I recently blogged about Heat, a self-pubbed book that worked for me. (It won’t work for everyone, by the way.) In fact, that book worked so well for me that I went out and bought several other books by the author: R.L.Smith/R.Lee Smith (more on that later). As noted in that post, one of the books was a DNF for me.
One of the others, Care and Feeding of a Griffin, was a major win. Major. The book is wonderful and flirted with brilliance. I’ve now just about finished the 4th and last in the series and I feel sad and cheated. Book 2 was … rough, and that’s being kind. Then the beginning of Book 3? For a while, it was just as wonderful as Book 1 and I was so happy; giddy even. Then it crashed and burned. Book 4? Not good.
Dear Author reviewed a different book by this author and I’m going to try that one, because it worked for that reviewer and since Heat worked for her, too, I suspect this other one will work for me.
Why I Feel Sad and Cheated
Heat and Care and Feeding prove this author can write. She can take risks and make them work. She can write characters that just pop off the page. When she’s on her game, her use of detail is sublime. But, it seems, she can’t do it consistently. And, having now read a fair amount of her work (assuming gender here) I can see what themes she likes and what writing issues are a problem for her.
I am sad because when a talented writer works with the right editor, the result is a far, far better book. The right editor challenges a writer to confront weaknesses and to turn good into great, and great into brilliant.
I am sad because I wanted to live in the world of Care and Feeding for more books. I feel cheated of what ought to have been and I am especially sad (and cheated) that Book 3 started out so brilliantly and then crashed and burned. I mourn for all those lovely, exquisite details that were wasted or never brought out.
Lords Of Arcadia Series
I highly recommend Care and Feeding. Read it. It will be worth it even with the abrupt ending. But I can’t in good conscience recommend the other three.
The main character continues to be a Mary Sue. In fact, parts of Book 3 offended me. The white human visits new and hostile species and each and every time, she is so relentlessly perfect that Low! The new and hostile species stops raping human women or the women of their own species or whatever wrong thing they’re doing. All because, practically literally, the heroine has a magic hoo-haw. If a creature has sex with her, that creature is transformed from ignorant brute to noble beast.
No matter how monumentally stupid the heroine’s decisions, she prevails and it’s magically the right thing to have done after all — because she’ll have cured the creatures of whatever was wrong with them before she got on the scene. She can do no wrong. I started to hate her. I could predict what would happen and how it would happen.
Plot threads start and then vanish. There are continuity errors. (The griffin is there for the wedding and then never mentioned again. Many many pages later, there’s a mention of the griffin NOT being at the wedding.) She’s preggers for nearly two years, then it’s only been nine months and she’s ready to pop, then later yet someone says, oh, you’re 10 months along, and you have 5 to go. Then later she’s 15 months with three more to go. It’s confusing as hell. As with her other books, time and events pass with unbelievable slowness. In these books it’s like 1 manuscript day = 7-10 days in a book that follows a normal events-to-day ratio. I’d be absolutely convinced several days had to have passed only to discover that, no, it’s only been one day. WTF?
Some Other Thoughts
In hindsight, there are clues to my eventual disappointment with the series. All the covers are awful. The formatting is often sub-par. There are typos and other errors that would be caught by a copy-editor and a proofreader. The author is inconsistent about her own name. Is she R. L. Smith, R. Lee Smith or Robin Smith? The names matter because it makes her hard to find on Amazon. A little research on my part left me with the strong suspicion that Smith has or does write under at least two other names. Obviously, Smith is prolific and has been writing for a long time. At some point, I’ll check out those other writings because when she’s good, she’s really, really good.
All these things combined point to someone who lacks the necessary attention to detail for an author who wants to self-publish and not outsource. The alternative is she’s outsourcing and doesn’t understand she’s being cheated. The consistently good writers know why they need to pay for a good cover and they can tell the difference between a flat out bad cover and one that is even minimally acceptable. And they care about it. They know why editing, copy-editing and proofreading matter. Given the accumulation of all these issues, ultimately, I’m not surprised by the lack of attention to detail in the writing of Books 2-4. But it makes me sad.
I’ve been cheated. We’ve all been cheated out of what should have been an amazing, sexy and wonderful series as good or better than anything being traditionally published.
R.L. Smith, please, please hire an editor and then give us your best, because your best is wonderful.