Friday, August 30, 2013

The fine line between alpha and rapey

So Molly gave me a reading assignment. Kate Atkinson's Life after Life, which looks amazing, so what do I do, pick up a contemporary romance featuring a billionaire hero and start reading that instead.

And about thirty pages in, I'm frustrated, annoyed and a little disgusted. By all accounts the book has done well, it has tons of goodreads and amazon reviews and sold well.

My first impression was that the writing wasn't very good. My second impression is that the heroine is the same heroine that Stephanie blogged about last week, mousy, weak and at the same time, for no real perceivable reason, utterly alluring to the hero.

And then there's the hero. Of course he's a self made billionaire, before the age of thirty no less. (seriously, google billionaires. Romance doesn't have to be realistic, but we've taken this billionaire thing into science fiction) The hero wants no strings attached sex and of course he wants the heroine and being the good girl she is, she wants nothing to do with meaningless sex.

So what does he do. Back away gracefully and continue to woo her. No, Find someone else to satisfy what he continually insists are just basic physiological needs. No. Decides she's the one and insists over and over that he'll have her.

To me that's not romantic. To insist to a woman that against her will and wishes you intend to have sex with her is basically intent to rape. It's not romantic.

And the kicker to all of this is that he intends to pay her for her time spent having sex with him. So we get to add prostitution to the mix.


Now I get I'm being overly caustic on this, and according to the reviews some people actually enjoyed the book. To me this is the kind of book that opens up the romance genre to criticism.

If people want to read alpha heroes that badly, JR Ward does them beautifully, the hero is strong, and dominant, but the relationship with her heroine is respectful and consensual on both sides.

I want romance to actually be romantic, and so I'm putting down that book and doing what I should have done all along, read Life after Life.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Miley Cyrus and slut shaming...

I’ve read a lot of the articles about slut shaming and my feminist heart swells with outrage when I see girls being treated unfairly by the media and people at large. When it happens I have to acknowledge that yes, society’s long held prejudices are still there. That we live in a society where a sexual girl is a slut and a sexual boy is a player. Where a girl makes “the walk of shame” and a guy has earned a “notch in his bedpost” – (which really… so silly that.)

In my new favorite movie Pitch Perfect there is the wonderful moment where the leader of the Bellas asks one of the recruits to leave because she had sex with the enemy. As she’s walking out the door, head low, Fat Amy coughs into her hand… “Slut”. And clearly it’s the writer’s way of shining that light on all of us in a humorous way.  A wink to women everywhere that says we know we’re not really sluts and how ridiculous this shame we’re being forced to feel is.

Then comes along the VMA’s and Miley Cyrus’s performance. After all the kerfuffle of course I had to go watch and see for myself. Was this another case of “slut” shaming? Was she being persecuted for being sexual?
My answer… I don’t think so. I think it was over the top. I’m not blaming her completely. I absolutely think someone should have stopped it in rehearsal. Or told her to tone it down. While provocative is the word of choice at these music award shows, there was something just “icky” about what she was doing on that stage.

I wasn’t watching a woman own her sexuality. I was watching a woman degrading herself by making us believe the only talent she had was wrapped up in her sexuality.

I know people will point to the lyrics of Robin Thicke’s song and cry double standard. But that’s my point. I’ve never seen a man have to go out on that stage and do what Miley did to try and entertain. At least not outside of the movie Magic Mike. Robin Thicke didn’t have to walk out in a beige thong and stroke himself then bend over. He got to go out there fully dressed and just sing.

I wasn’t outraged by Miley’s routine. I wasn’t disgusted by her lewd behavior. I’m not calling her a slut.

I’m sad for her.

I’m sad that a twenty year old girl with a lot of talent is made to feel that she has to go out there and do that to attract attention. I’m sad that she sees herself not as an artist, but as a body that needs to be on display. I’m sad that whoever produced and directed that show watched that routine and said it was okay for her to do that. I’m sad that Robin Thicke thought it was okay to allow her to shake her butt in his crotch for the purpose of entertainment.

I remember watching Pink perform in a mesh costume that gave the appearance of nudity. She was proud and beautiful and delivered one of the most stunning live performances I’ve ever seen. That’s owning your sexuality. That’s putting your talent first. That’s showcasing who you are as a woman.

No, I’m not saying “Shame on you, Miley.” Instead I want to hug her and tell her that’s she more than that. I hope she believes in her heart that she’s more than that.

How about we let the really talented girls go out there and just sing. How about that?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Reports

Inspired by Molly's summer book report, I decided to do a quasi one of my own. Here are some of the great books I read this summer (I wish I could say it was on my summer vacation. But there was no such thing. Wah!) Okay, I did go to the beach for 2 days. 

GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn

Okay, really late to the game with this one. This was the big book of last year that everyone was reading and talking about. (It's got over 13,000 reviews on Amazon!) Except that it's one that you can't talk about a whole lot without spoiling it. And I don't want to do that. But I did love it. Or at least I liked it a lot. 

Many Amazon and Goodreads reviews I've scanned say that they loved it right up to the ending, which infuriated them.... And while I get that perspective, I don't agree. I thought for a while how Hollywood would have ended it, or if I could think of a better ending, but I think it's one of those books that if you have a strong sense of justice and that people who do bad things should be punished by the law, then you might have an issue with the ending. 

But I could argue that the bad character(s) did get their just desserts in the end--a life sentence of sorts. (Oh, it is hard to talk about this book, without talking about it...)  Suffice to say that it's a story with two conflicting points of view and one of the POVs has a broken timeline and the characters play with your perceptions of what's going on, and it's really good fun/interesting to guess. 

Let's just say that one of the characters (in my non-medically trained opinion) is a sociopath, and the other one isn't the greatest person on the planet, either. 

And Molly... They might call this book a thriller, but it's not scary. You're safe.

I've read that Rosamund Pike has been cast as the wife for the movie version, and Ben Affleck as the husband and let's just say I find that casting very interesting. They are both sufficiently beautiful people (important) and Pike definitely has the acting chops to pull off her character, I think. And Affleck sufficient charm. It will be interesting to see whether Hollywood gives the story a, well, more Hollywood ending. I do feel like the ending will fizzle a bit on screen, if it's not changed in some way... But David Fincher is directing. Can't wait. (But don't wait for the movie. Read the book. The storytelling technique is so well executed.)


Another one where I was late to the game. And full disclosure, Simone is a friend to me and to this blog. Which makes it even more embarrassing that I took so long to read this great story. Too many books, too little time; sometimes I set the wrong reading priorities...

The Haunting of Maddy Clare recently won two RITA awards and also won the Arthur Ellis crime writers award. A book that wins contests in both a crime writers organization (a Canadian one, to boot, where the bias is usually toward the literary) and two romance writers' awards is fascinating in itself.

The book is extremely well-written and it's basically a 1920's set ghost story. The heroine is a temp who gets hired by a ghost hunter, who's also a WWI vet, because the owner of the haunted building (a barn) thinks that the ghost will respond violently if a man sets foot in the barn. The combination of the supernatural elements, the who-done-it mystery (which I admit I figured out long before the characters did...) and the well-developed setting and characters made this a very satisfying read that I gobbled up over two days. Highly recommend.

Now, I need to read Simone's second book (which I've owned since it came out) and Molly talked about on Monday.

No word yet on the movie version casting. :) (Here's hoping, Simone!)

THE FIFTH WAVE, by Rick Yancey

So, this one I wasn't quite so late to the table. And I enjoyed this one too. Big YA sci-fi books like this are sometimes hard for me to fully enjoy because I get caught up in jealousy. ;) And when that happens it's usually jealousy of the marketing and promotion and attention a book got, not the book itself... But if the book is strong enough, I can stop reading like a jealous author and simply enjoy the book. That's what happened to me with books like Divergent, by Veronica Roth and Angelfall, by Susan Ee and with The 5th Wave. 

This book has several POVs and because I didn't read the book all at once, (both Gone Girl and Maddy Clare were interspersed...) I admit that at times I was confused when I picked it up about whose POV I was in and/or why I should care about a particular character. As a writer, I might want to study this book again to figure out why it annoyed me so much when he switched POVs, because normally that's not something that bothers me in a book... But that's a topic for another day.

In a nutshell, this is an exciting, well-told story about humans trying to survive an alien-induced apocalypse. While that premise is not completely unique, it is certainly well-timed (I can be envious about that part). 

Okay, I am going to let my "envious writer" show now... And this is just a comment in general. It's so hard to read a book that has elements that are already in my own current WIP, or in a book already in the can. The less-popular author will always be accused of copying, regardless of which book was written first, and regardless of whether the less-popular author has read or is even aware of the popular book... Sigh. Just a hazard of the trade. But warning to my critique partners... I'm going to need to brainstorm a few things to change the outline for my new WIP that now feel just a little to similar to things that happen in The 5th Wave. Dammit!

Has anyone else read any of these?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There's going to be a Thanksgivvukah Miracle!

This year the first night of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving. This has never happened before and will not happen again for 70,000 years. That's kind of a long time. They're calling it Thanksgivukkah.

When I first heard this, I got a little stressed. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah represent the two nights I make the biggest messes in the kitchen. Somehow between the gravy and the turkey and the stuffing and the potatoes and the pies and the green beans with those crispy onion bits, I manage to fling blobs of food everywhere. On Hanukkah, the brisket I usually do ahead so that's not a problem. The latkes on the other hand? Those have to be fresh. I sometimes I have as many as four pans with two to three different latke varieties going at once with grease spattering everywhere. Plus, how trafe will it be to wrap the turkey with bacon if we're also being commanded and sanctified to light the candles of Hanukkah? Truly, the mind boggles.

Then I decided to embrace it. I want to feel the wonder of the season. I want to be part of the magic. I've been making plans to re-release my first 3 chick lit books. My plan was to do one a month from now until December. I'm throwing that all out the window.

I'm going to release all three books at once for Thanksgivukkah and I will be giving Do Me, Do My Roots (my favorite) away for free on the Friday and Saturday after the blessed event to celebrate. I just made the decision this weekend and you all are the first to know (except maybe the friends I was drinking with on Saturday night, but I'm not sure they were listening to me).

To whet your appetite for the satisfaction of a latke-stuffed turkey or perhaps turbrisket, here's the new cover for Do Me from my buddy Teresa over at Be My Bard.

Adorable, is it not?

So I'd like to hear how you all feel Thanksgivukkah will affect you. How do you intend to celebrate? What's your plan?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Some excellent books I've read this summer....

I killed this summer. I just chased it down and snapped it up in my teeth and shook it to death. There have been vacations, trips to the library, swimming lessons, sunburns, sand caught in terrible places. There have been plane rides and car trips, quiet days at home. I've had conferences and days doing nothing. I've had a high school reunion and a college one. I've had too much to eat, too much to drink and not enough time to get anything done. And through it all I've read some great books. I've read some clunkers too, but I prefer not to talk about the clunkers. This is what I've read on my summer vacation:

THE MIGHT HAVE BEEN by Joe Schuster. Joe is my favorite college professor and I gave this book to Adam, but he was taking too long to read it so before visiting Joe in St. Louis I cracked it open. For genre/romance fans - the beginning may be tough for you. The hero has lost his dream and he's sort of a floating entity. Not nice. Not particularly cruel - just extremely negligent. It takes a while to want to root for him. However the second part of the book - when our hero is managing a minor league team - it's amazing. AMAZING!!! It's rich rich rich in details - the baseball stuff sings. It just lifts off the page. Big recommend.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS - this was Esquire's book of the year last year and I have to agree. A few different timelines, a few different narrators, a love affair across continents, years and language. It's funny and sharp and heartbreaking.

DEEPER by Robin York aka Ruthie Knox - Ruthie sent me an advance copy of her upcoming New Adult. I have not been in love with the New Adult niche. I love angst as much as the next romance reader but perhaps I'm too old, or the heroines are too young - but none of the NA I've read has sunk in on any level. They've been forgettable. All of that is TOTALLY different with DEEPER. The heroine in the doesn't just get over the trauma done to her by an ex-boyfriend leaking dirty pictures of her on the internet - she grows up into a fierce woman. Perhaps this is what I've been looking for in NA - a teenager growing up into a woman through the course of a book. There's also a seriously seriously delicious hero - named West. Honestly. This book is fantastic!!!! It's out later this year - so keep an eye out for it.! There's no pre-order yet - otherwise I'd link to it!

The Orphan Master's Son this book won the Pulitzer last year and I'm on a tear to try to read more award winning literary books. We have a Pulitzer prize for literature - I feel like I should at least give them a shot. This book is breathtaking. It takes place in North Korea - and because I know little to nothing about North Korea the setting read as part sci-fi to me - which gave it sort of a Cloud Atlas feel to me, because the places the story went were handled so deftly. The romance, the espionage, the sea shanty - all of it. Utterly fascinating world-building. This is not a happy book - but it's funny and sharp. And epically sad. Loved it.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death

I read this book outside in broad daylight out on the Toronto Island. I was sitting next to this pier with a giant bell on it and every once in a while the bell would ring without anyone touching it. That combined with this incredibly creepy, gothic historical novel with a great romantic element freaked the crap out of me. This is really an amazing book. Simone handles all aspects of these books - the ghosts, the romance, the history, the pov, the setting - all of it with very sure hands.

A Woman Entangled I found the latest of Cecilia's books to be the most delicate and realistic. The hero and heroine have ambition that is not the usual romance kind of motivation. They want just a little bit more then what they have. A better job, a good marriage. They don't want revenge, or to save England - they just want a little bit more and I think because their motivations were so human, some people did not love this book as much as her others. I've seen reviews that said the hero was not heroic and I think it's because many readers have a hard time when a good guy hero acts on his own desires, his own wants. We're used to Alpha males doing this - going after what they want and damn everyone else. But a nice guy? This leads me to the next great book Courtney Milan's The Heiress Effect
I've read criticisms of this book too in much the same vein -- the hero was not heroic. I loved loved this book. The heroine was amazing, the writing as always was beautiful and I loved this hero. Same thing - he was not going to give up everything to help the heroine. He's not an alpha-hero, he's a quiet guy who wants just a little more, and he won't give it up for the heroine, n fact he's cruel to the heroine in an effort to get what he wants. I understood this and loved it.

So there you have it - my summer reading - how about you guys? Anything good?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Orange is the New Black: Personal Cage Match - Book vs. TV Series

I am about to do something that has never been attempted before here at Storytelling Rules. I am going to cage match with myself.

Okay. We probably have done that if only by saying we were conflicted by something, but I'm making this one official.

I read Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman's terrific memoir about her stint in federal prison, about two years ago. It was recommended to me by a fellow soccer mom who happens to also be a federal defense attorney. She said it served to remind her about what her clients went through day in and day out. She mentioned it to me after observing that she thought I'd do well in prison when I was crocheting with yarn I'd made out of plastic bags.

I enjoyed the book and then was a little surprised that they were making it into a "dramedy" for Netflix. Kerman has a good sense of humor, but the book wasn't exactly funny. Anyway, I gobbled up the Netflix series. Did I like the book better than the series? Yes. Did I like the series better than the book? Yes.

Hence my need for a cage match. So you can figure out which one of me is speaking (and so I can figure it out, too), I will be either TV Eileen or Book Eileen from henceforth.

TV Eileen: The first few episodes were pretty close to the book, except for one big difference. *SPOILER ALERT (but kind of a minor one)* In the book, Piper's ex-girlfriend who turned her in to the feds did not end up in the same place with her until the very end of the book. In the series, she's there from the very first episode. I was glad. One of the things I didn't like about the book, was Kerman's total disdain for this person with whom she had a long term relationship and for whom she'd done at least one very dangerous and very illegal thing. She loved that woman at some point and in the book didn't seem to want to acknowledge that.

Book Eileen: I understand what you're saying about coming to terms with that relationship, but the point of the book was in many ways about Piper coming to terms with herself. How can she come to terms with herself when she's having to deal with this person who betrayed her? While I think the actress who plays the ex-girlfriend is doing a completely brilliant job (to the point that I kind of want to date her myself), she shouldn't be there.

TV Eileen: Whoa. This show is super sexy!

Book Eileen: Whoa. This show has a lot of sex in it. Kerman didn't shy away from the fact that there was a lot of sex going on in prison, but she wasn't so flipping graphic about it. I feel bad for Natasha Lyonne who seems to spend about half of every episode crouched between some other woman's thighs.

TV Eileen: I love the way that the TV series is showing us the backstories of all these women who are serving time with Piper. It makes their characters so much richer. In the book, you got a sense of their history, but I like knowing more. Their actions are so much better motivated.

Book Eileen: I like knowing more, except that in the process the series is devolving into another one of those prison dramas where *SPOILER ALERT AND THIS TIME A BIG ONE* the main character has to become as brutal as the worst prisoner/guard/warden to survive. In the book, these women formed a family. Yes. There were factions and infighting, but mainly they supported each other and helped each other. I don't recall Kerman ever thinking she was going to be stabbed in the book. Her big disappointment was that *ANOTHER BIG SPOILER ALERT* since she was transferred right before being released, she wasn't going to get a party with a cake and a chance to say good-bye to everyone.

TV Eileen: Her fiance is annoying.

Book Eileen: Totally. He was much less annoying in the book.

So is anybody else watching this? Have they read it? Both? Which Eileen will you support?

P.S. Thank you to everyone who downloaded Petals on the Pillow. It ended up making it into the top 10 of Free Kindle downloads which was kind of a thrill. I hope you enjoyed it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

A call out for different

I'm going on a hunt. Not a bear hunt, which is the title of a great kids book, but a hunt for different, unique, maybe not perfect, but inspired.

It's been a summer of sequels, remakes and superheroes when it comes to movies and the box office has been disappointing for a lot of these ginormous, budget bloated spectacles. We've remade Spiderman, Superman and Batman twice each in the past twenty years. Movie studios played it safe and some got bit in the ass as a result.

In books, one billionaire falling in love with the ingenue virgin and then spanking her is probably enough for me. Same with the conflicted college student who can't choose between the tatooed bad boy and the golden football player. A duke falling love with the spinster is awesome, but I've read that story now in so many reincarnations.

I'm ready for new and different. I want to read a grand fantasy and then find an awesome thriller, and then a romance with a heroine who has a 37 inch waist and perhaps even a new urban fantasy where the world gets destroyed. I'd love to read a historical that has action and adventure and romance.

I want movies and books to follow the route of cable TV, where they seem to understand that variety and new ideas expand their audience. Where the best shows are about Fantasy worlds, or ad men, or a meth maker. Where ancient Italy seemed like a good location for a great show and where zombies are the new normal.

I'm looking for new books and I'm searching for self-published and regularly published and I'm hoping to find some new authors that stretch, or even re-imagine the boundaries of genre.

And I'll report back when I find some really incredible books. And if you know of any, let me know and I'll read them. All recommendations will be gratefully received. I'm going on a book hunt, and I'm going to catch a great one... (That story's going to be in my head all day.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ode to Sloan Sabbath... aka there has to be something special.

I’m watching Newsroom and each week falling more in love with Sloan Sabbath. For those who are watching you’ll know why. For those who haven’t seen the show let me explain why… and everyone you better button down your bootstraps because this is going to be quite a rant.
I just finished reading another book about the billionaire and the plain simple girls he saves by having sex with her. It was a recommend from a reviewer I trust and it was very well written. But I think I’ve just hit that point where I’m done with HER.

I kept waiting for the moment when we learn why she was so different from everyone else for him. What was it that made her special to him?
I’m okay with a character who doesn’t see what’s special about herself, and he, the hero, shines the shiny light on her that suddenly makes her realize… wait, I am special. It’s what I call the Katherine Hepburn in the Rainmaker moment. When he forces her to say… “I’m pretty!” Even though she’s not. Because when she starts to believe what the hero is telling her, it is transformative. She finds herself. She becomes confident. It was there all along inside of her. You don’t have to be beautiful to understand that you can be beautiful as a person. And that makes interesting and different.

But in the recent trend of books where the ALL POWERFUL BILLIONAIRE falls for the seemingly plain heroine, we never get that moment. It’s like the reason he fell for her is just because. That he’s fine with her average looks, average intelligence, her shy personality. Because she just is who she is. And I get why this is a fabulous fantasy for some people but it’s so completely unreal.
Billionaires DO NOT do this. Billionaires (for the most part) have worked pretty darn hard to get what they have. They are driven, highly intelligent and powerful. I’m sorry – but Jeff Bezos isn’t looking around for the plainest most uninteresting woman he can find and saying That’s Her! That’s who I want to spend my time with. It’s ludicrous.

Google billionaires. Google their wives!
Now I’m not saying they all have to be models. Though many are. But many are not. But I bet there is something about them that is SPECIAL. Something. Maybe it’s compassion. Maybe it’s brains. Maybe it’s humor. Maybe she gives him a sense of peace.

And it works in reverse. If anyone watched the PGA Championship – you watched the winner, an average looking guy with a little belly and a funny walk grab the ass of a stunningly beautiful woman who is his wife. Now some people will say it’s money, but maybe it’s because this guy is SPECIAL. He’s got a rare talent. He’s got a work ethic that was powerful enough to take him to the pros. I would absolutely love that quality in a person regardless of what he looked like.
These new heroines are not special in anything. Like it’s okay to celebrate mediocrity because everyone deserves to be loved, but it’s so far from reality it’s just getting silly. You want to make your heroine “trip”? Fine. She’s clumsy but please God don’t let that be the reason he falls in love with her!

Sloan on the Newsroom is a self-proclaimed nerd. She’s awkward in social situations, has a hard time communicating with people in general and she’s not good in relationships. Ever.
She’s also hot and knows it. Doesn’t flaunt it, but doesn’t hide it. She’s beyond brilliant which is why she’s so awkward. And when she doesn’t realize it, she’s hysterically funny. That’s charming. Tripping isn’t charming!

In my heart of hearts I believe that there is something that makes each one of us special. That even if you think you’re boring, or plain, or shy, or weird or the ENTH degree of average there is still something within each of us that makes us unique and loveable.
I am 100% okay with the billionaire finding that thing and showcasing that thing and making the heroine realize it.  

But I’m done with this heroine who is just plain and that’s what she is. And isn’t it the greatest fantasy in the world that the hottest and richest guy wants her. Sorry. I like a good fantasy. But that my friends is science fiction.
Let’s bring back the special in our heroines!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Free! Wednesday through Saturday! Free!

Did that get your attention? I hope so!

I am rereleasing my very first novel, Petals on the Pillow, for Kindle. As a special introductory offer, it will be a free download from Tuesday, August 13 to Saturday, August 17.

Check out it's gorgeous new cover designed by Teresa Spreckelmeyer at Be My Bard.

Isn't it all gorgeous and moody? I'm really thrilled with it.

So . . . you probably want to know a little bit about what's inside the book. I know I would want to know before I hit the download button, even if it's free.

Petals on the Pillow is a contemporary gothic romance with a touch of paranormal. When Kelly Donovan arrives by ferry on an isolated island in the middle of the Puget Sound, she only wants to paint the mural she has been commissioned to create for the daughter of world-renowned financier and entrepreneur Harrison St. John, and then move on.

But from Kelly's first night at the Manor, a mysterious woman in yellow begins to haunt her dreams urging Kelly to "find the truth." Petals from a gardenia, the signature flower of Elizabeth St. John who died tragically in a drowning accident two years earlier, show up on Kelly's pillow that night after night.

Like it or not, Kelly is swept into the maelstrom of emotion and intrigue that surround Elizabeth's death and Harrison's secret pain.

Sound good? Sound like something entertaining to read on a plane? By the pool? At the beach? I sure hope so! If you want to read an excerpt, stop by my website.

Before I leave it at that, though, I wanted to tell everyone a little bit about how much this book meant to me. I wrote it during a really terrible time in my life. It was a huge relief to escape into an imaginary world where I could control the outcome since my own life was completely out of control.

It doesn't end there. I didn't tell very many people that I was writing a book. I was afraid people would laugh at me. Either to my face or behind my back. When this book was published (granted, by a press so small it barely existed, but published nonetheless), I started looking people in the eye and telling them I was an author.

I know that sounds like a small thing, but it's not. It was huge. It still is.

This book has been out of print practically since it came out so I'm really delighted to be able to put it out in such an accessible medium. I hope you download it. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you have life changing moments where you tell people who you really are and it feels good.



P.S. It will be available from Barnes and Noble and other vendors some time in November of this year. You KNOW I will be announcing it here! :-)

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Notice to my kids: Mom will no longer be playing.

Hey! We've had fun this summer, haven't we? The picnics on the beach, the library visits, the vacations, the days spent in and out of swim suits, those ridiculously late bed times. All good stuff. And we still have a few more weeks of it. But I want to give you fair warning - I won't be playing. I won't be playing any version of tag - not even the ridiculously cool Greek God version that Mick came up with the other day. This includes water tag and freeze tag. I will not be playing pretend. I'm sorry Lucy the barbies are going to have to save the hamster by themselves. And Mick, the thirty minutes of rules and world building that you require before each game only means that we have NEVER played one of your pretend games. I will still listen to the rules, only I will be sitting on my blanket in the shade and not carrying a pretend sword and trying to make sense of your half demon half animal complete with power ups game.

Candyland is out of the question. So is playdoh. And Cooties. Oh my God, so is Cooties.

This is not forever, it is only until further notice. This is what I will do - I will have more of your friends come over. I will go nowhere without some child under the age of ten who wants to save the hamster or make up rules to pretend games. We will go to the pool and I will still throw you, because that's just fun. The library is in, so is the Museum. And the picnics on the beach, but now with more friends and probably more wine.

No, there is still no television in the mornings.

I'm sorry to do this to you, but I have been playing for close to eight years. I have been on the floor and tied up. I have jammed myself under beds waiting for you to find me. I have had playgrounds full of children chase me, only to tag me and freeze me and forget about me. I have saved that stupid hamster A MILLION TIMES. Don't worry, Dad will still play. Grandma loves saving that hamster. Me, I want to sit in the shade and maybe read a book. Talk to an adult. I absolutely want to clean my house.

I think this will be an exciting change for us, perhaps a precursor to you getting your own juice - a development I am very excited about. We'll still have fun - just without candyland.

There's a good chance I will never play Candyland again.

Friday, August 09, 2013

A collective thanks to review sites

So I just finished the new Courtney Milan historical, The Heiress Effect, and it's really great. Clever, well written, fresh and both the hero and heroine are believable and she really convinces you they're great for each other.
I love historicals, and with Milan, Sherry Thomas, Cecilia Grant and Meredith Duran, as a reader, I'm spoiled by these incredible, detailed character driven romances. That there aren't enough of them is my fault for reading them so quickly.
I do miss the more adventure driven historicals of Iris Johansen and the early Madeline Hunters where the time period is not regency or Victorian and the plot was a little over the top, but awesome all the same.
And with a large shift into self publishing, I think there are going to be more options out there in all genres. Some will be great, some, probably not.
And this is where the book review sites come in. I use a few that, while I don't always agree, usually steer me towards books I love. I know these review sites are inundated with requests for books, and most do the work for the sheer love of reading, but more and more they're going to be essential to readers like me.
So thanks to those people. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Action Overload -- A conversation with Hollywood

Hey, Hollywood -- what's with the multiple 20 minute fight scenes in so many otherwise great movies these days?

I can't decide whether or not this is a new phenomenon, or whether I've just started to go to more action movies than I used to, but to me, this all seems like really lazy storytelling. A way to stretch a thin plot out over 2 hours. I guess before CGI it was the car chase. But I don't remember car chases taking up 40% of the movie, even in car chase movies.

And what are the options? Here is the upshot of my imaginary conversation with Hollywood:

Maureen: Why don't you show more character development?
Hollywood: Oh, that's hard. I'd have to think about these people. And hire good writers. Or at least listen to their opinions... N'ah, I'll blow something up instead.

Maureen: Okay, but clearly you should show some character growth? Haven't you read Christopher Vogler or Michael Hague? The main character should have an arc.
Hollywood: Did you not read my answer to your first asinine suggestion?

Maureen: So, you don't like doing character stuff... How about an interesting subplot?
Hollywood: But the audience might get bored or confused or go to the bathroom. I'd rather blow stuff up.

Maureen: Here's a novel idea. (No pun intended.) How about exploring other means to ending conflicts beyond fighting? Like, maybe diplomacy or actually talking about a problem?
Hollywood: What are you a commie or something? Let me know, because we have this list...

Okay, I guess I'm not getting through. But even one of my favorite directors, Guillermo del Toro relied a little to much on battle scenes during Pacific Rim. Although, for me, he got the balance close to right. In Pacific Rim, we learn something about all the characters, even the bad guys. We can tell the good guys from the bad guys during the battle scenes. We cared who won.

I can't say the same for a lot of action movies. (Don't even get me started on those Transformer movies... Okay, I only saw the first one, but that was enough.)

Last week I took my niece to see the new Superman movie and had to sit through it again (I know... but she really wanted to see it) and then we saw The Wolverine. And while Wolverine was better than Man of Steel, there were way too many long fight scenes, and while they didn't show any blood (that almost started to annoy me--there should be blood given some of the action) the squishing, gross, there-obviously-is-blood sounds were almost worse than seeing the gore.

And my niece sent me a link to this great "how it should have ended" video for Man of Steel. After seeing this, I completely concede the former cage match about Man of Steel to Molly. Yes. Why the hell didn't superman fly that phantom drive thing out into space???

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Politics and Art

It's not like I don't know that those two things have been intertwined for like forever. People have used their art to express strongly held political beliefs for centuries. Picasso's Guernica comes to mind right off the top of my head.

I'm thinking about another intersection of art and politics these days. There is a movement advocating that people boycott the movie Ender's Game due out this fall. Orson Scott Card, the author of the book that the movie is based on, has been very vocal about his anti-gay and anti-marriage equality views. The LGBT community doesn't want to support Card and are calling for a boycott of the film.

I happen to be pro-gay rights and pro-marriage equality. I find the things Card has said publicly about these issues to be hideous stomach-turning hate speech. I'm not sure boycotting this movie is the right way to make those feelings clear, though.

The movie does not espouse any anti-gay ideas. At least, no one I've heard is arguing that. The film company making the movie is known to be friendly to the LGBT community. Card supposedly got paid up front for the rights so he's already been paid. Boycotting the movie won't stop the money from it from flowing into Card's pockets.

Near as I can tell, no one is advocating that people boycott Card's actual book.

Now I've opted not to see certain movies because of how I feel about the people involved in making the film. I won't see Woody Allen movies and I won't see Roman Polanski movies. I don't care how talented they are. I think they're both pedophiles and I don't want any of my money in their pockets. Knowing what actors are like in their personal lives does color how I view them on screen. Russell Crowe makes me want to snarl. I generally avoid his movies.

Something about this boycott feels wrong to me, though. Not only are they not punishing the right people, in my opinion, I worry about movements to boycott an artist's work based on that artist's political leanings.

I have a lot of dearly held political beliefs. I was raised in a very liberal Democratic home and I have not strayed from that path. I voted for Obama and think George W. Bush might possibly be the worst president in United States history and pretty much broke this country in ways that will take decades to fix. I don't spend a lot of time ranting about it, but I'm not shy about my views either.

I'm pretty sure there's a whole lot of people who disagree with me (hence the reelection of George W. Bush in 2004). I would still like them to buy my books. I'm sure my world view informs those books in some ways, but I don't intentionally put politics in them (except maybe the one that's coming out next year, but that's another story). I don't think Republicans should boycott my books because I'm a Democrat so it makes me nervous when we boycott Card because he's a homophobic idiot.

Although Card didn't just mention those beliefs. He served on the board of the National Organization on Marriage which was instrumental in getting Proposition 8 passed in California, banning gay marriage. If someone makes a point of getting involved politically is it then okay to boycott his work based on his beliefs? I helped raise money for John Kerry and Barack Obama. Is that enough to make conservatives boycott my work? Where's the line when privately held beliefs become public fodder?

I don't have a conclusion to this issue. I wish I did. All I see are murky gray areas and I can't quite figure out how I feel except confused and unsettled.

Anyone want to set me straight?

Friday, August 02, 2013

There is no shame in reading

On my drive to work I was listening to the radio. The dj's played a game, would you rather read a page of 50 shades of grey, or get a texted picture of some random dude's penis. I was horrified that they'd even come up with such a contest, and terrified when the overwhelming response was most women would rather receive a picture of some guys schlong.

Now, very few people are going to come out and say hey, I really enjoyed the book, because they feel they will be ridiculed, but why is it so terrible to read that and OK to read US magazine or star magazine. At least 50 shades of grey has a narrative that extends over more than two pages.

It's part of the romance/erotica shaming that is so prevalent right now. I have children and in between Tv, Ipads, computers and the countless other distractions in a day, I'm having trouble getting them to want to read. I want them to discover the joy in getting lost in an awesome book, and following a narrative across multiple pages and discovering how sentences should be formed. (I'll save my rant on the non-word "Ain't" for another day) and to be honest, past the age of sixteen, I don't care what they want to read, as long as it's longer than eighty pages.

For me, romance was my gateway drug into serious reading, one book a week type reading and from romance I expanded into Urban Fantasy, Thrillers, literary and YA. I have a friend who is an English Teacher and I'm way better read, because she won't let herself read genre books and feels she can only read literary, and the got bored with reading, because reading in only one genre can be so limiting. So she doesn't read anything but magazines and would never, ever pick up a romance.

Enough of the shaming. Someone who reads a book -any book - should be celebrated. They had the interest and intelligence to follow a narrative past two pages, and it truly shouldn't matter what that book is. And maybe the next time someone compares a page of text to a picture of a schlong, there will be a mass protest and whatever idiot came up with that idea will be shamed.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Warm Bodies reminds me of when movies were original

So I finally saw Warm Bodies. I’m pretty sure this was a Sinead recommend? Anyway I wasn’t sure I could get behind the premise, but I decided to stop thinking about it and just watch it.

I can’t tell you one movie I can compare this to. Now maybe there are scores and scores of romantic/funny/suspenseful zombie movies out there, and I just don’t know about them. But it was so refreshing to have no expectations of a movie and just sit and watch it and really have no idea where it was going.

It was quirky and funny and it didn’t involve Star Trek, an Avenger, Superman, Spiderman or Batman.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do love my Star Trek/Avenger/Superman/Spiderman/Batman movies. Some of them. But to see something different and outside of the box was really fun.

We talk a lot about the book business here and how it’s changing. Well the film industry is apparently going through some kind of flux as well. Big studios only want to make sure fire hits but there are only so many superhero redos and sequels you can make. Apparently Steven Spielberg had a tough time getting Lincoln in theaters and it was almost an HBO special. Spielberg!

So some are predicting a mass collapse if any one studio produces multiple bombs in a row… (Not going to mention any names cough*TheLoneRange* cough!)
Then there is the flipside with Kickstarter. Where people can raise money independently and make the audience feel as if they are part of making the movie. Genius!

And I’m going to get to see Veronica Mars The Movie – TOTAL AWESOMENESS – and I really hope that it works. Because I love the idea of getting more variety, more movie makers and more original stories out there.

Oh and don’t get me started as to why they could make the Green Lantern and Superman three different times but STILL there is no Wonder Woman movie!
Come on! Who doesn't want WW back?
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