Views from the Tower
Views from the Depths
Views from the Tower
Views from the Depths
The Fairytale Trilogy
Awake: A Fairytale
Atone: A Fairytale
What would you do if you could get into your favorite book?
Geeky grad student Kelsey Edmundson finds herself between the pages of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in this rollicking, post-modern romp.
Attempting Elizabeth is available from these fine retailers:
Barnes and Noble: Nook
Kelsey Edmundson is a geek and proud of it. She makes no secret of her love for TV, movies, and, most especially, books. After a bad breakup, she retreats into her favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice, wishing she had some of the wit and spirit of Elizabeth Bennett.
One night at a party Kelsey meets handsome Australian bartender Mark Barnes. From then on, she always seems to run into him when she least expects it. No matter how Kelsey tries, she always seems to say the wrong thing.
After a particularly gaffe-filled evening around Mark, Kelsey is in desperate need of inspiration from Jane Austen. She falls asleep reading Darcy’s letter to Lizzy and awakens to find herself in an unfamiliar place that looks and sounds suspiciously like her favorite book. Has she somehow been transported into Pride and Prejudice, or is it just a dream?
As Kelsey tries to discover what’s happening to her, she must also discover her own heart. Is Mark Barnes destined to be her Mr. Darcy? In the end, she must decide whether attempting to become Elizabeth is worth the risk or if being Kelsey Edmundson is enough.
One of my favorite things about the Fourth of July is fireworks. I’ve been to my share of sporting events with Big Bang shows after and theme parks aplenty. I’ve seen the various fireworks shows at Disneyland often enough that I know them by heart. Fireworks, quite frankly, are awesome.
Which brings me to romance. ‘Cause it’s all about the fireworks. That’s one of the main reasons we read romance, we’ve bought our tickets and we want to see stuff explode in a myriad of pretty colors. When writing romance there are lessons we can learn from the real gunpowder-based fireworks about how our fictional fireworks show should go off.
Here are my top four:
(Please note that when I’m talking about fictional fireworks I am not necessarily talking about sex, or even kissing, but the way characters react to each other when they’re in like/love. There can (and should be) fireworks in the tamest romance about two Amish characters. This disclaimer brought to you by me.)
Anticipation. We all know the fireworks are coming. We’ve amassed in front of Sleeping Beauty’s (or Cinderella’s) castle for a reason. The lights have gone down and we are waiting with baited breath. I mean, yeah it’s fun to be driving down the freeway and see some random yahoo launching fireworks into the sky…but it’s more of a “oh hey, look at that,” moment as opposed to an “I can’t wait for this!” moment. Just the fact that we’ve put our book in the “romance” genre means that we’ve promised our readers some kind of fireworks (please see above disclaimer). And the whole first part of our story capitalizes on that same anticipation. This is why some erotica is different from romance in my mind. It’s more like driving by the side-of-the-freeway-fireworks. I’m not saying, it can’t be entertaining, there’s just less anticipation. And anticipation is a good thing!
The Right Mix. You need to have the right mix of elements that will react to create dazzling fireworks. In the case of actual fireworks that’s gunpowder, oxidizer, and colorants…and even more gunpowder in the first stage to launch it up into the sky. (If you’re nerdy like me, check out this article and this article to read about how fireworks work. It’s cool.) In the case of romance, you need characters, plot, and tension. Very few people want to read a story that consists of “two people met, went on a few dates, fell in love, the end.” You need characters that readers care about, a realistic plot, and the tension to provide the spark that sets it all off. My favorite line from the chemistry.about.com article says about gunpowder: “The materials will react with each other when enough heat is applied.”
Yes. Yes, they will.
Now, I’m not saying this is easy – and notice I’m giving you no writing tips to help you along, because I’m helpful like that. I just want you to know that if you’re feeling like this is a hard task, you’re right. If you’re feeling like it could blow up in your face or fizzle out at any moment, you’re right. Wow. Not only am I super helpful, I’m also super uplifting. My point is: this isn’t easy. I feel your pain. Don’t throw your computer out the window. We’ve all been there. Solidarity.
Timing. It’s all about timing. If the firework exploded before it got launched into the air it would not be cool. People might even die. Luckily, you’re not gonna kill anyone if your timing sucks! Yay! But with the right timing, fireworks are awe-inducing. And if you’re super fancy you can coordinate with music and inspire patriotism and sometimes (if you’re lucky) tears and kids holding their hands over their ears and screaming in terror. Good times. Here again is where the line between romance and erotica gets drawn in my mind – erotica is all about the bang (yes, I did), and romance is more about the artfully choreographed show.
In romance the timing is about giving your readers time enough to care about the characters and the characters time enough to care about (or at least be attracted to) each other…and then…
Construction. This is quite possibly the most important element of fireworks. Much like with the timing issue, a poorly constructed firework can also lead to death…and maiming. Or it can just refuse to go off and no matter how hard you hit it with a hammer it will continue to lay impotently in the middle of the street (side note: this is an actual story from my childhood during which we had family friends that constructed their own fireworks. I do not condone hitting unexploded fireworks with a hammer.) Aerial fireworks are shells that are packed with black powder, a bursting charge, and “stars” which are like their own little sparklers. There are even multibreak shells which are more complicated and break in several phases. They way the stars are packed determine what kind of visual display you will get. Here’s a tip: most romances should consist of a multibreak shell – sometimes it’s that breath between explosions that make them even more awesome – and the stars should be really bright, colorful, and fizzy.
I’d like to tell you there’s a magic formula for creating fictional fireworks, that you can follow instructions and get it right every time. Unfortunately, that’s not true. And that’s part of the reason why I haven’t included helpful tips for achieving the right levels of anticipation, or told you just the right way to mix the proper elements…there’s no right way. Every author is going to find a different way to do it – and probably a different way to approach it with every story. No two stories are the same and each deserves it’s very own fireworks show!
What are your favorite kind of fireworks (fictional or otherwise)?
I blogged earlier this month on my author site about declaring 2014 the Year of the Girlfriend – making a serious effort to spend time with my friends even though most of them live far away from me. Not only am I making it a goal to interact with my friends in person but to make sure I spend time each day filling up the “social void” that consumes extroverts like myself.
Carving out time to spend with my friends is about more than just having fun, it’s about helping to replenish my well of creativity…I am a very social person and a social writer. I love talking through ideas and plots with other people. I love hearing other people’s creative ideas and what they’re working on – even if it has nothing to do with writing. These are the kinds of things that inspire me to be a better writer.
Spending time with friends will affect my writing for much longer (and much more reliably and healthily) than holing up by myself with my laptop and gallons of coffee and trying to pound out the words. I’ve known this about myself for a long time but I haven’t yet made it a priority – to nourish and feed the source of creativity instead of just demanding production from myself.
Everyone’s creativity gets fed in different ways. For some the thought of of big social type events is more scary than relaxing…I’m an extrovert who was raised by introverts, so I understand differing levels of social needs! The important thing is to discover what replenishes you creatively and then make it a priority. I encourage you to do that this year.
What helps feed your creativity? Let me know in the comments!
Frank Churchill. In the pattern of casting a Jane Austen novel, Frank is “the rake/rogue” in Emma, joining the company of Wickham, Willoughby, Henry Crawford, John Thorpe, and William Elliot. He isn’t the hero, he isn’t the hero’s best friend, so that’s the spot allotted to him.
And certainly, after the despicable Eltons he is the least admirable character in the book. He’s selfish and self-centered, and his lies form the basis for the mystery at the centre of the plot.
But the first time I read Emma, I had another one of those moments when the voices in my head started saying, “What if…” (Long time Indie Janeites will remember I got the idea for my first Austenesque novel while reading P&P–Darcy spoke up as I was reading and started giving me his point of view. I call him the Darcy in my Head.)
You see, there’s something else interesting about Frank: Jane Fairfax loves him. Jane Fairfax, who is never portrayed in anything less than a flattering light. (Except by Emma, who is–frankly–jealous.) She is good and wise, as well as being exceedingly talented in almost all the ladylike virtues.
So why would a wise young woman fall in love with a feckless young man who never seems to give thought to anyone’s comfort but his own? Now, the cynic might say that even the Janes among us make mistakes. However, if you follow the course of the story, Frank eventually repents of his selfish behavior and comes back around to realising his own failings.
The answer, to me, is that Jane saw something in Frank that he didn’t even see in himself. She saw a seed of goodness, something she could relate to. But what was it?
I’m planning a novella about Frank Churchill called To Be Frank. Hopefully I’ll figure out some of the answers in the course of writing his story.
Ang: Y’all know the drill!
Kim: We, the besties, have been reviewing Emma Approved ten episodes at a time during the Emma group reading of amazeballz.
Ang: The first week, we reviewed 1-10.
Kim: The second week, we reviewed 11-20.
Ang: The third week, we reviewed 21-30.
Kim: And this being our final week, we are reviewing 31-40.
Ang: Y’all ready for this?!!
Kim: LET’S BURN THIS MUTHA EFFER DOWN.
Without further ado,
we proudly present to you our final bestie review of Emma Approved,
episodes 31-40, that is.
31. Listening, Again
bestie description: Alex storms in, and we swoon.
Kim: Emma admitted that she has been wrong before? Did pigs just fly?
Ang: Pissed off Mr. Knightley is HAWT.
Kim: ALEX SUPPORTS YOU EMMA.
Ang: Smiley Knightley has all the adorbs.
Kim: Wait, how did Izzy’s husband not know she wanted to finish school?
Ang: Because poor writing…I mean, men = dumb.
32. Back in Business
bestie description: Emma channels Daft Punk and Harriet starts a club.
Kim: Step away from the Krav Maga lessons!
Ang: Dude, but really. Emma seems to think the best way to communicate with people is by pushing them around, can you IMAGINE if she knew Krav Maga?
Poor Knightley would be black and blue.
Kim: Alex wants Emma to work on their communication. *swoon*
Ang: OoOoO PICK ME! PICK ME TO WORK ON COMMUNICATING.
Kim: Emma and Alex have a moment and Harriet should have just turned her butt around and left without a word…come on girl!
Ang: BACK. OFF.
33. Back in the Saddle
bestie description: Emma is unstoppable and we fear for all our safety.
Kim: Intimate gathering of stuck up rich drunk people…yay?
Ang: *weakly waves pom-poms*
Kim: Poor Knightley is going to get an ulcer because of this woman.
Ang: We might need to start a Protect the Knightley Club.
Kim: Oh yeah, heaven forbid she be financially responsible!
Ang: She’s above us common folk. Hair flips and fancy shoes are her concerns.
Money? Pffft. That grows on trees.
34. Attitude and Gratitude
bestie description: We meet Emma’s dad’s Harrie (wha…huh?), and Emma downs wheatgrass.
Kim: Emma is the master of delicate situations said no sane person ever.
Kim: I heart Maddy Bates.
Ang: With all the hearts.
Kim: MAMA. I feel like Emma has met her match!
Ang: I wanna see Jane!
Kim: The Queen of England! bwahahaha!
35. Flies to Honey
bestie description: We eat fancy jams and fall harder for Maddy.
Kim: Can we please always be in Alex’s office?
Kim: People can pay me with pie any day.
Ang: MAMA, you can feed me pie EVERYDAY!
Kim: All I’ve learned from this is that the rich and powerful love an open bar.
blah blah blah plot
Ang: blah blah blah need more Alex
36. Internal Troubles
bestie description: Emma laughs in the face of details and planning.
Kim: Is Emma sane?
Kim: “I have to back you call, Emma.”
Ang: BMart in the HOUSE.
Kim: Martin and Harriet awkward adorbs of sadness.
Ang: Emma really could have used those Krav Maga lessons right about now.
Kim: Am I the only one who wants to punch Emma in the face?
“Men can be so insensitive.” #irony
37. Cinderella in the Making
bestie description: Harriet is worked to the bone for her own good.
Kim: Never saving the whales! Down with the whales!*
Ang: Death to the beast that shall not be named!
Kim: If Emma is the fairy godmother I’ll stick with the wicked stepmother.
Kim: Blah blah blah plot stuff
Ang: Blah blah blah Jane Fairfax
Kim: OoOoOH! KNIGHTLEY’s name was said!
38. Surprise, Surprise
bestie description: Emma and Frank Churchill meet, and we all find out they are both manipulators. Plus, outrageous flirting.
Ang: Knightley and I have the same-ish keyboard.
Kim: “How old was the whale?”
Kim: I hate to be the voice of reason but Emma is insane. I gotta say, I love seeing Emma crumbling under pressure.
What the what? Frank Churchill.
39. Benefiting the Greater Good
bestie description: Emma is all cleavage and it’s obviously for Frank freaking Churchill. Because classsssy.
Kim: Flirty Emma makes me gaggy.
Ang: The. Worst.
Kim: OF COURSE HE WANTS TO BE NEAR JANE.
Ang: Her dumbness level is off the charts.
Knightley interruption for the win!
Kim: “How pretentious the party was?”
Snarky Knightley is my hero.
40. Two for Two
bestie description: Frank has motives and Alex seeees them!
Ang: Emma’s gonna “deal” with Harriet? By dealing with her does she mean, EAT HER FACE.
Kim: You better give that girl a raise!
Ang: I like your shirt, Mr. Knightley.
I also like your fancy new haircut and your face.
Kim: Emma’s disdain for Jane makes my cold dead heart happy.
41. Karma is a…
bestie description: Things finally get interesting!
Kim: IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG.
Ang: HELLLLZ YES.
How sad is it that we’re excited over seeing one of THE MOST hated characters from TLBD. They’re totes playing us, aren’t they, best?
Final “final” thoughts with the besties!
Things we’d like to see:
Ang: Personally, I’d like Alex and Darcy in a room together for a side by side comparison, which is a totes legit thing to want.
Kim: I’m excited to see how this Caroline story line plays out…the woman is the devil. I love it.
Ang: Truth. I’d also like to see a Knightley/Emma kiss, for reasons.
*Kim lives in Alaska, but she is deathly afraid of whales…it’s a totes legit phobia.
This is Emma month on Indie Jane and I couldn’t let it go by without a fangirl post on what I consider to be the most brilliantly realized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma yet produced. Oh, I do love all the movie adaptations (Johnny Lee Miller!) and the Emma Approved web series and any number of written works, don’t get me wrong. But the more I watch Clueless, the more I appreciate how incisive and insightful an adaptation it is. To use the somewhat enclosed world of Jane Austen to comment on high school class and social politics in the ’90s shouldn’t work as well as it does. It also shouldn’t endure as well as it does even now.
I was an adolescent in 1995 when the movie came out and I was just the demographic that ate it up. I never did see it in the movie theater, but I’ve owned a video or DVD copy of it ever since I saved my allowance money to get one (right after I purchased Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill, of course). I was in the crop of girls and boys who grew up saying “As if!” and throwing the WHATEVER sign as a regular part of our lexicon. I wanted to be Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) and I wanted to date Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd in his most dreamy role ever?).
When I was 13, I appreciated the love story and the clothes and the technicolor world in which Cher lived. Who didn’t want that closet and all those clothes? I recognized the high school cliques and the constant popularity contests. I saw the differences between the rich kids and the poor kids and the band geeks and the football stars on a regular basis in my own school. So the world of Clueless rang home in a very real and very silly sense. The movie allowed all of us to kind of see the divisions we had between us and to laugh at them for a little while. Of course, being adolescents scared of change, we didn’t do much about it. But we all had common ground in this little movie.
But now that I’m 31 and have since studied and read and written about Jane Austen’s world more than I ever thought I would, I appreciate even more how well-done Amy Heckerling’s adaptation of Emma actually is. Here are a few reasons why:
Class/Money. One thing that is apparent in whatever Jane Austen book you read is how much money plays a role in the love stories. Possessions open a gateway to love. It’s only after she sees Pemberley that Elizabeth is able to admit to herself that she might love Darcy. (I know, I know, that’s really cynical, but bear with me.) Anne Elliot cannot marry Captain Wentworth because of money. Edward Ferrars is unable to consider marrying against his mother’s wishes because of money. It’s a big deal in these lives. And the class divisions are very real in Clueless, too. Though Americans like to tout that we live in a “classless” society, anyone without money who has ever been to school knows this isn’t true. And it defines much of who you are and what you can do in high school (and in life). So when Heckerling foregrounds class and money issues in Clueless, it’s a pretty big deal. Cher has lots of money. Money leads to lots of material possessions. But her journey through the movie teaches her that those possessions aren’t as important as the people around her. She doesn’t give up the privileges that her money gives her, but she becomes aware of it.
Loving Yourself But Being Willing to Change. Part of the discussion of class going on is highlighted by the fact that Cher and her bestie Dionne think that poor-girl and worst-dressed new student Tai needs a makeover. They basically throw money at her and get her new clothes and makeup. They teach her the “tricks” for acting like a rich person. But none of it really sticks. Tai is insecure about herself for a little while, but she comes to see that she doesn’t really need the makeover and eventually Cher and Dionne agree. They’ve condescended to her as a project for them to work on, but Tai earns their respect for herself. In the end, she goes back to who she is and gets the boy that’s right for her. In Emma, Harriet Smith submits to Emma’s makeover, but comes to much the same conclusion: she doesn’t really need Emma’s help. It’s Emma that changes the most and realizes that her friend is great just as she is.
BOYS. Okay, the love story in this movie spoke to my soul when I was a teenager. Cute and smart older boy falls for girl my age? SIGN ME UP. But upon rewatching, I really really adore the frank discussions the girls have about their sexuality and about the boys they like. None of them apologize for who they like or why they like them. But just as in the book, they realize that boys are confusing. And they are even more confusing when you add the class and money aspects in. Elton is supposed to be a catch, right? WRONG. Tai shouldn’t like Travis because he’s a loser skater-boy, right? WRONG. Just like in the book, it’s only when each of the girls listens to her own heart that she realizes exactly what she wants and needs and then is not afraid to go after it!
Do you love Clueless as much as I do? Let’s do an awkward dance with Tai and talk about our favorite parts!
Ang: blah blah blah review Emma Approved
Kim: blah blah 40 episodes 4 weeks 10 episodes a week
Ang: during epic Emma group reading of epicness on Indie Jane
Kim: first week 1-10
Ang: last week 11-20
Kim: this week 21-30
Ang: CAN WE TALK ABOUT KNIGHTLEY NOW?!
Without further ado,
we shall bless you
with a bestie review of Emma Approved,
episodes twenty-one through thirty, that is.
21. Fine Tuning
In which, we meet Emma the spirit animal.
Ang: I’m starting to wonder if Emma’s definition of friend is vastly different from ours?
Kim: HOW DARE SHE SHUT A DOOR IN KNIGHTLEY’S BEAUTIFUL FACE!
Ang: Dead. To. Me.
Oh, and Emma can just whip up a song, you know, because that’s a thing that’s super easy to do.
Kim: Obviously it’s not, since the woman can’t rhyme for shit.
22. Planning Perfection
In which, Emma shoos Mr. Knightley further proving she’s dumb.
Oh, and her lies are justified.
Ang: If Lizzie had lied to Charlotte like Emma lied to Annie, shank to the face.
Kim: Annie is a fool for not slapping Emma when she had the chance.
23. Moment of Triumph
In which, it becomes even more painful to watch Emma.
And that’s saying A LOT.
Ang: “Curse the small child that sneezed on her!” -Emma
p.s. She needs to be nicer to Mr. Knightley… or else.
Kim: I see a rude awakening in her future.
Ang: blah blah blah James blah blah blah insisting blah blah blah writing on the wall
In which, Emma takes clueless to a whole new level.
Ang: She called herself subtle.
Kim: Creeper is just hanging out in her neighborhood?
Ang: I think what he just said was: “I’m in politics, I professionally lie to people.”
Kim: *bangsheadonwall* just get out of the car Cher…errr Emma.
Ang: Emma right now:
25. Should Have Listened
In which, Emma becomes even more unlikable.
Oh, and has a mental breakdown.
Ang: “Who needs that personal growth stuff when you have wine from Tuscany and shoes from Milan.”
Has she just given up on being likable, relate-able, or even a good human being completely?
Kim: SHE IS NOT A NORMAL PERSON, BESTIE.
Without Knightley this show would blow.
26. New Direction
In which, a man is described as pert.
Kim: Watching Emma have a breakdown is surprisingly satisfying.
It’s good that Emma knows she doesn’t need anyone and is incapable of love.
Kim: I think it’s for the best.
Ang: Wait. Did Izzy just use the word dain? Wha…huh?
Kim: And why is it so hard to find a sit down place for kids to eat?
Ang: Is there nowhere near by with pasta or pizza or a plateful of french fries?!
I have so much confusion.
Kim: Something is wrong with her.
Something is wrong with you, EMMA.
27.The Need to Help
In which, Emma says she won’t jump to conclusions.
Ang: Were her other “clients” clients or more friends and family who’s lives she decided to make better?
Kim: If this is how Emma “takes care of the rest of the world” we are all DOOOOOOOOOOM.
Ang: WINKING AGAIN.
Kim: YOUR SISTER IS NOT A CLIENT.
28. Sister Attack
In which, Emma guilts and manipulates Izzy into doing something she wants because Emma knows best!
King: John sounds like a complete arse.
Ang: Hap-hap-happy household.
Kim: Peeps be hitting each other all the time in this series.
29. Change of Plans
In which, Emma decides she knows what’s best for a married couple, because that makes sense.
Ang: She *seems* thirty.
30. Winners and Losers
In which, we wax poetic about semantics.
Kim: Did Alex just ask Emma to lunch? Like a lunch date?
Ang: OHMYGOSH I MISSED THAT.
I was too busy mocking this:
Final thoughts with Ang
Of Secondary Characters & Comparisons
Comparisons aren’t fair. As a reader, I try my hardest not to compare one book to another. It is my goal to treat every sparkling vampire book equally and fairly, because that’s how I roll, yo. And I’m really truly desperately trying not to compare Emma Approved to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but it’s not easy. Honestly, it’s not even Emma or Mr. Knightley that I’m struggling with the most (even though, for the record, I still dislike Emma immensely), but the supporting cast is the hardest pill to swallow. I’m longing for a bestie like Charlotte who will smack Emma upside the head. A sister like Jane who will comfort Emma with a cup of tea, but still tell it to her sister straight. Or a sister like Lydia, who not only offers comic relief (HOLLA), but doesn’t worship the ground Lizzie walks on and brings Lizzie’s worse prejudices to light. And let us not forget Figi and Bing and Caroline and Mary and Kitty Bennet and even Lizzie’s costume theater parents. They were a rich cast of characters that made Lizzie’s world stronger, more interesting, simply more. And while Knightley is shaping up to be a wonderful best friend and counselor and supporter and all around swoon worthy, I can’t help but feel bad for Emma that she’s got nobody else to stand up to her or even simply tell her the truth.
Questions. Questions. Questions.
Are you struggling with Emma Approved too?
Is it strictly Emma that’s holding you back?
Or do you miss costume theater and sisterly love as much as us besties?
OR do you love love love Emma Approved and wish never to be parted from her?
Do you feel the show is a vast improvement on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries?
Annnnnnnnd let’s just take a moment to discuss Mr. Alex Knightley.