she lowered the knife, heard the rattle of metal on ceramic and pushed it until it stopped at what had to be the baseboard. She straightened and began to feel her way towards the shower. It seemed a better, bigger place to aim for than the sink, and she could warm up from the chill a soaked shirt in the air-conditioning had given her.
She grabbed at the row of towels and felt the first hunk of soft cotton. The second one she reached for fell to the floor, but she clung to the last one. If she just used it like a rope she could measure her way to the shower stall. A couple of steps and the porcelain tub stopped her progress. She felt it crack her right shin and might have sworn on her way down to her knees. Her life had all come to this was the thought that wanted to skitter across her mind, but she stopped it. Optimism could work in any situation. The good news? Despite the searing pain her shin bone radiated, she wasn’t crying any harder. It wasn’t even real crying. It might not count since she felt like she was leaking. There was none of the hitched breathing and sniffling that had accompanied every crying spell she’d ever had, not that she could remember the last one. A couple of years before there’d been an orphaned girl movie she’d seen with Missy when dark teen drama held great appeal. She might have cried at the end of that one too.
Still on her knees, she unbuttoned her blouse, so clammy it made her shiver to touch it. She’d have to get it in the washer as soon as she could see and, of course, after she’d gotten the chili simmering. Her bra, wet as well, she tried to rest on the blouse but couldn’t see clearly enough to be sure she’d succeeded. She stood, the throb of her leg reminding her to scoot back from the direction of the tub just in case. The capris slipped off, the wet waist band cold along her hips. The underwear was mostly dry. Things couldn’t be too bad if your underwear were okay. If paramedics were called in, she’d have that going for her.
She felt for the tub with tentative sweeps of one hand and heard the swoosh of shower curtain. She pushed it aside, lifted her foot higher than the tub rim could possibly be, and stepped into the slight grain of the tub floor. She’d never noticed the texture before. Necessary, she supposed, to prevent accidents, and god knew a woman blinded by her own tears, hands covered in onion juice, husband run off, daughter running off, needed to be protected from falling on her ass.
The shower knobs were easy, a sixth sense in your own home. You always knew how far to turn the cold, the hot, to give you the right mix. She reached for and knocked over three bottles before she gripped one. A shampoo? Body wash? A conditioner that would just seal the tears into her skin? Whatever it was, pushing on the top of the bottle didn’t pop it open. Apparently everything needed to be difficult. She gave up, unscrewed the lid and threw it over the shower curtain. She squeezed the bottle and a gush of something lavender-scented filled her palm and slipped between her fingers. She rubbed her hands over her hair, face, along her throat, and between her breasts down to her waist, the path her tears had taken. She turned into the blast of water and let everything wash away.
Plan On It, a contemporary romantic comedy, is a free download today on Amazon. What happens when a biology professor discovers she has six months of fertility left? She sets it up as a biology experiment, of course. But first biology has to remind her she wants a child in the first place…
From Plan On It…
She’d reminded herself all week that she had no problems, no problems at all. As she headed across campus to the college radio station, she decided she was even getting pretty good at exuding gratitude. She’d had a plan for her life, and she’d nailed it. She’d completed the Ph.D. and secured tenure at a respectable university. Her life was fulfilling and interesting, and she made a sizeable contribution to others and to the community at large and…
She heard it first and thought for the briefest of moments that the sound was in her head. Then she saw him, a little brown-haired boy toddling down the sidewalk right toward her. His arms swung as if half-opened to embrace her, but his gait, not fully developed by practice, reminded her of film she’d once seen of bumblebees slowed down for the study of flight.
“Momma.” His voice was higher with more excitement as he reached her, and it was all she could do to not drop to her knees and open her arms to match his embrace. She felt his small body brush by her leg on his way by, and for a moment let herself imagine picking him up just as the mother behind her did. She’d murmur his name too, and kiss him on the top of his sweet head with the ease only a mother could know and would know for a lifetime.
The woman, carrying the boy, walked past her, and she closed her eyes, tried to breathe and orient herself again. She was somewhere outside the biology building and inside her life, and she just needed to regain her scientist’s calm even though every inch of her tensed with something she didn’t want to identify as longing. She looked down at her clenched hand, opened her palm to free her office key, and saw that the wavy indentations had changed her lifeline.
I‘m thankful this holiday for all the readers/friends/family/neighbors/students/teachers/and fellow writers who have made my dream to be an author possible!
I will forever be grateful for the chance to write stories in my PJ’s that you can read in yours!
From midnight tonight until midnight on Thanksgiving… a free read!
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Happy Thanksgiving & Happy e-Reading
I attended the University of Montana in the 1980′s when hair was big and Yugos were small. I wanted to put a photo of my college days in this post, but my mall bangs wouldn’t fit. Let’s just say that at a distance and in a pair of leather pants I might have passed for one of the guys in Poison.
But I loved that perm, I loved UM, and I love remembering that time in my life.
That’s where the recurring fantasy began… what if I had the chance to go back? Not go back in a time traveling way. I had fun, but please, who wants to be twenty again? I mean twenty on the inside. Not twenty on the outside which would cost a fortune and not really work at all. I’d just have small hair and really large lips which wouldn’t fool anybody. No, my fantasy would be to step foot on campus now with all I know and want to know and just enjoy it. Instead I wrote Back To U.
To be an interesting novel, though, my main character couldn’t drag her husband and daughters with her like I would. She’d be single with an empty nest. And the empty nest I gave her? It’s a running joke at my house that when parents would say how brilliant their children were, I’d say that my girls would probably run off with the first all female Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band. (So far they haven’t, but there is now a real all female band, Lynette Skynyrd!)
And this Sunday September 30th & Monday October 1st, you can download Back To U for FREE. Because it’s also my fantasy that I’m not the only woman who likes to imagine the “what ifs” of life and still enjoys, at the end of the decades, the “what is.”
In the time it takes to watch a Romantic Comedy… you can read Hollywood Beginnings!
That was my plan when I set out to write a novel for summer. I made it a Quick Read, so you could finish it on the beach (or during a couple of lunch hours or waiting in the van… yeah, I know how busy life gets!)
I’ve always loved the Frankie and Annette beach movies and came up with the premise…
“What if…” your mother had been an up and coming star but left Hollywood before you were born? What would have driven her from stardom, and how would you, as her daughter, feel about growing up in Minnesota?
My main character, Amy, feels a little robbed. And when mother and daughter return to the City of Angels for a funeral, an over-due L.A. adventure is exactly what Amy gets!
And you’ll get Hollywood Beginnings with all the laughter, romance, and real women’s aha moments I could pack in a Quick Read… For FREE until midnight tonight! Download it in seconds from Amazon by just clicking on the cover!