Disclaimer: This post will not contain spoilers, just feelings & thoughts.

I am taking James Patterson’s Masterclass on writing a novel. I am plugging away on an idea that came to me and it is interesting to see how much it is transforming and how ideas come at the oddest times.

In this course, he discusses how to end a book. He asks the students to analyze our favorite endings in both books and movies. Instantly three book endings came to mind that I want to share.

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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

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“The Age of Innocence” is probably my favorite book of all time.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 (first woman to win) and it is well deserved. This was the first book my Wharton I’ve read and have read it twice so far in life. I could go on and on about my love for the whole thing, but for the sake of this post (and your attention!) I will stick to why it is my favorite endings.

The first time I read this through, I closed the book, went up stairs and fell across the bed and said to husband, “This book…and the ending…” It was very dramatic the way this happened but no shame. I actually swoon over the ending. The way Wharton writes and how she sets everything up and her characters just make this one of the most perfect endings ever. Even thinking about it now I watch to clutch my heart with both hands and bow my head.

When I read through it a second time, I remembered the ending but I still held out hope for a different ending. Kind of like when you watch the movie Titanic and you hope the boat misses the ice burg, or when in Office Space as Peter is saving his work for the day. You still hold out hope that the computer will save before he runs into Lumburgh.

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Although the ending, of course, never changes, I still have that heart-clutching feeling at the end. Well done, Edith Wharton….well done.

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THE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD by Elena Ferrante

To be fair, the ending of this book is the ending to the entire Neapolitan novels series. And I felt it to be quite satisfying. It isn’t swoon worthy, but I felt it was a great way to conclude the series and the book as a stand-alone.  Image resultThe best way I can describe the feeling I had was a solid, single head nod. A resounding, “Yep!” comes to mind. One that I feel made sense and made all 4 of the novels wrap up nicely and worth reading. It felt real, true, and honest.


THE WHISPERER by Donato Carrisi

A book not for the faint of heart. It is violent and unnerving but so so good. Another Italian author (Ferrante the other) on this list so I assume Italians know how to do an ending! At least Italian writers.Image result for the whisperer

Because this book is not for the faint of heart, the ending isn’t either. I found it to be awesome. I can’t give it away but it is pretty wild and original.

What are some of your favorite endings?

I do not know who Elena Ferrante is – nor does anyone for that matter – but she has written a series of novels that have latched into my heart and brain and will stay there. Like other characters in books that I love, the characters are what stay with me. If a writer can create a story around people who you forget are fictional, they have done a great job indeed.

I am not one to retell the plot in my reviews. Instead I like to get right into it.

First of all, the covers. They always say not to judge a book by its cover and honestly I judged these and judged them hard. I’ve seen them in my local bookstore many times, but skipped over them because, frankly, they look like boring Chick-Lit. Not that there is anything wrong with Chick-Lit – I used to be a huge Emily Giffin fan in my early 20s – but it is not a genre I enjoy anymore because I can never relate to or sympathize with the characters.  With these covers I assumed that they would be fluff, written about women who are cliche and lead boring lives.

I was way wrong.

I had heard a few podcasts mention how great these were but I was skeptical. Finally, while visiting someone in Ohio, I stopped off at an independent bookshop determined to buy something to lend my support. I saw “My Brilliant Friend” (Book 1)  on display in the center of the store. As my husband tried to rush me out, I thought, “Why not?” I took it to the register and walked out with the book in hand. It took me a few weeks to begin reading it and once I did I couldn’t stop.

I read the first three novels back-to-back with other shorter books in between. I did not start on the fourth right away because I wanted to savor the last book, these characters and the story Ferrante weaved.

The characters are flawed in a very real way. Every single person you feel like you could know or have known, could be a neighbor or even someone in your own family. Hell, they could even be yourself.  I found myself rooting for and against every character, even the “bad guys.” In my opinion there were no good or bad guys. There were, of course, more obvious bad guys but when it came down to the root of the story, everyone was trying to survive the best way they knew how and the only way they knew how.

They all embarked on lives, careers, marriages, and parenthood in a way that is honest.  People fall on hard times, people grow apart and back together, marriages happen out of convenience or out of trying to escape. We have all had a friend we loved but also hated, felt safe with and feared, celebrated yet resented.  We’ve all idolized people or a life we long for, the what-could-have-beens and the what-should-have -beens.

This book has all of those things and so much more.

The Neapolitan Novels are not filled with jaw-dropping moments (although, I admit, I did at least once), I doubt anyone will cry their eyes out. I also believe that these are autobiographical novels…. But what will capture you are how real these people and their stories are. The plot is not one that is a “what happens next!” kind but somehow Ferrante kept me engaged so deeply that I felt I was in Naples, Italy growing up along side Lila and Elena. I felt their pain, their loss, their struggles, their joys, their lust, their anger…all of it.

When I read the last pages and last sentences, I felt like I had experienced an entire life. In fact, these novels span and entire lifetime from a very young age to old age. I’ve read a few books like this (most recently “Panchinko”) but none have done it so successfully as these novels. They are deep and engaging.

If you are looking for a real, gritty, honest set of novels about two female friends and their lifetime together, this is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I would not call myself a “traveler” nor would I classify it as a hobby. I do love to visit new places but I don’t want to “see the world.” I am blessed to live in a country that is expansive and filled with interesting cities, people, and history in their own right. Although all of this is within my reach, most of my travel within the United States has been strictly East Coast.

I have traveled to Europe. In 1999, at the age of 14,  I visited Paris and London. For my honeymoon in 2015, my husband and I took a tour of Ireland.  I’ve been to the Bahamas twice and Punta Cana. You could say that there are lots of places to check off on my list but one thing always struck me: there is a huge country just to the west of me and I want to see it!

One of the places on my list was California, but not the typical L.A., Hollywood, Beverly Hills visit. I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean and The Redwoods. After a few weeks, my husband booked and planned out our entire trip. We would fly into San Francisco, drive up the coast to Mendocino, down to Gualala and back home through San Fran Airport. 

 

As we drove up the winding coast, I would look at my phone – as one does out of habit – and noticed I had zero service. I should note that I do not have any social media apps on my phone except Twitter. That’s right: No Instagram, No Facebook, No Facebook messenger, no Snap Chat…nothing. So my checking my phone was not to check for push notifications but simply to see if I had any text messages or missed calls.

As usual, I had none.

And though I do not have apps on my phone, I will post photos or check Facebook through the web browser. So I would see a beautiful shot like the one above and think, “I need to share this!”

But I couldn’t. And I was OK with that.

My service was spotty at best throughout the 5 days and while I took photos on my phone, it was only because I wanted to capture the moment for myself. My husband had the “Big Boy” camera so I took way more shots on that than my phone.

This trip was last month and I feel ready to write about it and share it. The most remarkable experience was the Redwoods. I do not have photos of those to share now because, frankly, capturing them on a real camera is hard enough let alone of a itty-bitty phone camera. More importantly I didn’t want to. Being in those Redwoods made me feel powerful and powerless all at once. They are powerful, strong, natural structures that you have to see to believe and experience. To look up at a tree and not be able to see the top, knowing it has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years is quite humbling. I didn’t have a life-altering experience with these bad boys, but I realized that having zero service was the best unexpected gift the California coast gave me.

 

Far too often we spend most of our experiences with our phones in our hands and our eyes looking through a screen.  We never take the time to experience life through our eyes and take it as a moment that doesn’t need sharing immediately.  Our “followers” can and should wait. The best moments like the ones “captured” in California would not make the best Instagram shots that would gain me thousands of followers and sponsorships.

 

 

Like in the photo below when I visited Jessica Fletcher’s house. Happening upon this house was a complete accident. It was not until after the trip was booked that I learned the 80s-90s show Murder, She Wrote was filmed right where we were staying in Mendocino.

I couldn’t send this to anyone.  I couldn’t post it online. I couldn’t text it, email it, or Tweet it. It was MY moment. And while I am sharing it with you now, the “no service” has taught to give me pause. 

Pause before you think to jump on that app and share a photo of a delicious meal or a beautiful scene. Soak it in. Welcome it into your brain and your experience. Once you’ve done that…then, share away.

 

I noticed over the last year or so that I really love fictional detectives and their stories. It isn’t just the whodunit part of the story I enjoy but the way these characters are and how they function in the world. While I could list a lot of my favorites, I will leave this post my top two.

KATE BECKETT

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Kate Beckett came into my life through a book but wasn’t really book to start. It’s hard to explain… Let’s just say Richard Castle is a fictional crime novelist and the brilliant minds at ABC published the books shown in the show in real life for sale.

After reading the book (and trying to understand the whole author isn’t real thing) “Castle”  became my all time favorite show. Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic, is a force. She is fearless, powerful, intuitive, perceptive of even the tiniest of details, a justice-seeker while being feminine, playful and beautiful.

As a fiction character, she is a personal hero of mine. Despite the many times she has almost gotten herself killed when seeking justice for her mother’s murder, she never ever lets anyone see her sweat. She stands firmly on her two feet and speaks with confidence even when she is terrified and her voice is shaking. She is respected by everyone she comes into contact with and gives the same respect to those back. She stops at nothing to do the right thing but the beauty of  her character is that is there are moments that her desire for justice gets the best of her and she almost does the way wrong thing. But she is able to bring herself back to reality. Or leave a little piece of fear behind in those who wish to instill fear in her. Stana Katic gave life to this woman and here is one of my most favorite scenes that shows every aspect of what I wrote:

HERCULE POIROT

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I discovered “Poirot” only about a year ago. I hadn’t read anything by Agatha Christie except “And Then There Were None…” Granted, the series staring David Suchet began its 25 year run back when I was a toddler. So when this name “Poirot” kept popping up I decided to check it out.

I freaking adore Poirot.

What I love most is the selfless dedication he has for others. Although he is very particular about details many of us over look, he has a passion and desire for true justice. What I notice as I go through the series (The books are next!) is that he has set aside the “traditional” life of being, say, a husband or father. He, instead, dedicates his life to others. While he takes himself way too seriously at times, he has a heart of gold. What I like about him most is the way he gives to others and expects nothing in return…but maybe quiet, to use your little gray sells, and clean up after yourself.

 

It has been quite a while since I last posted and I have several ideas for posts to come over the next few days. I plan to be more consistent with posting and content. Lots of reading updates, of course.

But first, something completely different.

I was inspired to write this post after seeing on Twitter a series of “attacks” on women I follow on You Tube. They create mostly beauty and fashion content. I’m not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most of my outfits consist of jeans and basic tops with sneakers or at work dress pants and a nice top and the same boring (usually unseasonable) shoes. But I find these woman fascinating and aspiring. I watch to be inspired to up my fashion game, as it were, not to bring their game down.

Which leads me to the title of this post: Social Media Influencers and You.

When I was a teenager back in the 90s and early 2000s, social media did not exist. Oh, it was such a beautiful time. This isn’t to say that the Media wasn’t prime with standards or “influencers.” Back then they were simply spokes models. I remember when Jennifer Love Hewitt was the spokes model for Neutrogena. I bought so much Neutrogena and to me it was Luxury to buy a Neutrogena shampoo or lipstick that Jennifer Love Hewitt wore in a magazine shot from Cosmo or desiring that Hanes teeshirt just to match with a long red skirt (I’d never have the nerve to wear the red skirt but I wanted it!) With my Neutrogena shampoo and lipstick (I never quite made it to that Hanes teeshirt) I felt special knowing I was on par with Ms. Jennifer. Because SHE was (and still is, quite frankly) the most beautiful girl, in all the movies, all my guy friends thought she was hot, and so on and on.

Then came Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, and before all of them Cindy Crawford made me think if only I drank Pepsi instead of Coke….

Cut to today. Social media has extended its manicured nails and / or talons across the whole planet, gripping us all so tightly that celebrities – who were once unreachable except if you found their PO box in the latest issue of Teen Bop – are accessible. What is more, there are a lot of very talented people who are celebrities in their own right due to the number of followers across these social platforms. It isn’t an accident as these people all have one thing in common: they sure know how to market and create a brand. And some even are college educated in this field.

In my opinion, these so-called influencers are the newest spokes models for me. At the age of 32 I am still a sucker for an endorsement (or “sponsored”) item.  At heart, I am still that little teenager who wants to be like all the pretty girls. Brands now have a wider net to cast as people today fast forward through commercials and no longer subscribe to magazines. Brands have to get creative and find their market. That market are the men and women creating content online. Not all brands have pockets deep enough to pay a Jennifer Aniston, but maybe, just maybe, they can get this beautiful internet girl to try their product and talk about it. Hell, maybe we’ll even ask for a campaign. These campaigns are no different than commercials on TV; the only real difference is the people creating, editing, producing, (what else!) the campaign are the people in campaigns.

So what does that mean? These brands expect Quality. It used to be people discussed a product in a sit-and-chat video, but the internet has evolved. I can only assume no brand wants people to take half-assed shots on a cell phone or a poorly edited video. Brands hire these men and women and expect a return on their investment.

I’ve read comments that You Tubers, et. al. are not/should not try to be up to standard with the likes of Vogue’s content, but why the hell not?! I don’t know about you but seeing half-dead/strung out ads for Dior or overly fake tanned shiny lipped chick on a beach doesn’t make me want to buy a $100 lipstick. With the demand for Quality these brands expect, these 21st century spokes models need to bring on people to create that quality if they themselves cannot. And the better content they can produce, the more they are hired, the more brands are exposed, the more products sell. That is the bottom line.

Of course, there are some people out there who will create a video for sandpaper toilet paper, but not all are like this. I’ve come across many who insist on only talking about brands or products they actually like and it is pretty damn easy to sniff out the fake ones if you just open your eyes and ears a little. But the ones creating content that is true to their style or lifestyle are those we need to not attack. I’m not saying we need to attack the sandpaper toilet paper pushers either. I am simply stating that there is a brand new sales market for brands and they have tapped into this resource. Some allow it to go to their heads, but many MANY do not. For these people, to up their quality and content game with hired photographers or editors is not a crime and should be encouraged! As long as you can tell they are staying true to themselves in other parts of their posts, you can simply skip the ones that say “ad” in the title, which is something I do personally. If it is titled something that doesn’t interest me, I don’t watch. If I start to watch a video and suspect it is sponsored I scan the description box to confirm. If it does appear sponsored and doesn’t state it in the description box but it gives me an uneasy feeling I move on to another video, or I keep watching because, hey, that dress does look nice and I kind of want it…but I don’t wear dresses…but I’ll keep watching.

As non-influencers we have a choice: to engage or not.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt icky watching something and thought of something to say to them. But truly, why rain on someone’s parade? Why be cruel for the sake of being cruel? The internet is FILLED with content I prefer to see so I go there instead.

As for influencers: there has been a lot of back and forth. I don’t follow or even know many but I see the utter nastiness among those who create. It is as if they feel like their territory is threatened and if they do not bring this person down they will lose EVERY follower, every brand support, every dollar they worked for. The internet is a big place and there’s room for everyone and their way of doing “it” just like there is  a huge planet and different ways people choose to live. Right or wrong, like it or not, that is just how it is. By attacking fellow influencers you are hurting your own brand and content, not the person you are attacking.

Blogs, videos, Instagram photos, Tweets, are simply this: For Entertainment Purposes Only.

If it is your job too create online content, you are providing a source of entertainment. If you are a viewer, is it to escape the brutal reality in which we live and are exposed to 24-7. There is enough unnecessary hate and violence in this world… we don’t need to bring hate and violence to a woman or man who tapped into a new industry, gained exposure from hard work and LOTS of patience. You may disagree with how they do their business, but handle your own business and conduct yourself professionally: brands and your viewers are watching.

I’ll leave you with this thought: If your favorite brand (whatever it is) starting to attack another brand that sold a similar product (one you like, know, or not) in a ruthless and petty way, which brand would you continue to support? Or which brand would you BEGIN to support?

That is all.