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1. A Look at Gender Swapping of Native Characters in Meyer's LIFE AND DEATH

Today (October 6, 2016), fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga were ecstatic about her new book Life and Death. In it, she "gender swapped" the characters. Bella is now a guy named Beau. Edward is now a gal named Edythe, and Jacob (the Quileute character) is now a girl named Jules (Julia). 

Here's part of Meyer's interview with CNN: 

Meyer said she was motivated to make the switch because of questions she received at signings about Bella being a "damsel in distress."
"It's always bothered me a little bit, because anyone surrounded by superheroes is going to be in distress," Meyers explained. "I thought, 'What if we switched it around a bit and see how a boy does,' and, you know, it's about the same."

I looked at specific passages in Twilight, comparing them to passages in Life and Death to see if Meyer made any changes to the Native content. In the passages I have below, I start each pair with Twilight first, because it was published first. Here they are:


Chapter 6: Scary Stories

This is the chapter where we meet Jacob/Jules, the Quileute character who is going to tell Bella/Beau scary stories about the werewolves and "the cold ones" (vampires).

Twilight (Kindle Location 7353-7355):
A few minutes after Angela left with the hikers, Jacob sauntered over to take her place by my side. He looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was beautiful, silky and russet-colored; his eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 1495-1497):
A few minutes after Allen left with the hikers, Julie came over to take his place by my side. 
She looked fourteen, maybe fifteen, and had long, glossy black hair pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of her neck. Her skin was really beautiful, like coppery silk, her dark eyes were wide-set above her high cheekbones, and her lips were curved like a bow.

Debbie's thoughts: Jacob sauntering conveys attitude. Julie, on the other hand, walks without attitude. Because... why? I don't know. The descriptions of hair and skin and cheekbones are familiar ones. Not all Native people have long, glossy black hair or high cheekbones but that's generally how we're depicted in children's and young adult books. This is a problem for Native people who do not look that way. People say--without batting an eye--"you don't look Indian." 

~~~~

Twilight, Jacob speaking to Bella (Kindle Locations 7408-7411):
“Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood— supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark.” He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. “Another legend claims that we descended from wolves— and that the wolves are our brothers still. It’s against tribal law to kill them.

Life and Death, Jules speaking to Beau (Kindle Locations 1569-1572):
“There are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Great Flood— supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark.” She smiled, to show me she wasn’t taking this seriously, either. “Another legend claims that we descended from wolves— and that the wolves are our sisters still. It’s against tribal law to kill them.

Debbie's thoughts: That "legend" that Jacob talks about is supposed to be a Quileute one, but it that marks "the Flood" as a touchstone event. If it said "a" great Flood, that would work, but that "the" in there ties this story to Christianity. I've not done any research to see if the Quileute people have a flood story where they tied their canoes to tall trees. Maybe they do. Or, maybe this is something that Meyer made up. Regular readers of AICL know that I find it sacrilegious to twist Native stories to make them fit a narrative that a not-Native writer is telling.  Jacob has "little stock" in the stories; Jules doesn't "take this seriously." Is this dismissiveness on Jacob/Jules' part to throw Bella/Beau off track so that Bella/Beau don't know that these stories are real? The way Meyer presents this werewolf part of her story is not like the stories the Quileute's actually tell. As noted above, I think Meyer is twisting a Native story to fit her narrative, and I find that to be deeply disrespectful. (Updating to add this next line.) And as @travelingHeidi pointed out on Twitter, Noah isn't gender swapped! 

~~~~

Twilight, 
Jacob speaking to Bella (
Kindle Locations 7412-7416):
"There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land.” He rolled his eyes. “Your great-grandfather?” I encouraged. “He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf— well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves.”

Life and Death, Jules speaking to Beau (Kindle Locations 1574-1578):
"There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandmother knew some of them. She was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land.” She rolled her eyes. “Your great-grandmother?” I encouraged. “She was a tribal elder, like my mother. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf— well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into women, like our ancestors. You could call them werewolves, I guess.”

Debbie's thoughts: That is another part of Meyer's book that I find especially problematic because of her use of the word treaty. Readers are asked to believe that Jacob/Jules' great grandfather/mother made a treaty with a coven of vampires. Treaties are made between heads of state. Are we to think of this group of Quileute's and this coven of vampires as nations? 


Chapter 7: Nightmare

After hearing those "scary" stories, Bella/Beau has a nightmare. 

Twilight (Kindle Locations 7477-7480):
But Jacob let go of my hand and yelped, suddenly shaking, falling to the dim forest floor. He twitched on the ground as I watched in horror. “Jacob!” I screamed. But he was gone. In his place was a large red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of his shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between his exposed fangs.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 1641-1643):
And then Jules dropped my hand— she let out a strange yelp and, suddenly shaking, she fell twitching to the ground. I watched in horror, unable to move. “Jules!” I yelled, but she was gone. In her place was a big, red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of her shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between her exposed fangs.

Debbie's thoughts: Here, I direct you to an excellent series of tweets by Jeanne (I don't know her personally but she is one of the people I learn a lot from by reading her tweets and blog posts). One that is especially insightful is this one: "The supernatural world of Twilight is a construct that makes an abusive white man look like a hero and Native American men look like animals."


Chapter 11: Complications 

Twilight (Kindle Locations 8589-8592):
Jacob was already climbing out, his wide grin visible even through the darkness. In the passenger seat was a much older man, a heavyset man with a memorable face— a face that overflowed, the cheeks resting against his shoulders, with creases running through the russet skin like an old leather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, black eyes that seemed at the same time both too young and too ancient for the broad face they were set in. Jacob’s father, Billy Black.

Life and Death (Kindle Locations 2926-2929)
Jules was already climbing out, her wide grin visible even through the darkness. In the passenger seat was a much older woman, an imposing woman with an unusual face— it was stern and stoic, with creases that ran through the russet skin like an old leather jacket. And the surprisingly familiar eyes, set deep under the heavy brows, black eyes that seemed at the same time both too young and too ancient to match the face. Jules’s mother, Bonnie Black.

Debbie's thoughts: More of that stereotypical descriptors, this time of elders. Note the word "ancient" in there? That's another word that gets overused.

~~~~

Some overall thoughts: In Life and Death, Meyer just switched a few letters here and there to make the Native characters fit her gender swapping narrative. It is more evidence that she is clueless regarding Native peoples and cultures. In fact, her gender swapping of Native content strikes me as similar to all the people--male or female--who put on a headdress that is generally used only by men. It is superficial and adds a new layer of disrespect to what she's already done with the Twilight saga prior to today's release of Life and Death.  

I opened this post noting that people are very excited by Life and Death. Much of that excitement is because Twilight is credited with having launched young adult literature. That is something people who care about young adult literature can certainly applaud, but we must not lose sight of the problems in the series. 

There are plenty of young adult books out there that can counter the misogyny in these books. We cannot say the same thing about books to counter the misrepresentation of Native people. Indeed, Meyer's book also launched a slew of books that do precisely what she did: stereotype, misrepresent, appropriate. 

Meyer acknowledged concerns over the "damsel in distress" but the concerns over misrepresentation of Native peoples are just as important. 
__________

Meyer, Stephenie (2015-10-06). Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition. 

0 Comments on A Look at Gender Swapping of Native Characters in Meyer's LIFE AND DEATH as of 10/6/2015 11:02:00 PM
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2. Roger Luckhurst’s top 10 vampire films

There are many film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; many, of course, that are rubbish. If you need fresh blood and your faith restored that there is still life to be drained from the vampire trope, here are ten recommendations for films that rework Stoker’s vampire in innovative and inventive ways.

The post Roger Luckhurst’s top 10 vampire films appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Heart-stopped: Fiction and the rewards of discomfort

Recently I was talking to a younger colleague, a recent PhD, about what we and our peers read for pleasure. He noted that the only fiction that most of his friends read is young adult fiction: The Hunger Games, Twilight, that kind of thing. Although the subject matter of these series is often dark, the appeal, hypothesized my colleague, lies elsewhere: in the reassuringly formulaic and predictable narrative arc of the plots. If his friends have a taste for something genuinely edgy, he went on, then they’ll read non-fiction instead.

When did we develop this idea that fiction, to be enjoyable, must be comforting nursery food? I’d argue that it’s not only in our recreational reading but also, increasingly, in the classroom, that we shun what seems too chewy or bitter, or, rather; we tolerate bitterness only if it comes in a familiar form, like an over-cooked Brussels sprout. And yet, in protecting ourselves from anticipated frictions and discomforts, we also deprive ourselves of one of fiction’s richest rewards.

One of the ideas my research explores is the belief, in the eighteenth-century, that fiction commands attention by soliciting wonder. Wonder might sound like a nice, calm, placid emotion, but that was not how eighteenth-century century thinkers conceived it. In an essay published in 1795 but probably written in the 1750s, Adam Smith describes wonder as a sentiment induced by a novel object, a sentiment that may be recognized by the wonderstruck subject’s “staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart” (‘The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries’). And that was just the beginning. As Smith describes:

“when the object is unexpected; the passion is then poured in all at once upon the heart which is thrown, if it is a strong passion, into the most violent and convulsive emotions, such as sometimes cause immediate death; sometimes, by the suddenness of the extacy, so entirely disjoint the whole frame of the imagination, that it never after returns to its former tone and composure, but falls either into a frenzy or habitual lunacy.” (‘The Principles Which Lead and Direct Philosophical Enquiries’)

It doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? Eighteenth-century novels risked provoking such extreme reactions in their tales of people in extremis; cast out; marooned; kidnapped. Such tales were not gory, necessarily, in the manner of The Hunger Games, and the response they invited was not necessarily horror or terror. More radically, in shape and form as well as content, eighteenth-century writers related stories that were strange, unpredictable, unsettling, and, as such, productive of wonder. Why risk discomforting your reader so profoundly? Because, Henry Home, Lord Kames argued in his Elements of Criticism (1762), wonder also fixes the attention: in convulsing the reader, you also impress a representation deeply upon her mind.

3923648422_d86da2a48b_z
Spooky Moon by Ray Bodden. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr

One of the works I find particularly interesting to think about in relation to this idea of wonder is Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a deeply pleasurable book to read, but I wouldn’t describe it as comfortable. Perhaps I felt this more acutely than some when I first read it, as a first year undergraduate. The year before I had witnessed my father experience a fatal heart attack. Ever since then, any description or representation that evoked the body’s motion in defibrillation would viscerally call up the memory of that night. One description that falls under that heading is the climactic moment in Shelley’s novel in which Victor Frankenstein brings his creature to life: “I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.” If the unexpected, in Smith’s account, triggers convulsive motions, then it seems fitting that a newly created being’s experience of its own first breath would indeed be felt as a moment of wonder.

When I was a nineteen year-old reading Frankenstein, there was no discussion about the desirability of providing “trigger warnings” when teaching particular texts; and even if there had been, it seems unlikely that this particular text would have been flagged as potentially traumatic (a fact that speaks to the inherent difficulty of labeling certain texts as more likely to serve as triggers than others, given the variety of people’s experience). I found reading Shelley’s novel to be a deeply, uncomfortably, wonder-provoking experience, in Smith’s terms, but it did not, clearly, result in my “immediate death.” What it did produce, rather, was a deep and lasting impression. Indeed, perhaps that is why, more than twenty years later, I felt compelled to revisit this novel in my research, and why I found myself taking seriously Percy Shelley’s characterization of the experience of reading Frankenstein as one in which we feel our “heart suspend its pulsations with wonder” at its content, even as we “debate with ourselves in wonder,” as to how the work was produced. High affect can be all consuming, but we may also revisit and observe, in more serene moments, the workings of the mechanisms which wring such high affect from us.

In Minneapolis for a conference a few weeks ago, I mentioned to my panel’s chair that I had run around Lake Calhoun. He asked if I had stopped at the Bakken Museum (I had not), which is on the lake’s west shore. He proceeded to explain that it was a museum about Earl Bakken, developer of the pacemaker, whose invention was supposedly inspired by seeing the Boris Karloff 1931 film of Frankenstein, and in particular the scene in which the creature is brought to life with the convulsive electric charge.

As Bakken’s experience suggests, the images that disturb us can also inspire us. Mary Shelley affirms as much in her Introduction to the 1831 edition of the novel, which suggests that the novel had its source in a nightmarish reverie. Shelley assumes that Frankenstein’s power depends upon the reproducible nature of her affect: “What terrified me will terrify others,” she predicts. Haunting images, whether conjured by fantasies, novels, or films, can be generative, although certainly not always in such direct and instrumental ways. Most of us won’t develop a life-saving piece of technology, like Earl Bakken (my father, in fact, had a pacemaker, and, although it didn’t save his life, it did prolong it) or write an iconic novel, like Mary Shelley. But that is not to say that the impressions that fiction can etch into our minds are not generative. If comfort has its place and its pleasures, so too does discomfort: experiencing “bad feelings” enables us to notice, in our re-tracings of them, the unexpected connections that emerge between profoundly different experiences—death; life; reading—all of them heart-stopping in their own ways.

The post Heart-stopped: Fiction and the rewards of discomfort appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You: Feminism and the YA Romance

sermonby Rachel Lieberman

I write YA, and I often ask myself, “Does my writing promote good messages to teen girls?”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Stories that preach = BIG FAT NO. Making your story a mouthpiece for your beliefs is never a good idea.

This is not your job.

BUT that doesn’t mean that you’re never allowed to wonder who’s going to read your stories, and what those readers will get out of their experiences.

For my graduate lecture, I took a look at how feminist and post-feminist literary theory can help us look at YA literature and decide for ourselves what messages we want to send. Feminism is, at its core, the belief in equal rights for all genders, but of course there are many definitions and variations among those definitions. The question of choice (who gets to choose, and what they should choose) is sometimes a point of contention among critics.

20120104060816!Twilight_book_coverI think that one of the reasons so many critics find fault with Twilight and novels like it is because Bella’s choices may be her own, but they are consistently at odds with the choices we want our girls to make. When we show characters who consistently choose dangerous, controlling partners, our fear is that young adult readers will also choose dangerous, controlling partners.

I don’t think this is an invalid concern, but my intention isn’t to debate or argue it. That’s for another time, another post. My intention is to say, that if you’re a YA writer and this is something you are thinking about, there are ways to develop a good feminist story without making it preachy or propaganda. I’ll share some methods that I found useful and talked about in my lecture.

1. What does your main character want? If it’s just a relationship, consider that in real life, a desire for a relationship is usually a symptom of a deeper desire for something else, like security or acknowledgment. Consider what other forces might be at work, and you’ll avoid creating shallow characters whose problems can be solved by a significant other.

2. Make sure your character stays active. Find places in the story that force her to act, that take away her safety net and test her. This is true of practically any story, but in YA romances, it’s especially important. She doesn’t need to be a hero, but she shouldn’t rely on her love interest too much.

3. Pay attention to your character’s love interest. Speaking of the love interest, don’t forget to pay attention to him! Or her. What does he want? Does he act in a way that harms the main character, and if so, are there negative consequences? If your character has to choose between two love interests (very common these days), is the choice made too easy (by having one character turn out to be a jerk)?

4. Romance novel vs. novel with romantic elements. A romance novel is a little different than a novel with romantic elements. A romance novel’s plot is dependent on the relationship between two characters, so if you want to write a story with feminist undertones, you might choose the other path.

5. Why do your characters get together? Think about the reasons your characters are together. Is it because they find each other so attractive? Or do they share a deep, mutual connection? The more you develop the relationship, and the reasons for it, the more likely you are to connect with readers.

6. The moral of the story. All of these factors combined puts you in a better position to control the final factor: the moral of the story. Once you’ve finished a draft, it might be a good idea to take a look around. What’s happened to the characters? Who’s alive? What have they had to sacrifice? Your character’s rewards and punishments reveal a lot about your story’s message. Is it the message you want?

There are, of course, many more factors than these six that you will need to pay attention to in order to write a great novel. But this is a place to start if your aim is to write a story with romantic elements that will both appeal to teen readers and give them characters and situations they can look up to.

Rachel LiebermanRachel Lieberman works in higher education and writes YA. Her short fiction has appeared in Opium, Awkward, Emprise Review, and others. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Tampa.

Visit Rachel’s blog: A Reputation in Digital Form: The Writerly Musings of Rachel Lieberman

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @LiebermanRachel

This blog post was brought to you as part of the March Dystropian Madness Blog Series.

March Dystropia Madness


11 Comments on You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You: Feminism and the YA Romance, last added: 3/25/2013
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5. You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You: Feminism and the YA Romance

sermonby Rachel Lieberman

I write YA, and I often ask myself, “Does my writing promote good messages to teen girls?”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Stories that preach = BIG FAT NO. Making your story a mouthpiece for your beliefs is never a good idea.

This is not your job.

BUT that doesn’t mean that you’re never allowed to wonder who’s going to read your stories, and what those readers will get out of their experiences.

For my graduate lecture, I took a look at how feminist and post-feminist literary theory can help us look at YA literature and decide for ourselves what messages we want to send. Feminism is, at its core, the belief in equal rights for all genders, but of course there are many definitions and variations among those definitions. The question of choice (who gets to choose, and what they should choose) is sometimes a point of contention among critics.

20120104060816!Twilight_book_coverI think that one of the reasons so many critics find fault with Twilight and novels like it is because Bella’s choices may be her own, but they are consistently at odds with the choices we want our girls to make. When we show characters who consistently choose dangerous, controlling partners, our fear is that young adult readers will also choose dangerous, controlling partners.

I don’t think this is an invalid concern, but my intention isn’t to debate or argue it. That’s for another time, another post. My intention is to say, that if you’re a YA writer and this is something you are thinking about, there are ways to develop a good feminist story without making it preachy or propaganda. I’ll share some methods that I found useful and talked about in my lecture.

1. What does your main character want? If it’s just a relationship, consider that in real life, a desire for a relationship is usually a symptom of a deeper desire for something else, like security or acknowledgment. Consider what other forces might be at work, and you’ll avoid creating shallow characters whose problems can be solved by a significant other.

2. Make sure your character stays active. Find places in the story that force her to act, that take away her safety net and test her. This is true of practically any story, but in YA romances, it’s especially important. She doesn’t need to be a hero, but she shouldn’t rely on her love interest too much.

3. Pay attention to your character’s love interest. Speaking of the love interest, don’t forget to pay attention to him! Or her. What does he want? Does he act in a way that harms the main character, and if so, are there negative consequences? If your character has to choose between two love interests (very common these days), is the choice made too easy (by having one character turn out to be a jerk)?

4. Romance novel vs. novel with romantic elements. A romance novel is a little different than a novel with romantic elements. A romance novel’s plot is dependent on the relationship between two characters, so if you want to write a story with feminist undertones, you might choose the other path.

5. Why do your characters get together? Think about the reasons your characters are together. Is it because they find each other so attractive? Or do they share a deep, mutual connection? The more you develop the relationship, and the reasons for it, the more likely you are to connect with readers.

6. The moral of the story. All of these factors combined puts you in a better position to control the final factor: the moral of the story. Once you’ve finished a draft, it might be a good idea to take a look around. What’s happened to the characters? Who’s alive? What have they had to sacrifice? Your character’s rewards and punishments reveal a lot about your story’s message. Is it the message you want?

There are, of course, many more factors than these six that you will need to pay attention to in order to write a great novel. But this is a place to start if your aim is to write a story with romantic elements that will both appeal to teen readers and give them characters and situations they can look up to.

Rachel LiebermanRachel Lieberman works in higher education and writes YA. Her short fiction has appeared in Opium, Awkward, Emprise Review, and others. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Tampa.

Visit Rachel’s blog: A Reputation in Digital Form: The Writerly Musings of Rachel Lieberman

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @LiebermanRachel

This blog post was brought to you as part of the March Dystropian Madness Blog Series.

March Dystropia Madness


0 Comments on You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You: Feminism and the YA Romance as of 3/22/2013 7:36:00 AM
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6. Friday Speak Out!: The Accidental Author, guest post by Brandi Schmidt

I never thought I would be an author. I hear lavish tails from other authors about where they began their literary journey, like at age four writing plays and short stories. That was not me. I wasn’t a great student in high school, scraping by to get that diploma. I took a few years off after graduation, found myself, and gained perspective. I did return to college and actually worked my tail off to get the hardest degree I could find. I majored in biomedical engineering science at Washington University in St. Louis. After college graduation, I took a nice position with a local pharmaceutical company and continue to work there full time. I was the ”slacker” turned ”nerd” and loved it.

One day I took my son to see Twilight—he loved vampires and I was an avid Buffy fan. Wait, don’t stop reading! We all have strong feelings about the Twilight saga, and I am not debating them in this post. Seeing that movie changed my life, I know what you are thinking…really? But yes, it did.

  I bought the book that night. That was the first time in my life I actually read for pleasure. I had read thousands of books, mainly text books and medical journals, but Twilight was different. I devoured the entire series in a week. Stayed up all night to read, was a zombie at work, ignored my husband. Like a junkie, I was hooked.

I finished the series, and I can’t believe I am going to admit this, but I actually hugged the books. I was so moved by words on a page. I thought, I want to do that. Not marry a vampire and have a half vamp/half human child, but write a book that moves people.

The big question was what would I write about? Did I have a story in me to tell? Two weeks went by. One day driving home, I was given the story. I knew the characters, the story arcs, and all the funny drama that would ensue. Maybe I was given THE KINDLING by accident? Maybe God meant to give it to the car in front of me and miscalculated his idea trajectory. But I got it, and I am forever grateful.

I believe we all have great ideas, and it’s the action or non-action that can change our destiny. I took action that day. I went home and wrote the first three chapters of THE KINDLING. By the way – they were terrible, like I said I wasn’t a writer.

Fast forward four years—yes, four years! I studied, learned, went to conferences, followed agent blogs, met other aspiring authors, got my own blog, and it was hard. I queried way too soon (that’s another funny story!). I made many mistakes along the way, but I learned from them and never gave up. And now my first novel, a paranormal romance titled THE KINDLING is releasing in March 2013 published by MuseItUp Publishing. I hope you find the time to read my accident; it’s a good one.
* * *
Brandi Schmidt lives outside St. Louis with her husband, three beautiful children, and one loveable Golden Retriever. She is in love with love and admittedly cries at anything sappy. You can follow her at www.BrandiSchmidt.com or Facebook at www.facebook/authorbrandischmidt. Her twitter handle is @BrandiSchmidt . You can purchase THE KINDLING at www.museituppublishing.com or any other ebook suppliers.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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12 Comments on Friday Speak Out!: The Accidental Author, guest post by Brandi Schmidt, last added: 2/25/2013
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7. Video Sunday: You had me at “giant ice cream”

I think the nicest thing about the internet, for me anyway, is that if you wait around long enough things that you’ve seen live will appear online and then you can let lots of people know about them.  For example, this video of Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman is not new.  It does, however, contain the only known record (known to me) of them both talking about the photograph game they would play.  The photo involving the catapult and the giant ice cream is a bit dangerous as it makes me giggle for long periods of time.

Next up, the only thing better than bad lip reading of Twilight?  Bad lip reading of New Moon.  True fact.

Read a really good independently published children’s book this week.  Self-published and remarkably fun.  It even has one top-notch book trailer to accompany it.  Check it out, peoples.

If the author’s name sounds familiar, that would be Ms. Lynn Messina of Little Vampire Women fame.  On an unrelated note, she also owns awesome boots.

Big time thanks to David Maybury for directing me to his link to this video of Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey working with students from Griffeen Valley Educate Together on a Christmas Window for Hodges Figgis Bookstore in Dublin.

I’m now harboring fantasies of some store in New York doing something similar.  Books of Wonder maybe, though Bank Street Bookstore would probably get more foot traffic watching.  I mean, if Dublin can do it, we can too, can’t we?

And finally, for the off-topic video sometimes you just gotta give cred to the science/digital geeks.  Serious cred.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link!

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8. Essence Breaking Dawn Pt 2 Swatches


Hello, friends! Today I am very excited to show you the Essence Breaking Dawn Part 2 nail polish swatches. I love nail polish and makeup and am a total sucker when movie and book theme collections come out. Essence came out with a whole line for Breaking Dawn Pt 2. I picked up all of the nail polishes and, because I love you guys, a few extra items for a blog giveaway. If you want more information on the collection, check out the Essence website here. Beware that this post is pretty pic heavy. And apologies if I go into too much nail polish speak, but I am sure you understand. :)

Alice Had A Vision


First up is Alice Had A Vision, a really pretty glass fleck glitter. It has a purple base with lots of pretty blue and purple glitter. This is two coats. It was a bit sheer and not pretty on the first coat but the second coat evened it out. 

Jacob's Protection


Next up we have Jacob's Protection. Let me just say that these names really crack me up. Anyway, this one is similar to Alice Had A Vision except that it's a blue/black base with blue glitter. Again, it was bit murky and sheer on the first coat but the second made it all better. 

Edward's Love


Edward's Love is another glass fleck glitter with a black base and grey/silver glitter. It also seems to have a little bit of a gold cast. Again, this is two coats.

A Piece Of Forever


The last polish in the collection is A Piece of Forever. I guess a piece of forever looks like a frosty gold. This was probably my least favorite out of all of them. It's a bit too warm for my liking and too frosty. On the right skin tone it might look good but it wasn't my cup of tea. This is two coats.

Overall I thought the polishes were worth the $2 each I spent on them. The glitters were a little thick but they were workable. A little thinner might make them easier to apply. I enjoyed the glitters. None of them are super unique though Alice Had A Vision is quite pretty and probably my favorite out of this collection. And I got a kick out of the Breaking Dawn factor. I think this collection was only available Ulta and I really doubt you'll be able to find it anymore. But we're going to hook you up with a giveaway very soon.

Thanks for meandering with me down nail polish lane. For more pics of these polishes, go to our Facebook album.  Does anyone else love themed collections as much as me?




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9. Why Fifty Shades of Grey is Popular



Yep. I read it.

I have a series of reactions to Fifty Shades of Grey:

1) This book is popular. 

I mean, really, really popular. It is bigger than Harry Potter popular in the UK, it was responsible for 20% of all book sales in the spring, it sold 25 million copies in 4 months; by contrast, it took the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy four years to sell 20 million copies.

Pop. U. Lar.

2) I called it. (Well, sort of.)

I've long maintained that although the e-book era favors people with existing audiences, freakish unexpected hits would come out of nowhere, including from authors without a major platform at all. Much like viral videos.

And make no mistake: This book came out of nowhere. It started as Twilight fanfiction, then was released as an e-book and POD paperback by Writers' Coffee Shop in Australia. From there it managed to attract so much word-of-mouth attention and sales it was acquired for a rumored near-million dollars by Vintage Books, part of Random House, and has gone on to aforementioned further massive success.

The publishing industry did not see this one coming. I think it's safe to say that virtually no one did. Even five years ago it's hard to see how this book would have rocketed to such success so quickly, if would have found its way to publication at all (I'm guessing it wouldn't have).

But note that Fifty Shades of Grey needed a publisher to get truly big. Publishers may not have seen it coming, but they caught up to it very quickly. I wouldn't use this as an opportunity to sneer at publishers. The industry's role as gatekeeper is changing quickly, it's likely evidence that they were missing books like this in the past and cared too much about writing quality, but they're still making money on this hand over fist.

3) It's not as bad people say it is

Given the howls have accompanied this book's success and the snarky takedowns, I was really expecting drivel.

It's not drivel. It's not Shakespeare, but from a prose perspective I would call it competently written.

Yes, there are writerly tics, yes there are elements that are implausible, yes yes OMG a helicopter called Charlie Tango, more on all that in a minute. But the end of the world for books this is not.

I've read worse.

4) That said...

I'm not exactly an expert, but I can see why some people have wondered aloud if this is one step back for feminism. Much of the book hinges on very confused 21-year-old virginal Anastasia, seemingly plucked straight out of the 1950s, wondering whether this 27-year-old experienced, troubled-but-heart-of-gold self-made billionaire industrialist likes her no I mean really likes her no I mean really really really likes her.

Their times apart consist mainly of Anastasia confusedly spurning the advances of other men who are interested in her, talking herself out of the notion that Christian Grey no I mean really likes her, and finding new reasons to feel jealous about his past, aided and impeded by both her subconscious and inner goddess (separate voices!), who alternately scold her and high five her for her adventurousness. Anastasia has few thoughts, feelings, emotions, or ambitions regarding anything other than how much Christian Grey actually truly no I mean really likes her and whether she can abide by the terms of the written contract and tortured legalese (in more ways than one) that governs their relationship.

Christian Grey is the type of person who will scare Anastasia to death then introduce her to his mom, leave her bruised and then soulfully play the piano, all the while being so stricken by his attraction for Anastasia (including, it can't be said enough times, the way she bites her lower lip) that he is willing to break all sorts of previously unbendable rules, such as being affectionate and sleeping in the same bed as her until, spoiler, whiting this part out, select it with your cursor if you want to read this: she concludes after a savage spanking that much as the great Meat Loaf sang, she would do anything for love but she won't do that. 

Well. At least pending the sequels.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the very most popular books of all time.

5) So, um, why is it so popular?

Needless to say, I am not exactly the target audience for this book.

But even I can see how Fifty Shades of Grey fits neatly into a very old archetype that continues to resonate in our culture. The aloof, successful, mysterious, wildly attractive rogue who shows interest in a woman despite her initial resistance and even after that man warns the woman about himself: It's not a new story. You can trace that archetype from Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice to Twilight to Fifty Shades of Grey and countless other iterations. It's a new spin on a very old trope: romantic entanglement with a Byronic hero.

I also don't think it's only women who are prone to stories of an ardent and attractive suitor arriving to shake up their life, as the manic pixie dream girl movie genre can attest. Many heterosexual guys seemingly want a hot girl to come along and take care of everything as well, preferably when she's played by Natalie Portman or Zooey Deschanel.

Fifty Shades of Grey may not break new ground, but surely it benefited from being released in the Kindle/iPad era (where onlookers can't easily see/judge what you're reading), it gave an urbane veneer to a romance genre that very often skews rural/suburban, and if you'll excuse the metaphor, Twilight may well have primed the pump for a book that maintains the same archetypal romantic dynamic while allowing its protagonists to consummate their relationship.

Why now? Maybe as we sprint toward chartering new gender and relationship dynamics with more sensitive guys and greater equality there's some appetite to escape into a story with a less complicated and familiar throwback to a dominant man and submissive woman. Maybe we've become such a sexually open society people were ready for the needle of mainstream edginess to be moved a little farther over. Maybe Christian Grey and his dorkily named helicopter are just that hot.

Maybe, at the end of the day, bestsellers are largely random.

What do you think? What has made Fifty Shades of Grey such a phenomenon?

74 Comments on Why Fifty Shades of Grey is Popular, last added: 12/6/2012
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10. Video Sunday: That cake’s my most bestest creation

Who says you need to be Ed Emerley to make fingerprints dance?  A canny bit of book promotion, this title is out this year but I certainly hadn’t heard of it until now (Laurence King Publishers, anyone?).  Now I’ll need to see it for myself.  It’s Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art by Marion Deuchars.  Thanks to Julian Hector for the link!

Altogether now . . . awwwwwwwwww.

Okay, book trailer time.  Full discloser, Mr. Eliot Schrefer is in my writing group and I read this book, Endangered, in manuscript form.  The man can write.  I mean, really write.  I don’t see much YA in a given year, but I saw this and it was glorious.  But, in the words of the immortal LeVar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p75AP5ABuE8&feature=embed

Or, if you’d just rather watch Eliot get covered in apes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nILY_hhsKvE&feature=embed

Then there’s Mr. Jarrett Krosoczka. Or, as I like to think of him, the hardest working man in show business.  Now I only assume this, but surely he teaches other authors how to use social networking and technology to connect with fans, yes?  I only wonder since he’s sort of really good at it.  Example A: a recap of a webcast his did with kids recently.  Theme song and all:

Example B: The comics that were made during the workshop.  I rest my case.

Finally, my off-topic video that isn’t very off-topic.  If I’m going to be honest, I almost opened the post today with this bad lip-reading of Twilight.  What can I say?  It made me laugh very very hard (on the second segment anyway).  Forgive me if there’s a political ad before it.

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11. This Week in Books 8/2/12

Relatively quiet weeks in books as the dog days of summer are here, but I spotted a few good ones for you. As always, please share the best ones you saw in the comments section!

Colson Whitehead, who is spectacular on Twitter, is equally spectacular in the pages of the NY Times as he has 11 rules for writing, some of which are hilariously dubious. My favorite is #8.

The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy has now outsold the Harry Potter series on Amazon UK. Yes, really.

Probably not a coincidence that another self-published book that started as Twilight fan fiction just sold for seven figures.

Who says agents aren't embracing the future? Agent Ted Weinstein built a widget that allows you to sell books from multiple vendors on your blog or website. Check it out.

Adding to the chorus that social media alone can't sell books, industry sage Mike Shatzkin gets at the broader question that is getting more and more crucial to answer: does the publisher add value commensurate with their share of the revenue?

And, of course, since it's summer, book covers matched with bikinis!

This week in the Forums, debating re-writing classics with an erotic slant (will that be the new X and Zombies?), new vs. experienced agents, writing from loneliness, and what to do when an idea takes over.

And finally, one of my favorite viral videos of all time, I give you Buttermilk the very excited goat!



Have a great weekend!

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12. A chaste book with the naughty bits avoided or omitted …

Fifty Shades of GreyI’m pretty much standing alone among writers in saying that the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon is a good thing. The general stance is that it’s poorly written commercial drivel leading the reading (and non-reading) masses astray. Me? I think the issues and opportunities are—please excuse the pun—a little more grey.

First and foremost, there’s an element of ‘why her and not me?’ in some writers’ chagrin. Nobody likes a whinger. It’s admittedly got to bite a bit when E.L. James’ writing’s so guffaw-inducing bad (my friend and fellow editor Judi makes me giggle regularly by quoting the bit about Ana’s very own ‘Christian-flavoured popsicle’). It’s got to bite a bit more when you’ve been slaving away for years at your own writing with limited success.

But it ignores the fact that there’s a lot going for Fifty Shades, not least that its success has opened others’ doors. I’ve personally been offered a number of chances to review ‘the next’ Fifty Shades book and to interview its author. Ergo, opportunities for me and opportunities for erotic fiction authors who, it should be noted, were until recently low on the (little-discussed) writing hierarchy—they’re like romance writers but considered more snicker-worthy.

Surely those writers should be grateful that James’ trilogy has ratcheted up the chance of erotic fiction writers for obtaining publishing contracts and has driven eyes and sales to the genre? And beyond the genre, for that matter—James’ own husband has scored a book deal for his crime thriller (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered trying to find and marry an up-and-coming writer who might be able to piggyback me across the bestselling line).

Mr James’ book is apparently in no way connected to Fifty Shades, but who are we kidding? Everyone’s going to be scouring the pages for hints of his and Mrs James’ sex life (and if I were him I wouldn’t care—a book sale’s a book sale and he might even gain some readers who otherwise didn’t know they enjoyed thrillers).

The Da Vinci CodeBecause for all the ‘it’s so badly written’ grumbling, Fifty Shades has done for erotica what Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter have done for their respective genres before—they’ve got people reading and they’ve got people talking about reading.

Whether readers and critics realise it or not (and it’s the ‘or not’ that’s arguably key in the same way that parents try to ensure that kids don’t realise they’re eating green vegies)

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13. Conjure This

I picked up a copy of Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife on Amazon. Yes, I went for the dead tree edition for six bucks rather than a $7.69 e-copy. I'm still that guy. If the price was $3.99 or less on Kindle, maybe... but that's beside the point.

I'm a good twenty pages in, and it's a fine book, but the cover troubles me:


This woman is not Tansy. Not in my imagination. Not from a book published in 1943, no matter how dark the fantasy. The hair, her dress, the gothed-out eyes... Not to mention the words at the bottom of the cover: "The Classic of Urban Fantasy". What? Urban Fantasy wasn't even a phrase one used in 1943. Was it?

This is marketing, sure, disguising a classic horror novel in trappings of the now to sucker new readers. Not unlike slapping a Twilighty cover on Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice:


Oh yes they did.

Does the cover effect my reading of the book?  The jury is still out, but if I'm thinking about the cover instead of the content, I'd have to say all signs are pointing to YES. What about you?

4 Comments on Conjure This, last added: 3/30/2012
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14. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Teaser Trailer Unveiled

Summit Entertainment has released the first teaser trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. We’ve embedded the trailer above–what do you think?

The 15-second clip has drawn more than 116,800 “likes” on Facebook. The film comes out in November, and the full trailer will be available on the movie’s Facebook page on March 26th.

Stephenie Meyer‘s novel Breaking Dawn features an elaborate plot inspired by two William Shakespeare plays: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Merchant of Venice.

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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15. Studio Coffee Run 2/23/12: Archer, True Blood, Kick Ass and RED sequel news, etc.

archer 240 200x266 Studio Coffee Run 2/23/12: Archer, True Blood, Kick Ass and RED sequel news, etc.

Archer (Image via EW)

Archer, the wildly successful animated show that surpasses even Mad Men in the number of drinks the characters consume in a single episode has been renewed for a 4th Season. The Emmy and Annie Award nominated FX cartoon has been averaging about 2 million viewers per episode this season, up 32% from last season. And keerist, I hope I make it home in time tonight to be one of them. (via HuffPo)

The trailer for Morgan Spurlock’s retardedly titled Comicon Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope has debuted on the interwebs and is available for your viewing pleasure at the link (via The Hollywood Reporter)

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! There are more Walking Dead production leaks floating around, this time on an IMDB message board. This one says the next episode is Shane, Rick and new soon to be half-legged survivor, Randall, centric. Spinoff Online also has a pretty neat behind the scenes clip of just what it takes to make everything look all zombie awesome on the show.

In this week’s John Carter ramp up news, Andrew Stanton will have you know, among other things, that there’s been no budget overage, damnit! (via Spinoff Online) Also, two of the film’s stars Taylor Kitsch and Willem DaFoe say they’re contractually obligated to do sequels (via /Film)

Bleach is getting the live action treatment from Warner Brothers (via The Beat)

mark millar image 3 167786619 200x106 Studio Coffee Run 2/23/12: Archer, True Blood, Kick Ass and RED sequel news, etc.

7 Comments on Studio Coffee Run 2/23/12: Archer, True Blood, Kick Ass and RED sequel news, etc., last added: 2/24/2012
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16. Ypulse Essentials: The Grammys Were Flat, Getting Serious About Streaming TV, More Hunger Games News

 There were few surprises at the Grammy Awards this year, including Adele taking home (six awards, winning in every category in which she was nominated. The Grammys tried to reach out to a young audience with a showcase of electronica music, which... Read the rest of this post

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17. Blogger Loses Everything in Fire

Just read this post and wanted to pass it along in hopes that others would help:

Fellow Blogger loses everything...
January 21, 2012, Posted by Donna at 11:05 am

One of our fellow bloggers and dear friend Yara lost everything yesterday in a devastating house fire. She and her family are all safe, but they have lost everything.

If you want to help Yara and her family we suggest you do so through the Twilight Moms site. If you want to support Yara, please follow this link.


We totally trust that Lisa and the Twilight Moms will make sure every penny reaches Yara and her family. And every penny will help them rebuild the pieces of their world.

Sending positive thoughts your way, Yara!
~EFG Staff
To help and/or donate, please click here.

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18. Melissa Rosenberg Talks about Adapting ‘Breaking Dawn’

Twihards around the world will watch The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 this weekend. In the latest installment of the blockbuster series, fans can expect to see a dramatic vampire wedding and eventful honeymoon.

We caught up with screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg to talk about writing scripts and the adaptation process. The highlights follow below…

Q: Describe the writing process when you are charged with adapting a book for a script versus writing an original script.
A: Each comes with its own challenges, but nothing is more difficult than starting with a blank page, as a writer does with an original project. I had the good fortune to start with an already fully fleshed out universe and mythology. But an adaptation comes with its own challenges: Honing a 500 page novel into a 110 page script. Externalizing very internal character arcs. Not pissing off the millions of fans around the world who don’t understand, or frankly care, that a book and a movie are very different animals, and that one can’t simply transfer the entire text into screenplay format and shoot it.

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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19. Showcase #3

Recently, I was invited to join the group Writers of the South (USA). It is a small, but enthusiastic group of authors in every type of genre. The group is aimed at supporting and promoting authors in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.

As we grow, we plan to take several opportunities to showcase the varied and talented people in the group. We will hit it hard over the next couple of days, hopefully gaining some new exposure and introducing you to writings you might not have found otherwise. Looking at the group, there is something for everyone, so be sure to check these posts every day.  The plan is to do this again in a few months.

Today, the spotlight shines on Corine A. Belle (aka Sandy Theriot)

Corine says, "Welcome To My Legend! I am an apiring author who loves to write YA in the supernatural/romance/thriller/humor. I welcome negative and postive feedback. It will be taken seriously and without prejudice. Thank you so much for your support!!!"

Sandy has been writing from personal experiences since she was a teen. More recently, her work has taken a turn with inspiration from Stephanie Meyers' Twilight Saga. Check out her YA supernatural writing at the link above!

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20. Three Debut Novelists Score Movie Deals

Writers Veronica Roth, Marie Lu and Erin Morgenstern all landed movie deals for their debut novels.

Roth released Divergent in May; Morgenstern’s book The Night Circus is due out in September and Lu’s title Legend will hit bookstores in late November. Lu sold her book’s movie rights to CBS Films. Summit Entertainment snatched up the rights to Roth and Morgenstern’s novels.

According to Variety, Harry Potter film producer David Heyman is interested in The Night Circus film. Deadline reported that Twilight film producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are looking at Legend. All three authors made an appearance at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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21. Ypulse Essentials: The ‘Phineas & Ferb’ Movie Reaches Record Ratings, Teen Choice Awards Winners, Enjoy A Bieber Sundae

Disney debuted the TV movie ‘Phineas and Ferb: Across The 2nd Dimension’ on Friday (and the flick — based on the TV series of the same title — drew in an impressive 7.6 million viewers! It’s the top cable movie of the year so... Read the rest of this post

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22. Read a Banned Book This Week

First Book Salutes Banned Books WeekThis week is Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating our freedom to read whatever we like. It’s not that we want to celebrate the banning of books, of course. What we celebrate is the power of books to convey ideas, even ideas that are shocking, controversial or unpopular.

Sponsored by the American Library Association and many others, Banned Books Week is an important way to shine a light on these books. Many of the books highlighted during Banned Books Week were only the target of attempted bans; a powerful reminder of the importance of staying vigilant about protecting our First Amendment right to read any books we like.

At First Book, we like to walk the walk, so we make a special effort to ensure that the schools and programs in our network have access to high-quality books – including many that have been banned, or the target of attempted bannings.

Check out these books (and more) on the First Book Marketplace, and make sure the kids you serve have the chance to read them all, and make up their own minds.

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23. Ypulse Essentials: Warner Bros. Creepy Social Series, Arby’s Goes ‘Healthy,’ Music Makes It All Better

We know Millennials have more relaxed views about online privacy (than do older generations, but even they might think Warner Bros. has crossed the line with its new online “social series” called “Aim High.” Starring Jackson... Read the rest of this post

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24. Ypulse Essentials: ‘Hunger Games’ Posters, Redbox Pulling A Netflix?, Kids And TV Consumption

Every time ‘Hunger Games’ content hits the Web, the Internet goes into a frenzy (which happened overnight when promo posters of the film’s stars were released. Fans may have been critical of the movie’s casting originally, but we doubt they... Read the rest of this post

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25. Twilight: Breaking Dawn Giveaway


Happy Breaking Dawn release day! Love it or hate it, you probably have an opinion about Breaking Dawn. Personally, it was my least favorite book out of the four and I think it's ridiculous that they've broken it up into two films. However, it's a tradition among my friends to get a group together to see the movies when they're released. I don't think they're great movies but they're fun and I always have a good time seeing them with my friends. And no, I do not have midnight tickets. We are going Sunday afternoon and I am really looking forward to it.  

So in the spirit of fun, we here at RNSL are hosting a Breaking Dawn Giveaway. One lucky winner will get the following goodies:


Breaking Dawn Hardcover
Twilight Deluxe CD soundtrack album
New Moon soundtrack album
Eclipse soundtrack album
Breaking Dawn soundtrack album

Another two winners will be picked to get Breaking Dawn CDs. That's 3 winners total. Following is not required though it's always appreciated. All you have to do is leave a comment with whether or not you love or hate Breaking Dawn and why.  Sorry, only open to U.S. residents. Good luck!




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