Tor Paranormal Romance
Real Men Ride Bicycles
I’m just back from a vacation visiting family in the Netherlands – my husband is Dutch and we go every few years to visit his parents – and each time we go, all the bicycles on the streets never fail to catch my attention.
Bicycles are everywhere. No exaggeration. There are more bicycles per capita than people. They even have special ferries for them. We took one of those ferries across the Ijssel River when we visited Zwolle – while we were out for a ride on our bicycles.
There are strictly enforced rules of the road for them. Roundabouts have bicycle lanes, and they ride through them the same as cars. In fact, bicycles own the streets in the Netherlands. In the towns and cities, cars and pedestrians make way for them. And if there’s a dispute, or some question as to who has right of way, smart people will defer to bicycles. No one wants to be the car driver who has to explain to the police about the bicycle crushed under their front tire. And as for pedestrians…if they get run over by a bicycle, well, they’re just considered stupid for not being quick enough.
A few years ago, we watched a canal in Amsterdam being dredged for stolen bicycles. Bicycle theft is such a problem in the Netherlands that any time we had to leave our rides unattended, we locked them up tighter than the Canadian Mint and checked on them frequently.
Remember in the Old West, when stealing a man’s horse was a hanging offense?
That’s how the Dutch feel about their rides. We borrowed bicycles from my BIL’s girlfriend’s neighbour, whose little girl cried because she thought we were going to keep them.
There are tandem bicycles, and ones with passenger seats. Passengers also ride on rear or front racks meant for carrying packages. I’ve ridden on the back of my husband’s bicycle, mostly because it’s illegal to operate one while under the influence and he didn’t trust me to be inconspicuous if the police happened along. As if putting me on the back of a bicycle, hanging on for dear life after having a few drinks, made me somehow less so…
But my favourite bicycle had a toddler strapped in a seat on the back, and a wooden cart with two preschoolers in it fastened to the front tire.
And it was driven by a real man – tall, blond and handsome, and not a bit concerned about having the kids out for a ride on a bicycle. This did not seem to threaten his manhood in any way. I don’t think he had any idea he was the object of my fascination.
You don’t see a sight like that in rural Nova Scotia.
“You should get a picture of that,” my husband said.
At first, I thought he’d read my mind. Then I realized he was talking about the bicycle. I wish I’d gotten a picture, but by the time I’d focused my camera, the hottie and his mini entourage were long gone. Besides, it felt just a tad creepy to be taking pictures of a stranger. Oh yes, and his children, too.
I’ve pretty much decided that, in one of my future stories, the hero will ride a bicycle. I don’t mean one of those high-priced racing bikes, either. He’s going to meander along the tops of the dykes beside the Ijssel on his three-speed, take the ferry across the river, and stop for a latte in one of the nearby medieval towns.
The heroine, if she’s had a few drinks, may get to ride along on the back.
This post originally appeared at www.thenakedhero.com June 24th 2012
I recently attended my college reunion. It was one of those really fun events where we weren’t talking about our individual accomplishments, but were far more interested in revisiting a meaningful period in all our lives that’s shaped us as adults.
One of my former classmates, however, now produces documentaries and he took the opportunity to speak to us on regret, interviewing many of us as to any we might have experienced over the years.
He shared a deeply personal regret of his own:
It started us all thinking and talking.
I can’t think of any regrets I have regarding the truly important decisions in my life. While I regret not running as much as I used to, I’m happily married and have great children who’ve turned out well. I can’t regret anything there. I regretted letting my sister talk me into jumping from a second storey window when I was seven, but my adult teeth eventually replaced the ones I lost so it all worked out.
But beyond that one incident (which I knew was stupid even at the time) by no stretch of the imagination can I be called a risk taker. Even my wardrobe is a mix of dark colors, because I can’t bring myself to stray from what’s safe and feels comfortable.
And I do regret that, because it could have led to a deeper and far more meaningful one.
When I first started writing, it was because I wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I love my kids and made the choice to be home with them because it was the right thing to do for my family, but I needed something more, and that challenged me personally. I spent years learning to write, taking university courses that interested me, and doing odd bits of volunteer work. All of that eventually led me to the security of a decent day job once my children didn’t need me as much.
I loved that day job. A lot. The paycheque was something I’d earned all on my own. Praise from my bosses gave me that added personal sense of achievement I never knew I lacked.
Then my writing partner and I sold our first series. Suddenly I was working two jobs, and still taking college courses because I love them. (If I could be a professional student, I would so be all over that.)
Soon after that first sale, I switched to a new job at work. I begged my boss for the opportunity. It looked like a good challenge. I didn’t think of it as a potential risk.
Maybe I should have, because I hated the new job. For the first time in my life I found I was stuck in a situation that was difficult to get out of, and beyond my control. The company I worked for wasn’t the problem. It was the particular job I hated. I wasn’t moving forward and there was no going back, either. I could have asked for another transfer, but that felt like taking advantage of their generosity when I’d already asked them for an opportunity that turned out to be so not for me. But leaving the company would mean giving up a guaranteed paycheque, and for me, that was a scary risk.
For my husband, not so much.
He is much less risk averse than I am. He’s been self-employed his whole working life. For me, money’s a reward. For him money’s a necessity, but it isn’t everything. He thought I should take the risk and write full time. If it didn’t work out, I could find a new job. (How’s that for faith in me considering the economy?)
He asked me about the potential payoffs for writing, what timeframe I wanted to give myself for making a profit, and what I planned to do if it didn’t work out. In short, he suggested I put together a mini business plan. He also asked me if I really believed I could do this, because if I didn’t believe in myself, it might not be the right change for me.
To my surprise, the answer was yes. I might be afraid of risk, but never hard work.
Still, for someone who’s averse to risk, writing full time is a scary prospect. There’s no guaranteed paycheque no matter how hard you work, you live contract to contract, and a few years ago, I would never have considered it. Now, however, I have a writing partner, an agent, two different publishers under two different names, and business skills I never had before. I can’t control certain aspects of publishing, but I can treat my writing as a day job and each manuscript as a project. That gives me the measure of control I seem to need.
More than anything else, though, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to look back on my life and wish I’d tried something I love to do but didn’t, simply because it contained a higher element of risk than I found comfortable. I won’t regret failing, but I’ll regret never having tried my best.
So far, I have no reason to regret the decision.
What regrets do you have? Are you a risk taker, or do you believe in taking things safe?