An Old Friend

This morning I had a conversation with the man in my life about the benefits of re-watching movies, and I of course added in re-reading books.  Alas, my guy is not a book reader, he’s more of a non-fiction kind of fella, but he totally got my comparison when I said that watching a favorite movie or re-reading a favorite book was like visiting with an old friend.

There is something innately comforting about being wrapped in the arms of the familiar.  Watching your favorite movie and looking forward to seeing those parts that tug at your insides makes you feel all warm and squishy.

It doesn’t have to be some mushy movie either.  When I think of the most comforting movies I could possibly watch, the ones I go to when I’m in the throes of depression, or sick as a dog, the ones that are my total comfort, I reach for John Wayne.  John Wayne movies are my total comfort zone.  They remind me of afternoons spent with my dad.  We would sit together in the living room, each of us with a heavy crystal beer stein brimming with ice water, and watch The Duke.  So when I watch those movies now (and it doesn’t even really have to be one of my favorites, any John Wayne movie will do), I’m enfolded by this warm gooey sensation, like being hugged by an old friend.  I’m immediately transported back to the living room with my dad.

The same is true when I read a favorite book. I love being able to skim through the pages, moving through to my favorite parts and letting myself get sucked into that world.  There’s comfort in those familiar words, security in knowing exactly what will happen and when, just as there is in those movies.  Sometimes I don’t even need to re-read the book.  Just carrying it around, able to know that at any moment I can flip through those pages and enter my safe zone, is enough. I know that sounds a little creepy (I’m have a connection to that movie Conspiracy Theory but don’t worry I’m definitely not Mel Gibson and I’ve always disliked The Catcher in the Rye) but don’t judge me!

The other (less creepy) part of re-reading or re-watching movies is that you get new things from them each time you read them.  That is especially true when you read them or watch them at different times in your life.  That’s probably why re-watching or re-reading the familiar is so comforting.  It transports you back to those times in your past that you first encountered them, reconnecting you with those emotions.

The cool thing is that with more life experience, suddenly the connections you make are different and re-watching or re-reading the story gives you something completely new.  It speaks to you in a new way and suddenly your appreciation becomes something more.  It’s like that parent or grandparent sitting next to you.  The scent, the scene, the tone are familiar but suddenly the message has changed.  The story, like that parent or grandparent, is looking at what has happened in your life and they are giving you new advice.  It’s telling you the familiar tale but you can connect to it differently now than you had in the past.

So go be hugged by the familiar. Read those books again; watch those movies, and don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t!

Unraveled

via Daily Prompt: Unravel

My favorite sweater isn’t angora, or wool, or even that crappy polyester blend that places try to pass off as high class.  It’s hand crafted by Mom out of regular old yarn.

She’d been working on it for years and each section was a different color block, a different pattern.  I could look at that sweater and see my entire life knitted into it.  The fuzzy light blue was when I got my license, the warm yellow when I graduated from high school, stringy purple marked my first boyfriend, and on it went.

It was the day my daughter was born that Mom finally finished that sweater.  I was twenty-five, exhausted, and looking down at the tiny scrunched face of the beauty in my arms, I finally felt like an adult.  Mom must have thought so too because she came in, knitting needles still in her hand, carrying the sweater, the bottom rimmed in a rich, fluffy pink.

“I finished it!” She declared proudly, and spread the sweater out across my legs.

I fingered one long sleeve and grinned, deciding right then to take up knitting so my own child could benefit one day.  “I love it.”

I wore that sweater every week, happy because with its multitude of colors, textures, and patterns, it went with everything.  Over the years there were places where the yarn started to fray or the stitches snagged, and with my new found knitting skills (though I was no where near as proficient as my mother) I tucked them back in.  Then, about a year ago, I noticed a place where the soft, pink, yarn had started to come undone at the bottom.  I ignored it for a bit and when it started to get worse I took it to my mother.

Mom frowned at the edge.  “What happened?”

I shrugged my shoulders and frowned down at the frayed yarn along with her.  “I’m not sure.”

She nodded and picking up her needles, patched it up.  “Be careful of that edge there,” she advised before I gathered the sweater close and went back home.

The next time it began to unravel it was on the sleeves.  The edges began to fray so that little spikes of thread poked out, getting longer the more I wore it.  Anxious, I once again tried to repair it myself and once again ended up at my mother’s.

“You need to give the sweater a break,” she said.  “Wear something else for a while.”

I wrinkled my nose.  “I will when it starts to get warmer.”  She shook her head, mended the sleeves, and with a hug sent me on my way.

The worst of it happened about a week ago.  A thread didn’t just fray, it came completely undone.  I was working and looked back when I felt a tug. A co-worker was standing there, a long green strand of yarn trailing from the middle of my back straight to her hands.

“I didn’t realize it was attached,” she said, and gave the thread another minute tug.  “It was just hanging there.  A couple other people noticed too.”

I cringed.  If others had noticed it must look pretty bad.  I didn’t even want to think about the parts of me it would expose if it kept unraveling.  As it was, a trip to the restroom revealed a huge hole.  I had the terrible feeling that this repair was going to take more than my mother’s considerable expertise.  This might need a professional.

Letting my boss know, I left early and went home to change clothes, thankful it was fairly late in the day.  After confirming with my mother that I needed someone with more skills, I looked up the number of a seamstress, who fortunately gave me the number of a professional knitter.

I took the sweater to the knitter, a tiny bird of a woman named Clara, and was told it would be ready by the end of the weekend.  I picked it up Sunday night and though I could see where it had been repaired (it was my sweater, after all) I was confident that no one else would be able to.

And it seemed that they didn’t until the worst happened. This time a string came undone in the swatch of soft red right over my heart.  With a soft cry, I smoothed it down but it was clear by lunch time that I was going to need another repair.  I sighed and looked at the clock. I had a few more hours until I could go home and change, hopefully the thread would hold out and not get any worse.

“Hey,” a co-worker greeted.

“He- ” In horror, my own greeting still on my lips, I watched as she reached out and grasping the small red strand began to yank.  The yarn, which had been holding on by a thread, unraveled.  All of the carefully placed stitches fell apart exposing me. With a muted cry of embarrassment and horror I covered my semi-nakedness and took off down the hall.

When I got to my car the tears started.  At home I laid the ruins that were all that remained of my carefully created sweater and cried more.  Not even Clara the professional could fix this.  Sure, I had other clothes, other sweaters even, but they weren’t the same.

Later that night my phone vibrated with a text:

Ugly sweater contest tomorrow! Wear that one that you wore today! I bet with the way it fell apart, you’ll win!

I’ll win.  I stared at the text.  My favorite thing in the world had fallen apart and I would win.

I didn’t think so.

 

Not Just a River in Egypt

via Daily Prompt: Denial

Denial.

I’ve been there before.  It’s a place I know well, therefore you would think that I would avoid it, accept the truth and get it over with. But no. I just don’t seem to be capable of that, at least I wasn’t before.

“This can’t be right,” I muttered, stabbing at the keyboard of my ancient Mac Book and hoping that the sticking letters would somehow change the words on the screen.

I’d managed to click into my email and with a smile playing on my lips opened a message from my long time boyfriend Joel.  He liked to send emails. It was kind of our thing.  Some couples texted a million times a day, Joel and I sent emails.  Now to wait for it to load.

My smile faded as I drummed my fingers and then gritted my teeth.  Finally, the words appeared on the screen and I began to read.  What. The. Heck.  My demeanor went directly from frustrated (my computer was after all ancient, and slower than a southern boy’s accent), to happy (hey, it finally loaded), to confused and and then firmly settled into treading water in the murky depths of denial.  This could not be happening.

I reread the words, hoping that I’d somehow misunderstood.

Dear Renee,

I’m sorry to be doing this, but it’s the only way.  I  don’t think we should see each other anymore.  I think that we want different things from our lives and need to move on with that.  To that end, I want to let you know that I’ve met someone else and I’m ready to make a commitment to her.  I plan on asking her to marry me within the month.   You can’t deny that we have drifted apart, but I hope we can still be friends.

Affectionately,

Joel

Nope, no misunderstanding.  He was breaking up with me.  We had been seeing each other for three years.  Three. Years.  We’d been up, we’d been down. We’d been together through everything.

Joel had been by my side two years ago when I came home and found my grandfather peacefully “sleeping,” in his reclining chair.  It took Joel a full fifteen minutes to convince me that Grand-Dad wasn’t just resting, even though he was cold as ice.  To this day I pretend that my grandfather is simply busy in another room, not resting eternal at the Memory Gardens Cemetery.

Joel also was with me when I spent five days pretending that I hadn’t found a lump in my right breast (we went to Disneyland. Nothing like a trip to the happiest place on earth to take your mind off of news you don’t want to believe or deal with).  He also held my hand when I later smiled and told him not to worry, that a double mastectomy  wasn’t a big deal (NOT!).  And it was Joel that held me when I finally waded out of the depths of denial and broke down, mourning the loss of my lovely breasts.

And now, it was Joel who was either playing a really sick April Fool’s Day joke (possible, he kind of had a messed up sense of humor), or was really breaking up with me. Through email. 

I shook my head and threaded my hand through my short, newly grown, blond curls.  He had to be playing a prank.  Sure, we hadn’t made any official promises; there was no ring on my finger after all, but we were committed.  I scrolled my way through the words again. At least I thought we’d been committed to each other.

I knew that after three years things started to be expected.  Heck, I’d been expecting them, but I hadn’t pushed.  Every time a friend asked a leading question about when I thought Joel would pop the question I would just smile and make a joke, usually that we didn’t believe in marriage and were going for a domestic partnership or that we were waiting until I got chosen to be on Say Yes to the Dress (that one was my favorite).

But evidently I had been deeply entrenched in that murky river denial, so much so that I couldn’t tell the difference between mud and manure.  I had been happily wading along in mud, going with the current, seeing the sights with the man I thought would one day be my husband. I was so oblivious that I couldn’t see what he was shoveling.  He wasn’t wading through the river of life with me. He was paddling his own direction and tossing crap my way while telling me it was mud that was good for my skin.

Well to heck with that.

Denial was only a pleasant river for so long, then it became a raging, violent, mass of churning rapids that could capsize the strongest boat.  I was done with denial.  Joel had broken up with me via email, probably because he wasn’t brave enough to face me himself.  Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at it), my journey down the river denial was also fraught with peril, so I was well versed with this sort of devastation and it had made me strong.

Quickly, I deleted Joel’s email and clicked out of my browser.  Then, calmly I dialed his number.  I didn’t wait for him to speak.  The moment I heard the line engage I started.

“Funerals, Disneyland, doctors, surgery, radiation, and chemo.  You pretended to stand by me through all of that while you were instead seeing someone else behind my back.  You cheated on me and now you think that you can blithely move on and marry someone else?”  I took a breath but cut him off when he tried to interrupt.  “Do you think that she won’t eventually see through you and see the kind of guy your really are?  She’s going to see that you’re the kind of guy who breaks up with his girlfriend of three years without a single conversation to indicate that you were unhappy.  She’ll see the kind of guy that drops his woman off for radiation treatments and then goes out to meet his lover.” I didn’t know that for a fact, but given how quickly he was moving it seemed likely, the jerk.  “You’re the kind of guy that breaks up with said girlfriend through a freaking email.  If you think she won’t see through that, then it sounds to me like you’re the one in denial.”

With that, I stabbed the off button, threw down my phone, and went to the freezer to rekindle my relationship with the tasty twins, Ben and Jerry.

Eff you denial.

Serious Shi*

I usually blog about books or observations about writing and it’s light and fluffy and tupically mentions some romance novel.  Tonight my thoughts are drifting to the more serious though, and how many authors just don’t have the brass you know whats to write about characters who are going through some form of serious shit.

The thing is, there seems to be acceptable serious and then taboo serious, and the fact that some taboo shit is labeled as acceptable serious is pretty effed up.  It’s ALL serious people, from abuse to neglect to crazy car accidents or psychotic stalkers.  ALL serious. What I’m talking about is a writer’s willingness to write about serious emotional topics such as depression and anxiety even if there is no true trigger to cause them.  Somehow it has become okay for a character to be messed up if they had a rough childhood or were in the military and witnessed untold horrors, or experienced some trauma, but what if they didn’t?  What if they were just walking along minding their own business and wham, suddenly it’s anxiety attack  central?  How does the audience feel now?  I  can tell you how they feel.  They, like the average person who hasn’t experienced anxiety, depression, etc. want to know why.

Lately it has become more acceptable, hell, almost “in” (and that’s freaking sick) for writers to include characters suffering from PTSD.  PTSD shouldn’t be a fad. It’s real and it’s some serious shit.  But there is a certain valor and sex appeal in a character who has put their life on the line and now carries the scars, even if they aren’t all physical, to prove it.  There is also reasoning behind it.  These characters have a reason they are experiencing these things and that satisfies an audiences need.

Depression and anxiety, like PTSD, are acceptable,  but only if the character has “earned” them.  If their life has not been marred by violence or heartbreak of some sort, the character isn’t allowed to have those sorts of problems.  Another crappy thing is that if a character is experiencing those things at all they are typically female.   This isn’t a historical romance with women suffering from the vapors and collapsing onto fainting couches.  Women, or men for that matter, don’t have time for that shit (and who really has a fainting couch anyway?), they are trying to breathe, to gain control, to not look like a freaking wuss in front of their friends, family, and colleagues.  If there was one thing that the regency era had right it was the acceptance.  It was totally acceptable, hell expected even, for women to crumble under stress, and if they managed to keep it together for even a little while in the face of such things they were looked at like they were Wonder Woman.  Think of all the Wonder Women out there today who are plowing through and give them a hand. Now the Wonder (Super?) Men.   Especially think highly of the male characters in a story (or in your life) who show any amount of anxiety or battle depression, for they are a rare breed.  The cliche is that men are the emotionally strong ones.  While it’s acceptable for a woman to faint or dissolve into hysterics, men get no sympathy whatsoever.  They have to bury all of their irrational fear and take care of the little lady.  Has that changed at all in real life?  Men have just as much of a right as women to have anxiety and depression, and guess what?  There might not be a neat and tidy little reason.

These people are going through life and getting the short end of the stick.  They are coping with a disorder (PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc.) which is not a comfortable topic.  Because it’s uncomfortable, people (especially those suffering from it) don’t talk about it.  Unfortunately not talking means that it remains a mystery, a taboo, and people are afraid and judgemental of things they don’t understand.

Anxiety and depression are serious shit and the people who deal with one, the other, or something totally different, need acceptance and validation, not fear and disdain.  They cope a day, an hour, a minute at a time, riding the edge, terrified of what falling off might mean.  They aren’t trying to get out of responsibility or be anti-social when they bow out of events, they are busy trying to breathe, trying to not freak out, trying to just function and not fall apartheid .  But you know what?  Sometimes they can’t.  We can’t.  And that’s okay.

Characters may be fictional but they are fictional people and they aren’t nearly as interesting when they don’t have real people problems.  Why is writing a character with an addiction to gambling or alcohol more acceptable than writing one with a mental illness?

People suffering feel like they are sitting in the dark, just them and their fear.  Bring them into the light by not being afraid to talk about it, write about it, or read about it.

And…

For those of us experiencing this, remember, the darkness might blot out the light the way the moon sometimes shadows the sun, but if you hang on, the light is still there and it will eventually return,

 

I’ve Got Rhythm

Whenever I’m writing, or reading for that matter, I’m always very cognizant of the rhythm of the book.  For me to enjoy reading a novel it’s not just about the story line, it’s also about they rhythm of the writing.  Sentences and images need to flow through my brain like some wonderful vivid river for me to truly like the book and want to read more.  If the book doesn’t have the right rhythm, it’s likely that after finishing (yes, I will usually force myself to complete the story) I won’t feel compelled to pick up another book by that author.  Or maybe I’ll give them another try, giving them the benefit of the doubt, but then inevitably I’ll be disappointed when the cadence of their writing hasn’t changed.

When I myself am writing it’s almost worse.  I can be in the middle of a scene with words flowing, vivid imagery, totally on a roll, and then, BAM!  It’s like hitting a brick wall.  The sentence just stops.  The rhythm is off. There aren’t enough syllables in my sentence. It doesn’t sound right in my head.  I struggle desperately, rewording again and again, trying to find the magical words to put my brain at ease, calling friends, family, sometimes asking perfect strangers to listen and help.  These advisers usually look at me with trepidation.  Who, after all, is concerned about the amount of syllables in a random sentence in their novel?  It’s not some sort of extended haiku, it’s a novel for God’s sake.  Syllables and rhythm shouldn’t factor.  Or should they?  I’m not sure.  All I know is that my writing comes to a halt while I try to reword that one sentence so that it feels right to my brain.  I’ve tried moving on, but that sentence just remains there, like a burr, poking at me until I go back and try to get it right.

What do you think, friends?  Is this some crazy form of writer’s OCD, or is there something to this?  Does the rhythm of a novel make a difference in your reading experience?

The Art of the Prequel

I have always been a little leery about the idea of prequels, whether it be in movies or in books.  I’m really the kind of person who likes things consecutive, ordered, organized.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely none of those things but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like things to be that way, including the order of the stories I read.

I can totally get behind prologues and epilogues in a novel.  I can deal with said story jumping around when it comes to the timeline even, but when it comes to the order of a series, I really like to read them/watch them in order.  It becomes increasingly difficult to do this if the author is adding prequels wildly-nilly.

My husband is a huge Star Wars fan.  HUGE. So of course I have seen the originals and all of the prequels and the newest ones (would those be postquels?), and even so I am at odds at where to start when viewing them again or say showing them to my little humans for the first time.  In my heart I always want to start with the Originals (New Hope in the Star Wars universe) because those are REALLY where the story began.

What is the point of all this rambling you ask?  Well, one of my favorite authors, Kristen Ashley (if you have not read her books, YOU MUST!) has just come out with a prequel of sorts to her Rock Chick series.  I was waffling between abject excitement that the story of two of my favorite supporting characters was finally being told, and dismay that it was being told “prequel” style (don’t even get me started on my feelings about novellas, that’s definitely for another post).

Well of course I got the book, she is one of my favorite authors after all, and devoured it.  I am happy to say that Rock Chick Reawakening was everything I would have wanted in the story of Marcus and Daisy and everything I have come to expect from Kristen Ashley, but as much as I LOVED it, it begs the question, why now? Why not before?

I have the same question for George Lucas.  Why go back and tell the story of Anakin Skywalker?  I understand a character grabbing you and wanting to know their story but, why a prequel?  Why not go forward and make it a flashback while also adding new plot to their characters as well as the ones we have come to know and love?  What makes authors decide to use a prequel method to tell these stories?

It’s an honest question, to which I sadly, have no answer.  So, readers, what say you? What are your feelings on the prequel?

Let’s Eat!

Hungry?

Me too, and it’s because I was reading this book where the main character was: making cupcakes, eating nachos, binging on pizza and beer…I could go on.  That is one thing that both drives me crazy and makes me smile when I’m reading a book.  I love it when a character is real enough that they do things like eat, and it’s not just “they went to dinner” or “she had breakfast”.  Eating really fleshes out a character since real people have this tendency to cook, eat, do dishes, etc.  In my life all of my favorite memories are connected with some sort of food (It’s no wonder my hips are round!), so I can really connect with a character when food is part of their “lives”.

On the flip side, reading about food makes me hungry.  I don’t know how many times I have been reading and then looked at my husband and said, “We need to go have ______ (fill in the blank with something tasty).”  He rolls his eyes and goes back to whatever he was doing, not leaping up to rush out and get me something yummy to nosh, the jerk.  Then I go back to reading and feel a gnawing disappointment because I didn’t get to experience that food memory with my literary buddy.

Finally though, I have found a happy medium.   Recently I have discovered the wonder of authors posting recipes that were mentioned in their novels.  Okay, so full disclosure, I have seen recipes in the back of novels before, but I was too lazy to make them.  Just recently I started trying them out with amazing results.  My favorite recipes happen on Kristen Ashley’s website (I LOVE her books.  I’m kind of an addict and if you haven’t read them you need to!).  If you go there she has a handy little tab that says recipes and you can see a variety that were mentioned in her many wonderful novels.  The awesome thing is that the recipes are wonderful too.  There is absolutely no disappointment whatsoever.  All the food seems awesome when the characters are eating in the novels and the food is just as amazing in real life.  More so, because you get to lick the spoon 🙂

So, I guess the moral of the story is, don’t be afraid to try out those recipes.  Eat them while you’re reading, eat them while you aren’t, and especially try out the recipes on KristenAshley.net (I totally recommend Steph’s chicken, Nina’s Fish pie, and Roxie’s stuffed french toast!).

Well cooked, Kristen Ashley!

Let’s Review: Kresley Cole

Yesterday I became obsessed with a new book boyfriend. His name: Sevastyan, and he is H. O. T. Hot!

I’m talking about the hero or some would say, anti-hero, in Kresley Cole’s book The Professional.  Sevastyan has been sent to Nebraska in order to secretly watch and guard the recently discovered daughter of his boss, a Russian mafiya vor but he takes one look and is ensnared.  He wants her more than any woman he’s ever seen and struggles to resist temptation.

Natalie Porter, object of his desire, can peg a man at less than ten paces and doesn’t hesitate to share her opinions.  But when Sevastyan walks into the bar Natalie is at a loss.  She has never seen a man so confident, so brooding, so utterly hot!  When he shoots down her advances, she figures she will never see him again, that is until he kidnaps her and forces her on a plane to Russia to meet her long lost father.

Natalie and Sevastyan struggle to resist their desires (well, he struggles) as well as keep her safe from the threats of the other mafiya families.  When tragedy strikes and they find themselves on the run, they can no longer ignore their fiery but dark connection.

Before I read this book, when I thought of Kresley Cole I thought of the paranormal.  She is an outstanding story teller and I have read many of her paranormal romances, but this, The Professional, takes things to an entirely new level.  A sexy, erotic, heart pounding, panty dampening level.

Be warned, this book is not for the straight laced or faint of heart,  there is some seriously sexy BDSM happening.  Christian Grey better get out of the way because Aleksander Sevastyan is going to kick his pansy ass.

Well done, Kresley Cole!  Well done!

Let’s Review: Christine Warren

Hello friends!

It has been a while since I have been on and what can I say, life got in the way.  But now I’m back and ready to review!

Recently I finished the book Big Bad Wolf by Christine Warren and it was great.  This novel is the second in her Others series and I came upon it without having read any of the others.  Luckily, even as a part of a series I hadn’t read, I wasn’t lost in the story at all.  The book stands alone very well and was engaging from the start.

The story is about werewolf playboy, Graham, who is disallusioned by the playboy game.  As the Alpha of his pack, he is also expected to produce a mate and his obnoxious cousin is set on using his lack of one to oust Graham from the “throne.”  Then along comes Missy, a plain human kindergarten teacher who he’d never bothered to give a second glance.  She of course has been in love with him for ages.  So…he sniffs her, she runs from him, and all manner of sexiness ensues.

I LOVE stories of the supernatural and this one is no exception.  The characters were funny, sexy, and had great chemistry. The only confusion I had was in the descriptions of the shift that the werewolves made. I was expecting them to shift into actual wolves and at one point in the story it seemed like they did, but at another Ms. Warren had them shifting into the more horror story version of a werewolf, standing on two legs, a more grotesque picture.  That picture was decidedly not sexy, and the fact that it was inconsistent was bothersome.

Overall, the book was a read I enjoyed and I will definitely be looking into the first novel in the series.

So, well done Christine Warren!

 

 

Too Many Books

Have you ever noticed how books are like laundry?

Now, bear with me a minute.  Laundry is this seemingly never ending thing, every day there is more, and more, and more!  You can never truly catch up.  The production of books is incredibly similar.  There are always more coming out, more being written.  Imagine all of the novels that are out there in the unpublished ether just waiting to be discovered.

When you think about it, it’s a little overwhelming.  As a writer I have to wonder what my chances of publication truly are with so many stories out there, all clamoring for their opportunity to be spread and read by the public.  My manuscript is one in a million, literally and that is incredibly disheartening.  It’s like folding your last load of laundry only to realize that you forgot a towel.  Crushing.

As a reader I suppose we can take it in a more positive light.  There are millions of choices out there to immerse ourselves in and as long as we have the ability to make a decision we are set.  This is laundry in reverse.  Once we finish a book we glory over the fact that there are more.  Our choices are seemingly endless.