Further Deconstructing “For Such a Time,” Part 2: Allegory, Schmallegory

In case you missed it….


I believe any allegory or a re-telling or even a “reframing” promises the reader a more than superficial resemblance. As an inspie reader, my Default Reader Trust Mode tells me that the author of a fictionalized Bible story — even one described in such vague tones as a “reframing” — has taken on the greater responsibility to go beyond the surface to tell the whole story.

A biblical story calls its readers to enter its world, to be captivated by its characters, intrigued by its plot, and affectively engaged through suspense and complication till its final denouement. Biblical stories invite us into a world contoured by ancient conventions, yet pulsing with continuous relevance. …[A] story is a whole that conveys meaning through its totality, through the choice and placement of its parts, and through the sum of its parts.1


The parts of the story can be understood only as they relate to the integrity of the whole literary structure, and, conversely, the point of the story in all of its complexity can be best understood by pondering the significance of each part.3

If I’m reading a retelling a book of the Bible, I take it as a given that the author will be faithful to the meaning and intent of that story — not just the character names and superficial plot points.

In all fairness, not every character and verse needs a corollary in a fictionalized Bible story. Other Esther-inspired novels do without Queen Vashti, and the beauty contest, and the poetic justice and the glorious irony of the scriptures, and still give good story.

For Such a Time is not “good story.”

Yes, I know that “reframing” equals “jumping off point.” But when you jump off something, there’s an implication you’re reasonably assured of a safe landing without falling on your arse.

For Such a Time shows its arse on nearly every page.

Arse is not profanity because it’s British.

I’d like to say I am confounded why author Kate Breslin chose the specific elements of the Esther story that appear in For Such a Time and ignored others. However, it’s painfully obvious (I’m using that phrase repeatedly, but argh) which elements got in the way of the story she wanted to tell. Some are of the “huh?” variety, while others are downright “WTF???” egregious.

Acronyms do not count as actual profanity. I checked.

In my one week of research, I found dozens of books and articles on the story of Esther, from Christian exegetic textual analysis to Talmudic and rabbinic commentaries to YA novels to preschool coloring books.

Also, Joan Collins movies. Totally not kidding.

Esther and the King, 1960

If I was an inspie author, I would bury myself in these sources and wallow in them. I would absorb everything and pick it apart and put it back together again to figure out how best to relate God’s word to readers looking for a good story.

[NOTE: I would wallow in the Joan Collins movie, but I’d probably avoid actually absorbing anything.]

I honestly believe that Breslin — and her editors — read none of the same non-fiction titles I did. I seriously doubt the editors of the book consulted even one of the eleventy-five Bible study guides available from their own publishing house.

Eleventy-five is hyperbole, not snark. Continue reading

MORE RANTYPANTS: Writing Mental Illness for Fun and Profit


Yes, I’m taking my meds. Shut up. Also, it’s my birthday, so I can put on as many pairs of RANTYPANTS as I want. And maybe even go commando in them. That episode of Friends is my all-time favorite.

Sorry, where were we? All that lack of focus must mean I’m ADHD. Maybe a certain self-proclaimed expert can do a fly-by diagnosis for me.

So. Someone retweeted this, and I could not stop myself from clicking that damn link.



How fun was it? Let’s take a look at a few highlights:

You need to get specific. There are about a million types of crazy.

Does anyone else see the WTF in this statement? Just me?

I even took a university class on abnormal psychology….  For those of you looking to lose your fictional marbles, let me share what I’ve learned.

One undergrad class makes one an expert? I shall update my résumé! Let’s see…world religions, astronomy, statistics, juvenile delinquency (A+ in that one! I should write a book!), Intermediate German (there’s a good story about that), visual communications (in which I researched the brilliance of Cecil Beaton so I’m an expert on him too). OH! Also: racquetball! My only A in a PE class; I had a killer serve.

Yes, I changed my major seven times. Shut up and keep reading.

What flaw is splintering your character’s sanity? Is it alcohol abuse, as in The Shining?

Because mental illness is never just an illness. I keep wondering what my Deep Dark Secret or Tragic Past is, because I honestly can’t remember. Maybe I should try regression therapy. Or I could make up something, like…I was kidnapped as a toddler and force-fed mercury-tainted tuna by a satanic motorcycle gang club. That’s crazy enough to justify my crazypants, right?

I detest tuna. Just the smell of it makes me nauseous. I should write a book about that.

…obsession is a side effect of having a screw loose…

Let’s try this instead: …obsession is a side effect symptom of having a screw loose mental illness. Got it? It’s really not that difficult a concept.

Give your insane character these moments!

If only my mental illness was momentary. And deserving of !!!exclamationpoints!!! I feel so undeserving.

Writing insane characters offers a fantastic chance to use dramatic irony.

I shall endeavor to find the ironic moments in the drama that is my life.

5. He shows symptoms of a real mental disorder

Does this really need to be said? Seriously???

Most insane characters seem to have an escalated version of psychosis. This disorder is worth researching, from the early signs (social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, anxiety…) to full-blown delusions, hallucinations, and speech problems.

I don’t doubt the items mentioned correlate with some forms of psychosis (which, btw, is a generic umbrella term and not an actual diagnosis). But calling out common issues like anxiety and equating speech problems with full-blown delusions reduces a highly complex medical issue to nothing more than some potential Amazon keywords.

Insane characters are not like this.

Because all crazy is the same — even though there’s million different kinds of it. [See what I did there?]

8. He was set off by something

What triggered your character’s descent into madness? You may choose to show the trigger in your plot, or mask it as backstory.

Mental disorders have a variety of causes. Why does your character have this disorder? Was her mom bipolar? Is it drug-induced psychosis? Did she have a traumatic experience as a child? Again, use science to inspire you.


A crazy character’s Snap moment is probably the most fun thing to write. Like, ever. In the history of time.


Note that an insane character doesn’t have to be doomed.

This is totally true. Insanity can be cured by some vitamin injections. Even if the character has been diagnosed with a real mental illness by a psychiatrist and has prescription meds. No, really.

If you’re preparing to write an insane character, I do recommend you study the books and movies I reference.


Oh, wait – I hope *rageface* doesn’t mean I’ve lost my non-fictional marbles, or that I’m “one fry short of a Happy Meal.” If it’s only in lowercase, does it still count as insane, or just cranky? What’s the threshold here?

Insanity might seem synonymous with unpredictable, but it does have patterns and symptoms that we need to be mindful of. (pardon the pun?)

Ah, finally. But..this was in response to an actual logical response in the comments.

And what are the author’s credentials, you ask?

I don’t care if you didn’t ask. You should have. Because UGH.

Yes, I’m going there. I’m a bully. So sue me. Is that stupid STGRB site still around? If so, I’m on it.

Two (2) self-pubbed YA books. And that one university class. But she’s read The Shining and watched Fatal Attraction, so she’s got that going for her.

Yes, The Shining is the epitome of batshit crazysauce. I think Stephen King is a little crazypants himself, but in a good way. He gets a pass. You, dear author [collectively, not specific to anyone], are not, and never will be, Stephen King. You’re not even Tana French. Don’t even try to go there.

HOWEVER.  I can only hope this article compels other authors to read A Beautiful Mind or The Silver Linings Playbook. As in actually read them to find all the ways Sylvia Nasar and Matthew Quick treat their mentally ill characters as actual people and not !fun! and !easy! and !lazy! plot devices.

One fry short of a Happy Meal, indeed. To which I say: Bite. Me.

Medieval Mania: Cultural Appropriation, ca. 1960

This is what you get when you do a Google search for “medieval maiden.” Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

1960 Maidenform Bra ad - detail of dog

A high-maintenance dog.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of monkey

A monkey with a roll
of paper towels.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of bunny

A bunny.

2960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of unicorn

A pervy yet submissive goat-unicorn.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of model

Nope, nothing offensive here. Move along.

In all this visual ecstasy, let’s not overlook the all-important ad copy:

I dreamed I was a medieval maiden in my Maidenform bra

I dreamed I was a medieval maiden in my maidenform® bra
The past was never quite this perfect! I’m a legendary figure in STAR FLOWER,
Maidenform’s newest work of art! Genius idea: petal-patterned circular-stitched cup,
underlined with twin elastic bands (upper band expands for
custom fitting cups; lower band expands for comfortable give-and-take).
White cotton broadcloth, A, B and C cups. A collector’s item at just 2.50!

Yeesh. Just the words “broadcloth bra” make my boobs itchy. Let us now praise the inventors of Lycra®, even though they were men.

Medieval Mania: By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

  • By Royal Command by Laura NavarreTitle: By Royal Command
  • Author: Laura Navarre
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Carina Press, July 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($4.16 ebook)
  • Length: 274 pages
  • Trope(s): Widow, Alpha Male(s), Beta Hero, Big Misunderstanding, Simile Sex, Hair Fetish, Evil Royal Relation
  • Quick blurb: Newly widowed niece of King Ethelred (he of the Unreadiness) is forced into a betrothal with a Norman nobleman – but she’s distracted by the large and tawny Viking assigned as her escort.
  • Quick review: The author has a thesaurus, and she knows how to use it.
  • Grade: D

Grappling with savage urgency in a riot of tumbled cushions, she plunged headlong into rapture in the arms of her wrathful angel.

Status Updates: Read With Me Vicariously

You can tell by the dates that I avoided writing this review.

  • 09/12 – 40%: “…the curving shell of secrets nestled between her thighs” o.0
  • 09/13 – 42%: This book is much more Bodice Ripper than I anticipated….
  • 09/13 – 58%: The metaphors. EVERYTHING is a water, fire, weather or war metaphor. And the interjections. By Odin’s smelly underpants, the INTERJECTIONS! Lots of references to Odin and Thor, but no Loki yet. Heroine prefers to invoke St. Cuthbert and St. Wilfrid.
  • 09/14 – 65%: The book that will never end. I made it this far, but this is taking WAY too long to finish.
  • 09/15 – 78%: Still not done… *whimper*
  • 09/17 – 100%: Finally finished, and I still haven’t quite distilled why this didn’t work for me.

When I finally started the distillation process, I had to put the crankypants on.

The writing style….

I can’t really call it the author’s “voice,” because I never really heard one. Instead, I felt bombarded with every literary device we learned in junior high language arts class. Action verbs. Adjectives. Metaphors. Interjections. Euphemisms. Rinse. Repeat.

As he fitted himself against her, an epiphany burst within….

She opened herself to the storm of sensation, reached for him with both arms as he surged inside to fill her. Their joining brought him toppling down on her, in the blazing splendor of the archbishop’s bed. He gripped her in the same desperate clutch, held her moored against his rapid thrusts. Her tight channel stretched to accept him, ripples of pleasure pulsing through her. Blindly, she struggled toward the conflagration.

Without warning, it ignited her. She dug her nails into his sinewed back and clung with all her strength. The cataclysm flung her high, outside herself, as he went rigid in her arms.

The hundreds (literally) of other examples can be grouped into thematic categories, including:

Continue reading

Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

As in “The Guys” brand of slacks.

Tight-fitting, polyester manly-man slacks — the “preferred profile pants.”

The Guys Slacks - No Fatties AllowedRead on or get a closer look for the full impact, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. And not just about the fat-shaming — there’s some sexual innuendo (of course) AND a lovely bit of racism in there too!

Random trivia you might need to know: “Best/Prest” = 65% polyester, 35% cotton.

From left to right….

guys_slacks_1If you are 40 or under — around the waist — The Guys are your slacks.

Being able to wear The Guys isn’t a matter of luck. If you’ve been wise enough to keep your chest bigger than your stomach – The Guys are for you. You look good, they look good on you. The Guys are lastingly Best/Prest. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_2Just 42 pounds away from wearing The Guys

It’s a worthwhile project — slimming down for The Guys. They’re made for guys 40 or under — around the waist. That way we tailor them to look good on people who look good. Naturally, The Guys are Best/Prest, handsomely finished and all those other details you’d expect in pants made only for trim people. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_3If your dad can wear The Guys slacks and you can’t — shame on you

The Guys slacks are made for special guys. Those whose chests are bigger than their stomachs. Guys 40 or under — around the waist. Guys who fit neatly into a sports car. Or slam a ball a mile down the middle. If you aren’t ready for The Guys — get ready.

guys_slacks_4The Guys don’t discriminate against fat people — just waistlines

It’s true. Not everyone can wear The Guys slacks. We make them to fit men whose chests are bigger than their stomachs. That way we tailor them to look best of guys we are 40 or under — around the waist! (Bigger sizes we leave to Omar and the other tent makers.) Naturally, The Guys are Best/Prest. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_5Preferred — by preferred profiles

Think of The Guys as a social asset. For elevation to preferred positions. If you are impressive — if your chest is bigger than your stomach — you can wear The Guys.

Oy. Uff da. Bloody hell. WHAT THE FUCK.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Prick McPedestal in all his Full Polyester Glory, shall we?

Mr. Prick McPedestal: Spokesmodel for SMUG International

Mr. Prick McPedestal:
Spokesmodel for

You might think our friend Prick is wearing haute couture slacks designed by Halston or Bill Blass.

You’d wrong. Oh, sooooo wrong.

Little does Mr. McPedestal know, the behind-the-smoke-screen designer is a guy named Marv from Wisconsin. Specifically, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Marv can be found smoking a cigar while sitting on his plastic chair inside the exalted fashion empire of Oshkosh B’gosh.

I made up the part about Marv and his chair and his cigar, but – I shit you not – this ad was commissioned and approved by the same company who built their reputation with branding like this:

Oshkosh Fits Them All

This whole “The Guys” branding and sales pitch is just SCREAMING to be a Mad Men episode, isn’t it? Get on that, Matthew Weiner.

So, now what?

We now officially wrap up this five-part episode of Epic Mean Girl Rant of WTF Righteous Indignation. I plan on reading only GOOD books from now on, but we all know how well that’s worked out so far.


If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and middle of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!

The Bonus Round: Skinny Shaming for Power & Profit!

This post is dedicated to a certain romance author who was brave enough to describe herself on Twitter as once being “psychotically skinny and boobless” —  and to all the other “oohmph”-deficient gals (and guys!) through the ages.

You Can't Afford to be SKINNY!

I couldn’t really make a game of out this one, because the messages are painfully repetitive. I guess stick chicks aren’t worth an ad agency’s creativity. So instead, let’s just all wallow in the resulting pit of despair. I’ll bring the beer.

Ready, set, drink!

I brought both light and full-calorie beer, by the way. Because I’m thoughtful like that.


To the fuckwad in the first cartoon panel: Happy Sexy Curvy Girl chose the other guy because you say stupid shit like “let’s vamoose.”

Good News for Thousands of Girls Who Have No SEX APPEAL


Yeah, well, Smarmy Guy, you’re wearing lipstick, so STFU.

There's no excuse for being skinny


I’m really, really curious why “bring out” is in “air quotes.”

Skinny Girls Have No OOMPH


American GLAMOR, maybe. But British GLAMOUR? Never.

Skinny Girls are not GLAMOUR GIRLS


So, you say “Kelp-A-Malt” makes you feel SWELL. Really?

Girls with naturally SKINNY figures can gain solid flesh


I think they mistyped a vowel in her last name. But let’s be fair — this was long before boob jobs were affordable for casting-couch starlets.

Don't let them call you SKINNY


Lucky for him, Lounging Lady has lots of advice ready to share (*wink, wink*).

A SKINNY Man Hasn't a ChanceNo SHAME.

But thank goodness they’re adding on normal, attractive flesh.

You're Gorgeous! How Can I Gain Ten Pounds?

But, in the end, it’s all about….


You have to read the details on this one — it’s wild. And it’s gender-neutral!

Are You Too Thin?THE MAN who is too thin is invariably of an anxious, neurasthenic type,
incapable of carrying out the duties of life with vigour and courage.

THE WOMAN who is too thin is anemic, nervous, worrying, wanting
in self-confidence, and is handicapped alongside her plump,
self-confident rival, who is bubbling over with joyous vitality.

But weight – there’s more!

Heh. That one was so good I had to use it twice.

Don’t miss the upcoming unbelievably, mind-boggingly WHAT. THE. FUCK. weight-shaming targeted at men I found. Just one, but it’s worth every pound you binge down or barf up.


If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and end of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!

Now the Fun Group Project! Woohoo!

Yes, I know I failed my self-imposed “no-snark” test in the Seminar on Body Issues. But I tried – HONEST. So in celebration of my sincere attempt at writing like a grown-up, it’s time to play….

Choose How You Lose!

Vintage "Fat People" ad

Because, let’s face it, we’re all just pathetic romance readers who must aspire to have a Barbie Body to earn the love of a man. Any man. Or woman. It doesn’t matter, we’re all just one big pity party around here.

The rules are simple – just scroll through the tried-and-true weight-loss methods below and vote for your favorite(s) in the comments. And then make your guess which one is MY favorite (*snerk*).

Ready, set, GO!

Quick warning: Option 10 is NOT for the faint of heart…(er, stomach).

Option 1: Take a bath

It’s the luxurious, Parisian way to creating a flab-free figure.

Choose How You Lose: Take a Bath

Option 2: Take up smoking

And you thought the Mad Men Lucky Strike ads were bad. And there’s a lot more where this came from.

When tempted to over-indulge, reach for a Lucky instead

Option 3: Eat more beans

But not just any ol’ beans – they’ve got to be laxative beans.

Bile Beans: For 1940 - Be Fit & Slim

Option 4: Wear a polyester leotard

But for maximum effectiveness, it must be a full-body footie leotard, available exclusively at Sears.

Choose How You Lose: Sears Beauty Spa

Option 5: Eat more candy

Specifically, candy made from granulated kelp. Yes, really – but these are black-market only due to federal fraud regulations. Stupid government. Almost enough to make me vote Republican.

Choose How You Lose: Candy Plan

Option 6: Eat more sugar

Real sugar, thank God.

Choose How You Lose: Domino Sugar

Option 7: Jiggle-drinking

Hands-free auto-jiggling! You’ll notice the wall mirror is behind them.

Choose How You Lose: Jiggle and Drink

Option 8: Horse exercise at home

Note: Men get to ride astride. Fuckers.

Choose How You Lose: Horse Exercise at Home

Option 9: Plug in and get off

Soothe away those unsightly bulges with a relaxing, penetrating(!!!) massage.

Choose How You Lose: Electric Spot Reducer

NOTE: This is the one I warned you about….

Option 10: Ingest sanitized tapeworms

Yes, REALLY. But don’t worry — they’re easy to swallow.

Choose How You Lose: Sanitized Tapeworms

Polls are closing soon!

Make your choices and record your vote in the comments! Because sharing snark far outweighs (hahahahaha!) voter privacy!

Then stay in your seats….

Because we’re always Equal Opportunity here at Insta-Love, we also have a special Skinny Shaming bonus round for the stick chicks!

And we have one for the guys too – and it’s a doozy.


If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and end of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys