History Nerd

My son recently had to study for his first really big test at school. It was all about Michigan history, and I’ll admit that helping him study was a lot more fun for me than it was for him.

He’s eight years old, so it’s all pretty boring to him. I am fifty and a certifiable nerd, so I enjoyed it. The experience reminded me of just why I minored in history in college for about two weeks in my Sophomore year, somewhere in the middle of minoring in Journalism, Theater, and Communications.

Okay, I’m an indecisive nerd.

I love history. Oh, not all the exact dates and numbers of famous battles in history or stuff like that. I’m more interested in how people lived ‘way back when. What they wore. What they ate. Who they married. What was it like to travel by covered wagon? And what did it take to make a journey like that, especially knowing that you might never come home to see your family ever again?

I want to read stories about people who lived during exciting times in history. I was amazed to learn that many of the women who traveled with their men on those wagon trains actually walked alongside the wagons for most of the journey. Walked. I could never have done that! Heck, I don’t even like walking to the convenience store.

When I made the decision to trying writing a historical romance, I put a lot of thought into choosing what era to write about and what part of the country to use as a setting. Michigan was a pretty easy choice because I’ve lived here all my life and I know the area. It wasn’t exactly the “Wild West” but it was definitely a frontier in its own right, complete with drama, adventure, and hardship.

And history.

One story that always fascinated me as a kid was the one about Old Lady Leary’s cow kicking over the lantern and starting the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Now, in reality, the fire had nothing to do with a cow, but it was a huge turning point in Michigan’s history. The lumber industry revved up into high gear to produce wood for rebuilding after the fire, which led to decimation of much of our forests here in the lower peninsula. There were boom towns that grew up around the increased need for lumber; towns that were left in ruins when the trees were gone. One such town was Singapore, which is now buried somewhere beneath the sand not far from modern-day Saugatuck.

Everyone knows about the Great Fire. But what most people don’t know is that Chicago wasn’t the only town that burned from October 8 – 10, 1871. Fires in Peshtigo, Wisconsin claimed anywhere from 1,200 to 2,400 lives. And in Michigan, towns like Holland, Port Huron, and Manistee suffered near-total devastation, while smaller towns were also damaged as well. There is no way of knowing just exactly how many lives were lost during the disaster.

I find it amazing that anything so huge has been basically forgotten in the 145 years since then. So I wanted to build my series around that event, featuring women who come to the town of Serenity for their own reasons– although each one comes because of a promise made in letters she has received. Letters to Caroline tells the story of the days leading up to the fire, while Victoria’s Lessons and Love, Charlotte are all set during the aftermath and rebuilding.

I know not everyone gets as excited about history as I do, but I hope some of you get excited about an adventure and love (of course!) set against a background of American history.

To find out more about my Brides of Serenity series, please sign up to receive my newsletter with information on release dates and maybe a sneak peek or two. I’ll even send you a free short story that takes place a few months before the series starts.

 

Insecure Writer Wednesday

IWSG

 

Okay, it needs to be said.

I write romance because I read romance.

Deal with it.

I am so tired of hearing people dismiss romantic fiction as being somehow substandard. Being a fan of romantic fiction doesn’t mean I am stupid. Nor does it mean that my books are easy to write or that I am in some way “selling out” by writing in a popular market. It doesn’t mean that I am sexually frustrated, lonely, or lost in a dreamworld of unrealistic expectations when it comes to love.

It just means that I enjoy stories in which everyone gets a Happily Ever After. So sue me. Okay, so I’m also frustrated, lonely, and lost in a dreamworld of unrealistic expectations when it comes to love, but that’s not why I write romance novels. That’s just a lucky bonus, I guess.

Other writers are the worst. In writing forums, there are those who bemoan their own lack of sales and then say things like, “I should just give up and write romance novels to pay my bills until my REAL books start selling.”

How’s that working out for you?

One of my friends, a man whose writing talent leaves me in awe, has told me on more than one occasion that “You are a really talented writer, Amy; I don’t see why you waste your talent writing romance novels.”

Ouch. He means it as a compliment, but I rank it right up there with compliments like, “You’re really pretty for a fat girl”.

Do I sound defensive? Probably. But damn it, I am defensive.  I could list all kinds of statistics and facts about the popularity of romantic fiction; I could throw out some dollar figures that would blow your mind. I could even take a scholarly route and point out the classic, respected authors throughout history whose works could be classified as romantic fiction. But I don’t think it would change many opinions.

Or maybe I could take a deeper look and ask myself just exactly why I’m feeling so defensive on the subject.

You know, romance novels are not the only kind I want to write. When I was growing up, I wanted to create the next Three Investigators or Trixie Belden series. I still want to write for young adults. I want to write mysteries too. Or adventures. Or historical fiction. I’ve even thought about writing my own memoir detailing my 2011 freak accident and the long recovery that followed.  But right now, I choose to write romance. I’m not settling. I’m not selling out. I’m choosing a genre that I love, and I hope I’m good at it.

I’m still planning on trying all those things. Okay, maybe not the memoir. Nobody wants to read that. Then again, nobody seems to want to read my collection of humorous essays, but that didn’t stop me from writing and publishing it. I’m sure the thirteen people who bought it have really enjoyed it.

The truth is that I have doubts, too. Most of the time, I’m content to set my writing goals at “Have fun, make people happy, try to make enough money to pay my bills.” Most of the time, I can accept the fact that, as a romance writer, I’m a very small fish in a very big sea. Odds are good that I am never going to be a multi-millionaire making guest appearances on “The View” to talk about the billions of people whose lives were changed by reading my masterpiece. I am happy doing what I love, living out my dream of being a writer, making a little bit of money.

I have my bad days when the doubts take my breath away and I wonder if I’m wasting my time writing in a genre that isn’t going to be taken seriously. Like when I just read Wool by Hugh Howey. I have to be honest; I wasn’t expecting much. I figured it was all hype and no substance. Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. So very wrong. It was amazing. I don’t think I breathed the entire time I was reading it. I had to follow it up immediately with Shift and Dust, and then I dropped into a huge, deep pit of despair at the realization that I will probably never, ever write anything that good.

But I might. I may still have the Great American Novel churning away somewhere inside me, trying to get out. Then again, that may be gas.

Either way, I want to write the books that give me pleasure. I like entertaining people with the things that I write, and I’m having a blast coming up with ideas to write about in several genres — and yes, that includes romance. It takes effort, practice and talent to write well in any genre, and we all suffer from enough doubts and insecurities on our own. 

Can’t we all, as writers, be supportive of our fellow writers in all genres? Because, to be honest, I sometimes feel like romance writers are the Rodney Dangerfields of the writing world.

respect

 

This post was written as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group, where writers gather to share our concerns and show our support for each other.  Remember, guys, we’re all in this together.

 

 

 

 

 

Dream a Little Dream

A funny thing happened on the way to my next novel.

It took me three years to write my first book.  I self-published it before it was ready, and had to spend the next several months playing a game of Learn-As-You-Go as I scrambled to fix all of my mistakes.  My second book took a year to write, but I was much more prepared when I self-published that one.  My third is now in progress, tentatively heading toward a June release, which means it will only take me about six months to write when all is said and done.

And that’s where the wheels fall off the wagon.

First, I wanted to name my heroine Bobbie. I like that name, and it would have worked very well for the character.  However, I work with a woman named Bobbie, and that could become really awkward, really fast when I start writing a sex scene. So I asked Bobbie if she would mind my using her name for this book, as long as I promised that the character was not based on her in any way.

She gave her permission to use her name, but with the stipulation that she wanted the Bobbie in my book to be a villain.  Evil. A terrible, horrible, simply awful creature.

Well, crap. Since my first two books contain a beautiful but cruel female antagonist, I really wanted to avoid doing that again.  So the idea of “Evil Bobbie” had to be shelved for a while, and I went back to finding just the right name for my heroine.

A few nights later, I had a really vivid dream. I dreamed out the entire plot of a new story that was so realistic, so detailed, that it was like watching a movie.  It was the story of a divorcee who has spent the past year living in a sort of a fog, unable to move on from her divorce.  Her children go off to spend a month with their father over summer vacation, and she is at a loss about what to do during an entire month by herself.  Of course, she has a guy friend.  And since this is a romance novel, the guy friend is one hot and sexy studmuffin. Mr. Studmuffin convinces the heroine to make a list of things she’s never done before, and they spend the month working their way through the list as their friendship gradually grows into something more. The big question is whether or not she is ready to let herself take a chance on love, and I think the ending may come as a bit of a surprise.

I woke up and wrote it down.  I even found a place for “Evil Bobbie,” although she’s not so much evil as just unpleasant, and her name lost a letter somewhere along the line.

Some of you know that I’ve gone through my own divorce in the past year, so you may be wondering how much of myself I’ve put into this one.  Rest assured, the story is a work of fiction.  However, in the same way that Her House Divided is a piece of fiction that contains my real car accident and injuries, Love’s Little List is a piece of fiction that contains a few real emotions. Divorce sucks, even an amicable one like mine, and it felt really good to dig down deep and exorcise a few personal demons.

list

If that makes any sense at all.

I am very proud of Love’s Little List.  It turned out to be an 18,000-word mini-novel that may possibly be the most personal thing I’ve ever written, even though it is completely fictional.  I feel like I hit just the perfect tone with this one, somewhere in between the usual serious tone of my romance novels and the lighter tone of my blog. It’s not quite a romantic comedy, but it has a lot more humor than I’ve ever put into a novel before.  It’s not technically a part of my Beach Haven series, although it is set in the same town and even contains a few minor characters from the series.

I’m nervous about this one, especially since I released it with no fanfare, no publicity. I’m afraid I may have made a huge mistake by publishing it as-is instead of trying to flesh it out into a full-length novel, but time will have to tell if I did the right thing or not. This story basically wrote itself; who am I to tell it to grow to 50,000 words?

And just for the record, if there is a real Mr. Studmuffin out there looking for a middle-aged, overweight, divorced mother of three, would he please step out of the romance novel and give me a call?

A Wilder Thought

I am having a major problem completing my novel.

I blame blogging and Jasinda Wilder.

Let’s tackle blogging first.  Some days, I really struggle to write anything worth posting.  It’s hard work.  It’s not fun.  And when it’s finished, I usually don’t like it.  On those days, it’s not that there’s a problem with the actual writing itself; grammatically speaking, it’s fine.

It’s just . .  . cold.  Flat.  Lifeless.  A well-written Wikipedia entry.

But then I have the days when everything flows.   I sit at the computer and zap! I’m just along for the ride.  It doesn’t feel like work at all.  It feels like play.  It’s fun.  My stories and essays write themselves, just borrowing my fingers on the keyboard to give them life.

I can feel my face flush with the exhilaration of knowing that I am creating something good.  I am writing things that I will later look at with awe and ask, “Did I really write that?”

Blogging has taught me that, while writing is a business that requires hard work and planning, it’s also something I don’t ever want to give up again.  And that some of my very best work is the stuff that comes out when I’m enjoying myself, not when I’m trying so hard.   And that lesson has made me doubt the work I have done so far on my own novel.

My novel isn’t fun.  I’ve spent two years fighting with it, and it’s still not finished. I’ve started to hate my main characters.  Part of me wants to put the whole damn thing away for a few months and take a break so I can write something fun, but the logical part of me knows I will never come back to it if I do.  I know that follow-through is not my strong suit, and that I tend to quit projects because of self-doubt and fear.

Besides, an agent wants to see it.  I can’t blow this opportunity!

Then there’s Jasinda Wilder.  She and her husband were facing foreclosure when they decided to write an erotic romance novel a la Fifty Shades of Grey. In less than thirty days, she did her market research, churned out and self-published Big Girls Do it Better, and sold more than 500 copies in the first day.   Since then, she has published several more, and according to CBS News, she now averages over $100,000 in sales per month.

I want to hate her.  I want to dismiss her as a talentless hack.   But I’ve read her books, and they’re pretty good.  Not always to my taste; I’m really not a fan of erotica, and my favorite romances tend to be the more chaste ones.  But she writes very well, and I have to say that she deserves the success she has found.

She also seems to be a very nice, down-to Earth person.

But.

If she can knock out book after book after book faster than the speed of light while I do everything but pour my blood on the page, then maybe I’m not meant to be a writer.  Should it really be this hard?

If it’s this hard, maybe it’s just not meant to be.

So I am asking my fellow writers for advice.  What do you do when self-doubt and frustration attack?  How do you keep from being jealous of writers like Jasinda Wilder, for whom it all seems to be so easy?

How do you know when it’s time to give up on a project or just keep pushing to break through the tough spots on your current one?

How do you convince yourself to finish something when it has stopped being fun?

Thinking of Ewww

I decided to try reading a little erotica last night.  Strictly for research purposes, of course.

I’ve written here before about my difficulty in writing sex scenes for my romance novel.  I’m still waffling on which direction to go:  squeaky-clean or hot and heavy.  While I’m more comfortable with the squeaky route, it seems as though the sexier books are more in demand.  Besides, I’ve reached a point in my story where a chaste kiss just ain’t getting it done.

I’ve read my share of “naughty” books in my life; I’m not that naïve.   My friends and I used to pass around worn-out copies of Wifey, Seventeen, and anything by Danielle Steele.  I’ve blocked out the trauma of reading Lace and  A Sensuous Woman while still in high school, but most of Destiny is still locked in my memory.  Unfortunately.

My mother was addicted to those multi-generational sagas that were so popular back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and she really shouldn’t have let me borrow them.  I remember lots of descriptive sex scenes with heaving bosoms and swelling manhood and a definite overuse of the verb “thrust”.  Those books always seemed to have a heroine who was multi-orgasmic when deflowered, usually against her will, only to fall in love and live happily ever after with her assailant.

Those books were referred to as “Bodice-rippers.”  Mom called them “Crotch-wetters.”

Classy lady, my mother.

But I had never encountered full-out erotica until recently.  There is a huge market for writers of erotica, especially with all of the self-publishing options available today.  If I could write a really hot piece of erotic fiction, I could get myself published and start making money with my writing almost immediately.  It could be a great way to open some doors.

Or so I thought.

I bought a 99-cent erotic romance for my Nook so I could read it and see for myself what the fuss is all about.   Put the kids to bed, told The Big Guy what I was going to read, and made myself a nice hot cup of Chamomile.  I figured my “research” could be sort of fun.

Two pages in, I dumped the Chamomile and grabbed a beer.

By the end of the first chapter, I announced, “Screw the beer.  Do we have anything stronger?”

It was the most badly-written, God-awful, amateurish piece of crap I have ever seen.  It was like reading a sexual fantasy scribbled by a horny seventh grader hiding under his bed with a notebook, flashlight, and box of tissue.

I couldn’t even focus on the action in the story.  I was too focused on the almost complete lack of punctuation and the fact that the story kept switching from past to present tense.  I kept finding plot holes and bad characterization, poor sentence structure and physically impossible contortions that weren’t sexually appealing at all.  Instead of getting turned on, all I got was a desire to attack the book with a red pen and start proofreading the living hell out of it.

I think my eyeballs are bruised.  I can’t believe I read that.

I can’t believe I paid money to read that.

With the erotica market so big right now, and the success of books like Fifty Shades of Grey, I have to wonder if the average reader has standards set so low that quality no longer matters in fiction.  Are well-written books a thing of the past as long as writers can churn out a steady diet of smut?

Is it worth even trying to take the high road, or am I doomed to failure if my characters aren’t practitioners of BDSM?

There has to be a middle road between a Steeple Hill Christian novel that sings the virtues of virginity, and an Ellora’s Cave sex romp extolling the joys of double penetration with a dwarf and 7-foot mime while swinging from a trapeze under a chocolate waterfall.   Is it possible to write and sell a novel with sex scenes that just involve sex . . . in a bed . . . with just two people . . . no ropes or whip crème or furry rodents?

Or is that too boring?

Maybe I should write children’s books.  I’m  pretty sure Dr Seuss never had this problem.

Stroking It

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Daniels and listen to his presentation aimed at eager young Theater Majors at Central Michigan University.  He was friendly, gracious, and humble – an all-around nice guy.  Career-wise, he was somewhere between “Terms of Endearment” and “Speed”.

I was somewhere between youthful idealism and life’s first really hard bitchslap, but that’s not really relevant here.

The thing I remember most about his lecture that day was his use of the term emotional masturbation.  I don’t know if he coined the phrase or if he was quoting someone else, but he was referring to “method” acting.  He described the technique of reaching deep down into one’s psyche to pull out old hurts, past painful moments, hellish experiences.  Actors who do this don’t just feel the emotions of the scene; they re-live their agonies for the sake of giving a believable performance.

Emotional Masturbation.  Stroking one’s emotions for the sake of producing a satisfying result.

Believe it or not, I’ve used that phrase many times to describe different people in my life:  the co-workers who tell and re-tell a bad-boss-wronged-me tale, complete with tears; the clients who sit in my chair and work themselves into a breathless, red-faced tirade recalling the hairdresser who once cut off too much or permed too tightly or fried their ends;  the kids who sing a song of woe about the teacher who is supposedly out to get them.

All of them practicing the art of emotional masturbation.

Not to be confused with an Eddie Van Halen masturbatory guitar solo.  Not really relevant here, either, but I’ve waited years for a chance to use the phrase “Eddie VanHalen masturbatory guitar solo”.

I am writing a short story right now in which my main characters are trapped in a dark and terrifying maze.  It’s my attempt at writing mystery and adventure, two genres that are somewhat foreign to me.     In order to get the intense, heart-pounding feeling of being trapped, I’ve been digging down pretty deeply into my own psyche, exploring my claustrophobia.

It’s been exhausting..

I keep finding myself sitting here at the computer with my hands trembling while beads of sweat gather on my upper lip.  My heart pounds and I can’t catch my breath.   My words on the page are striking just the right mood, getting the perfect intensity I was reaching for

It’s good.

It’s emotional masturbation.  Stroking my emotions for the sake of producing a satisfying result.

Some of the best things I have ever written have been those things that came about because of a heck of a lot of that kind of stroking.   Stories for which I relived my mother’s death or my car accident, all for the sake of getting the feelings right on paper.

But . . . is it necessary?

Jeff Daniels dismissed emotional masturbation as unnecessary for producing a believable performance.  He made fun of actors who torture themselves in that manner when the audience really can’t tell the difference.  He described the happy audience leaving the theater to return home, while the poor emotionally-drained actor is left backstage in a puddle of his own self-inflicted misery.

As I devote more of my time to writing, I have to question whether or not I have what it takes to keep tearing into my soul in order to manipulate my readers’ feelings.  Where is the line between drawing from life’s experiences and immersing myself too deeply into those experiences?  I want to write believable, heart-wrenching fiction, but I don’t want to hurt myself to do so.

It’s the whole “write what you know” principle.   The heroine in my romance novel is recovering from a broken neck, and she falls in love with the hero while learning to believe that she is still a worthwhile person despite her new handicap.   She is, of course, far younger and prettier than I am, and the love of her life has a lot more hair than my husband has, but she is “what I know”.  My struggle with this character is to write about her doubts and fears and pain without going through all of it over and over again every time I sit down to write.

I’ve made her injuries less severe and her recovery more complete.  I skipped over the PTSD and depression and made the physical therapy much more sensuous but much less painful.  In the end, I think she’ll be a sympathetic character without being pathetic.  At least, that’s what I’m striving for.

Without emotional masturbation.

Erotica 101

writing

I’ve been struggling all day today to write one of those scenes for my romance novel.  Yes, one of those.   I thought this would be the fun part of writing romantic fiction.  Fun and easy.   After all, I’ve been married for nearly seventeen years and I have three children; it’s safe to say that yes, I’ve had sex.  I know how it works, which parts go where, what makes the good stuff happen.

Write what you know, they tell me.  Well, I’m no sex therapist, but I’m far from being a blushing virgin.

I got this.

So I’m baffled as to why I spent most of the day staring at my computer and blushing myself into a Rosacea flare-up.  I have finally come to the conclusion that I am going to have to write a squeaky clean romance novel, where the sex takes place behind closed doors.  Either that or I’ll end up writing a novel that contains “real” sex scenes.

And that will never get published.

In romance novels, characters say passionate things to each other during the act.  “No man has ever made me feel this way!”  the heroine shrieks at a key moment, and the hero tells her things like, “I’ve wanted to do this to you from the first time our eyes met across the room at that party.”    “I’ll love you forever,” she whispers as they roll over and start again right away.

Conversations like that just don’t happen during real sex.  If there’s any talking at all, it’s usually along the lines of “shhh, don’t wake the kids” or “ow, ow, ow, elbows!”   On a really special night, someone may utter a throaty “No, my left” but there’s no calling out of names or frantic declarations of undying love in the midst of things.  Frankly, there’s just not always enough air in one’s lungs to do all that talking while everything else is going on.

Sort of like jogging and carrying on a conversation at the same time.

Besides, I don’t know about the romantic heroines in those novels, but I just can’t focus on that many things at one time.  Forming words takes thought processes that I may not have right then.  If I stop everything to try to form intelligible words at crucial moments, I’m likely to forget what’s going on and simply end up in a conversation.  I’m easily distracted.

Real people have conversations before and after.  Not during.

Sex in those novels is always so pretty.  Bodies fit perfectly with no fat parts making slap-slap noises against other fat parts.  Nobody ever gets an inner-thigh leg cramp or whacks their head against the headboard, and God forbid those perfect bodies emit any juicy squelching sounds when parts start working in tandem.

In romance novels, the sheets have always just been changed.  Hotel bedding never has bedbugs.  Couples can romp on a beach in the pounding surf without making mental comparisons to sandpaper grades.  Sex can last for hours and hours, moving from the kitchen table to the bedroom floor to the shower stall and then finish up in the neighbor’s begonias, after which they just happen to have the right ingredients on hand for one of them to whip up a five-course gourmet breakfast while the other showers.

Seriously, don’t these people ever have to get up for work in the morning?

I’m not trying to criticize the entire genre of romantic fiction.  On the contrary, I love reading romance novels and I’m doing my best to write them.  But I have to wonder:  am I the only one who reads them for the love story and not the naughty bits?  Or am I like the man who claims to buy Playboy for the articles?

Paperback Writer

Is it a bad thing to admit that I write romance novels?

I’ve read the classics.  I majored in English and have studied the works of everyone from Aristophanes to Baudelaire to Whitman and Tennyson.  I struggled through Hardy and Lawrence and earned a grudging respect for Hawthorne’s ability to fill multiple pages with one endless sentence that somehow remained grammatically correct (see how I did that?).  I can discuss Twain and Poe the way some people talk about this week’s bargains at Wal-Mart.

But sometimes . . .  I just want to feel good.

Romance novels are all about the guaranteed happy ending.  Real life can be a little short on those. Romance in the real world is less about roses and moonlit escapades, and more about figuring out whose turn it is to pick up the kids after school.  Real life marriages deal with adultery and abuse, debt and divorce.  Seriously, when was the last time anyone jetted off to Greece for a weekend of passionate sex on a warm sandy beach?

I don’t want to read about people like me.  I have enough of my own unsolvable problems without reading about someone else’s.  Sometimes I just want to escape into a tidy 50,000-word universe where everyone’s troubles are wrapped up by the power of true love.  I know it’s not realistic.  I also know it’s not realistic to think I’ll ever fit into size 14 jeans again, but that doesn’t stop me from keeping a pair in my drawer.

When I was hurt in 2011, I had months to do nothing but read.  I vowed to keep my mind alert by tackling some of the biggies I hadn’t attempted yet, like Tolstoy.  I also devoured modern classics by authors like Piccoult and Lehane.  I even read some of the oldies-but-goodies I had somehow missed:  Anne of Green GablesPollyannaSalmon of a Doubt.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed most of them.  I don’t regret the time spent reading them.

But as I sat there in a brace from stem to stern, realizing every day just how much of my life I was never going to get back, I lost my desire to read things that were good for me.  I just wanted to go somewhere else for a while.  Somewhere that could make me forget all of the things I will never do again.  Somewhere that constant pain becomes a nagging afterthought rather than a primary focus.   A place where people recover from car accidents and go on to lead a better, fuller life thanks to the perfect love of that one special person.

Sometimes real life drops a maple tree on your car and your romantic hero sits by your hospital bed or brings you stool softeners instead of flowers.  He reads warning labels on your prescriptions rather than love poems in your honor.  Instead of donning an elegant gown and flitting off to some gala ball, you wear a hospital gown and celebrate taking three steps with a walker.  You swallow Norco and Flexeril, not champagne and strawberries.  And you figure out ways to make love despite broken necks and exhaustion and fear and the sheer ugliness of real life.

I understand that romance novels don’t reflect real life, and that every escape into one must involve a return to reality.  But so what?  I could drink to escape; I could abuse my pain meds.  I could lose myself in a wallow of self pity and chocolate.  Instead, I choose to escape temporarily into a world where everyone gets what they want and the good guys always win.

What’s so bad about that?