Monday, December 30, 2013

No shirtless dudes here

The number two rule* of being a writer is self-promotion. Because of that, many writers (particularly self-pubbed writers) create what are called "teasers." These are advertisements for a book, usually self-made, that are designed to promote interest in said book. A photo or a graphic with text designed to hook potential readers, like a one sheet for a movie.

Now, this is a bit of a generalization, but writers of romance (and novels with a significant romantic subplot) tend to create teasers filled with objectively attractive people. And why wouldn't you? You're selling a fantasy, you might as well go full-throttle.

And yet.

I find it kind of troubling that romance writers in particular have a tendency to load up their Pinterest boards and Facebook pages with photo after photo of ripped shirtless dudes.

Now, I love a nice set of shoulders and abs as much as the next straight girl, but I must say that as a feminist, I find it kind of distasteful that as writers we're apparently pushing the "objectification of women = bad; objectification of men = totes cool" agenda.

You'll never catch me making the (fallacious) argument that men are portrayed as negatively in pop culture and media as women. They are not. By and large, our films, television shows, and books all show men in the active "doer" role, and women in the passive "supporter" position.

But just as it is gross -- and yes, I mean gross -- to write female characters who are just male wish fulfillment, it is also gross to write men who never work out but maintain a magical six-pack. Science, folks. It doesn't work that way.

So friends, countrymen, can we stop with the mini ads filled with rippling pectorals, perfect H&M model hair, and lots and lots of photoshop?


* The first rule is to write, obvi.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

TBR in 2014

This list from Stacked is almost overwhelming in its offering of good new YA books to read in 2014.

I am most excited to read The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel (Check out his blog! It's over there on the right!), Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and if I keep listing books I might as well just list the whole list.

So go check it out!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What? I'm only ...18 months late with this one

Code Name Verity. Can we talk about Code Name Verity already?!

Unlike Fables (sorry, Fables), this one lived up to all the hype. I bought it for Hannah and Echo for Christmas and am currently forcing my dad to read it, too.

I'd resisted reading Code Name Verity for the exact same reason I put off The Fault in Our Stars for over a year--I thought there was no way this book could live up to all the expectations built by my Twitter feed. (Well, that, and that I found the original cover surprisingly uninspiring. I am kind bad that way with covers.) But the thing is ... it was even better than I'd expected.

From the Amazon description:
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

The only trouble with this book is that, much like Gone Girl, I can't say too much about it, other than what is already written on the back cover. I will tell you this, though: If you feel lost for the first few chapters, don't worry. You're not alone. 

Go. Read it. You won't regret it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

the reading wagon

I am back on it! Or off it, whichever means I'm reading again.

It has been a crazy past few months in Ru-Land, I will be honest. I've never been so grateful to have a week off work in which I did absolutely nothing but recharge.

 Most recently read: Fables; Legends in Exile

I have been wanting to read Fables ever since I heard (from more than one person) that it was the comic series that Once Upon a Time ripped off. To be fair, I don't think that's entirely the case, though there are definitely some strong similarities with their concepts.

From the description: When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. But when Snow White's party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Fabletown's sheriff, a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the killer is Bluebeard, Rose's ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

Best moment? When you realize that "Prince Charming" has married not only Snow White, but Cinderella, and they've both divorced him for cheating on them.

Second-best-moment? A sly reference to Narnia, with the Fables claiming they didn't attempt to stop the Adversary from killing the Lion, since no one much liked his self-righteousness anyway.

Overall thoughts: I've heard great things about the Fables graphic novels and they've won buckets of awards, but the first volume didn't really win me over. I'll check out the next one to see if it picks up steam, but for now put me down for a solid "meh."

Have any of you read Fables? At what point do they reach "un-put-down-able" status?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Risk analysis

Friend: Let's say Zion National Park had Bring Your Dog to the Park Day. And I wanted to take Spencer to the top of Angels Landing, with his leash on the whole time. How much would I have to pay you to make that happen?

Me: With a leash and harness, and your promise to jump after him in an attempt to rescue him if slid off the path ... THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT WOULD MAKE ME RISK THAT DOG. Final answer.

Friend: What if he and I flew in on a helicopter, they lowered us onto the top, and we hung out there for 15 minutes. So no need to scale the narrow trail.

Me: If the helicopter remained hovering above, at a distance that wouldn't create too much wind, but which could quickly participate in a rescue mission if something went awry ... I'd think about it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Eyeball explosion

Last week, I woke up feeling like I had scratched my eye somehow. I called my pops, since he is an optometrist. He advised taking it easy--if I had scratched my eye, the pain should go away relatively quickly, as the cornea is the quickest-healing part of the body.

But by the next morning, the pain and light sensitivity weren't going away. (I'm sure my coworkers, when they saw me sitting in my office with my sunglasses on, thought I was hungover.) THAT, for future reference, is definitely not normal. If you experience these symptoms, call your healthcare professional STAT.

My dad called a fellow optometrist friend in Salt Lake to find out if he could squeeze me in immediately.

As it turns out, I had a virus that was attacking my eye and had already resulted in a corneal ulcer--basically a big, gaping sore right on my eyeball. My dad's friend had Serious Concern Voice, to say the least, and when I called my dad to report the news, he had Severe Father/Optometrist/Genetic-Predisposition-to-Panic Panic. See, left unchecked, this virus can result in permanent scarring of your cornea--as in, permanent damage to your vision.

Luckily my virus was caught early -- not early enough to save me from a few days of unpleasantness, but early enough to save me from any scarring on my axis of vision. I was sent home with a sample tube of medication right as the other symptoms (namely, your typical cold-and-flu season congestion, fatigue, and aches and pain) set in. I've spent the last 5 or so days in my house, unable to do much of anything other than put gel in my eyeball and swallow some ginormous pills. TV and computer screens irritated my eye, and reading for long periods tuckered me out. Skiing was definitely out of the question.

When you can't do anything but reflect, you tend to do a lot of reflection.

Here are some of my thoughts.

1. At the optometrist, I had the delightful experience of listening to a patient attempt to dicker over the cost of contacts, like they were a scarf at some flea market. The receptionist listened patiently, and then with increasing annoyance, as she explained that, No, you can't have two weeks' free supply just because

It became totally clear that this patient viewed her doctor not as a medical professional, but someone akin to the Comcast cable guy. How much can you get me for free? And if you can't get me that for free, well, I'll just take my business elsewhere! In fact, she probably would have treated the cable guy with a little more respect since you can't just wander down to Costco with a prescription for cable and get a better deal. No, when it comes to whether or not you'll get to watch this season of Keeping up with the Kardashians, you actually have to take or leave what you're offered. But when it comes to healthcare, well, there's always wiggle room -- amiright?

I am sort of sensitive to this to begin with, since my dad is an optometrist, and his tales of people trying to get the maximum for the minimum are pretty legendary. But people, if you want to treat your vision like a set of tires from Sam's Club, BE MY GUEST. Seriously. Just, if you would be so kind, have the good graces to do it in the privacy of your own home or car or at least the parking lot. I'm not going blind thanks to guy that you were too good to buy contacts from because you could save $10 online, so maybe save your bitching for a few steps outside his office.

It's just polite.

2. Speaking of the cost of vision care, eyeball medicine is expensive. Before insurance, a tiny 5 ml tube was over $300. After insurance, it was still around $120. (I'd like to work a "Thanks, Obama" in here somewhere, but I'm not sure this is the right place...)

At the Walgreen's drive through, the pharmacy asked me doubtfully, "Are you sure you want this? It's pretty pricey."

Hmm. Severe pain and eventual blindness, or $120. Dilemma.  



* For the record, I know that there are some people who legitimately could not afford the $120, and that is a rant for a different time.

But middle- to upper-class Americans, could you all just pull your heads out for a second and stop expecting professionals, whether they be attorneys or doctors or dentists or optometrists or whoever, TO GIVE YOU SHIT FOR FREE.**

Do you work for free? No? Then why do you expect someone who committed tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life to their professional training to do so?

If you want to roll the dice on doing your own divorce or your own taxes or buying your contacts from the same retailer from whom you get cheap DVDs or meatballs in bulk, that is completely your prerogative and it might work out really well for you. But please don't compare the cost of those services to the cost of having someone who actually knows what they are doing performing them. They are not the same, and it is an insult to imply otherwise. And if doing those things on the cheap worked out for you, it's not because you are better than people who paid the freight. It's because you are just luckier.

May your luck never run out.

** To family members who read this blog, and have gotten free contacts from my pops from over the years ... or friends who have asked for, and received, free legal advice from me in the past ... obviously, this doesn't apply to you. Friends and family get discounts. Everyone else, get your credit card number ready.