Book Review: SPOILER ALERT by Olivia Dade

Like many people, I have been unable to read much during this pandemic year. I haven’t read a single one of my book club’s books this year. I did not finish almost everything I started (with rare exceptions I talked about here).

But a few books have stood out to me, bright spots in an otherwise difficult year, and I’ll be reviewing them over the next couple of weeks. My reviews tend to be long, so I apologize in advance. Some spoilers ahead.

SPOILER ALERT by Olivia Dade

To me, the best contemporary romance novels start with a quirky set up that makes you think, “Oh, wouldn’t that be amazing in real life?!” SPOILER ALERT does just that with a TV-show hero and an admiring fan.

I know, right? How many times have you imagined meeting your celebrity crush IRL?

April is a geologist who hides a lot from the world, including her fandom obsession with a Game of Thrones-style epic TV series based on the Aeneid. She’s afraid she’ll been looked down on as a frivolous, silly girl if folks find out she is a prolific fanfic author in her spare time.

Marcus is the hunky star of April’s favorite TV show, and the sometime star of her fanfic. An intelligent man, he hides his brains behind the facade of a loveable, good-natured airhead because that’s what celebrity culture demands of him (he refers to his professional persona as a golden retriever). He relieves the pressure of this disconnect by writing fanfic that, in his mind, fixes the problems that the showrunners are causing through their scripts. Aside from the potential for embarrassment, Marcus also knows that his exposure as a fanfic writer, especially as one critical of the show, would be a violation of his contract and perhaps end his career.

When April decides the time has come to reveal herself — yes, I do attend cons and cosplay characters from that show — she posts a picture of herself in her form-fitting, handmade costume on social media. Because she is not stick-thin, she becomes the target of trolls. Marcus, with the power of his celebrity behind him, confronts the trolls and praises April’s beauty publicly. When the trolls taunt him that he, a famous hottie, would never be seen with such a woman, he asks April on a date.

Oh, hang on, did I mention that April and Marcus, under their user names, are already critique partners and close friends on the fanfic site? Such a delicious complication!

April’s job as a geologist is mined (pun intended) by the author for metaphors about love and personal growth, as well as to show us that April is an admired professional. She doesn’t need to apologize for anything, and much her journey in this book is recognizing that. Similarly, the Aeneid story frames and furthers April and Marcus’s emotional journeys. The author is as intelligent and competent as her characters, making this book a delight to read.

SPOILER ALERT is smart, complete, and deep, while also managing to be joyful, fun, and swoony-romantic. Everything you could want in a romance… or any novel, TBH.

Stop reading here if you don’t want to be spoiled…

Spoiler/CW body image: April’s relationship with her body — and how she is perceived because of it — resonated with me as a reader. Not only because I am also heavy for my frame, but also because the book so carefully and thoughtfully demonstrates all of the ways in which we harm each other with well-intentioned comments (micro-aggressions). Like April, I grew up with a mother who said such things, and I repeat those words in my head all the time. That element of the book was eye-opening for me.

Spoiler/CW dyslexia: Marcus, too, receives messages about his worth (or lack thereof) from his parents, both accomplished academics who are openly and pointedly disappointed in their golden retriever of a son. Since he was young, they have pelted him with criticism about being “unfocused” or “not trying hard enough,” but in fact he was dealing with undiagnosed dyslexia. Again, the messages we send each other in the name of “helping” are placed front and center in this book, which leaves you with an uplifting sense of compassion, understanding, and healing. We can be kinder. It doesn’t have to be like this.

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Literary Mood Board (adapted from Entertainment Weekly)

The January 2021 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine — yes, I still get the print copy — contains a short, pop-culture-y interview with Barack Obama, asking him about the things that sustained him while writing his recent book A Promised Land.

I love these kinds of interviews. Not only do they provide a lighter look at writers and their process, I like to fantasize that someday, someone might want to do one of these with me. That I’ll have a book successful enough for anyone other than my friends to care what I eat or drink or listen to while I’m writing.

Hey, a writer can dream.

Since no one ever asks me, I just take it upon myself to respond to the questions posed in the interviews I read. I’ve done this a few times on this blog, if you want to check out my other answers.

The drink I need to get through a day of writing

I am sorry to say that I have yet to shake my love of soda. I tried seltzer — yuck — and iced tea — fine, but where’s the bubbles? — but in addition to the 64 ounces of water I try to drink every day, Diet Pepsi is still my go-to drink.

Back before the pandemic (remember then?), I used to meet my writing group once a week at a local McDonald’s. We had started out by meeting at various coffee shops around town, but they can get expensive and overcrowded. McDonald’s has ample seating and large tables (our group has five people) plus lots of power outlets. And I’m told the coffee is really good. I would get a large soft drink cup for $1 and refill that baby all afternoon. I’d go home a little wired but happy and productive.

And before you say, “But McDonald’s doesn’t have Diet Pepsi,” yes, this is true. There, I blend Coke and Diet Coke to get just the right taste. Yummmmm

The TV shows I put on when I need a break

I can’t speak for what I used to watch, back before the world went crazy last year. Now, during this pandemic, I have trouble concentrating on anything (see my last post about how I’m not reading). I’ve tried and dropped lots of series, How I Met Your Mother and Psych being the latest. Fun, but not hitting the right pandemic mood, I guess.

Lately, I’m enjoying documentary films and series because I feel like I’m using my brain in a relaxed, low pressure way. My latest binge has been Finding Your Roots on PBS. There are a lot of similarities across the episodes (not a bad thing in a pandemic) but the wow factor of discovering someone’s family history through war, holocaust, and slavery is undeniable.

Also, Nadiya Hussain is a gift and a treasure.

The music I played to help me while writing

You’ll laugh, but my “Working and Writing” playlist on Pandora is a combination of Baroque classical music, Spanish guitar, dramatic movie soundtracks, plus a dash of house music/EDM.

My kids cracked up when they heard me listening to Dead Mau5.

The person I called most often for advice

Before the pandemic, I had my writing group once a week to share with. We met outside through the summer and into the fall, but while the Colorado winter allows the occasional lunch or cocktails outside in the late afternoon, it’s hard to write with gloves on.

Even though we can’t get together in person, I have been doing weekly writing sessions remotely with my friend Lisa. We video chat for ten minutes or so to catch up and then we write separately in ten, fifteen, or twenty minute sprints, checking in at the end to see how much we drafted (or didn’t) and to support each other to keep striving.

Since the pandemic, I’ve also relied more on people far away. Two of my City Owl sisters (authors who are also published by City Owl Press) Negeen Papehn and Willa Ramsey have been my rocks and my cheerleaders during this time when I simply have been unable to produce any words that I can stand.

The first thing I did after I finished the book

See, the thing is, despite having written tens of thousands of words, I haven’t finished this one yet. It’s one of those one step forward, two steps back situations. More like one step forward, ten steps back.

But I’ll get there. My friends support me, my day job allows me the flexibility, and every time I think, “This is too much. I’m quitting,” the creative spark within me, one that’s been there for as long as I can remember, whispers, “You can’t quit. You still have stories to tell.”

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Writing (nope) and Reading (nope) in 2020

I don’t know about you, but 2020 brought my reading to a screeching halt.

In the past decade or so, I was accustomed to reading about 50 books a year. An average of a book a week. I’d typically have two or three going at once: a fun novel, a challenging novel, and a non-fiction tome to expand my mind.

Not anymore.

After March’s shutdown of life-as-we-knew-it, I was too upset to read. Too troubled, too anxious, too afraid to do anything that required sustained focus. My work as a teacher and our transition to remote learning was more than difficult enough. In my spare time, I wanted ease and comfort.

I did puzzles with my kids, both forced home from college. I played card games and board games (not Pandemic, though. Our favorite game was now terrifyingly real.) I bought a Nintendo Switch and played Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

I do love my Animal Crossing island. As you can see from above, my friends are the BEST and my outfits are to die for.

But reading? Nope. Writing? Oh, hell no.

No desire. No “gee, I miss reading.” No “hmm, haven’t looked at my MS in forever.” Nothing.

(OK, I did feel guilty that I wasn’t writing, but that just paralyzed me even more. But that discussion is for another day.)

At some point, I realized that I was, in fact, reading. Just a little. And the only books I was reading were of two genres: mystery and romance.

Don’t get me wrong. I have always enjoyed a good mystery now and then, and I loooove romance novels. But it was not typical or normal for me to read ONLY those genres.

So I thought about it. Why was I devouring mystery and romance while ignoring the usual books I enjoyed?

The answer, when it arrived, was obvious in hindsight. I read them precisely because they were genre fiction, with all that entails.

Both genres feature a familiar and comforting structure. They both begin with a problem. In romance, some change of circumstances brings the main characters together. The tropes are familiar: best friend’s boyfriend, or fake relationship, or enemies-to-lovers, or any of a dozen others that readers adore. In mystery, there’s always an inciting crime: a murder, typically, because who isn’t fascinated with death and the ripples of its wake?

In the middle section of the book, the problem develops, deepens, expands. The lovers can’t seem to make it work; the mystery proves even more dire than it first appeared. Obstacles arise. Interference occurs. We wonder how this can ever end well.

And that right there is the crux of it. We wonder and worry, yet we KNOW it will all come out right in the end. In romance, the lovers reach understanding and achieve their happily-ever-after (HEA in the parlance of romance) or at least a happily-for-now (marriage and a baby not necessarily being everyone’s idea of a happy ending). In a mystery, the dauntless detective — be she an officer of the law or a citizen who simply enjoys meddling — avoids peril at the last second and solves the case. In both genres, the evil-doer or antagonist is always thwarted and brought to some kind of justice.

In both cases, the tropes and the structure are dictated by the genre. Writers who do their job well keep us in suspense, making us doubt the ending, but ultimately, we do get there. If we don’t get an HEA or HFN, the book we’re reading is not a romance novel, and if the killer gets away, we are not reading mystery fiction.

This is the magic of genre fiction. It does what we ask it to do.

And this, of course, is the reason I was able to read it while the world collapsed around us.

No matter the twists and turns on the way, genre fiction promises that everything will come out right in the end.

And in 2020, what else did we need but the assurance that everything would be okay in the end?

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Working From Home #4… and a sale!

First of all, wanted to let you know that LOVING BEATRICE, the second book in my series “Shakespeare’s Women Speak,” is on sale today 8/23 for $1.99 in all digital formats! Here’s a link to get you started…

In that spirit, today’s home office post is a photo taken in London at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, London
exterior, December 2018

Fun fact: the Shakespeare’s Globe is not the original theatre in which Shakespeare worked. I didn’t know this till I took the tour. It’s actually a replica built in the 1990s after years of fundraising and negotiating for the property. The original Globe Theatre stood a few blocks away and is now only commemorated by a street plaque (sorry, I don’t have a photo). The construction was undertaken with as much accuracy as possible, using traditional materials, and the design is based on drawings of the original Globe and other Elizabethan theaters.

As with my visit to Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon, my visit to the Globe felt like a pilgrimage. I was deeply moved and tremendously excited. My only disappointment was that, since it was winter, no plays were being performed in the open-air theatre, only indoors in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.

Due to COVID-19, the Globe has been closed for many months, both for shows and to tours. I was horrified to discover that the Globe receives very little government support; it relies almost entirely on funds from ticket sales and tours to survive. The thought of that beautiful place being closed tore my heart out, and I hope it worries you too. I hope you’ll consider making a donation (as I have done) to keep it open for future visits by theater-lovers and Shakespeare fans alike.

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Working From Home Part 3

Oops, I missed yesterday’s post. On the plus side, I did finish preparing for next week’s first week back at school. I’m excited to get back to teaching, even if it’s not going to be a “normal” situation.

So let’s see what should be the next picture from my gallery?

This wonderful graphic shows all the kings and queens regnant of England since the Norman Conquest in 1066. Each monarch has a pillar, the height of which indicates how long they reigned.

Seeing this information graphically, as opposed to the typical list of years, is that you can really see those monarchs who dominated an age, monarchs like Queen Victoria (the big pillar on the right) and Henry III (first tall pillar on the left). I guarantee you’ve heard of Victoria and you might even know a few things about her life and her prime ministers, but you can’t think of a single thing Henry III is famous for.

(Henry III was the son of King John — yes, that King John of Robin Hood fame. I find it fascinating that in life, John was in constant conflict with his father, Henry II, and his older brother Richard (the Lionheart) who would become King Richard I. Yet he named his sons Henry and Richard. What kind of twisty emotional coil led to that?)

A funny thing that this chart reveals is that, except for Victoria, all the really big pillars belong to “III”s: Henry III, Edward III, and George III. I bet at one time, this would have made Prince Charles feel good (as he will most likely chose King Charles III for his regnal name) but since his mother’s pillar is off the charts, it’s hard to imagine he’ll get much of a pillar on a newer version of this chart.

That brings up an interesting observation: the pillar for Elizabeth II — which by rights would be the largest of all — is relatively small and is not capped. The lack of that top frill is because she still lives and reigns, and the small size suggests how old this chart is.

Actually, if you compare the size of Victoria’s pillar, you can imagine that Queen Elizabeth’s would explode out the top of the chart, maybe even out of the frame!

If you switch your attention to the smallest pillars, those belong to Edward V and Richard III. They were Yorkist monarchs at the tail end of the Wars of the Roses, the time period I have studied my whole life. My first book, FINDING KATE, is set during the final months of Richard III’s reign, and my second book, LOVING BEATRICE, picks up after he was defeated by Henry Tudor who became the first of the Tudor monarchs, Henry VII.

Are there any other pillars that strike your interest? Let me know. I’ve probably got a story or two about them.

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Working From Home Part 2

This week, I’m sharing with you a glimpse of my new home office workspace.

Yesterday, I delved into the maps of two cities in England. Today, I don’t have a lot of time, so let’s look at one small picture.

Taken at Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, December 2018

Whenever I am so fortunate to be planning a trip to England (or anywhere, really), I ask myself, “What do you need to see on this trip so that if you never get back there, you won’t regret it?”

This question is behind why, for example, I’ve never been to Buckingham Palace but I have been to the Tower of London twice. I can live without seeing the changing of the guard, but seeing that magnificent ancient fortress? No question.

So when I went to England in December 2018, I knew that I had to see Stratford-Upon-Avon. Not only am I a huge fan of Shakespeare’s work, but my own novels based on his plays were being published. If I never got back to England, I would never forgive myself for not going. How could I not take the pilgrimage?

The visit was everything I had hoped for and more. Someday, maybe, I’ll write about it but for now, that day remains among the most precious memories of my life.

The picture you see above was taken inside Shakespeare’s birthplace, the home he was born and grew up in, and where his family lived before he became wealthy enough to build another home, the New Place, one of Stratford’s fanciest homes at the time. Inside this beautiful old home, upstairs, I found this little corner, artfully staged.

I wanted to sit down — well, squeeze into it — and write.

I framed this picture and hung it right above my desk, right in my eyeline so I can see it every time I look up. I want it to remind me, every day, of the importance of creating, of living while you can, of remembering.

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Working from home

One small positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that I have finally had the chance to convert a bedroom into a meaningful workspace that I love. I’d like to share some of that with you.

This week, I’m going to share with you a little about these special images and why they make me happy when I’m working. Not surprisingly, most of them have a connection to England.

Here’s the wall in front of my desk:

Let’s start by looking at the maps.

I’m not sure where I got these — I think my mother probably brought them back as gifts for me. I’ve never actually been to Canterbury, but I guess she thought it was such a pretty map and didn’t I want to go there at some point…?

York, of course, is one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. I’d love to go back, so every day when I’m in my office, I can look at this map, right in my eyeline over my desk, and imagine it. Micklegate Bar, Clifford’s Tower, the ruined Abbey, the Shambles… One of the most fascinating things about York is how clearly you could see the layers of its history and development. From the Multangular Tower left by the Romans to the Gothic splendor of York Minster, you could see history down every street, hiding behind the modern veneer. Well, okay, except the Viking era, since they built in wood not stone, but we did enjoy the Viking Experience with full sensory immersion, right down to the smells. Yikes!

One of our most fun nights on that trip was the night we found a little pub hard by the walls and drank English beer and ate boxties (filled potato pancakes) and walked back to the guesthouse happy and tipsy. Iconic English evening.

During the writing of FINDING KATE, I emailed the folks at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, a medieval guild — like an early trade union — for local merchants. The beautiful, massive hall was an indication of the growing wealth, status, and importance of merchants in society, and I when I had a question or two about merchants in the medieval period, I wrote to them for help. The (mostly volunteer) staff of such historic sites are passionate about their places, and they enjoy sharing their knowledge. So if you’re a writer, reach out.

OK, that’s enough for today. More tomorrow!

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Pop Culture of My Life (thanks, EW)

I really enjoy those interviews with authors, where the interviewer asks things like “What book most influenced you?” and “What book is on your nightstand right now?” I love finding snippets of life and taste in common with my favorite authors, or finding new books or authors to read based on their recommendations.

In the July 2020 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine (yes, I get it on paper), there was a page titled, “Pop Culture of My Life” with Max Brooks, actor and author of World War Z (who also just happens to be the child of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft).

I’ve done this before, where I take those questions and answer them myself. You know, as if I were a famous author too. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my answers, or if you’d like, you could share your answers to these questions with me.

MY FAVORITE BOOK AS A CHILD

I always struggle with this question, because what do you mean by “child”? Are you asking about picture books like Madeleine or early chapter books like Charlotte’s Web or the Little House books? Are you looking for THE BOOK that made me want to be a writer (A Wrinkle in Time)? Or books that I devoured like candy (the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series)? Or the Chronicles of Narnia, seven books not one, which I carried with me everywhere during junior high.

“Favorite” is also a challenge, because I was an obsessive re-reader when I was young. I loved to plunge back into imaginary worlds to escape from my reality. In high school alone, I must have read the Lord of the Rings trilogy ten times. Familiarity was comfort and I leaned into it hard.

THE LAST TV SHOW I BINGED

I am in the process of watching Friday Night Lights with my husband (I’ve watched it before). Eric and Tami Taylor might possibly be the most accurate portrayal of a couple I’ve ever seen on TV. The show was rooted in their relationship, with its compromises and frustrations and deep, abiding love. And Tami has to be the best mom ever.

MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE MOVIE

Here we go again. If by favorite, you mean the one I turn to when I’m sick or feeling blue, I’d say the animated Beauty and the Beast or Stardust or The Princess Bride.

If you allow “movie” to mean “all the movies that covered all the bits of a single story” then I’d say the three LOTR movies — a beautiful and mostly accurate representation of the world and characters that live inside my head.

THE ONE BOOK I READ OVER AND OVER

Hahaha I just said I used to read EVERYTHING over and over. In recent years, though, I simply don’t have the time. There are too many books and so little time for pleasure reading.

However, there are two books that I love so much, I have to resist reading them more than once a year.

One is Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine. It’s a Shakespeare retelling based on Romeo and Juliet. It is dark, rich, and deep, like excellent chocolate or a delicious red wine. The characters live and breathe, making choices that seem driven from within, not just driven by the plot of the original. A sense of impending tragedy hangs over the novel, obviously, but it’s also fresh and poignant, and even provides a bit of hope.

The other is Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia… and The King of Attolia because once I read Queen I have to read King. It simply isn’t possible to stop. I have written about the Queen’s Thief series on this blog before, so I’ll spare you the details. Just know that it is brilliant, smart, twisty, and romantic. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

As you can see, I have trouble with this “pick one thing” thing.

THE LAST BOOK I GAVE AS A GIFT

Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat. What a joy of a cookbook (and her Netflix show is amazing too)!

THE FIRST RECORD I BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY

OK, now I’m going to be both embarrassed AND dated, because the first record I ever bought with my own money was the 45 RPM single of “Boogie Fever” by the Sylvers (I had to look up the name of the band). The record came out in 1975.

So now you know.

THE LAST TV SHOW TO MAKE ME LAUGH OUT LOUD

I don’t watch regular television anymore; we don’t even have cable. And I am hard-pressed to think of the last time I laughed out loud in 2020 that wasn’t because I was with friends (at least six feet away and outdoors, of course).

I’m punting on this one.

THE CHARACTER I’D WANT ON MY SIDE DURING A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

I mean, Aragorn, right? Is there any question?

THE BOOK THAT BEST PREPARED ME TO SURVIVE A PANDEMIC

It wasn’t a book but bed rest during pregnancy that taught me how to get through long periods of isolation, fear, and being trapped in one place you can’t leave (much). You think this is bad, imagine not showering for six weeks and having to use a bedpan.

Fill me in, readers? What are your answers?

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Truth, Justice, and Video Games

My oldest kiddo has been playing a game called “Ace Attorney” on their Nintendo Switch for a while. In the game (as I understand it), you play a defense attorney in a criminal case. You win if your client is found not guilty. The game’s design is based upon the United States court system (we looked it up). Since I was an attorney in my former life, my kid asks me lots of questions along the way about court procedure and principles of criminal law.

As we talk, I have realized I could never play this game.

For one thing, the idea of the game is to determine innocence, not guilt. It reverses the presumption of innocence by putting the burden of proof — demonstrating the elements of the case — on the defendant. Let me say that again: in this game, one of the key components is for the defense to prove their client DIDN’T commit the crime. If you didn’t already know this from a million cop shows, that’s not how the burden of proof works in a criminal trial. The State always maintains the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. The defense could, honestly, sit there without saying a word or asking a question.

Moreover, to properly defend your client in the game, you must not only demonstrate your client’s innocence, but you must provide the court with an alternative perpetrator who did do it. The defense attorney must investigate this alternative person and offer them up to the court, and then conduct an entire trial against an individual who is not involved in the proceeding. But that alternative perpetrator cannot defend themselves because they have not been charged.

The most recent question from my kid was, “Can the prosecutor call the defendant as a witness?” Oh, holy hell, no. You cannot be forced to be a witness against yourself. That’s an integral part of the Fifth Amendment. You can’t be put in a position where your own attorney would be cross-examining you – that’s just messed up.

In short, the entire system of constitutional protections for defendants that we’ve built up over 250 years – due process, reasonable doubt, the State’s burden of proof, the right of a defendant to confront witnesses, the right to participate fully in one’s own defense, the right not to testify against one’s self – that’s all gone.

I could never play this game, I told my kid.

They said, “That’s fair. You’re like that.”

Damn straight, I’m like that.

Sure, it’s fiction. Sure, it’s a game. But for me to enjoy the fiction, the underlying framework must be accurate, or as close to accurate as possible. It must be realistic. It must be plausible.

The same applies to historical fiction, both the stuff I write and the stuff I read. I need to know that it has been researched deeply and portrayed as accurately as possible. Sometimes we take liberties with history, such as when I made Beatrice the daughter of Baron Welles who died at Losecoat Field in 1469. If Beatrice was a baby when her father died, which was important to the story, she would be only 16 in 1485, rather than 20-something. But Baron Welles’ story added so much to Beatrice’s family life, and it reiterated just how complex political and social reality was during that time, and it was only a tiny background fact… so I did it. I haven’t yet heard from a disgruntled reader, so I don’t think anyone is really upset about it.

But as you can tell, I thought a lot about it. It matters, because people believe you when you present the world to them, and they learn a lot from it.

So if people play the “Ace Attorney” game or watch “The Good Wife” or “How to Get Away With Murder” (and I’ll confess I haven’t watched it, but what I hear makes me cringe), they come away with a sense that “ah, yes, this is how the legal system works, I know something about the law now.” And that translates into a false sense of expertise.

At best, they go through life with a misconception of how things REALLY ARE.

At worst, they may go on social media and spout misinformation, confident they have the right answer. They don’t intend any harm, of course, but they may cause it.

And then, at the absolute worst, they may find themselves in a situation with police involvement and aside from “I get a phone call” and “I want an attorney,” they don’t actually know anything about the system that is poised to crush them under arrest quotas and prosecutorial win/loss records that matter as much as any sports team’s.

The number of people who think they “know” what something is like from fictional portrayals is very high. Many of Philippa Gregory’s readers think that her theories about what happened in the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor era are true, when in fact much of it is speculation and trained historians generally reject her ideas. Gregory even invented her own name for the Wars of the Roses, and her readers think that’s the “correct” name, dismissing historians who study the period.

And please, do not get me started on Showtime’s “The Tudors” which I thoroughly enjoyed while cringing at the liberties they took. Or the latest Mary Queen of Scots movie…

None of this is horrifying (except to people like me, I guess) but it does warp people’s perception of reality: of what is “true” and what is not. And we are currently seeing how dangerous the world can become when fiction is viewed as fact and facts are labeled “fake” because they don’t accord with someone’s believed reality.

So, until we figure out a way to deliver news and scholarship in a form that most people are willing to pay attention to, I think that our fictional representations of the world need to be realistic and as accurate as possible.

What do you think?

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Garden Peace

I do not garden.

Much as I love the beauty of a well-tended garden, I avoid working in the garden like, well, like we’re all stuck avoiding each other right now.

Gardening combines almost all of the things I hate most. Dirt. Water. Sweat. Bugs. Pointy things that stab you without warning (if you’ve ever seen a Colorado weed, you know what I’m talking about).

But planting? That I can do once a year, for the same reason I love painting my house. Planting is a chore with a singular focus: get the green thing in the ground.

Of course, before you can get the green thing in the ground, you have to clear the ground first.

To get at the garden box I wanted to use, I had to hack away at two rose bushes (mostly dead branches) from the adjacent box to its south, yank a giant tumbleweed out of the box to the north, move a few pounds of rocks, and then dig up the weeds in the box. If you know Colorado soil, you know that the weeds are not only pointy (see above), but that the earth itself is mainly clay and nearly impossible to dig.

My whole body hurts.

But the English lavender is in the ground (mulch goes on today). I hope it will survive, given that I do not garden.

IMG_20200512_154734

Meanwhile, a fat, fuzzy bumblebee burbled around, bopping in and out of the myrtle and Spanish broom. Look at that orange butt! 🙂 I hope they will visit my lavender too.

bumble

Hope your garden adventures keep you happy and peaceful this spring!

 

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