The Perks of Being a Space Cadet

Head-In-The-Clouds

When I was a kid, I used to drive my grandmother crazy playing what she liked to call the What-If Game. Basically, I’d sit by her side proposing various scenarios until she’d had enough and sent me off to play with a friend, sibling, or toy.

To say this was my favorite game in the entire world is an understatement. I loved making things up, imagining what could happen “if.”

What if Tom caught Jerry?

What if my Barbie doll could move all by herself?

What if that tree in the backyard fell over and crashed into the house and the roof fell down and we were all stuck there, pinned to the floor, for a week?

My grandmother was good for a couple scenarios but her answers were never as outlandish as my questions. What if my brother ate all the cookies in the entire store? Well, he’d make himself sick, she’d tell me. What if I grew to ten feet tall overnight? She’d get me to clean the ceiling.

Faced with such reasonable answers, I’d try to prompt her for more. “Yeah, but what if I was one hundred feet tall?” “What if he ate all the cookies in the whole world?”

This was about the time she tried to distract me. Looking back, I can see how exhausting this probably was for her. Had it been up to me, I never would have stopped. Actually, I never have.

Wherever I go, whatever I see, inspires its own set of questions. I go through life with my eyes wide open, and my mind on something else. I’m sure a physician could produce some unflattering diagnosis to explain this, but then, of course, he’d want to treat it…and we can’t have that.

As is the case with most people, the bulk of my day is spent in monotony. I get up, make breakfast, clean up after breakfast, get the kids to school, get myself to work, and repeat the same schedule of tasks there that I’ve been doing for ten years. Afterwards, there might be shopping to do, or errands to run. I might have to write out some checks, and send out some bills. Of course, there will be more cooking and cleaning.

For the most part, I daydream through the bulk of it. I’m not overly annoyed that I’ve stood in line at the store for half an hour because, in that time, I’ve made a romantic connection between two figments of my imagination. The commute to work gave me a chance to figure out how my character was going to escape her enemy, and working on our budget inspired me to begin working on a draft for a story I’d been putting off.

Are there drawbacks? Well, yes. I’m the person you honk/swear at/flip off because they haven’t noticed that the light turned green. But aside from annoying others and occasionally looking like a complete idiot, the positives outweigh the negatives. To tune in and focus on menial chores one hundred percent of the time would be exhausting. It sort of makes me understand why so many people are constantly in a bad mood.

That, or aliens from the planet Sha’lah-uhn-nhu have contaminated the water supply (I only drink fancy bottled water) with a mind-control serum to incite a world war that will eventually lead to a destruction of all humanity and enable them to…

Okay. I’ll stop.

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If I Stay

With few exceptions, every time I watch movie based on a novel I’ve enjoyed, I’m unable to appreciate the film. To me, the reading experience is more personal. My imagination is at work. I have the benefit of getting to know the characters at my own pace, from their physical make up to their emotional quirks. I live through the story with them, experiencing their struggles and triumphs, often lingering in their world for days afterward. With a movie, you get a faster, condensed version. Scenes are missing, the characters rarely appear as you’ve envisioned them, and if Hollywood has taken liberties with the story, you’re often disappointed with the result. It’s for these reasons that, when the option is available, I prefer to watch the movie first.

I’m not a person turned off by spoilers. My pleasure comes from the experience of the ride, not the conclusion, and I’ve found several new books in this manner. The Hunger Games, for example. I watched the movie on a whim, fell in love with it, and rushed to buy the books, which I then devoured over a five day period. (A mistake, as it turns out, because I haven’t enjoyed the subsequent movies, at all.)

When I began hearing the buzz around If I Stay, I also caught rumors that it would be made into a film. Instead of surrendering to my immediate gratification tendencies, I waited for Hollywood to introduce me to the story. Unfortunately, I won’t be picking up this book.

If I Stay is based on the novel of the same name, released back in, I want to say, 2009. Yes, I’m behind the times (no one ever accused me of being a trendsetter). Anyway, the story goes like this:  Gifted cellist Mia is in a horrible car accident with her parents and younger brother. Commercials for the film typically led with this, so it came as no surprise. What follows is the immediate aftermath: ambulance, hospital, doctors, and an out-of-body Mia observing friends and family overwhelmed with grief while flashbacks deliver the backstory on our young heroine.

Honestly, I enjoyed the flashbacks. Enough that I was annoyed when we returned the hospital again, and again. Mia’s parents were the kind of dream parents every teenager wants. They’re cool, unbelievably understanding, and the chemistry between each member of the family (aside from Mia) was fun to watch.

From what I’ve read, the fact that Mia never felt like she belonged was quite accurately portrayed. She’s a somewhat naïve, somewhat intense, classical musician who never really seemed to relax. I blame this for about half my problem with Mia and Adam’s relationship. Yes, they both love music. They are both musicians. They both…nope, that’s pretty much it.

Adam’s a laid-back rocker on his way to becoming a star. He’s hot, charming, and adores her parents, but throughout this movie I struggled with the romance supposedly blooming between Adam and Mia. At no point did she seem to completely relax with him, and never did I feel as though he truly understood her.

It didn’t help that the casting was odd. Though lovely, Chloe Grace Moretz appears closer to thirteen than seventeen, while Jamie Blackley easily passes for a man in his early twenties. There was a small ick-factor there that I tried to ignore, but didn’t entirely succeed in doing. Trivial, perhaps, but in the end it was just one more reason I was disappointed with this movie. If true love is the only reason to survive an accident that has robbed you of your entire immediate family (which this story proposes), I need that relationship to be real and powerful. This wasn’t. Not to me, anyway.

When thrilled with a movie based on a book, I want that novel for the deeper experience of the story. With If I Stay, there just wasn’t enough to tempt me into the investment.

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This Has Nothing To Do With Anything…

lipplumper

Yesterday I had to buy a new tube of mascara. As often happens, I got a little lost in the make-up aisle. It’s less that I want everything as I’m constantly amazed at what’s available. Fake lashes, fake nails, eye shadows and lipsticks in enough shades to paint a rainbow, lip plumper…

The first time I saw this, I had to stop and stare. Lip plumper, really? I suppose my own lips could use some plumping, but I’m kind of wary. How does this magical product make my lips bigger? I’ve thought on it (without doing even five seconds of research) and instead of coming up with a solution, I started thinking about what else could be plumped up. Let’s say I kiss my daughter’s forehead. Is she going to get a lip-shaped puffy area on her skin? What’s in that stuff? How long is it “active?” I don’t know–not sure I want to. But I digress…

As I’m deciding between dark brown and medium brown mascara, I caught sight of a very weird looking bottle of foundation. Right on the front, it promised to tighten my skin, hide any wrinkles, and leave me with a smooth, flawless finish. I was actually intrigued and found myself lifting the bottle to seriously consider this twelve dollar purchase (and if you knew how cheap I was, you’d be impressed). Then I did the next most ignorant thing possible and looked for the model promoting it.

Yes, I know they’re all air brushed and they–like me–have pores, but I was in the mood to be suckered and I was hoping to see a grinning Ellen DeGeneres or a lovely Andie MacDowell sporting noticeably reduced fine lines. Instead, I got a thirteen year old actress.

Okay, she wasn’t thirteen. She wasn’t an actress, either. She was famous, though, and I’m honestly not sure if she can legally vote. THIS is who they use to sell wrinkle cream? For real?

Actually, no. She was promoting the neighboring anti-zit foundation. Still, as I checked out her plastic skin (I don’t care how young you are, no one’s skin is that perfect) I started thinking about how beauty is marketed. We’re given the most gorgeous spokeswomen (who are then photoshopped) to demonstrate the marvel of whatever product is being pushed. Do any of us really think a twelve dollar bottle of cream is going to turn us into Eva Longoria? Why do we want that, anyway?

I read this article (sorry, I don’t remember when or where) that said an experiment was done in a remote community to introduce women to commercialization–TV, magazine ads, etc. They said that, surprisingly, there were no issues of violence or questionable morals, etc. The only major change that occurred was that an overwhelming majority of these women developed self-esteem issues.

Okay, I butchered the details here pretty bad, but the message is the same. And that makes me sad…

 

(DISCLOSURE: This was my first ever rambling post, written over a year ago, recycled now to celebrate my one year anniversary with WordPress.)

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The Value of Ebooks

I was thinking seriously about writing my own post for this, but I couldn’t have done a better job making the same points than Jen Warren did, at The Veritable Fount. So, instead of repeating nearly everything she said, in quite probably a less organized, more erratic way, I’m simply going to share her article here:

The Veritable Fount

There’s something to be said for the instant gratification of buying a book without leaving your house, and being able to start reading it within seconds. Personally, I prefer holding a book in my hand, the satisfaction of physically turning all those wonderful pages…but I’m an impatient person willing to forego that experience if I can have it NOW.

Ebooks are terrifically convenient. Ereaders have bookmarks that never let me forget my place, search options to reference clever phrasings or dialogue. Nowadays you don’t even have to buy an expensive electronic device to enjoy them; I don’t. My laptop has apps for reading Mobi files, ePubs, and PDFs – ditto with my phone. I can read whatever I want, whenever I want.

When I first began consuming electronic books, I was over the moon for the convenience of the experience. I read everywhere, downloading books at a rate even I can’t believe…

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What Readers Wish Authors Knew

A reader I have all the respect in the world for created her own new site with a wealth of information for writers, including this feedback, given by readers, for the benefit of all writers:

What Readers Wish Authors Knew.

Check it out!

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Authors and Readers

There was a thread put up recently on Goodreads that discussed the relationship–and appropriateness–of the reader-writer relationship. Though I rarely participate in online forums (scary places, those), I do stop by and skim some of the threads, just to keep myself “in the loop.”

Typically, the discussions are predictable. Most of my groups are author-heavy, and the threads focus mainly on attracting new readers and selling (or giving away) more books. There is advice sought and handed out, with whole sections devoted to acquiring the proper team of professionals for your new book. Need a cover artist? Two thousand people have suggested theirs. Need an editor? Your search stops here.

Every now and then, however, there’s a real debate concerning the indie movement, or the slow (but steady) decline of readership. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve even seen readers put up threads to discuss their own struggles–with authors, self-published books, etc. These are the discussions I like to follow. Unfortunately, they rarely remain civil.

I think, just generally, people have become more sensitive to (real or merely perceived) criticism. We’re all on the defensive. We put ourselves out there, even by stating an opinion, and wait for someone to attack. If you are an argumentative person, this is probably enjoyable for you. As for the rest of us, not so much.

When I saw the discussion going on about the reader-author relationship, I kind of expected it to blow up. (And it still might. Such is the nature of Goodreads.) Whether it did or not, however, I was not optimistic that any real “answer” would arise from the debate. How could it?

I won’t argue any “reader-first” crap with you here. I read books, yes, but I also write them–which invalidates my opinion in ways I’ve only begun to understand. I can’t speak for “Readers.” I won’t even try. As an author, I will say only that any relationship forged between someone who creates a work and the people who enjoy it is up to them.

The “Author” is no longer the distant, untouchable celebrity of the past. Social media, as well as the rise of self-publishing, has created a new class of writer–and a new protocol for interaction. New York Times bestselling authors are now blogging. They have websites, and regularly speak with their fans. On the other end, you have the very real and in-your-face authors who are seemingly everywhere, all the time, begging for attention.

What’s right? What’s wrong? It’s easier to define the latter, rather than the former. A reader told me a few months ago that “authors should be seen, but not heard.” At the time, it made me laugh. The more I think about it, the more I think her statement was probably closer to what’s “right” than I gave her credit for.

If readers want to interact with an author, they will. If they don’t, they shouldn’t have to hide to avoid it. Instead of worrying how best to gain an audience and sell books, I think most authors are better off just writing. Let your work speak for itself, and accept that not everyone is going to love it.

 

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A Failure of Adaptation

petals

There’s always a risk when making a movie from a book. Let’s face it:  the choices are rarely, if ever, unknown titles. Studios pick favorites, hoping to cash in on reader loyalty. Sometimes this works (Hunger Games). Sometimes it doesn’t (every version of Carrie after the one with Sissy Spacek). I could write a very long, very detailed post about Hollywood butchering my favorites, but I’ll save that for another day. Tonight, I want to talk a little about Lifetime Television and V.C. Andrews.

The author of Flowers in the Attic–and other incestuous tales–earned a place in my heart when I was likely far too young and impressionable to be reading her work. I enjoyed her sometimes over-the-top style, and found myself completely sucked into the world of Cathy, Chris, Cory, and Carrie.

I was with them in the beginning, at the introduction to their idyllic life. I was there when Father died, and Mother forced them to live in an attic in order to earn back Grandfather’s love (and money). I witnessed their pain, and suffered with them through the abuse that finally robbed them of hope.

Forget the racy aspects of the first novel in this series. Flowers in the Attic was a powerful tale of love and selfishness. It demonstrated, to me, the extremes of human nature…and has stayed with me throughout my life.

While reading the sequel, Petals on the Wind, I maintained that emotional connection. I felt Cathy’s rage, her need for revenge. I endured her highs and lows, as torn by her struggle as she was. This character was never perfect. She was as often cruel as she was kind, and regularly came off as just plain unlikeable. In spite of this, we’d “lived through” so much together that I couldn’t hate her.

When Lifetime announced that they were making this into a movie, I was foolishly excited. Yes, every attempt to do the same for FITA had failed miserably, but POTW was different. There was real potential here for a fine film.

I DVRd it this afternoon, and turned it on about an hour ago. I’m writing this while rolling my eyes at the television, and muttering obscenities no one else is awake to hear. Why? Because Lifetime has gone too far.

I expected to have criticisms for their efforts. To be fair, I’ll admit that. A certain amount of cheesiness was a given to me. The acting wasn’t going to be top-notch, and I assumed they’d take some liberties with the storyline. What I did not expect, however, was to watch a movie so far removed from the source material that I almost can’t believe they kept the title.

An important character who helped shape these children’s lives throughout the novel was killed off in the first five minutes of the film. Sex that never happened, happened. Relationships developed in bizarre ways, on a twisted timeline, through wince-worthy performances. For those of you familiar with the book, you won’t even recognize this movie.

I’m watching with a kind of sickened horror. I keep thinking, “What?! No! That didn’t freaking happen! What the hell!?”

I would think just getting the basic plot ironed out would be cake when screenwriters are working from a completed novel. Yet, I’m forced to question whether anyone involved in the production of Petals on the Wind even read the book. It’s that bad.

Lifetime, what the hell were you thinking? It hasn’t been so long since this book was popular that you can count on readers not remembering the details. Did you even glance at a synopsis? Did you ask anyone who’d read the book? You really should have.

I won’t claim this novel was the best thing ever written. It wasn’t. There was plenty wrong with it, actually. Thing is, Lifetime had an opportunity to reflect not what lacked, but what shined within the story. They could have made a slightly questionable book into a thoughtful, provocative tale of revenge.

Unfortunately, they didn’t.

If studios want to take creative liberties, they should do so to improve. What’s the point in making a mockery of an already often-mocked story? Be better. Try harder. Give the audience not what it expects, but what it deserves.

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