The Novels

Economics 101, a Novel (Rough Draft) -- My first sustained attempt at a novel, two-thirds finished in rough draft, and heading a little too far south.
What would you do if you and your study partner, with whom you had been seriously discussing marriage, suddenly found yourselves all alone together on a desert island? Study economics?
Sociology 500, a Romance (Second Draft) -- The first book in the Economics 101 Trilogy.(On hold.)
Karel and Dan, former American football teammates and now graduate students, meet fellow graduate students Kristie and Bobbie, and the four form a steady study group.

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Sociology 500, a Romance, ch 1 pt 1 -- Introducing Bobbie

TOC Well, let's meet Roberta Whitmer. Bobbie entered the anthropology department office and looked around. Near the receptionis...

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Abandoned: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 7

[JMR20190607-20190610: Backup of abandoned version of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/06/jdz-millionaire-07.html]

Previous

(Just to warn the reader, this chapter touches on topics that some may find to be trigger topics.)

Millie sat contemplating the whole-wheat donut with the hot milk and beans on her tray, thinking over all she'd learned about Zerojewel Research, Inc., and about Sherry and JD, over the past several weeks. Checking her reflection in the window, she watched the darkened street outside.

The makeup, wig, and glasses she wore would be enough to fool most people, but JD and Sherry and many of their employees were not average people.

Not that any of those she thought would see through the disguise would frequent an upscale restaurant like this, even with the relatively healthy menu.

She'd never been comfortable with Hodge or with his approach to business or technology. They had dated for maybe a month, two years ago, when she started working for Hodge Hercules IS, but, as was usually the case with Hodge, things went south quickly. And he had moved just as quickly to take what he thought was control of the relationship, using every bit of personal information she had given him, and some he had picked up for hire, against her. At least he had not tried more than twice to seduce her.

She had her own reasons for cooperating with him, however, and so play had proceeded in the game.

She smiled a little ironically when she saw his form pass under the street lights in his completely useless disguise.

She did not watch as he come in the door in the overcoat and fake moustache, but she watched his reflection in the window out of the corner of her eye as he spotted her, and as he pretended to ignore her while he moved to sit in the booth behind her. 

"So, what have you got?"

Millie picked up the donut and focused on it, finally taking a bite. "Nothing you haven't got, really."

"The billboards?"

"Of course it's JD." Millie tested the milk, then blow on it.

"Any clues about why he and Sherry are splitting up?"

"It is not clear that they are, but, no."
"Odd." There was silence for a moment. "Is there anything in this hunt for a wife that I can use?"
"Yeah." She smiled ironically again as she heard the rustle behind her. "Turn back around, you're drawing attention."
"Pictures or anything?"
"You know how tricky it is to get company data out." She was just as glad Hodge couldn't see her smile or the irony in it.

"You expect me to wait?"

"I keep telling you impatience is your vulnerable heel."

"Ancient myths."

"Still have meaning." She debated with herself for a moment. "I think you will shortly get an invitation, and then you'll get to see all the secrets for yourself."

"What?"

"Keep your voice down. I shouldn't have told you. You're going to have to pretend to be surprised."

"Okay. When?"

"Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week. Not sure. Money probmlems, no doubt?"

"Zero?"

"You. I'm not there to ... keep the books in balance." Why her mother didn't notice the money that Millie had been filtering into Hercules' coffers, she wasn't sure. Her own mother had a peculiar blind spot to money.

"No ... no, no problems," he hedged. "Can you give me any hints?"

"If I do, you'll completely ruin your part. Oh, but you might as well start digging through their open source code. That'll help you when the invitation comes."

"Ah. There's something I can do. Why they put the crown jewels out for anyone to steal is beyond me.

Millie bit her lip, but the word slipped out. "Clearly."

"What?"

"Never mind." She took another sip of the milk and bite of the donut.



Sherry stood at the darkened window of her penthouse room in the Zerojewel building, watching the street below. Shortly a furtive form left the corner gourmet restaurant, and she reached to the monitor in front of her to zoom in.

"Hodge," she spoke into the mike at her chin.

A shadow detached itself from a dark wall and followed the figure hurrying away.

Several more figures, none of them furtive, left the restaurant before she spoke into the mike again. "Millie."

"Not sure why we need to do this, but I guess I've got this one." JD's voice whispered in her earplug, and another shadow detached itself from the shadows below, following the not-furtive form of her newly hired secretary in disguise.

Shortly, more shadows separated themselves from the shadows, shadows chasing shadows. Sherry turned her monitor off and retired to the apartment bath, taking the phone with her.

"Car"

"Got it." James voice was low and clear.

Covering the phone with a towel, she removed her clothes and ran water in the tub.

She paused as she passed the mirror over the sink, regretfully examining the body that caused her so much confusion. Shortly, there was enough water, so she slipped into the tub and put her earplugs back in, relaxing in the hot water.

After an eighth of an hour, Tom's voice whispered in his ear. "Hodge has returned to his office."

"Good for him. That's probably good for tonight."

"Then I'm going after sone dinner. Out."

Shortly James's voice came in. "Millie has stopped at her brother's house, and is visiting with her nephew on the front porch."

"Likewise, good for her." Sherry thought about Millie's nephew for a moment. "Do you want to follow her more tonight, JD?"

"I feel like a stalker."

"Heh." James chuckled quietly. "Oh. That was quick. Here she comes, nephew in tow. Guess I'm following."

"Okay."

A little later, James's voice whispered in her ear again. "Super-wars Game Center. They've started playing one of those group war games. How did you know she would be meeting Hodge tonight?"

"I'm beginning to read her, just like I read you."

"You and JD are spooky sometimes."

JD's chuckle came in clearly. "Good thing we're benign."

"I used to wonder."

The three of them chuckled.

Shortly JD's voice whispered, "I'm outside, James. I'll take over from here."

"Thanks. I'm going for dinner, too. Out."

"Everyone can go for dinner, I think."

There was a quiet chorus of "Okay," and, "Out." Sherry lifted her phone from under the towel. One by the connection indicators changed from lavender to pink, and she put it back under the towel when only one remained.

A quarter hour later, JDs whispered voice came in. "So, are you getting a nice quiet tub before dinner?"

"None of your business." Sherry smiled.

She could barely hear the sigh on the other end.

"Do you wonder the same things about Millie?"

"No. I suppose I might, someday, if things work out. But it's going to take a lot to erase the memories of our little adventure in middle school. And, if it gets there, Millie's going to need to know why."

"She has her own secrets."

"That's not her nephew."

"Spooky."

Neither laughed.

"I thought you had repented."

"We both have."

"Aside from whether I can repent when I don't believe in repentance, you haven't forgotten."

"Repentance is sometimes about making it right more than stopping and forgetting. Keeping our friendship was one necessary step."

Again Sherry contemplated her body, visible underneath the water.

"Impossible to make it right according to E-P-ist beliefs."

"Repentance is about turning our thoughts and minds towards God, not about punishment or about artificial human ideals."

"But there are fundamental problems here."

"Did you schedule the visit with the specialist?"

"You have no mercy. Yeah. Had to send Millie out for an errand, but I took your advice and went in the front door, asking for the normal checkups for a woman entering her third hexadecade. I still don't think it's going to resolve anything."

"We'll see."

For several short minutes, there was silence. Sherry got out of the tub and toweled off, putting her pajamas on once she was dry.

"They've finished the game. Looks like they'll be leaving. The kids here seem to know Millie rather well."

"Of course."

"Looks like they're headed back to Millie's brother's."

"As we expected."

"Millie's going in."

"Do you think she'll spend the night with her son's family?"

"I don't think we need to know. Must say it was nice of her brother to adopt him."



"I hear you play a terrible game of RockFail, JD."

JD and Sherry glanced at each other.

"Was my disguise that bad? I mean, you were following me from the restaurant to my car, right? And then someone tailed me."

Sherry and JD chuckled.

"James will be disappointed that he wasn't careful enough."

"Was there someone inside the restaurant?"

"Hodge got excited, didn't he?" Sherry grinned.

Millie looked from JD to Sherry. "Okay, I guess I'm exposed. What happens now?"

"Well, maybe you could figure out a way to pressure my mom to get Hodge his invitation a little quicker." Sherry shook her head with a smile.

"So this is all according to your plans?"

"Not ours. God's."

"JD believes in God. Anyway, we get a lot farther playing things by ear than by having plans that we force to happen. And we look forward to meeting Rodney."

"Are you sure I'll let you?"

"If you'll let us." JD nodded. "We don't believe in forcing things."

"How much do you know about Rodney?"

"What's on public record. Your brother adopted him, no records of his real mother."

"Is that all?"

"We've guessed that he is your son, but if that is not so, we've guessed wrong." JD shrugged.

Sherry added, "And if you don't want us to know anything more than that he is your nephew, that's all we will know."

"If ...?" Millie looked doubtful of their sincerity.

"No conditions. JD believes in the punishments of God, and I just don't like to tempt fate. Your history is your history."

"You guys aren't real."

Sherry walked over to where Millie sat and took her hand. "I don't know how real we are, but we try to be real."

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees

Backup: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 6

[JMR20190607-20190610: Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/06/jdz-millionaire-06.html]

Previous

Three pairs of eyes watched the door of the office close behind JD's parents and little sister.

"Well, that went better than I had hoped." Sherry slid off her desk and sat down on the sofa.

"JD, you're handling your mother's opinions well, today." Millie nodded in approval.

"Well, Millie, your running interference helped a lot."

"I really didn't do much."

"But with you here, I was able to avoid getting sandwiched between Sherry and my Mom."

"Hey." Sherry made mock complaint and she and Millie exchanged amused glances.

JD looked from one to the other, enjoying their amusement for a moment. "Yeah. So, Sherry, do you have time to go over this network we just proposed?"

"Can I help?" Millie asked.

Sherry glanced out the window. "Well, I'd actually kind of like you to work up three reports of the two-meetings-in-one we just had. We'll need one for the network hardware design, another for the house party support system proposal, and another for the house party rules."

Millie blinked and thought. "Nothing's set yet, so these reports will be initial documents."

"Right." JD sighed. "Paperwork. The least fun part about computers and information systems. Sorry. Is it okay if we ask you to get a start on those while Sherry and I work out some details? We want to be ready to talk when James is."

"Sure. Maybe half an hour to get something started, then I can see where James is?" Millie stood up and collected her tablet terminal and other materials.

"Sounds good. Thanks."

Millie nodded and left.

Sherry watched the door close behind Millie. "We're going to be able to trust her, I think."

JD nodded, also watching the door. "I've had a gut feeling about her since my mom introduced us, that Mom had once again helped us in ways she was not intending." He chuckled, then sighed.

"Mixed feelings?"

"Be a lot less mixed if you'd only ... be willing to go see a specialist."

Sherry breathed deeply for few moments before moving to dig around in her desk. "I guess this house party idea isn't going to let me hide from the truth any longer." She pulled out a notebook terminal. "If I go as a guest and not just as a network engineer."

The two turned to look at each other.

"You're surprised I'm giving in so easily."

"Are you? Maybe. Good. Keep me in the loop?"

"Sure." Sherry broke eye contact and looked at the door again. "So, we need two more engineers. Millie will be one?"

"If she doesn't object. And we'll try to get Hodge to be the other."

"Hodge. So soon?" She put her notebook down on the desk.

"It's getting harder to stall my mom, and gut feelings aren't guarantees."

"Nothing's guaranteed."

"True." JD dug in his desk for another notebook terminal, then picked up one of the wall warts on his desk. "Should we do the mock-up in the office or take it to a lab?" He put the wall wart and notebook back down.

"Here is good. I wouldn't be on board with the party at all, if it didn't give us the perfect excuse to give Millie time to figure out what she really wants." Sherry went to a closet and pulled out a mostly empty equipment rack, loading it with more wall warts and network cable.

JD followed her and pulled out another rack. "That's my thinking. I'm kind of hoping it'll give us a chance to reason with Hodge, too."

"You still have hope for him?"

JD shrugged. "You know I prefer to hope for the best from people."

"I know, and I know it makes it easier to manage our employees. But Hodge is not an employee. Not any more."

"Yeah. Not any more. Getting him here will be no problem. I'll make an indirect suggestion to my Mom, who to consider for the rich-boy crew, so that the invitation isn't too obvious."

"Mmmm."

They busied themselves preparing the hardware to simulate a small network, stopping from time to time to diagram it on the whiteboard as they worked.


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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Backup: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 5

[Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/05/jdz-millionaire-05.html.]

Previous

Having reviewed the discussion through the idea of the house party, JD changed the subject. "Sheliah, who's your company's website provider?"

"What? Oh, we're just using something Tiny-algo provides for cheap."

"What would you say to letting our company develop a real SNS for this house party, with an eye to extending it to all your clients later?"

Sherry looked up at JD and a slow grin formed on her face. "JD and I have often talked about what a proper SNS should look like and what it would take to implement. We've set up some experimental networks, and I think we could put something together quickly that would be useful at this house party. Where's a marker? James, you want to handle the whiteboard with JD?"

James and JD moved over to the whiteboard, and both took markers and started diagramming network services.

The rest of the group looked puzzled.

Sherry explained. "Most of us are on Pigpen, right?"

Nods of agreement.

"Are you satisfied with them?"

Silence.

Mildred spoke up. "They aren't too bad."

"Unstable, permissions problems, advertising-oriented, hard to manage?"

Nods.

"We can fix a lot of that by having the users host their own news servers. Oh, call them timeline/profile servers. Distributed. So, for the purposes of this house party, say we set up a trial SNS network. Users will have full domain names with mail addresses specifically for use within the SNS."

"I'm lost," George complained.

"What's a typical domain, JD?"

JD wrote on the board:
jdz.epmatch.com.uis
"Make it a URL people can access for news," she added.

He wrote,
news://news.jdz.epmatch.com.uis
"Looks like a vanity domain," Hank commented.

"Like a vanity domain. This is where people go to see your main profile and current news feed. How about a fan club domain, JD?"

"Not that I want one, but it could look like this:"
news://fans.jdz.epmatch.com.uis
"How about an address for fans to write to?"
mail:fanclub@jdz.epmatch.com.uis
"Someone to chat with?"
chat:jdz@jdz.epmatch.com.uis
Mildred shook her head. "I don't get it."

James replied, "Well, mostly it's about making all these domain name thingies meaningful. Give them uniformity, flexibility, and meaning beyond the SNS company's business plan."

"Okay, it does look more meaningful than those long strings of goobledygook that SNS servers usually serve up." Hank shrugged. "Why doesn't everyone do this?"

"Not invented here syndrome, mostly," Sherry answered.

James took over. "The point is, these two have been spending spare moments working out how to map SNS functionality into standard network functions, and working out the basics of how to implement them distributed across the users' network itself. Sheliah, if you are interested, your company could be a guinea pig, to see how it would work."

"How much does it cost me?"

"Wise question," James answered. "What do you say, Sherry?"

"Software costs are gratis for helping us debug. Hardware, we'll probably want to split costs on, but that's actually one of the features of the approach we've been working on."

JD picked up from his desk a rounded cube of plastic with power plug prongs sticking out of it, and held it up. "Each user has his or her own home server in one of these inexpensive wall-warts. These retail for the price of an ordinary day's labor. Backup functions can be provided on-site with another." He held up a second. "And the network services provider can lease out backup services for off-site data security. Distributed SNS with backup. For the house party, we can put one, maybe two of these in each guest room, and we'll back the data up on an on-premises server."

James laughed. "What he means -- When was the last time you couldn't access Pigpen for several hours?"

Jenny said, "Last month, most of my friends were off-line for half a day."

James grinned. "This way, if you can access the general network, you can access the SNS. No depending on Pigpen or Trawler or Tiny-algo or whoever, just on the network itself. JD and Sherry will talk about infrastructure -- proxies and backup servers, domain name servers, network bandwidth and such, but the bulk of the load is distributed among the users."

JD put the wall-warts down and went back to the whiteboard. "Something else that current SNS companies get wrong." He started writing Venn diagrams with group names on the board. "A little E-P-ist centric, but ..."

Sherry continued for him. "When you start a new Pigpen account, you have no idea what a friend group is, right?"

There were some murmurs of disagreement and some murmurs of agreement.

"Anyway, it's a pain to manage all your groups."

Everyone nodded.

"We'll set up templates of default groups, to make it easier to figure out, and the groups will have addresses. JD?"

JD wrote example addresses out on the Venn diagrams,
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/friends
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/family
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/company
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/clients
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/church
jdz.epmatch.com.uis/club
"Those group addresses aren't, by default, served to the general public-facing web; only the user sees them. It's to help the user sort through what he or she interacts with and not eat up too much time. But they will be easy to make, and some, like friends and family, will be set up by default for general users. Most SNS providers give you groups, but our user interface will always ask which group or groups to sort a new friend into, instead of just dumping them all into one pool."

Millie took a picture and JD erased the first set of default friends and the Venn diagrams.

He continued, "For this house party, the default groups will be something like this."
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/friends
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/fans
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/close-friends
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/allies
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/watch1
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/watch2
joeguest.epmatch.com.uis/donotshow
Sherry added, "So the guests can immediately start using the SNS to try to figure out who he or she wants to hang out with and set lines of communication up."

Sheliah and some of the team were nodding their heads in agreement.

"I think I can talk the others at matchmakers into this."

Mildred interrupted. "Well, I'm glad my son is getting some enthusiasm about something, but I'm afraid his enthusiasm is not about finding a wife. I can't approve of this."

"Honey, everyone in this room loves you."

"What's that supposed to mean, Karl?"

"It means, Mom," Krystal jumped off her perch. "You don't have to prove or approve anything." She sat on the arm of JD's big chair and reached around her mother's shoulders and gave her a hug. "You're winning even if you think you're losing."

"What silliness are you talking about?"

"Don't fight my big brother about this, okay, Mom? I promise you he's onto something good. You'll love it."

"But what about my grandchildren?"

"It won't be long until I can do something about that, even if he keeps dragging his feet."

"That's another thing I worry about."

Krystal kissed her mother's cheek.

"Oh, stop."

JD grinned. "Mom, I promise I won't let the tech keep me from giving the women at this house party the attention they deserve."

"They deserve. You always throw conditions into your promises that worry me."

Sheliah said, "Well, I like the idea, both from the business side and for matchmaking for your son. I think you should leave this one up to him."

Since it seemed everyone else in the room was in agreement, Mildred bit her lip. "Well, I guess, if it doesn't take all year."

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 4

[Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/05/jdz-millionaire-04.html.]

Previous

"Well, I hired this team!" Mildred Alfreda Zukiger's voice approached being shrill, her face growing white and expression growing stiff.

JD nodded. "Sure, Mom. You assembled a good team. And if you are dissatisfied with the performance of anyone on the team, I'll take over their contract. But I think you had some other plan you wanted to discuss."

Mother gave son a look of distress and sat heavily on the sofa. After a short minute to recover, she explained. "Well, I thought we could do it more like a contest. We could get full resumes until a deadline, I could pick the best twenty, and you could pick the one you want from there."

"The only difference between that and what we have been doing so far is that you'd have a lot larger catalog to choose from, Mom." JD smiled slowly. "Mind you, you found Millie for us already. Perhaps if she and I had gotten a better start, ..."

He looked sideways at Millie. Millie looked up and gave him a single non-committal nod.

"Okay, maybe, under this scenario, we could go over the lists together, Mom. But it isn't one I favor."

Sherry went to the blackboard and joined Sheliah in erasing it, then started summarizing Mildred's plan on the whiteboard while Sheliah sat down.

"Well, Sister Zukiger, using that format may incur more legal obligations." Ronnie spoke up as she thumbed through search results on her table. "Contests have rules. We might need to set up a website to explain the rules and procedures. And if we aren't careful, JD might end up legally compelled to offer marriage to one of your finalists."

"Well, of course. He has to quit running away from this. I have full confidence in my judgement."

As she wrote, Sherry said, without turning around, "We are sure you would judge well, Mrs. Zukiger. But, as JD's long-time friend, I must say that you are likely to miss some things that are important to him."

"I think not."

Sherry finished writing without responding. "Does this summarize your ideas, Mrs. Zukiger?"

Mildred looked at the whiteboard for a short minute, then grudgingly admitted it did. Millie took a picture, and Sherry started erasing it.

"So, JD, what do you think?" She finished erasing and turned around. Millie joined her at the whiteboard, and Sherry handed her the marker.

"Well, as everyone knows, I really don't like all this fuss about finding me a wife."

"As your friend and business partner, I must say, you need a partner for your life, not just your business."

Millie spoke up. "Sherry, that's not fair. Under your own rules, you can't give him that kind of advice."

Sherry and Millie locked eyes for a long moment. Then Sherry slowly nodded. "You're right. Forgive me, Millie." She turned to JD. "Sorry."

JD rubbed his forehead. "Well, never mind. So we can't go there."

"No, JD, you can't go there. Sherry is not a good match for you." Mildred's expression was dark, but had traces of triumph written in them.

"Sister Zukiger, if you want your son's cooperation, ...," Sheliah stood up. "If you want any of us to cooperate further, you need to back off at least that topic."

Mildred had nothing to say to that.

Millie turned to JD. "So, if you had to have something to suggest, Joseph Daniel, what would you suggest?"

JD looked perplexed. After a short minute's thought, he said, "This all seems, well, like one of those silly old-fashioned romance novels set in days long gone, or like a piece of one of those reality show house parties."

"You would also be averse to a house party?"

"The Church runs youth and single adult conferences. They look a lot like house parties."

That got some laughter from most in the room.

"But they seem much more appropriate to the purpose, partly because the primary focus is not supposed to be on finding a mate." He thought a moment more. "I mean, yeah, my mom set me up with you, and maybe we'll revisit that, but focusing on the question of mating just screwed the whole thing up the first time around."

Millie laughed. "Maybe so. But let's say we did have a house party. Would you be willing to join it?"

JD looked around at the group, then he focused on his mother. "I could do that, depending on the activities, if there is no making promises that anyone ends up getting together. There has to be some relief from the big question, or people go crazy."

Mildred's expression become thoughtful.

JD continued, "If we advertise it as having to do with millionaires, we should invite some other rich guys -- and gals -- as well. Now he looked back at Millie, who raised her eyebrows. "Millie and Sherry are invited." He thought a moment. "Four total? No, four more woman and five more men from the rich crowd."

Millie busied herself writing on the whiteboard.

"Mom can figure out some possibilities about who to invite from her connections, but they have to be approved by the whole team, and the invitations vetted by George and Hank. And I'm going to ask Sherry and Millie to join the team for that." He paused again.

"And we put out a public call for participants from all classes. Money isn't the only balancing factor in contracts of this nature. We'll choose up to twenty men and twenty women from those who apply, in even numbers."

"Have I got it so far?" Millie examined her work.

"That looks right. Sherry, can you get a picture of that?"

"Got it. But I'm not sure I agree to it."

The door opened.

"I thought you guys were going to wait for us?"

"Hi, Dad. Hank. George?"

"I'm here, too." George walked in behind Hank.

"Hi, Dad Z, my big chair's open."

"Thanks." He sat in Sherry's big chair.

The two lawyers sat on the sofa.

"Me, too!" Krystal Karen Zukiger trailed in. "I came to cheer for Mom's side."

JD laughed as Krystal waltzed over to his desk and perched on it.

"You got the projector, Sherry? Let's go over what we've covered so far."

Sherry and Millie looked at each other, then Sherry went to her desk and got a projector out of a drawer.

"Millicent!" Krystal looked startled. "You look different! I like it!"

Millie and Sherry laughed as they set the projector up.

"Thank you. I'm in a different role today."

"Well it's cool!"

"Yeah." JD gave his little sister a hug. "Now we need James. I'll go get James."

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees



Backup: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 3

[JMR20190612: Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/05/jdz-millionaire-03.html.]

Previous

"What is Millicent doing here?" Mildred Alfreda Zukiger stood in front of her son's big chair in one corner of the partners' office. She turned toward her son, who was standing in front of his desk. Today, she was the business-savy socialite mother, not-quite-platinum hair coiffed in a mature style, but not too mature, nicely made-up, but not overdone, faux business suit with slacks instead of skirt, business heels, just enough natural jewelry to show she had money to back up her opinions.

JD turned and stared out the corner office windows at the roofs of the neighboring buildings. The sun had cleared the horizon, and the city was brought into sharp relief in the post-dawn light. "Ah, that. Sherry hired her as her personal secretary yesterday. Don't know if I'd call this view beautiful or not, but I guess it's impressive."

"You don't need the work ...," Mildred turned towards Millie, seated in the stenographer's chair between the two partners' desks.

JD reflected a moment on Millie's carefully crafted appearance. She had done herself over, too, auburn hair in a tight bun, severe, trim makeup, conservative business suit with knee-length skirt. She looked every inch the part of a professional secretary.

And it was not just appearance. She was in fact quite overqualified. She had left a good job for the courting.

If the arrangement were a normal hire, they'd be getting an excellent deal. But she was here for reasons other than money.

Millie broke role with a grin and a nod. "True, but I think I need the job." And then she returned to role.

Well-placed misdirection. If he wanted to learn how to manipulate people, Millie would be a good teacher.

"JD's mother furrowed her brow and tilted her head inquisitively. "So what is Sherry doing here?"

"Sherry is my business partner, and this billboard thing is not likely to leave the business unscathed. She has a right to veto any plans that could damage the business." He turned to face his mother. "Oh, and thank you for having covers put over those three billboards you put up yesterday without consulting the rest of the team. Where's Dad?"

Mildred was taken even more aback. "Your father?" She shook her head. "Oh, he wouldn't be interested."

JD got his phone out of his pocket and pulled up his father's page in the contacts. Karl Mulhaus Zukiger answered almost as soon as he pressed the contact button.

"Good morning, Dad."  He looked at the wall.

"Not much, yet. Yes she is." He looked at his mother, whose expression showed growing disbelief.

"Just having a meeting of the team in Sherry's office." He looked at Jenny, seated with the rest of the team that his mother had assembled at the portable table they had brought in for the conference, and raised his eyebrows. "Yeah, that team."

Jenny shrugged. "Go for it," she mouthed silently.

"Not really. No, wait." He nodded at Sheliah. "I guess I should be more appreciative of Sheliah's efforts. The billboard thing."

"E-P-ist Millionaire seeking wife." He looked out the window, then back at his mother. "Yeah, that's us. Didn't Mom tell you?"

Mildred's expression turned dark. "I tell him what he needs to know."

JD rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and smiled sardonically. "Haven't heard the full plan yet. " He blinked slowly. "Yeah, something about having a contest to marry me off." He started chuckling. "Uh huh, you heard that right. And she didn't seem to think I needed to know, either."

He looked over at Sherry, who seemed to be enjoying the drama from her vantage point perched on her desk. "Yeah, I sure would like you to be here, Dad." Sherry and JD exchanged a grin.

Sherry was her usual self, as much a female software geek as he was a male software geek. Comfortably round, dishwater blonde hair, ordinary features, no makeup, comfortably dressed in slacks. She was probably the one person on the planet he figured he would always be comfortable with. And the one person he would never expect his mother to be comfortable with, although that was also somewhat beside the point.

He glanced at Millie, who nodded in encouragement. "Okay, we'll wait until you get here." And he closed the connection.

"Well, are you going to invite the whole neighborhood?"

"Mom? Dad is family."

"And what about Ron?"

Ronnie looked up from her seat at the second stenographer's desk near the door, tablet terminal at the ready for notes and research.

"I wanted my personal lawyer, and the company legal staff, too, checking our plans. George couldn't make it this early on the short notice, but Ronnie is here representing company legal. Thanks, Ronnie."

"Sure."

"And George will be coming within an hour."

"Well of course I'll have my lawyer check the plans." JD's mother stopped short of sniffing.

"So our legal staff can discuss their concerns with Hank on an informed basis. Where is he, by the way?"

"I think he's busy. But ... we don't need to be taking their very valuable time just to listen to us haggle over details, do we?"

Ronnie tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. "Well, Mildred, I would agree about the use of time, but it can often help when starting a new project, especially an unusual one like this, to have some legal oversight. It will probably save time later."

JD's mother gave Ronnie an icy stare.

He reflected for a moment on his mother's unwillingness to be on the losing side of an argument, and on the significant wisdom of bringing legal in early.

"Well, since we're waiting for Dad, maybe we should wait for Hank and George, too. How about we postpone this meeting until six o'clock, and call Hank to see if he can make it?"

Sherry pulled her lips slightly to the right, before speaking with a wry grin. "We're here. Call them up, but we can go back over anything important when they get here. Let's hear what your team has done and what they have in mind."

"Surprisingly, Sherry and I are in agreement on getting started."

JD looked from Sherry to his mother, then shrugged. "Okay, Mom."

He stepped to the window again, thumbed through the directory and made connection. "Ah, Hank, good morning. Yeah, my Mom should be the one calling." He paused, listening. "Well, I have a favor I'd like to ask. Mom and Sheliah came up with a rather odd-ball scheme to have a bunch of women apply to be my wife." Another pause. "Yes, Sheliah the matchmaker. Uh huh, those billboards." He grinned and chuckled. "We are in a meeting to talk about it now."

He looked over at Sheliah and winked with the eye his mother wouldn't see. She smiled back and nodded.

"Oh, thank you. We all appreciate the sacrifice." He turned to his mother and gave her a thumbs-up. She frowned in reply.

"Yeah, we're waiting to get into the deep nitty-gritty until my dad makes it. Mmm hmm. Yeah. Thanks. Dressed for golf is fine, and give my apologies to your other client. See you in a few." And he hung up.

"Okay, he should arrive within a half-hour."

General murmurs of approval could be heard, with the noticeable exception of his mother.

"So, Sheliah, can you outline your plan? Then we can hear how my mom wants to change it." He went to one wall and pulled back a curtain, revealing a whiteboard covered with data flow diagrams and module relationship charts. "Ah. We took a picture of this, right, Sherry?"

"Yeah."

"Good." He picked up an eraser from the chalk tray.

Millie jumped up and took the eraser from his hand and started clearing the whiteboard. Sherry started to stand, but JD looked at his empty hand and took the other eraser from the tray and worked from the other end, so she sat back down.

His mother watched with an expression of disapproval, but said nothing.

Sheliah stood. "I should be doing that."

"Almost done. Thanks, Millie."

Millie nodded, put the eraser back, and sat back down as Sheliah moved to the whiteboard.

JD handed her a marker and eraser and stepped back. "I think you were saying to someone that it wasn't a contest."

"Right. I was brainstorming with Jenny and the rest of the team a couple of days ago, and Mark said he thought one at a time was a little slow. And things just kind of went from there to comparing finding you a wife to filling a job opening." She raised her hand. "Now, wait, I know you won't appreciate that."

"Got that right."

"But if you're going to be searching for a needle in a very large haystack, you could have the haystack come to you."

"If the king won't go to the haystack, the haystack should come to the king. Not one of my favorite sayings, but go on."

"Not really much. We started with the idea of a classified ad, but Jessie pointed out that we'd miss at least half of the sort of women we are looking for with that."

"I can see that."

"So we were thinking of a large ad on a business magazine site and in news aggregators that cater to the financial industry and software industries, as well as E-P-oriented academic journal sites. But we weren't thinking about billboards."

"No."

Mildred defended herself. "Of course I want to reach the E-P-ist population more than any other. Billboards in this state should help."

"That's actually reasonable, Mom."

"Thank you." There was ice in her voice.

"So," Sheliah continued, "I had something like this in mind."

She wrote on the board,
Well-off E-P-ist male CEO seeking wife.
Interested parties, send us a short personal history without name or identification, and a paragraph describing your reasons for interest at <ep.ceo@epmatchmakers.com.uis>.
We will contact you with results within 5 days.
E-P-Matchmakers is committed to protecting the privacy of all inquiries.
"Nice." Sherry voiced her approval.

JD pursed his lips and nodded agreement. "Low-key, not asking too much information, keeping it as anonymous as possible."

Millie took a picture of the board.

JD looked around at her. "Thanks, Millie."

Sheliah began erasing the board.

"Well, I think it's completely too low-key."

"Hang on, Mom. So what was the plan from there, Sheliah?"

Sheliah wrote more on the board.

  1. Matchmakers review.
  2. More complete information about JD, still no identification.
  3. On submitter's agreement, give it to JD to review.
  4. If JD agrees, reveal identities.
  5. If both agree, arrange a first date.

"We'd review what we get. If it didn't pass, we'd give a polite refusal. If it did, we'd tell them a little more about you, and if they were interested, we'd pass it on to you. If you were interested, then we could tell them who you are and tell you who they are. From there, negotiation on dating could begin."

"No reason to involve JD at any ... until step 5, really. I can do the pre-scanning and initial negotiation."

"Thank you for volunteering, Mom, but I would prefer to handle that myself under this scenario."

Millie took another picture, and Sheliah thanked her.

"I want you to be happy, Joe Dear. I would not choose anyone wrong for you."

JD glanced from Sherry, who just raised her eyebrows, to Millie, who blinked slowly without revealing her thoughts, to Jenny, who also raised her eyebrows, then tilted her head. Not getting any direction, he continuing to look around the room for a moment, then focused on a corner of the ceiling.

"Well, it definitely won't happen that way, Mom."

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Bacup: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife! ch. 2

[JMR20190612: Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/05/jdz-millionaire-02.html.]

(Previous)

"So," Carrie commented between bites of afternoon-break pizza, "judging from your mom's putting on an appearance this morning, things did not go well with Millicent last night?" She looked nothing if not pleased. Carrie was one of the network engineers.

JD glanced over at Sherry. She was concentrating on the pizza, not offering any help. Concerning most of the women he had dated, even before his mother had decided she had to take a hand, Sherry had been quite willing to weigh in, letting him know clearly where she thought the relationship would fall apart, and what dangers there would be in trying too hard to make it work. And her analysis was always spot-on.

His mother had often complained about Sherry's interference, but now her mother's team -- his team -- often consulted with Sherry. Over the last month, even Millie had come to confide and ask for advice a few times.

Sherry had been keeping her own counsel this time, which JD had taken as tacit approval.

Carrie cleared her throat. "Sorry for interrupting your thoughts."

JD shook his head. "No problem."

Greg commented from the next table over, "Hey, some of us actually approved of Millie. But if she can't deal with a bit of cheering at the end of an opera, hey, ..." Greg was one of the sales crew.

"How is it everyone knows what happened? How many of you are doubling as spies for my mom?"

Laughter filled the lunchroom. Everyone knew JD was happy to have his friends among her spies, finding opportunities to run interference.

James leaned over. "Personally, I'm more than relieved. And I don't think I'm alone in wishing you'd tell you mother that her opinions can go down the river, and put this business in one family. Best friends make good marriages."

"If they can keep being best friends while negotiating the marriage. We agreed we didn't want to go there." JD avoided looking at Sherry.

"Neither of you think the other is ugly," Pat, their test lead, added her 2/100sixteen hour-credits.

Sherry continued to concentrate on the pizza. There might have been a sardonic twitch the corner of her mouth. "Millie is much better looking than I am. Don't worry about last night, guys. What happened is not what you think." And she picked up another slice.

JD frowned and wrinkled his nose. "Oh, give it a rest, Sherry. You know my opinions about looks."

Now she grinned broadly and threw the slice of pizza at his cheek, where it slapped flat and stuck. He peeled it off and grinned, and took a bite. The lunch room erupted in cheers, just as the lunch room door opened and Millie stepped in, wearing jeans and a neutral color tee.

She came straight to the table where JD and Sherry sat. "Hi guys. Didn't know you'd taken to wearing makeup, JD. Sherry, I know it's kind of sudden, but could you make some time for me today?"

JD chuckled and grabbed his handkerchief to clean the cheese and tomato paste off his face. "My kind of makeup."

"It doesn't suit you." But she smiled.

Sherry joined JD's laughter. "Sure, Millie. Now good for you?"

"It's not an interruption?"

"Nah. Save us some of the pizza, guys."

Most of the eyes in the room followed them as they disappeared into the corner office.



About an eighth hour later, Sherry opened the door to the office and called out, "JD, your presence is required!"

JD, who was helping clean dishes in the company kitchen, responded with a "Yo! Take over James." He washed his hands in the sink, removed the apron and handed it to James, then headed to the corner office.

Millie was standing by the couch, looking pensive.

"I have to admit, I have rarely seen you in jeans -- and sans makeup. Nice."

"Thank you. Is that suit going to be salvageable? You do look more comfortable, though. Last night was a shocker."

"Probably. I'd rather be in jeans, but I don't keep any upstairs. How so?" JD sat down on a stool opposite. Sherry was sitting on the corner of the desk.

"Sherry has been disabusing me of all sorts of misunderstandings."

"My mother's ideal vision of me."

"So I see. This whole last month we've both been negotiating around our mothers' fantasies."

"True about my mother. Your mother too?"

Millie nodded and grunted an "Mmm." in reply. "Getting to know each other through the filter of our mothers' ideals."

"Sorry to upset you by being so noisy last night."

She smiled wryly and sat down on the couch. "It was not you that I was upset at. If I had known how thoroughly your mother misrepresented you, I'd have been cheering with you. I thought you and she were testing me."

She looked quizzically at JD. He shook his head.

"It was a good performance. I hope you can forgive me for that."

"No problem."

There were several moments of silence.

"I need to know some things, so I can make a decision."

"Okay, shoot."

"This is the corner office." She waved at the well-apportioned office.

"It is. My mother said it couldn't go to anyone who was not a partner. After some discussion, Sherry said she'd take primary responsibility for it."

"Not mine so much as the partners' office, which we never use except for entertaining important people."

Millie sat straight. "I'm important?"

"We think so." JD nodded.

Millie's shoulders sagged a fraction. "And there it is. I've kind of felt it every time we've gone out, but now I'm sure."

"What?"

Millie thought for a moment. "Is it your mother keeping you two from getting married?" She looked back to Sherry and then again at JD.

JD held up his hand to stop her as he looked over at Sherry, who tilted her head to the right and pressed her lips together before speaking. "No," she said.

JD put his hand down. "There are certain topics that are not allowed."

"I think I have Sherry's permission."

JD sighed. "In that case, my answer is, I can't say."

Millie looked back to Sherry, who ducked her head apologetically.

"You two are best friends from childhood."

"True."

"If I were to marry into this relationship, I'd have to accept being the tacit second wife."

"We don't have sex, you know," JD said, somewhat apologetically. "Sex is hard on a friendship."

"Sherry told me so several weeks ago, and I think I believe both of you."

"And it isn't just us in the equation." JD continued. "If we let our friendship get mixed up, it could easily destroy the business. We aren't really stable yet, and you can't push a business to grow faster and become stable, just for the convenience of the partners and board of directors."

"Third wife." Millie laughed ruefully. "I'm going to give your mother a piece of my mind."

"It's really not her fault," Sherry said quietly.

There was another short minute of silence.

JD broke it. "I guess, then, even though last night was not the argument I thought it was, we won't be seeing each other any more."

Both Sherry and JD looked a little disappointed.

"I didn't say that. And I will be very interested to watch what happens with this 'E-P-ist millionaire seeks wife' campaign."

"What? How did you know about that? Sheliah just suggested it to me this morning."

"There's already at least one billboard up on the highway." Millie grinned.

"Mom!" JD patted his pocket. "Where's my phone?" He turned and ran out of the office, with Sherry's and Millie's laughter chasing him.

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Backup: E-P-ist Millionaire Seeking Wife!

[JMR20190610: Backup of https://joelrees-novels.blogspot.com/2019/05/jdz-millionaire-the-campaign-idea.html.]

Joseph Daniel Zukiger looked at the pimple-faced reflection in the mirror and sighed. Six months spending half of every working day with a nutritionist, a physical trainer, a personal coach, a hair stylist, a dermatologist, and an image specialist to clean up all his social bumps, and one full day back on the job had wrought havoc on all that had been accomplished.

He examined his teeth, running his tongue over the unbrushed enamel, then looked at the toothbrush hanging on the cupholder.

Of course it wasn't the emergency five hour shift he had worked that had really wrought the havoc, nor was it the all-nighter debugging after. It was the opera in the evening, in between.

He checked the time on his cellphone, sitting on it's charger on the porcelain, and shook his head. Instead of the toothbrush, he reached for the cup and filled it with water.

The opera had been quite good, but the woman he had spent the last month courting, one Millicent Alfreda Porsche, had not appreciated his vocal appreciation of the cast and chorus's work.

He hadn't been the only one standing, whistling, calling out, "Bravo! Olé! Bis! Encore!"

He looked at the mouthwash and shook his head at that, too. Some minty candy flavor Millie said she liked when she gave it to him. Cup to mouth, mouthful of plain tap water, swish it around.

She had been quite put out, not even willing to discuss how good the opera was or even whether the performance was good enough for him to cheer so vocally. Opera is apparently not a football game.

He spat into the sink.

The (very expensive) dinner after and the chauffeured trip to her apartment had been an exercise in arctic exploration. He still assumed she had been attempting to pressure him to apologize for the scene he had made, and promise not to repeat it. What else was there to assume? She would hardly respond to any of his attempts at conversation.

(Tom, who had taken chauffeur duties yesterday, was no help either. Just grinned and shook his head any time he had caught his eye in the rear-view mirror. None of the people at his company really wanted to encourage his mother's schemes.)

Something inside him had stuck. Opera was the rock concert of a bygone era, and opera in the old world was often a raucous affair, not the staid high-brow social staring contest that many in the Union of Independent States seemed to think it was. If he wanted to show his appreciation the traditional way, he was not going to let any woman tell him not to.

He repeated with another mouthful of tap water.

His knew his mother had spies in the audience, in the five-star restaurant they had gone to after, and even watching outside Millie's apartment.

Millie had pointedly not invited him inside, and he thought they had both been relieved at being able to call it an evening.

Rather than returning to his own apartment where his mother and his personal coach were waiting to analyze the entire evening, he had told Tom to bring him back to work, calling his mother from the car to tell her that he really needed to give his company and the people he worked with his attention. It had taken ten minutes to convince his mother that his business really was a higher priority than analyzing a disastrous date.

At the office, he had joined his core technical staff, diving into the bug that he had left half-fixed to go on the date. With his business partner and CTO, Sherry van der Velt, in charge, they had made significant progress while he was gone.

And they had fixed it together -- at some cost to his complexion and his suit, and, temporarily, his health. He hoped the others were faring better than he was. He had thought Sherry was looking a little haggard, too, when she headed for the elevator.

He supposed he felt some disappointment about the evening, but also sympathy for all the specialists his mother had hired -- and for the frustrated professional matchmaker, too.

Looking over at the water cooler with its tank of cooled, pure organic mineral water from an old-world alpine range, he filled the cup from the sink again and took a long drink.

Mostly he was disappointed for his mom. She had so many expectations and none of them were coming to fruition. She wanted grandchildren, and what she had was a pimply, socially awkward, single adult son with a successful business and enough profits safely invested away to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life -- as long as the economy didn't suddenly go belly-up. And a business partner who his parents, well, his mother, detested.

His parents hadn't wanted the new house or the new car he had offered. Of course, they hadn't needed them, either. He was not one of those who had started with nothing, even though he had been independently successful.

They wanted grandkids and a pedigreed daughter-in-law. Sometimes he wasn't so sure that his mother would be averse to taking them in that order, either.

For himself, he wasn't that disappointed. One more gold-digger retired.

Hand on the faucet, he paused. Millie wasn't really a gold digger, even though money seemed to be far more important in her world than it was in his. He rinsed the cup and put it back.

He actually liked Millie, and even felt more than a little sympathy for her. Of the women Mom had tried to set him up with, he had found her the most acceptable so far.

But he was much more comfortable with letting all his personal bumps, edges, and awkwardnesses show in his personal relationships. And his opinion, not well accepted with his mother, was that any woman who would be persuaded by all the artificial changes would be a woman he would not want to spend a whole lot of time with, much less the rest of his eternities. If he ever made it to the place where Gods build worlds, he would be in the thick of the work, not trying to manage it from a safe, clean distance. And he was comfortable with his God's opinion of his opinion.

So he pealed off his suit and shirt, threw them over the back of the chair at the desk, set the alarm for 8:00 noon, and devoted a moment of appreciation to taking in the beautiful sunrise glinting off the rooftops below his window before he fell into bed. He wondered, briefly, whether Sherry had seen the sunrise too.

He was unconscious by the time he hit the mattress.



At an eighth-hour past noon, he walked into the office in his wrinkled suit, sans necktie, hair still moist from the six-minute shower, grinning and whistling "Let It Go". All the staff cheered. James, their office manager and chief of sales, returned his grin and said, "Welcome back, JD."

Sherry smiled broadly, if slightly blearily, and gave him a thumbs up. She also looked like she was running on less than three hours of sleep, although he thought she probably looked better than he did. 

The door opened behind him and the cheering suddenly faded. He stopped whistling and turned around, his shoulders slumping.

"Joseph, I am disappointed."

"Mom, --"

From behind her, Jenny, his personal coach, a cheerful dancer of modern dance, interrupted. "Sister Zukiger, I'm not sure this is even a setback."

More than once, he had entertained the wish that his personal coach were not already married.

"Quiet. I am taking charge now."

Something inside was rising, but he automatically suppressed it. Habit long in-grained took care of any rebellious thoughts.

From out in the hall, Sheliah, the matchmaker, said, "I think it's time for a new plan."

Without thinking, he said, "Okay, what's your plan?"

In the sudden silence, he could have heard a feather drop, if his mother had worn one of her hats that shed feathers.

But she hadn't today.

She remembered to close her mouth and turned towards the door. "Yes. What's your new plan?" Surprisingly, her voice was neither querulous nor sarcastic. A collective sigh of relief could be felt, if not heard.

"Borrow from reality TV. Do it like a contest. E-P-ist millionaire seeking wife."

Mentally, JD put palm to forehead. But his mother had turned to face him again, raising an eyebrow. It looked like she wanted him to agree.

Behind her, Sheliah was nodding, with a conspiratorial smile and a finger to her lips. Jenny gave him a wink.

"Oh, whatever." He raised his hands in the air. "I need to make sure the bug we squashed a few hours ago will remain squashed, so all the rest of my training sessions this afternoon are cancelled, too. Everybody take the rest of the day off."

His mother stood, arms akimbo, frowning.

"Okay, Mom, tomorrow morning. Shel can tell us about her plan then."

His mother thought for a moment, then nodded decisively. "Five o'clock, sharp." Then she turned and left. "Come with me, girls." Jenny and Sheliah waved cheerfully and followed her.

He retired into the server room to check the last three hours' worth of logs, and Sherry joined him.

"Maybe all this training isn't going to waste. You stood up to your mother today."

"Sort-of."

"It's a good start. Look at all the transaction roll-back logs."

"What roll-back logs?"

"That's the point."

"Uh-oh, there should be some rollback in there after three hours' worth of business."

They dug in.

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Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees


(If you're wondering about the hours, there are sixteen hours in a day, and 256ten minutes in an hour. But they count in hexadecimal. Clock noon is 8:00sixteen.

Dawn usually occurs somewhere between three and quarter past five, and it's early spring, so dawn is about a quarter before five, or about 4:C0sixteen. That does mean hours are longer there than here, and minutes shorter. The common five-hour workday starts at 6:00sixteen and ends at B:00sixteen.)

This little fantasy was sparked by the person recently calling himself a Mormon  millionaire, proposing to find his wife by advertising on billboards and running what is essentially a reality-show type contest. There was a conversation about it on the FaceBook LDS Beta Readers group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/475461645922698/permalink/1552836624851856/

When I first saw it, I shrugged and laughed. I felt no spark of inspiration, although several other members of the group did.

After it kept resurfacing in various feeds over the course of a day or two, the pan I don't remember putting on the back-burner in my mind boiled over, shoving several other projects out of the way, and I started a flash piece in the FB conversation, which I later copied to my Random Eikaiwa blog and cleaned up a bit:

https://joels-random-eikaiwa.blogspot.com/2019/05/e-p-ist-millionaire-seeking-wife.html

It looks like a novel is taking shape.

Copyright 2019 Joel Matthew Rees