Posted in Ghostwriting Advice, Home

Slow Writing–And Why Its Not a Bad Thing

If you are able to spin out elaborate stories full of rich world building, deep characters, and good continuity in weeks or months, you are among a small, lucky minority.

If that’s you, then congratulations on all that talent. I certainly do envy you the timing and consistency you are able to manage. So often when you churn out quick work we’re forced to sacrifice something in the meantime. Its not quite the right fit for what I’m trying to say, but examine the quality triangle below.

Image result for triangle of fast good cheap

In most endeavors you’ll find that you can’t get all three. This applies to ghostwriting/writing in general. Some people, like myself, are quick writers, because we can jump past the mental hurdles like Olympic sprinters. As a ghostwriter I tend to see my books as good and fast, but it is not cheap. In terms of price tag for the client, nor for me as the writer.

Having to write a book or more a month is hard. It’s a lot of mental exertion and I constantly feel on the edge of burnout. I’ve noticed a distressing trend in recent months that after completing a large, novel-length project I have to take a day or two (or a week, depending on the project) to rest. I simply cannot move on to the next project until the mental fatigue lifts. This isn’t a good thing for a ghostwriter, because it’s pretty much expected that I’m going to churn out content 24/7. And the problem is that writers in general but especially ghostwriters are not paid what they are worth for the sheer amount of hard work they do. Essentially you’ve had a few days to a week to create an entirely new world, characters, and plot from thin air, and a few weeks to push it into reality and have it bought from you for less than it’s worth.

I don’t feel like this applies to my own personal style, but sometimes writing can also be fast/cheap instead. Fast writing can sacrifice quality and originality in order to slap words on a page so that it can be consumed quickly. Intellectual fast food if you will. It’s not good and we know it, but we peddle it because we need to get paid. Writing can be a thankless job when you don’t write what you want–and often still is even when you do.

My point is, its nearly impossible to get a best-seller from a person in a month or six. As much as I love the growing trend of indie books, there are a lot of books on the Amazon best-seller lists that should not be. There are tips and tricks to game the system and score higher spots on the lists. And to maintain relevancy, you have to churn out a lot of content. That’s why there’s so many self-published books that are riddled with typos, have weak or non-existent plots, and questionable messages. So many writers are forced to sacrifice quality for quantity. And the sad thing is, it doesn’t work. Reviewers aren’t going to take into account that you had less than a month to write the book. Reviewers don’t know all the work that went into it. They’ll tell you exactly what is wrong with it and then move on.

So this leads me to the whole point of this article. Namely, that it’s okay to be a slow writer. My husband and I married both knowing we wanted to write and become published authors someday. But he and I have vastly different writing styles and circumstances, and its not fair for him to compare his level of writing to mine. And if you are a person out there who is lamenting on not completing your magnum opus within the year–or during November for NaNoWriMo–I wanted to write this article for you as a little bit of encouragement.

If you are working a full-time job, you will not produce as much. 

Sorry, just a fact. Freelance writers only write so much because if we don’t, we don’t get paid. That comes with its own unique stresses. If you’re putting in a forty hour work week, it isn’t fair to expect yourself to write a novel-length book in a month. That’s full-time work in and of itself, and if you try to put the demands of two full-time jobs on yourself you will suffer burnout quickly.

It’s kind of like trying to compare yourself to a supermodel. You don’t have the same body type, height, or amount of people to make you look good. Of course you aren’t going to have the same outcome. The same applies here. You can’t expect yourself to perform to the same insane standards when writing isn’t your full-time job. You still shouldn’t expect it of yourself, even if you do make a living on your writing.

When you’re writing on your own time table, quality is a lot higher.

None of us are proud of it when he have to put something slapdash together for a boss or a teacher. There’s a squirmy sense of shame that comes with turning in sub-par work, or even just work you knew you could have done better on if you’d had time. As a ghostwriter, I often have to adapt the “good enough” mentality when I turn in my work. I remind myself that even though it is not perfect, it was written in under a month, I had no beta readers, and only a basic premise to work from.

If you write on your own schedule, you can have all your ducks in a row. This generally results in better books. You don’t have to turn in something that you feel ashamed of, because the ball is totally in your court.

You can appease your inner editor.

We all have one of these. It’s the strident voice in your head that tells you that absolutely everything you write is a big pile of dog crap. We all have to find the mute button in order to be able to work past the inner editor. But its still there, gesticulating wildly and making inappropriate gestures in your mind space.

When you are able to write at your own pace, you have the luxury of setting your work aside and coming back to it with fresh eyes weeks or even months later. You’ll generally find that your inner editor has sat its hyperbolic ass down in the meantime and you can look at your work with objectivity and see what actually needs to be fixed versus what felt bad at the time you were writing.

You can actually enjoy the writing. 

Writing at your own pace is something like taking a back country road with the windows down, taking in the beautiful surroundings. Writing for someone else, or writing only to keep up with demand, is like driving down the highway at top speed with your brakes cut. It’s scary, there’s not time to take in anything but what you’re doing right now and you don’t really get a chance to look back or slow down.

Most of us get into writing because we love it. Not everyone is good at it, but all of us want to do it. We have a story etched into our heads and we need it out on the paper pronto. Keeping it in there feels like torture. You need to communicate how awesome that picture is to someone else. When you’re a slow writer, you can enjoy the journey getting to your final destination.

You can eat the elephant one bite at a time–and not vomit. 

There’s some truth in that old adage. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. When you write at your own pace, you can make steady, small steps towards your goal without feeling overwhelmed or suffering major burnout.

 

If you are a slow writer, don’t feel bad. It’s not a reflection on your ability, your character, or your desire to be a writer. Writers are people who write not because they want acknowledgement, but because their story needs telling. Writers can’t ignore the itch. They have to do it. They need that release, even if no one else sees it. Do not conflate being published or getting your work out fast as a moral failing on your part.

If you can’t eat the elephant right now, that’s okay. Take it slow. We’re all headed to the same place, so enjoy your leisurely road trip. I’m sure we’ll still see you at the finish line.

As always, thanks for reading my blog. If you have any comments about this article , topics you’d like me to cover, or how you think I can improve, please leave them in the comment section below.

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Posted in Home, Ghostwriting Advice

Tips For Writing While Pregnant

I’m not sure if I’ve announced on this blog that I am currently expecting a baby. Versus what, I’m not sure. A lizard? The point is that I am about four weeks out from delivery and have wanted to write this post for awhile, but didn’t want to be presumptuous, assuming this baby was going to arrive. After a miscarriage I felt a little gun shy and didn’t want to jinx myself somehow.

But there’s a little boy on the way, and before he makes his appearance I wanted to write this.

Everyone warned me I’d feel nauseous, that there would be weight gain and stretch marks, and possible even cankles. But no one could have told me how getting pregnant was going to derail my writing career.

Before becoming pregnant I was working on at least one 50k book a week, maintaining this blog, and writing a Dresden Files fan fiction on the side. All in all I think I was averaging about 203,000 words a month. I felt like a tank. I was unstoppable, and I was just going to pick up steam from there. I could do it.

Then pregnancy put a screeching halt to all of that. Almost from the instant the blue plus sign appeared on my pregnancy test, I was incapacitated by nausea. From week five to fourteen of my pregnancy I was lucky to keep down a meal. Additionally I was in the middle of cold and flu season, and couldn’t take any medication for the bugs I caught. You’d be surprised how little you can take to clear congestion while you’re pregnancy. It’s pretty much only Benadryl and sleep. A bug my husband could shake off in three to four days laid me low for two weeks.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to any writer out there that you feel less creative and motivated when your head feels like its stuffed with cotton balls and about to roll off your neck. First trimester fatigue was a secondary problem compared to the nausea. The brain is a tremendous energy suck, demanding a lot more calories than other organs of its size. Of the resting 1,300 calories we need minimum every day, the brain takes 300 of them. That might not sound like a lot, but consider that it takes less than that to take in, digest, and expel all the food you eat. When you’re pregnant, that changes too. You get only a fraction of what you’re used to getting nutrition-wise.

All that to say that I wasn’t unhappy about having a baby, but I was definitely disgruntled that it seemed to steal my brain in the process. Where was the drive? Where was all the detail that usually sprang to mind so effortlessly when I wrote? I felt like Charlie Brown’s teacher just spewing out “wah, wah, wah, wah, wah…” I was slower, barely managing one of the projects that came so easily to me before pregnancy.

Then crippling depression hit, and I ceased to write altogether. It was a struggle to get out of bed, let alone work on someone else’s brainchild. I struggled with the decision to go back on my anti-depressants. Some of them can cause birth defects, I reasoned. So I stayed away. Until I couldn’t.

My brain didn’t return even in part until I got back on them. I wasn’t any more energized, even though at this point I’d reached the second trimester when things are supposed to get better. My concentration was still shot, but at least I could think, just a little.

So how does my experience with pregnancy affect you? Well, it doesn’t necessarily. Some lucky few women feel fantastic during every pregnancy and never suffer ill effects. But it you’re like me, and countless other women, who love their babies but find pregnancy to be just plain hard here’s a few tips on how to keep yourself going.

Do only what you have to

If writing isn’t your full-time job, I recommend that you set it aside for the nine months you are pregnant. I know that you’ll want to touch it, but if you’re suffering severe pregnancy brain, it’s only going to frustrate you when you don’t make the headway you’re used to.

If writing is your full time job, then I’m sorry. You have a lot of work ahead of you and it’s not going to be easy. If you’re a freelancer like me, here’s what I advise you do.

Have a set minimum word count per day.

-Having a number will be helpful, trust me Sometimes when I’m ghosting a novel or novella, it just seems like this big, amorphous thing that I’m never going to conquer. Knowing the minimum number of words you need to write in order to reach your goal will take some of the pressure off. You can at least say to yourself “I did what I was supposed to do” instead of crying into your hot chocolate that this damn book will never be finished.

If you don’t reach the goal, accept that. 

-Punishing yourself isn’t going to help things. It will just stress you out and send all those toxic feelings to the baby. Figure out what you need to do to make up the difference the next day and then do it.

Tell your clients that you are pregnant.

-This one is the scary part. Sometimes clients will be dicks about it and want to hire someone else who can complete the assignment in a timely manner. If this happens, don’t get too upset. You don’t want to work with someone who has no compassion for your plight.

I was fortunate in this regard and had only one client drop me. Usually if you’ve proved yourself to a client in the past, they’ll be willing to work with you in your new, slower state. So long as the product is good at the end, most people will be willing to work with you.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly is this tip.

Keep Your Mental Health in Check

Nothing is going to stonewall your writing like depression. You can’t fight through it. You can’t beat it on your own. You need to seek help if you’re experiencing antenatal depression or anxiety. It’s not your fault and you aren’t alone. Up to 23 percent of women will experience it sometime during pregnancy, and its worse if you suffer from a preexisting condition–as a lot of writers do.

Just think of it as a second puberty if you will. Things are growing, there’s weird smells, its uncomfortable, and you feel crippling self-doubt. And did I mention the fatigue? Just keep in mind that this one only lasts for a little over nine months.

The truth is that a lot of anti depressants are safe during pregnancy, and any birth defects that result from their use are usually fixable, like cleft lip or cleft palate. Everything you read on the internet might scare you, but actually taking certain drugs during pregnancy only ups the chance of your baby of having a birth defect by a few percentage points. To put that into perspective only about one or two in 1,000 babies–or less than one percent–are born with cleft lip and palate each year in the United States. Your odds are extremely slim to begin with, and its unlikely you’ll hurt your baby.

I know its hard to accept, but putting your mental health first isn’t selfish. You’re improving your life and the baby’s. Studies have shown that long-term stress can have detrimental effects on baby that are far-reaching. A bad day will not ruin your baby, but staying depressed and anxious could very well do them more harm than good.

Take Breaks

If you’re anything like me–extremely Type A–you loathe taking breaks. You have to finish this project now. Forget having fun. Forget that I haven’t eaten in hours. This project has to get done.

But when you’re pregnant, pushing yourself isn’t the right way to go. Resign yourself to the need to take naps, taking fifteen minutes for me-time, or setting a project aside altogether if it isn’t progressing. Maybe you could have forced your way through it pre-pregnancy, but now it’s most likely going to end in tears and dissatisfaction. Take a break and come back to it later. It will be easier if you do.

Let Your Partner Pick Up the Slack

You’re pregnant, but you didn’t get this way by yourself, in all likelihood. I know you want to be superwoman and do it all, but embrace the fact that you can’t. You can’t get the housework done, the bills all paid, an hour of exercise in, and still expect to get your work done. See rule number one. Do only what you have to. You have limited reserves of energy now–because pregnancy puts the kibosh on caffeine usage damn it–and you need to use that finite resource on your job.

If you don’t have a partner present during this time, then ask a friend or a family member if they could help you out. Someone who cares about you and the well-being of your baby will be understanding enough to come over and do your dishes once or twice a week, trust me.

And possibly the most important:

Do Not Buy Into Guilt 

So many people will try to tell you that you’re ungrateful if you don’t like being pregnant, or if you’re unhappy while you are pregnant. It’s bullshit. I swore I wasn’t going to complain with this pregnancy when I miscarried and started trying again. I was a big fat liar.

The fact is pregnancy is just plain uncomfortable. TV shows sometimes joke about it, but generally pregnancies are portrayed as this silly, fun, happy time in your life. For some of us, it’s the worst. We love our babies, but hate our bodies for what they’re doing. We love our babies, but the hormone fluctuations result in suicidal depression. We love our babies, and sometimes they are the only reasons we are holding on at all.

It is okay to not love being pregnant. It is okay to be mad that you couldn’t do what you did before. But whatever you do, do not feel guilty about any of it. What’s going on inside of you is a miracle. Within nine months the baby has gone from a handful of cells to a seven pound bundle of joy, and you helped make it happen.

If you’re worried about money, here are some things you can do.

If You Have To–Give Up

Not permanently, of course. I’d never say give up on your dreams forever. But maybe for the duration of the pregnancy, when your brain seems to be stashed somewhere in the uterus, you can take a break. Get a temporary job to keep the money going. Babysit, clean houses, or do other menial work to keep the bills paid. Remember it isn’t forever, and you’ll be able to get back to writing soon.

Take Smaller Jobs

Maybe aim for less demanding work while you’re pregnant. Write articles, improve resumes, and write customer reviews instead of trying to pump out a couple books a month.

Narrow It Down To One Client

If you’re juggling many different jobs, try to narrow it down to one or two long-term clients who will be understanding if you’re a little slower.

Search For a Side Venture

If your writing is stalling out, search for a side venture that can make money while you work at home. Guest posting, selling online, or crafting are all easy ways to make money from home with only a little extra effort from you.

 

I’m aware that this post isn’t going to apply to a lot of people out there, but I hope it can help someone. If you feel like your brain has been replaced with a bowl of oatmeal and you just can’t do this thing anymore, try some of the above tips and see if they help.

As always, thank you for reading and please comment down below if there’s anything you’d like me to write about next.

Posted in Ghostwriting Advice, Home

Jumping on the #Cockygate scandal late, sorry.

So sorry that I’m just talking about this, but things have been crazy. I’ve had a lot of deadlines due lately, and just got done with my 29 week ultrasound yesterday (Everything is normal with baby boy, so I’m glad about that.)

For those joining the bandwagon late like me, I’ll give you a little bit of background info on what’s going on before I jump into the problems I have with Cockygate. Unsurprisingly, for those of you in the know, I am not on  Faleena Hopkins side in this issue. So let’s jump in.

So Faleena Hopkins is an indie romance writer (aren’t we all?) using Amazon’s platform to sell her series Cocker Brothers, The Cocky Series. The first of which came out in June of 2016. To date there are nineteen titles in Hopkins series, and that’s not a small feat. I’m a ghostwriter, and I end up writing about that in a year if I’m lucky. I can’t fault her for her work ethic. I also don’t think she’s a bad writer. Not the best I’ve read in the genre, but not the worst either.

What I can fault her on is a rotten attitude. For those of you that have read my ghostwriting/ writing advice on this blog, you know that I’ve seen firsthand the problems that can plague indie romance writing. First, that the market is absolutely flooded with competition. A lot of people use Amazon’s kindle unlimited program to try and make bank, and for most people, it just doesn’t work. You have to be in the upper percentile in order not to be buried under a deluge of similar titles. You have to know your audience and you have to know how to market your ass off in order to be noticed.

I have to assume that is part of the reason that Faleena trademarked her title. It would protect, at the very least, against copycat titles using a similar font or look in order to sell something to an unaware consumer. That part I can understand, though I don’t totally buy it as a reason for what she did afterwards. If she’d just copyrighted the font and the style of her covers (fun fact, she can’t actually trademark the font she used, because it was made by someone else who specifically prohibits its use in trademarks) then I could have gotten behind her. A wordmark trademark simply grants Hopkins the use of the title and font in the same way that Pepsi or Coca-Cola have trademarked their brands.

Unfortunately, Cockygate blew up because she put in a second trademark that specifically grants her sole use of the word “Cocky” in a title regardless of font. And Hopkins has been using this as an excuse to in her words “clear out copycats.”

The problem is, she’s gone after works that predate her own, not just things that have mimicked her title or plotlines. She claims to right to take down any book that has “Cocky” in the title. But in my opinion, if the book’s release predates her own, she should have no right to take it down. After all, the author finished the work before she did, titled it and had a romance cover made before Hopkins had put her book on the e-shelves. There is no reason why this author should have to re title and re release their book just to satisfy the whims of this woman.

In a Twitter exchange with Jamila Jasper, author of a title called “The Cocky Cowboy” Hopkins claims she is willing to take the author to court over the use of the word “Cocky” and keep the earnings of the woman who she felt wrongfully infringed on her trademark.

Cockygate 1

Here’s my problem with that. It’s a freaking romance novel, for one. Yes, I know it’s a source of revenue for a lot of people, and that’s not a small thing. But at the end of the day, because a title shares a similarity with yours, doesn’t mean you have the right to take it down. “The Cocky Cowboy” is a BWWM book and honestly sounds more compelling from the description. If you want to check it out Jasper has re titled her book “The Cockiest Cowboy Ever to Have Cocked.” It’s hard to tell what Hopkins’s books are supposed to be about at first glance, because the place usually designated for the book’s description is spammed with plugs for her other books.

Cockygate 3

Again, this could have been tolerable if she’d only listed one. I understand that indie authors do not have the backing of big corporations who will circulate their books. They have to plug their own stuff. But this just seems excessive, and it genuinely is hard to tell where the descriptions are for her books. It takes a few paragraphs to get to what the book is really about.

Here’s my problem. There’s nothing new under the sun. Titles that look similar to each other are bound to crop up here and there. Some titles are sure to be almost word forever. The only genre that’s more pun happy than the romance genre is probably the cozy mystery genre. I’m almost certain that some of the punny titles I’ve come up for the ghostwritten cozies I’ve done exist in some form. Does that mean I’m deliberately ripping off someone else’s work? No. Rarely, if ever, is the use of a title malicious. Plus, a lot of us are really terrible with coming up with titles. I know it takes me a day or two to figure out what I want to call a work when it’s done. Sometimes the simplest title is the easiest to slap onto a work.

It just seems to me, and others, that Hopkins is using her trademark to go after her competition. Amazon’s publishing branch is a huge, unwieldy thing that has little to no gate keeping. While that’s good for small authors, it can also be a nightmare when someone gets it in their head that they can come after you. Large companies like Amazon or YouTube are reactionary and will strike down a title or content simply because someone files a complaint without doing their due diligence. Just because a title shares one word does not mean it’s an infringement on someone’s work.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of shifter romance I’ve written that use animal puns. Do the authors go after any dragon shifter title with the word “fire” in it? No, because there is no point. The stories, most of the time, are not anything like each other. Targeting books that bear little to no resemblance to hers in content makes Hopkins look like a bully.

She claims that it’s not in this tweet.

Cockygate 2

But that doesn’t pass muster for me either. If I buy the wrong book, that’s my fault. I should have been paying attention. Besides, if you buy most of Hopkins books on a kindle, it only costs you three dollars, and there is a return policy. They can get their money back and buy the right book.

This reminds me somewhat of the lawsuit that Sherrilyn Kenyon filed against Cassandra Claire, claiming similarity. It’s a slippery slope to try to claim that you have sole rights to a trope. But at least Kenyon had more of a case. Cassandra Claire’s books did use “dark-hunters” as her main protagonists, the titular tile given to the heroes in Kenyon’s book. An agreement was reached to change it to “shadow-hunters” but the similarity was still there. In addition, the symbol used on Claire’s books looks remarkably like the mark Artemis places on the Dark-Hunters that is emblematic for Kenyon’s series.

It doesn’t appear that most of the titles that Hopkins has targeted bear as substantial a similarity. I’m glad this has garnered media attention and people are fighting back against it. It just seems like a rampant abuse of power to me.

Hopkins argues that the people she targets are not harmed if  they capitulate to her demands and change the title. But that’s wrong too. I don’t even need to read you a tweet on this one. If you know anything about the indie publishing industry, it isn’t cheap.

First of all, you have to write the damn thing. That costs time, if nothing else. I’m a fast writer, ghosting a couple of books a month on average, but damn, it can be hard. I know that for some authors it can take an average of months if not years to write their books. If all my hard work was dashed by someone trying to eliminate me for one word in the title, it would piss me off.

Secondly, unless you’re lucky and have some graphic design prowess and access to a really good stock photo site, you have to pay for your cover. Some (very uncomplicated) premade covers can cost less than a hundred dollars. But when you commission an artist to make one special, you have to pay them for their time as well. It can costs well over a hundred for a customized cover, and Hopkins should know this. If an author changes their book title from “Cocky Businessman” to “Arrogant Businessman” the cover has to be remade to reflect that. It costs money, damn it. It’s money out of that author’s pocket.

Thirdly, by doing so, it takes your title off the shelf for a period of time, which means that no one is buying and reading the product. That is a loss of revenue. That loss can be compounded by the fact that people who were looking for the original title can no longer find it. I know sometimes I know a title better than it’s author. And because it’s buried under a deluge of other titles, it may be impossible to find again.

Saying that she’s not hurting anyone is bullshit. These claims of trademark infringement are dealing a big monetary hit to the authors she targets.

Faleena Hopkins just comes off as an arrogant bully when I read her posts, watch her videos, and read her response to the backlash. She acts as if she’s the first one to come up with the concepts she’s writing about. Alpha males are a huge trope in romance, and not something that you can trademark. Her books do not have the most original take on the genre either. There are people who’ve done a lot more with the concept, and the fact that she’s parading it around like she’s come up with a revolutionary series bugs the hell out of me.

Sorry Ms. Hopkins, but Harlequin has been doing the same thing and better for a long time.

So yeah, I’ve laid out my beef with the Cockygate scandal. I don’t think I’m treading new ground with anything I’ve said, but I wanted to let out my frustration in a rant. I’m a consumer and (ghost)writer of indie romance, and this is a blatant abuse of power on the part of Miss Hopkins. If she really wanted to clear out copycats, she could read the titles she targets and make sure that they bear no resemblance to her books in look or story. Otherwise, leave people alone.

As always, if you have any suggestions about what I could post about next, please let me know in the comments below. Thank you for reading my long-winded rant.

Posted in Home, Reviews

Fantasy Lover Review: Chapter Five

We start the chapter off with Grace being inattentive during work. For all the good she’s doing, she should have just taken the day off or called in sick the way Julian suggested. Of course, we’re supposed to still believe that Grace is the epitome of professionalism after all this.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 15

Then we get a brief exchange that’s supposed to be humorous, but I just can’t find it that funny. I mean you might think that after all this I have no sense of humor, but I really do. I love watching and listening to comedy. I just find that these weak attempts at humor fall flat for me. Since humor is subjective, I’ll just say that I don’t find Kenyon very funny. Now and then she comes up with a line that gets a chuckle out of me, but in this book, not a lot of the jokes landed.

“… so then I said, Dave, look, if you want to borrow my clothes, fine. But leave off my expensive designer dresses ’cause when you look better in them than I do, then I just want to give them to the Salvation Army. So, was I right, Doc?”

Grace looked up from her pad where she was doodling pictures of stick men holding spears.

“What, Rachel?” she asked the patient who sat in the armchair across from her.

Rachel was an elegantly dressed photographer. “Was I right to tell Dave to leave off my clothes? I mean, damn, it’s pretty bad when your boyfriend looks better in your clothes than you do, right?”

Grace nodded. “Absolutely. They’re your clothes and you shouldn’t have to lock them up.”

“See, I knew it! That’s what I told him. But does he listen? No. He can call himself Davida all he wants to, and tell me he’s a woman in a man’s body, but when it comes down to it all, he still listens to me like my ex-husband did. I swear…”

IT IS TO LAUGH: 9

I’m gonna give it three, because the attempts are clearly there, but they just feel really lame to me. And why is this woman coming to a sex therapist, not her husband? There’s nothing unnatural about wanting to dress in drag and it’s more common for totally straight men to do it than people might think. But this is supposed to be a funny, and give us an idea of what Grace’s day to day life is like. If this is what she does, it’s inane and boring.

Also, just a nitpick but why not use Davina instead of Davida? It’s a much more common feminization of the given name David.

“You know, Rachel,” she said, cutting her patient off before Rachel could begin her routine spiel about men and their annoying habits. “Perhaps we should hold on to this until our Monday session with Dave?”

Rachel nodded. “Will do. But remind me on Monday that I need to talk to you about Chico.”

“Chico?”

“The Chihuahua that lives next door. I swear that dog is giving me the eye.”

Grace frowned. Surely Rachel wasn’t implying what she thought she was. “The eye?”

“You know. The eye. He may look like a pooch, but that dog has sex on his mind. Every time I walk by, he looks up my skirt. And you don’t want to know what he did to my running shoes. The dog is a pervert.”

“Okay,” Grace said, cutting her off again. She was beginning to suspect there was nothing she could do for Rachel and her obsession that all males in the world were dying to possess her. “We will definitely cover the Chihuahua’s infatuation with you.”

IT IS TO LAUGH: 10

Guh. So now I think this person should be seeing a regular therapist for narcissism, not a sex therapist. Sex therapy commonly deals with ways to improve intimacy between couples, deal with past sexual trauma, help resettle attitudes about sex, or to help the man or woman learn to enjoy sex. What category does this session fall under? Does the lady have past sexual trauma dealing with dogs? It just reads to me like Kenyon hasn’t looked into the profession. This throw-away scene is one of the last times we hear about her job. And this is only chapter five. I know this is a romance and most everything takes a backseat to the relationship of the main leads, but come on.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 25

A handful of paragraphs is spent on this pointless interaction before we’re pulled back into what passes for the plot. Grace’s assistant informs her that Selena has called approximately twelve times.

“Oh, thank God.” Selena spoke before Grace could say a word. “You have got to get your butt down here and take your boyfriend home. Now!”

“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s your-“

“Oh, you want to know what he is?” Selena asked with a note of hysteria in her voice. “He’s a friggin’ estrogen magnet, that’s what he is. I have women mobbing my stand even as we speak. Sunshine loves it, she’s sold more pottery this morning than she ever has before. I tried to get him home earlier, but I can’t even make a dent in this crowd. I swear, you’d think we had a celebrity out here. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Now get your butt down here and help me!”

A BOWL OF STU: 16

ILL LOGIC: 7

For having him draw a huge crowd by his very presence, and for comparing him to a celebrity. The “Ill Logic” points comes from Selena’s absurd decision to try to get the main source of business away. If she’s making extra cash doing this, then why not let him keep attracting customers? We’re never told that it’s blocking traffic, that police are involved, or that people are fighting over Julian. So what’s the issue? In my mind it’s like those people who volunteer to wear bikinis to advertise a car wash. If it doesn’t make Julian uncomfortable, what’s the problem?

So by the time Grace gets there, a gaggle of women are tripping over themselves to get a glimpse of Julian. Apparently they’ve been told he’s a romance cover model, and they’re all somehow super-excited about this. What, have they not been staring at enough hunky men on their bookshelves? Do they not have TVs? Because yeah, this happens;

But the most unbelievable of all were the three women who had their arms draped over him while another one took a picture.

“Oh, thank you,” a woman in her mid-thirties purred to Julian as she snatched the camera out of the hands of the woman who had taken their picture.

She cradled the camera to her breast in a way meant to draw Julian’s attention there, but he didn’t seem the least bit interested.

“This is just so wonderful,” she continued to gush. “I can’t wait to get home and show this to my critique group. They’ll never believe I found a real-life romance-novel cover model in the French Quarter.”

Something about the rigid way he stood made Grace suspect that Julian didn’t care for the attention. But to his credit, he wasn’t openly rude.

Still, his smile didn’t reach his eyes and it was nothing like the one he’d given her last night.

“My pleasure,” he said to the women.

The giggles that erupted were deafening. Grace shook her head in disbelief. Women, get some dignity!

Yes. Some dignity would be nice. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be seeing a lot of that around here. Because you know what this is?

A BOWL OF STU: 20

One for each of the women draped over him like he’s a buff mannequin. And we’re not done either. Because you know what else it is?

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 17

Not overtly sueish to the untrained eye. Unfortunately, my eyes have seen more of this genre than I ever anticipated. This is a case of “the protagonist is so different from other women.” I’ll give you a short list of examples that spring to mind.

Image result for bella swan

Bella Swan

Meyer’s book is rife with this, but to be fair, it’s following a long tradition of telling rather than showing that your character is great. Bella Swan was intended to be a genuinely clever, funny, self-deprecating, unselfish, and genuinely interesting person. She isn’t. In Twilight, our indicator that Bella is supposed to be clever is that she took an AP biology class and therefore already knew the answers to the lab. She’s also supposed to be clever because she’s well-read. But the author transposes a lot of messages onto these books that aren’t there, and so does the character. Bella ends up seeming incredibly dull, catty, and is only saved from looking like a total moron 24/7 by the fact that everyone else in the story is worse. 

Image result for anita blake

Anita Blake

Again, I’m gonna keep harping on Blake as an example of what not to do, because I’m furious that these things get through publishers with minimal editing. No one ever pauses to say “hey, when did the protagonist turn into the villain?”

Because that’s what happens. Somewhere around the middle of the series Anita jumps the shark and becomes everything she claims to hate. And it’s presented as a good thing by the author. Anita was self-sufficient at one point and thought sex was special and should be shared with only people she loved. By the most recent book, that list is stretched so long it beggars belief, just because the author wants her character to have a sexy romp without any of the consequences of you know, writing good character evolution.

Back to the point though. This character is supposed to be a tough-as-nails feminist woman who makes her way in love and life despite the things that hold her back. Instead she’s a mouthy little pissant who doesn’t respect any authority, no matter how justified, gets away with literal murder, is a bald-faced liar and hypocrite, and falls apart if she isn’t shooting or screwing anybody.

I could dump a lot more here (a lot of YA paranormal fiction, mostly. Damn those Twilight knock-offs) but I think everyone gets my point. It’s a suey trait to have your protagonist be the only one with an informed attribute that moves the plot along. As I’ve said before, I sincerely doubt that no one has ever wanted to free Julian. I just can’t believe that in over two millennia the only person he’s encountered with human decency is Grace.

Then again, no one seems to ask the obvious questions. Because I’m about to give Selena another point.

FUCK. YOU.: 4

Because Selena claims to care about Julian and Grace both and hands him off to her to be used anyway. Dick move.

Also, I’m feeling like giving it another sue point. Because that up there? That was totally a sue line. Gosh you hoebags, stop ogling this hot piece of man flesh. That’s my personal privilege!

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 18

Then again, given Julian’s face, body, and smile, she felt a little giddy every time he looked at her, too.

So who could really blame them for acting like pre-pubescent girls at a shopping-mall rock concert?

All of a sudden Julian looked past his sea of raging hormonal admirers to meet her gaze. Grace arched an amused brow at him.

Instantly, his smile vanished. His eyes focused on her like a hungry predator that had just found its next meal. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said, then waded through the women and headed directly toward her.

Grace gulped, noting the instant hostility of the women who frowned en masse in her direction.

But worse was the sudden, raw surge of desire that tore through her, making her heart pound out of control. And with every step he took, it increased tenfold.

“Greetings, agapeemenee,” Julian said, lifting her hand up to place a kiss on the backs of her knuckles.

A heated wave of electricity danced up her spine. And before she could move, he pulled her into his arms and gave her a hot, soul-wrenching kiss.

Instinctively, she closed her eyes and savored the warmth of his mouth, his breath. The feel of his arms holding her close to a rock-hard chest. Her head reeled from it.

Oh, but the man knew how to give a kiss! Julian had a way with his lips that defied explanation.

And his body… Never had she felt anything like those lean, hard muscles flexing around her.

It was only the barely audible “hussy” one of the women sneered that broke the spell.

“Julian, please,” she whispered. “There are people watching us.”

“Do you think I care?”

“I do!”

Alright counts.

TOTALLY TUBULAR DUDE!: 4

Shopping-mall rock concert? That’s a fairly dated reference. The only people playing at my local shopping mall are unknown names who had to pay out the nose to get even that small bit of attention. More often than not when events happen at the mall they’re holiday related, like pictures with Santa or the creepy-ass Easter bunny.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 20

Because everyone is instantly jealous that this man, whom they don’t know and have only exchanged a few words with, is with the heroine. I gave it two for the “hussy” comment. Because that’s really fanficy for an unnamed character to make unfounded accusations about another woman’s sex life.

And let us not forget these.

A BOWL OF STU: 21

Because the author has to lovingly detail the hero’s abs while they kiss.

Also:

ILL LOGIC: 10

I’m giving it a double count because this makes no sense at all. What did these women think was going to happen if he was single? That every single one of them were going to get a chance to ride that disco stick? He was going to choose someone.

Whew, that had everything didn’t it?

So the crowd disperses, grumbling unhappily. Selena seems oddly okay with this, despite the fact it’s the most business her stall has had in a long time. Selena says that if she’d known that was all it took she’d have kissed him.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 15

Why does everyone in this book feel entitled to everyone else’s body? I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a joke. It doesn’t read like one and it isn’t funny regardless. She knows Julian’s history, the attention makes him feel uncomfortable, and he’s only supposed to be attracted to Grace right now, supposedly.

Grace gripes that it’s Selena’s fault that he was attracting so much attention. His clothes are too small and showing too much. Yeah, clearly he’s totally asking to be groped. *Rolls eyes.*

Selena defends herself by saying that she didn’t want him to get heat stroke. Julian gets in-between them and condescends that “don’t worry about something as trivial as my clothing.” He rakes a glance over Grace and she’s suddenly in heat.

She looked at Selena and caught the way Selena stared hungrily at Julian’s bare legs and rump.

“You feel it, too, don’t you?” Grace asked.

Blinking, Selena looked up. “Feel what?”

“Him. It’s like he’s the Pied Piper and we’re all mice enchanted by his music.” Grace turned about and noted the way women stared at him, some even craning their necks to get a better view of Julian.

“What is it about him that just pulls us against our wills?” Grace asked.

Julian arched one arrogant brow at her. “Against your will?”

“Well, honestly, yes. I don’t like feeling like this.”

“And how do you feel?” he asked.

“Sexual,” Grace said before she could stop herself.

“Like a goddess?” he asked, his voice dropping an octave.

“Yes,” she said as he took a single step toward her.

He didn’t touch her, but then he didn’t have to. His very presence overwhelmed her. Intoxicated her as he dipped that magnetic gaze to her lips, then to her neck. She swore she could already feel the sensation of his lips buried in the hollow of her throat.

And the man hadn’t even moved.

“I can tell you what it is,” he all but purred.

“It’s the spell, isn’t it?”

He shook his head as he reached one hand out to gently drag his forefinger down her cheek. Grace shuttered her eyes as a wave of fierce desire scorched her. It was all she could do not to turn her head and capture that finger between her teeth.

Julian leaned closer and nuzzled her cheek with his. “It’s the fact that I can appreciate you on a level the men of your age cannot.”

Alright, so counts.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 16

Because up to this point Grace has acted asexual or demisexual, and doesn’t like feeling the wanton sexual desire the curse evokes. At least, that’s what we’re supposed to think. I know why it’s really like this. She’s found her twu luv and now is seized by the desire to ravish him. Because heaven forbid you have sex with someone who isn’t your true love. And you better regret it if you do, lady! No sex is good sex unless it’s with your forever man or woman.

A BOWL OF STU: 25

I’m bumping it by a lot because that one annoys me so damn much. Sex is sex. It should feel good with the person you’re with, no matter the level of commitment. Granted, it won’t always, because long-term partners tend to know what the other likes because of familiarity and practice. But no, we’re supposed to believe that because he’s a demi-god he’s automatically sooo much better than a mortal man.

I don’t like that there’s so much normal man bashing in these books. There is nothing wrong with a man with a stable job. There is nothing wrong with a man who prefers to stay in and watch movies. There is nothing wrong with a man who is a little bit safe. I understand the “bad boy” genre is a thing for some women, but I hate it. Sex is not something you throw at deep personal issues and expect them to get better. But that’s what happens in most of these books. The heroine heals the hero with her magical therapy vagina.

“It’s the fact he has the tightest gluteus rumpus I’ve ever seen,” Sunshine said, interrupting them. “Not to mention a voice and accent to die for. I really wish someone would tell me where I could get one of those.”

IT IS TO LAUGH: 11

Ha ha. It’s supposed to be funny. Because in just a few books Sunshine will find her one twu luv as well.

Julian leaned down at her, his blue eyes searing her with their heat. “Come home with me, Grace,” he whispered in her ear. “Now. Let me take you into my arms, strip your clothes from your body, and show you how the gods meant for a woman to know a man. I swear to you, you’ll remember it for the rest of eternity.”

She closed her eyes as the scent of sandalwood filled her head. His breath tickled her neck while his cheek was so close to hers, she swore she could feel his whiskers touching her.

Every part of her wanted to surrender to him. Yes, please, yes.

Her gaze dropped down to his shoulder. To the hard sculpting of his muscles. To the hollow of his throat. Oh, how she longed to run her tongue over the golden bounty of his skin. To see if the rest of his body tasted as good as his mouth.

He would be splendid in bed. There was no doubt.

But she meant nothing to him. Nothing.

“I can’t,” she breathed, taking a step back.

Disappointment filled his eyes. Then, his look turned hard, determined. “You will,” he assured her.

Sorry I keep using large swaths of the texts but I really think context matters, so you don’t think I’m being hyperbolic.

DON’T MAKE ME SUE: 21

That point is for the return of her “deep pain.” Yes, it sucks that one douchebag used her for his own gratification. But that doesn’t mean all men will. I think that a sex therapist should know this better than anyone.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 17

For that last line there. I know what the author is trying to get at. She’s trying to say that no one is strong enough to resist the curse. But it came across like “I’m gonna rape you.” Because Julian is absolutely confident he’s going to tap that ass before the book is over. And he doesn’t seem to care that she’s made uncomfortable or scared by the prospect.

Grace takes him shopping to get him clothing that fits. He continues to say in unsubtle terms that he wants to pork her. She tries to ignore it and then is shocked by the revelation that no one has ever dressed him when he was summoned in the past. I’ve gone over why this doesn’t make much sense, so I won’t linger on this overlong. I’m just gonna point this out.

“They summoned you, yet none of them ever conversed with you or clothed you?”

“Every man’s fantasy, is it not? To have a million women throwing themselves at him, wanting no commitments, no promises. Wanting nothing from him, other than his body, and the few weeks of pleasure he can give them?” His flippant words didn’t quite mask the acid undertone.

A BOWL OF STU: 26

Because he’s not like other men either. Pfft.

Why do so many romance novels paint men as ravening sex beasts? I’m sorry, most aren’t. We as a species have a better life balance than that. There are plenty of men who don’t like casual sex, and believe in waiting for someone special. This isn’t unique to Julian or any of the other ken-doll protagonists that get trotted out in these books. Lots and lots of men want love with their sex.

Grace gives Julian some clothes to try on and shoves him in a dressing room. He freaks out because he hasn’t seen his reflection in a long time. Which makes me wonder how he would have seen it in the first place. Mirrors were being used in ancient times, but they were usually polished metal, not glass. Glass was not refined and was a luxury at this point. The modern mirror didn’t really become widespread until the 16th century, during which he was presumably porking somebody. So it’s not impossible that he could have seen it in water but he wasn’t seeing it this clearly.  He shouldn’t have an exact idea of what he looks like.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 26

But even worse than his claustrophobia was the face in the mirror. He hadn’t seen his own reflection in centuries. And the face staring back at him looked so much like his father that he wanted to splinter it. He saw the same smoothly sculpted planes, the same contemptuous eyes.

The only thing missing was the deep, jagged scar that had run down his father’s left cheek.

And for the first time in countless centuries, Julian saw the jarring sight of the three thin commander’s braids that hung to his shoulder.

His hand shaking, he reached up and touched them as he did something he hadn’t done in an exceptionally long time; he remembered the day he had earned them.

It had been after the battle at Thebes when his commander had fallen and the Macedonian troops had started to panic and retreat. He had grabbed the commander’s sword, regrouped them, and led them to victory against the Romans.

The day after the battle, the Macedonian queen herself had braided his hair, and placed her own personal beads on the ends.

Are we talking his father, the Spartan? Julian’s history is so muddled in this book. Why would he fight for Macedon if he were raised in Sparta? And it’s highly unlikely that the queen herself would do that. I’m sorry, just no. Braided hair was a very common style in Greece. Men and women have been shown in artwork as having plaits in their hair. Acting like it’s something unique to Julian or that a lot of other Greeks didn’t do it is just not true.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 27

So Julian has a wangst fest about how he isn’t that man anymore, and that being cursed to be a sex slave means he isn’t worthy to wear the braids anymore. There’s a big long passage where Grace lovingly details how well his jeans fit, and I’ll spare you it.

A BOWL OF STU: 27

So Julian once again tries to get Grace to sleep with him, she says no, he mutters in Greek, and Selena chides him for it. She says that Grace slept through the entire semester. I know that some colleges make you take language as a general education requirement. But why would Grace take Ancient Greek, no matter how much Selena pestered her? It actually makes sense for Selena to take it, because it had to do with her major. Wouldn’t Latin be more useful to Grace, if she wanted to study a dead language? Or how about  a language people still speak? How about Spanish or French, since they’re the most common languages in New Orleans besides English?

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 28

So Selena tries to stick her foot in her mouth by calling Julian a love-slave to his face. Then this happens.

“I know what I am. You can’t offend me with the truth of it. I’m actually more offended by the word Greek than I am love-slave. I was trained in Sparta, and fought for the Macedonians. I made it my habit to avoid Greece as much as possible before I was cursed.”

Gaaaaaaah. No! I’ve said this before, but this makes no damn sense. Why would he go fight for Macedonia if he was trained in Sparta? Now at this point Sparta isn’t in it’s hayday anymore, but there was still a lot of pride in being a Spartan warrior. He wouldn’t have just gone off to fight for the Macedonians. He might have fought with them, as a commander of the Spartan army, but not as a Macedonian.

And I’ve gone over this before, but it bears repeating. The Macedonians would have considered themselves Greek. There was a time that Macedon was considered the boonies in Greek society. But that all changed when Philip the Second, and Alexander the Great came out of Macedon and whooped major ass. They became a respected power in their own right and would not have been looked down upon by anyone except maybe the Athenians, but they were snobs anyway.

Julian should consider himself Greek, no matter which country he likes to claim as his homeland. The Spartans were very Greek, and by this time, Macedon was too. And he’s the son of a Greek Goddess so hell yes, he’s Greek.

DID NOT DO THE RESEARCH: 33

Giving it five because that one was so bad.

“Where were you born?” she asked.

A tic started in his jaw and his eyes darkened ominously. Wherever his birthplace had been, he didn’t care for it. “Very well, I’m half Greek, but I don’t claim that half of my heritage.”

Okay, big nerve there. From now on, she would drop Greek from her vocabulary.

He should not be throwing a shit fit over this. At all.

So Selena changes the subject and insists on buying Grace a sheer red nightie, because no one cares what Grace thinks about this situation.

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 18

So Grace tries to find out if there’s a way to get him out of the book. He says there isn’t. Selena asked which god favored him and might let him out of the book. He says he was close to Eros. Selena suggests that he call him. He finally relents, calling him Cupid, which is the Roman form of the name. Which will be touched on later, so it doesn’t get a point.

Then we have a complete non-sequitur as they leave the shop.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a blue blur headed for the street. It took her a full second to realize it was Julian running across the lot. She frowned at his actions, until she saw the small boy who was stepping off the curb into traffic.

“Oh, my God,” Grace gasped as she heard car brakes squealing.

“Steven!” a woman shouted.

With a move straight out of Hollywood, Julian jumped over the low parking lot wall, plucked the child up from the road, and, holding the boy against his chest, he ran up onto the fender of the braking car, then turned a side flip, up, over, and away from the car.

They landed safely in the other lane a spilt second before a second car jerked around the first and plowed straight into them.

Horrified, Grace watched as Julian slammed into the hood of an old Chevy. He slid up it, into the windshield, and was then flung forward onto the street where he rolled for several yards before finally coming to a stop.

He lay on his side, unmoving.

*heavy sarcasm* Yes. I’m on the edge of my seat. Oh no. Will he be okay?

Of course he will be. You know what this is?

A BOWL OF STU: 30

I bumped it up by three because that was ridiculous. At least in future books it makes sense for there to be chase scenes and action-hero stunts. This one doesn’t. This is just the author showing off that there’s something tender inside Julian still because he likes kids. And to show off how badass he is that he survived impact with a speeding car. And he walks this accident off like it’s nothing, so there’s really no consequence or sacrifice to the act at all.

Selena decides the best thing they can do to celebrate the rescue is to get him a cookie. Okay. Fine, whatever. It’s mostly an excuse so Julian can do “romantic” stuff like eat out of Grace’s hand and kiss sugar off her lips. He asks why she’s afraid of him and she denies it. And then we get this.

“You’re cringing,” he said pointedly as they got back on the escalator.

Even though she was on the step below, he braced his arms on each side of her, then leaned his head close to her own. His presence surrounded her, enveloped her, and made her strangely giddy and warm.

She stared at the strength of his tense, tanned hands on the belt behind hers. The way the veins stood out to emphasize the power and beauty of them. Like the rest of him, his hands and arms were gorgeous.

“You’ve never had an orgasm, have you?” he whispered in her ear.

Grace choked on her praline. “This is not the place to talk about it.”

“That’s it, isn’t it?” he asked. “That’s why-“

“That’s not it,” she interrupted him. “As a matter of fact, I have.”

Okay, it was a lie, but he didn’t have to know that.

Ugh. Again, why must they discuss this in public? And what business is it of his? She’s made it clear she doesn’t want you, buddy. Orgasms are not going to fix the issue. He seems shocked when she says no, she doesn’t want to. He just can’t believe that someone doesn’t want him.

A BOWL OF STU: 31

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 19

Because I know he’s going to continue to push her boundaries, despite the fact she’s been very clear.

“Then why can’t you just enjoy your time here with me without any…”-she lowered her voice-“sex?”

His eyes flared. “Enjoy what? Enjoy getting to know people whose faces will haunt me for eternity? Do you think I enjoy looking around here knowing that in a few days I’ll be pulled back into a blank, empty hole where I can hear, but I can’t see, can’t taste, feel, or smell, where my stomach churns constantly from hunger and my throat burns with an unquenchable thirst? You are the only thing I’m permitted to enjoy. And you would deny me that.”

Grr. You are not entitled to her body you dick!

QUESTIONABLE CONSENT: 20

We get a flashback to Grace’s trauma. Paul was a jerk, stuck it in without concern for her, said to stop crying, didn’t try to make it pleasant, and then openly bragged about the conquest to his friends. Grace hides in humiliation and cries for days.

If she were really as spunky as she’s supposed to be, she ought to have told his friends that he was a one-pump chump and hung like a mosquito. There are plenty of ways of getting vengeance on an ex. I’m not saying that revenge is the best way, but it would certainly have helped Grace to get her own back and save another girl from the same sort of manipulation. Don’t cry in the corner, tell people what he did. Contrary to popular opinion, no one likes an asshole. Girls would steer clear of him if they found out he was a callous jerk who was terrible in bed.

ILL LOGIC: 12

I gave it two. One for Paul, who tried to have sex with a virgin without any prep and continuing when she was clearly uncomfortable. One for Grace for letting him get away with it.

So we end the chapter with a bunch of bikers sidling up to where they’re at. Julian takes one look at the lead biker and goes over and slugs him. It’s supposed to be a shocking display, but I had pretty much guessed who it is by the time the chapter ends. You get a cookie if you can too.

Join me next time to learn about Julian’s past. Its more tragic than Grace’s and yet we’re still going to try to claim she has the bigger hangups. Sigh.

Posted in Home, Reviews

Fiction Faux Pas Hit List: Planned Reviews

I should preface this by saying that I’m picking some seriously low-hanging fruit here, and I know it. Some series like Kenyon’s Dark Hunters and Hamilton’s Anita Blake will be getting their own full-length sporks, because I don’t think that they deserve to get away unscathed simply because they are romance. And I’ll always have more vitriol for series that went through a traditional publisher and received widespread release (Fifty Shades my God why?!)

A lot of these books will also be self-published. Now I’m not saying that self-publishing is a bad thing. There are some good indie authors out there who are never going to get a fair shake with a traditional publisher, and I’m all for them being able to get their work out there. But because there is no gate-keeping (and no gate-keeping is not always a bad thing!) there is an unfair assumption that because Sturgeon’s Law applies here, everything that is self-published has to be crap. It’s not. There’s just a higher proportion of crap in self-publishing.

The books I’m listing here are going to be regular reviews, just for the lols. I have a morbid curiosity about terrible literature. Just when I think I’ve scraped the bottom of the barrel, I find another layer of muck. It never ceases to amaze me how bad writing can get. Most of these are cringe-inducing and widely recognized to be bad. But because I apparently like to watch flaming train wrecks, I’m going to investigate them myself.

So without further ado, here’s a list of the books I’m currently curious about. In no particular order:

Image result for meredith gentry series

The Meredith Gentry Series

Yeah, I knew I was going to tackle this one sooner or later. This is another series by Laurell K. Hamilton. I know that I’ve got A Stroke of Midnight on my Blogger’s Guilty Pleasure review section. It’s mostly because that ASoM was my first brush with erotica, and it was pretty tame. I also have a funny story about how I accidentally brought an audio book I didn’t know was essentially porn to my grandma’s house one Christmas. Yeesh. This one is less of a blatant self-insert as the Anita Blake series, but it is still rife with Hamilton-isms. It will one day see its day in the flames. I’m going to do a chapter-by-chapter sporking of this one.

 

Image result for A Handbook for mortals

Handbook for Mortals

This book, by Lani Sarem, caused a minor scandal when it was discovered it hadn’t really earned its spot on the New York Best-Seller’s list. Strategic bulk purchases had bumped the numbers and put this book on the list. The author still insists that it was pushed from its place unrightfully. The 1.8 Goodreads score begs to differ. Now I know from my experiences as a ghostwriter that some (often self-published) books that are genuinely good don’t have good scores. Because a lot of self-published books only sell a few copies, it only takes a couple of assholes to tank the score.

This was earned. The Handbook for Mortals is full of stiff, two-dimensional characters, and as much mary-sue wangsting as you can stand. This will probably only be a review, but who knows? If I hate it enough it may end up as a spork.

Image result for troll by emma clark

Troll

Oh God, Troll. I didn’t believe this one when I first heard of it. I encountered this one day, while bored and scrolling through Youtube. In a hilarious review of the book by Jenny Nicholson which you can find here, she dissects this self-published abomination. But honestly, can’t you just look at the tagline on this book and tell what you’re in for? Good Lord!

I’m probably going to approach this book with mixed curiosity and revulsion. This book has a surprisingly middling score on Goodreads and Amazon, which baffles me. The series uses a bullshit marketing tactic, splitting the series into three unnecessarily to squeeze pennies out of the unfortunate reader. Anyone thinking of self-publishing their books, trust me when I say this isn’t a good strategy. Let your work speak for itself and just publish a series that is worth considering. It can be done. Consider Ruby Dixon and her Dragonblood series as an example of a self-published series I actually secretly like.

This book is full of rapey do-not-want, and a protagonist who is dumb as rocks. Probably only a review. I’m not sure I could stand going chapter to chapter with this one.

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The Maradonia Saga

Why is it that a lot of bad fiction happens to be firmly set in high fantasy settings? I understand idolizing Tolkien and aspiring to write something as good, but yeesh. So many people completely miss the point, or are so narcissistic as to think they have actually beat out Tolkien in terms of literary quality. Thankfully Amazon and Goodreads agree with the general assessment that this series is crap. Add to that that you have to pay fifteen bucks for this thing, and there’s no ebook version of it? Yeah, not one I’m looking forward to.

Gloria Tesch also has a gigantic ego to contend with. She claims to be the world’s youngest novelist, claims to have sold out a lot of her books at well-attended signings, and that there will eventually be a theme park and movie based after her books! Gah!

 

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The Eye Of Argon

This one is a little older and has been thoroughly mocked, but since I have not read it yet, I will be subjecting myself to the torture and reporting back to you. If I survive, that is. I’ll also probably do this one in conjunction with the Maradonia Saga, because some people claim that Gloria Tesch’s messterpiece deposes Argon as the pinnacle of enjoyably bad literature. I’ll try to publish a compare and contrast piece when I’m through.

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Revealing Eden: Save the Pearls

This is the first in a series of incredibly race-baitey books by Victoria Foyt. It is one of two, and I’ll determine after reading this one if I even want to touch the sequel. This one is the only one on the list that makes me frankly nervous. When discussing anything related to race, you have  to be sensitive. This one says “screw that!” and throws logic right out the window.

I may return to Victoria Foyt in future because almost all of her books have incredibly low scores and some of the others might be entertaining instead of uncomfortable. But I felt like I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this one on the list.

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Diary of a Vampeen: Vamp Chronicles Book 1

Bhahahahahaha! I’m sorry I’ve got the maturity of a twelve-year-old! But this title has me in stitches. Christin Lovell clearly liked Twilight and it shows. Much like Meyer, she clearly doesn’t know there was already a term for a half-vampire child. It’s called a dhampir! And no, I don’t think she was going for “vampire peen” the way the title suggests, even though that would be hilarious.

The main character goes through a sueish transformation from a chubby, acne-ridden teen into a vampeen, and instead of it being embraced as a message of “there are all kinds of beauty” and struggling with the change and the suddenness of new attention, and how they contribute to her bad body image, she takes it in stride. If this were the only problem, I wouldn’t have put it on the list. But there are more. A lot more.

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The Legend of Rah and the Muggles

This is another old one. It caught my attention because the author insists to this day that J.K. Rowling ripped off her work, using flimsy justifications as to why Rowling’s work is infringement. I’ll probably do an in-depth review of this because I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, and inspiration (if it even was inspired by this forgotten book) is not the same as infringement.

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The Baldur’s Gate Novelizations

I actually won’t be tackling this one myself. My husband is personally offended by these novelizations because it takes what is a good game and turns the protagonist into a raging misogynist, it’s full of gorn, and ignores series continuity when convenient. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except it will be entertaining to see someone else foaming at the mouth about bad books for a change.

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Dinosaur Erotica

Again–bhahahahaha! I knew going in these were going to be bad, and I’ve actually really enjoyed it when Emma Blackery does dramatic readings of these.  I’m only reading these out of sheer morbid curiosity, not with any expectation of quality. There are a lot of these, actually. I’m not sure whether to read and review them separately, or to review the existing ones in a long review. Thoughts?

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The Adventures of the Teen Archaeologists

I’m sure I’m going to have a lot of fun ripping this one apart with the help of my husband (a history major, who enjoys ancient history specifically.) This book has one star on Amazon, and looks like it’s going to be full of history fail and a lack of common sense. There are a lot of spelling and punctuation errors in this book, and the author apparently doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “sarcastically.”

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Lucinda Darkly

By an author who only calls herself Sunny. Apparently the author likes Hamilton, because it is Anita Blake-ish, with the main character being an impossibly powerful character who does improbably little in the way of actual plot. It has a middling review, but I’ve been told it’s a sporking gold mine. I might do a chapter-by-chapter review for this one.

I’ll probably continue this list another time, cause I am busy today, but I think there’s quite enough to contend with in this one alone, don’t you? If you have any suggestions for horrible books to add to Hit List Part Two, please let me know in the comments below. And as always, thanks for reading.

 

Posted in Home, Recommended Titles

Recommended Titles: Thunderhead

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I’m back with another Recommended Titles. I don’t get to do that much recreational reading anymore, around a job, family, and whatnot. But I’ve made an exception for a few series, carving out time to read or listen to them when I can. Thunderhead is one such title I’ve done this for.

Much like the first book in this series, Thunderhead engaged me from page one. It kept the momentum going from the first book and upped the stakes to boot. I absolutely adore the world that Neal Shusterman has created in this series, and I’m sure I’ll be able to put the third book in this series on the list of recommended titles as well.

This book continues the tale of our two protagonists, who have two vastly different approaches to fixing the corrupt system of the scythedom. As the titular character, the benevolent AI the Thunderhead plays a much bigger role in this book. The Thunderhead, much like our main characters, is also trying to sort out the growing problem of the scythedom, without breaking its own rules not to interfere with the job of scythes.

Like the last book, the chapters are broken up with asides from different characters. This can still throw people off, because they are generally reflections on the world that exists within the story, or musings on the age of mortality (the past that we exist in now). They can come across as arrogant or the author speaking down to the reader. There is a lot of emphasis on religion which can be grating. However, this book mostly centers on the Thunderhead’s insights into humanity, which I found more tolerable.

Because this book is a continuation it is going to be hard to read as a stand-alone. There are things you absolutely must know about this world established in the first book to understand the narrative. This is not bad in and of itself, but can deter some people. It also ends on a cliffhanger, which annoys the crap out of me because I’m probably going to have to wait another year before the third in the series is out. Grr.

That is both a compliment and a downside. If you don’t like cliffhangers, this one will make you mad. We end right in the middle of a big plot point, and will have to wait to see how it is resolved.

That said, I love this book and I would recommend it and the first book Scythe to any lover of YA fiction. I’m actually looking into reading Shusterman’s other series to see if there are any similarities. If there are, I’m sure I’ll love it.

Sorry this is a short one, but I can’t get into much more without going into massive spoiler territory. I’ll end by saying this was a thoroughly engaging read, which I finished in two days. Mr. Shusterman deserves high praise. And a boot in the behind for that cliffhanger. Damn it.

As always if you have any suggestions, feel free to express them in the comments below. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again with another review soon.

Posted in Home, Recommended Titles

Recommended Titles: The Dresden Files

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Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the Dresden Files. My love for this series has spurred me to construct cosplay for it, and write fanfic (something I don’t do for any old series. Anymore.) I daydream about this series and I cannot wait until the newest short story anthology Brief Cases will be out this summer.

For those who don’t know, the series revolves around the titular character Harry Dresden, a wizard and PI working in Chicago. In the course of his cases he faces of against demons, ghosts, vampires and more. Sound like your regular supernatural fare? Well think again.

Butcher is skilled at creating complex, three-dimensional characters out of even the worst monsters. I think it’s the mark of a very good writer that you can both sympathize with the character’s pain, and be repulsed by their monstrous nature. Our main lead Harry is a flawed individual and has gradual power-ups over the course of the series rather than Godmoding it all the way, as I’ve seen other series do *cough, cough Anita Blake cough*. 

The world building is excellent, introducing us to monsters, magical governmental systems, supernatural power struggles and so much more. The magic system is easy to understand and has a lot of possibilities. Aside from a few minor continuity errors in the timeline (one character’s age is off in a book, but the rest of the series follows with the new age, and Harry’s birthdate is a little hard to pin down) the timeline is pretty solid, and Butcher doesn’t do a lot of retconing or retelling of history as I’ve seen a number of other urban fantasy writers do. Any errors I’ve spotted are pretty inconsequential and don’t affect my enjoyment of the series.

The humor is great, the characters are authentic, and people act in ways that flow logically from their characterization. That said, I’ll get into some of the things readers might take issue with.

It takes about three books for the series to find its footing. Storm Front and Fool Moon read more like stand alone novels than a continuation of the same series. In Grave Peril we kick off the overarching plot and the overall quality of the series gets better. You can’t completely skip the first two without missing some essential information. They are still enjoyable, but I’d say less engaging than the others in the series. This could be a product of it being the first series he’s published. According to my husband who as read Butcher’s other series The Codex Alera and The Cinder Spires, these don’t suffer the same false start that The Dresden Files did. That said, I don’t find it a struggle to get through the first two.

Another thing that might deter readers is that Butcher has a habit of absolutely packing his books with plot lines. It can take awhile for the books to get to the main plot, often obfuscating it in red herrings. This isn’t a bad approach necessarily, but I find that my favorites in the series (Blood Rites, Turncoat, Changes, and Skin Game) have one main plot point and less diversionary stories packed in there. This may be just my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt.

Harry’s characterization might offend some, because of the character flaws that Butcher has deliberately instilled in him. The Dresden Files finds its roots in Noir, so like many Noir detectives Harry is a sucker for a pretty face, doesn’t see certain things coming when the crime is perpetrated by a woman, and has a bit of a white knight complex. This is acknowledged as a flaw, and Harry works to overcome it over the course of the series.

I take umbrage with reviews that declare that Jim Butcher must be a raging sexist for this to be such a strong element of Harry’s personality. I just don’t see it that way. Harry is old-school, sure, but Jim doesn’t let his ladies be any less badass than his protagonist. Often women are actually saving Harry’s ass, and there is nary a swooning damsel in sight. Women aren’t treated like a reward in this series, and Harry rarely gets laid. Again, this element is missing in his other series, and I think it’s only present in this one because this one draws from an older genre in which it was a staple.

Anyways, that’s about all I can say without major spoilers for the series. I could give endless examples of why I think this series is fantastic, but I’d have to delve into canon, and I really would like for you all to read it for yourselves.

Thanks for reading, and as always if you have anything you’d like to request or comment on, you can do so below and I’ll get back to you.