What I Really Want

I’ve been reading a lot of craft books. Things that tell me books should be all about plot, and tension, and making characters miserable until the very end. But maybe, just maybe, that’s not what I want to read.

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Please let it be a kissing book!

Yeah, I know. Kind of a revelation to me, too.

But the deal is life has been pretty stressful.

There’s hurricanes like Irma and Harvey, issues with North Korea, Las Vegas shootings, NYC terrorist attacks, trade concerns, Russia investigations, debt ceilings, border walls, and whatever else is gobbling up the news. It feels like a constant stream of ugliness and negativity. Maybe it’s always been there, and I was better at not noticing.

There’s family and work and health issues and . . . Well, you get the idea. You probably suffer from all of it, too.

So maybe, just maybe, when I slip into a fictional world, I’m not looking for heart wrenching agony. I’m not looking for Game of Thrones level treachery, betrayal, and angst. Maybe, I just want a nice romance with a few obstacles to overcome and then a happily-ever-after.

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Yeah, that’s kinda ugly to admit. But it’s true.

I have a rather large stack of books to read. Most of them romance, so I should get my happily-ever-after. Yet, I don’t want to read about a lot of things in them. I never have the stomach for rape. I’m really not looking for characters that keep making bad choices as we watch the suspense build.

I don’t really want to be on the edge of my seat. I just don’t have it in me to care. Or, if I do care, I’d rather save it for something else.

I want to slip into a book and let it be a nice ride. Give me some bumps and challenges to overcome, but that lets me escape into it. I don’t find fear or horror relaxing. Or suffering.

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While maybe it’s not good storytelling and doesn’t follow the rules of craft, this is what I want right now. What I’ve been reading. What entertains me. And for me, that’s all that matters at the moment.

Maybe I’m alone. And that’s okay. It won’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last.

 

How about you? Ever find yourself too wrung out for high-intensity fiction? Am I the only one that watches reruns of Bob Ross to relax some evenings?

Why Disney Needs to Buy MLP

My oldest daughter loves My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. Loves it. I have, unfortunately, seen every episode numerous times.

All in, it’s not that bad of a show. The characters are all ponies, so there are no body issue concerns. The main pony, Twilight Sparkle, is smart and dedicated to her studies. At no point in the show do they have gender issues. Most of the main characters are female, and they always solve their own problems. It shows the ups and downs of friendship, how things aren’t always perfect, and teaches lessons like inclusivity.

There’s even the occasional funny that only an adult would get.

So, why am I saying Disney needs to buy them?

Because I am tired of not being able to get my daughter the toys she wants.

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You want Elena of Avalor? Aisles are full of her. You want Moana? No problem. Every Disney princess back to Snow White in 1937 is available to be purchased at your local Target. Want something a little more exotic? Amazon or Toys R Us has your back.

Want a crystal empire My Little Pony that has been featured in a dozen episodes over several years? Nope.  Not for sale

Want Diamond Tiara, one of the “villains” in the show that starts out in Season One and is a key player throughout the rest of the six seasons (not sure about the seventh yet)? Well, they made her once, in one set. That now sells for $279.99 plus $19.99 shipping. I’ve been trying to find this pony for my daughter for two years at a reasonable price. Can’t find it.

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So not worth $300

Disney would not tolerate such nonsense. You’re willing to give them money for a pink pony with a tiara on her bottom? Here you go, they’ll make a couple hundred thousand. They would way rather take your money than not take your money.

Maybe this sounds like I’m being a little materialistic or driven by consumerism.  And it is, a little. But this is one toy my daughter loves to death. The only show she *has* to see. We gave up cable years ago, and I buy the new episodes for her on Amazon. Way cheaper than a cable subscription, it’s commercial free, and she can re-watch the episodes to her heart’s content.

I’ve learned that the moment I see a new MLP thing in the store, I buy it and hide it away for my daughter. If I don’t, it won’t be there at a price I’m willing to pay. I saw this set with three of the main characters in the show at Target precisely once for $14.99. It’s now selling for $35. But hey, it comes with free shipping!

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Whoever is selling a kid’s toy for more than twice the price, I hope karma finds you.

Again, if Disney saw this selling for $35, I’d expect them to up their price from $14.99 to $19.99 and then flood the shelves with it. Moana came out in 2016. I have no problem getting toys. Why can’t Hasbro up their game? Why do all of their toys have to be like Tickle Me Elmo when they even bother to make them?

I wish I could say it was one or two “special” sets that this happened with, but it’s over and over and over. Go ahead and try to find a Queen Chrysalis. At least they made her. A bunch of the other frequent characters are nowhere to be seen. Discord, Big Macintosh, the changelings in their new evolved state. Where are so many of the characters that make the show interesting?

If you’re Disney, on the other hand, they’ve got you covered. You want Olaf, a troll, or even a snow man made from a sneeze? Yup, you got it!

So, yes, I would like Disney to go ahead and take over the merchandising rights for My Little Pony. Let me be able to buy my daughter some of the characters she loves. I already know she’ll play with them until they are so mangy not even a bath in dish soap will save them. Yeah, that knowledge comes from experience. Who knew plastic could be forever permeated with child fingerprints?

 

How about you? Your child ever want a really hard to find toy? Maybe there’s something you want that you can’t seem to locate? Or perhaps your children are also My Little Pony fans and you can totally commiserate?

Pleasure Reading

I read for pleasure. There, I’ve said it. I’ve admitted it.

Strange thing is, I don’t know why I need to admit it. Yet, I regularly feel like I do. For some reason, I must justify choosing books that promulgate fun over enlightenment. I’m not alone in this, either. Especially fellow romance readers. We love our books, but there’s a sort of secret shame to it.

I don’t know why.

When was the last time a group of people felt guilty going to see Transformers? Disappointed, maybe, but guilty? Seriously, two hours of explosions and special effects didn’t leave them any smarter. Yet, that’s totally okay, and no one who saw the movie feels the need to explain why. They went for fun. Some eye candy, and on to the next thing.

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So why do so many people that read feel the need to justify pleasure reading?

Perhaps this goes back to high school English class when so many of our teachers literally killed really great books. I remember reading The Scarlet Letter for enjoyment two years before we read it in English class. It wasn’t something I would’ve actively sought out again given how heart-wrenching it was, but I had enjoyed it. It made me think, and it made me cry.

Then my English teacher got a hold of it. Suddenly, the rust on the wrought iron fence was imbued with all sorts of symbolism. I went from liking the book to being ecstatic for the day we were done with it. On my second read through with my English class, I didn’t care about any of the characters or their struggles. It was read, regurgitate, repeat.

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That same class, the teacher was chastising some of the lower performers in the class and asking them what it would take to get them engaged. I remember the ring-leader of this group asked why couldn’t we read something like The Stand. My ears perked up. If ever there was a book laden with symbolism, a true epic struggle between good and evil…

But that wasn’t in the curriculum. The teacher never approved it, and we plodded on through Shakespeare and whatever else was “required” reading.

Makes me wonder if this is where so many people had their love of books squashed. While there’s a lot in Shakespeare, Golding, and Hawthorne, there’s also a lot in Tolkien, King, and maybe even Patterson. Given the current popularity of the latter authors, it truly surprises me that they don’t get more time in a classroom. These books are all written for a modern audience (okay, maybe no Tolkien, but I bet his work would still spark interest).

If something is interesting, there’s a higher probability you’ll learn something and keep that learning with you beyond the test. Interest is powerful, and for some reason, we horribly underestimate and discredit it.

Perhaps too many people had English teachers that didn’t engage them and began to associate reading with my second trip through The Scarlet Letter. Reading was a chore, a task to do so a paper could be written before we scampered off to do what we wanted to do, like watch a movie.

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If that’s how reading is perceived, I can understand why people don’t get pleasure reading. Why it seems odd that we’d open up a romance novel and snuggle onto the sofa to have a lovely afternoon read.

This comes back to a different question though: should every book we read have the same depth my English teacher assigned to The Scarlet Letter?

I’m going to say “no”. There’s no reason why everything we do must be learning endeavor. Maybe it’s just me. I strongly dislike most literary books. Give me a romance, epic fantasy, or space opera. Give me characters I can cheer for and an ending that leaves me satisfied. Basically, give me a good movie or mini-series between the pages of a book.

 

What do you think? Do you pleasure read? Why or why not? Do you hold movies and TV shows to the same standards as books? Maybe you had a really awesome English teacher that gave you a totally different experience?

 

 

Adulting. It’s Hard.

For those of us late Gen-Xers or millennials, we’ve learned that adulting is hard.

Putting aside the Great Recession and the resulting under-employment for many new college grads, there are a lot of other reasons why our lawns look the way they do. Besides many of us not wanting to use weed killer on the same grass our kids play on.

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Here are the top four reasons I came up with for why adulting is so hard.

 

  1. Video Games –  Pick your flavor. Whether you play MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, console games like Skyrim or Fallout 4, or Angry Birds on your phone, this is not an option that even existed for my dad when I was a kid. The Nintendo came out when I was in elementary school. I didn’t think much of it. We eventually got one, and while I loved Tetris and Super Mario Brothers, it was really easy to put down. I didn’t fully understand the possibility of the system until Legend of Zelda. Now, you have the option for a fun little time-waster like Candy Crush while you wait in line at the grocery store to the black hole of time games like World of Warcraft and Fallout 4 are.

 

  1. Wanna Watch Some TV? – When I was a kid, there were three television stations. Even if you were lucky and your parents sprang for cable, there was still less than thirty stations. You actually had to be sitting in front of the TV at a designated time (7pm Monday nights for MacGyver!) to get to watch a show. You couldn’t just watch whatever you want whenever you were feeling lazy or like procrastinating. I remember on certain nights the only thing on was bowling. Going out and “leveling up” your lawn or cleaning out the towel closet was infinitely more fun than that. I have no idea how many thousand channels are even available now (we gave up cable in 2009), but I do know you can stream TV shows through Amazon and Netflix. You can binge-watch an entire series on a Saturday.

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  1. Movies – We had a VHS player when I was a kid, but movies were expensive (like $75 in 1980s money). Most of the time, we rented them. It took forever for new movies to come out, and then there was a long wait until your name came up and you could rent the “new” releases. Going to the movies was an expensive endeavor with kids, and frankly, my parents didn’t want to pay theater prices for them to sit bored through a kid’s movie. Not only are dvds relatively inexpensive today, you expect them to come out within six months or so of the movie. You no longer go to the VHS aisle of your local grocery store and hope they have something decent. Now, there’s On Demand, Redbox, Netflix, and Amazon. The video rental places of my youth are all gone. Of course they are. Why would they exist when I can own anything in Amazon’s vast army of movies with two clicks? There were some benefits to a VHS, though.

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  1. The Internet – Whether surfing it, using social media, watching YouTube, or buying your groceries, the internet has changed the way we spend our time. Sure, some call it a time waster, and it can be, but it’s also become a vehicle of our leisure time. Why would you be chasing dandelions off your lawn when you could be watching funny cat videos? Reading blogs? Or literally doing anything else?

 

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How about you? Do think today’s plethora of entertainment options has made it harder to be an adult? Or at least acting like the adults of the past? Do you find it harder to do lawn work or other boring chores when there are so many other fun things to do? Anything I missed that you find to be a distraction to the work of adulthood?

Four Things You Can Learn from Romance Novels Even If You Hate Them

Sadly, I’ve seen  a lot of people say they hate romance novels since joining social media. Some even proclaiming romance has no place in movies or television. When pressed for the reason why, it tends to come back to “I never get the guy/girl, so I don’t want to see someone who’s got everything get him/her.”

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A part of me says welcome to Hollywood. I can’t think of the last movie I saw where the heroine wasn’t amazingly beautiful, thin, and with perfect hair.

This is why I love romance novels. There the heroines come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The heroes, too. Depending one what you read, cowboys, bikers, and billionaires are all there. So are teachers, dragons, and knights. seriously, whatever you particular interest is, there is someone out there writing it. But, you have to look.

Here’s something I’m not sure the people saying they hate romance because it doesn’t work for them realize. Their very words are a red flag for anyone they may be interested in having a relationship with. Why? Because this hints at the fact they think they’re owed a relationship, owed love, and probably owed sex. These might not be their real thoughts, but in a world where one out of five women are victims of sexually assault, I’d wary.

Think about that for one moment. One out of five. Think of five women you know, and statistically, one of them has been hurt this way. I have no idea what a comparable situation is for a man, so I won’t try. But yeah, it’s a lotta women’s worst nightmare. I often wonder how many men walk to their car after dark with their keys between their fingers “just in case”.

The reasons are not part of this post, but it does give an insight into the world we live in today. But, it’s not the world women want. Hence, romance novels. It’s an escape. An idealization. A way to explore love and sexuality in a non-threatening way. A way for the reader to know things are going to turn out okay in the end for the heroine, even if they don’t always in real life.

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of things that can be learned from romance novels. Here are a few.

1.Get past the Trappings – this is probably harder for men who are more visually stimulated than women. Yes, the guys in the stories are usually attractive. Just like the women in the movies and on TV. But the women aren’t always, or at least not in the current accepted fashion. Either way, most romance novels don’t dwell on it. Sometimes, neither the hero or heroine is attractive in the traditional way. In one of my favorite contemporary romance novels, the hero was a somewhat dorky Princeton professor.

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2. Common Interests – Most of the characters in a story have some sort of common interest that brings them together. Horses. International spy rings. Vampire hunters. Customizing motorcycles. Pick your reason. In most novels, they don’t sort of bump into each other at a nightclub and just hit it off. This is playing to fantasy, and there are as many kinds of heroes and their interests as can be imagined. Some of the people I’ve heard complain about romance novels make me wonder if trolling in their interest. Probably not the best interest if you want to meet a significant other, but I bet there’s a romance novel out there somewhere with that in it. In the story about the Princeton professor, the thing the hero and heroine shared was a love of books. In a romance novel. Go figure.

3. Listening – It’s such a  tired cliché that men don’t listen, but it’s become cliché for a reason. In romance novels, the hero listens to the heroine. Learns she’s scared of vampires because they ate her little brother or whatever. This can have a huge impact in the story when later he later understands why she’s frozen with fear when the normally heroic vampire hunter sees a vampire about to gobble a child. If he hadn’t listened? No chance to understand. Same thing in the real world. My husband listened to me and knows I’m terrified of spiders because a brown recluse bit my sister and it necrotized the skin on her leg. (I won’t post a picture here, but here’s a link to what it looks like). So killing spiders without question and without making me feel bad has helped our relationship. In the book I referenced above, the professor listened and understood the heroine’s issues with her controlling mother. This helped bring them together.

4. If you listen in the living room, you’re more likely to listen in the bedroom – There’s a lot of research out there that says women are just as sexual as men when the woman thinks she’s also going to get an orgasm. I have yet to read a romance novel where the woman wasn’t brought to orgasm. The path to her fulfilled desire may seem unrealistic to me, but it’s always the end result. In some novels, there will even be scenes where the hero holds off on his own pleasure to make sure she gets hers. In the real world, I know women do it for men. So, I’m not surprised in a romance novel, roles change. Shouldn’t be too surprising that women want pleasure, too.

 

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Are all romance novels good? That’s like asking are all action movies good. Are all science fiction books good. Are all TV shows good. Different people like different things, and some clearly just suck. Mystery Science 3000 made a show out of how bad some movies can be.

Also, romance novels change along with society. What sold to repressed women in the 1950s is not what sold in the 1980s or what sells now. More recent ones show more current fantasies. And as with everything, quality varies dramatically from author to author. Sometimes book to book.

But the good is out there.

 

What do you think? Think you can learn something from romance novels or am I full of bunk? Me being wrong is always an option. Is there something I’m missing? Something you’d add?