Author Archives: Mairead

About Mairead

Writer and reviewer.

Fifty Shades of Relationships

In my writing, the subject of human interaction – dysfunctional or otherwise – tends to be a central theme.  I admit that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) provides an outlet for me to work through my own past and present experiences or to explore the different aspects of the interpersonal relationships that I observe.

I’ve read a lot through the years and my taste in books runs the gamut from hard science fiction to romance.  The books I love the most are the ones that actually dig into the motivations behind people fall for one another.  In other blogs, I have stated my preference for a good anti-hero or heroine over the obvious “knight in shining armor” or perfect woman.  I find perfect people boring.  Give me a tortured soul who overcomes the pain and imperfection of their life to find acceptance and love from an equally imperfect person any day.  That said, the “pretty woman” stereotype or the “reformed by love bad boy” types of tales don’t really resonate with me either.  I’m not sure if it’s the suspension of disbelief that trips me up or that I’ve seen too many good people burned by these sorts of people to truly believe it works out in real life.  The part that I find most difficult to accept in that type of story is the nice neat “and they lived happily ever after.”

Relationships are messy and there are so many factors that come into play as to why they do or don’t work out. No two relationships are the same, no matter what the negative tapes in our heads may say to us at times. I’ve come to realize that making sense of someone else’s relationship is pointless, especially when often times the people actually in the relationship have trouble figuring it out themselves.

Lately, there has been a lot of press about the Fifty Shades of Grey books and movie.  I’ve seen the movie and am trying very hard to read the books.  It’s not the subject matter that is causing me difficulty in getting through the novels, it’s her writing style.  Simply put, I can only assume she landed her book contracts based on the story and topic rather than her skill as an author.  There are at least four authors in the Second Wind Publishing stable that I can think of off the top of my head that could write circles around E.L. James and for the record – I don’t think I am one of them, so save your tomatoes and rotten fruit to throw elsewhere.

Some of my friends find the Christian Grey/Anastasia Steele relationship to be abusive and it offends them.  Some find it incredibly romantic and erotic.  Some, like me, fall somewhere between those two viewpoints.  Weird as I am, I find the choice in character names rather intriguing and wonder if E.L. James did it deliberately (in which case my opinion of her as a writer stepped up a notch) or if it was a complete coincidence.  That observation aside, I think the relationship between these two characters could tip in either direction.  It becomes a question of perspective, choices, and personal filters.  What is abuse to me may be normal for you.  What is romantic to you may be false sentiment to me.

As an example, I dated a guy who somewhere around the three months mark showed up for one of our dates with a grocery bag over flowing with fresh grown vegetables from his garden with the words, “I love you” written in black marker on the outside of the bag. He was working two jobs at the time, one as a waiter at night, the other was trying to get his general contractor company off the ground, also while working on his business degree.  In his spare time, what little there was, he saw me and gardened. Most of my friends (male and female) found this gesture to be rather lame.  In their minds, a bouquet of flowers would have been more appropriate.  To me, it was an incredibly romantic gesture.  Any guy can walk into a flower shop or grocery store and buy a bunch of flowers.  My interpretation was that it was a true from the heart gift.  He was the type that grew his vegetables from seeds, so each one of those vegetables represented time, effort, and care that he wished to share with me.  The simple words, “I love you” written on the outside of a brown grocery bag said more to me than any Hallmark card ever could.

To further illustrate, I also dated a guy who was full of the big gestures: flowery romantic cards, expensive bouquets of flowers delivered to my office, clothing, jewelry, expensive dinners, and weekend get-aways.  The problem was a lack of depth to the relationship.  He was never really interested in getting to know me on anything but a superficial level.  I felt like an accessory.  If I needed him, there was always an excuse for why he couldn’t be there for me and was usually followed up by a bunch of roses sent to my office.  When I left him, my friends and certain family members didn’t understand why I was okay with losing him.  Explaining that you “can’t lose what you never had” fell on deaf ears and got nothing but blank stares.

I was recently talking to a close friend about their relationship woes and shared my observation that the two of them spend more time talking about their relationship and the problems (perceived and actual) they have than they do just simply being in the relationship. It’s constantly either really good or really bad, it’s never just there. There is another couple I know that, individually, are wonderful people.  Together, the word that comes to mind to describe their relationship is apathetic.  They have little in common aside from their children and they seem to barely tolerate one another’s presence.  There’s no real fighting or roller coaster of emotions there, as I said, apathy is the primary emotion you get from them sprinkled with a hint of contempt from time to time.  Will either couple make it long term?  I don’t know and truly my opinion really doesn’t count.  Again, it comes down to perspective.  If this is what the two of them see as a normal functional relationship, perhaps they will.  To me, both situations border on the mentally and/or verbally abusive end of the spectrum.  I’m sure if one asked either couple if they saw their relationship as abusive at least one or both of the partners would disagree.  Again, it’s all about the perspective and personal filters.

When I write about relationships, I struggle with the happily ever after at times.  The more complex the character, the harder I have to try to bring out the little things between the couples that provide clues to a reader on how they came to be together in the first place and what holds them together as they go through whatever conflicts or obstacles my Muse decides to toss at them.  Knowing that the reader has their own perspective and filters that are applied to the story can make it a challenge to give two flawed diamonds a happy ending that doesn’t come across as forced. Writing a happily ever after for a couple of perfect rhinestones is easy.

As I stated earlier, I am still struggling to finish the first book in the Fifty Shades series.  I really hope the first book and the movie have the same endpoint because whatever criticisms I have of E.L. James’ writing in general, I have to say the movie ended the only way my filters could accept based on the character development.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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Christmas 2014: As one year ends, a new one begins.

Last year, my oldest child discovered the final “Secret of Santa” as in mommy and daddy are in fact Santa Claus personified.  He has kept his promise (to my amazement) not to spoil things for his younger brother and to let Nate figure things out on his own.  I have to admit that having an extra helper around to move that annoying “Elf on the Shelf” and help me stash/hide Santa gifts has been great.  What isn’t so great is the realization that he is growing up.  Within the past few months it has become evident to me that he is no longer a child in so many ways.

He’s asked his first girl to a school dance, albeit she is a friend he’s had since he was 5 but he still agonized over whether she would say yes.  He’s gone on-line to research the best deals on all of his Christmas Wish List items as well as the things he wanted to get for other family members.  He’s passed on hanging out with friends because he has projects and homework for school.  And last night, he decided he wanted to cook dinner for the family so he went on-line and found a cooking video for a beef stroganoff recipe that he wanted to try.  Aside from an occasional question (how to operate the defrost function on the microwave) and a request that I run out to the store for an ingredient we were out of, he made the whole meal himself and it was delicious.

As I watched him in the kitchen, I was struck by how mature he looked standing there at the stove checking the instructions on the tablet and adjusting the seasonings to taste.  What was also interesting to see was the echo of me, my mother, and my grandmother in his actions.  He stands at the stove the way I do when stirring a pot or browning ground beef, which is how my grandmother stood when she cooked.  He talks to himself the way my mother does, a sort of running commentary on adding this or that and calculating the timing for cooking the noodles to coincide with when the garlic bread needs to come out of the oven and the sauce is done.  I could almost see him in 15 years or so cooking his first meal for a special girl and I wanted to cry simultaneously for the loss of my baby and the realization that I am raising a good self-sufficient man.

This is the first year that I have not had to go behind him to move ornaments that he placed on the tree in clumps or on branches too frail to hold their weight.  Each ornament was placed in exactly the right spot.  He even got into the decorating inside the house.  In past years, he has always helped with the “Griswolding” of the outside but never wanted to do anything in the house.  He helped me check the lights in the strands and even helped wrap the tree with lights.  Together, we set up the Charming Tails Christmas town beneath the small tree in the bay window or rather he put most of the thought into where each of the figurines would go and scolds his brother for trying to play with them.  “Nate, they are decorations, not toys to play with.”  I hear myself in his words, the phrase I have uttered each Christmas to him since he was able to walk and grasp things that caught his eye.

As I placed the Santa photos that I get each year on the top of the TV cabinet, we shared smiles at the memories of each visit.  His first Santa picture was at 9 months and you can tell from the photo that he was enchanted by the big guy in the red suit.  His second Santa picture at 21 months was less happy but that was more because of the reindeer antlers I made him wear for the picture than the visit with Santa.  His photo at 3 makes us laugh because that Santa was wearing motorcycle boots and looked like he belonged on a Harley not a sleigh with reindeer.  At 4, he was joined by his brother and we have a succession of photos from then on of the two of them smiling and dressed in matching or coordinating outfits for their annual picture.  I particularly love this year’s photo.  In part because he no longer looks like a child in his black suit, grey shirt and bow tie, which he is only wearing to make me happy, and in part because there still exists a trace of the child who loves Christmas and still wants desperately to believe in Santa.  His brother still looks like a little boy but the promise of Oliver as a man is juxtaposed with the child in that picture.  His father thinks this is probably the last year of Santa pictures for Oliver at least.  Oliver has assured me that he will always pose with his brother for a Santa picture until he has children of his own but he does feel that next year he will be too old to actually sit on Santa’s lap.  I’m sure I will get a few more years of photos, at least until his brother hits middle school, but the thought of getting a Santa picture of the boys each year well into their 20’s does make me smile.

He still has his moments of childlike behavior, such as the occasional meltdown or pout over something not going his way.  The endless bickering with his little brother over who gets to chose a TV show, a video game to play, or who sits by me on the couch.  Despite those moments, I know this new year takes him ever closer to manhood and his independence.  In the next few weeks, we will be turning the playroom into his bedroom so that he can have his own space away from his brother.  We’ll start the process of splitting the toys up and I will lose my “office/craft room” so that the boys can have a place to watch TV, play video games, and play with the few toys (Legos) that they both still enjoy doing together. The gulf between 8 and soon to be 12 is much to great for them to continue sharing a room but luckily the decision was theirs that it was time to split them up. I knew it was coming, I was just not quite ready for it yet. Just as I am not quite ready for him to leave his childhood but I know I have to step back and let him make this transition.

It’s a bittersweet Christmas.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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The Power of Words

As a writer, words are my tools of the trade as they say.  In my day job, I review and write contracts, business cases, contract summaries, and a variety of business communications.  So words or the interpretation of their intent is very much a part of my daily life.  I will admit that I am something of a “word nerd.”  Sometimes too much of one because I pay attention to what is said almost as much as how it is said.

Words can inspire a person or destroy them.  Words can incite a war or end one.  Words can be weapons.  Words spoken in anger or without thinking can damage those we love and care about in ways we can’t begin to comprehend.  Especially if we haven’t taken the time to make sure that person knows what is truly in our hearts.  Words can paint a picture in our minds of incredible beauty and soul wrenching pain.  There is a reason that religions use spoken prayer for rituals/services.  There is a reason we see memes on Facebook that caution us to “taste our words before we spit them out” or to think before we speak.  There was a reason you parents told you if you had nothing good to say then you should remain silent, or whatever variation on that theme they used.

Not to take away from physical abuse in any way, but the scars left by verbal abuse run deeply and are rarely revealed under casual observation. Those who have lived through it can attest to how the words continually haunt and control their lives long after the initial utterance.  That childhood saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” while nice in concept is dead wrong.  Words can hurt.

This power of the word is equally true for the words that we never speak.  Those things we left unsaid because we don’t know how to find the right words to express our feelings, or our anguish.  How many times have you heard someone express regret for not telling a loved one how they felt?  How many times have you walked away from someone because you didn’t believe you were really that important to them because they never spoke the words?

Just speaking the words is not enough at times or in certain situations.  Words without actions backing them up begin to have no meaning to the person hearing them.  For example, an “I’m sorry” from someone who continually repeats the action they are “sorry” for loses its value with each utterance when the behaviors continue.  Eventually, the word loses its power to comfort or gain forgiveness, regardless if the speaker is the same or someone unrelated to what has previously transpired.

Words have power.  Use them wisely.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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It’s time for my annual Thanksgiving rant…

As I have said in the past, Thanksgiving is a holiday that seems to be fading into the background noise of Christmas. This bothers me; a lot. For all you people out there thinking, “Well, bah humbug to you too, Ms. Scrooge” – I do love Christmas. I’m actually pretty goofy about Christmas. I decorate inside and outside, sing carols around the house and in the car from the end of November through New Years Eve, bake cookies, make candy, and spend a great deal of time and effort picking out special gifts for the people I care about. I just like starting all that AFTER Thanksgiving. Most times it is the day after Thanksgiving – at least for the exterior decorating because this girl does not under any circumstances participate in the Black Friday nonsense. I think I have some form of PTSD from all the years I worked retail and had to work on Black Friday.

To me, Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and reflection. It can be a uniquely American holiday but it doesn’t have to be. We could all use a great deal more gratitude in our lives. As a mother, I work hard at instilling a sense of thankfulness in my kids for what they have and to focus more on needs than wants. As in you need a new pair of shoes but you want the [insert name of whatever brand is hot] pair. I can afford their needs but frequently I have to say a firm “no” to their wants. My kids may be disappointed but they understand that they should express gratitude for what they are given because that pair of shoes they may see as lame would be appreciated by someone with no shoes. At this time of the year, I double down on the whole “be happy with and take care of what you have before focusing on what you want” with my kids. Before they can even start a Christmas List, I ask that they go through their toys and separate out what is still in good condition that we can donate to charity. I also limit the number of things that they can put on their lists to 10 items. That way they have to think about what they want. They know that they won’t get all 10 items but this ensures some mystery about what will be under the tree.

I think we all have our moments of ungratefulness, that split second (or longer) envy when your friend gets the new car/TV/appliance/vacation/etc. that you’ve been wanting but can’t afford because of all the bills or the kids need braces or the car just died. At least I know I have moments like that. When they happen I have to stop and remember that it’s not about getting what I want when I want it. I have to look at and appreciate what I do have. If you spend your life focusing on what you don’t have, you run the risk of missing or losing what you do have. My life may not be perfect and at times I suspect it may serve as a cautionary tale to others but it’s mine and I’m pretty thankful for it. Everyone has at least one friend, family member, or acquaintance who is oblivious to the blessings in their life such as true friends who stand by them/love them no matter what, basic necessities, family who love them, health, etc. and instead they chase those things that, or people who, in the end won’t bring them true happiness. It’s hard to watch and harder still to pick up the pieces in the aftermath but we do it anyway and silently give thanks or hope that we do not make the same mistakes, but all too often we do.

Our culture in America doesn’t help either. Every time you turn on the TV, listen to the radio, log onto social media, or pick up a magazine we are bombarded with consumerism, as though the pursuit and acquisition of stuff or a particular image will make our lives perfect. There’s a pressure to live above and beyond our means that we as adults find hard to resist. People go into debt each Christmas to buy toys that will end up broken or discarded by March, if not before, just so the kids have a “good” Christmas. Instead of sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner this year enjoying the gift of time with family and friends, there will be people who rush through dinner just to make the sales at those stores who are opening Thursday night or they will cut short the time spent with family or friends to get sleep so they can be up early or camp out in a line for the stores that will open early on Friday morning. In my opinion, there is no deal you can get, no purchase you can make, that will be worth losing one moment of time with the people you love and who love you.

My annual rant is done and maybe I gave someone something to think about. From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may you realize how blessed you truly are.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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Zen and the Art of Job Search

This blog is dedicated to two dear friends of mine who are currently involved in job searches and just happen to have birthdays today. Happy Birthday to Phil and Brett – hope you guys land your dream jobs soon!

Job hunting. Job search. Job seeking. Call it what you will but the bottom line is that it sucks.   At some point in your life you’ve been there or will be there and sometimes more than once. The reasons why you’re out there burning up the internet or pounding the pavement handing in resumes and visiting job fairs range from dissatisfaction with your current job to desperation to find something, anything, to pay the bills.

In my life, I’ve been lucky. I have only had the desperation search twice and both times as a result of a layoff. The first time was in 1990 and the last was in 2008. The first time, I fought the stigma of inexperience to land something new. The second time, if someone had told me I was “overqualified for the position” and they were concerned I would become bored by it one more time, I think I might have snapped. I mean, really, if I wasn’t interested in the job or thought I wouldn’t enjoy the work, why would I have invested the time to (1) learn about your company, (2) apply for the role, and (3) endure the grueling interview process? But I digress.

The dissatisfaction search is easier only in that you have something in hand that is meeting some, if not all, of your bills so that stress isn’t looming over you the way it does when there isn’t any income and only expenses. And, sad but true, it does seem easier to convince someone to hire you if you already have a job. It may be a perception bias that being employed makes you employable whereas being unemployed raises a level of concern as to why exactly, if your resume/experience is so great, you aren’t working.

Looking for work is a full time job in itself at times. It takes time to find a prospect. It takes time to research the company to figure out if it is really a place you want to work. It takes time to compile your job history/work experience or to update your resume. It takes time to network properly. It takes time to fill out on-line applications. (And why are they so blasted difficult to deal with anyway? I suspect it’s a test of your patience and basic computer aptitude, both of which I have an abundance of but even I have wanted to use a sledgehammer on my laptop when filling out an online application.) Then, assuming you get a call back, it takes time to find an appropriate outfit to wear for any interviews. Until finally, there are the interviews themselves: informational interviews, screening interviews, individual interviews, panel interviews, all-day or “power” interviews, behavioral interviews, task-oriented interviews, testing interviews, and the dreaded stress interview.

So how does one keep sane? How do you find that “Zen place” when dealing with the stress and above all, the waiting to hear back?  Here are some suggestions that have worked for me:
1. Do not put yourself on a timeline. Even if you are in a desperation search, it is going to take some time investment. There is no such thing as an average length of time before you find a job. Some people find jobs easily, some do not. Some industries have lots of open positions but others do not. How long it takes will be dependent on (1) the industry, (2) type of role (line worker, manager, VP, etc.), (3) the economy in general, and (4) how you are presenting yourself to prospective employers. Holding yourself to some preconceived notion that you should have found a job within X number of days or months does nothing but set you up for failure.
2. Until you are actually working somewhere, do not put your job search on hold. I know what you’re thinking; the job is “the one” you have been looking for all your life. You just know you are going to get this one so why bother looking at any others. Just because you think it’s the perfect match, doesn’t mean the hiring manager does. Keep looking. Besides, it is always better to try to have more than one job offer on the table if you can.
3. Do not brush off the blues over being unhappily employed or un-employed. It isn’t unusual and there is no stigma associated with it. Talk with someone, join a support group, or make an appointment with your spiritual advisor or a therapist. Address the blues, don’t ignore them.
4. Do look at your financial situation. Can you cut back on expenses while you are looking for work? Understand what you need to make versus what you want to make. Know what is most important to you in terms of benefits that might be offered.
5. Do make time for yourself. Find things you can do to enjoy life or occupy your time between job interviews and filling out applications. It will help you stay positive.
6. Do ask your friends for help with your search. If you have a friend who is fairly well connected, ask them who is hiring in your field. If you have a friend who is really good with proofreading and writing, ask for help preparing or fine tuning your resume. Use social networking sites like LinkedIn to see if you have networking opportunities through friends.

These are just a few tips to help keep you centered as you look for the perfect job. Good luck and happy hunting.


Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or

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Questions you might get asked when people learn you write any kind of romance novel

I was talking to some friends/acquaintances the other day and I was asked why I have a different name on my Facebook profile. When I explained that I write and set up my Facebook page under my pen name, then the questions started. I am used to most of the common ones like “how do you find the time?” or “is anyone we know a character in your books?” or “where do you get your ideas?” but the latest ones were around how hard it is to write a sex scene. (No off color puns intended.) So, for giggles, how many of you romance writers out there get the same questions and how far out of whack are my responses?

Question: “Do you get embarrassed writing that stuff?”
When I first began to write, yes, I did. In high school, two friends and I would write steamy love letters for our classmates to give to their boyfriends. One girl provided the imagination courtesy of a purloined (from her parents) copy of The Joy of Sex, the other relied on her own experiences and a facile understanding of common jargon and street slang. I was the grammarian who kept the purple prose flowing and reasonably well written. Was I embarrassed? Oh yeah, but I learned a lot from a theoretical perspective. It all came to an end with a very uncomfortable conversation with the head mistress of the school, a rather dour nun, and my father when one of the letters was seized during the exchange of money for the letter. Yep, I was the one caught selling the goods. My accomplices got away but I was left with a rather unsavory reputation since it was assumed I had been relying on my own (nonexistent at that time) expertise in the area to create such “disgusting and sinful” letters that would ultimately see me writhing in the fires of hell, or so Sister Mary David assured me. My father’s response out of earshot of the nuns was to laugh but he did step up his intimidation tactics of any poor guy who tried to date me.

Later on, my very first romance story (which will NEVER see the light of day unless it is published posthumously and I hope I have burned every page of it well before then) was a sweet little formulaic “bodice ripper” tale that took the better part of 2 bottles of wine and much giggling between me and my best friend to get the scenes correct. I think the giggling was more from the wine than the topic though.

Between then and now, I have read a lot. I’ve read books that were full of vague euphemisms (“mutual splendor” anyone?) to raw and raunchy porn for women. What I have come to realize is that it’s more embarrassing to write something that takes a reader out of the story to think, “Wait, what? Is that even physically possible?” or “Where did that extra hand come from?”

Question: “Do you write about your own sexual experiences?” aka “Have you really done THAT??!!!?”
The short answer is: sometimes yes and sometimes no. Everyone has heard the old saw of “write what you know” so they assume that if you write it, you’ve done it. I always caution people, especially my husband who is fond of raising an eyebrow and remarking that he can’t recall us every having done whatever my characters happen to be doing, that writers have very fertile imaginations. Let me repeat that. We..have…very…fertile…imaginations. We also know how to do research and the internet is full of research material if your imagination fails you.

Would you go up to a friend who writes a crime novel and automatically assume she/he knows how to violently kill, dismember, and dispose of a body based on personal hands on experience?

I rest my case.

Question: “Why didn’t you make it more/less explicit?”
Well, here’s the rub. (Again, no pun intended.) In my opinion, different stories require a different approach. I know I get annoyed by a certain popular romance author, who shall remain unnamed, because the last four books of hers were more or less recycled sex scenes from her prior works. Change the names, change the locations, and change the villains, then presto – new book and more royalties. Otherwise the sex was a cut and paste. If nothing else, I do not want to annoy my readers. Especially, since I do not have a large following, yet.

When I write, I pay a lot of attention to what makes sense and what is in character for the players in the scene. I let their personalities shape how explicit – or not – the scenes will be. The language used to describe body parts and who is doing what to whom will be pretty character specific. If my hero is an edgy bad boy, then there may be some explicit language and it’s not going to be a tame scene. If the heroine is shy and virginal, she’s probably not going to know exactly what she wants or to be comfortable talking like an experienced woman.

If a scene isn’t racy enough for you, use your imagination to figure out what the characters may or may not be doing out of your eyesight. Likewise, if it’s too racy, skip the next couple of paragraphs or pages. Sex scenes, even in my romance novels, are not the main attraction. At least I hope not because I put a lot of thought into character and plot development.

Question: “Don’t you worry about what your family/friends/co-workers will think of you if they read your books?”
Not really. I do write under a pen name to somewhat shield them but anyone with even basic skills of internet research could figure out who I am in real life. I also rely on the fact that: (1) I am not a widely published novelist at this point, (2) it is fiction and anyone who knows me is aware that I am very imaginative and my mind can go in some pretty odd directions at times, and last (3) if someone wants to make assumptions about who or what I am based on my writing, it’s their problem.

What other questions have you had to field about writing romance novels?

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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Darker Musings: Depression

I received some sad news this week. An old acquaintance committed suicide. She was 48 and left behind at least two teenage children and possibly a third. I don’t know for sure because we lost touch years ago, so all I really know of her life is from third party anecdotal snippets. She was once my sister’s roommate and best friend. As a result of that connection, we had occasions to talk in social settings or when I called to speak to my sister or stopped by for a visit. We all went on “girl’s weekend” trips and the like. Like most friendships that begin as single women, things changed with marriages and motherhood. For a while we’d run into one another at my nieces birthday parties or out and about in town. We were not friends per se but she was a part of my life for a time. And I knew her well enough to know there were some issues with depression lurking beneath the mask she wore.

You would have to get past first impressions and really talk with her to recognize it. Or maybe I saw it because I have also struggled with depression and like recognizes like. She was a very pretty blonde with startling green eyes, a sweet manner of dealing with people, a wicked sense of humor, and an engaging personality. If you looked no further than that, you’d never know that there was a roiling cauldron of self-doubt, low self-esteem, fear of rejection/abandonment/ failure, and depression beneath the surface.

I call out the depression apart from the other issues because they are not always linked. Much as one would love to believe that if one just gets over their self-esteem issues, faces their fears, or conquers self-doubt, then depression will magically disappear; the reality is that for some it won’t.

As one who’s been fighting depression since my teens, I know what it is like to stand on the edge of that mental abyss and contemplate ending it. I know the allure of having the mental (and physical) pain just stop. I know the frustration of trying medication after medication with no real improvement, or worse, trading the pain for some sort of anesthetized existence where you don’t quite feel the pain but you don’t quite feel anything else. I know the joy of finding a medicine that works and experiencing life like a non-depressed person does, followed by the despair when your body builds up a tolerance for the medication and it stops working. I know the alienation when others find out that you are depressed and act like it’s a contagious disease. I know how it feels to be judged by others as being somehow defective because of the stigma of “mental illness” and that this makes you unreliable or not stable enough to handle things. I can totally understand why a person might choose to step off the abyss and I can see it from their point of view. They aren’t being selfish, they truly believe that they are doing everyone around them a favor, they are in so much pain it has clouded the reality.

So why do some of us become victims of this disease and some of us survive?

To be clear, in my opinion, if you call yourself a victim of depression then you have just upped the odds of your stepping off into the abyss at some point. Victims tend to be the ones who commit suicide. I am a survivor. That isn’t to say I haven’t thought about it. I always laugh at the question the doctors and mental health workers ask a person with depression. “Have you ever had thoughts of suicide?” If you have depression, at some point, you have thought about ending it. I believe the answer in preventing suicide can be found in the follow-up questions that never seem to get asked. Why didn’t you? What was it that made you decide to keep living? What do you think is different this time? I think if more mental health care professionals would delve into these questions instead of rehashing your relationship with your parents or self-esteem, it might help more people become survivors.

In talking with other depressed people (we seem to be drawn to each other when we need to talk), what I have noticed is that those of us who are still kicking around after 20+ years of fighting are those who can deal with change, refuse to accept a “victim of…” label, recognize and embrace their unique gifts that come with depression, are able to openly acknowledge that it is a real disease, and decided not to let the ignorance of others define us. These things seem to combine in some fashion to bolster one’s innate survival instinct so that we can stare into the abyss and say, “No. This is not the way for me.” It gives us the strength to face and push through the pain; to smile, to laugh, to live even while experiencing depression every single day of our lives.

When I hear about people who’ve stopped fighting, I grieve for them and for their families.

Too many will be quick to say she was selfish and didn’t care about anyone but herself. These are the words of someone who has never walked in the shoes of depression. You don’t get it, you never will, and to say such a thing is unkind and cruel to anyone she loved and who loved her. Think this if you must but keep these words to yourself. The last thing her kids need to believe is that their mother didn’t love them enough to live. You don’t tell the child of an alcoholic that their parent didn’t love them enough to stop drinking; you tell them their parent was ill.

Her family and friends may wonder what they could have said or done to change it. Some will blame her husband and god help him if by chance the marriage was on the rocks. A phone call unreturned or an apology never given may haunt a friend with “what if” and “if only” but they need to be let go. Some may blame her doctors for not spotting the problem. Some may question her faith. Truthfully, there wasn’t anything you could have said or done. She was the only one who could save herself and for reasons only she could explain she chose not to.

Please don’t misunderstand the message of this post; I do not believe suicide is ever the answer. I understand it, but that doesn’t mean that I accept or condone it.

To save lives, we need to change the conversation. We need to stop the stigma and judgments around depression. If you don’t understand it, educate yourself. Read. Study if you’re so inclined. Help your children and teenagers develop strategies to cope with change, failure, and disappointment early on in life. If someone tells you that they are depressed, listen, don’t judge and don’t tell them their feelings aren’t valid even if they don’t make sense to you. Help those you love see themselves as you see them.

To “Blondie”, rest in peace.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


Filed under life, Mairead Wapole

Striking a balance between nurturing creativity and instilling a sense of reality in your child

My approach to parenting is to encourage my children to try new things (within reason), which is why I have become a “sports mom” with a mini-van that is overflowing with various sports equipment and has the permanent odor of sweaty kid’s feet.

Luckily, my kids are also interested in academics, the arts, and video games, so it’s not all about sports with us. I’m sure it’s probably no surprise that I encourage my kids to create stories and we often play the “what if?” game about things we see, or hear, or even think about. Sometimes, the stories are just silly, sometimes they are a little scary, and sometimes the stories are quite good.

Both boys have some creative talents, thus I am a regular customer at Michael’s craft store and have a well stocked collection of paints, chalk, sketch pads and the like. My husband and I were both musicians in our pasts, so there are also a variety of musical instruments in the house that the children are encouraged to play with. And, I’ve been known to show the boys how to make a musical instrument with craft supplies. For example, an empty frozen orange juice can with lid, duct tape, and a collection of small rocks makes a great maraca or rumba shaker. With a love of music comes a love of dance as well, so it is not unusual to find me or my kids dancing around the house when doing chores or playing “Let’s Dance” on the Wii.

What I am not is one of those annoying mothers who believe her special snowflake should do anything he wants to do regardless of ability and everyone else should get with her program to applaud his efforts. Radical concept these days, I know.

So, what happens when these two mindsets collide?

They did last night and this morning I am still wondering if I handled this the right way or if I need to put some more money in the therapy fund. (Their grandparents have the college fund covered. My husband and I are putting aside money for therapy – hopefully, if we’re doing this parenting thing semi-right, the kids won’t need it and can go buy a car for their graduation from college or put a down-payment on a house.)

My youngest informed me he was going to enter the talent show at his elementary school.

“Really? What are you going to do?” I asked, wondering what exactly he was thinking about since our talent shows tend to be all about the kids who have studied dance, martial arts, music, or sing in their church choirs. Nate’s talents aren’t really the sort of ones that translate well to the school talent show stage. One day, he could become a comedian of the Chevy Chase variety, but at 7, he is definitely not ready for Prime Time.

“I’m going to dance.”

That awkward moment when you realize your kid is dead serious and you love him to the moon and back for his absolute lack of fear, and yet, you know that his dance skills – unless something major changes between now and high school – will one day be an excellent means of preventing teen pregnancy.

Seriously, how the kid can be so coordinated on a sports field and such a flailing train wreck on the dance floor is beyond me. It’s adorable in that “only your mom will love this” way and sort of painful to watch all at the same time. No teenage girl is going to want to get anywhere near that no matter how cute he might be when standing still.

“Um, have you actually tried out and gotten accepted?” Thinking this current culture of “there are only winners” has taken things one step too far if my son’s dance skills are considered talent show worthy.

“Not yet, you need to sign the form.” G-r-e-a-t. Enter Mom, the wrecker of dreams unless I want to allow him the experience of public humiliation.

“Well, honey, you know you’ve never taken any dance classes and these sorts of shows are really for the kids who have studied. Is there anything else you can think of that you could do?”

Tossing a baseball, wrestling, or training his dog to do a trick weren’t really activities that would be allowed, so I steered the conversation to some of the other things he could do – like play a tune on his Ukulele or compose a song on the piano. Neither of which interested him because he thought no one would like it. Granted, his Ukulele playing is pretty basic and his compositions on the piano are more Schoenberg-esque than I think his classmates can appreciate. My husband would probably prefer Nate dance than play a piano, but Hubby isn’t a big fan of the expressionist style of composition.

Nate wants to dance, because he loves it and all his friends think he has great dance moves when they are on the playground at recess. He is confident enough in himself that when his friends laugh and encourage him, he interprets it as a positive. I want him to hold onto that confidence for a little while longer so he doesn’t become self-conscious and let fear of being ridiculed hold him back. As I listen to him talk, I am torn. How to tell your kid you don’t believe he dances well enough to enter without forcing reality on him too soon? I go for something less than brutal honesty that I hope will be somewhat supportive.

“Nate, I don’t think you are quite ready to dance for the talent show. Tell you what, why don’t we look into some dance classes this year, then you can sign up next year?” I’m afraid of the next stage of the conversation. The moment when he realizes I honestly don’t think he can dance.

He thought about it for a moment or two. “Could I take magic lessons instead? Or get a magic kit for my birthday? Then I could do magic tricks as the Great Nate next year!”

“You have a deal, but you can still take dance classes if you want.”

“Mommy? You know you’ll need to make me a cape, right?”

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


Filed under Humor, Mairead Wapole, writing

When the magic fades: the day your child learns about Santa

For those of us who decided to participate in the childhood legendary creatures stuff (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, etc.) there comes the bittersweet day that your child learns the truth behind the myths. How this goes depends a lot on what you told them to begin with and how you handled the questions as they came up. This year was the year my 5th grader learned about Santa Claus.

My kids have always been a bit on the precocious side. The questions actually started much earlier than I anticipated and when confronted with the, “Mommy? Why does/how does Santa…?” I resorted to that tried and true tactic of parenthood, turning the question back on them. “Why do you think…?”

So far this tactic has worked. Sometimes with hysterically funny answers and sometimes with amazingly perceptive analyses that are far beyond their years. For example, the year my children noticed that the Santa pictures don’t always depict the same guy and wanted to know why, they came up with the theory that all the real looking Santas are related and the others are just guys who the spirit of Santa comes to and they just want to spread the joy. This has turned into an annual game of trying to figure out whether the Santa is a brother, cousin, uncle, etc. of the real Santa or just someone who really loves Christmas and wants kids to love it too. Another year, they wanted to know why they only get 3 Santa gifts when other kids get 1 or more, and some kids get none even when they believe in Santa. The boys gave it some thought and decided that it must be because moms and dads help Santa and since Santa doesn’t have any means of income – the number and type of presents that Santa brings must be tied to what a parent can afford.

Each realization has been termed one of the “Secrets of Santa” and they understood that further “Secrets” would be revealed as they got older. For my oldest, the final secret reveal was this year.

About two weekends ago, I was enjoying my coffee and working on the grocery list when he walked into the dining room and said, “Mom, we gotta talk.” I put down my pen and indicated he should continue.
“Don’t worry about Nate,” he said. “I turned on the TV in the playroom so he’s occupied.”
“It’s about Santa Claus. I think I know the final secret. There’s no actual dude, is there?”
“Well, what do you think?”
“You always say that.” He sighed and started again, really quick like he was going to lose his nerve, “I think he existed once, I mean, like the St. Nick guy, but there’s no North Pole and all that. It’s the spirit that lives on, isn’t it?”
“Sounds like you’ve thought about this.”
“Well, yeah. I know that you and Daddy get the spirit of Santa and I thought you just helped him, but if he isn’t real, then what it means is that the spirit turns you and Daddy into Santa Claus, right?”
“Well, what do you…”
“I think you and Daddy are Santa Claus for us, and my friends’ parents become their Santa Claus, and when I grow up and have kids I’ll be their Santa Claus. I’m right, aren’t I?”
A part of me wanted to say no and reverse time to the days when he was wide eyed with the promise of magic and wonder. Another part of me loved his perception and calm acceptance. So I responded honestly. “Yes. Are you okay with this?”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be? I think it’s cool and now I can help you and Daddy keep it going for Nate.”

And with that he gave me a hug and left the room to go outside with our puppy. I was glad he went on with life so matter of fact, but for me it’s sort of bittersweet that he knows for sure. At first I worried that he would enlighten his brother but he hasn’t. If anything, he is as into keeping the spirit going as his father and I are. Oliver will turn 11 in a few months and this is just one of many signs that he is starting that transition from a little boy to a young man. As his mother, I miss the baby he once was but I love watching him turn into the man he will become.

Another item in the “upside” column is that I have another person to help move that blasted “Elf on the Shelf” to another perch on a daily basis.

From my home to yours, we wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and Happy Holidays to those who don’t.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or

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It’s that magical time of year again, and no – I don’t mean Christmas

Those that know me well also know one of my pet peeves is that Thanksgiving has become little more than a speed bump on the way to Christmas.

I’ve written in the past about my love of the Thanksgiving holiday so I’ll spare you the sound of me on my soapbox.  This time, I’ll tell you how I am celebrating Thanksgiving.

In October, a friend told me that she was going to post a comment every day for the month of November on Facebook about what she was thankful for.  I thought it was a great way to protest the dismissal of Thanksgiving and to celebrate the holiday all month long so I decided to join in.  I missed the first day but quickly got on track with a double posting for Day 2 of both Day 1 and Day 2.  I’m up to Day 22 and haven’t missed a day, yet.  There have been some days where I had to decide between more than one thing to write about and other days where the thing I was thankful for may have seemed a bit of a stretch.  Regardless of what anyone reading my daily posts might think of them, the one thing that has come out of this exercise is my realization of how blessed I really am.  Each day as I reflect on the things that I am thankful for, I find that I am less interested in the things that I don’t have or didn’t achieve.

In addition to the daily post on Facebook, my kids and I have started talking about Thanksgiving on a much deeper level than this event that happened in Massachusetts, or Virginia.  (Sorry, I am a Virginian and my father’s side of the family can trace roots back to the both the Mayflower AND the founding of Virginia – so I have to get my dig in.)

The message that I am trying to drive home to my boys is to be thankful for the people and the things in your life.  To treasure them and take care of them and to always be grateful for what you have and what is given to you.  My husband tends to bring it back to giving thanks to God for all that we have, and while I have no objection to that viewpoint, I want to bring the discussion with the kids to a level that applies to everyone -Christian, non-Christian, and Atheists.  At its basic level – the concept of gratitude seems to be missing in our society and if I impart little else to these boys, this is one concept I really want them to understand.

I’ve heard the objections to Thanksgiving as a national holiday and I can respect where people are coming from with their objections, but I believe that it’s not too much to ask that we as a country have one day where we pause and take a hard look around us to find at least one thing that we are thankful for and acknowledge it.  It stinks that the next day is all about insane consumerism, but that is a topic for another blog.

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope that each of you has 30 days worth of things to be thankful for!

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


Filed under Mairead Wapole