Austen Addicts Annonymous

Hello. My name is Jenny and I'm addicted to reading Jane Austen and Jane Austen continuations/variations. 

It started out innocently enough when I was a teenager and watched the 1940's version of Pride and Prejudice (with Greer Garson and Sir Lawrence Olivier) for the very first time with my mom. It was love at first viewing.  In the 90's, Sense and Sensibility (with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson) and Emma (with Gwynneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) served to continue the addiction.  I watched these films repeatedly, chuckling anew at witticisms found in each of the movies. ("Try not to kill my dogs", "You have taken up an idea and run wild with it", "I know how you like news", or "My friends say I certainly know how to make a sandwich", from Emma and almost all of Mr. Palmer's lines---such as "I came into Devonshire with no other view"---from Sense and Sensibility were some of my favorites.) 

Then, about eight years ago I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice at the library for the very first time and was shocked to discover that --gasp! -- the movie had not portrayed the book correctly.  Lady Catherine did not in fact approve of Darcy marrying Elizabeth?!  How shocking!  One by one I devoured each of Jane Austen's novels, reading each of my three favorites several times.

2005 brought about the release of the newest version of Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen).  I was fiercely loyal to the only version I'd seen and railed against this version to anyone who would listen.  But then, for some unknown reason, the urge to actually watch it came over me.  Here is where the real addiction set in.  For after watching it once, I had to watch it again.  Over and over and over again.  Whenever my husband and family are either gone or asleep, I find myself inexplicably drawn to my copy of the DVD.  I've listened to the soundtrack repeatedly; indeed, it has become my go-to CD whenenver I am stressed and need some instant tranquility.

I fed my addiction for Austen by watching as many movie versions of the books as I could find (and stomach, for some of them are really horrible).  Yes, I even subjected myself to watching a wet Colin Firth (not a sight I want to repeat) stepping out of a pond near Pemberly.  Once I had finished with those, I began reading the fan fiction novels based on Austen's works--the variations and continuations.  Some of these are horrendous and, I'm convinced, are making poor Jane Austen spin in her grave.  But some are like pure poetry.  They must be exactly what Jane Austen herself would have written if she'd had the notion.  I read so many of these novels in such a short succession that I could almost fancy myself being Elizabeth Bennett wandering around Pemberly for the first time.  Indeed, these images have often invaded my very dreams at night.

They say that confession is the first step in overcoming an addiction--an addiction that has brought us all together here tonight.  But I've come to realize, however, that I am hopelessly, unashamedly addicted to Jane Austen's characters and novelsAnd come to think of it, I wouldn't have it any other way.


The First Valentine

Yesterday in Sunday school, we wondered how people without the Lord cope during times of difficulty.  Everyone faces trials and tribulations.  Everyone.  A Christian, contrary to what some believe or would tell you, is not exempt or immune from the problems of life.  We still get sick.  We still experience financial difficulties.  We still experience loss.  We even deal with the consequences of past sin.  On top of all of these hardships, we also experience the fiery darts of the enemy of our souls.  A Christian's life is no easier than the life of one who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior.

The difference, however, is how we cope with these trials.  I know that Jesus is always there for me to lean and rely on.  I do not need to face hardships alone--He is there waiting for me to take His hand so that He can lead me through the valleys of life.  No matter how frightened, confused, hurt, angry, or sad I may be, He fills me with His peace and joy.  Peace because I know that no matter what happens, He is there and has my very best in mind.  Joy because I know that no matter what I may face on this earth, He has already paid the price for my sin and because I chose Him a long time ago, there is nothing that can sweep me out of the palm of His hand (except by my own doing, of course. He may not let me go, but I may choose to leave Him).  Despair implies a lack of hope.  As a Christian, my hope is in Jesus Christ--who is bigger than any trial I may face--and so there is no need for despair.  There is no place for it in my life.

But how do those who do not know Jesus cope when facing these same struggles?  For these who have no hope, despair weighs heavy on their hearts and souls.  Without the hope of Jesus Christ, what is there to live for?  What helps people face their pain-filled lives?  Some may turn to things or people in their desperate attempts for peace and happiness amidst the storms of life.  But things or people will never provide lasting comfort.  Eventually, it will require more and more of that alcohol, those drugs, the material goods, or relationships to reach the same level of pleasure they had before.  We will never be completely satisfied with earthly things or relationships.  Each of us were made in God's image and with the desire for fellowship with Him.  Nothing under heaven will fill this longing other than a relationship with Him.  Nothing.  We may fool ourselves for a time into thinking that we are happy, satisfied.  But deep down, we know that there is something missing that our things, our friends, our spouses, and even our children, cannot give us.

Today is Valentine's Day.  Let us remember, then, the first Valentine that was ever given to us.  God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins that we may have abundant life to the fullest.  There will always be hardships.  Accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and becoming a Christian certainly will not spare you from these.  But no longer will despair threaten to consume you.  Today I urge you to pray and ask Jesus to forgive you and accept the greatest gift of love that has ever been given to you.  "For God so loved [insert your name here] that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whosoever [again, insert your name here] believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)


The Power of Music

There is much power in music. I cannot think of a single movie that does not have an accompanying soundtrack. Music has a powerful influence over us. With the opening strands of an old favorite, we are instantly whisked away to a past thought, situation, emotion, or person. Sometimes the memories are happy, sometimes not.

The song "Bad Goodbye" stirs up the melancholy and despair I felt when Troy and I broke up after a year of dating. Hearing any of the songs that were played during our wedding conjure the joy and bliss of the day. When I am stressed or need to rest, I am always soothed by the beautiful piano instrumentals of my Pride and Prejudice soundtrack. On those rare days I feel a cleaning jag looming and need some added inspiration, the quick tempo of jazz, particularly my Swing Kids soundtrack, gets my feet moving.

Music also helps to set the mood and tone when it is time to write. Each of my stories have their own accompanying soundtracks--songs I have blended together based on experiences of my characters, rather like those old mixed tapes we used to make when we were younger. For example, the soundtrack for The Roommate would include Toni Braxton's "Breathe Again" and Jon Secada's "If You Go", because they remind me of all the struggles Devon and Adrienna face as they fall in love. (This particular story is one I've been working on off-and-on since my sophomore year in high school, which explains why the songs are not "new".)

One of my favorite movie lines pertains to the power of music and is from the movie Music and Lyrics, with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Hugh's character states that nothing can make you feel as good, as fast as a song.

And that is the power of music.


Writer's Block

I have writer's block, that bane of every literary creator's existence. There was something interesting about to happen to my character, but now I can't quite remember what it was. The idea is just on the edge of my memory, hiding around the corner sticking it's tongue out at me like a child playing an annoying game of peek-a-boo. Oh well. Perhaps if I think about something else for a few minutes, it will grow tired of this little game and come back to me. I let out a long sigh and lean my short body into as long a stretch as I can muster. Still nothing. Thirty minutes ago, before my children went to bed, it was so loud in here I couldn't hear myself think, as the expression goes. Now, on the other hand, it is quiet. Blissfuly quiet. Quiet. Peaceful. Without noise. Noiseless. Okay, so it's almost too quiet. Because now I can hear the drippy sink faucet. Drip. Drop. Drop. Drip. (Our sink is quirky that way.) And now that I can hear the drippy, droppy sink, I suddenly realize simultaneously that I'm thirsty.....and I need to pee. Odd how that happens.

Business has been taken care of and my tall, blue sippy-cup-for-adults at my elbow is filled with Grape Crystal Light. I stare at my computer screen, still waiting for the peek-a-boo game in my head to end. Tossing a glance around the room, I heave another long sigh--especially when my eyes fall on the extremely dusty shelf next to the table. As dust is not good for the sinuses, I get up in search of a rag and the generic lemon Pledge underneath the kitchen sink. But once the shelf is dusted, I can't help but notice how jumbled the books on it are. How in the world will anyone be able to locate favorite books in a second with them in this state? No, something must be done. Now. If dust kills the sinuses, clutter certainly kills creativity. I spend the next thirty minutes alphabetizing every single book on all three of my shelves.....by genre. Since purchasing my Kindle and weeding out some of the extra copies of books I've purchased in ebook form, this does not take as long as it otherwise would have.

Back in my chair, I realize that I can't concentrate with all the deafening quiet. Music! That's the ticket. Music always stirs the imagination. I slip on the giant headphones---because one of my ears is significantly smaller than the other one (and pointed, kind of like an Elf's ear. With one pointy ear, my curly brown hair, and my short stature, it's a shame we don't live in New Zealand. I would've made an excellent Hobbit in profile), those ear buds have a tendancy to just pop right back out again--and go right to the playlist of all my favorite 80's and 90's songs. Here is something to inspire the memory to cease and desist that obnoxious game and get ready for some serious work. And then I realize that it's a blessing I don't have many CDs anymore. Seeing them in a jumble would've certainly required another thirty or so minutes of organizing before I could get to work. Small favors and all that.

Aha! The music has tamed savage beast once again and the great idea has returned! Frantically, feverishly, and fervently, my fingers pound the keys as this great plot twist comes to life on the screen in front of me. It's magnificent! It's stupendous! I'm a genious! And then without warning, it strikes....

I have writer's block, that bane of every literary creator's existence. Again.