The Suprising Science of Happiness

Love this:

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Another Day in the Twilight Zone

images[6]Two weeks ago, I decided I would do weekly updates on my writing. I figured that’s what a good writer does on her blog. I also decided that I would do weekly posts on my Hunger Games obsession, because for me, writing is a release of energy, and that was where a lot of my energy was focused.  I figured between those posts I would be better able to direct other energy into Spirited.

And then. . .the energy shifted.

This is what happens with me and obsessions: they create a need to write. Emotions create a need to write as well. It’s too much to keep inside, and for whatever reason I best express everything through fiction. And so I started to think maybe I could write, for myself, a more satisfying end to The Mockingjay and that would help me get back on track with what I really wanted to do.  The end of that series really left me sad, depressed, and yearning for just one more conversation between Katniss and Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch. I wanted the closure that I felt was missing from those books. Those are not my characters, however, and I don’t really know what they’d say. No matter how many times I read the books or watch the films, I can’t write the ending I want, because it just won’t ring true. Fan Fiction just doesn’t work for me.

So I started, instead, to fiddle with the idea of, hey, maybe I could write something similar–again, for myself–that would give me that satisfaction. I even sat down and started a little file with a little list of the things I needed closure on.

I got 4 things on that list before I realized I needed a dystopian world for my “closure” and I needed a triangle, and while I was at it, my characters needed to be older. I liked the main characters in The Hunger Games, because they felt older most of the time; they had to grow up fast. But I am not a teenager, and I wanted to write it in 1st person (present tense) like the series. I needed my protagonist to be older. And so I sat with my husband, who is a sci fi fan, one weekend morning and we spent a happy couple of hours or so talking about a dystopian world and characters. It was fun. Until the following week, when the thing took off in my imagination. I started writing a little–Closure!–and then more and then more, and suddenly this female character took over. And two male characters. And then the world.

It’s not what I wanted. I wanted closure so I could get back to Spirited and The Seventh Son. Instead I wrote 27k words in 3 days, and felt–still feel–like I was going nuts. I have a story where there was none before, and it’s in a totally unfamiliar genre. Well maybe not totally unfamiliar. I grew up on sci-fi, and I’ve lived with a sci-fi fan for most of my life. My son is as well and I’ve watched more Dr. Who than I ever wanted to (which isn’t so bad, because there’s humor in it). I’ve read some as well, but it’s not a go-to thing for me. So how on earth am I writing this?

I don’t know. I have no clue as to what I’m doing and this protagonist is definitely not Katniss, so there will be no closure. All I can really say is that the plot, the characters, the dialogue and the words just keep coming. I can’t tell you if it’s good. I can’t tell you if I’m following any kind of sci-fi formula. All I know is that it’s there and if I don’t get it out, my brain will get stuck and I won’t be able to write anything at all.

So. . .that’s where I am. I’m not working on Spirited. It’s what I want to work on, but it’s not really a choice right now. All I can say to anybody who is hoping for that next Victorian romance, is that I’m sorry.  I want to write it, but my muse has been kidnapped by a 26 year old woman living in the 23 or 24th century (not quite sure yet on that). Why she chose me–and that’s how insane this feels right now!–I don’t know; there are plenty of wonderful sci-fi dystopian fiction geniuses out there who could do a better job. All I can promise you is that at some point, this will be finished and I will once again be a Victorian romance writer. Until then, I’m living in the Twilight Zone.



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Obsession Friday, Hunger Games Part 2

How sad is it that I’ve looked forward to doing this all week? It’s been a bad writing week. I had goals and high hopes, but for some reason the words just would not come, even though I managed to do this:

(I tried to scribble out readable stuff so as not to spoil Spirited for people who want to read it)

(I tried to scribble out readable stuff so as not to spoil Spirited for people who want to read it)

You’d think it’d help, wouldn’t you? It did not. I keep trying to be Castle, but I don’t ever manage it. Then again Castle doesn’t seem to spend a whole lot of time writing, so maybe this week I am Castle.

At any rate, bad week writing but today is Friday and it’s time for obsessively 847280c0-a3e0-11e2-9075-bc764e10a080[1]analyzing the Hunger Games trilogy. Yay! I’ve got my kindle here and the dvd in the player. Let the second weekly analysis of The Hunger Games begin!

So when we last left our (re: my) Hunger Games obsession our intrepid characters (re: Suzanne Collins’) were in the chariot in the Capitol. We’d met Cinna and talked about who decided to hold hands (Cinna) and how Peeta and Katniss were afraid they’d, literally, go up in flames, something the film changes.

So one thing different in the book and the movie, is that in the book, while in the carriage, Katniss somehow manages to get her game on and flirts with the crowd–she even throws them kisses. Not a huge difference, so I’m not putting a number next to it. Besides, as you may recall, I started this to help me understand why I feel Peeta is definitely the right choice for Katniss, although my inclination would usually be for a Gale-type hero.

We ended with number 8, so:

9) This is not a big deal, either, but in the book Effie talks a bit about manners and how she’s pleasantly surprised that Peeta and Katniss have half-way decent manners. It’s a little bonding in that they are both irritated and feel angry and protective of their district.

10) The avox: An avox is a person whose tongue has been cut out, punishment for some terrible crime against the Capitol. In the book, an Avox is their servant in the training center, and Katniss knows her. There’s a bit about how she and Gale saw the Avox and her boyfriend one day in the woods, running away. A hovercraft comes down and takes the girl and her boyfriend away, and Katniss feels guilty that they didn’t do something to help them (in the book Katniss is all guilt, all the time, and it only gets worse as people die–you really don’t get to see that part of her in the movies, because it comes to us in introspection).

Anyway, when she sees the Avox at dinner, Katniss blurts out that she knows her. Everybody immediately informs Katniss that she can’t know a criminal. It’s kind of a threat, and we get the impression they’re being watched. Peeta very smoothly covers for Katniss by saying that the Avox like somebody they went to school with. It’s a blatant lie–the girl Peeta mentions looks nothing like the Avox. Still, Katniss and Peeta once again work well together, exchanging a few lines about their schoolmate, and then the subject is dropped.

Later, however, when they go to their rooms, Peeta brings it up. He’s curious and they go to the roof to talk about it. Peeta leads her to an area where there are wind chimes so they are less likely to be heard, and Katniss tells him the story. It’s the first time that Katniss receives any comfort from Peeta. It’s the first time we can really see how a relationship between them would work. More importantly, though, in these scenes we learn something about Peeta that does not come across well in the movies; he’s adept at lying. It makes him a stronger character. Because he does it so easily, Katniss is not certain she can trust him, and doesn’t believe his declaration of love for her until very near the end of the book. She believes it’s all an act.

I understand why they left this part out due to time crunches, and I’ve got no idea how they could bring this trait alive in Peeta’s character in the movie. It’s worth reading the book for, though.

11)The team approach: In the book, Cinna, Portia (Peeta’s stylist) and Haymitch decide to present Peeta and Katniss as a team. Haymitch says “In public I want you by each other’s side every minute.” When they start to argue he snaps, “It’s not open for discussion. . .You will be together, you will appear amiable to each other.”

It’s an unusual decision and Katniss is very leery of it because, of course, in the end she’s going to have to kill Peeta. She does NOT want to become attached to him (although we can see by the way she thinks about him that she already is, and she’s fighting it). Their stylists put them in matching outfits and are told to go stick together during the training sessions, including lunch. They grapple for some manner of conversation isn’t about home, which is painful. Peeta coaches Katniss through this by telling her when to laugh and smile because she admits “he’s much better at this than I am.” It’s difficult on them both. At one point when they’re alone, Peeta cracks a joke and Katniss laughs. She follows it up with. “Don’t. Don’t let’s pretend when there’s no one around.” He responds tiredly, “All right, Katniss.”

12)Katniss’s temper and breakdown: After Katniss shoots the arrow at the game keeper, she worries that they’ll kill her or her family. She goes to her room and cries for an hour. Also, the night before the interviews she loses her temper and tears up her room. In the movie she appears to be fairly calm, but in the book she comes across much more like a scared, anxious 16 year old girl.

13) Training vs Coaching, and Peeta’s decision: There’s training in the center and then there’s Haymitch’s coaching. Peeta and Katniss are never “trained separately”. Peeta does ask to be coached separately. The movie and Katniss’s point of view in the book implies the 11 score. However, his request comes before a full day of “coaching” about how to act in front of the cameras. Obviously Peeta wants to keep his crush on Katniss–the star-crossed lover’s bit–as a secret until they’re in front of the cameras. I kind of wonder if Haymitch knew this early on and always intended to capitalize on it (thus the “team” schtick). Based upon Katniss’s irritation over the team thing, he’d expect her to object. In my mind, the separate coaching was always part of the plan, and not Peeta’s reaction to the scores.

14)Peeta’s declaration: a)He tells Caesar that he’s not the only one with a crush on Katniss, but that a lot of the guys in school feel that way. She’s not just a “star-crossed lover” thing, but a heartbreaker.

b) In the movie, Katniss reacts by shoving him against a wall. In the book she pushes him, he crashes backwards into an urn, falls and then cuts his hands pretty badly on the broken pieces. Although in the movie, he just walks away, in the book, Peeta’s pretty snarly about that. He says she’s only worried about “her boyfriend’s” reaction and that Gale won’t care because she never said she loved Peeta. All of which leads to. . .

14)Argument on the roof: The movie has the scene were Katniss finds Peeta on the roof that night to be sweet. In the book, she does apologize but they still end up arguing. She doesn’t entirely understand what Peeta means by “I don’t want them to change me in there.” She’s irritated at his “superior” attitude and ends up saying “No offense, but who cares, Peeta?” He takes offense, and they part badly.

15) First days in the arena: For all that Peeta’s pretty ticked off at Katniss in the book, in both book and movie, when they’re on the pedestals, he sees that Katniss is considering disobeying Haymith’s orders, and shakes his head in warning. It confuses her Katniess and she ends up with the backpack instead of the bow (which probably saves her life). In the backpack she finds a sleeping bag, something that they don’t have in the movie. It’s pretty important. It gets much colder at night in the arena than we see in the movie, thus the reason that one tribute lights a fire, which leads to her death. Also, in the book, Katniss comes lose to dying of dehydration in the first three days. Leaving this out doesn’t really make a difference in tone or emotion or anything else, however it makes for interesting reading.

16) Peeta and the career pack: In the movie when Katniss sees that Peeta has joined the career pack, she’s obviously disgusted. In the book, the pack is arguing over whether the girl who lit the fire is dead. Katniss realizes Peeta’s part of them when he tells them he’ll go back and make sure she’s dead. He does that, but whether or not he kills her, we don’t really know.

While he’s gone, she listens to the rest of the pack talking about him. She learns that Peeta’s “handy” with a knife, (which we never really see in all 3 books) and that he hasn’t told them how Katniss got the 11. He keeps her deadliness with a bow secret.

17)Parachutes: In the book, there are no messages with the parachutes. It’s necessary in the movie for the viewer’s sake, but in the book Katniss feels that she and Haymitch have a kind of silent code.

18)Everything thing is affected by the fire: The other tributes are burned as well. Katniss herself suffers from not just the burn but smoke inhalation, which  causes her to vomit. And most importantly, the reason she’s not initially attacked by the tracker jackers is because of the smoke.

19) Peeta’s fight with Cato:  After Katniss is stung and gets the bow, she starts to hallucinate. At the same time the career pack is returning for their weapons. Peeta reaches her first and tells her to “go”. In the movie, she runs off and that’s that. In the book, Peeta turns and fights Cato off, thus saving Katniss. We learn that a few different ways later (we’re in her point of view, so we hear it from other people). This is how Peeta receives the wound that almost kills him, by risking his life to save her.

This is big, and I really don’t believe the film ought to have left this out. Honestly, all they would have had to do was a quick 20-30 seconds where Katniss stumbles off, Peeta turns a spear on Cato as he crashes through the trees, sword drawn.

20) Rue doesn’t “change (katniss’s) leaves twice.” We have the impression that she does sort of look out for Katniss while she’s out cold for two days. And she does teach Katniss which leaves to use and how to use them to suck out the tracker jacker venom.

21) The explosion: When Katniss sets off the mines around the careers’ pile of goodies, she’s thrown backwards. She loses her hearing in both ears for a night, and is too injured to move. She sleeps under a bush until she can escape the next morning. She recovers her hearing in one ear, but not the other until she returns to the Capitol.

A little bit later, she hears that there can now be two victors and that takes us into the last third of the book/movie. That’s for next week.

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My Hunger Games Obsession, Part 1

847280c0-a3e0-11e2-9075-bc764e10a080[1]I have an obsessive personality. I have long ago come to terms with this, mostly by being grateful that I wasn’t cursed with an addictive personality as well. Addiction has no upside. My obsession, however, have been useful in the past–reading, historical research, writing. These days it’s the Hunger Games series. I may be blogging about it next week too and in the weeks to come as well.I never know when my obsessions will die out.

Anyway.  . .  I saw the movie before reading the books, in March of 2012. We went, my husband and I, because I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. And because it was a too-rare date night and we needed something to do.  I didn’t expect to like it by much. Mostly I expected to be disturbed. Which I was. We both were.

But I was also torn, as a hopeless romantic, between the two heroes of the movie, Gale and Peeta. I am almost always drawn more to Alpha heroes rather than Beta, but this time. . . well I was torn. In July of that year, when I was in the middle a terrible, terrible family drama and desperately in need of escape, I decided to give the book a try. Within 3 days I had read them all. Obsession started.

Since then I have read the books and watched the dvd’s more times than I will admit. More than I can count, actually, for lots reasons which would take several blog posts to explain. But for now, lets talk about the differences between the book and the movies.

The major difference that I can see–that bothers me–is the character of Peeta. Although I came out of the movie attached to the character, the Peeta character in the book draws the reader in so much more. He’s stronger, better motivated and more likeable. But there are other differences as well. Here are 9 from the to me.

1)In the book Peeta is well-spoken, charming and has friends. Lots of them. We don’t see all of this per-se because the book is written first person, from Katniss’s point of view. She does tell us however.

There’s not much evidence of this in the movie. One of my few criticisms of the movie is that they could have hinted at it very easily, by having Peeta’s friends pat him on the back, give his arm a squeeze, maybe even cry, when his name is chosen for the reaping. It wouldn’t have taken any extra time and would have done a lot to establish one of the differences between Katniss and Peeta.

2)The Mockingjay pin in the book is given to Katniss by her friend (who until this point she thinks of as an acquaintance) the mayor’s daughter. This whole thing is cut from the movies entirely. It’s understandable–there’s only so much you can fit into 120 minutes. But the character and the story behind her is worth reading the books for.

3)In the book’s back story, the day after Peeta throws Katniss the bread, she finds a dandelion. It’s early spring and up to this point she and her family have been starving. But when she sees the dandelion, she remembers her father teaching her to hunt and gather, and realizes that she can still do that. The next day she goes hunting for the first time and brings home a rabbit. She finally believes they will survive,  and Peeta is forever associated with hope.

It would be too difficult for the movie to get this in. I understand the choice. But it deepens the attachment, and makes the books a better read (romance-wise).

4)More of the bread backstory: Peeta burnt the bread on purpose, so he could give it to Katniss. His really nasty mother hit him for it, giving him a nasty black eye.  It’s a small sacrifice considering how horrible life was for these characters, but it does make Peeta more likeable, and a stronger hero. Yes, in the movie his mother does hit him, but I remember not totally understanding all of this when I saw the movie. My impression was he’d burned the bread, saw her, and then threw it near her. Not sure how they could have made what really happened clearer to those of us who’d not read the book first.

5)Katniss is very conflicted about how she feels about Peeta in the book from the beginning. There’s a scene early in the movie where Peeta tries to talk to Katniss on the train. “Have you ever met him? Haymitch?. . .You know Katniess he is our mentor. He did win this thing once. . .Look, you know if you don’t want to talk I understand, but I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a little bit of help.” She doesn’t answer him, and they show us the bread scene. Certainly this conveys her confusion over him, but to me she comes across kind of bitchy.

6)In the book, on the train Hamitch gives the advice “Embrace the probability of your imminent death and know in your heart there’s nothing I can do to save you.” And later is giving advice to Peeta on “how to find shelter”.  I love the scenes, I love the dialogue, and Woody Harleson as Haymitch is just fantastic. BUT in the book Haymitch’s first advice is “Stay alive,” after which he laughs. This infuriates Peeta–we rarely see his anger in the movie–and he lashes out, lunging at the very drunk Haymitch and knocking his glass to the floor. Haymitch responds by punching Peeta in the jaw. Haymitch then tries to go back to drinking, after which Katniss drives her knife into the table between his fingers (like we see in the movie).

Again, this is a stronger Peeta. Also, we see Peeta and Katniss working together, and it comes naturally to them, which shows the beginning of a bond.

This is one of the things I really believe they shouldn’t have left out of the movie. I don’t know how they could have fit it in, but other choices–showing Katniss bathing and getting ready for the reaping for example–I believe should have been cut if this scene could have been left in tact.

7) In the book Haymitch is impressed by Peeta and Katniss’s show of spirit and strength. He agrees to do what he doesn’t appear to have done in other years–work with them. He tells them that “You’ll be put in the hands of your stylists. You’re not going to like what they do to you. But no matter what it is, don’t resist.” I admit this didn’t make much of an impression the first few times I read the book. I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t notice, or because I saw the movie first. But it became apparent to me, eventually, that this is the beginning of Haymitch scheming, something he does throughout the books. We don’t know what he says later to any of the characters outside of Katniss’s hearing, but you get the impression that he, Cinna and Portia (Peeta’s stylist, whom we don’t know much about in the movie) are working together.

8)The chariot scene. Two major differences, which are small but have a big impact on how you (or at least how I did) view the characters. a) In the movie Katniss says she’s not afraid of the fire and b)Peeta is the one who suggests they hold hands.

a) In the book both Peeta and Katniss are afraid of the fire. It goes like this:

“What do you think,” I whisper to Peeta. “About the fire?”

“I’ll rip off your cape if you’ll rip off mine,” he says through gritted teeth.

“Deal,” I say. Maybe, if we can get them off soon enough, we’ll avoid the worst burns. It’s bad though. They’ll throw us into the arena no matter what condition we’re in.

A little later: “Where is Hayitch, anyway. Isn’t he supposed to protect us from this sort of thing?” says Peeta.

“With all the alcohol in him, it’s probably not advisable to have him around an open flame,” I say.

That leads them into laughter, which bonds them. Honestly, shared humor is one of the most bonding things two people can have between them.

b) In the book, Cinna tells them to hold hands. I admit, I like it that it’s Peeta’s idea in the movie–it shows us that he can play the crowd. That’s a very important part of his character. Still. . .Cinna suggesting it, shows us that the whole “romance angle” is already in development. And it continues on in the book. Much to Katniss’s distress, they are being presented as a team both there and in training. Katniss doesn’t want to be a team; she doesn’t want to become attached to Peeta if she’s only going to have to kill him later.

So that covers something like the first 1/3 of the movie. Next Friday I’ll add more, but for now–what do you think? Did you read the books and see the movies? What parts of the adaption did you think they did well? What could they have done better?


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Guest blogging today and giveaway

But not here–sorry! I’m gabbing about music and writing over at Chocolate Box Writers right here. I’m giving away an e copy of Shadows of the Soul and an e-card for Amazon. Oh and there’s an excerpt too. Come hang out–they’re a super bunch of writers. If you don’t win the card and book you may just find a new writer to follow and that’s always a win.


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When the going gets tough, beagle puppies




It’s been a tough week. For some reason, my mental state is in. . .we’ll call it flux. So. Beagle puppies.







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Daylight Savings, History (sort of)

Getting up this morning was wrenching.  I hate daylight savings. I’m not really even certain if it starts in spring and ends in fall, or if it’s the other way around. Honestly, I don’t care. I follow Sherlock and his mind palace on this one.

Still. . .needed some little laugh this morning to get me going. I found this. I admit, I always believed that daylight savings time had something to do with farmers, and I really admire farmers (farm country is the setting for Shadows of the Soul after all).  For that reason, I have always grudgingly gone along with daylight savings. Now, though, after watching this, I am so bitter towards Kaiser Wilhelm!

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