Friday, November 22, 2013

Guest Blog: Theresa Paolo - Finding Inspiration

I'm super excited to welcome author Theresa Paolo to the blog!  Her book (NEVER) AGAIN came out in October.  She's here today to talk a little bit about inspiration for the book, as well as inspiration in general.  Take it away, Theresa!

Thanks, for having me!

Inspiration is a large part of being a writer. It doesn’t just stop at that first spark of an idea either. It carries on throughout the entire time you’re working on a book. It can be triggered by almost anything, at least for me it can. A conversation, a news story, a sign on a tree, a song, anything. And when that moment hits, it is the best feeling. I can never get the idea down fast enough. I carry three notebooks with me at all times, but even though I’m prepared, most of my inspiration tends to hit when I’m in the shower. Why wouldn’t it?

The inspiration for (Never) Again was sparked by a news story. It was a tragedy, and I remember thinking not about the people who were involved in the event, but about the family members and friends who were watching it unfold, bit by torturous bit on TV and the radio. Little information was known, but for the people watching the TV and listening to the radio, it was enough to know that their lives may be changed forever.

I thought about their stories, and how they were going about their lives just like any other day when they received word of what was happening. My thoughts turned into a story and Liz was born. A girl who was not handling the fact that her ex boyfriend was back in town. Compared to the event she would watch unfold on TV her problems were absolutely ridiculous. But I wanted the story to be real. How many times have you had a bad day and you think it’s the end of the world? And how many times have you seen something that makes you realize your problems are miniscule? That’s where the idea came together.

A few scenes in the book were inspired by things my Dad has said. He’d be happy to know I’m giving him credit. The inspiration for Zach’s grandmother came from a coworker who was going through a similar situation. And the first scene where Liz dives into the bathroom to avoid Zach is actually inspired by my own personal experience of dodging an ex.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. You just have to open yourself up to it.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Theresa!  Make sure to check out (NEVER) AGAIN on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Writers betray people."

Last week, I had the honor of meeting Justin Torres, the bestselling author of WE THE ANIMALS.  If you haven't read it, you're missing out.  In short, it's a haunting coming-of-age story about family, betrayal, and sexuality that packs one hell of a punch in a whopping 125 pages.

The book.
The signed book.  It's OK to be jealous.

Though WE THE ANIMALS is fiction, Torres admits that it's thematically autobiographical.  Hence, one of the most interesting conversations we had involved his family's reaction to the book.  He said it was tough.  When the book was first coming out, he spent a lot of time worried about what they'd think when they recognized themselves in the characters.

"Writers betray people," he said.

As someone who frequently writes from personal experience, that comment really stuck with me.  He went on to say that he doesn't know if it's right.  If it's worth it.

At any rate, it got me thinking.

P.S.  Justin Torres disapproves of the blogosphere.  Oh well :)

(left to right) Me with phenomenal writers Tom Chester, Noa Nir, Meagan Smith, and Justin Torres

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Today we're celebrating the release of Theresa Paolo's (NEVER) AGAIN, a contemporary young adult romance.  Check out Theresa's blog and find (NEVER) AGAIN on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

In honor of (NEVER) AGAIN, I'm going to talk about what I've sworn never to do again, only to break the promise to myself.  What is it?  Straighten my hair.

I have hair that I like to call the Bellatrix Lestrange look:  it's curly and crazy, just like hers, and if I dare to brush out the curls, I get a lion's mane of a mess.  So I frequently attempt to tame it with a straightener.  However, every single time I do it, I tell myself that it's the last time.  Why?

Several reasons.  For one, it's not good for my hair.  I have problematic hair to begin with--thin, frizzy, fragile.  Then there's the fact that my hair just does't look all that good when I straighten it.  Sometimes it does--if someone else does it.  But when I do it, I'm impatient, and usually, it just looks stringy, almost matted, and it loses its luster.  But I keep doing it anyway.  I get frustrated with the curls and, as though to punish my hair for misbehavior, I press it between two burning plates till it's so hot I can't touch it.  Yeah, not good.

I've done it to punish my curls.  I've also done it for boys who've said they prefer my hair straight.  (The wo  Now, looking back, I shouldn't have cared what they thought.  I prefer my hair curly, and that's what matters.  So, never again will I straighten my hair.

Yeah, right.

Me and my curly hair!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October Book Recommendation

Personally, October is my favorite month.  We've finally hit Fall, which means bonfires, hayrides, s'mores, and all the wonderful spooks that come out of hiding.  It's also great time to brew a mug of hot cocoa and sit outside with a good book!

For a good October/Halloween read, I recommend THIS DARK ENDEAVOR, by Kenneth Oppel.

The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions. 
In this prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor's twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn. 
Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love - and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

Ever since reading the Matt Cruse series, Kenneth Oppel has been one of my favorite authors.  THIS DARK ENDEAVOR doesn't disappoint.  It's a page-turner that makes the Frankenstein story a lot of fun, yet doesn't lose any of its signature darkness.  Even if you're not a Frankenstein fan, I highly recommend it!

Find it here on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

Friday, August 23, 2013

THE SIGHT SEER, by Melissa Giorgio - On Sale Now!

Everyone should hurry over to Amazon to buy the wonderful Melissa Giorgio's book, THE SIGHT SEER.  Here's the blurb:

Gabi Harkins likes to think she’s a pretty normal sixteen-year-old. She goes to school, suffers though an awful part-time job, and deals with a bratty younger sister. But when a potential shoplifter morphs into a monster right in front of her, Gabi realizes her life is far from normal—especially when that monster follows her home and ends up battling a boy wielding a sword in her backyard.

That boy, Rafe Fitzgerald, is a member of Silver Moon, an organization devoted to eradicating demons before they kill humans.  If this little bit of news isn't earth-shattering enough, Rafe reveals that he needs Gabi's help.  As strong as Rafe is, he does not possess the Sight--a rare ability that allows a hunter to See through a demon's glamour, enabling them to strike before the demon does.  But guess who does?

While Gabi is reluctant to face another demon, she knows she owes Rafe big time for saving her.  Together, they're thrown headfirst into heart-stopping situations as they battle newer and more frightening demons.  When she starts to fall for Rafe, Gabi knows her normal life is gone forever.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cover Reveal: (NEVER) AGAIN by Theresa Paolo

Just when she had finally moved on…

…He moved back.

When college freshman Liz Wagner hears her ex's voice for the first time since he moved clear across the freaking country, she does what any respectable girl would do:  Dive into the girls' bathroom.

Zach Roberts--the Zach Roberts--is back.  And he's everywhere Liz looks--infiltrating her friend group, buddy-buddy with her brother.  It's enough to ruin college altogether.  But what choice does she have but to put on a happy face and pretend he didn't leave her vulnerable and alone in a pile of emotional wreckage?

Pretending works, until tragedy strikes and the only person available for comfort is the one person she wants to stay away from.  When Zach turns out not to be the jerk she convinced herself he was, but the boy she used to love, Liz needs to decide whether to open her heart again to the boy who tore it out.

About the Author:  Theresa Paolo lives in the same town she grew up in on Long Island, NY with her boyfriend an Milton, their big-eyed goldfish.  She has a hard time accepting the fact she's nearing thirty, which is why she writes New Adult and Young Adult books, reliving the best an worst years of her life through her characters.  She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor's Degree in Marketing from Dowling College.  On November 11th 2011 at 11:11 she made a wish.  Two hours later she was laid off.  Jobless for the first time since she was sixteen she was determined to make her wish come true.  Writing became her life again and after many nights of ignoring her boyfriend to spend time with her characters, she finally received teh call that all her hard work, finger crossing and eye crossing paid off.  She signed with Berkley (Penguin) and her debut novel, (NEVER) AGAIN, a NA romance, will be out in Fall 2013.  When she's not writing, she's behind a camera or can be found in the blogosphere or on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Book Birthday: UNSCRIPTED

Congratulations to Jayne Denker on her brand new book, UNSCRIPTED.

Here's the blurb:

One of Hollywood's hardest working women is about to discover there's a lot more drama behind the camera than in front of it…

Faith "Freakin'" Sinclair probably shouldn't have called her boss a perv…or grabbed his "privates."  But as creator of the hit dramedy Modern Women, she'd had enough of his sexist insults.  Now she's untouchable in the industry--not in a good way.  The only way to redeem herself is to convince Alex, the wildly popular, wildly demanding former star of her show, to come back.  But there's one obstacle in her way--one very handsome, broad-shouldered obstacle…

Professor Mason Mitchell is head of the theater department where Alex is studying "real" acting.  The only way he'll let Faith anywhere near Alex is if she agrees to co-teach a class.  It's an offer she can't refuse--and as it turns out, the professor just might end up teaching Faith that there's more to life than work--and that real-life love scenes are way more fun than fake ones.

Sounds awesome, right?  I can't wait to pick up a copy, which you can find at the following places:

And make sure you look for Jayne Denker!  You can find her on Twitter and at her website!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

J.K. Rowling / Robert Galbraith

So word is out:  J.K. Rowling published a crime novel as "debut" author Robert Galbraith.  That's super exciting!  The moment I heard, I immediately told everyone I know via text messages, Facebook, Twitter.  You know, grabbed my megaphone and shouted it from the rooftops.

And then I had a conversation with my mother.

Mom:  I feel badly for [J.K. Rowling] though.  I just finished a novel about a writer who published a famous book and was sick of all the attention so switched to writing sci-fi under a pen name so she would have privacy and then her cover got blown.  (Note:  It's Certain Girls, by Jennifer Weiner).

Me:  She can come up with a new pen name?

Mom:  But she may have really enjoyed what she was writing and now has to switch characters.

Me:  Yeah.  But she's J.K. Rowling.  Everyone in the world wants to be her.

Mom:  I'm just saying.  The author character in my book was very bummed.

Way to go, Mom.  Now I feel terrible.

But it got me thinking.  There's a reason J.K. Rowling wrote under a pen name:  to dodge hype, expectations, fans waiting in Barnes & Noble for the midnight release.  She wanted honest reviews, a book that people would read without comparing it to Harry Potter.  It must get pretty frustrating for her to hear all the time, "It's good, but--"

I mean, just take a look at the reviews for A Casual Vacancy.  It's hard to find one that doesn't mention Harry Potter.

Will I read The Cuckoo's Calling now that I know it's written by her?  You bet.  But I do feel bad for J.K. Rowling.  Now her words are back under a million magnifying glasses, each one looking for nargles and crumple-horned snorkacks.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Where in the World Have I Been?

Spain, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, Turkey, Ireland, the U.K., France, Greece.  Lots and lots of places.

After about six months of being abroad, my plane touched down in Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon.

It's like that feeling you get right after you finish a wonderful book:  you set it on your lap and stare blankly at the cover, letting it all sink in.  The characters, the setting, the plot.  The end.  You can't really do anything.  You simply sit there, thinking.

My time abroad was without a doubt the greatest experience of my life.  A story, most definitely, filled with humor, suspense, a touch of romance, and a whole lot of adventure.

One day I will write about it.  Short stories, poems, maybe a novel.  My writer's notebook is filled with ideas collected from this place and that, and someday, I'll give them definition.  For now, though, I'm still in a daze.

It's going to take me awhile to recover.

Monday, June 3, 2013

#3 Stop on the London Book Lover's Tour: The Globe

"Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.  Remember thee!"

If you guessed Hamlet, you guessed correctly.  In these lines, while "globe" means "head," it's a play on words:  it also refers to Shakespeare's famous theater, the Globe, constructed in 1599.

Though the one you'll find in Bankside was constructed in 1997.

Unfortunately, the original burnt down in 1613, due to a cannon that set fire to the thatched roof during a performance of Henry VIII.  It was rebuilt, but again, it didn't last long:  it was torn down in 1644, during the English Civil War, by the Puritans who believed theater was the art of the devil.

The outside of Shakespeare's Globe.  The roof is open, but it doesn't matter:  rain or shine, the show must go on!
But the fact that this is the third Globe doesn't make it any less awesome.  It's constructed to look identical to the original (admittedly, much of it is guesswork), so the overall effect is a gorgeous outdoor Elizabethan theater that continues to put on spectacular--and I mean spectacular--shows for a very affordable price.

The stage!  This is the set for A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Before you jump into a show, however, I recommend taking the tour.  The guides are all actors at the Globe, so you know you're in for a show.  They're entertaining, of course, but they're also extremely knowledgeable about Shakespeare and the history of the Globe.

For fifteen pounds, you can sit.  For five, you can stand in the yard.
I was lucky enough to see The Tempest, starring Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Roger Allam (V for Vendetta, Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert).  For five pounds, I got to stand in the yard as a "penny groundling."  Sure, I had to stand the whole time, and occasionally I got rained on, but that didn't matter.  The view was great.  I was right up against the stage, and since it is Elizabethan theater, there was no shortage of actor-audience interaction.  As in, the person next to me got water dumped on his head.

(Note:  The following photos are not my own, since we were forbidden from taking photos during the performance.)
The opening scene of The Tempest.   That boat came through the audience.  Check out their costumes!
And did I mention that the show was phenomenal?  As I said, the Globe puts on spectacular plays, and it always has several to choose from.  This season, I picked from The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, MacBeth, and so many others, not all of them Shakespeare and not all of them performed in English.
Prospero (Roger Allam) and Ariel (Colin Morgan) in The Tempest.
Even if you aren't Shakespeare's biggest fan, seeing a show here is all kinds of worth it.  To go to a true Elizabethan theater is a unique experience.  Highly recommend!

Miranda (Jessie Buckley), Prospero (Roger Allam) and Ferdinand (Joshua James) in The Tempest.

Friday, May 31, 2013

#2 Stop on the London Book Lover's Tour: King's Cross and WB Studios

"It's the same every year, packed with muggles of course."

Mrs. Weasley doesn't exaggerate when she makes that comment about King's Cross Station in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as they call it here in the UK) by J.K. Rowling.  It's packed, especially around the entrance to Platform 9 3/4, where muggles wait in a long line for a chance at running through the barrier.  (Not really, as they have people working there, probably to prevent just that).  If you're a Harry Potter fan, it's definitely worth a visit.  You'll be given a Hogwarts scarf of your choice, then you're able to pose for a photo with your cart, owl cage included!

But if you want even more Harry Potter fun, definitely check out the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour.  It is all sorts of magical.

You begin by watching a short film about how the books came to be movies.  Afterwards, the screen rises, revealing the door to the Great Hall.  You enter…

And yes, you're standing on the gigantic set of the Great Hall.

Set of the Great Hall.
Me, on the set of the Great Hall.
Afterwards, you move into a large studio, where you'll find the smaller sets:  the Gryffindor Boys' Dormitory, Dumbledore's Office, the Potions Classroom, the Burrow's Kitchen, and the Ministry of Magic, among others.
After the Great Hall, the Potions Classroom was probably my favorite set.  It's much larger than this one photo shows.
They had wigs for everyone, but
I liked this Malfoy display the
best :)
I could't resist taking
a "selfie" in the Mirror
of Erised.
You'll also get to see some really cool props:  the Malfoys' wigs, the door to the Chamber of Secrets, the Triwizard Cup, some broomsticks, and my personal favorite, the Mirror of Erised.  There's so much that it takes a good two hours just to get through this part.

Then it's off to a large courtyard, where you can take a break with a glass of butterbeer.  This was my favorite part, not because of the butterbeer (though that is delicious), but because here is where you get to see (and even climb on, in a few cases) some of the best set pieces:  the Weasley's flying Ford Anglia, the Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, Hagrid's motorbike, the Hogwarts bridge, the Potters' cottage, Tom Riddle's gravestone, and the giant chess pieces.

Josh and I ride Hagrid's motorbike, with the Knight Bus (and the Hogwarts bridge) behind us.
4 Privet Drive!
After that, you move into the creature room, where you'll encounter a wall of goblin masks, Fawkes the phoenix, Dobby, Buckbeak, and Aragog, among others.  Afterwards, you'll get to take a stroll along the set of Diagon Alley.  Finally, you end with the huge Hogwarts model, which they used for aerial shots of the castle.

The set of Diagon Alley, complete with Ollivander's, Flourish & Blotts, and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, among many others.
This Hogwarts model is HUGE.
If you're a big Harry Potter fan like me, you'll probably get teary-eyed.

We did a pretty thorough exploration of London, seeing all the major tourist sites and more, but the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour was by far my favorite!  If you're in the area, definitely check it out!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

#1 Stop on the London Book Lover's Tour: 221b Baker Street

"My friend here wants to take diggings, and as you were complaining that you could get no one to go halves with you, I thought that I had better bring you together."

Sherlock Holmes seemed delighted at the idea of sharing his rooms with me.  "I have my eye on a suite in Baker Street," he said, "which would suit us down to the ground.  You don't mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?"

"I always smoke 'ship's myself," I answered.
George, of the Scotland Yard!

Thus begins one of the best friendships (dare I say bromance?) in literary history:  that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, sleuth and sidekick of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novels and short stories.  Sure enough, 221b Baker Street is a real place, now fashioned into the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

It's impossible to miss.  Being small, only about fifteen people are allowed at once, which means there's always a huge line out the door.  (My friend and I waited for an hour and a half…).  Keeping watch are workers dressed in Scotland Yard garb :)

Upon entering, you'll go up to the first floor and find yourself in what is fashioned to look like Holmes's and Watson's living room.  Yes, you can sit in the chairs in front of the fireplace, and if you're so inclined, try on their hats.  Next door is Holmes's bedroom.
I'm in Watson's chair and Josh is in Holmes's in the living room of 221b Baker Street.

Wax figures of Watson and Holmes.

The next floor features "artifacts."  What's interesting about this museum is that it passes off Holmes and Watson as real people, their stories as true histories.  For example, a glass case will house a ring and the card will say, "The ring Holmes discovered in A Study in Scarlet," or something like that (I don't remember exactly what the objects were).  That was very strange to me, but whatever.  I like to believe :)

Though the top floor is probably the most bizarre.  There you'll find several wax figures that depict the classic scenes.  Kind of cool, but also kind of scary.

Naturally, you can conclude the tour by stopping in the gift shop next door, where you can find magnifying glasses, pipes, hats, and all sorts of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia.

London: A Book Lover's Paradise

That's me in front of Parliament!
Well, Study Abroad 2013 is officially over.  The semester has finished and I've fled Sevilla's sunshine to the clouds of London, where I'm staying with family for two weeks.

Honestly, I didn't expect a lot from London.  I anticipated it would be just like New York, or Madrid, or Barcelona, or any other big city I've visited:  dirty, crowded, generic.

I was wrong.
My first glance at Big Ben!

Apart from the weather, London is gorgeous.  The old-fashioned houses, the palaces and fortresses, the shops, the parks, everything.  But what makes it especially fun is that no matter where you turn, you recognize something iconic:  Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, etcetera.

But what I love most about London is it's literary history.  Whether the home of a renowned writer or the setting of a classic, London has featured prominently in the book world.

Yes, that would be Buckingham Palace.

Over the next few days, I'm going to give a little virtual tour of London for Book Lovers.  So stop by!  If you know of anything interesting, tell me in the comments:  I have until Sunday to thoroughly explore :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What is Magical Realism?

When I tell people I came to Spain to study literature (among other reasons, but that's the academic reason), they look at me funny, as though my freckles have turned purple.  Not many English majors venture to Spain; most American students go to the U.K. to study literature, which makes a lot of sense.  But the U.K. is a little chilly for my tastes, so here I am.  Plus, I really like Spanish and Latin American literature, probably even more than I like Brit Lit.

Márquez, considered the master of
magical realism.
For decades, Latin American literature has been linked with magical realism, though technically, the genre hails from France.  But as my professor told us, "Americans do it better."

Gabriel García Márquez.  'Nuff said.

But what is magical realism?  For some reason, it's a genre that we have a lot of trouble defining.  Often I'll look at a book that's described as magical realism, but really it's urban fantasy (or even just fantasy). Recently my professor gave us a good definition, which I figured I'd share:

Magical realism is exactly what the name suggests:  magical events happen in the normal world, but what separates it from genres like urban fantasy is that the events are told as though they're completely ordinary.  There is no sense of awe.  No wonder.  The characters show little to no reaction, and if they do, it's something like, "Hmm, that's interesting," and then they continue on with their lives.  They don't dwell on it, and neither does the narrator.  Magic is almost an aside:  "By the way, he was levitating.  No biggie."

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, for example, a character starts to levitate.  Why?  Because he drank hot chocolate.  It's passed off as totally normal.  Nothing special.  Happens all the time.

So say a character discovers that her next door neighbor is a witch.  If she freaks out (because who ever heard of witches actually existing?) then most likely that's urban fantasy.  If it's mentioned in passing, such as, "As Natasha walked to school, she waved to her next door neighbor, Mrs. Andrews, who happened to be a witch," then most likely it's magical realism.

Set-Up & Pay-Off: The Shroud of Turin

Note:  So it was pointed out to me that this blog post is being discussed over here.  On that note, I'd just like to say that my intention is not to provide scientific information or discredit the Shroud in any way.  I'm certainly not qualified for that and I don't pretend to be.  Rather, the point of this post is to use the exhibit, which indeed has a room in which it claims the Shroud is resistant to temperature, water, etc., as an example of problematical set-up/pay-off.

The exhibit itself is hardly a scientific journal article.  There are no signs with information, no pamphlets…Nothing except an audio guide with a very clear goal:  to tell a story.  It's not the story itself I wish to focus on; it's the telling of the story, which left me and others very disappointed.

A few weeks ago my roommate told me that the Shroud of Turin was currently in Sevilla, which is a big deal, since it usually lives in Italy.  My response:  "What's in the world is the Shroud of Turin?"

"It's supposedly the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped when they took him off the cross," she explained.  "It has his image on it."

A negative photograph of the Shroud of Turin.
Interesting, indeed.  As a sometimes-wannabe-pseudo archaeologist, I like old stuff, and if this really was the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped, then that's pretty old.  Besides, I like to make checkmarks on my "List of Cool Things I've Seen in Museums" (which so far includes St. Peter's bones and Abraham Lincoln's hat, among others), so I decided to make a visit to the exhibit titled La Sábana Santa, which translates to "The Holy Shroud."

I wasn't really expecting much--just a piece of cloth--but it turned out to be a pretty neat exhibit, one that told a story.  It began with the discovery of the shroud in Medieval France, then proceeded to discuss the nineteenth-century photograph that revealed it to be a giant negative of a man who looks suspiciously like Jesus Christ.

Could it really be Jesus?  And the even bigger question, how is the image on the cloth when there's no signs of paint, ink, embroidery, or anything else of an artistic nature?  (Plus, the question that resounded in my wannabe archaeologist's mind:  How could a piece fabric survive 2000 years?  Fabric is one of the most degradable materials, which is why archaeologists rarely ever find it, and when they do, they only find tiny threads.)

These are the questions the exhibit tried to answer.  Slowly.  Each room offered a little bit more information, more clues:
  • Carbon dating -- Do the dates match Crucifixion?
  • Pollen samples -- Scientists are able to analyze pollen in the threads, which indicates where the fabric has been.  Indeed, the shroud had bits of pollen from plants that only grow in and around Jerusalem.
  • Forensic studies -- What do the blood stains and the positioning of the limbs indicate?

Each room added a little bit more; the entire time, the suspense built and built.  Soon enough, I was ready to scream into my audio guide, "Just tell me if it's real!"

Then, the rising action right before the climax:  the tests.

  • The shroud is impervious to water.
  • The shroud is impervious to temperatures, both hot and cold.
  • The shroud is impervious to light.  The image hasn't faded.
After thousands of years, the shroud has not deteriorated at all, something absolutely unheard of in the archaeological world.  Which makes one wonder if it really is a miracle…

By this point I'm bouncing on the balls of my feet with anticipation, wishing the audio guide would go faster (there were no cards next to the displays, so unfortunately I couldn't just read my way through).  I needed to know.  Then, finally, it told me to proceed into the next room.

The climax.  Now, after about an hour, it was finally time to actually see the shroud of Turin and find out what scientists have concluded:  is it really the shroud?

There it is.  Hanging on a wall behind glass.  I walk toward it, holding my breath, and--

"What you're seeing is a reproduction of the shroud of Turin.  The original is only taken out every twenty five years so that it doesn't deteriorate."

Wait…What?  Rewind, I need to hear that again.  Reproduction?  So that it doesn't deteriorate?

This is what I saw behind class.  Yup…It really is just a strip of fabric.
Sorry, but the exhibit was just asking for the string of blasphemies that escaped my mouth.

Nobody said anything about a reproduction.  A reproduction?  Of a strip of fabric?

That's hardly the worst of it.  The whole time the museum strung me along:  despite my doubts in the beginning, as I went along, I became pretty convinced.  The science seemed thorough, the evidence pretty solid…

Then the penultimate room.  The one with the tests:  impervious to water, impervious to temperature, impervious to light, impervious to time…

Then the last room:  "The original is only taken out every twenty five years so that it doesn't deteriorate."

Wait, but you just said…?  I thought…?  What happened to being impervious to everything?  Even time?

One sentence, and the museum lost me.  Nope.  
If this were a book, I'd have thrown it across the room.  Yup, this exhibit is a great example of what books shouldn't do.

When you pick up a book, you're putting your faith in the author.  You're trusting him with valuable hours of your life:  his book had better satisfy.

I'm not saying it should be predictable.  It should, however, have good set-up and pay-off:  they should match each other.

What do I mean by set-up?  Pay-off?

Set-up is information you need in order for the pay-off, another action, to be believable.  For example:

Joanne has to stop a bomb from detonating.  Fortunately, she has the instruction manual.  Unfortunately, it's written in Greek.

The set-up would be that Joanne knows Greek:  earlier in the book, we witnessed a scene in which she speaks Greek to her neighbor, who happens to be from Athens.  The pay-off would be that she can easily read the instruction manual and stop the bomb.  That's a good set-up/pay-off situation.  A bad one would be:  By the way, Joanne knows Greek.  We learn that she can speak it at the same time she needs it.  That's not very believable.

The Shroud of Turin exhibit had excellent set-up.  With every room, it gave just a tad bit more information, continuing to pique my interest as it tugged me along.  A little here, a little there, so that by the end, I wouldn't have been able to "put the book down."  I couldn't wait for the big reveal.

So set-up, great.  Pay-off, not so much.

Just like you can't have a good pay-off without a good set-up, if the pay-off isn't good, then the set-up is meaningless.  It's excess information, completely unimportant.  Which is how I felt after the exhibit: that the set-up was a waste of my time.

Moral of the story:  set-up/pay-off problems can go both ways.

Have you ever been really disappointed in something because of set-up/pay-off problems?  Movie, book, museum?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Virtual Tour: Barrio Santa Cruz

Since I just moved to a magical land known as Barrio Santa Cruz, I decided to do a blog post that documents my ever-exciting walk to the metro every morning.  It's like a virtual tour!

I wake up, often to flamenco singing or accordion music wafting up from the street.  As I open the shudders, I'm greeted with this view:  a stereotypical Spanish street.  Narrow, winding, with houses painted in shades of red, white, and gold.

I leave my house, which is the pink one to the left.  As you can see, it's across from a bar and a variety of shops.

This shop is my favorite.  I pass it every day, often several times a day.  Even though the shop's fragrance covers the whole street, each time I walk by I have to stop and smell the loose-leaf teas and spices, especially the piña colada tea.

I continue toward the metro, making my way through streets like this one.

Soon I emerge from the neighborhood (Santa Cruz) through this entrance.  Yes, it's bordered by the outer walls of the Álcazar, which is indeed a giant castle.

This is the main entrance into the Álcazar.  Every day, I have to make sure not to get run over by these black and yellow carriages, which are all over the city, but especially prevalent in this area.

As I leave the neighborhood, the Álcazar is to my left.  To my right?  The Cathedral, which is the third largest in the world.

I continue forward, leaving the castle behind me and passing by the Archivo de Indias, or the Archive of the Indies (that's the big square building on the left).  This is where records and all official business regarding the Americas were kept.  It currently houses an impressive collection of pictures/statues of Hernán Cortés

I arrive on Avenida de la Constitución.  To the left is a corner of the Cathedral (it's REALLY big) and to the right the Archivo de Indias.

 I walk down Avenida de la Constitución, which is always bustling with tourists, street performers, and locals just trying to get to Plaza Nueva or Calle Tetuan.

Finally I arrive in Puerta de Jerez, where I can hop on the metro, grab a coffee, or go relax by the river.