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NEW!

Is there anything more exciting in literature than starting a new series?

Yes, the old, familiar faithful are nice. I am very loyal to a few ladies in mystery and paranormal romance (JR Ward, Charlaine Harris, you know who you are). But sometimes when you read the third or fourth installment in a beloved series you get bored reading the same character or place description as its re-re-repeated for the reader who somehow forgot what the main character looks like.

Also, starting a series is all about optimism of where the series could go. However, midway through a series all the readers what to know is…”how will it end?” That’s alot pressure and usually no one is happy.

The best is starting a series by an author you have loved in the past and can trust to deliver again.

That said…I’m about to start The Beautiful Ashes by Jeaniene Frost.

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When the Main Character Dies…

WARNING YA FICTION SPOILERS

 

I was terrified Harry Potter was going to die.

I struggled with losing Dumbledore and spent several weeks in my adolesence thinking Gandolf was dead.  Killing off paternal secondary characters is a right-of-passage in fiction. Even Luke Skywalker’s family gets axed in STAR WARS. But few authors pull the trigger (literally) on the hero.

Until Veronica Roth.

I finished the Divergent trilogy and it was a downer. The first two books hold up really well. The love story is a bit trite, but the characters are teenagers after all. So what if the world is about to blow up, they are busy fighting/making-out/fighting with their boyfriend or girlfriend. The last book fell apart with the same disappointment as M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Village. There just wasn’t enough structure to hold Roth’s convoluted society together. But I’ll save the plot holes for other reviewers.

I was simply disappointed, the main character, a girl named ‘Tris’ was killed. I felt the entire death scene was odd, not a grand, metaphor for personal growth and sacrifice. It was mostly just messy and unnecessary. Tris decides to spare her brother and complete a suicide mission herself. Dying from that would have been sad but moving. Instead Tris survives only to be shot moments later. It was a scene from a bad movie. Roth blatantly manipulated the reader’s emotions.

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I am a standard unit of measure

I am fully aware that I am short. I am 5 feet 1 1/2 inches to be exact. Most people just round me down to 5 feet.

When describing the heights of other things, co-workers, friends, complete strangers seem to enjoy using me as a unit of measure. For example, “that wall is two Bethanys high”. Recently, at the vet I was telling the assistant about a GIANT German shepherd. I told her it was “as tall as me”. She didn’t seem to think that was very impressive.

Other key dimensions have special names: 12 inches is a ‘foot’, 3 feet make a ‘yard’. .. 5 feet will be a ‘Bethany”.

I think I should copyright this. If the United States won’t join the rest of the world and the metric system, maybe it will embrace, the ‘Bethany’.

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I Need a New Plan

At the end of the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Mr. Wonka reminds Charlie, “don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted”…He lived happily ever after.”

I find myself in the somewhat less fanciful shoes of the fictional man. I’ve had the same goal and plan for decade. This month saw the culmination of years of school, study, stress and a little luck. I am ‘living-happily-ever-after’ but the credits only roll one final time in real life. Hopefully, that is far, far in my future; I need a new plan in the meantime. I have some ideas professionally but nothing with the laser precision of my earlier plans. I want to do more with literature, like write another book (or finish one of the half-dozen I have started). My mind races with creative outlets. I want to return to drawing and develop my painting. Sites like pintrest and craftgawker offer thousands of ways to craft or re-fab. In my personal life, things are happily-ever-after-awesome. The husband and I can make any ordinary day epic. Our relationship is fun, exciting, comfortable, loving…but also stable. We aren’t pursuing an end. I don’t want to think about an ‘end’.

Most of my new pursuits are ongoing interests or hobbies. But I am lacking the next big finish line. Since the age of cognisance, I’ve been asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Now, I have to determine, what is the next question.

 

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Remove and Engage

During the past year, I have taken major steps to advance myself professionally (not with writing, but my ‘real’ life). That has meant weeks lost in study, sacrifice and patience on the part of my husband, and generally having to act like a mature adult. But eventually, I studied all I possibly could and I ran off to the circus.

Okay, so I really just took a night off to go to the circus. For a few hours I let Cirque du Soleil transport me into a fantasy world. Astounding acrobatics, Risque clowns and alien songs. (It was almost as engrossing as reading a book 😉 ).

Again it was the story that enthralled me. Varekai was the name of the show. It tells what happened to Icarus after he flew too close to the sun. (spoiler: it is a much happier ending than you would expect.)

It was an atypical night of luxury for me. My husband ensured I got a seat on the very front row. I even got popcorn and a coke. I went alone because the husband had to work, but even that was okay. It was almost thrilling being lone spectator in the masses. I was both witness and participant. I was investing in the outcome, yet removed from any real stress.

It was a successful evening in terms of refreshing my mental state (…and everyone lived happily ever after). I originally wrote this draft in April. Now the test results are in and I have passed, I can joyful post this. And recommend escaping into a bit of fantasy, whether in theater, fiction or otherwise, as an important part of a successful study strategy.

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Mining YA

Hollywood has officially mined out my adolescence. I mean clear cut, stripped down to bedrock. They have left nothing undisturbed.

This realization came with seeing a preview for ‘The Giver”. The book by Lois Lowry was one of the first ‘non-kid’ book I remember reading. My middle school library was small; a single room. You could see all the books when standing at any point in the room. As an awkward tween, I would browse the shelves, pick-up books that caught my slightest interest and usually check them out. Even without actual counting (Ms. Dawson, the librarian would know), I am sure I read over half of the fiction section. Now as a confident mature adult, I still check out random books – but the library is a lot bigger.

The Giver had a lasting impact on me. I’ve never met any one else who has read it. Unlike the pop cultural phenomenons Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the small Newbery winner was missed by my friends, family and classmates. It was like my own private gem. There aren’t any fantasy creatures or traditional heroes. Even now I couldn’t tell you the characters’ names, but I could summarize the plot almost perfectly. As I mentioned, it was the first ‘grown-up’ book that stuck with me. (It felt very mature for a 12 year old.) It was much ‘darker’ than anything else I had read to that point. The subtle way the story reveals the ‘wrongness’ of the futuristic society surprised me as a young reader. The bad guys were hard to see. And the grown-ups weren’t always right.

I still read YA as an adult (usually after the movie comes out). Books that I read after or just before the movie aren’t as sacred to me. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Mortal Instruments. I liked the books. I liked the movies. I don’t try to pick one over the other. I can enjoy them as separate forms of entertainment. Sure, I have a few grudges against movie makers. The film version of Eragon made me think the director only looked at the book cover. The only thing the two have in common is a boy and a blue dragon. And I’ll save my rant over the last Harry Potter movie for later.

I am not against The Giver being turned into a movie. But I do hope the film-makers realize what makes this book unique. It may not have the cult following of some others.  The story wasn’t big and flashy. It doesn’t have much visually that translates into a big blockbuster. However, it’s core themes are universal but intangible. Love, Joy, Hurt, Loss. Individuality. Ironically, all the things that ‘community’ in the book tries to ‘standardize’, are what make a great story.

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What is your favorite young adult book?

What was the best/worst book to movie adaptation?

 

 

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Fool’s Resolutions

It is hard to stick to a resolution you make in the dead of winter. It’s cold, snowy (or worse rainy); everything is pretty much grey.

Also, I am still wearing 3 layers of clothes and only shaving my legs when I disgust myself. Bikini season is very far away on the horizon but leftover Christmas goodies are still in the kitchen.

Spring is much better at holding me accountable. It strips me of my most solid excuse: “It’s already dark when I get home, guess I”ll watch TV and veg out.” Plus seeing the pale bits of me sticking out of shorts and sleeves has me re-thinking what’s in the lunchbox. So I’m trying something new, Fool’s Year Resolutions.

The origin of April’s Fools is commonly believed to be around 1581 when In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the Gregorian Calendar to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year’s day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. Personally, I understand the old April’s Fools. It pairs well with my understanding of the seasons: Spring – re-birth, awaking from dormancy, Summer – flourish and grow, Fall – go to seed, harvest, and Winter –

I am working in reverse. Or at least applying the modern New Year’s attitude of self-improvement back to a better suited season, Spring. Metaphorically, it is a time of rejuvenation. But practically, it means more daylight hours, warmer temps and greater availability of fruits and veggies. I can just focus on what we all promise every time the ball drops: To Eat Better, Exercise More, Be Healthier…..

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Read Novels…for your Health

While I’ve never needed a reason to read a book, now I have a justifiable excuse. I read for my mental health. There is even a term for it: “Biotherapy”. Books like most entertainment – movies, TV shows, and live sports –  provide a break from reality. For the time that the drama has our attention, our own troubles fade into the background. The weight of our mundane lives is ever so briefly lifted.

It is more that mere distraction that makes reading so powerful. Research is showing that not only does the reader benefit by having an emotional break from ‘real-life’ – reading increases one’s compassion for another’s suffering. It is our relationship to the protagonist that influence us. In December 2013, scientists proved what many readers knew already, that the reader is ‘mentally’ in the body of the character. The hero’s victories and losses become our own. The reader is transported along with the character and both emerge changed in the end.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/15/why-novel-reading-reduces-anxiety/

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Guilty Pleasure

Guilty pleasures are things that may be slightly embarrassing for a profession, mature adult to confess to do and enjoying.

I am not giving up anything for Lent; however, I thought I would confess to some of my guilty little pleasures.

  • I play Candy Crush at lunch. Those addictive little colored candies are a ‘gateway’ game.
  • Dog Shaming photos. There are dozens of lists on Facebook and YouTube. They are all basically the same and I don’t care. I love all of them (probably because I have two little guys that could top the lists at home.)
  • I saw ‘Vampire Academy’ in theaters. Yes, it is kinda a teen movie and campy. Don’t care. I had great time. Last year I attempted some of the Oscar winners. (Hey I had a weak moment of maturity) I felt boring, confused and cheated. I don’t want to spend an hour after a film trying to decipher what the h*ll it was about.
  • Sometimes, I eat peanut butter off a spoon (then giving the pups peanut butter too.)
  • I like asking the husband to reach things on high shelves.
  • Last one is the biggie, I read (and occasionally write) romance novels.
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You see the worst of me

Marriage vows cover the extremes. Richer or Poorer. Sickness and Health. But they don’t mention ‘when-your-wife-gets-off-work-and-changes-into-sweatpants’.

I’m cute. Short, curvy, and can look pretty good when I try. For work, I have some professional, sophisticated outfits. “Meeting Days” I usually get especially dressed up with high-heels and maybe even mascara. Unfortunately, the husband only gets to see it for as long as it takes me to change once I get in the house (after I say ‘hello’ to the puppies – I have priorities). Then it’s comfy-time. The shoes come off. The classy but confining clothes are tossed and out comes the t-shirts. It’s a little unfair that around the person I care for most, the one person in the world I want to find me attractive, I’m a little slob.

I guess it’s because we expect the ones who love us to put up with us. We trust they won’t abandon us when they find our imperfections.

When we are sick we will put on a brave face for visitors but snap at the ones taking care of us.

It’s not fair. The people we share our lives with deserve better. They at least deserve more than strangers and acquaintances. Yet, it would break my heart to know he tried to put on a front for me. I want him to be comfortable, to be himself (even if that means wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt).

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