Tag Archives: Reader Post

Special Reader Guest: Alys

Hi friends! So I’d like to crawl into a hole with a fluffy blanket and just … sleep and rest for about a week, but I know I don’t get that. Alas. However, today we have a reader featured at ALBTALBS! These are some of my favorite posts, and I really hope you’ll read what Alys has to say. [Also – the pictures were sent embedded, which WP can’t handle – so odd formatting/whatever is on me. Forgive me.]

Unexpected MagicUm…hello everyone, this is little Alys from some blog somewhere with some twitter someplace and such and whatnot. Not really important. What is important is that for some reason, our dear Limecello (during a momentary lapse of judgment, I’m sure) felt that I was awesome enough to do a guest reader post for her much cooler blog and be on par- ok not on par, more like bask in the warm glowing limelight of equally cool writers/readers/guest posts. Continue reading

SHHM Guest: Ana Canino-Fluit

Hi friends! I’ve fallen behind again, but today I’m here! With another guest celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with us! Whee! Everyone – I hope you chime in. I’m grateful for all of you <3 (and for copy + paste)! Please give Ana a very warm welcome!

Reading while Latina by Ana Canino-Fluit

I am Latina romance reader and reviewer. Born and raised in Puerto Rico I have now lived nearly half of my life in the US Mainland and Canada. I have inter-married like so many Hispanics do, and I am raising my daughters to appreciate their multi-cultural (Dutch-Canadian & Puerto Rican) heritage. I am school librarian and I read and review romance as hobby. I read nearly all the romance sub-genres, everything from historical to science-fiction, although I tend to steer clear of inspirational and westerns. Romance like the rest of mainstream literature can be overwhelmingly white and while I am always thrilled to discover Hispanic authors and characters when selecting books to read I don’t limit myself to reading books written from a Hispanic point of view. But I do find myself looking for certain tropes, and story elements that in some way resonate with my experience of being a Latina. The particular tropes and story elements that appeal to me won’t necessarily appeal to another Latino or Latina whose experiences and background is different from mine but these are the tropes and story elements that I find reflect a bit of my reality.

Knowing the ScoreI love stories of newcomers or new people finding a place to belong in a small town or community. I left Puerto Rico to attend college and I have lived in many places across Canada and the US for work since then, so reading stories about the importance and process of finding supportive friends, and becoming part of a new community appeals to me. Two of my favorite series that return time and time again to the challenges and rewards of finding love, making friends and building relationships with peoples and places are Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family and Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books.

A distinct but related category of these types stories are romances about immigrants & ex-pats. People who not only leave their hometowns or states but are building lives in other countries. I love reading about the adjustments required to live in a different culture, the ideas and traditions we sometimes unconsciously carry from our home cultures and how they complicate our relationships. As someone who has negotiated the sometimes fraught waters of inter-cultural romance I love reading about it. Kat Latham has written a couple of stories with Ex-pats and bi-national couples which I really enjoyed (Knowing the Score & Mine Under the Mistletoe). I loved Mary Ann Rivers’ Live with its homesick Welsh hero, set on going home while slowly falling in love with a girl that has never left home. I also love Laura Florand’s novels, both the Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series, where the lovers often have to discover all that is lost in translation, the little cultural nuances, mores and cues that can lead to misunderstandings beyond simply not sharing the same first language.

LiveI love stories of misfits and outsiders, people who don’t quite fit in or and are not fully accepted by the culture at large. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, I knew that I didn’t quite fit the idealized Puerto Rican image of beauty, and when I left home as light-skinned Latina, I got and still get lot of comments like “you don’t look Puerto Rican” and those comments are exhausting and wearying as they make you feel not quite right. Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series while first and foremost action packed stories of adventure and love that I fell in love with for their intricate world-building and steam-punky goodness, are also populated with people of color whose lives are complicated by how they look, what their heritage is or they ways their bodies have been modified. Delphine Dryden’s geeky and kinky characters in the Theory of Attraction series are misfits and outsiders of a different sort. I connect with these smart men and women whose differences from those around them might not be readily visible but still set them apart, and make them feel slightly out of sync with the rest of society.

I love strong and complicated family relationships. It is cliché to point out that Hispanics and [email protected] deeply value family, but what is less well understood is how complicated and difficult those extended family relationships can be. Divorce, substance abuse, distance, family expectations and aspirations complicate our families. In Lauren Dane’s books from her Brown Family series and its related novels to her Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction I find depictions of complicated families that are both honest and raw. Her family relationships are rarely straightforward; instead they are often sources of both strength and conflict. I love that she can acknowledge the role of our families of origin play in the families we build and their power to affect our relationships for good or ill. I recently read her novella Sway from the Delicious series, where we see both Daisy Huerta’s loving, healthy yet not idealized Mexican-American family and Levi’s complicated but close-knit WASPY family and how concern and conflict from both sides nearly derailed Daisy and Levi’s love affair.

Bitter SpiritsI love to read stories that assume and portray a multicultural world, which is rarer than you might think. I love books where the communities and groups of friends depicted are not all white and include more than a token person of color. I wish I saw more authors that realized that you can find people of color in all sorts of communities, big, small, urban and rural. I loved how vibrantly diverse Jenn Bennett’s 1920’s San Francisco is in her Bitter Spirits series, and the fact that we see people of color in all sorts roles going about their lives. In contemporary romance I really enjoy Audra North’s books for its everyday inclusion of people of color as main and supporting characters. I know when I read a person of color in her romances, their race isn’t “the issue”, but instead just a part of who they are.

When I was growing up in Puerto Rico it sometimes felt like machismo was the default male philosophy, and culturally we were raised to accept that you could tell the good ones from the bad ones because they listened to their Abuela, watched out for their nieces and sisters and that all the novias & chulitas would be set aside for the right one. Although I never let myself date a Machista or ever wanted a real live rake I still have a soft spot for stories of reformed rakes, of big strong men who know they are beat when they face a fierce grand-aunt like Lady Osbaldestone and are drawn to strong bossy women who don’t simply sit waiting to be rescued. I found my fix for this trope in the dozens of Stephanie Laurens Cynster series and Nalini Singh Psy-changeling novels which I binged on when I first found romance novels.

The Lotus PalaceOne of the most enduring telenovela tropes is that off a cross-class/Cinderella romance. In the telenovelas I watched as a child some rich guy was always falling for some girl from the wrong side of the tracks (who often conveniently was some of other rich guy’s secret baby…but that is another story). As a result of prolonged and sustained exposure to this trope, I have become very picky about the kind of cross-class romances I can enjoy. Unlike the telenovelas I watched as kid I want authors to address the real obstacles and sacrifices involved in those kinds of relationships. Two of my favorites are Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace, whose portrayal of deep family bonds, loyalty and sacrifice lend weight to Bai Huang and Yue-ying love and Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone, where Will and Lydia’s love is truly costly to them, costing them financially, in social esteem and even family contact.

The un-employment rate in Puerto Rico has been very high for a very long time, so my whole life my parents have the stressed the importance of education and work-ethic to the point that I didn’t realize that till I was in college that many people did not in fact go on to get a college education, but in my life it simply wasn’t optional. I was taught to value and respect those who humbly worked hard jobs to provide for their families and to provide opportunities for paid for work for others whenever possible. I look at my family, at my grandmothers who both worked and managed business. My great-grandparents who farmed and ran a bakery and as result I rarely feel a romance is complete if it doesn’t address the significance and value of work or the impact of struggling to make ends meet. I find myself deeply drawn both to stories where characters have to negotiate work-life balance because the characters love their work, are so good at it that it can easily consume them, like Julie James’ FBI series novels and Emma Barry’s Easy Part series and to novels where characters work hard in less than glamorous settings (Cara McKenna’s After Hours and Hard Time), where work is not identity but necessity.

After HoursThis is just a small part of the tropes and story elements I enjoy, as I haven’t mentioned some of my favorite writers and books, but their appeal to me is not something I can easily tie back to my Latina experience but are instead things I like simply because of all the other things that form who I am beyond my race, like my love-hate relationship with librarian romances and my aversion to billionaires. What are the tropes and story elements that connect the most deeply with you? I would love to hear your recommendations of books that fit some of these tropes and elements and I haven’t discovered yet. You can find me on twitter as @anacoqui and find my reviews on my blog.

So – what are your thoughts?! Chime in! (And have you read any of these books?)

Special Guest: Birthday Girl Sonoma Lass!

Hello my friends! It’s birthday month, and a Saturday, which must mean it’s time for a reader post. Beyond that, today is Sonoma Lass’s actual birthday – so everyone please wish her the happiest and best of birthdays! I also hope you’ll answer her question, because I’m curious as to what you have to say as well. <3

In looking over the list of books I’ve finished on my Kindle lately, I see less genre romance than I expect. I’ve started and then abandoned more than I care to admit, and I’ve put my head down to finish a couple because I wanted to review them. And I realized, somewhat belatedly, that the problem I’m having is one that I almost never mention in the reviews I write. So here it is: I am tired of beautiful people.

I know that one aspect of romance is the fantasy – two people overcoming obstacles and finding true love, in a way that many people in real life never manage. Depending on the sub-genre, a lot of those obstacles may be ones that most readers will never face. And I have heard reader after reader say that they want to read fantasy characters in their romances – beautiful, talented, extraordinary people falling in love.

BUT I have also heard readers say that they wish for more variety in the genre – including older main characters, fat main characters, and others who aren’t beautiful in the conventional way. And I do see some of those books, but mostly I see beautiful people. And that’s getting dull.

Now, some of these beautiful people don’t realize that they are beautiful – we get ugly duckling storylines, or books where the heroine has low self-esteem and doesn’t know that she’s gorgeous. But in the end, these are still books about beautiful people. Not what I want.

I myself am not beautiful. I’m not “ugly,” and when I was younger I had a conventionally “good” body, facility with make-up, and reasonable fashion sense. So while I’ve never been “the pretty girl,” I’ve never felt repulsive either. The key thing is, I have never felt that a man was interested in me based on first on my looks. But the men who have loved me have found me beautiful TO THEM; they love me, and they love my face and my body because they are the package in which the woman they love is wrapped. The handful of times in my life that I’ve felt really “in love,” that’s been part of it, and certainly is in my current long-term relationship.

My partner is a good-looking guy. He’s not a “hottie,” a hunk, or matinee-idol handsome, and he’s put on a few pounds since turning 50, but his is the dearest face in the world to me. I can appreciate conventionally attractive men, but they don’t make my heart flip over the way he does. Because I’m in love with him, and so however he looks is how the man I love looks, if that makes any sense.

In my mind, that’s a much greater thing: loving someone so much that whatever package they come in is dear to you. That means that if they gain weight, go bald, get sick, have surgery, or just plain get old, they don’t have to worry that you’ll stop loving them, because conventional, external beauty wasn’t a big part of the picture in the first place. I want to read about that kind of love, because that’s the kind of love that I can believe will really last.

It’s not that I never see these stories; just not enough of them lately. So what do you think – do you prefer beautiful main characters? Are there particular books that you think are relevant here? Do you have recommendations for me???

[Fabulous post, thank you! And happy birthday SL!!!]

SBHM Special Guest: E!

You guys!!! It’s the third freaking Saturday of the month! 2014 is just flying by! Eek! As you obviously know by now … I’m celebrating the Smithsonian Heritage Months at ALBTALBS. And the third Saturday always features a reader, because you know what? Readers are fucking awesome and we’re what drives this whole crazy Romanceland and market. So kudos, bitches! (And I say that in the most loving and rockingest way possible. :D)

Anyway I managed to rope long time community member and all around superstar E to visit with us! I hope you all chime in! <3

Tradition

Greetings, **waves** I am E, one of the members of The Book Pushers and I am here as the example of why late night Twitter and lack of sleep make a dangerous combination. No, honestly I am thrilled to be providing this guest post for Limecello to support her efforts to do something a little different for each of the themed months in the United States. She gave me pretty much free reign to say whatever I wanted so instead of doing the more typical look at Black History Month, what it means, who it honors, why it is important I am going to try to do something a little bit different. As I thought about this post one word kept popping into my head. The word was “tradition.” If you bear with my ramblings I will tie the word tradition back to the reason I am posting.

Tradition. What exactly is tradition? When I think of tradition the first thing that comes to mind is primarily cultural. For example the song “Traditionfrom the soundtrack of Fiddler on the Roof,

which talks about cultural norms that have existed for so long the reason behind them is unknown. Another cultural example is eating certain foods on New Year’s Day to bring luck, health, and good fortune in the upcoming year. This cultural viewpoint agrees more with the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, tradition is a noun with two primary definitions:

– a way of thinking, behaving or doing something that has be used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time

– the stories, beliefs, etc., that have been part of the culture of a group of people for a long time

 

But, when I look at my family, the traditions that stick out have a much shorter legacy, so short in fact that I can provide the origins. Like a significant number of U.S. families we gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas to eat all of the food. I was in junior high when my mom and aunts got tired of doing a turkey with trimmings twice in a 30 day time period so they put their heads together and decided that Thanksgiving would have turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, etc. and Christmas would have a Mexican food theme including tamales. For some the making and eating of tamales for Christmas is one of those long-standing cultural habits but for my family with its origins in the south, mid-west, and west this was a drastic change. And it has lasted to this day. For myself, there are two days each year that I will make chili, New Year’s Day and Superbowl. I make chili other days as well but I associate those two days with watching football, and to me chili is perfect. Dictionary.com, has five main definitions which while similar seem to provide a bit more latitude in interpretation and fits both the idea of long standing traditions as well as my more modern ones.

– the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice

– something that is handed down

– a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting

– a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices

– a customary or characteristic method or manner

Throughout the years, the US government has declared ethnically themed months. My day job takes those months and actually does something to observe those months. Typically, there is a speech or presentation that includes a demonstration or discussion about some of the traditions of that particular culture or ethnicity. Following the formal portion food tends to make an appearance, not enough for a meal but enough to taste and to hopefully raise awareness. In other words, they try to celebrate the traditions, which help make the culture or ethnicity unique. I personally like that idea because as you saw in my own family, we have borrowed a tradition from another culture, adapted it slightly to make it our own, and enjoy it every year.

As a result I try to remember during the commemorative months to look at the traditions or the central reason for that month and maybe find a little something I can add to my personal traditions or develop a greater awareness of the contributions or origin of certain freedoms, benefits, or habits in my own life. I hope you have traditions of your own, and regardless of what the definition implies; traditions can change, grow, and morph to fit who we are and who we want to be. You just have to decide to make an alteration and then pass it down.

Thank you, Limecello for allowing me to ramble on your blog today and thanks for doing something to honor the commemorative months!

Guest: Solace Ames (With Her Reader Hat On)

I messed up … but I’m dealing with family, so in something of a rage haze. All my contriteness to Solace Ames though, because this was supposed to go up like… a year ago. Or something – one of those tragic family times when it was all hospital and death all the time.

Four Things Solace Ames Loves in a Heroine

Hi! I’m Solace Ames, and I do multiple-orientation erotic romance (which means I’ll read and write just about every combination of letters imaginable). Like all writers, though, I’m a reader, and today I’d like to talk about what I love in a heroine. The companion piece I wrote with Heidi Belleau last year talked about what we love and hate in heroes, but this time around, let’s keep it positive… so no heroine hates. Only love!

I love heroines beyond the margins of fashion magazine covers

The typical romance heroine, like the typical magazine cover model, is 20-30, white, slender, able-bodied, cissexual, conventionally attractive. Even women who do fit this profile are going to age out of it eventually, so it’s just not very representative. Luckily, there are a lot of romances out there that cater to women who don’t fit the profile. The internet and the rise of e-publishing has really helped in this regard. If we want to find a heroine over 40, or who has a full figure, is multicultural, and so on, retail websites and sites like Goodreads make them easier to find. Before the rise of e-publishing, I never saw a single Asian woman on the cover of a romance novel. Not a single one.

I love angsty heroines with a tragic past

Although they overlap, there’s a difference between angst and damage. Angst is something that we readers love to death, even though we roll our eyes when it gets piled on too high. And just like I love angsty heroes, I love angsty heroines, who are, unfortunately, rarer.

There’s nothing more exciting than when a tragic past spurs a heroine to heroic action. One of my favorite series ever is C.J. Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle, which is more in the science fantasy genre but has some fantastic romantic tension between the warrior-witch Morgaine and her servant/knight, Nhi Vanye. Morgaine had the angstiest backstory I’d ever read—last halfbreed survivor of a dying race, had to kill her evil father, condemned to a neverending thankless mission to save the universe—and I ate it up with a spoon.

I wish more romances had truly angsty heroines, but when I want this kind of fix, I think we have to turn more to urban fantasy and other genres, or to the borderlands where these narratives overlap with romance. Romance tends to prefer narratives where the damaged, traumatized heroine heals through love, passively, which, quite frankly, I find icky (I don’t like the m/m flavor of this either).

I love everywoman heroines

She seems, at first, like the opposite of the angsty heroine. The everywoman doesn’t have an especially tragic past, or superpowers, or a high-powered job, or a face that launches ten thousand ships. Like most of us, she’s just an ordinary person with ordinary problems.

But then something extraordinary thing happens to her. Maybe she falls through a time portal. Maybe two hot firefighters invite her for a threesome. Whatever it is, she rises to the occasion. That’s what makes her unique! This often helps readers appreciate our own uniqueness and unexpected reserves of strength. I love everywoman characters in erotic romance, especially. They’re not blushing virgins; they’re not a cross between Dr. Ruth and Jenna Jameson. Like most of us, the everywoman approaches sex with a complicated mixture of insecurity, confidence, shame, curiosity, fear, and just plain horniness.

One great example is Laurel, the heroine in Cara McKenna’s Willing Victim. The book is infamous for being an exploration of rape fantasy roleplay, but I read the dynamic more as carefully negotiated rough sex… and everything that happens is totally consensual. What I loved about the book was Laurel’s reason for being deeply excited by the kind of rough sex she has with Flynn. It’s not because she has father figure issues, or needs to recover from sexual trauma. She wouldn’t die without Flynn or without rough sex. She’s a little bored, a lot curious, and thinks he’s hot. This makes their interactions more psychologically complicated and compelling to read, because there’s no one single unifying explanation for all the tension.

I love heroines who have meaningful relationships with other women, or feel the lack of such

Reading about women whose lives revolve totally around men gets claustrophobic. I like to see heroines who have meaningful relationships with female friends and relatives. Even when the book doesn’t have space for a lot of secondary characters, even mentioning these relationships helps.

Sometimes—and this is especially the case with angsty heroines—the heroine leads a very special lifestyle and is isolated from normal people. Maybe she’s cursed, or constantly on the run from her enemies, or has killed everyone she ever loved without meaning to, etcetera. In that case, I still want to see her missing not just the men in her life, but the women.

In my beloved historical romance Gold Mountain by Sharon Cullars, Leah, our heroine, has gone out West with her best friend Clara to start a restaurant in the 19th-century western frontier. They’re both African-American women in a white-dominated town and face lots of hardship, including vicious racism. When Leah falls in love with a Chinese railroad laborer, her life gets even more complicated, but her friendship with Clara remains a constant source of strength, and Clara plays an important role throughout the book.

Can you think of more examples? What are some of your favorite heroines, and why?

Special Reader Guest: Has

Hi friends! Can you believe it’s the third Saturday of the month already? Ack! You know that means it’s time for me to feature a romance reader from the community. Today we have my buddy Has. Of course she’s way better known than I am, so likely no introduction is necessary.

Has was kind enough to write a post – and I think it’s fantastic. She’s even left us all with a question, and I hope you answer because I’m super curious too.

My First Fictional Crush

AlannaI think we all have fictional crushes. There is something magical and just plain fun in crushing on a character, especially when it takes you by surprise! I think it is a sign of good author and writing because they’re characters truly come alive to the reader. But I think there is something more special with the first character you fall for. In my case it also coincided with one of my all time favourite series which helped to cement my love of reading. This raises the question whether a reader develops a fictional crush is due to the series or a book they really love and how easy it is for them to fall for a character. But I think with my own personal experience, it is rare to have a character that you become really attached and love so much that even if you enjoy the series or a book, there is something even more special for a character to remain with you for a long time.

The first series that I totally got sucker-punched in love with a character, was Tamora Pierce’s classic fantasy YA series, the Song of the Lioness quartet. My first fictional crush was with its main lead Alanna. I think I fell in love with her character within the first few pages of her switching places with her twin brother and donning a boy’s disguise so she could attain her ambition to become a female knight. I loved how strong and stubborn she was and that she also had flaws and made mistakes. I also found her character relatable because she had to work hard to reach her goals even with the setbacks, and dealt with bullying, and puberty. At the time, I rarely read anything like this which was in a fantasy setting but also covered every day issues.

It also had a great cast of supporting characters including, George who was the king of the rogues, Prince Jonathan who was her steadfast best friend and love interest; as well as Duke Roger the charismatic, untrustworthy and ruthless villain in the series. I also adored Faithful her snarky magical cat who offers Alanna advice and at times unwelcome commentary especially when she is about to do something stupid.

Wild MagicEven though the elements that made Song Of The Lioness series were not unique at the time, it was refreshing and different for me as a teenager because it had an assertive female character who was a warrior and also experienced normal every-day fears and life experiences. So I eagerly jumped at the chance to read the followup series – The Immortals, set a decade after Song of the Lioness ended and I discovered Numair.

Oh my geeky adorable, and funny Numair the mage, you made my heart flutter as a fourteen year old. Within the first few pages of his introduction in the first book of the series, Wild Magic I knew I had a huge crush on him because he was funny, smart and his bookworm nature had me at hello! Although Numair was one of the most powerful magical characters that Pierce has created, he was never serious or brooding and I loved how he was more focused on arcane subjects rather than focusing on his power. I loved that balance of the powerful black robed mage tempered with a fun sense of irreverence and a fun sense of humour.

Caressed by IceI love my dark alpha heroes, such as Daemon and Lucivar from the Black Jewels trilogy, Adam from Mercy Thompson series, Curran from the Kate Daniels series, and Judd and Kaleb from Psy/Changeling series. Some of these heroes use humour as well which adds another dimension to their characters. I also have a girl crushes on Mercy and Kate because they use humour to help deal with the situations they’re in and it is a wonderful way to help to help center their fears or worries. And they are both relatable and have flaws, and they do make mistakes.

There is something really special and delightful with a hero who has a fun sense of humour that shines in the pages and this is why my favourite characters tend to be geeky or use humour even if they are dark characters. My recent fictional crush is Roman from the Kate Daniels series who is a dark mage and has a penchant to wear Eeyore pyjamas and he does remind me of Numair. And like Numair Roman is very powerful but again uses humour as a way to ground him from not succumbing to darker urges.

So who was your first fictional crushes and what are your all time favourites?

Reader Guest: Lynda aka Fish With Sticks

It’s the third Saturday of the month. Excuse me while I pass out, okay? [And I just started thinking about all the things I need to do and felt immediately sick to my stomach so let’s go back to ignoring everything, shall we?] Today we have an awesome guest post from my pal Lynda. And in case you didn’t realize you can click on her name, you can check out her site here. … We’re so subtle, aren’t we. 😉

So without further ado, heeeere’s Lynda the Guppy! 😀
And I don’t have a closing, because she’s covered it with a great question.

Who Is Your Favorite?

As a reader with one of the largest book collections most of my family has ever seen, I’m often asked by family, friends, and strangers who is my favorite author? I always find that such a difficult question to answer.

Of course there are my all-time favorites such as Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, and Linda Howard. There are lesser-known authors I glom like Sharon Sala, Suzanne Brockman, and Jill Shalvis. There are the Harlequin authors I’ve loved for years like Alison Leigh, Elda Minger*, and Jennifer Greene. I can’t forget the newer-to-me authors I’m currently stalking such as Maya Banks, HelenKay Dimon, Shannon Stacey, and Lauren Dane.

That’s just romance. Then there are the fiction authors, the nonfiction, the poets and children’s authors. How can I not include them in the list?

But what about other writers? What about the lyricists and scriptwriters? Shouldn’t they count as well? Some of the best writing I’ve seen has been from these types of writers. My two all-time favorite scriptwriters are Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin.

There’s Joss Whedon who wrote Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which dude! The complete series deluxe edition is only $69.96!), The Avengers and the innovative and surprisingly complex Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. I know. I can hear you laughing now. Really? Buffy and Dr. Horrible? But yes. The guy who wrote those is one of my favorite writers. Once you’ve seen Buffy all the way through from the beginning, go back and watch again. You’ll see how he layered all the subtle bits of storytelling. He is a genius at adding small pieces here and there which, if you were paying attention, would have shown you what he was up to. (Spoiler alert: Everyone you love dies. It’s not fair, but it’s what he does.)

How can you not admire a writer who writes these Dr. Horrible lyrics for do-gooder Penny:

Look around, we’re living with the lost and found
Just when you feel you’ve almost drowned
You find yourself on solid ground.
And you believe there’s good in everybody’s heart.
Keep it safe and sound.
With hope you can do your part
To turn a life around.

I cannot believe my eyes!
Is the world finally growing wise?
Because it seems to mean some kind of harmony
Is on the rise.

And sung in counterpoint is the Anti-Hero, Dr. Horrible:

Anyone with half a brain
Could spend their whole life howling in pain.
But the dark is everywhere
and Penny doesn’t seem to care
That soon the dark in me is all that will remain.
Listen close to everybody’s heart,
and hear that breaking sound.
Hopes and dreams are shattering apart
and crashing to the ground.

I cannot believe my eyes
how the world’s filled with filth and lies,
But it’s plain to see evil inside of me
Is on the rise.

All he wants is for Penny to notice him, to see he’s screaming in pain, and if she just stopped trying to save the world and instead tried to help this one man, if she would just reach out even once, she could change her part of the world. Since Dr. Horrible’s portion is sung in counterpoint and much softer than Penny’s lyrics, you almost don’t notice them. You laugh at how silly Penny is, and how ridiculous Captain Hammer is when he sings about the “Deltoids of compassion and the abs of being kind,” but it’s not until you delve deeper into the more subtle lyrics where Joss shines and you see how there are so many layers to this simple, 45-minute musical.

Another favorite is Aaron Sorkin. Want to watch some of his best stuff? Try Sports Night or The West Wing or the current The Newsroom on HBO. I recently watched The West Wing, and what amazed me was how the politics of the show is still so current. I’m not sure if I should be impressed at how well the series has stood up over time or depressed at how we’re still fighting the same battles.

In an episode where the fictional President Bartlett is shot, Press Secretary CJ Cregg delivers this:

This is our fifth press briefing since midnight. Obviously, there’s one story that’s going to dominate news around the world for the next few days, and it would be easy to think that President Bartlet, Joshua Lyman, and Stephanie Abbott were the only victims of a gun crime last night. They weren’t.

Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina Bishop and Linda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were 12. There were 36 homicides last night. 480 sexual assaults, 3,411 robberies, 3,685 aggravated assaults, all at gunpoint.

And if anyone thinks those crimes could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns, I’d only remind you that the President of the United States was shot last night while surrounded by the best trained armed guards in the history of the world. Back to the briefing.

See what I mean? Gun violence is still very much in the news. There was one day when I was re-watching the series on Netflix, there was an episode where there were riots in Egypt. Turned off Netflix and CNN was playing and they were talking about…riots in Egypt. I had a moment of unreality where I couldn’t remember which was the fictional show and which was a live news broadcast.

Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin are two totally different writers, and not the sort you usually think of when asked “who is your favorite writer?” With Aaron, dialogue is king while Joss is not afraid to leave things unsaid. One of my favorite episodes of Buffy, “Hush” has almost no dialogue. Watching a Sorkin show you think it’s all about how many words you can cram into each minute. He has his dramatic moments of silence, such as when Chief of Staff Leo goes to tell the President how his long-time secretary has been killed in a car crash. All you see is Leo walk down the colonnade and close the door to the Oval Office. Through the old, distorted glass you just see the two actors’ body language, there’s no dialogue, but you can practically write it yourself, Martin Sheen and John Spencer were both THAT brilliant in the scene.

So…who is YOUR favorite writer?

Lynda the Guppy
 aka Guest Blogger Guppy 
aka The Fish With Sticks

*What ever happened to Elda Minger? I LOVED her, but I haven’t seen anything new from her in years.