A long time ago, we used to be friends.

Veronica Mars movie posterI’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m one of the 91,585 backers that funded the new Veronica Mars Movie through Kickstarter. When the show debuted in 2004, I wasn’t just an early adopter; I was an immediate one. Why? Because years prior, when I was earning my MFA at Emerson College and falling in love with the young adult genre, I read a little book called Rats Saw God, which as many of you know was the debut novel of one Rob Thomas (a.k.a. the guy behind the marshmallow).

So when I heard that there was this new show about a teen detective that was penned by one of my favorite authors, I was all in – and I wasn’t disappointed. For me, Veronica Mars was instantly appointment television, even though I did have my first DVR by then. I talked up the show to anyone who would listen, bonded with bloggers who shared my appreciation for the series, and even got my mom hooked. If we weren’t watching the show together, we were dishing about that week’s episode over the phone.

That first season was near perfection. I remember going on and on about how immaculately plotted it all was, and how when I first saw “A Trip to the Dentist,” the penultimate episode of Season 1, I was so gobsmacked that I immediately had to rewatch it (again: gotta love those DVRs!).

Here’s where it gets a little strange.

I say “I remember” because in all honesty, I haven’t watched the episode since that night almost 10 years ago. Or any episode of Veronica Mars, until earlier this week, when I rewatched the pilot with my unitiated husband (more on that in a bit). And for this, I blame E.T.

Like many kids born in the mid-’70s, I was obsessed with E.T. I saw it in the theaters at least three times (possibly more); my 7th birthday party, held at the Christiana Skating Center, was E.T.-themed (complete with an E.T. cake that had the creepiest blue gel eyes that *no one* wanted to eat). So, five years later, when the movie finally came out on VHS, I had my first tweenage fangasm.

And then I promptly fell asleep watching it.

This was devastating to me. How could E.T. – this movie that loomed so large over my entire childhood – actually bore me so much that I conked out in the middle of it? How?

mscl-ep9-glasses - croppedAfter that, I developed an aversion to going back to something that, in my head, is so completely perfect. Why ruin that pristine experience? This philosophy, if you can call it that, has extended from movies into books and TV shows. There are a few that I’ve granted multiple viewings/readings: My So-Called Life  (everything but the Nicky Driscoll espiode – that isht was dreadful the first time around), Joe vs. the Volcano (I still discover new things every time I watch it!), Douglas Coupland’s Life After God (a.k.a. the book I dubbed my “bible” back in college).

But for every one of those titles I could reel off a dozen more than I can’t make myself revisit because I’m so afraid it won’t live up the second time around.

This is why I’m pretty sure I’ll never be considered a superfan of anything, including Veronica Mars.

Watching the movie last week, at an AMC fan event in Bensalem, I was both thrilled and unsettled. Thrilled because there was that unforgettable trademark wit, the crackling banter between Veronica and the various men in her life;  hanging out with these people for a couple of celluloid hours felt like coming home again. Unsettled because for every Easter egg I recognized, there were two more I can guarantee I didn’t, and I was surprised by totally random things, like that Josh from Being Human was in the movie (he’d appeared on the actual show – I just didn’t remember it).

There are a lot of things you forget when you don’t see something for the better part of a decade.

This was never more apparent then when I introduced the pilot to my husband. He’d actually accompanied me to the Bensalem fan event, which was really cool in that he enjoyed the movie even though he knew absolutely nothing about the TV show (to him, Kristen Bell is Jeannie Van Der Hooven, if you can imagine that). There was a part of me that was nervous, of course, for reasons stated above, but still: we watched.

(Allow me to step into my flame-retardant suit before I say another word. There, that’s better.)

The first thing that struck me was the pacing. It was off. A little lumbering, even. The copious flashbacks were jarring. The plot felt unnecessarily overloaded (a murder! a date rape! a bad breakup! a corrupt sheriff, a menacing motorcycle gang, a new BFF!), like something from a novel-writing workshop wherein the author hasn’t yet learned you don’t need to cram all of the good stuff into the first 20 pages.

Teddy Dunn is the poor-man's Jason Street

The second thing that struck me is that I’d gotten a lot of things mixed up in my brain. Like, for some reason I totally thought that Duncan Kane had been played by Jason Street, when in reality, he’d been played by the poor man’s Jason Street. (I know, I know – how could I have screwed that one up? I’m still not sure.)

The third thing that struck me? I was completely clueless about the whole “Marshmallow” thing. I thought VM fans were called that because “Marsh” sounded a little like “Mars,” and when Veronica says it in the movie, I thought it was a wink to the fanbase. Then, at the end of the pilot, during Wallace’s “marshmallow” speech, I was like, “Oh, snap! I know absolutely nothing about anything.”

And so, in the end, the whole thing was a bit of a letdown instead of the magical experience I’d been hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong; I still liked the show. I was just struggling to understand why I had loved it so much.

The answer, of course, likely lies in watching the rest of that stellar first season. Pilot episodes can often feel wonky precisely because the creators are trying to cram all of the sexy into that first episode. The cast hasn’t found their true rhythm yet. Some of the best shows spring from really bad pilots. Exhibit A: Friends. Exhibit B: Parks & Rec. Exhibit C: Seinfeld. (Notice a trend? Maybe it’s just NBC that makes bad pilots for ultimately great series.)

So that’s the plan. To watch the rest of Season 1 (including rewatching the pilot, on the off-chance that it was my mood that dictated that reaction, and not the show itself) after May sweeps. The hubs and I have a summer tradition of binge-watching either one long or a couple of smaller series. In previous years we’ve inhaled Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, and Breaking Bad; last year was the summer of Netflix, and we went the Orange is the New Black/House of Cards route.

[Side note: the Summer of 2012 we attempted Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but only got about halfway through Season 3 before abandoning that endeavor. Even though my BFF is a certified resident of Buffonia, all of my previous attempts to immigrate have been thwarted by a general lack of enthusiasm. I don’t get it. I mean, Buffy’s fine and all, but really? I don’t get it. (Good thing I’m still wearing that flame-retardant suit, huh?)]

And now for my final confession: While I adored the entire first season of VM, I was extremely disappointed by the second. The season-spanning “mystery” of the bus crash felt like a lame attempt to recreate the whole “Who Killed Lilly Kane?” phenomenon. By Season 3’s shift to Hearst College, and the introduction of the much-maligned Piz, I was feeling kinda over the whole thing. In fact, while I own Season 1 on DVD, I’d never bothered to buy the subsequent two, because I never planned on watching them again.

So go on – kick me out of the club. I’m sure I deserve it.

That said: keep in mind that even though I’m not a superfan, I’m still a fan, and was long before Veronica Mars achieved its indie  darling cult status (or whatever we’re calling it these days). Does “early adopter” help me retain any cred?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

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Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.

Hi, I’m Lara (rhymes with mascara). This is my story.

Rhymes with Mascara: Don't Call It a ComebackOnce upon a time I was living in a suburb of Boston, attending the MFA program at Emerson College, and working full time for a textbook publisher. What I wanted then – one of the only things I wanted then – was to be a published author. More specifically, a published YA novelist.

I was hungry for it, so I worked my ass off. I wrote two novels while at Emerson, sold the first one two days after graduation and the second four months after that. These books are no longer in print, because let’s face it: While I was a decent novelist, got some good reviews and a few awards, I never really rocked the sales.

They call people like me mid-list authors, but I’d venture to say that I was more a lower mid-list author. I had (have?) a tendency to get in my own way. For instance, in the early 2000s, I sold two books to a new commercial imprint of Penguin. They were intended to be breezy, high-interest novels that would sell a lot of copies. But apparently I can’t write breezy; I always have to inject some deep-seated pathos into the process. My editor at the time made a comment how she hadn’t expected something with so much substance and heart. But once the book hit the shelves, that substance was what sank the bugger.

And here “sank” is a relative term; if my math is correct (and I’m a writer, so it totally may not be), that “breezy-with-substance” novel sold more than my first three books combined. An executive at the commercial imprint considered it a failure anyway, despite the Lifetime movie adaptation (in fact, he hated the book so much, he didn’t even bother to put out a movie tie-in version).

So there I was, killing myself to write and publish, cobbling together a living through book projects, speaking engagements, freelance assignments, and my meager salary as an adjunct college professor. I was watching all of these people I’d known way back when turn into superstars as YA got its rightful due. Watching myself matter less and less. I’d chosen some author friends unwisely, and one in particular took delight in beating my self-esteem to a bloody pulp. Eventually I wised up and cut her out of my life, but the damage was done.

I hated the business.

I hated the work.

I hated myself.

LeVar Burton and Lara Zeises Deloza

Yep, that’s me with LeVar Burton, at IRA 2013. Is it any wonder that I love my job?

So after I got a full-time job with the International Reading Association, an organization that supports literacy educators worldwide, I made the conscious decision to “retire.” For the most part, nobody blinked. But the very last post I wrote for my once-popular blog, “Girl, Uninterrupted,” announcing this so-called retirement resonated with a core group of fellow authors who felt similarly frustrated by the high school-esque microcosm of the YA publishing world. This was gratifying – to learn I wasn’t alone in feeling like a failure, no matter how many successes I achieved, and that the business of being author could really drain all of the joy from it.

That was December 2010, and for the next couple of years, I didn’t regret my decision. Not even for a second. “Retiring” (and I apologize for the overuse of quotation marks, but it seems kind of absurd for a mid-thirtysomething to retire) was like releasing this enormous weight from my shoulders. I was free! I didn’t owe anybody anything, including myself! I broke up with publishing before publishing officially broke up with me!

And then in November 2012, I attended NCTE in Las Vegas, as a representative of IRA. I ended up at a publisher dinner with Walter Mayes who, after I introduced myself, bellowed, “The Lara Zeises? As in the published author Lara Zeises?” It had been a really long time since I thought of myself that way, and I blushed deeply. Joan Kaywell, who was also at the table, later remarked, “You really don’t like to promote yourself, do you?”

Well, no. This is part of the reason I retired to begin with.

I also ran into my agent who was receiving an award. We had a quick but lovely chat. And I spend more time with my speaking agent, the incomparable Catherine Balkin, whom I adore deeply. All of this kick-started an existential crisis of sorts. It felt like too many signs in too short a time.

And then she happened.

My lovely and talented editor for the breezy-with-substance commercial failure, who had also retired from the publishing game for a while, decided to dive back in. She set up shop at a new house and, in January 2013, sent me a Facebook message telling me this – and that the two of us needed to talk.

A couple of months later, we finally had the conversation. She had this project, she said, that I was perfect for, and that she’d really like to work with me again, and was I interested?

Was I?

I was scared. While my public exit from the publishing world was graceful, the behind-the-scenes of it was anything but. The meat of it went down during one of the most harrowing times in my personal life – things I refused to discuss then and continue to keep private – but still. Burning bridges? I took out an entire city block.

But I loved this editor. We were Facebook friends for a reason. She is a pop culture goddess and so much fun to work with. And – OH MY GOD – who gets a second chance like this? What if I passed and never got a third one?

So I swallowed my fear and signed the contract. And come spring 2015, I will officially come out of retirement. For the first time in almost six years, I’ll have a new book on shelves. (Technically, my alter ego Lola Douglas will, but y’all remember that’s me, right?)

As for this blog: I’ve really, really missed having a place to write random things. In the summer of 2013, I deleted “Girl, Uninterrupted.” I felt like that was a part of my life that I’d left behind, and I didn’t want the digital footprint following me around. I’m on Twitter, but as an individual I suck at it; 140 characters never feels like enough. (I feel the need to qualify that statement because part of my job at IRA includes overseeing the social media program, which my team and I have spent the last 15 months turning into something pretty amazing.) I know that Tumblr is popular but have a difficult time understanding the appeal. Out of all of the social networks, Facebook remains my favorite – possibly because I now fit snugly into the “old people” demographic.

So, here we are. Bloggity blog 2.0. A new beginning, a fresh virtual page.

Lara and Joe Deloza

Me & the hubs.

Here’s what you’re likely to see on “Rhymes with Mascara”:

  • Musings on pop culture, including my current TV obsessions
  • Stories about my culinary adventures, both in the kitchen and out in the world
  • Rants about the corrupt nature of the student loan industry
  • Tales of my nerdalicious husband and criminally cute schnoodle

And, okay, there may be some stuff about books and writing. But probably not a ton, because MY GOD, do we need another pretentious, navel-gazing blog about the Art of Writing Semi-Disposable Fiction?

No. No, we do not.