Adult Life Ruins Romance!

Tips on Writing Romance Plots and Subplots from a Demisexual

It’s amazing how romantic views can change over time. When I was a teenager, I used to read chick lit and the occasional romance novel. In college and throughout my 20s, Hallmark Channel Original movies were a comforting tradition every holiday season.

But I’m 30 years old now. And a working adult. Recently, I found myself becoming very picky about what I like in romantic comedies, rom-coms, and adult romance stories. Aside from the fact that I work for a living and got introduced to a lot of stuff that comes with adulting, the biggest disclaimer I have is that I am demisexual. Demisexuality is a type of asexuality. The basic definition is that I only develop an intense attraction/desire through strong, emotional connections. I can literally count the number of guys I consider myself in love with on one hand. And they’re all fictional.

Don’t get me wrong. I do find some guys aesthetically pleasing, but the guys I’m attracted to usually have a personality behind them. I feel like I’m the only woman in the entire world who doesn’t feel any attraction to Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Instead, I swoon over Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Matt Ryan from Constantine…you get the idea.

I think my demisexuality combined with a life of actual adulting changed my views on romantic comedies and romance stories as a whole. So with all that out of the way, here are my 5 tips for writing romance stories and romantic subplots, whether you’re writing a romance novel, a contemporary romcom, or a screenplay for a romantic movie/romcom.

1. Make sure the premise and conflict makes sense, plausibly.

There’s only so much suspension of disbelief can allow for, even by guilty pleasure rom-com standards. One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” romcoms had a lot of over-the-top stuff that didn’t make sense, but the premise was grounded on fairy tale archetypes and tropes (true love breaking a spell). So in spite of how ridiculous some of the characters are and some bad editing, I enjoy watching it because the movie still feels like a modern fairy tale.

In contrast, there was this movie that I used to like where the main characters frequented a dog park, but the problem of the conflict was that apparently the dog park would be closing down to break ground for a day spa. One of the characters said that dog parks don’t pay rent, but I immediately thought “Aren’t parks government funded, even dog parks?”

Basically, make sure that the premise and the conflicts of your novel have some semblance of plausibility. This also applies to the interpersonal conflict in the next tip.

2. Hating a person and finding them hot are majorly unmixy things

I literally cannot comprehend how you can intensely hate a person and find them hotter than Hades. There has to be something endearing about the love interest for both the reader and the love interest.

This is coming from the lady who swoons over Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but toxic issues regarding Season 6 aside, I mostly loved Spike from the start. If there’s something I loved about Spike as a whole, it’s that he owns up to what he is and what he does for better or for worse. He’s reckless and impulsive, but there isn’t any pretense to him. He’s a romantic and he’s a bad boy and while he hates his past as William the Bloody Awful Poet, his romantic tendencies still show. He clearly cares for Drusilla and in later seasons, we see him caring for Dawn and for Buffy as much as he is capable of doing without a soul.

What I can’t comprehend is when there’s a standard romance or rom-com and the two protagonists simultaneously hate each other while also wanting to jump each other’s bones. There has to be some kind of common ground here. If you’re gonna do enemies to lovers or some variation on hate-to-love, they need to respect each other about something. I recently read this short romance novella between a writer and a book critic and while it’s hard for me to buy the premise of a critic who’s so scathing over the romance novel genre, I could get behind the idea of the writer using that criticism to fuel her into doing better in her writing.

If the enemies have this sense of challenging each other, if they start out as something along the lines of rivals or frenemies, the hate-to-love becomes a lot more believable because they have something in common aside from being physically attractive.

3. Pretense can only go so far.

This isn’t a criticism against fake dating. When done well, fake dating can make for amazing stories. I literally reviewed a book centered on the premise of fake dating, for crying out loud. What I liked about that book in particular was the two of them finding the truth within the lie of their relationship.

What I mean by pretense is more along the lines of either party in a romantic plot or subplot pretending to be someone they’re not for a long term relationship. I get the initial first date awkwardness, trying to seem cool. But there’s only so long a person can go faking emotions. Unless you’re writing a romance story that involves a genuine sociopath, at some point, the mask is gonna come off, metaphorically.

I am a firm believer in authenticity when it comes to a lot of different things in life. As I have mentioned before, I loved Spike because he owned up to who he was and he was never pretentious about how he felt about anything. I think I developed a bias against men who do nothing but brood and feel guilty all the time because 1) I’m Catholic and I do enough self-guilting already and 2) guys who brood all the time don’t really change and I don’t feel like they’re owning up to whatever conflicting emotions they have.

Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite novels, has this reputation of being the archetypical hate-to-love story, but in reality, Elizabeth doesn’t really fall for Darcy until she actually sees him for who he really is, where he is most comfortable. And Darcy isn’t worthy of Elizabeth’s love until he comes to terms with his flaws and makes an effort to be a better person, even if it means not having Elizabeth in his life. She doesn’t magically fix him. He changes because of her influence in his life. There’s a huge difference!

Long story short, your characters have to acknowledge the hurt in their hearts, acknowledge their issues, then figure out how to work on healing those wounds. Which leads me to my next tip.

4. Love develops through emotional connection and shared experiences

I love slow burn romances. I love friends-to-lovers. Instalove is a hard sell for me because real love based on big gestures and intense attraction doesn’t really last long in the real world.

There’s a fine line between “shared experiences” and “trauma bonding,” so I advise against putting characters through something that would emotionally scar them for life unless you’re writing dystopia/sci-fi/fantasy, but even then, I advise to proceed with caution and not build the foundation of the romance on something that keeps them in the negative. The kinds of shared experiences I like is when the two people are working together on a project or share in holiday traditions or they go places together.

There also needs to be genuine emotional connection and understanding between the parties involved. By that, I mean that your characters need to be open and vulnerable and genuinely loving to each other at some point. While I realize that it takes time to get to that point, I have seen or heard of way too many “romance” stories where the characters don’t really communicate with each other and spend more time making out and fighting and playing manipulative mind games. (Points to the entire After series.)

Which leads me to the next tip.

5. Manipulation, Mind Games, and Stalking Aren’t Love

While there’s an initial emotional rush towards relationships that are, to quote Taylor Swift “screaming and crying and kissing in the rain,” relationships where people try to manipulate each other and play mind games or do something to trigger some kind of emotional reaction from their partner have major consequences that usually end up with people going to therapy.

There’s no genuine emotional connection when people are playing power games. Love isn’t about dominating or possessing some other person. Why do authors in the YA genre and writers of Netflix romance dramas find that concept so hard to believe?!

Long story short: Writers, stop writing stalking and romances that are founded on emotional abuse. Watch these videos.

In Conclusion

When you’re writing a romance, a rom com, or a romantic subplot, the key theme that ties all my tips together is authenticity. The premise of your story needs to feel real, even when you’re writing outside of the contemporary genre. The people in the story have to own up to who they are and overcome their pretenses.

Authentic love isn’t grounded in manipulation, mind games, or stalking. Real love is about the parties involved being genuinely happy with each other, even if they live in a dystopia. If the parties involved in a relationship of any kind can understand each other and talk their issues out, the relationship becomes all the more endearing because of the vulnerability.

I hope y’all liked these tips. And don’t let me stop you from enjoying your holiday romcoms!

Summer of Health and Fitness: Week 7

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Can you guys believe it’s already August? Time really does fly in the summertime.

As of last Thursday, I have officially lost 10 lbs. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but do the math and I’ve basically been losing 2 lbs a week. I went shopping the other day and actually managed to fit into a pair of Size 4 jeans!

According to my health app, I am now at a healthy weight with only 5 lbs to go until I actually make my weight loss goal. The hard part now is just going to be maintaining my weight and not gaining anything.

There are still days where I go over, but it’s mostly on days where I eat out and no day has been as bad as the time I ate too many tortilla chips at Chili’s. I’m pretty sure that by now, everything has balanced out.

So the question now is “Where does the Summer of Health and Fitness go from here?”

Well, summer’s not over yet, for one thing. I will keep updating about my health and fitness every week until the month of September.

I also want to know about your own weight loss/exercise stories. What kind of progress have y’all been making? Let me know in the comments.

 

Summer of Health and Fitness: Week 5

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 Fall seven times and stand up eight-Japanese Proverb

It isn’t easy sticking to a diet and exercise plan. I’ve been doing this for over a month now, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve had a few bad days. Instead of giving up, though, I just kept sticking to my diet, trying to eat better and exercise more than I did the previous day.

Let’s say that, like me, you go out to dinner with your family. You eat handful after handful of tortillas (or breadsticks) and all of a sudden, you’re over your calorie limit for the day. First of all, don’t panic. If you’re anxious because you went over recently, take a deep breath.

You’re not gonna cancel out those calories in one day. As I’ve stated before, don’t exercise to the point of exhaustion. Just go into your normal workout and see if you can push yourself a little more than usual. Dance for 45 minutes. Do some strength training. The calories will burn out.

As far as eating goes, don’t skip breakfast, even if you ate a lot the previous day. Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Get your protein in. Just skip the snacking for the day and eat a lighter lunch and dinner.

Trust me when I say that as long as you stick to your diet and exercise plan, the bad days will balance out with the good ones. Having this lifestyle will take work, but it’s going to be worth it.

This perspective of perseverance has also applied to my life as a writer. I’ve learned that when you’re in the midst of revising your novel, you are essentially turning coal into diamonds or purifying silver. You are taking a load of crap, putting a lot of pressure and heat on it, and working hard to achieve a worthwhile result.

Don’t give up! You can do this!

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 4

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From last Wednesday til yesterday, I was on vacation. My family and I went to Galveston for a day and Corpus Christi for 4 days.

Since I couldn’t cook, dieting came down to controlling how much I ate. I drank more Slurpees than I usually did and because of my allergies, I couldn’t just order a salad everywhere I went. (The problem with restaurant salads is that they put stuff there that I might be allergic to, like peanuts, croutons, or stuff I never ate before. #foodallergyproblems.) In spite of not really being in control of what I ate, I still managed to stick to my diet. 

Here’s a tip: If you’re eating out, don’t eat the whole plate. Eat a portion and share the rest or save some for later. 

If there’s anything I learned from my vacation, it’s that if you want to stick to your diet and exercise plan, have courage. Don’t be afraid to eat out! Just be smart about it. At the same time, don’t be anxious when you treat yourself to Slurpees or Italian Ices. When you get back home, you can return to your regular diet/exercise and everything will balance out.

If you’re planning on traveling this summer, make sure your hotel has a good gym. Even the smallest fitness room usually do fine. I worked out for 30 minutes on the elliptical machine 2x during my vacation. The rest of my exercise consisted of a lot of walking, whether it was on the beach or browsing around antique stores. Do a lot of walking on your vacation, but keep the weather in mind. Nothing wrong with doing a long walk inside a museum on a hot day! 

I’m gonna end this blog post with a recipe for my new favorite food: Tuna and guac tacos! This is perfect for anyone who’s gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small haas avocado (or 3 if you’re cooking for 4 people)
  • 1 small (4″ diameter) corn tortilla. (I got a store brand.) 
  • 1/2-1 whole yellow onion, diced (Depends on the size of the onion and how many people you’re serving)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped (use 6 if cooking for 4 people) 
  • Lemon/lime juice
  • Salt and pepper (feel free to add your favorite spices here)
  • Starkist tuna in vegetable oil (Pouch, please. You can also use the EVOO version.)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Set a pan over medium/high heat and cook up the Starkist tuna
  2. Scoop the avocado meat once the tuna has been cooking for a few minutes. Add spices as you spread your avocado meat around the pan. Mix it all together.
  3. Add the onions and lime juice.
  4. In a separate pan or in your toaster oven, cook up your corn tortillas for a minute or two. The tortillas should be light and fluffy.
  5. Turn off the heat after cooking your guac/tuna/onion mixture for 10 minutes.
  6. Plate the tortillas and scoop the mixture by the tablespoon into the tortillas.

Summer of Health and Fitness Week 2

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The previous week was definitely a challenge for me, as I had to change my exercising strategy. My feet were not up for running at all. Whenever I did a jumping exercise, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot.

I still made an effort to exercise everyday, in spite of the soreness in my legs. Simone de la Rue’s workout videos have some modified low impact moves that still get the job done. Check out this 25 minute cardio dance workout video and see how well you do.

4th of July was another test for my diet/exercise as I ate some pretty carb-heavy meals (hashbrowns for breakfast and sushi for lunch). I also snacked a lot, so I decided to eat corn for dinner so that I could have room for a nice s’more at the end of the day.

The only time I went over my calorie intake was a couple days ago when I had dinner at Whataburger. But here’s a tip: If you’re going to eat fast food, order small portions. Before I started this diet, I used to eat two large fries at Whataburger, which would add up to over 1000 calories. On Sunday, I ate a junior Whataburger with pickles and ketchup and had a small fry with water. It’s a huge difference, trust me on that.

I haven’t lost any weight since two weeks ago, but my waist to hip ratio has gone down. On top of that, some of my clothes are starting to feel big on me. What I’m doing is making a difference on my body. It’s just gonna take some patience.

Aside from patience, however, one virtue that I felt was prominent this past week was prudence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every good circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.

You won’t always be in control of where you go to eat things. You can’t always eat at home or bring food with you. It’s prudent to figure out your best option and not worry if you go over your calorie limit for one day. Just remember to work it all off the next day.

Prudence also applies to exercising. Listen to your body and don’t push it so hard that you feel pain. The best workouts are the ones that make you sweat without hitting a nerve or end with you hitting the floor.

I also had to apply the virtue of prudence in terms of some negative emotions I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people starting out on a new health and fitness habit, I made the mistake of comparing myself to someone who was a lot more fit and attractive than I will ever, ever be. I was jealous of this person beyond what’s rational or sensible.

The best thing I had to do was not give into the feelings or blast them out in the internet for all to see. I wrote in my journal. I confided in trustworthy friends. I focused on myself. And then I let it all go. It’s a process, obviously, but one I feel will help my emotional well-being.

If you’re starting out on a new health and fitness routine, don’t compare yourself to the model you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated or a fitness magazine. Focus on your own personal goals and be realistic.

It’s going to take time to lose weight or lower your cholesterol or whatever you want to do. The best thing you can do is just stick to what you have planned, no matter how you feel, and take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically. Keep a journal about everything you feel. Find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Trust me when I say that having the right mentality will make diet and exercising a lot easier.

 

The Declassified Convention Survival Guide

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I love going to conventions. I don’t get to go as often as I used to in college, but this year, I got to go to Comicpalooza again!

Since there will be many conventions happening all around the country this summer, here are some tips for making the most out of your con experience.

  1. Plan ahead. If you’re 100% certain that you’re gonna go to this convention, book your tickets ASAP. Take advantage of early bird prices or special offers. You don’t even have to go for all three days. Pick one day. Trust me, it will be more than enough. It also helps to know the schedule, too.
  2. Have a really good costume. You don’t have to know how to sew in order to make an amazing cosplay. My Mantis cosplay is made from stuff I have in my closet. The only things I actually made were the sleeves (which I knitted) and the headband antennae.
  3. Find good parking/transportation. If you can’t book a hotel close to the convention, find a good parking space that’s within walking distance.
  4. Get there early. Lines for getting your pass, autographs, and the big Q&As are long. Get a program as soon as you get there and figure out which events are most important for you.
  5. Keep Captain Cold’s words in mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ReF-nlrQAY. The best of plans will inevitably fall apart, so don’t panic if you miss out on the big Q&A or can’t afford a picture with your favorite celebrity. You’re at the con to have fun!
  6. Remember to eat and drink! With all the events going on, it’s important to make time for a little snack and water break. If you have food allergies like me, bring a snack or figure out what places nearby will have something you can eat.
  7. Splurge wisely. It is REALLY tempting to blow all your money on everything you see, but if you’re on a budget like me, it’s better to splurge on one big thing than spending your money on tshirts. Photo ops are my best recommendation. A picture is worth a lot, at least to me. It may not sell on eBay, but that’s not really the point.

Overall, I had a fun time at Comicpalooza. Check out my photos on my Instagram:

NaNoWriMo Log: Always Starting Over

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There are a lot of things I learned this month. Although I had fun this month, I didn’t really win. So I decided to write about three fundamental truths that I learned from this whole experience.

Lesson number 1: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

Back up everything. If you’re using Scrivener, learn how to export your stuff properly and save everything under a new file. Don’t replace old stuff. And don’t throw anything away. You might find some good stuff in your old stories.

Lesson 2: Take your time.

I still stand by what I said about how outlines are basically guidelines, but this NaNoWriMo I learned that I can’t write by the seat of my pants the way I used to. This may not apply to everyone, but I definitely realize that I needed to dedicate more time in prepping this novel. I needed time to create detailed outlines, character profiles, and worldbuilding notes. Even if you’re a pantser, you still need to take some time to develop everything that’s in your head and give it some structure.

 

Lesson 3: Cheaters never prosper.

While I’m glad that I have a lot of old stories in my archives, it never felt right just copying and pasting stuff from them to add to my word count. Each novel is its own unique universe and you have to treat it as such. If you find something in your old WIPs that might fit into your new book, you still have to rework it to fit with the new book.

 

I hope everyone had a great time with NaNoWriMo. My personal wish is that I do better next year. But I think we can all aspire to that. There’s always room for improvement and there’s no shame in starting over on a blank slate.

In The Eye of the Storm: Surviving Hurricane Harvey

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Monday, August 28, 2017: Ever since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, rain kept pouring down. The streets of my neighborhood were starting to flood, with water getting higher every night. An uneasy, lingering anxiety filled my guts, even as I kept praying Rosary after Rosary. I was in my room, reading when my mom said: “Pack your bags. We’re going to evacuate.”

At this point, a lot of the things in my room were already put into bags and placed high in case water got into my house. Still, I packed a few bags and felt my heart jump when my dad said that there were people ready to take us out of our house. The next thing I knew, I was out on a float boat, the kind that people usually use for river rides at water parks. My stomach felt like it was on fire and I wanted to make sure that my backpack stayed above the high flood waters.

So while floating along the street, I did something a little crazy:

I sang.

Specifically, I sang this song:

It was kind of appropriate. And part of me knew that if I didn’t sing, I would’ve been panicking instead. My brother and I made it to the gas station across the street and waited for our parents. Dad was also on a float boat, but my mom took a jet ski. It felt like forever.

Once we were all together at the gas station, we hitched a ride to the grocery store down the street and waited there for someone who could drive us to somewhere dry. I prayed that if I had to take shelter, I wanted to be at a church where I could sleep in front of the cross or the Blessed Sacrament. Instead, we ended up hitching a ride with one of dad’s customers (a contractor) and went to another town where my mom’s coworker lived. His house had plenty of room for us, not to mention that he still had electricity, a guest bathroom, and a laundry room.

The strange thing was that even though I was at someone else’s house, worried about if water would get into mine, I felt more at ease than I was at home. Miraculously, through the rain and the flood waters, all the stuff that I brought with my was mostly dry. My laptop, keyboard, and phone were dry, my clothes were damp, and I had all my toiletries. Not to mention my tiny collection of Funko Pops.

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I also had a few books with me. One book was Every Day with Mary, a collection of daily reflections from the affiliates of Mayslake Ministries that I got at the Catholic Writer’s Guild conference in Chicago. The reflection for that day began with this Bible verse:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory thatis to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.-Romans 8:18-19

The reflection’s theme focused on abundance, but not the kind you would hear about from the Prosperity Gospel or Law of Attraction crowd. The abundance in this book referred to the heavenly reward for those who carried heavy crosses in their earthly lives. Mary is a great example of this because she also had to leave the safety of her home at a moment’s notice and stay amongst strangers for a certain period of time. But throughout that ordeal, she remained strong and did God’s will.

One of the things I prayed while I stayed at my mom’s coworker’s house was a short request to Our Lady of Fatima: “Our Lady of Fatima, please bring a miracle of the sun to Texas.”

The next day, around the afternoon, my brother messaged me to look out the window because the sun finally came out, peeking from behind the clouds. We also decided to go to my cousin’s house and sleep over there because they just came back from being evacuated.

Throughout all this, I thanked God for giving me the strength to go through all of it. I felt grateful for my family, the clothes that I had, and all the things I had with me. And then, when I woke up on August 30, 2017, I took a picture of the sky. Never have I ever felt so grateful to see the sun and the beautiful, clear skies of Texas.

I was able to get home yesterday and signs of recovery were already showing on the drive home. The streets were dry and even though my street was still somewhat flooded, the waters were no longer high. I arrived to a house with only one inch of water damage…in my garage. Every other room in my house was okay and still had electricity and running water and functional plumbing.

Which leads to the question: Why did I have to leave?

For the brief period that I left my house, I experienced what it was like to be displaced. I understand now how scared everyone in the shelters must feel. I also got to see how disasters can bring out the best in people. 90% of my social media feed shared images and stories of people who were helping others, like the priest on the kayak who was trying to find wine for Mass, the lines of volunteers, and the local furniture store owner who turned his showrooms into shelters.

And as far as the 10% of social media who keep politicizing this tragedy: look at the people who are volunteering and donating and please do likewise. Here’s a list of charities to donate to. 

Even though the storm has passed, the next chapter of recovery has just started. The entire Gulf Coast of Texas was affected by this storm, not just Houston. I am supremely proud of my city, but I want to use this blog to raise awareness of everywhere else that was affected. Not to mention that the storm has moved on to other areas who will also need help. Hurricane season is not over. But for now, I feel grateful for how everyone has come together and stayed strong.

As I am back home, I am playing “Amazing Grace” on my Spotify app. It’s cheesy and the most overplayed song in the history of Christian music, I know. Even so, the song was written by someone who survived a storm. It was through God’s grace that I was able to be strong in the middle of the pouring rain and all the uncertainty. I pray that this grace will be given to those who need it now.

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

What Would Buffy Do?- A Book Review

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To say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a unique show that ended up changing my life forever would be an understatement. Much like how the Doctor from Doctor Who has two hearts, I have two great loves in my life: My Catholic faith and my obsession with fandoms, especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So imagine my surprise when I found out that a book like this one existed.

What Would Buffy Do: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide is a collection of essays by Jana Reiss, a Mormon writer who specializes in writing things relating to religion and spirituality. It really boggles the mind that a show like Buffy, created by well-renowned atheist Joss Whedon, would have spiritual and religious themes that would lead to a Mormon writing essays on it, among other things.

The essays in Spiritual Guide are split into three sections: Personal Spirituality, “Companions on the Journey” (Interpersonal aspects of spirituality), and “Saving the World” (broad spiritual themes).  The essays in the first section are the most accessible to understand. “Be a Hero, Even When You’d Rather Go to the Mall” looks into the theme of self-sacrifice, using the characters of Buffy, Angel, and Xander as examples. This essay ties self-sacrifice with the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, “beings who are more concerned with the welfare of others.”  Although it includes the prayer of St. Francis as a quote (the same prayer also used in the end of the Buffy season 6 finale “Grave”), it neglects to mention the Christian aspect of agape and altruism, especially this verse from John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“Change Makes us Human” looks into how vampires were originally conceived in the show: as metaphors for the selfish tendencies we have and the obstacles we have to deal with in the process of growing up. Spike is used as an example of this inability to change. In the episode “School Hard, Angel confronts Spike, saying “Things change.” Spike replies “Not us! Not demons!” The essay goes on to show how Spike becomes one of the most dynamic characters in the show, starting with the fact that Spike was the vampire with the most humanity. He cared for Drusilla for over a century and it’s through love (his love for Dawn and Buffy) that compels Spike to get his soul. Willow, Xander, and Giles’s character arcs are also examined.  What makes Buffy unique is that how slowly the show changes and evolves and the characters (and the audience) are forced to adapt and adjust to the change.

One aspect of change that this book looks into is death, examined in the essay “Death is Our Gift.” Death is shown as  something to be feared initially in Buffy and gave rise to the running joke of Joss Whedon killing off everyone the fans love. However, the darkness that death brings is one of the themes in season six. Sarah Michelle Gellar said that she felt uncomfortable with Buffy’s story arc in season six as it didn’t feel like the character she knew and loved. Marti Noxon, one of the writers and producers, called seas on six Buffy’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” Sadly, that’s the only mention of the Dark Night of the Soul in this entire book.

There is an essay on darkness in the third section of the book entitled “Taming the Darkness Within Ourselves,” but it looks into darkness from a more thematic and psychological perspective and not a spiritual one. Given that Spiritual Guide was published in 2004 and Mother Teresa’s struggles with her interior darkness wouldn’t be published until 2007, it’s somewhat understandable why the idea of spiritual darkness wasn’t fully examined in this book. The essay on humor “The ‘Monster Sarcasm Rally,'” also neglects to examine the ties between humor and faith. Then again, humor and religion have only recently shown to go hand in hand.

This book is a wonderful read as far as examining the various themes and the complexity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the spiritual roots are soaking in shallow water, probably so that the book would be accessible to a general audience. I would love to see a follow-up to this book, some kind of anthology with essays from people of all denominations. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that this book has me asking more questions than answers, leaving me wanting to dig deeper and continue down the path towards integrating my favorite show with my belief system.

In the last episode of Buffy, “Chosen,” the power of the Slayer is given to every girl in the world and ends with Dawn asking Buffy “What do we do now?” When I finished watching the show for the first time, I was left wanting more and eventually found a community of fellow fans who love Buffy. To my surprise, these friends are also people whom I can discuss my Catholic faith with openly. I think the Vampire Slayer Spiritual Guide serves a similar purpose. It’s not meant to give straightforward answers, but to act as a conversation piece for people like me who have both faith and fandoms in their lives. It might be a good way to introduce the show to those who wouldn’t watch something with horror and modern themes.

Tl;dr: Read this book and have a good discussion with your fellow philosophy and theology majors. And then watch Buffy. It will make you laugh, cry, and change your life forever.

What St. Margaret of Cortona Can Teach to Women

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In recent months, I discovered a saint that I never met before: St. Margaret of Cortona. I first learned her name while I was browsing my parish’s Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk. There was a CD about her paired with Saint Augustine as a saint for sinners. Given how familiar I was with Augustine’s story, I had to wonder how this other woman could’ve compared in terms of flagrant sinning and heartfelt penance.

It’s a brand new year and in the story of my life, I begin a new chapter as I turn 27 years old. When people reach their birthday, they often reflect on the previous year. In many ways 2016 to me was a year of friendship. I came to value my friends in Heaven, in the city that I call home, in my old hometown, and online. St. Margaret of Cortona became one of these new friends. At the same time, my friendship with two other ladies fell apart. These friendships were with Rory Gilmore and Taylor Swift.

I know what you’re thinking. Rory Gilmore is a fictional character and Taylor Swift is a celebrity. I’m not actually friends with either of them. That is true, but for the longest time, I felt like these two females were like best friends to me. Rory Gilmore was the friend I had in middle school, back when Gilmore Girls was on TV. I related to Rory because she liked to read, she went to a school where everyone wore uniforms like I did, and she wanted to go to college and be a journalist, which were my dreams at the time. Taylor Swift felt like my best friend when I started living in Texas. Her songs of the boys who broke her heart resonated with 16-year-old me and she stayed with me as I transitioned from high school to college and from college into young adulthood.

2016 changed all that. I started binge watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new mini-series revival coming to Netflix in November. (Incidentally: Spoilers ensue for Year In The Life.)

Initially, I felt nostalgic, seeing Stars Hollow and watching Rory survive Chilton and make her way to Yale. When she got started at Yale, though, I started feeling disappointed in her. She was still in love with Dean to the point that she slept with him, even though he was married. She hooks up with Logan in Season 5 and decides to drop out of Yale when she steals a boat as a reaction to Logan’s father telling her she’s not cut out to be a journalist. I skipped Season 7 and jumped straight into Year In The Life in the hopes that things would get better, but the mini-series turned out to be a mixed bag. Rory’s character regressed from bad to worse.

She was perfectly happy being Logan’s mistress until she realizes that he was going to honor his “arranged marriage.” And mind you, I actually liked Logan for a while. I also didn’t like her “struggles” in making a living as a freelance writer. She didn’t put much effort into chasing stories that would land her a byline. The only story she did pursue bored her to death and she slept with a guy dressed as a Wookie in the process. There was a website that wanted her to write for them, but she showed up to the interview completely unprepared and later lashed out at the website’s owner when she gave the job to someone else. Then, of course, was the end of the mini-series. I don’t want to spoil for those who didn’t watch. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and went “Here we go again.”

As far as Taylor Swift went, she started 2016 off well, but the pedestal I had for her shook when she broke up with Calvin and started having a feud with him. Bad news in regards to Taylor Swift kept coming. I hated that she dated Tom Hiddleston and felt happy when they broke up. I was hoping she’d start making a new album, as she did every two years, but instead, towards the end of 2016, she released a song she did from former One Direction band member Zayn for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.

It felt like a stab in the back. I looked the other way when she became friends with Lena Dunham and tried to make peace with her removing her songs from Spotify. But for someone who claimed to be a feminist, contributing a song to a movie that continue to glamorize an abusive relationships was the last thing I wanted her to do. What’s worse is that the lyrics are sad, and not in the sad, beautiful, tragic way some of her other songs were. “I Don’t Want To Live Forever’s” lyrics capture a state of despair and co-dependent tendencies. I wanted Taylor to be happy and thought that she was after releasing 1989 and being in a relationship with Calvin. The Taylor I knew doesn’t exist anymore.

So back to Margaret of Cortona. What does she have with these two ladies? Well, like Taylor Swift, her life was sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father and a stepmother who could give Lady Tremaine or Regina Mills a run for their money. Margaret, however, had an independent spirit, which gave her the strength to stand up to her wicked stepmother. Unfortunately, she was also “by nature one of those women who thirst for affection, in whom to be loved is the imperative need of their lives,” according to Fr. Albert Goodier. She became willful and reckless and eventually left her family.

Starved for love and being a woman who was quite beautiful, Margaret eventually became the mistress of a wealthy nobleman and ends up having his child. It’s not unlike how Rory Gilmore spent almost a decade being Logan’s mistress and feeling complacent in that relationship until he honors his marriage to someone else. But unlike Rory Gilmore, whose story arc in Year in the Life can be summed up as being the Poor Little Rich Girl, Margaret actually tried to make something of her life even after she leaves her love her and her family disowns her.

St. Margaret of Cortona went to live with an order of Franciscan monks who helped her take care of her kid. She dedicated the rest of her life to atoning for her former sinful life. Like Saint Francis, she worked for her meals and took whatever her employers paid her. Eventually, she would give her wages to those who needed it more. She founded a hospital, created a confraternity so that the hospital would always have employees, and eventually helped to restore a church.

So why am I writing about St. Margaret of Cortona now? According to Fr. Goodier, St. Margaret had her change of heart around the age of 27. As of right now, I am the same age as Taylor Swift and five years younger than Rory Gilmore. If there’s one New Year’s Resolution that I want to keep this year, it’s that I pick some better role models. I think St. Margaret of Cortona would be a good one for me, as well as for single moms and any other woman with relationship issues.

St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.