When I was a little girl, I learned to read at a very early age, around two. I was already a very verbally precocious child; I learned to speak very early on, and by two, loved to sing almost anything. So, when I started “reading books” to people around me, my parents of course thought I was merely repeating the stories I heard, crediting me with a fairly good memory. So, of course, they did what all parents do, and tricked me. They took away all my books and replaced them with new ones I hadn’t read. Of course, I started to read them, and it was official: I was labeled a “gifted child”.

However, I had a fault that would show up in most aspects of my life…I tended to use my gifts more for evil than good. By the time I was about 9, I knew more about sex,marriage, and relationships than many 22 year-olds, courtesy of all the Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts books my mother and aunt left lying about. I learned a lot of British history and developed a lifelong fondness for historical fiction via reading Kathleen Windsor’s often banned “Forever Amber“. I learned about adultery and bad marriages and getting away with murder via “Presumed Innocent” and “Reversal Of Fortune”.

And like most pre-teens with a dark side who would later become angsty teenagers with dark nails and too much eyeliner, I was obsessed with the dark, Gothic, “this-couldn’t-get-any-more-wrong” stories from V.C. Andrews, particularly the “Flowers In The Attic” series.

For those who haven’t read V.C. Andrews, they are written on about a 9th grade reading level, but are full of things you don’t want your pre-adolescent daughters reading about; violence, sex, always a parent who dies, incest, beautiful women who kill (often their childen), innocent young girls with artistic gifts who get pregnant as teenagers. an evil someone locked in something, adult men who like teenage girls…as many taboos as you can fit into one story.

Of course, all the books and all the series were usually the same, and followed the Victorian gothic “damsel in distress who becomes empowered” model, only set in upper-class Southern society. The haunted mansions didn’t differ much between London and Virginia. Yet, I read them all, and I even remember a great many of them today…even that Flowers In The Attic is this hugely creepy story about the Dollanganger family.

Of course, the first book was published before I was even born, so I was reading some of these books between 10-15 years after publication. If they were scandalous and banned then (I remember having a V.C. Andrews book confiscated for reading it during study hall), I can only imagine the trouble they caused in the 1970’s. I would later learn that most of V.C. Andrews’ books weren’t even written by her; she died when I was only a child, and her estate took over writing the books.

So, of course I was thrilled to see they were remaking this story I never forgot into a cleaned-up, accessible version for cable, broadcast on Lifetime, and starring Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham (who is a terrible actress, but looks the part.) And when I heard they were debuting the third movie, If There Be Thorns, on Sunday (Easter Sunday, oddly), it was some odd coincidence that the second film was on that same night.

Of course I watched it, and of course it was the same trashy soap opera that the books were, but they reminded me of being 9 years old and absolutely devouring these twisted stories. And although most teenage girls have read V.C. Andrews’ books, especially girls who grew up in the 1980’s or 1990’s, I have a confession to make that is somewhat embarrassing.

Most people who know me knew that when I was very much younger, I fell in love with someone online and flew to meet him—in the days when doing that was weird and taboo and not an MTV show or Match.Com ad. I did so much to try to make a good impression, and I arrived in New Orleans about a day and a half before we agreed to meet. I had left a copy of a V.C. Andrews novel lying on a chair in the little 2 bedroom apartment I was staying in, and didn’t think twice about wanting to read it when he was sleeping or in the shower.

Before we broke up, he told me a few things that had surprised and disappointed him, and one was that I was not as high-brow and cultured as I’d wanted him to believe, because I was 21 and reading V.C. Andrews. *laughs*

I’m now in my early 30’s, and looking forward to a twisted Lifetime movie based on a V.C. Andrews book. Uncultured and low-brow? Perhaps. But nobody in the history of ever said “Hey, I can’t wait to see that War & Peace movie!”.

(* I’ve also read War And Peace)
(** You can’t wait for war so something interesting happens.)

Am I the only one? Who remembers “Flowers In The Attic” as some sort of adolescent rite of passage?

Life has been pretty overwhelming this week, between an increased pressure regarding work/money/practical things, social obligations, trying to keep up with “optional things” like the workshop over at Writer’s Village I’ve been taking and wish I had more time for and this blog, and making time for the people I care about. I’ve been going to bed exhausted, and waking up extraordinarily early.

It’s fair to say I don’t do well with stress, because it turns me into a person I am not, a person who becomes overwhelmed by worry and anxiety and has trouble completing goals because they seem too large. You don’t have to know me outside of this blog to know that I am a bit of a bon vivante–I enjoy life and a little dash of the finer, more memorable things, and living to the fullest. When every day, practical matters get in the way, I become bogged down and overwhelmed by them. I feel as if I am carrying around a heavy burden, and my creativity level is practically non-existent. In a different era, I’m sure I’d have been the typical highly-strung artiste, but in today’s world, the kindest way to put it is that I am not the best with practical matters and a little flighty when it comes to taking care of them. It’s actually not because I’m terribly flighty by nature, as I’m not—I’m intelligent and have a pretty decent head on my shoulders— but I wish to largely avoid the stress that comes along with all those “adult problems” whenever possible. Therefore, I excel at procrastination and find it difficult to focus on goals that seem too unrealistic and large, and am rarely surprised when the things I want to happen simply don’t work out, or I screw up in some major way. In the freelancing world, this can be a challenging character flaw, because no matter how talented you are, deadlines and rule-following are typically valued a bit more. I have, sadly, had to learn this the hard way. However, I don’t operate well under deadlines—the stress of the deadline blocks out the creativity or the motivation, and anxiety keeps me from allowing my brain to rest.

I am either by nature a very type-A personality who has learned to live life differently as a coping mechanism for anxiety and what is common labeled “too many feelings”, or someone who is not at all focused and driven that’s forced to handle very challenging situations from time to time, with too few people to help. I am not sure which. Either way, since I got some news earlier this week about a lot more pressure being put onto my shoulders, I haven’t felt like myself.

Since I haven’t been writing anything myself lately, nor keeping up with promoting and networking and blogging, I’m happy to have this week’s “Literary Libations” finished ahead of time and ready to go! I’m afraid I’ve been less communicative with this wonderful author than I typically am with my interview subjects, but fortunately, she is a very level-headed and organized type who managed to send everything I needed, regardless. ;)

For the very first time, I’ll be chatting with an author in the genre of children’s fiction, the lovely Deanie Humphrys-Dunne. While a majority of my readers are single, urban types without children, I thought it would be nice o have Deanie stop by for a visit to provide a bit of a new and fresh perspective to the blog. She is friendly, creative, and quite accomplished. I, for one, am thrilled to have her here, so I hope you’ll pull up a chair on this Sunday morning (whatever time it happens to be for you), and settle in to meet her.



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1) Please tell the readers a bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you reside now, and what is your latest project?

I spent my childhood in the tiny town of Easton CT, where my parents owned a riding school. The farm was called Sweetbrier and life there was always exciting, as well as challenging. Presently, I live in New Fairfield, CT, but I lived in FL for several years as well. I miss the FL weather in the Winter, but my husband really disliked the hot, humid Summers there. I’m working on another book for the Charlene the Star series called Charlene the Star and Bentley Bulldog. My sister, Holly Humphrys-Bajaj, beautifully illustrates my books.

2) If you don’t mind, share a little bit about your latest book? What is it about your writing that gives it a unique voice and appeals to readers?

My newest published story is called Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes. Charlene the Star is a stunning red horse, who is becoming renowned for her jumping talents, but she and her friends are looking for something exciting to do in their spare time. They start an amazing new career, which helps other horses. The story is told from Charlene’s point of view and the animals all discuss their problems and work together to find astonishing, creative, solutions. Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes is amusing, entertaining , and it emphasizes the value of friendship, teamwork and setting goals.

3)
When it comes to the creative process, what inspires you? Tell us a little bit about how your latest book came into being.

It’s most important to me that my books promote positive messages for children. I want them to realize that they are all unique. In my book, Charlene the Star, Charlene comes from a family of famous race horses so everyone assumes that will be her forte. But what happens when she doesn’t like racing? She goes to great lengths to show her trainers that she is completely bored with running in circles! She even considers becoming a model at one point. Her career takes a completely different turn. After that, I wanted to create something different for Charlene and her friends. Some of the same characters are in both books, but they set different goals in Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes. It was fun to create the story and I certainly hope that children enjoy reading it. I make every effort to assure that each of my books is my best effort, because that’s what my readers deserve.

4) Did you decide to go with a traditional publisher, an indie publisher, or self-publish your latest work? What do you consider the benefits and the drawbacks of the particular route you’ve chosen?

I chose to self publish because I wanted to retain the rights to my work. I was aware that I would need to do my own marketing and promoting, but I don’t mind doing that. In my experience, most traditional publishers will not consider publishing your work, unless you’re already famous. Also, many traditional publishers are not accepting submissions, so I believe that self publishing was the best course for me.

5) Where, when, and how did you get your start in the writing world? Is this your first publication?

I took two writing courses with the Institute of Children’s Literature. I learned a great deal from their excellent instructors. But I didn’t have the confidence to actually try to publish anything for some time. One morning, I had a strong intuition that I should write a story for children that would be inspirational so I created my first book, Tails of Sweetbrier, which is an autobiography of a little girl who wanted nothing more than to become a champion equestrian, in spite of her handicap. I can’t give away everything that happens, but the story does show that anything is possible if you persevere. This book was chosen “Most Inspirational” by the staff of the Pawling Book Cove in 2009. Tails of Sweetbrier was published in 2009.



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6)
You’re the first person I’ve had occasion to interview on this site who is a children’s author. What drew you to that genre, rather than writing for young adults or an older audience? Do you illustrate your books, as well?

I love children and I thought it would be a tremendous amount of fun, as well as a challenge, to write stories that would inspire and encourage them. My goal is always to write funny, exciting, stories that would have helpful, positive messages for children.

7) What would you say is the most challenging aspect of writing for younger readers? What do you consider to be the most rewarding?

I think it’s challenging to find new ideas for stories. There are so many children’s books that it’s necessary to find different subjects and/or innovative ways to present your ideas and characters. It’s also important to have sufficient action and lively dialogue to keep young readers turning the page. Some of my readers are kind enough to send notes, telling me how much they enjoyed my stories and what they will remember most about them. That’s a huge reward!

8) Other than yourself, of course, who is your favourite author? What’s the last book you read that really spoke to you in some way, and why?

I love books by children’s author, Sherry Ellis (That Baby Woke Me Up Again! And That Mama is a Grouch!) They are adorable, fun to read, and have good messages. I am very impressed with I Spy a Dragonfly and My Name May be Peanuts, but I say Nay to PB&J, by Carla Burke. Both of these authors are award-winners and they do a fantastic job. I’ve had the honor of interviewing Carla. We had a great time together discussing her books.

9) Is writing a full-time career for you, or something you do in your free time? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish as a writer?

Yes, writing is a full-time job for me. My goal is to continue to write stories that children enjoy. Of course, I hope to inspire them as well.

10)
Do you experience “writer’s block”, or a point in time when your imagination simply decides to turn itself off? If so, what do you do to get past that mental stopping point?

Yes, sometimes that does happen. I find that taking a break is helpful. If I take some time away from writing, I can look at it with a fresh perspective, and that’s helpful. Sometimes I ask advice from my family, which is often enlightening. Eventually, the creative side of my brain wakes up again so I can get back to work!

11) Do you enjoy other types of media and artistic creation, such as television, magazines, movies, music, fashion, social media, etc.? What are some of your favourite things?

I love watching equestrian events, such as jumping, horse racing, etc. Also, I enjoy watching figure skating, swimming, and gymnastic competitions. Additionally, I’m a baseball fan, especially a Yankee fan.

12) What’s your Zodiac sign?

I’m a Libra.

13) If you were to give advice to young or aspiring writers who are looking to write for children, what would be the most important lesson you’d wish to share?

I believe that if writing is your passion, you should pursue it, even if some of your friends are discouraging you from that. You must have the passion, in order to make your work outstanding. I think we should never abandon our dreams. Of course, it’s also important to keep writing, because the more you do, the better you become at it. I would also advise aspiring authors to remember that revising your work is essential. It’s rare that your first attempt is your best effort.

14) Of course, we both want readers to rush right out and grab a copy of your latest book! Please tell us where we can find it. Additionally, if you have a blog, website, Facebook, or Twitter, please let us know so we’re able to follow you.

My website is: www.dhdunne.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-author-Deanie-Humphrys-Dunne/574820065875628

Book Titles: Tails of Sweetbrier, Charlie the Horse (Kindle), Charlene the Star, and Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes

All of them are on Amazon.com. You may also order them directly from me by emailing; www.dhdunne.blogspot.com. Soon you will be able to order signed copies of my book from my website.

Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Alayna. I’ve really enjoyed our time together.



Charlie's cover from Amazon

Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is a children’s book author with four books published at this time: Tails of Sweetbrier, Charlie the Horse, (now on Kindle) Charlene the Star, and Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes (now on Kindle). All of her books offer positive messages for children. Her sister, Holly Humphrys-Bajaj, beautifully illustrates her books. She and Holly are currently working on their fifth book together,” Charlene the Star and Bentley Bulldog.”

Tails of Sweetbrier is an inspirational autobiography about a little girl whose one desire was to become a champion equestrian, in spite of her handicap. Tails of Sweetbrier will show children that anything is possible if you persevere. This book was chosen “Most Inspirational” by the staff of the Pawling Book Cove in 2009. Tails of Sweetbrier is in the process of being published in a second edition. Deanie’s other books, Charlie the Horse, and Charlene the Star, and Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes, are amusing, fictional tales, which contain important life lessons.

Deanie is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, as well as a member of Cambridge Who’s Who. She has been featured on several author websites and she is administrator of Claire Power Murphy’s group, the Pen is Mightier than the Sword and Claire’s group on Womens Radio.com, called “improve Every Year” She has completed four radio interviews on www.womensradio.com. Her last interview with Claire, “Building Character Through Children’s Stories” received top billing on www.womensradio.com.

Deanie enjoys watching equestrian events, and figure skating competitions, music and singing, spending with her family, and their dog, Elliott. She is also an avid Yankee fan.Deanie has just been selected as “Author of the Year” by Geri Ahearn. Additionally, she has been nominated for the following blogging awards: Sunshine Award, The Best Moment Award, The Dragon’s Loyalty Award, The Very Inspiring Blogger Award, The Leibster Award (twice) and the Super Sweet Award, and the Shine On Award.

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Thanks so much to Deanie Humphrys-Dunne for stopping by to be our guest on “Literary Libations” this weekend, and I hope many of you will be inspired to check out her lovely and imaginative creations. Deanie is also part of the Goodreads author community, as more and more independent authors are, so I highly recommend checking out what others are saying if you happen to be part of the website.

Stay tuned, as I’ll be featuring not one but two other interviews this week with talented authors from around the globe, and keeping you updated on some of my own endeavours! As for me, I’ll have to bid you a fairly early good night from my part of the world, as we have a trivia tournament tomorrow and I’d like my brain to turn itself back on. ;)

Sweet dreams, and a lovely Sunday from over here at
Jaded Elegance.

Happy Sunday afternoon to everyone!! It’s more than a little grey and rainy outside here today, which I actually like once in a while. (unfortunately, we have them seemingly every 3 days or so.) When the rainy day falls on a Sunday, though, it feels like an extra dose of creativity dropped on my doorstep.

So, grab a comfy spot and a cup of coffee or tea, and join me for a stroll down memory lane with today’s guest author. Today, instead of an interview, I’ll be sharing a story by author Faith Ann Colburn, who writes about the importance of family, the value of simple things, and growing up in the Midwest. Having grown up in large cities and never having set foot in most of the states that occupy the central part of the country, I certainly know that country life is not the life for me, but I get a certain appreciation of simplicity and nostalgia reading Faith’s work.

Faith has penned a novel called “Threshold: A Memoir”, which is a collection of short stories about one American family’s journey through weathering the good, the bad, and the downright ugly—and ultimately surviving the journey. Her book transports readers not only into the world of prairie life, but discusses issues that are ultimately human, revealing, and universal. It is available through a simple visit to Amazon, and is a mere $2.99 if you’re a Kindle owner, so there’s really no reason not to add it to your reading list!



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Without any further rambling on my part, here’s today’s guest post, a story by author Faith Ann Colburn. 

* * *

Memory: Catch Me If You Can

My great-grandmother Frank (yes that was her name) died when I was fourteen. She’d seen the prairie when it was still mostly grasslands and wandering bands of Otoe displaced from their homes. She remembered starving Indians staring at her through the windows as she kneaded bread, which she always gave to them. She remembered making do with simple stuff like a tree limb to harrow the fields. (She was the one behind the horse.) And that’s all I know of Grandma Frank’s rich experience of a life very different from my own, even though it was very close to the place where I grew up. She was just old and I was young and dumb and I didn’t realize she knew things that would ever matter to me. I never listened.

But I remember standing on Grandma’s front step where I could see the shadow of some buildings. “That’s Mount Clare,” Grandma Hazel said. “It’s a mirage.”

I’d seen mirages in the movies, where people wandered on the desert, dying of thirst. So that seemed dramatic enough to remember. What I saw was a reflection of the town on the clouds. Conditions had to be just right to see it and I think I only saw it once more. But the explanation of those distant buildings, five-to-ten miles away, represent the first story I remember my grandmother telling me. Fortunately, she lived fifty years after I was born, so she told me lots more stories.

Have you ever spent an hour or two with someone who talks faster than you can listen? Usually, those folks are trying to sell you something. Or maybe they’re not comfortable with themselves and silence frightens them. Well, Grandma never talked very fast, but I listened very slo-o-o-owly. In fact, by the time I really heard, it was almost too late. My grandmother had passed her ninety-eighth birthday.

Grandma’s stories were always mixed up with some activity, most often outdoors. The problem was that, since they were so mixed up with ordinary work, it took me many years to realize they were special. We worked on a farm; she was busy and so was everybody else. But I don’t think she could help herself. She had to tell those stories . . . and whenever I checked her, I found them to be true.

So finally, belatedly, it dawned on me that I had an unbelievable, rich archive of my very own family. I had access to a woman who could talk to me in exquisite detail of seven generations. And in those seven generations she could describe every conceivable kind of hardship and how my family, people whose DNA I carry, have struggled with those hardships and survived and, in almost all cases, thrived.

We were sorting through old photos, identifying people and writing names on the backs when it occurred to me to record her stories. I asked if she’d mind repeating her stories so I could tape them. She agreed. We made an appointment every Wednesday afternoon at two p.m. I brought my tape recorder and we sat in her living room, both facing the street so we wouldn’t miss anything, and talked. I recorded a ninety-minute tape cassette each Wednesday until I had thirty hours of our voices describing, in Technicolor detail, one extraordinarily ordinary family. I worked with that material, and a lot more I found in archives and county histories and other people’s memories, including my own, for more than eighteen years. I published my memoir, Threshold: A Memoir, at the end of 2012, fifteen years after Grandma died.

It seems kind of selfish now to have mined that woman’s memory as I did, but I think Grandma was hungry for an excuse to get some attention my sister and I were too busy and worn out with jobs and kids to give. It must have provided a nice break for her. All the other afternoons, she went to the local nursing home to “take care of the old folks.” One of those old folks was her daughter. Nina had ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The only time I ever say my Grandmother shed a tear, she’d just come from the home, just exhausted. She leaned on a little claw-foot table in her living room and tried to gather herself back up. “It’s just hard,” she said, “to watch her die an inch at a time.” With her usual stoicism, she refused the dramatic moment, wiped one tiny tear from the corner of her eye and asked if I wanted some grapes before we got started.

* * *

As a post script, I might add that, while logic would indicate interviewing the oldest generation first, sometimes that plan may come back to bite you. As I was interviewing Grandma, my mother became incoherent as a result of Alzheimer’s. So it’s back to the county histories and maybe a jazz museum or two to tease out a big city family, a cousin of Henry Ford, a big band singer and severe mental illness. I call my novel-in-progress, based on my mother’s and dad’s lives, Gravy, because the odds against most of the good stuff are astronomical.



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To contact Faith:
* Website: http://faithanncolburn.com
* Blog: http://faithanncolburn.wordpress.com
* Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/colburnfa
* Twitter: http://twitter.com/colburnfa
* Threshold: A Memoir on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Threshold-A-Memoir-ebook/dp/B009ZIJPV8
* * *

Thank you so very much to Faith for being my guest here this Sunday, and of course I’ll be back next week with another author, discussing what you should be reading and why, and hopefully inspiring you into completing that creative feat of your own!

If you spend the next day or so with “Threshold: A Memoir”, vicariously living the Nebraskan life, certainly nobody will hold your absence against you. ;)

“I gradually realised that I’m just not the muse type. Girls like me don’t inspire people. I’m just not muse material,I finally thought sadly on my 18th birthday, looking at a world wholly non-inspired by me. “I’m not a princess. I’m not a muse. Just being me isn’t enough. I’m going to have to dosomething instead.“—Caitlin Moran,“How To Be A Woman”

It’s been a little while since I’ve felt inclined to post over here. Chalk it up to the winter blues or simply a lack of anything truly different and interesting happening in my life, but blog topics have been few and far between. Sometimes, it comes to transpire in life that you have many thoughts and feelings you could express, but most are things you’re obligated to keep to yourself for one reason or another. When that happens, I notice that my blog gets a little quieter, but it’s easier for me to renew my habit of writing three pages a day in my journal, or to actually send letters to people.

Speaking of letters, I started out my day today by reading a beautifully handwritten letter from Randy of Narrative Urge, a project that’s garnered a lot of local publicity. He’s dedicated himself to writing a letter a day, each one to a different person around the world. It’s a little bit like a daily journal, I suppose, chopped up into bits and pieces and scattered around the world. It would be a very cool project for him to get back copies of every letter sent when the year is out, along with any responses from those he’s written, and turn them into a published anthology. Because I’ve recently become fascinated with the idea of human disconnection in a world that’s obsessed with making connection easier and more instantaneous, I think this is a wonderful idea on Randy’s part, and am happy he took time out to include me.

While I haven’t been the most productive blogger or worker bee, I have been keeping up with some reading and writing endeavours. I’ve completed the first draft of “Sophisticated Nothing”, a compilation of memoirs and short fictional pieces I originally intended to submit for publication as a short chapbook. The chapbook draft is complete, and I may send it off just to see if it is approved by a publisher and the idea is worth exploring. However, after I started work on it, I realised it had potential to be a much longer collection of short stories and personal memoirs. The concept behind it is, as mentioned above, about connection in an increasingly disconnected world. Every story is set in a different bar, restaurant, coffeeshop, or cafe, because these are public places where people interact, often forgetting they’re in a public place. They’ve also been inspirational places for people interested in observing people, or having exchanges with strangers. Once I thought of the overarching theme of the collection, I realised there were more stories to be told than could fit into a 50-page chapbook. However, I have a habit of allowing my projects to get too big, and therefore, never get finished. So, I’ve been debating what to do with my creative vision. I don’t really need another project that serves to make no money from distracting me from what should be a main goal in life—making money. *laughs*

I enjoyed reading two short but extremely witty books over the past two weeks. Both are by women around my age, and are part memoir, part sociological insight on subjects such as feminism, travel, relationships, independence, and self-esteem. It’s always interesting to me to read books by people who started off as bloggers, columnists, or writers for less-than-mainstream publications. They have different and more authentic voices—the kind Elizabeth Wurtzel and Alexandra Robbins got panned for before it became common for journalists to write about “myself and people like me”. It is still a style of writing that is reviewed quite harshly and described as “self-indulgent”, especially when penned by a female author, or one that can land you in the hot seat on Oprah if it turns out you made a lot of the colourful details up. I don’t really care; self-indulgent or not, fictional or not, I enjoy the kind of in-your-face style of writing that today’s version of diarists and essayists are putting out there. So, when many of them were on sale for $1.99 through Amazon, it was a good day.

I started with Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”, which has been panned so harshly by critics and readers above the age of 40 with such passion, I determined I’d probably love it. (What are the chances that I’m not going to identify with a controversial book about feminism and being a woman in today’s society, written by a snarky British woman around my age?). I actually loved the book, and I don’t know what people were going on and on about, because there’s very little that’s controversial or shocking in what she has to say. Oh, wait. No. She talks about having an abortion and not feeling too upset over the whole ordeal. And she uses the word “vagina”. I guess that’s “controversial”.

A music journalist for Wired magazine back in the day, Caitlin Moran is the non-conformist cool chick who isn’t afraid to discuss how uncool and insecure she’s always felt about her place in the world. Moran’s stories alternate between being funny, heartfelt, and painful, and sometimes all at the same time. Since that’s rather how life is, I’d say it’s a successful book. It’s easy to read, and I don’t know the last time I used the “bookmark” feature on my Kindle so often, because she’s a quotable woman. I look forward to reading her other book soon, but I’ve added her to my favourites list for the time being.

After that, I moved on to Rachel Shukert’s “Everything Is Going To Be Great”, another happily settled thirty-something writing about her decade or so of finding herself. While Moran is a cool British feminist who hangs out with guitarists in drug-induced fits of being an asshole, Shukert is an American Jewish girl from a wealthy, suburban family that wants to live life outside of the “good girl” role. Needless to say, her exposure to the world without the security blanket of money, family, a supportive relationship, or even the comforts of living in your home country is not a seamless one. There are many points when I am reminded how the best part of the book is the ironic title, although it really isn’t. Even though all the sucky things that might befall someone traveling abroad seem to happen to this one rather lost and directionless girl, things always somehow get back on track and for a while, do indeed appear to be great.

Shukert doesn’t make any pretense about wanting to be a feminist or help a younger generation of women through the painful and funny journey of self-discovery, while Moran writes about these topics outright and seems to not only want to give you a dose of reality, but shock you in the process. These are clearly two very different types of girls, but the common denominator is they’re around the same age, both educated, both great writers, and end up finding a sense of self and stability in a chaotic world. If you’re looking for reading material for your next flight, either or both of these will entertain you for quite some time.

Although I myself haven’t done anything interesting in the past month (first, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was sick for 10 days, and then on the day he recovered, I got sick for 10 days, so February wasn’t the most action-packed of months.), I’ve used some of the down-time to be entertained by and proud of some of the cool things friends of mine have been doing. Dave Leach, a friend of ours for many years via my social group, appeared on the Jeopardy! Tournament Of Champions, and made it through to the semi-final rounds. After winning 6 times in 2012, it was really a fantastic way for Dave to put a cap on his Jeopardy! experience, and we’re all very proud of him!

Later in the month, long-time blogger-artist-friend-and-fellow-Philadelphian Gina Martinelli appeared on Lisa Ling’s Our World” with her rather colourful family. Gina is one of the voices over at Polyskeptic, and they all seem pretty happy about their appearance on the show. They were one of three families profiled about modern-day polyamory, and presented an interesting look at poly marriages and families. outside of the traditional primary/secondary partner paradigm that most people I know happen to embrace. (I’m still personally attached to a little more compartmentalization than these more “familial” relationships allow, because as it turns out, I’m remarkably private for an open and unconventional person who keeps a blog on the Internet. :P )) I have a number of friends who are actors that I’ve had opportunity to see on TV and in the movies, but somehow, it’s a little different when people are just being themselves in real life on camera.

Although I personally have been on the more introverted side of things, and am patiently waiting for the happy 70-degree days to arrive, I have more than a little travel wanderlust. I really just want a bag of cash and someone to watch my dog, and I’ll take off and see friends and family I’ve been missing over the past year or so. :P We’ve had some fun events, including dressing up and partying at The Shelter on more than one occasion, but sometimes, you want adventure and spontaneity that happens to lie outside of your Metro area.

Yes, a life of freedom and not being terribly concerned with money would make me a much happier person. I might even blog more. Perhaps that could be an Indiegogo campaign. :P *laughs*

Finally, if you do not possess a copy of my 2012 poetry anthology, “Ophelia’s Wayward Muse”, you can win one on Goodreads. Simply click below and enter the drawing. You’ll received an autographed copy with a personalised dedication. :)

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ophelia’s Wayward Muse

by Alayna-Renee Vilmont

Giveaway ends March 17, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

One of the most popular pages on this blog, and one of the most frequent search terms that unsuspectingly lands people here is “Fifty Shades Of Grey”. A while back, I wrote an article about my hesitance to read these novels, and since I’ve now heard enough feedback from the rest of the world, I can state with some certainty that I will never do so.

However, I’ve learned some valuable lessons due to the popularity of this book that have helped me to grow as a more enlightened individual, and to become a better writer.

* I was more sexually aware at 18 than this author is in her mid-40′s. I understand you want the world to believe this story is being told by a sweet and innocent virgin who is submissive, lacking self-esteem, and likely suffers from an eating disorder. (don’t emphasize the frail and helpless nature of a female character, her petite frame and inability to fight back in any situation, and name her “Ana” if you don’t want the world to know about your former anorexia issues. Also, the weird thing with the guy forcing her to eat while still wanting her tiny and breakable is a dead giveaway that the author of these books needs a healthier relationship with both food and sex.) However, nobody has been that sexually unaware in college since the 1900′s. Kids are having color-coded-bracelet sex parties at 14 these days. Initiation to certain sororities has been known to involve sleeping with a guy your big sisters pick out for you. What world are these characters living in?

*I don’t care how much of an abusive asshole you are, you’re not an experienced dominant at 26. Reviews of this book point out that the male character is awesomely good looking, great in bed, and a skilled dominant in and out of the bedroom. Snippets of the book I’ve read point to the fact that he might actually be a sociopathic control freak who’s kind of making it up as he goes along, and has a poor naive girl who confuses that with the world of BDSM. I’m kind of expecting book three to be a horror story where the guy stalks and murders her. If I met this guy when I was in my early 20′s, I’d have known enough to call the police.

*I can write a book that will be a NY Times best-seller In fact, anyone can. One dimensional characters, boring sex scenes, and lack of female empowerment appeals to women…which says something about women and our society. If you want to write a book that’s even BETTER than this one, buy a thesaurus.

For all the complaining that the media hates women, and politicians hate women, and men hate women, and women are being sent back to the 1950′s more and more with each passing day, here’s the truth: women are the ones who hate women, because they largely dislike themselves. The proof is that both this saga and its tamer, teen counterpart, “The Twilight Saga feature helpless, weak-willed female characters who have low self-esteem and will literally die if the guy that’s made them feel special disappears/hurts their feelings/rejects them. Both are best-selling series that are largely written by women, and read by women.

(Oh, and a side note: all those “evil” magazines that show pictures of size 2 models and promote negative body image to sell products? About 85% of them have female editors-in-chief. Yet Hugh Hefner is the one that somehow disrespects women with his publication?)

So, who’s sending out the fucked-up messages to women of today?

Oh, right. Other women. When you think about it, it makes sense. How many girls/women of any age do you know that genuinely like and support other girls/women in a positive, non-passive-agressive/frenemy kind of way?

However, if you don’t agree with my assessment of “Fifty Shades Of Grey”, based on the fact that I refuse to spend my time and money reading bad soft-core porn with glorified psychological abuse and rape scenes that are dismissed as “misunderstandings” and “No usually means yes when a guy has a big penis”, you should read a very well-written review from someone who did read the books. It’s not only accurate, but entertaining.

And, yes, she wants her time, her money, and her dignity back.

P.S. She also wrote equally entertaining reviews of the second and third novels. Spoiler alert: At the end, Edward turns them all into vampires.

You may have noticed I haven’t been around a whole lot lately, and I’m not sure why, other than I’ve been struggling with a sense of depression and isolation I don’t wish to inflict on my readers day in and day out, just as I don’t wish to be that person who’s always bringing my friends down in real life. The result is often a feeling that it’s too much work to talk to anyone, and I’d prefer my world quiet and filled with solitude. At the same time, I feel kind of a large weight on my chest that’s either anxiety, or a warning sign that my heart is about to go on permanent strike.

I’m still not recovering. I’m still gaining weight steadily, despite eating and drinking less than ever. Research into the subject shows this is an unpleasant side effect of my medication, along with hair loss, and short of discontinuing my use of beta blockers and restricting my calorie intake to about 800 calories per day to maintain my weight, there’s little I can do. I still suffer from headaches and intolerance to bright lights and sometimes, merely leaving my house. I sometimes wonder, “What if the doctor is wrong, like so many before him?” I wonder if I am dying, and how best to put my affairs in order, to make it easier on everyone if I don’t wake up tomorrow.

According to the literature I’ve read, my feelings are pretty normal, although they seem pretty screwed up to me. It mentions that being diagnosed with a chronic illness sends people through the five stages of grief typically reserved for coping with the loss of a loved one or receiving news of your own impending death. Instead of mourning for another person or preparing for the end of your own life, you’re mourning the loss of your former self, of things you believe you can no longer do, a person you can no longer be…at least for awhile. This makes a lot of sense to me, because it *is* how I feel. I just feel compelled to go through my process in isolation more days than I’d typically feel comfortable with just my own company. Too often, I don’t feel strong enough to face the world…and when I try and fail, the failure hits me hard. I wonder if I will be alone and unloved for much of the next portion of my life, after a life spent constantly on the go, in the spotlight, seeking the attention and approval of others.

I did make it out this weekend, despite some struggles with anxiety and feeling physically ill, and to a concert of all things. We saw Ani DiFranco at Variety Playhouse, and although Ani didn’t perform many of my personal favourites, I enjoyed a lot of the stuff from her latest album. Her opening act was a rather unknown act from Brooklyn called Pearl And The Beard. I liked their music a great deal, although the acoustics made it difficult for me to enjoy them as much as I’d have liked to. Their lead singer is a fabulous, eccentric lady, barely taller than I am, but with a belt voice that encompasses almost her entire range. It’s unusual to come across a white female who can belt without a break in her voice (no, it’s not racism, it’s just one of those weird biological facts learned throughout my years of vocal training.), but this band’s singer, Jocelyn, belts almost up to a high C. As an operatic soprano whose belt voice won’t even think about trying that, I’m both jealous and impressed….enough that I wanted to purchase their CD. Alas, it was sold out. We said a few words of congratulations to Jocelyn after the show and received hugs, so I hope to see and hear good things from them.

As for Ani, I think her voice only gets better with time. Like Tori Amos, she has an unusual, quirky voice that may fool you into thinking she lacks true vocal skill, but you’d be dead wrong (on both accounts.) Ani doesn’t have an interesting range or the ability to play with light and darkness in her voice the way Tori does, but she performs in a variety of styles and shows off a really strong voice when she chooses to. Other times, she chooses to take a Bob Dylan-esque, musical-without-singing, narrative approach. Both are equally compelling. As a person, I think she’s extraordinarily likable, slightly to the left of me in her personal and political views, and not afraid to tackle the controversial. This was my third Ani show, and I’ll keep seeing her, as long as she keeps coming to town.

This was my personal favourite from her latest album:

Ani DiFranco: Promiscuity

I made it through most of the concert without any unwanted feelings or panic attacks, until the bright blue gels went on and everything started flashing. I sat with my black wrap covering my head like a burka and using the hat The Guy I Am Currently Dating always wears as a shield. But,all in all, I’m glad I went to see the show.

In other news, I was invited to perform at an event at a local theatre, a monthly showcase called Write Club. It seems to consist mostly of actors, writers, and other theatrically-minded individuals. You’re given a challenge partner, and two sets of contrasting themes (i.e, Happy Vs. Sad.) It’s not improv; you have about two weeks to craft a 7-minute monologue, story, poem, performance art piece, essay, whatever you want to do. The person receiving the most applause “wins”, which pretty much means you’re entitled to choose a charity that one-third of the proceeds will go to benefit (there are three winners per night.) You also have the benefit of hearing some pretty interesting and talented people do their thing.

I submitted an application at the end of December, when on my “I’m going to break out of my comfort zone and focus on doing things I like, even if I’m sick” kick. I had rather forgotten about it, but was kind of impressed they wanted me to appear so soon after I’d submitted my application. It made me feel liked for a brief nano-second. :P

Since the show occurs the day after Valentine’s Day, the three themes are relationship related. Mine is “Stay Vs. Go”, and, appropriately enough, I have “Go”. I immediately wrote a piece that was funny and charming, in my own opinion, but since The Guy I Am Currently Dating has encouraged me to explore writing different pieces instead, I’m not sure he agrees with my assessment. The hardest part, of course, is fitting the story you’d like to tell into 7 minutes. On first reading, mine was 11. I had to edit my piece 5 times to get it down under 7 minutes, and there’s not much room for leeway still. I’m totally not used to editing, so of course, now I think the whole thing probably sucks. :P I’ll throw it under my bed somewhere with the rest of the random stuff that was a good creative idea at one time or another, but really wasn’t. :P

I also read Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, which I would have finished in one sitting, did I not have the terrible habit of only reading and writing late at night. Paulo Coelho is my favourite author, probably the best thing I got out of my time with someone I’ll likely never cross paths with again, but who made an impact upon my life in terms of love and spirituality and finding the essence of oneself. Not coincidentally, these are Coelho’s favourite themes. I enjoy some of his books more than others; the more abstract, philosophical stories he shares appeal to me on a much different level than those that read like a “My Trip To The Mayan Ruins’ docu-drama. Aleph is one of his strongest, along with “Eleven Minutes”, ““Veronika Decides To Die”, “The Alchemist”, and “The Witch Of Portobello”.. I have a habit, borne out of the friendship previously referenced, of sharing these books with those who touch my life in some extraordinary way…and are also the type to understand and appreciate the complexity of what’s being shared. This is certainly one I’ll be passing along.

On a similar note, I started reading a book called Yours Ever: People And Their Letters, a sad reminder of how bleak and emotionless our world will look 50 or 100 years from now, when impersonal communication has taken the place of the outpouring of ideas and feelings. I don’t think one person will be saving the tweets and e-mails of those who may potentially change the course of our world, which is a little sad. I think I am simply, at heart, part of a different era, one where communication and expression and vulnerability and human connection are valued….and not in blocks of 140 characters at a time. I think I may always continue to write little handwritten notes and cards, although it’s impractical and unfashionable.

The author of the book, Thomas Mallon, agrees:

In this electronic age, a letter is personal and permanent. It says you took the time and trouble to communicate. The impact of a letter is unique, whether you’re complaining about a disappointing purchase or declaring your love. The point is, write. A letter or a card is truly a unique gift—a piece of yourself.”

That being said, I’ve crafted some pretty memorable letters—both of the disappointed-and-pissed-off-with-your-product sort and the hopelessly-and-secretly-in-love-with-you sort, and sent them via e-mail. And I didn’t give myself an ulcer agonising for weeks until receiving a response. There are advantages to instantaneous communication.

I didn’t watch but the the last 3 minutes of the Super Bowl; I don’t follow football, commercials disinterest me, and it was largely too much work to turn on my TV to see Madonna. However, happy that New York came out victorious, since it’s only like the world’s most awesome place and stuff. :P
R

Perhaps it’s a good sign, one that means I’m regaining some strength and ability to concentrate on more than just 30 minute television shows, but I’ve gotten back into the habit of reading a good deal lately. I think some of this is to do with the fact that The Guy I Am Currently Dating bought me a Kindle Fire for my birthday, and as with my enthusiasm for anything new, I very quickly filled up my shelves with classics I’d been meaning to read and interesting works on Amazon’s $3.99 or less shelf. However, ironically, most of what I’ve been reading seems to be in the format of actual books.

I love my new tablet, for a number of reasons; when I am well again, or at least well enough to travel or spend my days outside my apartment, I suspect I will greatly appreciate the convenience of never having to travel with a carry-on bag full of books and computer accessories. I love, love, love the size and portability of it, and since getting an awesome pink case for it, it kind of resembles a little pink Bible.

On the down side, however, a number of the books on my wishlist—particularly newer ones—have the Kindle version priced at twice what it would cost for a used version of the book, plus shipping. Once I’m finished with a book, I tend to keep it on my shelf (if I love it; I only have so much space.), send it to a friend (if it inspires me enough that I absolutely must share), swap it on Paperback Swap, or sell it back for a few dollars on Amazon. On the Kindle, once I’m done reading it, I can’t do anything else with it. Therefore, I’ll likely never pay full price for a Kindle book when the actual book is being sold for the same, or less. Why would anyone? I hope that as book readers become more popular, there are more businesses launched like Paperback swap or apps where you can swap books with friends. This is just what people do, and have always done.

Yet, I’ve gotten back to reading, something I’d abandoned when I first became ill because attempting to look at the words on the page would trigger vertigo. Instead, I’d gotten in the habit of simply crawling in my bed and watching TV at night until bed, or eventually, writing in my journal.

I’ll probably put up a page on the site about what I’m reading this year, but here are some of what I’m reading one month into things. (I doubt I’ll reach my 100 book a year quota this year, but that’s OK, because I’m covertly working on writing my own from time to time.)

Learning To Breathe:My Yearlong Quest To Bring Calm To My Life
I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book. While I’m a fan of Paulo Coelho and other writers who bring a sense of spirituality into their stories, you’re not ever going to catch me quoting from Eckhart Tolle or The Secret. I’m just far too much of a realist to really believe in what’s being espoused, though I have no doubt it’s helpful to others. However, this book was recommended to me by two different people in response to talking about my recent diagnosis with an anxiety disorder, and then I later read multiple articles where it was highly praised. It’s more of an “Eat, Pray, Love” story about coming to terms with yourself than a book of Louise Hay affirmations, which I appreciate. It also gave me a clearer understanding of what was happening to me; like me, the author suffered from having a “highly-strung” personality most of her life, but managed to live a fairly well-balanced, productive life, often self-medicating with vodka. She was unaware of having a panic disorder, or why she’d have one, until later in life, when forced to come to terms with the idea of mortality. Her journey through therapy, Buddhism, meditation, Klonopin, and all sorts of treatment is a good read for anyone who suffers with anxiety or panic attacks. These issues are rarely cured, but when the reason is identified and treated, it can get better. The down side? The author’s detailed descriptions of panic attacks provoked anxiety in moe in a way that I had to put the book down and come back to it later. It sucks to identify too much with someone else’s experiences, particular when they resemble your own.

The Book Of The Courtesans:A Catalogue Of Their Virtues. Like their Japanese counterpart, the geisha, the idea of the courtesan is an old-fashioned one that’s not understood in today’s society. Sometimes street prostitutes who worked their way up into a different realm of society, sometimes actresses and ballet dancers kept by a succession of powerful, rich, and titled aristocrats, sometimes middle-class girls longing for a better life, courtesans represented power in a time when women had none. Throughout history, these women lived independently and owned property when aristocratic women could not, freed themselves of the restraints of chastity and inhibition when society dictated that being confined and without want or feeling or opinion was the role of women, and associated with some of the most brilliant minds in history in a world where a woman’s purpose was largely decorative. Of course, in today’s society, where women are presented with more opportunities and the ability to choose independence in virtually any aspect of life, choosing to exploit one’s sexuality in exchange for being kept by a man, or series of men, is frowned upon—whether you’re a prostitute, stripper, gold digger, mistress, kept woman, or conniving baby mama. These women were all of the above, and their stories range from the dramatic to the tragic to the inspirational. (many of these women appear in paintings by grand masters, are the subjects of plays, operas, and novels, and have become synonymous with luxury and opulence. Some died penniless, or at the hands of the guillotine, or an enraged lover. Others became nuns or wrote novels. Still others married into aristocracy, and amassed fortunes beyond belief. One, Sarah Bernhardt, became the grande dame of the theatre, acting from her wheelchair well into her 80′s.) It’s a great book that re-examines what the meaning of “virtue” is, and should be, and gives a glimpse into many other periods of time in which beauty was less to do with physical beauty, and more to do with an innate ability to charm and captivate.

Wintergirls. A book I discovered because it was an Amazon special for the day, Laurie Halse Anderson has a lyrical way of writing that’s provocative and beautiful at the same time, much like the two girls whose stories she tells in the novel. Dealing with the lives of two teenage girls struggling through the angst of growing up—one with anorexia nervosa, the other with bulimia, and both lost and depressed souls struggling to appear normal in the midst of dysfunctional suburbia—it’s the kind of story that’s been told a million times, in every Lifetime movie. However, the way it’s written is extraordinary; the writer is unknown, but gifted. I’d liken her to Jodi Picoult, and I stayed up until 5 AM in order to finish the book in one reading. It also proved to me I could get into reading books on my Kindle.

Over the holidays, I also finished reading biographies of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say they belonged to last year’s list.

Next up, I have a few more biographies, as well as Paulo Coelho’s Aleph, which I will drop everything and read as soon as it arrives.

I haven’t tackled any classics yet, but maybe I’m just not in that classic state of mind quite yet. You see, Jersey Shore is back on, along with MTV’s new Challenge show, Battle Of The Ex-es. There’s also the Real Housewives Of Atlanta, Beverly Hills, and soon, Orange County…as well as Project Runway. February will bring Survivor and yet another Celebrity Apprentice, so I need to leave some quality reality TV viewing time.

Oh, and I’ve been catching up on How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory, although all out of order, which is often on the confusing side.

Regardless, I’m pleased to note that Atlanta is #4 on the most literate cities list (odd, because I can’t remember the last time someone wanted to engage me in a conversation about a book.). Washington D.C. is #1, but then, they were also ranked #3 on the list. Maybe people in D.C. are only rude because you’re trying to interrupt them WHILE THEY’RE READING? :P

Whatever. I’d personally give Atlanta a spot in the top 5 on the rudest cities list. I suspect that, for some reason, gossip, judgment, and passive-aggressive behaviour are not registered as “rude” on this study. If they’re measuring the capability to be a total jackass to a stranger and not lose any sleep over it, might I recommend my home city of Philadelphia (which I’m convinced is nicknamed “The City Of Brotherly Love” by those who appreciate irony.)?

She often spoke about loving two men. If she was seeing two people, it was not out of fickleness, but because she loved them both, they answered two sides of her personality. She was open to life, and when encountering a new experience, could not stay away. It may sound strange, but she was really a very loyal person.”

____“Lover Of Unreason”,Yehuda Koren

This week, I’ve been back up to my regular schedule of writing between 2700-3000 words each day for work; this is wonderful, in that I’ve effectively tripled my income and proven I’m healthy enough to keep up, but it’s also left me feeling a bit drained. Although I did work on my poetry journal a bit last night, I haven’t really been inspired to put in any effort on my “novel”. (I put that in parenthesis because I doubt it will ever become more than fragments and short stories; still, at almost 20,000 words, it’s the closest I’ve come to developing the vision for a long piece of fiction and completing it.)

November is actually National Novel Writing Month, which challenges people to write 50,000 words, or 175 pages, in a month. Ironically, hearing about this has made me less motivated about my own project, either because it’s no longer something “special” I’m working on, or because there’s this thing about deadlines and pressure that I dislike, and often that causes me to abandon projects midway.

This late night, instead of writing, I’ve been reading about writing. I’ve finished the biography on Sylvia Plath, and am now reading about her counterpart, Assia Wevill, who lived with Ted Hughes after Sylvia’s death and committed suicide in precisely the same manner. Assia’s story is not nearly as likeable, as she’s portrayed as a rather cold and selfish woman with gifts she never had any idea how to make use of, so she simply married numerous times. I think it’s also a marked difference to note that when Plath killed herself, she took special pains to protect her children; Assia Wevill took her youngest daughter to her death with her.

Still, an interesting and tragic story of a not-altogether-sympathetic heroine. I enjoy reading biographies from time to time, interspersed with fiction, because it reminds me how in some way, most everyone’s life is fascinating. Perhaps that’s what keeps me liking and interested in people, even though I often don’t think the best of them on the whole. Everyone has a story, and usually, it’s more than worth hearing. Since people aren’t so willing to be vulnerable and open in life, biographies exhibit this inner world we all have and spend way too much time keeping hidden.

My story isn’t terribly interesting lately, but I did successfully get a date for the ENG I’ve needed for some time, to determine if I’m suffering from a vestibular problem that’s led to my anxiety: November 30th. It’s amazing that you often need to book tests a month in advance. I’m also to see a new GP on Tuesday, one that comes recommended through a friend as an excellent diagnostician, something that’s been sorely lacking in other doctors I’ve seen.

In the meantime, my medications are temporarily on track, and I’m more motivated than ever to start trying to get rid of the extra weight the meds have caused me to put on my body. It’s horrifying; I have little stretch marks, which make me feel like I don’t even want to take my clothes off alone, in the shower. All this has been so immensely hard on my self-esteem, always a fragile issue with me regardless. If I ever get better, I’m going to need to see the plastic surgeon next. :(

Tine to go to sleep now, I suppose. Need to start saving up for that plastic surgeon. ;P

Today, after years of being a fan of the series, I finally received a copy of Candace Bushnell’s “Sex And The City” in the mail. I’m not certain why I never read the book until now. I’ve read all of the author’s other books, and while her fiction is far from brilliant, it’s entertaining and provides some unique psychological perspectives that—at least based upon my experience—are typically right on the money.

And, I had a realisation as to why the movies that followed the franchise weren’t very successful. It wasn’t simply that the characters were too old, people had grown tired of the storylines, and the films weren’t easy to relate to (and, yes, all of those things are true.). It’s that the book already had an ending and it was written that way on purpose.

In the end, Carrie and Mr. Big do not get together. After years of her chasing after an emotionally unavailable guy who would make a committment—if he loved her more, if he were less self-centred, if he wanted to be that kind of guy—-they don’t end up together. He marries someone else.

I think there is a very hard, very real lesson in that, one that any girl who has given portions of her life to an unavailable partner can easily relate to. But, in the real world, it’s how the story ends, 99% of the time. The guy doesn’t leave his wife, he doesn’t quit his job, he doesn’t get over his committment issues or tell his disapproving family to shove it. He simply stays in the relationship until one or both parties see the need to move on.

“Sex And The City” was written to end with Mr. Big marrying someone else, and with Carrie being shown as a somewhat naive and foolish girl for waiting around for a guy who exemplifies all the main ideas espoused in such classics as “He’s Just Not That Into You”.

The fact that Hollywood has such problems with this reality that they needed to write a happily-ever-after sequel or two, terribly contrived, is why we have such problems in our society today. It’s why we have women with self-esteem issues waiting around for commitment-phobic guys who aren’t treating them with the respect they deserve (and likely, vice versa.)

For a franchise that’s all about female empowerment and modern sexuality, you think they’d consider that it’s a duty owed to the younger generation, to get rid of the fairy tales and nonsense. If you want to spend years trying to tell it like it is, don’t sell out just to make sure everyone lives happily ever after. Because somewhere, there’s a 20-year-old girl waiting for that executive to leave his wife and pay her the attention she deserves outside of the bedroom, and somebody, at some point, needs to tell her to grow up, because it’s not going to happen.

I’m just saying. “Sex And The City”, you sold women out to sell more movies. And it serves you right, because now all of America knows your movies suck.

….and, no, it had absolutely nothing to do with Sarah Palin. ;)

Tonight, although the world was pretty much back to normal and Atlanta decided to venture out again, The Guy I Am Currently Dating was still stuck inside his house, due to an excessive amount of ice in his driveway. Since our plans for tonight involved a trip to the movies, I decided to have movie night on my own.

I started off with “The Young Victoria”, a lovely period piece about the coming-of-age of the future Queen Victoria—a historical figure I know relatively little about, despite my great love for both the intrigue and drama of the history of the British monarchy, and literature/drama/fashion from the Victorian era. It focused not only on the political intrigue of the time, but on the love story between the young queen and Prince Albert, depicted as one of feminism, idealism, and equality, in a society when none of the above were popularly-held ideas.

Though some will likely find the story a little dull, as it focuses on character development much more than action, I thought it moved at a fast pace and was thoroughly engaging. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of historical drama, period films, or quaint love stories—or anyone who sat through Showtime’s “The Tudors”. :)

Next, I decided to watch “Eat, Pray, Love”, based upon the book of the same name, which I read while in New York last month. Although I didn’t hold particularly high expectations for the book, it was enjoyable enough; it was something I could relate to, and so I figured I’d give the film a try.

Unfortunately, the author’s words simply don’t translate well to the screen, and after reading the book, the mental image I’d formed of the main character has little to do with the casting of Julia Roberts. It almost seems as if a different type of character—one 50 pounds thinner, 15 years older, and with lips that announce collagen injections gone wrong (I haven’t seen such painful-looking lips since Goldie Hawn in “The First Wives Club“.)—was created with the casting of Julia Roberts, and although Julia is typically very endearing, it actually makes the character far less likable than the one portrayed in the book.

The most annoying artistic choice, and the one worthy of the title of this post? During a scene where the Julia Roberts character first arrives in Italy and discovers the wonder of a good meal, she is in an Italian trattoria, and they have a sweeping operatic aria playing in the background.

This would be a great choice, given that Italy is the birthplace of some of the greatest operas in the world, and there are many recognizable Puccini and Verdi choices to be had. However, this film chooses one of my favourites, The Queen Of The Night’s aria (“Der Holle Roche”), from The Magic Flute. For those who don’t know, The Magic Flute is a great opera written by Mozart—in German!! In fact, the choice is an indirect slight to Italy, since at the time, many composers and opera fans considered Italian more low-brow, music for commoners.

I believe this sense of annoyance is what sci-fi geeks feel when Star Trek opts for a plot device that is just scientifically impossible. *laughs* If you’re going to make a film about a woman who falls in love with Italy, it would be a good idea to actually use examples of things from Italy. (Why was music from “The Godfather” playing when they were in Naples? I thought that family was Sicilian? However, I could be wrong.)

I didn’t make it much farther than that in the movie, since I’m kind of tired, and the film wasn’t worth staying up until 4:30 to finish. I’ll watch the rest tomorrow. But, unless you’re bored and have a free rental code from Redbox, don’t bother with this one. It’s more work, but much more entertaining, to actually read the book.