Jan. 15, 2019: The Reader Expansion Challenge

A Biblio Paradise Reader Expansion Challenge

Since this is a blog about the love of books and reading and book-related things, I thought it would be fun to have a Reader Expansion Challenge, where we expand our own reading and share what we’ve discovered and enjoyed.

There are a couple of caveats:

–Most months, you will be asked to read a book by an author you haven’t read before in any of your regularly-read genres; a new-to-you author whose work you want to try.

–If you’re moving out of your regularly-read genres, and there’s a familiar author you trust across genres, that’s a great starting point.

–Extra kudos if it’s published by a small press and is by an author that’s not yet well-known, but don’t feel hemmed in by the suggestion.

–You CANNOT promote your own books. That’s not what this is about. This is about finding great books outside of your normal reading experience and sharing them. It’s not self-promotion for writers. This site has special dates for that. Although it’s a great way for writers to support each others’ work and find new living authors to support.

–Your discoveries and comments go on the main blog page on the designated page for that part of the challenge. Just post a few paragraphs about how you chose the book/author, your response to the book, and what you learned from the stretch. Please do not put it in comments on the Information page. They will be deleted.

Note: This post is on the Main Blog Page. I am setting up an additional page so people joining the party throughout the year have the information. 

–I encourage people to read books that fellow commenters enjoyed, and then share their experiences in a future post. I’ll also consider asking some of the authors to come by and do an interview, if there’s interest.

–Invite fellow readers and writers to join. Share the link. Use the hashtag #ReaderExpansionChallenge.

–Have fun with new-to-you books and authors that you discover, and that are recommended by fellow readers.

Dates:
The dates are when you POST about the book you’ve read, not when to start reading. So you should start hunting down your book now that you will post about in February!

February 19, 2019: Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read.

March 19, 2019: In honor of International Women’s Day (which was on March 8), read a book by a woman whose work you’ve never read before.

April 16, 2019: Read a book in your favorite genre by an author whose work you have never read.

May 21, 2019: Switch it up! If you usually read fiction, read non-fiction; if you usually read non-fiction, read fiction.

June 18, 2019: Read a stage play. NOT a screenplay. It can be one you’ve seen, or one you haven’t. Libraries often carry play scripts, or can order them. Or browse Drama Book Shop or Samuel French or second hand bookshops. Note the difference between reading the script and watching the play.

July 16, 2019: Read a book of poetry. If you don’t usually read poetry, you have a wealth of choices. If you love reading poetry, try a new-to-you poet.

August 20, 2019: Re-read a favorite book from childhood. How have your perceptions changed? How do you feel about it now?

September 17, 2019: Read an anthology of short stories in your favorite genre that contains new-to-you authors (and it can also contain familiar ones). Are you going to read longer works by any of these authors?

October 15, 2019: Read something Halloween/Samhain-oriented in any genre you wish, by a new-to-you author.

November 19, 2019: Read something with a family-oriented theme, in any genre, that you haven’t read before.

December 17, 2019: Read a winter-holiday-themed book, in any genre, that you haven’t read before (and feel free to share any favorite winter holiday-themed books you read over and over again).

What next?

Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read about, and post about it on the February 19th post that will go up on this page!

 

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The Book Boyfriend Dilemma

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image courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve noticed a lot of talking and joking on social media the last few months about one’s favorite “book boyfriends.”

I have mixed feelings about that.

As a reader, when I’m reading a book, I want to understand and experience the story from inside the protagonist, whether we are similar or not. That includes “falling in love” within the context of the book with whomever the character falls in love with (although there are times when I separate myself out and go, “no, that one’s not right for you, what are you doing?”

Part of the power of reading is connecting or understanding or having a crush or falling in love (for the duration of the read) with characters in the book.

And, yes, after putting the book down, during bouts of singleness, I might wish I had someone in my life with traits similar to that of the character with whom I fell in love for the book.

There are plenty of love interests in books with whom I don’t fall in love, even for the duration of the book. Especially when they start talking about their love interests as possessions or as “mates for life” or any such thing. As a teenager, briefly, I thought that all-encompassing love was exciting; now I find it creepy. Even in a book. Even as a fantasy.

I want us to choose EACH OTHER. I don’t want to be dominated or owned or tamed. I want a partner, not a master.

Even in books.

I’m discussing this in terms of heterosexual couples, because that’s my experience. This isn’t meant to exclude same sex or pansexual couples. But I’m speaking from personal responses to the books and to the chatter.

While I’ve wished to have a partner in my life who embodies traits of a character with whom I’ve “fallen in love” (or lust, or a crush) in a book, I stop short of calling those men my “book boyfriends.”

Because I am not the woman with whom the various men fell in love with.

Sometimes (often), I wish I embodied those characteristics. But I’m me. I’m not this particular hero’s One True Love.

He fell in love with the heroine of the world they both inhabit.

One of the reasons he’s so attractive is that he loves HER. They found each other. They managed, in a world of thousands of possibilities, to sort through the noise and find each other, and build happiness together.

I’m happy for them.

Should I insert myself, Mary Sue-style, into their world, he still wouldn’t fall in love with me, because they found each other. Should I pull him out of his world and into mine, he might be dependent on me initially to learn how to navigate my world, but we still wouldn’t find true love together.

What makes an HEA work is that those two individuals in the book found their best match.

I’ve often said I believe there are a number of people with whom one can be content, or even happy, but I do believe there is one true love for each of us. Many don’t find that individual.

If this particular “he” turned away from his true love to me — be it in his world or my world — it would diminish him. He would no longer be the character with whom I “fell in love” in the book. That extra frisson of attraction that made him so enticing would be destroyed. I would have less respect for him.

I can’t be with someone I don’t respect.

Let’s face it — many of the traits we find attractive in fiction would grate on us in daily life. It’s fun to play with them for a few hours, to have that fantasy, but bring that character into day-to-day reality? How many of us could cope with each other then? Many of these characters lack the flexibility for the daily details that can make or break a relationship. Part of what makes them so attractive as a fantasy makes them irritating as a reality.

Am I over thinking? Of course! Talking about “book boyfriends” is a fun game and it makes one think about qualities that one finds attractive in a partner. It’s a fantasy, a daydream, an escape from the mundane.

And yet, yet, it always makes me feel uncomfortable when I do it. Not when other people joke about it or talk about it or whatever. I can enjoy their enjoyment. But when I try to do it, it feels wrong.

It makes me feel as though I’m intruding on an established relationship. Even though those in the relationship are fictional.

I am happy to embody the heroine while I read the book, “fall in love” during the book, and then go back to my life when I’m done. The characters continue their lives on their fictional plane. I continue mine on my own plane of existence.

All kinds of ideas can spin from these different planes of existence and interaction. Many have been done. Entire series have been built on a fictional character coming to life, or a person entering a fictional world.

What about as a writer? Do I write my ideal partner?

Yes and no. As a writer, in order to accomplish what I wish, when I write from inside a character, I embody that character, no matter what the gender. Each character in one of my books is me and is not me simultaneously. As I wrote in Ink in My Coffee, the piece, “Can Writers Have Friends?” — when I do my job properly as a writer, the character evolves away from the original inspiration — and away from ME — into a unique individual.

What I try to do, when I write romantic partners in my work, is write the ideal partner for the character. Not for me, but the character. Again, the characters are me and not-me simultaneously, and then evolve farther and farther away from me as the book grows.

Recently, two men entered my life, one romantically and one platonically, who inspired characters in upcoming work. However, as I wrote the characters these men inspired, they evolved further and further away from the men who inspired them. They became the right characters for the context of their fictional worlds, and my friends remained in the right context of this world.

“Book boyfriends” can be a fun game and a fun fantasy. But unless I turn into a different person, I’m wrong for all of them. I’ve worked very hard to become the person I am, flawed as that is, and I don’t want to be someone else. So, yes, I can indulge myself here and there. But then return to being the real me rather than a fictional combination of me & the heroine, and find a real person with whom to have an even better partnership.