Leaving Things Behind By: Rose Lange

 

Nursing-home-residentEarlier this month, I took a three-day, Dementia/Alzheimer’s training course, and not only was it educational, but a very eye opening experience. It taught me a lot about this heartbreaking, and mysterious illness, and honestly, I wished it’d been longer because I was an eager little sponge. Wanting to learn more.

One of the activities we did, was to write down the important things in our lives, namely  it was focused on our home. Whether they were people or physical objects. I wrote down our dog, Gizmo, my spouse and our son, laptop/Writing Cave, and my couch/blanket. We wrote these down and then were asked what made these things, people, objects, so special to us. It put us in the shoes of a person moving to a nursing home, thereby, necessitating the need to leave, most, if not all, these things behind.

When we first began this activity, I didn’t know what the instructor had in mind. Then as student after student began telling their stories about these things, I felt an overwhelming sadness grip, and take hold of me. My turn hadn’t yet arrived to talk about my list, but then I thought about it…being told you can’t have a pet, your family can visit, bring your blanket but you can’t lug the couch. Or you can take your laptop, but the “feeling” of the Cave will need to somehow be recreated. Picturing having to leave my house, my family, and all the things it holds dear to me, broke my heart. I can’t imagine not waking up in my own bed, with my spouse beside me, and our son asleep down the hall. To think of not being able to bring along our dog, Gizmo, who although is old and oftentimes a pain in the ass, I love very dearly. My writing cave. A room where I escape to dream up, and create stories. It’s my happy place, where I’m surrounded by books, photos, Elvis posters, and other things that makes that room special to me.

After a long hard day at work, my couch is another retreat for me. I love snuggling up on that old, dated, but comfy thing. It’s a tan, floral print couch probably from the 1980s that was handed down by my husband’s aunt and uncle. It may not be the prettiest couch you’ll ever see, but it’s sturdy, in great condition, and comfortable. I enjoy curling up with a blanket, taking a nap. Or having a light snack and watching a movie. Snuggling up next to my sweetie or my son. The people, and items,  that compromise my list, are precious. And I can’t imagine giving any of them up.

My list only represented a very small fraction of the important things in our home. Other items like my Grandmother’s crocheted yellow & white pillows, family photographs, my Mom’s antique necklace, our garden. The list could go on and on. Important things that make our house a home, are things I will no longer take for granted. This class, this exercise, now makes me fully appreciate the beauty, and blessings, that surround me everyday.

Dear Reader, what are your favorite things? What would you take with you if you needed to move into an assisted living, or nursing home?

Rose Lange

Author of Spicy Contemporary Romance

http://www.roselange.com

Facebook: Rose Lange, Author

Twitter: @writingdiva82

 

 

 

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Fur the Love of Animals – Elle Hill

All of my books so far but one include animal minor characters. In my novelette, Hunted, a big, chatty, black beast of a cat named Picante owns and demands obedience from our hero, Simon. I mean, come on – nothing says sexy like a man who puts his kitty cat’s safety before his own. In Hunted Past, Aunt Mona, who actually plays a pretty important role in the book, possesses a passel (Herd? Pride?) of cats, all named after cheeses. (Because cats and cheese, people!) In a manner not even slightly reminiscent of one of my many rants, Aunt Mona rather pointedly extols the virtues of spaying and neutering and rescuing homeless pets. Cough, cough. Anyway, in Hunted Dreams, a beautiful, blue pit bull named Mina fearlessly accompanies our hero, Reed, as he searches each night for his sleeping beauty, the Rubenesque Katana.

When writing The Tithe, I admit to spending a ridiculous amount of time wondering how I could sneak an animal into a book situated in an abandoned bunker in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I pondered snakes, scorpions, and even rats before realizing: 1. A pet scorpion? Really? Really?, and 2. Squeezing a spunky pet rat into the mix might bring a little too much Disney into my post-apocalyptic opus.

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Oh, did I mention I’m getting married in July?

I love me the animals, and I’m not the only one. According to the ASPCA, we homo-sapiens-Americans faithfully serve 150-200 million dogs and cats. Around 40% of lucky households feature at least one furry overlord. And sure, not every person loves their animals enough to – oh, I don’t know – make them their maid of honor and best man in their wedding or something (just a totally random example), but we Americans go pretty gaga over our pets. We spend around $60 billion a year on their food, vet bills, toys, and, you know, that obscenely adorable satin tuxedo for the, ahem, hypothetical canine best man.

When I read a book or watch a movie, I fawn shamelessly over any non-human beasties. (Heaven help the writer who brings a hint of harm to any of those furred, scaled, or finned protagonists! Allow me to assuage the fears of all current or future readers: No animal, real or fictional, will ever be harmed in the penning of my prose.) To serve the interests of fellow animal lovers (and we are legion), I devote at least part of my storytelling capacity to honoring the millions of beautiful beasts that exist alongside and enhance us.

So, yeah, my novels tend to teem with animal life. My made-up worlds just don’t feel as much like home without some furry distractions. How could I do otherwise, given how much I wrestle with my cats for possession of the keyboard and type one-handed while tucking my dog in the crook of my left arm?

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Jar Garden

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I haven’t met a rose I didn’t like. Yes, they have thorns and can be temperamental, but so can our characters. (Remember, even the nicest hero and heroine need flaws.) And roses are the flowers of love, so as a romance author I appreciate their beauty and message.

Did you know you can start a rose from a cutting? I’ve acquired many new plants from friend’s bushes. In fact, my husband likes to pick on me about my “jar garden.” Propagating roses isn’t terribly difficult, but you do need a bit of patience.

  1. Make sure you have a healthy cutting. (An ideal start would have a flower that is spent, or new growth.)  Chose a stem with at least three branches of leaves.  For the quickest results it’s best to try this in May or June, although it can be done at other times.
  2. Remove the bottom two sets of leaves. On the third set, keep two or three leaves. If those leaves are very large, cut them in half. The aim is to supply energy to create the roots. (But don’t force the plant to maintain too many leaves or the plant won’t start.)
  3. Plant the stem with only the very top and leaves exposed. Some people make a couple of vertical cuts (1/2 to 1 inch) near the base of the stem before planting the rose to encourage root growth. I cover the new rose with a jar, but anything that is clear and maintains the moisture in the air around the plant would work. Moisture is very important. If your plant dries out it won’t root.

The above method doesn’t always work, but I’ve had fairly good success. I start my roses in good soil, but you could put them in containers with potting soil or a sand mix. I have my cuttings in part shade at the side of my house. Don’t put them directly in the hot sun. After several weeks, you should start to see new growth.

My climate is a concern for my rose starts. Not all rooted stock can survive our winter. Tea roses are often grafted on hardier roots, so you may get these fragile roses to grow, but they won’t survive. (Unless you bring them inside.) But, you’ll never know if the rose will survive if you don’t try.

I’ve even managed to start roses that came from a florist. (They need to be fresh.) There was an awkward moment when my husband came home and I was cutting the flowers off the rose bouquet he’d just bought for me. I have to admit, I felt a bit like Morticia from the Addams Family.

Do any of you have tips on starting roses or other flowers?

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Dawn Ireland writes Georgian and Highland romance. Her latest release, Highland Yearning, a time-travel set in 1775, is available for pre-order, and will be released July 20, 2016.

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The Things We Do

cork-796138_640Like many of my fellow Soulies, I’m sure, I can’t write all the time, even though I want to. Thus my life is divided as follows:

Things I HAVE to do …

Things I SHOULD do …

Things I WANT to do…

Things I LOVE to do …

Yup, you guessed it. Writing is number four on the list, after the day job, balancing the budget, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, laundry—all falling into the first two categories.

Then there are the things I want to do. I want to read ten times as many books as I do already. I want to landscape my yard so it doesn’t look like a jungle in comparison to all my neighbors’ yards. I want to spend more quality time with my husband, with my kids and grandkids. I want to learn how to speak German. I want to learn archery. I want to seek out and attend every…single…Renaissance festival I can find!knights-769458_640

I want to go to another heavy metal rock concert—and yes, be fully aware that I’m the oldest one there. I don’t care.

Then, last on the list, are the things I LOVE to do. Writing is, of course, number one. Researching for my next novel is right up there. I also enjoy the editing process, the marketing, and making my own book trailers. But I have another passion that has absolutely nothing to do with writing.

I raise freshwater angelfish.

It started as a “what if” question, much like the inception of most of my novels. I’ve always loved angels, mostly because they are hard enough to keep alive, let alone breed and raise. Numerous times in my life I’ve adopted several lovely angels, only to have them weaken and die, from one cause or another. They’re a persnickety species. I never really understood what I was doing wrong.

angelfish-303159_640So a couple years ago, I set a goal: I WILL obtain a breeding pair of angelfish, and rear my own fry to adulthood.

Geez. I should have taken up archery.

Now, there are an obscene number of fish tanks in my house. There are two in my office, and four—count ‘em, FOUR—in my “front parlor,” the room where I also harbor orchids (another eccentric passion of mine). My son calls it the “Circle of Life room.”

I started out with eight baby angelfish in a 36-gallon tank. You see, angelfish aren’t like human babies: their sex is not evident, not even discernible, until they get old enough to reproduce. You know you have a breeding pair when two fish sequester themselves and start trying to kill all the other ones.

Sort of like high school.

Out of the eight original babies, I ended up with two breeding pairs. Fast forward four months, and looky what I got!

IMG_0594There are forty, at least, in my 36-gallon tank, who are now quarter-sized and eating me out of house and home. And who are ready, next week, to take to the local aquarium store, ready to go to their new homes.

Yes, I will cry. I raised these guys from eggs, for God’s sakes!

But as my husband has delicately pointed out, I can’t keep them all. I’ve got another tank with about forty more, two-week-old fry who I feed baby brine shrimp to twice a day. And another spawn ready to hatch, any day, in yet another.

What have I gotten myself into?

Creativity assumes many forms. I create with images when I do book trailers. I create with words when I write. I help create something precious—LIFE—when I lovingly nurture angelfish from eggs to graceful, beautiful aquatic creatures.

And believe me, it’s not easy. Fact: cichlids (that’s what angelfish are) like to eat their young. Only one in four or five spawns ever make it past the fry stage.

But then again, nothing that’s worth anything comes easy. So even if you awaken one morning to find your story is floating, belly up and lifeless, you can’t give up. You’ve made this commitment, damn it. You can attain any goal you set for yourself—if you want it badly enough.

~~~

Claire Gem writes romance w/a paranormal twist. Her debut novel from SMP, Phantom Traces, is available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook.PHANTOM TRACES_505x825

 

 

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Setting Matters

Hello everyone!

My name is Mandi Benet. I write steamy contemporary romance and I’m so excited to be a Soulmate author. I sold my four-book series, Love in the City, to SMP with each book set in a different, exciting city. The first book is set in Rome.

Love can bloom anywhere, of course, and I adore small town love stories, but I tend to like romances the way the movies do them, with a love triangle: Her, Him, A city. (Think Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Before Sunset, Bend it Like Beckham, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Notting Hill.) Cities can be characters all on their own with a flavor and essence unique to them, and truly can enrich a story while helping ground it in the reality of this world. Yet setting is more than a backdrop for action. It can be an interactive aspect of your fictional world that saturates the story with mood and meaning and evokes the emotional response from your reader that you’re trying to provoke.

Why did I choose Rome for the setting of the first book in my series? For two reasons. One was because I couldn’t see how Rome and ro-mance couldn’t go together. The city’s history alone lends itself to all manner of lush and romantic tales. With its gorgeous vistas, historic piazzas, and the general ardor of the natives, it is one huge unending backdrop for romance. Couples with a penchant for lip-locked selfies have a multitude of worthy settings in Rome—its epic monuments, baroque churches, breathtaking vistas, thousand-year-old fountains, multi-hued sunsets behind the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, and charming trattorias. And few things, I think, can stoke the romantic fires as much as holding hands across a candlelit dinner table in the remains of an ancient stadium, boating on the lake at Villa Borghese, sitting on the Spanish Steps watching all the kissing couples, and an evening stroll over the Tiber on Ponte Sant’Angelo where you will meet up with Bernini’s famous angels.

The second reason is that Rome happens to be my favorite city in the world, and part of the explanation for that is that I’m obsessed with history. And Rome just teems with it. More than that, it’s a gorgeous confusion of ancient and modern replete with all the tales of human existence, connected in time and place to the stories and history of the past. Where else can you stand in an ancient complex that hosts four Roman B.C. temples, along with the remains of Pompey’s Theatre, on whose steps Julius Caesar met his bloody end, not five miles from the high fashion stores on Via dei Condotti? The city is a writer’s dream, offering up endless locations and monuments that can figure in your story. Hey, if it worked for Henry James, it can work for you.

Because for any book, setting is crucial, adding vibrancy to the story, influencing character development and playing a vital role in the plot. Wherever you set your novel, whether at the convenience store at First and Main in a small town in Arkansas or in one of the neighborhoods of Montmartre, setting is one of the most under-rated tools you can use to create a fresh, original story about a familiar place.

In To Rome With Love, the heroine Gaby doesn’t go swooning from monument to monument declaring everything beautiful. She fully experiences this intriguing city, from the morning market at Campo dei Fiori and the route she jogs to the Colosseum from Via del Corso, to the gritty neighborhoods of Medieval Trastevere and working class Testaccio, each uniquely Roman in their own way yet also part of a whole, of the complex, exciting, awe-inspiring jumble of new and old that is Rome. Gaby’s staying in a Renaissance palace in Rome’s historic center that also houses one of the best and most famous private collections of Renaissance art in the world, run by the man she’ll fall in love with. Through that fact, we see her experiencing some of Rome’s cultural treasures while learning that Italy holds three quarters of the world’s such treasures.

Because setting is so integral to my novel, I’ve put together a list of some of the less well-known places that appear in To Rome With Love. Hoping you visit some of them!

    1. Galleria Doria Pamphilj – Renaissance palace and art gallery – Via del Corso, 305
    2. Campo de’ Fiori – farmer’s market – Piazza Campo de’ Fiori
    3. Palazzo Farnese – Piazza Farnese – an impressive cornice designed by Michelangelo
    4. Caffe Greco – Via dei Condotti, 86 – Keats and Mark Twain were regulars
    5. Da Enzo – Via dei Vascellari 29 – great hole in the wall restaurant in Trastevere
    6. La Pergola – Via Cadlolo 101 – 3-star Michelin restaurant, best view in Rome
    7. Trinity College – Via del Collegio Romano, 6 – Irish pub
    8. Trattoria Monti – Via San Vito 13a – near Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II 

      WHERE YOU CAN FIND ME ONLINE:

      www.mandibenet.com

      http://amzn.com/B01AO6MH96

      Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01BGYJ6J4

      www.facebook.com/mandibenetauthor

      https://twitter.com/MANDYSCRIBEISTA

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28789187-to-rome-with-love

 

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Why Television Will Never Replace a Good Romance Novel

1-vector-cartoon-tvDon’t get me wrong … I love television. I don’t have much time for it but, when I do, I kick back and relax. As do most viewers, I have my favorites. I’ll give a fair viewing to almost anything…as long as it’s not a soap opera. Despite their very vague similarity to romance novels, they’re far too angst-filled for me. Plus, I hate watching anything that has no conclusion, mostly because there’s a real chance I won’t be able to watch the next episode.

So, if I enjoy television shows, why do I think this easy fix will never replace a good book? Besides the fact that you invest more of yourself as a reader than you do a watcher, it’s because romance novels NEVER, EVER jump the shark!

HENRY WINKLER ON WATERSKISThe term ‘jump the shark‘ was first coined way back in 1977 when leather-clad bad boy Arthur Fonzarelli literally took to a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark in the television sitcom, Happy Days. This ill-conceived ratings stunt marked the beginning of the end for the series. The quality of the first few season slid downhill rapidly after losing credibility with the viewers. Since then, it’s become every critic’s mission to ID the moment when a successful series loses its steam and, like Fonzie, jumps the shark.

Here are a few of my favorite comparisons of t.v. vs novel:

Will and Grace – this wonderful rom-com was on a roll its first few seasons. The occasional guest appearance was just an added bonus, not detracting in the least from the wonderful comedic timing of the three main characters. Then, somewhere along the line, they started bringing in more guests, more screen time for outsiders, and less for the title characters, Will and Grace. Viewers lost interest in what appeared to be contrived plots written just to flaunt a high-profile guest star.

In a romance, a good author would never overshadow the hero and heroine. Sure, we have supporting characters, but they’re there for one reason only … to support. And, while we hope at least one supporting character is strong enough to shout “sequel”, we still keep them in their place…third fiddle to the two main characters.

House – this was a superb medical drama when it first came out. But then, like its main character, it got weird. Surgery on your own body, trying to kill off your girlfriend because she broke your heart. Please…even for someone falling of the sobriety wagon, these extremes were a bit much. The writers’ shock tactics failed miserably and convinced the viewers to give the series the rating’s heave-ho.

In a romance, we just don’t get that weird! Our focus is on a relationship that endures. And, even when the black moment arrives and our hero and heroine think it won’t work, we don’t let them try and kill one another. We wouldn’t be that cruel!

Lois & Clark and Castle – two of my absolute favorite series, one older, one about to face its demise. Why? Oops! They’re married…now what do we do?

lois-and-clarkI absolutely adored Lois and Clark, The New Adventures of Superman. It was the one television show that came before nearly everything else, bar a family emergency. I loved the wit, the sexual chemistry, the excellent writing, and the superhero story lines. Clark/Superman was the epitome of a hero, not only because he saved people but because he was kind-hearted, intelligent, and honest. Oh, and did I mention, sexier than sin! Lois Lane, on the other hand, was the perfect foil … quirky and full of frustrating but forgivable faults. Unfortunately, the writers/producers decided to marry them off in season 4 to coincide with the comic-book wedding of Lois and Clark. From then on, all the wonderful romantic angst was gone…kaput…replaced by contrived reasons to keep them apart. Can we say, ‘fake wedding to a frog-eating clone’?

Unfortunately, it looks as if Castle is headed in the same direction. Once the main characters married (after a rather schmaltzy delay), the fun of the chase was over. When Beckett told Castle she was moving out to get her head on straight, I nearly threw a shoe at the television. Contrived, even though her decision was made out of love. And, even though they’re back together now, the storylines are less than romantic and more about the murderers they chase.

In a romance novel, we put all the angst, all the cutesy or dramatic stuff right where it belongs, in the heart of the story. We write highs, we write lows, we write love scenes that will steam the wallpaper off the walls and curl the paint. We hit you over the head with the black moment…the be-all, end-all of their relationship. Followed by a resolution…the realization that no matter what the obstacle, life is worth more together than apart.

And, then, our job done, we get the heck out of Dodge and let them enjoy themselves in peace and quiet. Oh, and privacy. We give them and the reader what they want…a happily ever after and we never jump the shark!

That’s it for my turn on the blog. I think I’ll go watch a rerun of Castle…from the early seasons when it was fun. Or, maybe, I’ll toss in a season 1 disc of Lois and Clark. Or, better yet, make myself a cup of tea and read a romance novel…at least I know I won’t have to worry about the ending.

See you in six weeks.

Nancy

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Teens and Reading

 

I know some great teenage girls who are smart, funny, bright, and generally pretty amazing. I contacted these teens, one who just completed her HSC last year, and the other who is in year eleven, and asked them to talk to their friends about books.

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I brought them the below questions:

Why don’t teens read very much, and what is preventing them from reading?

Miss 16: There’s not enough time anymore to fit it in with homework, extracurricular activities etc. Books are expensive, they’re big and they’re bulky. It’s difficult to find anything that is interesting, and everything feels the same and cliche.

I’m very rapidly getting sick of the good girl falls in love with the bad boy story, and all the modern dystopian love stories. I will always and forever love period dramas and fractured fairytales.

Miss 18: Senior school English. Enough said. Prescribed text. The groans of agony as every single beautiful detail is examined and analysed like a specimen in a jar. Year 11 and year 12 English taught me to dread reading- not because of reading itself, but the critical analysis and evaluation that I knew would come. I fell out of love with reading. My favourite books grew dusty, as I went through copious others that I’d never dare to pick up again. Reading lost its spark, it’s beautiful release. It became a chore.

Then I finished the HSC. It didn’t happen immediately, but when I saw a book from my favourite series on the shelves at the book shop, I knew I had to get it for my fellow Ruby Redfort lover and feaster, [my younger sister], for Christmas. It then dawned on me, that during the lapse in my love of reading, I’d missed the 4th book. What. How. Did. That. Happen? I picked it up, and read the 500+ page volume over two days. The flame was reignited. I tore through the entire series in 2 weeks (I didn’t read for 5 days while at [a church] convention, so 9 days for 5 books). I re-established my relationships with my favourite characters. I fell in love with the way that details fitting in, no loose threads hanging at the end of the book. And I couldn’t believe I’d let myself fall out of love with one of the most amazing joys in life!

But yes, agreed with [Miss 16] We don’t need anymore chick flicks recycled. Nope. I love fantasy without too many dystopian aspects-it’s just not original anymore. I hate that one gender has to triumph over the other, like weak girl vs. strong boy, or smart girl vs. dumb guy. Give me some equality, but don’t make characters identical.

Seriously…is it that hard to take a cliché and turn it on its head? Bet the girl that she can’t get the cool guy to go out with her. Make the pretty sweet best friend’s favourite subjects art and chemistry, because she loves to watch things burn and explode. Why can’t the “cool” guy teach ballet to little kids? Can we have normal characters who are just average at everything? Can we break away from the woe is me cancer story, where the main character dies and breaks our hearts? I wanna see people get to their feet and fight through their problems. I want to see characters that break the mold and are vulnerable, but aren’t afraid to fight for what they want, what is right, and what they believe in. I want it to be complicated, for self doubt to creep in, for grey areas that leave us questioning. I need a book that keeps on the edge of my seat, that makes me think, that I can’t predict the ending to (did not pick the end of Diverging Cadence at all. It was perfect). And I looooove fractured fairytales and historic fiction and time slip stories.

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What can you suggest to overcome these obstacles?

Miss 16: For bulky books we suggested ebooks. Reading classics as opposed to newer things can help break cliches. And to find time, reading during car/train/bus trips to various places can be worked into busy schedules.

Miss 18: I think kids need to be taught to read and to love reading when they’re young, and be free to read what they want as long as it’s appropriate. English teachers should give kids a de-stress lesson every once in a while to just read for enjoyment. One of the things that I loved hearing at uni the other day is the idea that you always, always, ALWAYS read a book for the first time just for enjoyment. You don’t force them to learn, or think, you just read it for fun. Fortunately, reading is also becoming a bit more of a “cool thing”, so younger people are being encouraged to read more, which is fantastic. And to those kids that can’t find the book they want to read, write it yourself! Readers are writers, and writers are readers, they go hand in hand.

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We discussed the issue of expense and how that can be overcome. Many teens don’t have ereaders, except on their phones, and even then that’s limited according to data usage. Many teens, due to school and social expectations, don’t have time for jobs, and when they do, their priority is paying for other things. An ebook that is $2 or $3 is more appealing that one that’s $8 or $9, because that extra $5 can be used on that gear they need for that extracurricular activity, but they’d be happy to spend a couple of dollars for something enjoyable to read on that bus trip, because as Miss 18 said, reading is becoming “cool”. It just needs to be affordable too.

What I gleaned from these teens is that they face the same issues I did as a teenager. I wanted to read, but I could never find anything that felt unique or interesting enough for me to spend my limited time or money reading, especially went I was forced to read and analyse the crap out of something I hated. Honestly, the only books I purchased as a teenager were the Harry Potter books. Even my scouring of the school or local library rarely came up with much. I also had to factor in the size of the book, because I had to carry the thing home along with textbooks and what-not. A hardback book was always set aside for a paperback, and nowadays, an ebook is even lighter.

I think, with our tech-savvy rising generation, access and affordability for ereaders will make a huge difference in how many teens spend their time reading.

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So, although there are more and more books aimed at teens, the ratio of teen readers doesn’t match up. The market and industry may have changed, but the lifestyles of teens, and their accessibility to books, hasn’t. Even if it is becoming cool, other factors prevent reading, like time and cost. They’ve also lost interest in what’s “trending” in the market. They want stories that are fun, fresh and exciting, not necessarily issue driven because issues are their daily lives, and with characters who are like them; just normal, everyday kids. If we want to encourage readers among teenagers, the gap needs to be closed.

 

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