Shifting Reality into Fiction

From the behavior of certain politicians to the war in Ukraine to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the real world and the fictional world of The Fellowship Dystopia series are moving closer and closer together. When I started writing this series, it was fun shifting reality into fiction. Today, it appears we are shifting reality again. History became fiction and now fiction appears to be shifting into reality. You may see it too when you know the actual history that I shifted and sifted into a fictional world for my books, My Soul to Keep and If I Should Die.

Neutrality First

World War I, often called the Great War, began when a Bosnian Serb nationalist assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914. Back then, most Americans believed the nation shouldn’t get involved in foreign affairs. They watched the conflict uneasily but weren’t concerned because the war was an ocean away. Then On May 7, 1915, an Imperial German Navy U-boat sent a torpedo into the passenger ship, the RMS Lusitânia, sinking it and killing 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans.

Image is a black and white illustration of the passenger ship Lusitania being struck and destroyed by the U-boat torpedo an act shifting reality for many Americans

This unprovoked attack on civilians raised the concern of some Americans. In addition, news reports of atrocities perpetrated by Germans against Belgian civilians reached American papers. Some reports were accurate, some were exaggerated. They stirred anti-German sentiment in the United States. A sentiment that concerned President Woodrow Wilson, who believed the nation shouldn’t get involved.

On August 4, President Wilson gave a speech about how he felt the nation should react to the growing conflict in Europe.

The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action…”

President Woodrow Wilson

The nation’s policy may have been neutrality, but that didn’t stop commerce. Over the next three years, American businesses and banks made huge loans to the Allies fighting the Germans.

As the war dragged on, it was clear that America would lose a lot of money if Europe lost the war with Germany.

The End of Neutrality

In January 1917, the British intercepted and decoded a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary sent to the German diplomatic representative in Mexico. It proposed a secret alliance between Mexico and Germany should the US enter the war. “The British passed the document to Washington, and it appeared on the front page of American newspapers” on March first.

During February and March 1917, the Germans resumed their aggressions at sea. German submarines sunk several US cargo vessels without warning.

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. On the fourth, 82 of 88 U.S. Senators and 373 of 423 members of the House of Representatives voted to declare war.

The first US infantry troops landed in France on June 26, 1917. And so the U.S. entered the Great War.

The End of the Great War

Black and white photograph of Woodrow Wilson in tailed coat onboard a Navy ship on the way back from peace talks after the Great War ended shifting reality once again

World War I, the Great War, ended on November 11, 1918 (now called Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day in the U.S.)

Some experts estimate that military and civilian deaths on both sides combined reached 24 million people. Of those, about 117,000 were Americans. The numbers are arguable, but the fact is a massive number of people died and the property loss was tremendous.

Many veterans and survivors of the war suffered disabilities or were “shell shocked.

It should be no surprise that by the 1920s, many Americans swore their nation should never enter another foreign war.

In 1928, the United States signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as a part of national policy.

The Isolationist Movement

Image of an orange flyer from an America First Rally scheduled for April 4, 1941

During the 1930s, the losses of the Great Depression (1929-1933) and the physical, mental, and emotional scars of the Great War visited most Americans. Many of them vehemently advocated non-involvement in European and Asian conflicts and international politics. Called Isolationists, they felt the US needed to focus on issues at home like rebuilding the nation’s economy. By 1941, they held America First Rally’s across the nation.

The Isolationists had historic precedence to bolster their position. America’s founding fathers saw the ocean separating them from Europe as an ideal situation to create a new nation. Even President George Washington had advocated for non-involvement in European wars and politics.

The Isolationists also had the support of many powerful Americans. Pilot Charles Lindbergh strongly and vocally supported isolationism. Former Presidents Herbert Hoover and James Monroe each voiced support for isolationism. As the Isolationist movement grew, another movement was sweeping through America.

The Third Great Awakening

The Third Great Awakening (1850-1920s) was a period of religious activism in America. Dwight Moody (1837-1899), Billy Sunday (1862-1935), and Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1979) were some of the major players.

During his 1932 bid for the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed Father Coughlin’s support and influence over urban Catholics. But Father Coughlin soured on FDR after the president did not give Coughlin a position on the president’s cabinet.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and Dachau, the first concentration camp, opened.

FDR worried about the rise of fascism and totalitarianism and wanted the US to be more involved in Europe and Japan. Most Americans were overwhelmingly against such action.

In 1935, Congress passed the first of a series of neutrality acts to protect the United States from world problems.

Father Coughlin began expressing anti-capitalist, anti-banker, anti-Wall Street, and anti-Semitic views. He blamed those ‘forces’ for America’s entry into World War I and worried those same forces would involve America in the turmoil in Europe.

Shifting Reality to Create a Fictional World

In the Fellowship Dystopia’s history, Giuseppe Zangara assassinates FDR before he can take office. This empowers the Isolationists and the Third Awakening. They join and become a religious-political machine, the Fellowship.

In tents and on the streets, a preacher’s sermons are full of the message that the Great Depression is punishment for America’s sins. People desperate for relief flock to his revival tents. The Fellowship seizes the idea and opportunity. They declare the preacher a prophet and “the way” to peace and prosperity. The Fellowship becomes a source of solace, a source of rules guaranteed to bring relief. With each passing year, more and more laws remove the people’s power and freedom.

America never enters World War II. Europe struggles valiantly, but the Federation of Germany assumes power. Japan rules Asia and the Pacific. And in America, the Fellowship and its Councilors grow more and more powerful.

Miranda, daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, lives a charmed life as one of the Fellowship’s elite. Until she faces a life that will rob her of all rights.

The story of the Fellowship Dystopia is a story of a fight against tyranny in all its forms. The fight isn’t easy. It ranges from tiny and very personal to national to global. Miranda’s fight starts small and grows in My Soul to Keep. But it frightens her, so she chooses another path and in If I Should Die, events force her to choose different paths. And every path is a test that costs her dearly.

Pre-order If I Should Die now.

And The World Goes Round

At first, the changes in American sentiment over the past handful of years surprised me. I was shocked by how we seem to be on the way to creating a theocracy in reality. Reviewing my notes, reviewing our actual history… I am no longer surprised. I am saddened that we can’t seem to learn lessons bought with blood and tears.

The Pendulum Swings

To anyone who studies history, it is apparent that human behavior and belief systems, especially political ones, swing from one extreme to the other. It’s a pattern we follow to the detriment of us all.

Perhaps that’s where we are in today’s shifting reality. Perhaps we’re being tested. Will we pass these tests?

What choice will our nation make? What choice will you make?

Image Credits
  1. Illustration of a torpedo hitting the Lusitania: Winsor McCay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. Front page of newspaper, Houston Post, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  3. President Woodrow Wilson on Navy ship: Naval History & Heritage Command, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  4. Flyer for 1941 America First Rally: America First Committee, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Father Coughlin on Time Magazine Image: Keystone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Where Is Your Outrage?

Equality. As one of America’s founding principles, it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? In definition, it is simple. It is the state or quality of being alike in value. It should also be simple in practice. But often we humans don’t agree on what alike or what value is. For example, there is a national news uproar going on right now about the disappearance and murder of a white woman. And there should be. But she isn’t the only missing and murdered. Where is your outrage for the missing and murdered Native Americans? Do you even know about those women and children?

Image of protest marchers at night holding a banner that reads "justice for missing and murdered native women." where's your outrage?
Howl Arts Collective, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Treat all men alike. Give them the same law. Give them an even chance to live and grow.

Chief Joseph (March 3, 1840 – September 21, 1904)

Facts About Native Americans

Facts about Indigenous Women and Girls

According to the website,

  • Indigenous Women (girls +) murdered 10x higher than all other ethnicities.
  • Murder is the 3rd leading cause of death for Indigenous Women (Centers for Disease Control).
  • More than 4 out of 5 Indigenous Women have experienced violence (84.3%).
  • 56.1% of indigenous women experience sexual violence.
  • 55.5% of indigenous women are physically abused by their intimate partners.
  • Indigenous Women are 1.7 times more likely than Anglo-American women to experience violence. 
  • Indigenous Women are 2 times more likely to be raped than Anglo-American white women. 
  • Murder rate of Indigenous Women is 3 times higher than Anglo-American women.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous peoples crisis is centuries in the making and will take a focused effort and time to unravel the many threads that contribute to the alarming rates of these cases. But I believe we are at an inflection point. We have a President and a government that is prioritizing this. And we can’t turn back.

Secretary Deb Haaland  

The MMIW Movement

Howl Arts Collective, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

MMIW stands for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women. The movement traces its roots back to Canada in 2010. That was the year Jaime Black started the REDress project to represent indigenous women and girls that were missing.

In 2012, Sheila North Wilson, coined the hashtag #MMIW.

The movement works to raise awareness of the murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

It stands for all the missing sisters whose voices are not heard. It stands for the silence of the media and law enforcement in the midst of this crisis. It stands for the oppression and subjugation of Native women who are now rising up to say #NoMoreStolenSisters.

In 2013, the U.S. reauthorized Violence Against Woman Act (VAWA). That act gave tribes jurisdiction. For the very first time, tribes could investigate and prosecute felony domestic violence offenses involving Native American offenders on reservations, as well as offenders of other races.

The Government of Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau established the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in September 2016.

Responding to pressure from MMIW advocates, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon established the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force in 2019.

In 2021, Biden Administration Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the creation of the Missing and Murdered Unit within that department. 

Under Reported in the News

How many of the women in the statistics above have you heard about in the news media? Any? Where is your outrage? Feeling any yet?

Even when the news does report these crimes, the coverage is scant.

NBC News featured coverage of the missing and murdered indigenous people recently. Watch the video or read the article.

Look at how long those women were missing. Few of the reports mention they arrested the murderer. And notice how much time and space they devoted to each woman’s individual story.

No Accuracy in the Count of MMIW

There can be no accurate record of past murdered and missing indigenous women and girls in either Canada or the United States. Often the crimes aren’t reported by the families, authorities under report the crimes, or the victims are not identified as indigenous.

No More Stolen Sisters

The founders of Native Womens Wilderness and Indigenous Women Hike came together, and Native artists created this beautiful image to honor our woman and support the campaign. #MMIW is very close to our hearts, through personal experiences and love for our People. Red is the official color of the #MMIW campaign, but it goes deep and has significant value. In various tribes, red is known to be the only color spirits see. It is hoped that by wearing red, we can call back the missing spirits of our women and children so we can lay them to rest. Through our amazing artist @the_tactician and editor @warpartypictures, we chose a turquoise teardrop earring to represent our sorrow and tears. Turquoise is worn for protection by many tribes to ward off evil spirits, but it’s also a symbol of strength and prosperity. May our women and children prosper and be kept safe.

Where is Your Outrage?

The statistics are staggering. They hurt me deep inside. They hurt because the numbers are only a tiny portion of the story. People are the story. Women and children taken from their families. Many of those families do not know what happened to their sisters, daughters, wives, mothers.

Though I have grieved these past six months for my husband, I cannot imagine the grief and pain the loved ones of these people must be feeling. How dare we? How dare we brush this under the carpet, ignore it? What if it was your sister, daughter, mother, aunt, wife? 

Why doesn’t the news and social media report on the MMIV instead of reporting ridiculous COVID conspiracy theories and inaccurate science reports? Instead of misplaced outrage that spread disease, we might actually find some of the missing, convict the criminals who abuse and murder indigenous people. Where is your outrage for the missing and murdered indigenous women and children? Speak up for those without a voice.

Freedom is Under Attack

Freedom is under attack. Not by enemies, but by our neighbors. The Texas law banning abortion is the worst kind of law. Not just because it denies women the right to make decisions about their own bodies, their own lives, but because it invites neighbors, friends, and family to turn on each other. That is reprehensible.

Image of martial arts style fight in silhouette against a sun covered in part by a red cloud against a red sky--a symbol that Freedom is under attack

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

Nelson Mandela

The Texas Law

“The Texas law, which makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, bars state officials from enforcing it and instead deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or “aids and abets” it.

The patient may not be sued, but doctors, staff members at clinics, counselors, people who help pay for the procedure, and even an Uber driver taking a patient to an abortion clinic are all potential defendants. Plaintiffs, who do not need to live in Texas have any connection to the abortion or show any injury from it, are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees recovered if they win. Prevailing defendants are not entitled to legal fees.

NY Times

Read that again. The law “bars state officials from enforcing it.” Instead, it “deputizes private individuals” to sue anyone who performs the procedure. Or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. The state of Texas has turned into a Nazi state. This law is the same as the 1933 Nazi decree that required Germans to turn in anyone who spoke against the government. 

Not only that, this Texan law says the plaintiff (the person suing) does not need to “live in Texas, have any connection to the abortion or show any injury from it.” And to top that off, they will REWARD the successful plaintiff with up to $10,000 and their legal fees! 

If the defendants (the accused) win, they cannot recover legal fees. The law punishes the accused even if they are innocent!

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court refused to block the law. This upset many people. According to the NY Times, “Usually, a lawsuit seeking to block a law because it is unconstitutional would name state officials as defendants.” Except in this case, the law specifically bans state officials from enforcing this law.

And in the unsigned majority opinion (not ruling), they said that the abortion providers who sought the block did not make their case. It also stated that this opinion did not speak to the constitutionality of this law. 

Could they have blocked the law? Of course they could have. Should they have? That’s complicated by legal issues I don’t pretend to understand completely.

I understand that this law is about more than pro-life or pro-choice. It’s about turning people against each other. It invites abuse of each other and of the system. What I want to know is where the heck the voting Texans are? What are you thinking?

It’s the mark of a backward society – or a society moving backward – when decisions are made for women by men.

Melinda Gates, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

Don’t Tell Me You’re Pro-Life

If you:

  • Don’t support laws to prevent school shootings,
  • Are against free school lunches for every child,
  • Don’t support taxes to provide better care for and laws protecting our elderly,
  • You cheered when you heard Osama bin Ladin was dead,
  • Don’t support laws that require fathers to pay child support from prenatal care through that child’s college education, 
  • You eat meat or eggs or fish,
  • Don’t support free education for all,
  • You believe accessible parking is preferential treatment,
  • Don’t support paid maternity and paternity leave,
  • You hunt and kill any living animal,
  • Don’t believe in mandatory sentences for rape,
  • Aren’t against police brutality in all situations,
  • Don’t support free health care for all (including free contraceptives),
  • Will not wear a mask to protect others from COVID, 

…you are not pro-life.

You are pro-life in all situations or you are not pro-life but pro-controlling someone else’s life.

My Position on Abortion

Photo of the backs of many female manikins covered in yellow and red caution tape with the message "your body belongs to you on the back of one manikin"

No woman can call herself free who does not control her own body.

Margaret Sanger

No one gets pregnant so they can have an abortion. No one chooses abortion as their first option for birth control. It is a deeply personal choice. A choice no one else will ever understand.

I fully support every woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. And I adamantly object to any law aimed at controlling anyone’s choice about their health, pregnancy, or sexuality.

True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.

Jonathan Sacks 

I believe the Supreme Court will rule the Texas Abortion Ban as unconstitutional. But that decision may come too late for some women.

Stop the Attacks

Make no mistake. Freedom is under attack. You may think the Texas Abortion ban law doesn’t affect you, but you’re wrong. If it stands, how much longer before some group will challenge freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, or the right to vote? Oops, look at that. Some people already challenge the right of others to vote. Stop the attacks. Your freedom is at risk.

Are You an Anti-Strong Female Protagonist Protester?

Have you read the protests? Did you nod your head and agree? Are you Anti-Strong Female Protagonist? You say you’re not against strong female characters, you’re against the label, the marketing term. Perhaps you’ve overlooked the reasons we need book and movie categories for strong female characters. Consider rethinking and rephrasing your argument.

Yes, there are reasons to wish we didn’t need this label and there are lots of books and movies that get the strong female character wrong. But not all women recognize a strong woman or know how to be one. For now, we need all the strong female protagonist examples we can get.

Drawing of non-gendered humans, one with a bull horn yelling at another one who wears a black tie and is jumping back, startled--the anti-strong female protagonist protesters yell, sometimes without examining what they really mean.

Where the Anti-Strong-Female-Protagonist Protesters Get it Wrong

It’s a sign of male oppression, so say the anti-strong-female character devotees. Yes and no. Yes, the patriarchal societies of the world often/usually/always suppress the females in their societies. That oppression is wrong-headed, but real. Like it or hate it, it still exists in far too much of the world.

“Male characters aren’t labeled that way so female characters shouldn’t be.” It would be a wonderful world if we all naturally understood that both males and females are powerful characters. Too bad that’s not reality.

To say that we shouldn’t have a label identifying strong female characters seems to imply that all females know they are strong therefore we shouldn’t need the label.

Let’s take a moment and agree that oppression of one gender by another, oppression of one race by another, and oppression of one religion or ethnicity by another, is wrong. Let’s be clear: all oppression of one set of people by another is wrong. Oppression exists on all kinds of levels. Pretending it doesn’t exist is also wrong. To pretend that we’ve overcome oppression is wrongheaded.

Let’s Rephrase It

When you read the posts by members of the anti-Strong-Female-Protagonists movement, they claim the label has somehow led to a proliferation of females with male characteristics. It is this that they contend is the problem. They believe that somehow authors have bought into the idea that to be strong, females must shoot and kill and “act like a man.”

Hopefully, they are not suggesting that it’s unrealistic for females to shoot or kill or “act like a man.”

When you examine their complaints, it appears the are talking about poorly developed characters. Characters who exist solely to forward the plot. Or characters with less than deep and believable motivations.

So instead of protesting the label because of poorly written characters, let’s rephrase and complain about flat characters. Flat characters are unsatisfying, especially when the flat character is a female.

Why the Label is a Good Thing

Few matriarchal or true egalitarian societies exist today. Many women from patriarchal societies or relationships have had no mentors to teach them how strong they are. Some need to learn how to be strong. They need mentors and examples in books, movies, and in real life. Some of those examples may not meet everyone’s definition of a strong female. That’s okay. The woman next to you may see herself in that character.

Despite more and more authors stepping up to portray female leads, stories with female protagonists remain a small percentage of all stories published. Some readers seek stories with female protagonists. The label “strong female” is a marketing tool that helps readers find these stories.

Needed: Strong Females 

Your mother, aunt, or grandmother may have been a self-actualized, powerful female and mentored you. That’s great. Not all of us are so fortunate. 

Some of us need print and movie examples. Many of us need to be shown all the ways we are strong. If you haven’t had the life experience to help you identify your own strengths, examples help. Giving the world lots of fictional examples, all kinds of strong females, allow girls and women to see and test what kind of strong female they want to be. Please, allow them that opportunity.

It would be ideal for every female to have examples of the perfect, self-actualizing females surrounding her. But then we’d have to all agree upon what the perfect self-actualized female looks and acts like. And that’s not respectful of the diversity of human society.

Why Not Strong?

Is it truly the word strong you are protesting? Would you prefer simply female protagonist? That’s not a very compelling label for marketing.

Perhaps you would prefer using the same labels used in stories with male protagonists. For example: action hero, dumb jock, rogue, strong and silent, etc. The list goes on.

How would you rephrase “strong female protagonist” so readers can find those stories?

Don’t Throw Out the Label, Yet

Are you a part of the anti-strong female protagonist movement? Please protest patriarchal oppression. And protest poorly written, flat characters. Don’t throw the label “strong female characters” out. Some day the label will have fulfilled its purpose. But not today. Today we need strong females–everywhere.

Will You Help Forge a Gender Equal World?

Do you celebrate International Women’s Day? This year March 8th is the day. A day to remind us that gender has been used to justify abuse for centuries. It is sad we must have such a day across the world and in the United States. It takes hard work to forge a gender equal world. To remind us all that an inclusive world is a world of respect and kindness and diversity.

Photograph of a woman with her back to the camera and raising a globe in the air. It takes hard work to forge a gender equal world.


This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. It asks that we all be alert to and challenge gender bias.

We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.

Anisa Nandaula’s spoken poem about the theme is short and powerful. Take a listen.

We who are privileged to live in a society with freedom of speech can choose to speak up or remain quiet. Speaking out isn’t comfortable. But we need to remember that our current freedoms came because someone challenged the status quo—challenge common beliefs. Because someone stood up and said no, that’s not the way it has to be.

What Does a Gender Equal World Look Like?

Did you know that there are languages that are gender neutral? They have pronouns that refer to a specific gender such as him and her, but their words have no gender assigned to them. English is a gender neutral language. Most nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are not gender specific. Other languages have as many as three genders and a few have twenty. And why not? Our world is wonderfully diverse. From daisies to Venus flytraps and giraffes to flamingos, diversity makes our world beautiful.

In the gender equal world I envision, we would deny no one basic human rights based on gender. No one would be abused due to gender. The world would embrace all genders and be gender neutral. Not the connotation of neutral that means none, but the kind of neutral that doesn’t rank or mistreat or reward a person based on their gender. One that doesn’t assign anyone a gender but allows us to express our gender openly and without prejudice. A gender equality where every person has the right to choose their own destiny regardless of gender. An equality that celebrates our diversity. The kind in which no sex trafficking, or child brides, or domestic abuse exist. The kind where posts like mine about strong women aren’t necessary because we live in a gender equal world.

Help Forge a Gender Equal World

Women have had decades of challenging the beliefs that hold them back. And there is a long way to go to be equal. We have a choice. Be silent or challenge. Challenge notions that the female gender means weak or less than.

We celebrate International Women’s Day because the spotlight needs to shine on abuses women endure. Does that mean we only challenge injustices for women? No. To forge a gender equal world, we cannot deny or question another’s rights based on gender. To forge a gender equal world we must #choosetochallenge all gender bias and abuse. And someday in a gender equal world, our diversity will be our astonishing beauty and our greatest strength.