Unreal Fiction

For the past few weeks I’ve been watching Psych (only a little behind the times) because I wanted something light that I wasn’t going to get super invested in (I’m in season 5 now). What I find interesting about the show is the levels of suspension of disbelieve it requires to watch it.

This is not a critique and analysis of Psych and what it portrayed accurately, but rather the attitude about accuracy and the suspension of disbelief in fiction, and here I’ll mostly be thinking of contemporary romance fiction as the genre with which I’m most familiar. We’ve all seen arguments about how accurate and factual a book should be, how much research an author should do, and how stories need to be grounded in reality (if they are contemporary fiction). I’ve even seen it argued that people will use these as tool in their own life, so we’re required to present the facts correctly.

To which a big part of me says…REALLY?

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely understand inaccuracies throwing a reader out of a story, and that is an important consideration. (Ask me about 99% of stories involving horses and people writing them that do not know what they’re talking about.) However, I question how real reality needs to be in fiction. Because the stories are made up (and the points don’t matter), does it matter if something is an accurate portrayal?

To some degree, I think stories have to be grounded in reality because of common knowledge (ie, if you ignore that World War Two happened, the reader isn’t likely to suspend disbelief that far). But for less common knowledge, or facts that toe the line of accuracy for sake of a good story–does it matter that the author diverged from reality?

Can you have a gay romance in a small town where the two mains are both out and proud and receive no backlash? Can you have a story take place in the “now” but ignore that the government is a horror movie and the world’s on fire if you wrote the book in 2020?

Yes, because it’s fiction. (And you can feel free to disagree, but you’re wrong ;P)

Going a step further (and circling back around), can you create a premise that is maybe not grounded in reality but still has its feet on the ground (like, say, a fake psychic solving a ton of cases for a local police station)? Can you fudge the laws of inheritance to create dramatic tension? Can you ignore the reality that half your cast shouldn’t have green eyes? Can you ignore that your uterus-having characters never have to deal with a period? Can you fudge that if someone actually missed work as much as the MC did because of story drama, they’d likely be fired?

Within reason, I say yes, as long as it’s not a glaring issue that will throw the average reader completely from the story and make them unable to suspend their disbelief. IE, the story could happen in a very similar parallel universe.

I’m not judging stories that purposefully keep their stories grounded in reality–props to them–but that shouldn’t make them inherently better in some way. Because these are fictional stories.

That said, the less you can diverge from reality in a book that is meant to take place in the real world’s present, the more real your story may feel. But I don’t think we should tell writers they can’t (shouldn’t) write that story about the professional Mennonite football player (who sends all his big bucks back to his community) and the love he finds along the way, as long as the author can sell the story to the reader.

(Please do not think this post means that I’m excusing stories for being all straight, cis, and white [which doesn’t properly express reality’s diversity]. There’s a difference between changing something for dramatic story telling and ignoring that gravity exists. But I’d also argue most of those stories aren’t actively deciding to ignore a fact and more are just showing their own bias/ignorance. Many of us need to do better. I’m also not trying to excuse stories that actively do harm to people, although that is a fuzzy line and a different debate.)

Anime review: ID – Invaded

(Note: This show has a complete first season [13 episodes] with a second season that’s been announced. They are available through Funimation both subbed and dubbed.)

I started this with a vague curiosity and a huge helping of apprehension that the main character was going to be a stereotypical Main Character Boy Who Saves Us All (and is likely a disappointment to me). However, I was delightfully surprised by the characters, which are the real focus of this show after the delightful concept that the creators obviously had fun playing around with. In general, I’d recommend this show (especially if you enjoy anime such as Psycho-Pass).

The main plot is that there is a “Brilliant Detective” who is able to jump into the psyche of serial killers using traces of psycho-mumbo-jumbo and use that to find who the killer is and ultimately how to find them. There’s a support team outside the psyche that tracks the Brilliant Detective in the psyche and does detecting and leg work to solve the cases (so it’s not just BD being amazing, which I appreciated).

There are a variety of strong characters (men and women), and it’s a curious look at psychology and the urge to kill in both negative and positive lights. There is a fair bit of violence, obviously, but I didn’t find anything too gory (although take that with a grain of salt!).

This is one of those shows that you just go along for the ride, enjoy the visuals and the characters (and the opening and closing theme songs!), and let the story unfold.

SPOILERS AHEAD

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Anime Review: The Case Files of Richard the Jeweler

(12 episodes, available from CrunchyRoll, subtitled)

This show is based on Japanese mystery light novel series, although I’m not familiar with the original content. I’ll be honest, I started watching it because the title was so ridiculous that it caught my curiosity. Plus the attractively drawn characters (and two male leads….hmm).

In some ways this show feels very ’90s in that the premise is a bit ridiculous to get these two guys involved in one another’s lives, and it feels queer-baity as hell. Or is it? I don’t know.

(I also thought I wrote up this review immediately after finishing the series and then found it languishing in my drafts, so my memory is not as clear as it once was!)

The basis of the story is Richard is hassled by some drunks on the street and Seigi (a college student) stops them. He learns Richard is a jeweler who just opened a shop, and ends up getting a part-time job there. Each episode involves a customer with jewelry to be appraised or else looking to buy and the story that revolves around that piece or the meaning behind it.

If you like slice-of-life shows that are very chill, I’d recommend it, as long as you have a strong ability to suspend disbelief. Sometimes events are eye-rolling worthy, but I enjoyed a wild ride. I will warn that the pacing feels a little off, as the Big Dramatic Arc seems to happen 2-3 episodes before the end, so there are a few episodes that happen after. They are relevant, but feel a little tagged on (IMO).

POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD

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The Ugly Blanket

This blanket was a recent knitting project….that took about a year to complete because it wasn’t my only project, just the one I worked on when I wanted to. It’s a 10-stitch blanket that uses this pattern.

In some ways it’s really easy, because you start from the center, and the rectangle grows with each row. This allows you to stop at any time, when you run out of yarn, time, or patience. Or if you just want a table cover or a cup holder, I guess! So it’s adaptable, and you can use it to fit your needs.

The pattern itself is super simple, which might turn some people off, but it’s great for working on while watching TV, and because the rows are all ten stitches long, it’s easy to always end on a finished row, if that’s the sort of person you are.

As you can likely tell by the assault of color (and this shot is darker than it appears in real life!), I didn’t use all one color yarn – I scrounged through my partial skeins from old projects (that were roughly the same yarn weight) and knitted them all together into…this. It’s ugly as sin, and I love it. Because seeing it also reminds me of all the other knitting projects I’ve worked on. The colors also feel whimsical and old, calling back to a different time and place and person as I lie under it’s warmth.

And it is warm! Most of the yarns are worsted weight (one is heavier, a few are lighter), which isn’t the thickest yarn, but this makes a cozy blanket. It’s also smallish – I can fold it in half and drape it over my lap easily while writing a blog post about a blanket. I could have made it larger, of course, but I’m happy with the size, which covers my legs still (I was also running out of extra yarn that would work and the patience to work on it).

My point? Just because your project isn’t as pretty as other projects, doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful, useful, and special in its own way.

Review: Black Thorn, White Rose

This is an anthology of “adult fairy tales” that I picked up at Goodwill (where I grab a lot of random books). It was a series of anthologies that was released (and then re-released?), and I found two of the books on my trip. My copy also seems to be an original printing (from 1994!!), with a slight layout error (seen here).

Overall, I went in kind of excited to try some new authors (I’ve denoted the ones I’ve read before with asterisks), and to hear some new takes on fairy tales. In the end, I was…unimpressed. A few stories were pretty strong and engaging, a good number of them were a chore to get through, and most were forgettable (to the point where I need to have the book beside me to write my review of the individual stories (below).

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FREE – Sharing a Pond

To celebrate the start of spring–and for something to read for all my lovelies out there–I’m offering Sharing a Pond for free from Amazon from today through Saturday!

Brent shows up on Corey and Shane’s doorstep in the dead of winter needing a place to stay—and hopeful his mates will provide it, and not mind he’s a frog shifter.

Being a shifter is nothing new to Corey and Shane, but neither is being mates. They’ve been together since before they first met Brent ten years ago—back when Brent was Brenda. While bringing a third into their relationship is more than a little complicated, they’re willing to try.

But change is always easier said than done, and Brent wonders if he ever really stood a chance at being happy with the men he has always loved and admired.

On the Shelf

^ I hate creating blog titles

I realized that I haven’t done any updates since the new year, and we’re now in March. Whoops.

After I finished one of my side projects, I hit a bit of a writing stagnation, which I followed up with doing the heavy revisions that needed to be done to The Miracle Man. That felt AWESOME (after avoiding them for a year, what), but was followed by another stagnant period where I didn’t know what I wanted to do next.

All of the things and none of the things and should I stop writing romance and yet as soon as I think that I want to do nothing but write romance. It wasn’t conducive to writing, to say the least!

However, I have been doing a bit of reading, which has been a whole different struggle in life #AlexWhining.

After watching all the Father Brown available on Netflix, I picked up the copy of The Innocence of Father Brown that I had lying around, since that character was the inspiration for the show. It’s very different, of course (they updated the show to after World War II, rather than early 1900s), but I can definitely see the character inspiration (as well as some of the story plots). It’s one of those books that I pick up once in a while, but I don’t think I could read through. Thankfully the stories all mostly stand alone, so they are easy to pick up and put down. They’re all also rather slow-moving, so stopping in the middle of a story doesn’t hurt much either.

I’m perpetually in the middle of The Left Hand of Darkness, and I’m not sure why I’m struggling to get through, except that I have such high expectations for it that if I don’t love it, I’ll feel like I let everyone down. Anxiety is weird.

I started Stephen Fair when I failed to read more of Left Hand and thought a YA novel might fix that. I was doing good, and then a m/f love interest was introduced and I lost interest. I don’t think it’s going to be problematic as my first impression gave, so I’ve been reading a little bit at a time, but while the idea has hooked me, we’re fumbling around in the real world too much and I need to sit down and just read it!

Black Torn, White Rose is my most recent purchase. It’s a collection of “adult” fairy tales by various authors. It’s a nice dose of short fiction in semi-familiar worlds (and settings I enjoy). I’ve read through two stories and look forward to the next. I’ll probably end up finishing this book first, because the short stories are engaging and easy reads and encourage me to pick up the next one.

Finally, this old “family” cookbook from the fifties isn’t really a “read” but I went through and found recipes that might actually be edible (spoiler, I skipped all the entrees). Maybe these bread recipes will work for me!

New Year, New…

If you’re anything like me, you don’t need the turning of a new year to make and break resolutions. But it’s nice to do it all together, isn’t it?

Yada, yada get fit.

Yada, yada watch less TV.

I’m continuing my “monthly goals” (which I hit only slightly more accurately than yearly ones!). I’m trying to up my writing word count and actually hit 120,000 in a year (or 10K a month). Not all those words are going to get published, and some of them are for other side projects not connected to my name, but writing is writing!

One serious goal is to submit The Miracle Man. Which means finally finishing revisions. Which I haven’t touched since….November? I’m a work in progress…

Currently I’ve been using my morning writing time to try to brainstorm the end of a different story (that is only 1/3 written) and takes place in the same world as Mark of the Familiar and Gift of the Familiar, but about a hundred and fifty years in the future (ie, our modern day, assuming similar timelines). I’m excited about this story and the characters (some of whom were not originally supposed to be as important as they are), but something’s hinky and I need to thinky.

So if anyone would like to wave their magic wand and resolve my issues, I’d much appreciate it.

Hard Truths on KU

Isaac didn’t expect to find love at his family’s Christmas dinner, but that was before he met his sister’s new fake boyfriend. Tall, muscular, and tattooed, Logan is what Isaac would love in a partner—and also everything his parents would hate in one. Not that they know Isaac’s gay.

That doesn’t stop him from dating Logan—unbeknownst to his parents, and with his sister’s approval after she fake dumps him. The pair dive into a whirlwind romance of motorcycle rides, cheesy puns, and hot sex. They meet each other’s friends and fill their time with happiness and laughter. It’s all perfect.

Until Isaac suggests they move in together, and Logan asks Isaac to come out to his parents. Isaac wants to, but he’s scared; he doesn’t want to lose his family. Unfortunately, he can’t see that his real family has been right beside him all along.