A New Pair of Eyes


Another not-so-profound statement and yet it seems logical and apropos to life in general.

I grew up in a dysfunctional household just like nearly everyone else, but there were a few things of value or worth that have managed to stay with me all these years that aren’t dark, depressing, or sad. Like music, for example.

My mother was hard-core opera until she started working full-time in a plastics factory after my father’s health deteriorated. Then it was suddenly country/western with opera thrown in as a kind of pacifier or something.

My father was big-band and classical all the way until my sister and then I started introducing him to our brand of music, which he decried and railed against prior to actually listening. He became a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix after watching and hearing him play The Star Spangled Banner, thinking the guy had talent unlike any he could recall in his own days playing drums in a bar band back in the 50’s.

My older sister introduced them by way of The Moody Blues Knights in White Satin. That there were tears in their eyes before the song even ended made my sister and I hide the few chuckles that strange scene rendered.

They never got used to the look of groups like Led Zeppelin, but they couldn’t believe how beautiful  Stairway to Heaven sounded. Or The Beatles and how amateurish was their one-note, childish lyric sound. Neither did I, though. That was my sister’s generation. We never saw eye to eye on anything and still don’t, including music. She’s NASCAR, 70’s rinky-dink tunes, and sheep-masses interested. I’m not. Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd stuff that everyone said was just mind-blowing, exceptional beyond belief talent unlike the world had ever known before, and I was always like … meh.

I was the 80’s and rhythm & blues, funk, and then suddenly 90’s new wave. Those ten years had more of an influence on my music interest than anything, but I still fall back on the big band, classical, and my list of one-hit wonders from all decades. My sister wept the day John Lennon died. I remember hurrying home to cry with my parents after learning that Marvin Gaye was dead.

The first song I ever heard for real, like first time awareness of ‘pop’ music, was when I was six and writing in my journal. My sister and her friends were outside doing something … whatever … when one of the girls shouted “I love this song!” and turned it up. Bob Dylan’s Lay, Lady, Lay. So, later, when I heard his other stuff I was like What? in that whiny tone. To me, it was funny, interesting in an enlightening sort of way, but just enough to make me not like him that much anymore.

My sister grew up in vinyl/45 that transitioned over to cassette while I came along cassette to CD. Two different eras with parents from two different eras. To say our musical interests were eclectic is putting it mildly and yet I remember it all – save the opera. I’m sorry, but that has GOT to go. Yet, the first time I saw a Ritz Cracker commercial awhile back, and during a small house party, everyone thought I was a genius because I was the only one to not only recognize the voice, but knew it was Mario Lanza who belted out that silly tune.

It pays to have a broad repertoire under your knowledge belt if you want to be taken seriously, I guess.

As for literature, that’s a whole different story.

My parents came from two different generations that shared the same ideals. Read, read, and then read some more. I learned in a Linguistics class that in order to broaden your language skills, reading is the only way to succeed. Every time you come across a word you’re not familiar with, it was a given that you consult your trusty dictionary to look it up. No big deal. And, today, you are capable of the same thing using the internet, so there really shouldn’t be any excuse for people NOT to do that – as opposed to handing out such lame advice as ‘don’t use big words in your writing’.

Keep the masses down, communist bullshit in my opinion, but whatever.


I grew up with the most bad-ass library any kid could possibly conceive of as being real. In the basement, covering an entire wall, top to bottom, and loaded with everything in hardcover and paperback that you could possibly imagine. Upstairs, in the livingroom, another reading area with a floor to ceiling bookcase filled with more literature. In the room I shared with my sister, the top shelf of our closet (originally built to store hat boxes according to mom) more books.

But then there was the secret stash. The books we weren’t permitted to see or even know about. Those were hidden in the headboard of my parents bed. Now, as old as my parents were, it wasn’t weird for me to believe that my parents bedroom was the equivalent of a shrine and children just didn’t cross over that threshold without an invite. Later, though, that rule lost power and even meaning. I bravely entered that shrine one day when no one was around and nervously opened the sliding doors of the headboard, feasting my eyes over all things ‘taboo’.

Know what I saw? Paperback romance novels from the 60’s and 70’s, and hard cover novels on the ban lists of the time. Things she read up until she had to start working. Seriously? Valley of the Dolls is naughty? Islands in the Stream? Centennial? The Bell Jar? C’mon, what a disappointing joke.

Along with the now-deemed-classics, though, were at least a dozen paperback novels in the form of romantic fiction, and that was where my interest lay just then. I was over the classics, the mysteries, and the life-imitates-art fiction I grew up on and then was forced to have to read and critique in school. I wanted something different, something … scandalous to make me feel like those budding new emotions were somehow valid. That I wasn’t all that awful for thinking the way I suddenly found myself, which brought on a strange mix of guilt and wonder at the time.

So, I reached for a title that interested me and pulled it off the headboard bookcase.


My, oh, my.

I read this baby clean through every night for a week. Then I gave it to a friend, telling her she was really going to enjoy it. She did. She gave it to a mutual friend who also liked it and gave it to her friend. I finally got the thing back right before Christmas break that year. The pages were dog-eared and spotted with whatever munchy was being consumed by the nearly ten girls who ended up reading the book. The cover was all but destroyed, and the spine pretty much shot.

I read it again, though. What startled me even more than everyone’s interest was the fact that a second reading changed my first reading’s perspective almost entirely. What I had first read and then walked around daydreaming about for months wasn’t the same story I read the second time around. Not that this is a bad thing, because it wasn’t. I just read things that I didn’t recall reading the first time. Perspectives came into view a little more the second time around, and even the Scottish Highlands where the story was supposed to take place. The people and their personalities, the leads and their reason for being the way they were. It all changed the second time around, but not in a bad way.

I ended up reading just about every romance novel hidden inside that headboard bookcase over the next year. I started to figure out my preferences, too. Which authors I enjoyed and those I didn’t. What place settings interested me most and which didn’t. After abusing library privileges checking out book after book after book on a weekly basis, I started to narrow down that list until it became so fine-tuned that I ran out of things to read.

But, I was never able to just read a book for the sake of reading. Well, let me rephrase that: I was never able to change my point of view about certain authors and their style even after trying to read the works of those I didn’t prefer.

Music tastes change, and even opinions about life, the foods we eat, and the things we used to love but don’t anymore (like ice skating and sledding in the winter – I don’t like anything about winter anymore). Reading, though, and the genre being read doesn’t often change for me. You have no idea how many times I’ve tried, really tried, to read a science fiction novel. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t find me at the theatre thoroughly enjoying the latest Marvel Comic movie, because I do and I am. I think the idea of fantasy is as clever as you can get to being clever, too. Still, a majority of it is same-old same-old and wants to play leap frog off of some other novel the author read instead of just delving deep into the aspect of fantasy itself.

Seriously. How can there even be rules and regulations for this genre? That, to me, is ridiculous.

Vampires, werewolves, and shape-shifters. Now, there’s a concept as old as the hills and something that could, perhaps, use a face-lift. I’d like to be able to get into one of these for the sheer enjoyment aspect, too. I can’t, though, when they are all the same and play the leap-frog thing again because of Twilight. This doesn’t please me in the least.

I’m too finicky about my reading material to be able to read just anything, and if you are going to go out on a limb and try to recreate the wheel, why not do it in a way that is truly unique? I’m going to try one of these days, and I’m going to break every freaking rule involved, too. Because I can.

Immortality is cool, but the way characters go about achieving it is becoming stale. Being wicked is interesting, too, but brands of wicked are too typical and stereotypical to be enjoyed, much less taken seriously anymore. I don’t believe romance novels have ever been taken seriously. Ever. They are geared toward women, which makes the whole thing sexist and also ridiculous, but to whom? The sexists or those who fight against sexism? Regardless, there is a niche for this genre and thousands upon thousands of them are bought and read on a daily basis. Like me, the reader picks and chooses what they’ll read, too.

Bringing something new to the table in a worn-out and labeled genre is the key, I think. Being creative and original with your content is what may help either boost interest again or send it into an entirely new realm of thinking, which would be even better.

Using ten-dollar words doesn’t frighten me. Thinking outside the box doesn’t, either. Being creative and insightful while also keeping the ‘target’ audience in mind works, too.

Yet another reason to love being who I am and enjoying what I do. Now, it’s time I stopped goofing off and head back over to my novel for another round of editing.


About RaineBalkera

Aspiring Author of Romance
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2 Responses to A New Pair of Eyes

  1. Harliqueen says:

    A great, in-depth post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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