Category Archives: Books

Creature Features & Jigsaw Puzzles

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I have a clear memory of watching Creature Features with my mom in the basement of our townhouse in Illinois, which she had turned into a rec room with a ping-pong table, TV, stereo, etc. It was Illinois, if you missed that in the preceding sentence, 40 miles north of Lake Michigan, where it got so cold that if you dropped a record on the floor it would shatter like a dinner plate. (This actually happened.)

I’ve always said I remember putting giant jigsaw puzzles together with my mom while we watched scary movies, and generally, but I was trying to call up a specific memory of this and it’s not working. It actually doesn’t even make sense. The only table we had in the basement large enough for a 1000-2000 piece puzzle was on the side of the room that didn’t have the TV. The stairs were in the middle. Right in front of the stairs was a little storage type room my dad used as a darkroom for photography. On the right side was a TV, sofa, coffee table, etc. On the left side was an old dining room table, another sofa, and the stereo system. We would have had to use the old dining table for the puzzles. So how would we have been watching Creature Features at the same time? Memory fail.

Even though I enjoyed these campy horror movies at the time (because mommy was there), I’ve disliked horror since. Pretty much the entire horror film genre falls into the dislike pile, but I do reserve some exceptions for books, Stephen King in particular. It’s not because the movies themselves are all terrible; it’s because I don’t enjoy having my emotions manipulated to that extent. Now you’ll say I don’t mind the same thing when it happens in the romcoms. And I’ll just shrug. Because people are inconsistent, and I’m a people too. Shockeroo!

The two Creature Features that stayed with me all these years I dub “Coconut Sea Monster” and “Alpine Beheader.” The first was about guys on a military submarine who kept getting murdered brutally cuz one of them had morphed into a monster due to radiation exposure. We didn’t see the murderer until the end and he looked like he was covered in coconut. It was really freaky! The otter one was about peeps trapped in a ski resort during a blizzard and some snow vampire kept grabbing one at a time and ripping off their head. Icky!

You know, this could very well be why I dislike both sailing and skiing. A-ha!

Still love coconut though. Nothing comes between me and a coconut donut.

As far as jigsaw puzzles, still love doing those, but don’t have room for them in my current place, can’t isolate one from the kitty anyway, and they seem sort of time-wastey when I have so many otter projects I want to finish as far as writing and needlework and staring at the walls. Someday though… when I retire maybe, bring on the jigsaw puzzles again! Hey, I wonder if they have Creature Feature puzzles? That could be a thing.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Creature

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Dukes…

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Jennifer Weiner has an interesting op-ed in the NYT celebrating sex ed via the romance novel. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Ms. Weiner’s novels and I want to change that soon. I’ve put her memoir Hungry Heart on my wish list and will be grabbing some of her older novels as well. But in the meantime I enjoyed her article in the NYT, even though I didn’t agree with all of it.

We’re on the same page with the idea that “what goes where” sex ed is necessary but not sufficient for young peeps and of course they will be curious for more information. They will search for it relentlessly. I definitely agree with Ms. Weiner that romance novels give a woman’s sexual satisfaction equal priority to a man’s. No fantasy duke or pirate or spy or CEO ever forgets to please his heroine in the bedroom (or wherever), multiple times. Ms. Weiner makes a good point that, unlike pr0n, romance novels describe complete scenes, including birth control (in contemporaries), various other awkward moments, and follow-up conversations.

Talking is important!

But romance novels, like so many forms of entertainment, focus mostly on fabulous looking characters with beautiful faces and perfect bodies. These are the kinds of people deserving of soul mates, true love, fantastic sex, and happily ever afters… this is the message insidiously drilled into our minds as soon as we’re able to read a book or watch a movie. Ms. Weiner quotes Jennifer Crusie in her article, and Ms. Crusie has given us plus-size heroines in several of her novels, but still they are gorgeous overweight women with great legs, lips, and hair, not the ordinary fat chicks you find shlumping around the supermarket. This is not to criticize ~ I lurve Ms. Crusie’s novels and they’re among my favorite romances. I am… JUST SAYING.

[I know some of you go into a peevey fit when peeps just say. Sorry about that.]

Point is, there’s a downside to young people (aka women let’s be honest cuz young men aren’t going to be reading Crusie et al) consuming the emotional content of their sex ed via romance novels. I should know. I was one.

On the bright side, people are still reading books.

Study Notes

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I was a smart kid, but I attribute my great grades not to flashes of genius but to boringly steady work habits. I trudged home from school, literally a mile+ in the snow, and did my homework. Every day. I spent a lot of time studying and overstudying for tests. Though I had some fun times, I didn’t really goof off that much, not in high school and certainly not in college.

In college, I had a Psych class and got 100% on a test. The professor congratulated me when he handed back the results, which was a little embarrassing. After class, a few students came up to me to ask how I did it. I said I read the assigned chapters, twice, and studied the lecture notes several times. That’s not what they wanted to hear, I could tell. They thought I had a special trick. I did not. I just spent a lot of time doing the boring, boring studying.

It is true when I was very young I had a bit of eidetic memory, but that faded fast and didn’t help me much by the time high school rolled around. I was better than most at remembering phone numbers, which has become an unnecessary skill these days. Who even needs to know their friends’ numbers any longer?

More recently I took the Notary Public exam and did well. I was a bit worried about it, even though I’ve taken it several times before (in California you have to retake it every four years). It’s easy to forget many of the details between tests if you only notarize once in a while as I do. But I overstudied like a maniac. Turns out I do have some good habits!

In my opinion, doing well in school is mostly about good habits, not brilliance. Could this be true about most things in life?

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Study

That’s Entertainment

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Along with many other things, I’ve become extremely picky wrt movies as I’ve aged. It also helps to have an enormous variety from which to choose. I have several theaters nearby, access to Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO Now, and my own library of DVDs. When I’m in the mood for a flick, I don’t have to settle for any old yawner.

The bottom line about a movie for me is entertainment. If I want to read about an event from history, I’ll look that up myself. I don’t want to see two hours of a long, dragged out battle or unrelenting gore. Gah. Of course there are exceptions, like if Brad Pitt is plotting to kill Hitler, I’m in. I don’t want to watch a bunch of robots, zombies, or Bruce Willis. I don’t like horror and mostly dislike science fiction, unless it’s really compelling and/or about human relationships primarily, not blasty laser battles. Forex, I liked The Martian, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049.

I love a good romcom, which basically means one starring Meg Ryan. There are a few others in my fave list, such as 27 Dresses and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But not many. Most are awful, unless they star Meg Ryan. Oh, Sandra Bullock did some good ones too, but now she mostly does those /who needs men anyway/ movies, which are even better. One is coming up later this year ~ Ocean’s 8 ~ and I’m totes seeing that (have to see the otter three Oceans first).

Love mob movies. One of my fave movies of all time is Goodfellas. Love spoofs of mob movies too ~ Analyze This! And of course The Sopranos on HBO rocked. (A bunch of series shows are fab ~ GOT, SFU, BB, G&F, etc.) Comedies generally? Depends. Some are great, some horrible.

I thought I would enjoy seeing old musicals on Prime, but I have to admit I don’t. They’re so boring. Guess I’m a newer musical lover only. Sound of Music, Chicago, Walk the Line, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba the Greek, Grease, Hair, Mamma Mia! A sequel to Mamma Mia is coming this summer, yay! I just saw The Greatest Showman and liked it a lot.

Regular dramas? Hit or miss. It just depends on the specific movie and I can’t count on reviews at all. I don’t trust Rotten Tomatoes/critics because my opinion doesn’t gibe with the norm. Forex, I loved Collateral Beauty and it received crappy reviews; Baby Driver was raved about everywhere and I found it mediocre. Loved Lion, didn’t like Manchester by the Sea. Enjoyed The Accountant, and I think a sequel is coming. Other films I liked last year include Lady Bird, Kingsman, The Big Sick, Wonder Woman, and The Glass Castle.

I’m planning to see Molly’s Game and Phantom Thread at the theater soon. Those both look interesting via their trailers. I’ve completed S2 of my Game of Thrones rewatch and am enjoying it just as much (if not more) the second time around. My list of wanna-sees on Prime etc. is long and getting longer, almost as impossible as my list of books to read. But those are both nice “problems” to have, right? There is always some form of great entertainment around. What a wonderful luxury!

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Entertain

The Overheard Confession

There are so many overused tropes in romance novels that if I see one in the blurb I’ll immediately lose interest in reading the book. Amnesia, mistaken ID, twins switching places, dukes pretending to be not-dukes, heiresses pretending to be not-heiresses, the jaded military man, the loner cowboy, the manic pixie dream girl, vampires, yada. One that you generally don’t get alerted to in the description but which sneaks in later is the overheard confession.

It goes like this. One of the protagonists, usually the heroine, will “confess” something, maybe her attraction to the hero, or something else incriminating, and he overhears it, or he hears part of it. He just so happens to walk past the room at the exact moment she says: “I poisoned my father so I wouldn’t have to marry my cousin Fenwick.” Naturally our hero misses the first part of what she says: “I can’t believe anyone would think I poisoned my father…”

This will propel the plot quite some distance before the protags sort it all out. Heroine won’t understand why hero is mistrustful of her when earlier he was so charming and attentive. He can’t understand why such a lovely girl, who cares for the orphans and the puppies, could have coldly killed her father. It’s such a dilemma! And yet he’s still madly attracted to her, which is so horrible for him that it puts him in a foul mood and he’s always snapping at the secondary characters. Naturally they avoid him and gravitate to our heroine, which makes him angrier. Why is she so popular? She’s a murderer, for heaven’s sake! Gah.

Idk if I’ve ever read that particular book, but I feel I have. It seems very real to me now that I wrote the paragraph. I believe it’s a parody/pastiche of various romnovs.

Sometimes it’s the hero who has the overheard confession. I read a romnov where the heroine believed she heard the hero say he never wanted children but in fact he said he didn’t want them with his first wife who would have been a bad mother since she was a drunken whore. Luckily she drowned, hurrah. And the protags solved some mystery and sorted out the baby making so all was well.

I think I’m over my burst of science fiction reading and back to romances, mysteries, and dramas. Of course I’m always up for a good book of pomes or a well-written aminal story (the non-fiction science type).

Goodreads says I read 28 books in 2017 (may finish another one this week). That doesn’t seem like very many, but four of them were A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) ~ in other words, enormous (around 1200 pages each). Lotta confessions going on in GOT, overheard and not.

~*~

The Daily Prompt: Confess

Regarding Social Media

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I like Twitter. There I said it, not that I’m getting paid (or am opposed to getting paid, hey). Since I’ve always had my finger on the pulse, more or less, I had a Twitter account straightaway, along with my Usenutters, where we tweeped what we ate for lunch and such. That was when you got 140 chars, no pics, no fancies. Boring! We quickly moved on to blogging and I eventually closed that account.

Years passed and Twitter seemed to turn into a wasteland of pr0n and politics, so I had no interest in it. But then one of my friends said there were poetry corners with lots of cool poets hanging out and doing flash stuffs, so I poked my head in again. And it was true ~ not just poetry, but prompts and wordgames and art and kitties and otters and all sorts of neato things. I made a new account.

Then I learned you were supposed to promote your writing via Twitter, so I created additional accounts for my ‘nyms, each dedicated to ginning up interest in my books, and x-tweeted with the other ‘nyms… ugh, exhausting. Not to mention, it didn’t help anything. My tweets immediately sank into the tweepy abyss, never to be seen again. Didn’t help if I “hearted” and retweeted other writers’ promos ~ everyone does that. Writing is hugely incestuous and it’s hard to break out of that cycle. Writers who achieve any meaningful success immediately lose their motivation to help lesser writers, and why not? They need to focus on writing their next successful book or else they’ll die. And they’ll probably die anyway. That’s just how it is. Note how successful people have zillions of followers but only follow a few, and this is true across all social media.

Anyway, this isn’t a whine about how I’m not going to write any more so there wah wah. I’ll always write because I’m a writer. But I’ll still bitch about various things, since I’m a bitch. Hehe. I came here to say that I like Twitter and I love blogging, which I plan to do more of, in lieu of so much st00pid, pointless Facebooking. Gah. What a waste of time and energy. Reading Twitter poetry is inspiring; writing on FB gets me warmed up to write in general. FB should be an afterthought, not something I reflexively look at before anything else.

I see so many friends complain about FB, on FB itself, which couldn’t care less, and I have to say… blogs are free. Get over here on WordPress (who isn’t paying me, but again I’m not opposed), get a blog, and choose your own design. It’s so nice to write a whole essay, post pics, control comments, know who visits, easily search for past stuff, etc. I highly recommend it. And if you don’t feel like writing? You can post a silly meme or Hallmark platitude on your blog same as anywhere else.

Think about it. Why gripe about FB and do nothing when there’s a solution right here?

Oh, Instagram. It’s become irritating as well, now that they’ve screwed it up and made it non-chronological so the paid accounts get priority. I haven’t been checking in as much and may unfollow everyone but my actual friends. That’s probably a good idea. I’ve also simply lost interest in photos somewhat. There are so many and okay gorgeous flowers adorable kitties oh looook OTTER and awww a baby and a puppy ooh hot fireman and some cupcakes yummm now more kitties okay… can I be done NO THERE ARE 72 million moar you have not seen omg.

Just get a blog, people, FFS. It’s not that hard.

My Take on PassionFlix

I know my blogfans can’t wait to hear what I haz to say about PassionFlix: “a premium streaming entertainment service that will provide your fix of classic romantic movies and launch original film adaptations of romance novels.” [quote via Bustle]

Honestly I was pretty freaking excited about the concept, one which I thought of myself ages ago. I mean, of course I thought of it ~ why wouldn’t I? There are so many mediocre romcoms (and lots of great ones too!) and so many good romance novels; it’s only natural to wonder why “they” don’t make the better ones into movies, beyond P&P. It puzzles me, forex, why no Jennifer Crusie romances have been made into movies. Faking It could be a super fun movie, among others. Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, etc. Then there are the old-timey romances with dukes and pirates. Peeps luv pirates. So much potential!

Anyway, after reading the Bustle article, I ran right over to the PassionFlix site, thinking hey maybe I will subscribe right away! But um… none of the books they have on their list to be made into movies are ones I’ve heard of. Some of the authors ring a bell, like Sylvia Day and Jill Shalvis, but not in a happy bell ringy way. Oh well.

They also stream other romantic movies, so I might sign up for a couple months just to be supportive of the concept. We’ll see. It’s a great concept. Maybe eventually there will be a Crusie book movie. A girl can dream…

And I know some of you are suspicious (or hopeful) that this is simply a pr0n site. Well, it does have a “barometer of naughtiness” (lol), but from the streaming movie list, it doesn’t look that way, unless you consider these movies pr0n:

“We have everything from Moonstruck to Thomas Crown AffairClueless to Last HolidayOverboard, BabyBoom, Roman Holiday, Strictly Ballroom, Love Story, Like Water for Chocolate, Bride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Mansfield Park, Kate & Leopold, She’s AllThat, Sabrina and Wuthering Heights. [from the Bustle article]

Unfortunately, I’ve seen almost all these movies, or can easily get them from Prime or wherever, so the only thing that would really tempt me to join would be fab original content. As I said… maybe later on.

Buffet Paralysis

Choice is good; too much choice leaves me paralyzed. Not talking about dating again, though I could be, but that’s too boring. I’m talking about social media generally ~ there is simply too damn much of it now. When we had only Usenet (BITGOD), supplemented by our frantic, gossipy, occasionally flirtatious backchanneling emails, that already took up way too much free time, especially for those of us trying to do Serious Writing. Gawd forbid if we had Real Jobs too, yipes.

Then came, what, some other drippy sites, then blergging, then faceblop, which isn’t just one thing now, but has spawned into a devilmass of special groups to soak up every fucking minute of the day. Yes, you can turn off all those notifications, and I have. Also, there’s twatter and instapeep and group chats on messenger… and this doesn’t even touch actual news sites and e-magazines we might want to read and a constant flow of shows to watch via Prime or ‘Flix or whatever thing plus books on Kindle all piled up and regular books too and it’s all driving me insane. Good for you if you have a handle on all this shit. Yay you.

I’m paralyzed by this. I feel if I neglect Facebook and chats, then friendships will fade, especially with people I don’t see in meatspace. If I give up Twitter, then I won’t have a “presence” to promote the books I never write anyway. Instagram is no big deal to spend less or no time on, but it takes up the least time in the first place, so that doesn’t help much. I already don’t read as much as I’d like to, for a writer. I don’t actually watch many movies at home and no TV shows now that Game of Thrones is done for a while. I’ve been writing nothing this summer, nothing at all.

Summer’s almost over and I’m really bummed about my lack of progress. I have a few new poems this year, that’s it. No inspiration for a new novel and only a few more ideas for poems. BITGOD I used to feel I had plenty of time to myself, plenty of time to write, even time to exercise after work, and I have that same amount of time now… I just have to stop letting the internet steal it. September is always a good time for me to make a fresh start. Perpetual student here.

~*~

PS: Don’t bother looking up BITGOD since I just invented it. Use your noodle. 🙂

Romance Awareness Month

August is RAM. I bet you didn’t know that. I didn’t know that. But luckily I have romance novels set as a key term in my Google News feed and ~ voilà ~ an article materialized to inform me of such.

I enjoyed reading what the various authors in the linked article had to say about the genre, about the joy of the happy ending, and especially how predictability is not a bug but a feature. Sarah MacLean noted that the genre is evolving to highlight not only the empowerment of women in general but also has given prominence to the “non-standard” heroine. Yes, we can have overweight women finding their soul mates now, along with older women, disabled women, women of color, on and on. Gone are the days when only “perfect” 19 year old white girls were allowed to find true love.

But romance novels are still scorned by many in a way that other genre novels are not. Sure, there are a lot of crappy romances out there. There are also a lot of crappy science fiction stories, crappy murder mysteries, etc. It does take some effort to find a good romance, since the market is flooded with them, but the same holds true for the other genres as well. This is where the library comes in handy, so you don’t waste $8 on impulse, and/or exchanging paperbacks with friends.

SSC: I have been on a break from romance novels for most of this year, but I’m sure I’ll go back eventually. I always do.

SSC2: I may do NaNoWriMo in October (would end my count on 10/30 to be fair)!

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My Inner Daenerys

As some of you may know, I’ve been both reading the Game of Thrones books (finished Book 4 yesterday) and also catching up on the HBO episodes (halfway through Season 5, as of this bloggery). Enjoying it very much, though I’m getting a bit burnt out on all the blood and gore. My favorite characters have always been the Lannister siblings and their witty, cutting banter, and also the gorgeous, dramatic Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, which are now grown and uncontrollable. That’s the thing with dragons ~ they’re cute when they’re first born, but then they get huge and hangry. And burny.

I know the show is affecting me a bit, since I’ve been binge-watching, but I didn’t realize to what extent until the otter day. I was very busy at work when a man barged into my suite with a cart of boxes. Hey, he said, I have some steaks for you.

What? Steaks? No one here ordered steaks.

He was jabbering on an earphone thing and writing on a clipboard at the same time, all distracted, or pretending to be. He said to me, hey, my boss said for me to offer you guys these steaks for practically nothing because your friends next door couldn’t take them all. Three bucks and you get this entire box of frozen steaks! It’s like I’m giving them to you for free!

I was so mad. I knew it was just another stupid scam. In the past, I might have called for my coworker to come out of his office to help me, or threatened this guy by telling him I was going to call security. But the night before I had watched Dany demand that Jorah Mormont GTFO of her sight or she’d behead him for spying on her.

I interrupted the steak man in the middle of his sales pitch.

“Please leave,” I said. “Now.

He stared at me for a second and then packed up and left, muttering about how people are usually happy about cheap steaks bla and bla.

I felt good about all that, but too bad I didn’t have a real dragon who could have breathed fire on the steaks and cooked them right there. LUNCH!

Dany