Thursday, December 12, 2013

Seven Reasons Reading Stephen King Novels Is Good For You (Favorite Books Post No. 2)

I love to read horror, suspense, mysteries, and thrillers, all books that fall within the category of genre or popular fiction. Probably because I write them as well, it disturbs me that even people who love those types of books at times refer to them as “trash” or feel embarrassed about reading them. I’m not sure where this idea came from. Shirley Jackson wrote horror, and I read her short story The Lottery in honors English class in high school. Perhaps a book needs to be a certain age to be considered “literature.”

So for all those who, like me, love reading books by Stephen King, Sara Paretsky, Mary Higgins Clark, Tess Gerritsen, Dean Koontz and the other similar writers, here are seven reasons to hold your head high while carrying their books onto the airplane:


1. Education: In junior high, I read a romance novel set during the French revolution and another novel based on the life of the Empress Josephine. So began my love of the French language and culture. The historical figures and events I read about gave me a reason to want to know more about them, and I learned French and traveled to Paris later in life. Also, understanding a small amount of French history gave me a larger context regarding the American Revolution, philosophy, and foreign relations that I otherwise would have lacked, as history class in both high school and college left me cold.

2. Empathy: Fiction lets us all step into the shoes of characters who have backgrounds, experiences and attitudes completely different from our own. Reading good genre fiction is an especially effective way to do this. Why? Because we need to truly know and care about the characters for it to matter whether a poisonous fog engulfs them or zombies are banging at the door. For that reason, the best genre writers develop their characters in more depth than do other authors, often taking us right into those characters’ minds and hearts. And in a truly great novel we care about the monster, too. Reread the passages in Frankenstein from the monster’s point of view highlighting his isolation and loneliness. For a somewhat more contemporary example, think of the genetically-engineered antagonist who loves Mickey Mouse and feels unfairly treated in Dean Koontz’s Watchers. Understanding of other political perspectives can be gained, too. I don't expect Dean Koontz's nightmare scenarios to come true, but underneath his fantastical plots are kernels of truth about real life scenarios that can and do occur. His fiction helped me better understand why I may have a totally different view on the topic of gun control from someone who grew up in a rural area and/or someone who has had experiences that create strong reasons to be skeptical of police and government.  

3. Perspective: Most genre books include larger-than-life situations and characters. King's The Stand deals with an apocalypse through plague and, if that's not enough, an epic battle of good and evil among those who are left. Writers like John Sandford and Tess Gerritsen address stories with natural, not supernatural, antagonists, but still usually depict the most extreme types of crimes, such as murders committed by serial killers. Reading about the end of the world can remind us that as stressful as real life can be, most challenges we face are manageable.

4. Support: At the same time, terrible things do happen. Divorce, death, extreme financial hardship. In the midst of trying to cope with real tragedies, it’s often hard to share how we feel with others. Reading about the inner life of a character with similar experiences can help us feel less alone. My parents died within seven weeks of one another due to injuries they sustained when hit by an intoxicated driver. Reading about characters who lost a loved one suddenly or violently helped me understand that the sense of disconnection and anger I felt, and the difficulty moving forward, were not signs I was losing my mind – they were part of the grieving process. It also helped me believe I would get through that time. While the characters I read about were fictional, their feelings and thoughts were so real that I knew the authors had either been through a similar loss or researched the experience. Either way, it reassured me. Talking with real people helped, too, but sometimes I was too overwhelmed to do that.

5. Heroes: Many novels thought of as literary feature unlikeable and deeply flawed or morally ambiguous protagonists. In contrast, genre fiction almost always features a hero – the woman or man who fights the monster, tracks down the killer, sparks a revolution. Why is that important? These characters provide a model for doing the right thing in times of extreme stress. Real life offers some real heroes, but the media are more apt to focus on the antics of dysfunctional politicians and provide a steady stream of warnings and reports about danger and disaster. That type of news is important, too, but we all need heroes to emulate. At a reading for one of her books about the female private eye she created, V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky told about a woman who’d written her who’d lost her mother at a young age. The mother, before dying, told her daughter to read the V.I. books, and that was how she’d know what kind of person to be. Given how I feel about the character (see Why I Love V.I.), I completely understand that.

6. Ethics: The best genre fiction asks more than Whodunnit. It asks questions such as why people take certain actions, what the consequences – intended and unintended – are of those actions, or even how the human race can best move forward. For example, my favorite thriller writer, Gary Braver, examines what a good person would do to get and keep access to the fountain of youth, and how that affects both the individual and the larger world in Elixir. In Gray Matter, Braver examines the ethics and consequences of a medical procedure to enhance children’s intelligence. In The Dead Zone, my favorite King novel, Johnny Smith discovers he can see certain events in the future. This raises questions about his options for taking action, the needs of the one versus the needs of the many, and the ethics and effectiveness of fighting fire with fire. These types of issues can be debated in an ethics class or on Sunday morning TV, but when part of good fiction, ironically, they become more real and compelling.

7. Order: Ayn Rand called what she wrote Romantic Realism – presenting life and human beings as they might be and ought to be. Most of us, when struck with tragedy, struggle with why it occurred and how to cope. Definitive answers are hard to come by. Even wonderful happenings can cause stress if we’re afraid of loss or aren’t sure we can repeat our successes. Good genre fiction, in contrast, offers order and a purpose – in other words, a clear plot and theme. Within a suspenseful and moving story, the types of questions raised in No. 6 above are answered. The conflicts and crises depicted are resolved. Tess Gerritsen’s Maura Isles solves most of her cases and works through some of her personal issues. She still struggles, but progress is made. John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport apprehends the criminal or doesn’t, but we find out what happened and why. For that reason, for me, reading and writing genre fiction is like therapy. At least for the time I’m in that fictional world, everything serves a larger purpose; everything means something.

Happy reading.

Want to hear more about genre fiction? Sign up below to receive the M.O.S.T. (Mystery, Occult, Suspense, Thrillers) e-newsletter 1-2 times per month:

Subscribe to M.O.S.T. mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://amzn.to/pFCcN6

For Nook: http://bit.ly/15bViBm


For Kobo: http://bit.ly/1gTrxdW

Visit Lisa's website:  www.lisalilly.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sin, Sex and the Art of Persuasive Writing

My parents used to subscribe to a Catholic magazine with a column for young adults. When I was in high school, I read one of the columns that advised teenagers that the Bible clearly showed pre-marital sex was wrong - just look at the Sixth and Ninth commandments. I didn't remember anything in the Ten Commandments about pre-marital sex. I checked my parents' Bible (no Internet at that time, so I used the index - remember those?). The Sixth Commandment prohibits adultery. The Ninth prohibits coveting "thy neighbor's wife" and his goods (which raises a whole other issue of women being considered possessions, but that's for another post). I concluded, rightly or wrongly, that the Bible didn't say anything about sex before marriage or the author would have quoted it, not fudged. I also viewed every article in that magazine from then on with great skepticism.

That experience illustrates two important facets of persuading people. One is well-known to most lawyers -- that of putting your best argument first. If your first argument is weak, your reader or listener may never get beyond it. The second is credibility. Because I checked the source material and found it didn't say what the article's author claimed it did, I no longer found that author, or the publication, credible. Both lost the opportunity to persuade me not only of that one point, but of anything.

These principles apply to fiction, too. Novelists all are attempting to persuade readers. To do what? To believe in the fictional world the author created and to care about the characters as if they were real people. That's a big part of what's happening, or not, when customers in a bookstore or on-line read the first paragraph or two of a book. That first page either pulls the reader in or it doesn't. While a lot of authors feel frustrated that potential buyers judge a book by reading no more than the first page (assuming they've liked the cover in the first place), most of us do exactly that when we browse books. That's why I rewrite the first page of my novels close to a hundred times before publication.

Credibility also matters. This morning I revised a scene where a woman exits the River City high rise complex and hurries through Chicago's South Loop after dark. A stranger starts to follow her. What I want the reader to wonder at that point is "Who is the stranger? What does he want? Will Sophia reach her office safely?" But if I'd said she was walking through Lincoln Park instead, someone who knows Chicago's neighborhoods well would forget about the story and wonder: "Isn't River City in the South Loop? Does this author know Chicago at all? Doesn't she check Google maps?" With that one error, my reader is no longer persuaded that the scene or the character is real. If I've otherwise done a good job, the reader might forgive me and read on. But if too many errors break the narrative, it becomes more likely the reader won't return to the book.

So there you have it - sin, sex, and persuasive writing. And you thought it was just a catchy title.

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://amzn.to/pFCcN6

For Nook: http://bit.ly/15bViBm


For Kobo: http://bit.ly/1gTrxdW

Visit Lisa's website:  www.lisalilly.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Military, Make Up, and Rereading Katniss (Favorite Books Post No. 1)

Recently I reread the Hunger Games trilogy. It was great fun, and the themes seemed particularly timely. (I'll do my best not to spoil any of the plot for those who haven't read the whole trilogy.)

(1) Women in Combat: In the Hunger Games, each combatant (known as a tribute) competes to become the sole survivor. The arena for the games changes from year to year and even within each game. A combatant might face mountains, drought, fire, floods, or all of the above. Author Suzanne Collins does an excellent job of showing how each challenge requires different skills and traits. In one scenario, being a fast swimmer is the most important skill, and brute strength provides little or no advantage. In some parts of the game, a young, small tribute outwits and outmaneuvers larger, stronger and tougher opponents because she's stealthy and quick and can swing from treetop to treetop without being noticed. Knowing what plants can be eaten and having the skill to distinguish between ones that are medicinal and ones that are poisonous also can be vital -- another skill that has nothing to do with strength or size. While The Hunger Games and its sequels are fiction, they raise good questions about what makes someone able to handle combat situations or survive in hostile territory. That seems appropriate at a time when the U.S. is inching toward allowing women in combat positions for the first time.

(2) The Importance of Appearances: Before they compete, tributes undergo a rigorous remake of their images, and those images are vital in getting sponsors. Sponsors are people with money who send tributes things they need to survive during the Games. The boy tributes have style consultants just as the girls do. But the girls are subjected to more intense treatments that generally do nothing to help them in combat. While she's being put through hours of waxing, eyebrow tweezing and skin polishing, Katniss reflects on how her male counterpart, Peeta, has this same time free. He can rest or eat during those hours to build his strength, train longer to hone his skills, or schmooze with potential sponsors. This echoes U.S. culture, though obviously the books present this in a larger and more dramatic way. But studies show that women who wear make up are viewed as more professional than those who don't, leaving women who choose not to use cosmetics at a disadvantage. Then there's wardrobe. For men, the standard business attire is a neutral suit and tie or, for business casual, a long-sleeve shirt and khaki pants. There is no neutral for women. A skirt suit can be too girly, a pants suit too manly, a gray outfit too boring, a fuschia blouse too frivolous. (Think of the 2008 primaries -- no one commented on John McCain's or Barack Obama's pants suits.) My routine is pretty basic, and I still spend about 20 minutes every morning on hair, make up and clothing choices, 20 minutes my male colleagues don't need to spend. That's over 120 hours a year, the equivalent of 2-3 work weeks. I could take a vacation, earn another 3/4 of a month's pay, or finish rewrites on my current novel in that time. Not to mention what cosmetics cost. I spend an average $30 a month on cosmetics and skincare. That's $360 a year, which would buy a plane ticket for that vacation.

(3) Likeability: Much of the preparation of Katniss for the Hunger Games involves making her likeable so she can attract sponsors. Katniss is fierce, stubborn, smart, strong and resourceful. All great qualities for survival, and if she were a boy, particularly a large boy, those qualities would get her sponsors. Everyone likes to bet on a winner. As a girl, though, she needs to project vulnerability, niceness (even to the people who are orchestrating a game whose aim is to kill children), and loveability, regardless whether the boys she competes against project those qualities or whether those qualities in themselves will help her win. This reflects many real women's experiences. Women are generally raised to place a premium on relationships, being nice, and being liked. Indeed, many women report being told by strangers on the street to smile if they look too serious or stern, something I suspect never happens to men. Similarly, when men are demanding bosses, take hardline positions, or grab the spotlight in meetings, these qualities are seen as signs of strength and leadership. Women who exhibit these behaviors are more often seen as too aggressive, and aggression is almost always viewed negatively in women. At the same time, women are instructed that to get ahead, they must adopt male body language (see, for example,
10 Common Body Language Traps for Women in the Workplace) or typically male approaches to business to succeed (see Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office).

The reality is, as in The Hunger Games, different qualities, strategies and skills work for different people at different times. There is no one "right" way to behave in every situation. But because the standard for so long has been based on how men behave, women still struggle either to show how they match the male model or why their approach is just as effective. (For a good book about women, men and leadership, check out Closing the Leadership Gap by Marie C. Wilson.)

As a writer, I aim for my work to entertain and intrigue first. Then I hope that after readers close the book, questions and ideas linger about the conflicts the characters faced and how they reflect the real world. I admire the way Suzanne Collins manages that throughout the Hunger Games books without slowing the story for a second.

What are you favorite thrillers, and how do they reflect the larger world around us?

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger. She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://amzn.to/pFCcN6

For Nook:  http://bit.ly/15bViBm

For Kobo: http://bit.ly/1gTrxdW

Visit Lisa's website:  www.lisalilly.com

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In Which I Realize I Don't Need To Use The Health Insurance Marketplace (Post No. 6 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

In my continued journey to obtain the private health insurance now available due to The Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, I've been checking the status of my application at https://www.healthcare.gov/. After two weeks, it's still "in progress." I called and easily reached a real person at 1-800-318-2596. Unfortunately, he said there was no way to provide potential plan information until the application finished processing. At the very least, I'd hoped for an overview of the differences between plans so I could consider options while I wait.

Then a wonderful thing happened. I received a flyer from Blue Cross. With all the publicity, good and bad, over the government website, it hadn't occurred to me (and maybe it hasn't to many people) that I didn't need the website. As of 1/1/2014, private insurers can't turn down individual applicants, so why not just apply directly? 

I reached a salesperson within seconds who provided lots of information. Plans are categorized under the AFA/Obamacare as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The main differences are the co-pays and premiums. With a Platinum plan, 100% of covered expenses are paid by the insurer once you hit your deductible. With a Bronze plan, only 60% are paid by the insurer. Platinum has the highest premiums. Different deductibles, out-of-pocket maximum payments, and plan types (such as HMO, PPO) are available for each category. Also, different networks are available. Based on the network that includes my doctor and the hospital where she has admitting privileges, the Blue Cross salesperson suggested five plans. I chose three with high deductibles to keep premiums down. He emailed me a quote within 10 minutes. At the Blue Cross website, I compared them feature-to-feature.

The next day, I called and applied. No past medical information needed, just age, gender, non-smoking, and where I live. (Chicago - I love an excuse to include a photo of Chicago. This is from the shared deck at my condo building.) Pre-Obamacare, it took hours to apply for an individual health insurance policy because it required a detailed health questionnaire and interview. So half an hour on the phone for this application seemed awesome to me, and it would have been quicker if I'd done it on line myself. I should receive confirmation within 7-10 days and will be insured starting 1/1/2014. I may throw a party.

I don't qualify for federal subsidies for premiums, but I could have applied for them if I needed to through Blue Cross. So it appears the only reason to use the government website is to comparison shop. But that can be done the old-fashioned way, by directly contacting different insurers. Once you're familiar with the plans and deductibles based on the first company you contact, you can then get quotes for similar plans from other insurers. As a guide, I've listed the steps I took below, with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois references.

(1) Explore basics about the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans:

http://www.bcbsil.com/health-insurance-shopping-guide/compare-health-insurance-plans

(2) Check whether your doctor or doctors and hospitals are in the networks the insurer offers: http://provider.bcbs.com/

(3) Call or use website for quotes and to compare plans: 1-866-514-8044 or https://retailweb.hcsc.net/retailshoppingcart/IL/census?plantype=majormedical

(4) Apply by phone or website: 1-866-514-8044 or https://retailweb.hcsc.net/retailshoppingcart/IL/census?plantype=majormedical

Rinse and repeat for other health insurers.

I didn't check other insurers because I've had the Blue Cross PPO before and that's the coverage I wanted. But here are a couple other sites:

http://www.goldenrule.com/health-insurance/ (United Healthcare/Golden Rule)
https://www.humana.com/individual-and-family/products-and-services/medical-plans/ (Humana)

12/5/2013

An addendum because I'm excited -- I just received my Blue Cross card in the mail! (You can tell I'm very excited because I rarely use exclamation points, and I was tempted to include two.) I officially have an individual health insurance policy effective 1/1/14. My account on healthcare.gov still says "in progress," so I'm glad I took matters into my own hands. I have friends who are self-employed in Illinois who applied later than I did through the site. They've obtained coverage options, then bought coverage through the exchange. So I suspect I'm caught in some sort of technology loop. There's a Remove button that I will probably use to try to take myself out of the system. But I'm a little curious to see if it'll stay in the loop forever. Votes on how long I should wait before alleviating healthcare.gov of the burden of my unending application?

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger. She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://amzn.to/pFCcN6

For Nook: http://bit.ly/15bViBm

Visit her website:  www.lisalilly.com

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Which I Probably Applied For Health Insurance (Post No. 5 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

Since my first attempt, I've been periodically checking the Illinois insurance exchange to apply for health insurance coverage under Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act). I'm self-employed and have coverage now through an Illinois program that allowed me to purchase what is basically an extension of COBRA coverage. COBRA, for those not familiar with it, is a law allowing someone covered under a group employer health plan to extend that coverage for 18 months after leaving employment, so long the person pays the premium. After the 18 months, I tried to buy individual health insurance but was turned down by two major carriers due to a pre-existing condition (though it's one that requires no on-going medical treatment). 

I've tried a few times to create an account on the website (link below), which is the first step on the journey to health insurance under Obamacare. On my past 4-5 tries, the system hung up, and I eventually gave up. This time I got through and created an account. I then applied for coverage. At least I think I did. It took a little patience:

Like a lot of government and private company websites, the exchange asks a second or third time for information already provided. The system also has to verify the applicant's identity even after a name and address are filled in, maybe due to duplicate names out there. (I know of at least one other Lisa Lilly who is also an attorney; I keep meaning to call her and say hi.) I was asked a few questions about myself, then was rejected as unverified and given new questions. I suspect the issue was that when asked what previous city I'd lived in, I didn't check Chicago. I live in Chicago now, and my past 2 addresses were Chicago addresses. I read the question as asking what city I'd lived in before living in Chicago. Apparently, the question actually meant what city did I live in when I resided at my previous address. On my second try, I answered Chicago and the system believed I am me and allowed me to move to the next screen.

In addition to a few duplicative and sometimes irrelevant questions (did the government really need to ask me about my previous addresses and my home equity credit line when I'd already provided my social security number?), the process is slowed by processing time after each screen. I recommend multi-tasking, or at least listening to some good music while you're going through it.

All in all, it took about 45 minutes, plus another 10 because I decided to review my info before submitting an application. I thought all my information would appear on one screen or a PDF for review. But, no, reviewing requires going through every single screen again complete with wait time. After reaching the end again and submitting, I got a message that my application was in progress but no information on what happens next. I'd been hoping to check some price quotes, but either I zipped past that or there's no chance to do it until the application is done.

Despite it taking some time, it's a much easier process than applying for an individual policy on the private market. There are no questions about past medical history, past health insurance policies, or past employment.

I did not fill out the questions to determine if I could get assistance making health insurance premium payments. My income from writing and law has been reasonably good during the time I've been self-employed, and I have no dependents. From what I've read, I would not qualify for financial help, so I didn't see any reason to go through the process.

In a day or two, I'll check the website again for the status of my application.  Once again, stay tuned if you'd like to read about the next steps.

Finally, here is the link for the Illinois health insurance exchange if you are looking to buy coverage:  https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/individual/#state=illinois  (If you're in another state, you can still use this link. Just choose your own state from the drop down menu.)

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

First Day Trying To Get On The Health Insurance Exchange (Post No. 4 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

This morning I tried to get on the Illinois Health Insurance Exchange. As I talked about in previous posts, I am self-employed as an author and attorney.  I bought health insurance through an Illinois program that allows people to continue their COBRA coverage. I was turned down for individual health insurance, so I'm hoping that through the Exchange I'll have some more options for coverage.

First, I needed to find the exchange. I googled "Illinois Get Covered" because I'd heard on the radio that was the website to check.  That got me to some links for sites with overall information about the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, but I couldn't find a link to the actual exchange to see what type of coverage is available.  (Note to Illinois -- you might want to make that more obvious.)  So I Googled Illinois Health Insurance Exchange and eventually found my way to this link:  https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/individual/#state=illinois

You can choose your state on this homepage from a drop down menu, so this should work no matter what state you're in.  The homepages is Illinois, so I clicked Apply Now.  I got a screen telling me it was very busy now and to please wait for a log in page. I waited. Then I left and ate breakfast, came back, and found the log in screen.

I had to create an ID based on an email address. So, first thing to know is that you'll need an email address, at least to sign up on line. I used my law firm email and created a password. I reached a screen that said I needed to answer three security questions to finish setting up the account. I assume that's to be sure it's me next time I sign in, or in case I lose my password. Unfortunately, the security questions were blank, and nothing showed up in the drop down menus for each question. I clicked Live Chat and got a note thanking me for contacting Live Chat and asking me to wait for someone. I waited for a while, then needed to go to my office, so I closed the window.

I repeated the above process this afternoon (it did not remember my ID or password) and got stuck at the same place. It's been half an hour now that I've been waiting for someone from Live Chat. I tried sending a message explaining the issue but nothing happened.

Since the deadline to buy insurance on the exchange isn't until mid-December, I think that's enough for today. I'll try again later in the week.

Stay tuned.

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Virtual Camping Out in Line for the Health Insurance Exchange (Post No. 3 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

Being both a writer and a lawyer, I have hard time turning off my brain (or maybe that's why I became a writer and a lawyer). As I wrote in my two previous posts, I'm self-employed, so I have no group insurance option, and I was turned down for individual health insurance. So I did some preliminary research on the exchanges. Below is what I learned.

Differences in types of plans:  The main difference I found between the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans that will be offered is the estimated percentage of healthcare costs you will pay versus the insurer -- 60%, 70%, 80% or 90% respectively. I'm a little confused about whether the percentage of payment refers to a co-pay, deductible level, or out of pocket. Or all three.

Deductibles: I found one article that estimated the Silver deductible as averaging $2,550 based on data for 6 different states. There may be more info out there on this, but as Tuesday is only two days away, I'll wait to see what the actual exchange says. (It's too nice a day outside to spend it all in front of the laptop. After all, this is Chicago, tomorrow it could be snowing.)

Premiums and costs: Kaiser has a calculator which gives some estimates, with a lot of caveats about how no one really knows. Here's what the calculator calculated for one adult living alone (errors in typing in data, if any, are mine):

47 year old non-smoker living in Chicago, IL (no subsidies):

Silver: $259/month (out of pocket limit of $6,350)

Bronze: $186/month (out of pocket limit not listed)

31 year old non-smoker living in Chicago, IL, earning $35,000/year (no subsidies):

Silver: $191/month (out of pocket limit of $6,350)

Bronze: $138/month (out of pocket limit not listed)

31 year old non-smoker living in Chicago, IL, earning $20,000 (qualifies for subsidies):

Silver: $85/month (subsidized) (out of pocket limit of $2,250)

Bronze: $31/month (subsidized) (out of pocket limit not listed)

Questions I still have:  The premium estimate for me is about $50 less per month than I pay now, but there's no way to compare apples to apples. Now, both my deductible and out of pocket limit are $5,000. So if I am under the deductible, as I am this year and was the first year I had the plan, the Silver plan would be far more affordable for me. If I'm over the deductible, my current plan might be a better. I'm also unclear on differences in the quality and breadth of the networks offered, the deductibles, and the co-pays.

Whether I have good coverage now depends on your perspective. I'm in the Blue Cross PPO. Nothing, even prescriptions, is paid for until I hit the $5,000, which I obviously aspire each year not to reach. The plan thrills me, having faced no coverage at all. A friend who has never been self-employed, though (and who is against any type of universal health insurance) said to me, "That's terrible. Can't your firm get you better coverage?" Me: "I am the firm. And according to the health insurance companies, I'm not insurable." Friend: "But you're healthy. Can't your doctor write them a letter?" But that's not how it works - see my last post: Once I Became Self-Employed

Happily, it looks like I misunderstood a previous communication from ICHIP. While my particular plan may go away, I can be migrated to a similar one that might cost me slightly more. Still, I will likely purchase through the exchange, as it seems to me that my plan won't continue in the long run if the exchanges work well.

Links that may be helpful:

http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/

http://www.bcbsil.com/health-care-reform/health-care-reform-faq

http://www.chip.state.il.us/aca-survey-faq.html


------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm

Friday, September 27, 2013

Once I Became Self-Employed (Post 2 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

On a sunny day about about a month and a half before I planned to leave the large law firm where I worked, I played tennis for the first time in years.  I felt great.  I'd arranged for office space for my own practice, FindLaw had finished my firm website, and I'd set up my landline and bought a Blackberry.  As noted in the last post, I'd been very healthy, didn't smoke, and was the appropriate height and weight (see photo -- that's me).  But I'd had an exclusion a decade before for carpal tunnel on my health insurance at a small firm, and I liked my Blue Cross PPO coverage from my current employer, so I decided to COBRA for the full 18 months.  A day after I played tennis, the side of my left calf started hurting.  I assumed I'd pulled a muscle.  Over the next week it became worse instead of better, enough so that I had trouble sleeping by Night 5.  I saw the doctor, who sent me for an ultrasound. 



I had a blood clot.  The good news was it was superficial - meaning in a surface vein, not one that led to the heart or lungs.  Medline Plus says this condition is "usually a short-term condition that does not cause complications. Symptoms generally go away in 1 to 2 weeks...."  So, basically, it's not a blood clot that will kill you but, as I learned a year later, it will keep you from getting health insurance.  My treatment was similar to a muscle strain.  Rest, elevate, ice.  My doctor had me take a baby aspirin a day and told me not take birth control pills just to be on the safe side, but said I didn't need to worry about it.  That lots of people get these and never even know it.  Also that everyone should get up and walk around to help prevent clots rather than staying in one position for long periods.

I started my law practice as planned.  Just over a year later, I applied to Blue Cross for an individual policy, hoping that, given that they had my records and knew my health, they would just extend my current coverage.  That's not how it works.  I filled out a long form.  It covered the last 5 years in depth, but asked about my medical history for my entire life.  It did not ask about my general health habits, other than not smoking.  There was nowhere to list that I walked 10 miles a week, did yoga 3 times a week, and practiced meditation.  I'm sure I went into more detail than many people would about my medical history, including my eye surgery at the age of 4.  If I'd omitted anything, even by mistake, I knew I could find myself without coverage down the road right when I needed it.  For instance, let's say I forgot about the eye surgery, then three years later I was hit by a car and needed surgery on my leg.  If the insurer found out I'd omitted the eye surgery and could show that was material -- meaning the insurer would have denied coverage if it had known -- it might then refund all the premiums I'd paid and leave me without health insurance.  I could then be facing over $100,000 in hospital bills with no health insurance.  (Hospital bills can easily run above $100,000 when a pedestrian is hit by a car.)

How much I included on the form, or in the follow up telephone interview, turned out not to matter.  The insurer wrote a letter saying it was rejecting me because of the blood clot without looking at anything else.  I'd just met a health insurance broker at a networking event who'd warned me that 40% of people get turned down when they apply for individual coverage.  I called him, and he helped me through the process for another major carrier.  That application was just as involved, plus I had to disclose that I'd been turned down for health insurance.  I was turned down again.

Both carriers sent me information on the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Program.  ICHIP had two programs I qualified for, both for people who had no group coverage available to them.  One was for people who'd kept their COBRA coverage the entire 18 months and wanted to continue insurance.  That had no waiting period and picked up as soon as my COBRA ended so long as I filled out all the correct forms.  The second option covered those who'd been turned down for individual coverage.  That program often had a waiting list, then excluded pre-existing conditions for a set time, something like six months.  I opted for the first plan.  The people administering it were very helpful and always available by phone when I called.  And I got the Blue Cross PPO. 

My plan has a $5,000 deductible and costs around $300/month (based on being a 47 year old female non-smoker).  Nothing is covered under the $5,000, so I was a bit shocked when I discovered my allergy nasal spray was over $100 per month.  I'm very fond of breathing, though, and the less expensive medications I tried didn't work, so I paid it.  I could and probably should have gotten a lower deductible, but I'd been very healthy, so I figured it was worth the risk.  I hit my deductible one year, when I had to have surgery (see Goodbye Ovaries below). 

One thing worried me -- I was required to pay my premium by certified, not personal, check.  And all over the premium notice it said if I missed the premium, my insurance would be gone and I could never reinstate it.  Before my surgery, I thought, what if I have a tough recovery and can't get to the bank to get a certified check?  So I prepared a financial power of attorney to be sure someone could do it for me.  I also didn't know what I'd do if needed to move out of state, as ICHIP is only for Illinois residents.  Fortunately, I love Chicago.

Other than that, I've been happy.  I got to keep my doctors.  I've learned a lot about healthcare pricing.  That's led me to think that a co-pay based on a percentage of the actual charge might be a good thing, as otherwise the co-pays are completely disconnected from the amount of the bill.  On the other hand, I also learned the actual bill has little to do with reality, so long as you are insured.  My surgical bill and emergency room bills were something like 3 times the PPO rates.  So even before I hit the deductible, the insurance was valuable, as I still paid only the PPO rates.  If I'd been uninsured, I would have been liable for the whole amount.

Now my ICHIP program is going away because the Health Insurance Exchange is supposed to make it unnecessary.  According to the state, this should mean my premium will be cheaper because the ICHIP premium is always set at 150% of what the rate would otherwise be.  I'm relieved that, unless Congress makes changes, health insurers can't deny me coverage.  I'm also happy I'll have the option to cover employees, if I hire any again, through the exchange.  (I've had a few different part-time employees over my five years in practice.)  And, presumably, if someday I want to leave Illinois, I'll still be able to get coverage.

I'm concerned, though, that Congress will succeed in getting rid of the insurance exchanges, and I will then be stuck with no ICHIP and no coverage.  I'm also concerned about whether I'll be able to keep the Blue Cross PPO.  I heard that premiums will vary with network size.  So the cheapest plans will have smaller networks; the Cadillac plans will have wide networks. 

On 10/1, I will go on the exchange and see what I can see.  Even before I read articles raising potential technology issues, it seemed unlikely to me it would all be working on Day 1.  I figured that for the same reason I try not to buy a new Microsoft version of anything.  The ones I've bought have always had bugs.  (It was a nightmare when I bought a computer with Windows Vista when it first came out.  I used to walk around the office saying "I hate Bill Gates" over and over.  But I digress.)  I don't expect the government will do better than Bill Gates.  On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised every time I dealt with the ICHIP people.  So I'm crossing my fingers they are in charge.

I will let you know how it goes.


------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of Phantoms, Strong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm

Thursday, September 26, 2013

From Then Until Now (Post No. 1 of Adventures in Health Insurance)

Many people in both my professions (writing and law) are self-employed and, as do I, face the on-going issue of how to pay for healthcare or obtain health insurance.  With the changes occurring due to Obamacare or the Affordable Healthcare Act, whichever you like to call it, I thought it might be helpful to share my journey.  I plan to check out Illinois' healthcare exchange on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 and will report on my progress.

I first purchased an individual health insurance policy a couple years out of college.  I had a group plan at my office job (my degree was in Writing/English, thus the office job), but I'd discovered I could earn more temping through a downtown agency and give myself the freedom to take time off to write.  I shared an apartment, lived on a very limited budget, and usually worked about 3 weeks, then took 1-2 weeks off to write, which I loved.  My limited hours meant no health insurance through the temp agency.  For less than $100/month I got a policy with a high deductible that I kept for about 4 years.  Never met the deductible.  I had no trouble qualifying, I don't even recall if the form was long or short or what questions there were, though I'm pretty sure someone came out and gave me a blood test.  A few people told me I was young so I ought to just go without coverage, and I could always get treated at the county hospital.  That sounded like a very bad idea.  One of my friends, a year younger than me, out of the blue needed emergency surgery during a brief coverage gap.  Her bill was tens of thousands of dollars, and she earned not much more than minimum wage.  (She eventually finished paying about 15 years later.)  Also, I felt that if I could afford health insurance, I should buy it, especially because I'd chosen to work less and earn less.  Unlike many people who find themselves without insurance, I could have opted to stay at my job and keep my benefits.

Fast-forward a few years, and I developed carpal tunnel/tendinitis from all the typing for work and for my own writing (and my guitar playing).  The treatment options weren't good back then, and the work comp doctor recommended working until it got really bad, then having surgery.  I researched a little, learned that many people needed surgery again when they returned to work, and decided I ought to find something else to do for a living.  It was a very rough time for me, but eventually I returned to school, earned a graduate paralegal certificate and got a paralegal job where I relied on my research and writing skills and had a secretary who did the majority of my typing.  (Not everything was computerized at that time.)  I also had health insurance with an exclusion for carpal tunnel/tendinitis, as I worked at a very small firm and the policies were more like individual than group policies.  As I'd rejected the idea of surgery, the exclusion didn't affect me too much, but it didn't make me happy.  I didn't know what I'd do if something aggravated my hands and I needed treatment.

Later I went to law school and became a lawyer at a large firm that had a group plan with Blue Cross.  Hooray!  No worries on exclusions, though I never needed treatment for the carpal tunnel while I was a lawyer, having discovered the Microsoft Natural keyboard (which I'm using right now).  Even before I went to law school, I'd had in mind that eventually I'd open my own practice.  Partly, again, so I could take time to write when I was able to afford it, and because I wanted to work for myself.  It turned out I liked the large firm quite a bit, so I stayed 8 years.  After year 6, though, I started talking to people who'd started their own firms to gather information.  One thing I always asked, given my previous experience, was what they'd done about health insurance.

Those who were married generally got coverage through a spouse.  Others practiced part-time and had a full time job where they got health insurance.  Some tried to get insurance through an organization, like a bar association or writers' association.  It turns out those types of plans are not group plans, but individual policies where the members get discounted rates.  Which means, unlike a group plan, the insurer can turn you down.  Which happened to a colleague when she opened her practice.  I was shocked, as she'd never had any health issues and had only been hospitalized when she had her children.  But she'd sought counseling during her divorce and was turned down even though she'd applied through the Chicago Bar Association (she was a member).  The carrier -- one of the major, name brand ones -- said they don't cover people who have had any type of psychological counseling.  She got insurance through another major carrier. 

I decided to use COBRA for my first eighteen months on my own, which cost over $400 a month but kept my Blue Cross PPO.  Everyone told me health insurers only look back 5 years, and I didn't see anything in the last five years that should be troubling, though I had gone to counseling for relationship issues myself before that time.  I hadn't had any major health issues other than the carpal tunnel.  My friends and colleagues thought I was crazy to be concerned.  My only medications were for allergies, I don't smoke, I exercise and am within the recommended weight range for my height, and I'd only missed perhaps 3 or 4 days of work for illness in my eight years of practice.  So I figured when my 18 months was up, I'd apply for an individual policy and I'd be set.

That didn't turn out to be the case.  But more on that next post:

http://lisamlillypad.blogspot.com/2013/09/once-i-became-self-employed-post-2-of.html

------------------------------
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of Phantoms, Strong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm

Friday, September 20, 2013

Anatomy of (Rewriting) a Thriller

A few people have asked me where The Awakening II is. Which makes me very happy, as I hope it means they read The Awakening. The answer makes me less happy: It's on my dining room table. That is, the first draft of it is. A second/third draft (I rewrite in pieces) is in the laptop. I should add that, actually, first I outline, which sometimes takes longer than the first draft. So I basically write from point to point in my outline, in sort of a mad dash to the end. 

 

During the first draft, rather than get distracted by the Internet - not that I ever am, of course - if I need to research something I put a bolded note in brackets to check it later. For instance, when I wasn't sure what the national language for Turkey was, I used "Turkish," then in brackets said [check this]. (Turns out it's Turkish.) 

This approach to first drafting means I spend a lot of time rewriting.  I start with the various plot lines. I did a Find in Word for Ray - Tara's biological father, who has a small role to play. I read each scene involving Ray in order, skipping over everything else, to make sure his story fit together, then did that for the other characters.

I'm now pretty much done with that, so my next step is to look at the overall plot to be sure it makes sense, is consistent throughout, and has high enough stakes. Next, I'll rewrite from beginning to end on the laptop, asking myself what each scene's viewpoint character sees, tastes, smells, hears, and feels (both tactile feeling and emotion). Finally, I'll look at the lines and words themselves. This includes lengths of sentences, paragraphs, chapters. Also actual words - is the same word used too many times on a page or in a chapter? Can I say anything more succinctly? As in, can I use fewer adverbs like "succinctly"?

Then I'll print the whole manuscript out, wait a couple weeks, and read it. I'll particularly look for any scene where the characters are sitting and talking or sitting and thinking. Or standing and talking. I don't cut all those scenes, but if there are a number in a row, or one is very long, I'll try to intersperse the dialogue with action.

I also look for too much action. Sometimes a reader needs a break to just breathe and be with the characters. After I've made those changes, and I feel like I'll throw up if I look at it one more time, I'll send it on to first readers. (That's Mr. Bird reviewing some of my writing. I don't always takes his suggestions, but don't tell him, he's very sensitive.)

So, not-so-short answer (I do like to write novels, after all), The Unbelievers (Book II of The Awakening series) is on its way. I'm hoping it'll be ready by Christmas, more likely it'll be somewhere between Christmas and Easter.

In the meantime, if you join my email list by 11/30/2013, you'll be entered into a drawing to have a character in The Unbelievers named after you. Just email me at lisa@lisalilly.com with your first name and say you want to be in the contest.

Feel free to join the email list after 11/30/2013 as well. No spam, I would never do that to you. Just a short monthly newsletter discussing books in the mystery, occult, suspense and thriller genres and an occasional update on new novels or short stories I publish in between. (And as you can tell, it could be Easter before you get one of those.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Stranger Danger, Comic Con and Girls Gone Gore

Last month I  presented a panel, Girls Gone Gore, at Comic Con Chicago with author Carrie Green. The first time we met, Carrie and I talked about how both of us have had people suggest that because we write horror/suspense/thrillers, we ought to consider using our initials or male pen names. The idea that readers believe male authors more likely to write good horror is nothing new. As I learned when I researched for the panel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein originally was published with the author listed as Anonymous. Everyone assumed it was written by a man.

Why the bias toward men still survives is puzzling considering the success of Frankenstein, as well as of works by other women horror writers like Shirley Jackson (The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House). But something Carrie pointed out on our panel is that when women write horror, suspense or thrillers, it's often called something else. I read The Lottery in English class, and a lot of people read Frankenstein in school as well.  So these horror tales are called literature, not horror.  (I don't know why there needs to be distinction between the two, but that's a whole other post.)  Happily, when I asked the audience of about 40-50 for our panel what they thought, most did not seem to care if authors were male or female, they were just looking for good books.  One young woman said she hoped women would not use pen names or initials because she actively looks for women writers.  She believes they are more likely to develop the characters' interior lives than are men, and that's something she likes in fiction.

Another thing we talked about is the portrayal of women as victims. Based on a lot of popular movies, TV and fiction, one would think strangers are a great danger to women. Curious about how reality and fiction match, I checked the FBI website. It turns out over 75% of homicide victims are men, not women.  (There is one exception. Serial killers, who are rare in real life, are more apt to target women.)  Even more interesting to me was that men, not women, are more likely to be killed by strangers.  Women are more likely to be killed by people they know. Specifically, husbands, boyfriends, and relatives. Which led me to comment that despite what we see on TV, the most dangerous thing for a woman to do probably is not to walk down a dark alley, but to get married.

The Comic Con panel attendees, many of whom are Buffy fans (as am I), were great to talk with on this point. These readers want to see strong women characters. They love reading about and watching on film girls and women who are portrayed as three-dimensional characters in all type of roles, including as heroes.

And the more such books and films and TV shows sell, the more of them there will be.

________________

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of Phantoms, Strong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.
The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm


Friday, August 23, 2013

In Praise of Bookshelves

One year I combined my annual weekend in New York with ThrillerFest, a conference for writers of (you guessed correctly) thrillers.  A few presenting authors signed books at a store called The Mysterious Bookshop.  I fell in love with it, and now whenever I go to New York, I visit.

I love paper books.  I say this as an author who has published e-books and loves her Kindle.  My perfect vacation involves a chaise lounge, a view of the ocean, and at least ten books.  The Kindle lets me bring all those books in one small device. 

But my bookshelves remind me where I've been and what I've learned.  One shelf houses investment books, another is full of advice on fiction writing.  Hardback mysteries -- most of them by Sara Paretsky and John Sandford -- fill another.  Other shelves hold books on women and religion, law, happiness, poetry, horror.  When I visit people's homes, the books on their shelves spark conversation and sometimes camaraderie.  Eyes may be windows to the soul, but so are bookshelves.

My books make me feel solid and safe in a way I can't explain.  Three years ago I moved into a new two-bedroom condo.  I love it, yet even after I'd rearranged the furniture, hung artwork, and framed family photos it felt like a hotel.  A nice, relaxing hotel, but still a hotel.  Then I stacked the books I'm planning to read next on a living room table and moved two bookshelves out of my study and into my hall.  I already had books in a basket in the bedroom, so now books live in every room.  And, at last, I feel at home.

Which is how I feel in The Mysterious Bookshop.  Its bookshelves stand so tall you need a ladder to reach the top.  A leather couch and armchairs form a seating area where I usually spend half an hour reading.  Based on employee recommendations, I've found books that fall more into the literary genre than mystery or thriller, but I've loved them.  (Recent finds include You Are One Of Them by Elliott Holt and The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai.)  I always buy at least a couple hardcover books there along with my stack of paperbacks because I know I'll keep those on my shelves at home.

So here's to as many forms of books as possible and, even more, to bookshelves.












Monday, August 5, 2013

GIRLS GONE GORE

Friends,

Just a quick post to say that if you're attending Wizard World Chicago Comic Con Friday 8/9, please stop by the panel GIRLS GONE GORE! at 6.pm. central time.  Fellow (or, rather, sister) horror author Carrie Green and I will discuss horror and femininity; the role of women in horror films and fiction; as well as how to write, publish and market horror eBooks, whatever your gender.

Our bios are below.  And check out our cool logo!



Lisa M. Lilly is an author and attorney.  Her thriller The Awakening is an Amazon occult and feminist bestseller.  The title story of her short story collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently made into a short film under the name Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of Phantoms, ChickFlicks, and Hair Trigger.



Carrie Green is a Marketing, Social Media and PR pro.  Her media hits include BusinessWeekCFO,CIOChicago TribuneChicago Sun TimesComputerworldCrain's Chicago BusinessEntrepreneurFortune Small BusinessIndustry StandardUSA Today and the Wall Street Journal, among many others.  Additionally, she has promoted traditionally published business books from McGraw-Hill, Jossey-Bass (Wiley) and Edward Elgar Publishing.  She is the Amazon bestselling Horror author of Roses Are RedViolets Are Blue, and Sugar Is Sweet.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Bionic Woman, Buffy, and the Man of Steel

I recently saw Man of Steel.  Superman was a bit too dark for me, and the special effects struck me as overkill.  All the same, retellings and new approaches to familiar tales fascinate me.  I'm intrigued by questions such as why the storyteller chose to modify the origin story, or the mentor character's advice, or the overall theme.  Was it to fill empty spaces?  To fit with modern beliefs?  Because the storyteller always believed the "new" backstory existed but was just unspoken before?  (Unfortunately, my date's only comment on the entire movie, despite my attempts to jump start a conversation, was, "That was a nice little story."  Probably no long-term relationship potential there.)

This Superman reboot caused me to check on another reboot, one I initially didn't feel excited about -- that of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  As most fans of the TV show -- and I am one -- know, the new movie version was to be written by a brand new screenwriter, with no input from creator Joss Whedon.  Those of us who love Joss' writing and directing had a hard time with that, and many vowed never to see the movie.  I almost felt I shouldn't see it, fearing it might take away from my love for the series.  Similarly, I was not a huge fan of the short-lived remake of The Bionic Woman series a few years back, though it was my favorite television show during childhood.  The new Jaime Sommers just didn't work for me.  By the way, did anyone else notice the similarity in names between Buffy Summers and Jaime Sommers?  I'm convinced Joss was a Bionic Woman fan, too.

Given my lack of initial enthusiasm, I was surprised to find myself feeling disappointed when I discovered the new Buffy movie is on ice.  Obviously, t's not because I expected to like the film.  Rather, after watching Man of Steel, I realized how wonderful it is that the film industry contemplated another Buffy reboot.  Buffy is my favorite woman hero, and she's already had a movie (a bit too campy for my taste, but it had some of the themes later developed in the show), a TV series, and a comic book series.  I love the idea that another reimagining of her myth is already being considered.

Think of how many times Superman has been remade.  Setting aside cartoons, in my lifetime, I saw the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Lois and Clark, Smallville, Superman Returns (forgettable), and Man of Steel.  And I'm not even a big Superman fan.  I also watched the campy TV series Batman with Adam West, the Batman films that started off with Michael Keaton, and the more recent series of Batman movies.  (I was in an extra for one of those -- look for me at a funeral in a gray trench coat.) 

But how many Wonder Womans have there been?  I remember just one in my lifetime  -- the TV series with Lynda Carter.  The recent reboot of Wonder Woman, to be written by none other than Joss Whedon, never got made.  Despite the success of the Terminator and Alien franchises, the movie studios still seem inclined to default to male heroes.  But we are seeing more girls and women as heroes in movies -- movies that are doing well at the box office.  Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Maya Lambert in Zero Dark Thirty, and Tris Prior in the upcoming Divergent (filmed right outside my door) give me hope that film producers realize there is a vast audience for good movies about female heroes.  Which is great news for me as a reader, author, and filmgoer, as those are the types of stories I most enjoy.

So would I have trouble loving a Buffy reboot?  Probably.  But would I go see it?  Yes, yes, and yes.  How about a double feature with Wonder Woman?

______________

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult bestseller The Awakening.  A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower.  Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of Phantoms, Strong Coffee, and Hair Trigger.  She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.

The Awakening for Kindle: http://bit.ly/15bViBm