Even a highwayman, in the way of trade, may blow out your brains, but if he uses foul language at the same time, I should say he was no gentleman.
William Hazlitt, “The Fight”, New Monthly Magazine, February 1822
Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category
This post at Library Journal made me sad. It’s a late commentary on the whole Joe “No Such Thing as a Conflict of Interest” Konrath/Amazon review situation (I blogged about that here) and also slightly about some review abuse (which I have blogged about here – sarcasm version and here – the Swiftian version as well as here – This is just wrong version.
It’s pretty clear the author of the post isn’t fully informed about the whole Amazon review thing and missed entirely the disturbing implications regarding the outing of Harriet Klausner. That’s a whole other post. Here’s what this post is about: (Emphasis added):
Sitting around all day reading romance novels hardly qualifies as a life, and romance novels hardly qualify as books.
But it’s also hard to feel sorry for customers who were duped into buying a “bad” romance novel by a good review. After all, they’re all bad books. It’s not like people are reading romances for their literary quality. I almost feel sorry for the people who get so worked up over this.
Right. Anyway, I left a comment and since comments are moderated there, it’s possible mine won’t be approved. Here’s what I said:
Wow. I was with you, kind of, up until this: “romance novels hardly qualify as books.” I’m so sorry you feel this way. I am, as you may note, an author of romance. Like many readers and writers of Romance, I am not only a college graduate but in possession of a graduate degree. (In English, by the way.)
It’s been my experience that most people who go down the “All Romance is trash” path have in fact never read a romance. There are as well a lot of people who read one romance (often years ago) didn’t like it, and now, based on a sample size in single digits and in no way reflective of Romances being written today, decided that the entire genre must be awful. This mutually assured stupidity conclusion about the genre and the people who read it is, sadly, all too familiar.
There are so many talented, gifted authors of Romance and they come from all backgrounds, some are academics, some are librarians, some are even men. Since I write in the genre, I happen to know a lot of authors of the genre. They are lawyers, PhDs, engineers, technologists, teachers. There are also, by the way, many fine Romance authors who did not go to college, but let me ask you this:
Do you really believe that so many smart, educated women (and a few men) would ALL write awful books with no redeeming value? Are you honestly willing to suggest that’s remotely possible?
Please, please, consider the possibility that you are wrong. Maybe Romance just isn’t the genre for you, but I can assure you there are Romances out there as fine, or finer, than any literature you care to name.
A couple days ago I ranted about the rash of rotten books I’d read lately, and I asked for recommendations for well written erotic romance. Twitter and blog commenters came through for me. I thought I’d report back on my reading since then.
Several people recommended Cara McKenna and I was reminded that I’d read her Willing Victim some time ago and really liked it. At the time, I recall thinking that WV was not quite edgy enough for me. However, see below. The book specifically recommended to me was Ruin Me but I also bought Brazen and Don’t Call her Angel.
Ruin Me was wonderful and it was the perfect antidote for all those badly written books that made me want to reach through my iPad screen and slap the writers with a dictionary and a copy of Strunk & White. The writing was excellent, the characters were actual adults and the subject matter was complex. YES! Total win.
For all that I adored Ruin Me, I think I liked Don’t Call her Angel even better. I’m not so fond of the title, but it doesn’t matter. The story was complex and full of interesting moral questions. Also, the hero of the story is … gasp … Middle Eastern but he was not just a collection of cliches about Middle Eastern men. I’m sure someone who is more familiar with the culture would know how accurately he’s situated in the story, but, for what it’s worth, he did not strike me as poorly handled. I fully admit I may merely be ignorant. For everyone who (rightly) bemoans the lack of heroes of color in Romance, here’s one for you.
Brazen was also a good story and I enjoyed it. Again, complex, grown up characters and excellent writing. I also re-read Willing Victim and liked it more on this second reading than on my first. I still wish the story had taken some bigger risks, but the writing is lovely and the characters are adults. I think that’s why I liked Don’t Call her Angel so much. The risks there are bigger.
I also re-read Heat, by R. Lee Smith only I skipped all the parts I knew would drive me crazy. Heat is a crazy-ass unapologetic story that is utterly politically incorrect. Despite the weak writing (but still better than E. L. James) I give major kudos to any writer having the balls to write Heat. I wish Smith would hire a formatter and an editor. I wish she hadn’t put some of her other stories out there that made me sad because they were just rotten for all the reasons I ranted about before, especially when I know she can do better.
I have several more recommendations to get through and I’ll report back on those, but I did want to say thank you to everyone who recommended McKenna.
I have not had good luck lately with my reading. Very, very few have been wins and this makes me sad.
I’m tired of eBooks with rotten formatting. As someone who self-pubs, I understand the complexity of good formatting, but I am now tired to death of people uploading a Word document, doing little to no QA and calling it good. Maybe for 3% of you the result is fine. For the rest of you: Not. Outsource it or learn how yourself. I guess that’s a longer rant for another day.
My main complaint now is crappy books. What’s more, crappy books with double digit glowing reviews.
Here’s a hard truth: 97% of writers who get rejected by traditional publishers are getting rejected because the writing is crappy. Period. Obviously some writers have no idea how weak their writing is and they’re self-pubbing their crap. Bleh. I’m not sure if that’s worse than the traditional publishers who obviously didn’t bother to edit, copy-edit- proofread or format their over-priced offerings.
CRAP writing. CRAP!
“I just want to run,” she whispered, her eyes strangely blank, like she was retreating internally.
He pulled her so she was sitting and put his hands on either side of her face. It was so small, so precious, so cold between then. He was finding it hard to take air in.
Worse, the blurb actually suggests this book is edgy and full of disturbing sexual power dynamics. Uh, no. This book is full of emotionally immature characters with no depth and completely implausible events. Stupid and wrong history, too.
Should have stopped at down
I read three sentences of a YA that started like this:
I stand up and look down at the bed, holding my breath in fear of the sounds that are escalating from deep within my throat.
Great. More crap writing. stand up and look down. BAD. BAD CRAP! holding my breath…. Right. How the HELL is she making any sounds at all if she’s holding her breath? Really. Hold your breath. Now try to make a sound. You can’t. . . .sounds escalating from deep within … What the hell? Escalating is the WRONG verb. WRONG!
So then I started another book and that went downhill fast, too. I want the authors I read to have spent some time seriously pondering word usage because they find the subject riveting. Because then it’s likely words will get used carefully, correctly, and in interesting, thought provoking ways. The exact opposite of the use of words in this book.
Big Dark Secret!!! —— KIDDING!
The next book had some promise. There was a big dark secret in this OCD heroine’s past. BIG. DARK SECRET! And then… it wasn’t big or dark. It was just stupid. All her fucked-upness was fucked up only because the author didn’t have the nuts to make her actually fucked up. AND, she thinks she’s plain yet the hero describes her as centerfold hot. I’m sorry, but women who look like centerfolds are rarely unaware of the fact. BAD. BAD BAD BAD.
Dumb and Dumber
The next book also started out well. It quickly crashed and burned with the characterization getting stupider and stupider. The author set up rules of her story “We cannot do X because bad things will happen.” And voila! They do X and nothing bad happens. I’ll be honest here, this book devolved into what read like the author’s masturbatory fantasies where the rules only matter during the build up and then…. o …. and there’s no need to examine the thin constructs that lead to the letter before p because, you know, you got to the climax, only now there’s still 200 pages to write…. I could not finish. Skeevy and stupid.
Billions and billions of them…
The book before that one started out well enough. It takes place in an establishment dedicated to the pursuit of BDSM pleasures. The heroine is there and oddly clueless… she is unaware she is sexually submissive … and then wait for it . . . she’s actually a journalist looking to write a story about… Oh? You mean you’ve read 10 bazillion books with the same fucking plot? (Pun INTENDED!!) Yes, yes, all the dom men stand around getting hard ons because ohmygod she thinks she’s plain abut they all know she’s hot and submissive. Shoot me now.
Guess what else? Some of these books were traditionally published.
All I want is an insanely hot book that explores sexual power in a thoughtful, edgy, dangerous way. Need not be politically correct. MUST be well written and risky. The author MUST have spent some time thinking about alright vs. all right and come to a decision about which to use when (like maybe NEVER for one of them?) and why, and she/he should probably feel slightly smug about it. If tasked with writing 250 words on the subject, she/he should feel constrained by the word count and ready to rumble on the subject.
I would like recommendations. I have already read just about all of Charlotte Stein. The two big authors who probably leap to your mind I have either already read or, frankly, are not good enough in my never humble opinion.
Anyone who recommends his or her own book will be BANNED forever.
As some of you may know, in order to have some actual experience with the Kindle Select (KDP Select) program I enrolled Free Fall, the My Immortals novella, in the program. I blogged about that decision here.
The KDP Select program means a book must be exclusive to Kindle for 90 days. It cannot be for sale anywhere else, including your own website.
Amazon Prime members can read your book for free. Authors in the Select program are reimbursed for borrows through a pool of money Amazon divides among authors. Books enrolled in the program can be scheduled for a total of 5 days during which the book is free. All well and good for the author. Most authors make most of their money via Amazon so the income lost because of the exclusive period is, from what I hear, often not a huge amount. There are reports of authors doing very well with the program.
But is it good for readers?
As mentioned, I enrolled Free Fall in KDP Select. I sent out a newsletter today (Saturday April 7) announcing that Free Fall was available. But I also asked subscribers for their opinion on the exclusivity. I heard from several people right away.
Not surprisingly, they were Nook owners and they were disappointed that they would have to wait for Free Fall. I also heard from two people who were hoping for a print version. I have that in process now and hope to have a Create Space POD version available pretty soon.
As a writer, I want my book to get to ALL my readers. 90 days limited to one platform seems … anti-momentum and anti any reader w/o a Kindle or Kindle App.
I know B&N has made 30 day exclusive arrangements with some authors, but those are not promotions average authors can get into. Regardless, 30 days doesn’t seem so bad. 90 days does. That’s a long time to ask a reader to wait when that reader knows the book is actually available… just not to them….
I don’t know if the KDP program will make up for the money I lose by not having the book on sale elsewhere. I won’t have complete data until the 90 days is up. But this sort of thing is why you do tests. So you can get a handle on the actual effects.
I think it’s not enough to look at sales data. What other effects might there be?
Put on your Reader hat!
Here’s something worth thinking about:
I was just looking at my Kindle library.
Of the 50 most recent books:
- Four were RITA books I didn’t want to read in print. I would not otherwise have bought these books.
- Nine are non-fiction
- Four of the 9 non-fiction titles are Big 6 books, the others are self-pubbed.
- Three are hardbacks in print (all non-fiction). I REALLY wanted to read them and didn’t want a print book. I think I’m done buying hard covers unless they’re for my dad, who won’t read eBooks.
- One of the novels (excluding the 4 RITA books) is a Big Six novel
- Thirty-nine are either self-published or from established ePublishers who charged less than $5.00 for the book.
- Four of the 50 were free. One of them is public domain
- Forty-six were priced at $2.99 or higher
- Six I haven’t read yet.
- Two of the 6 I haven’t read yet I bought today.
- Four of the 6 I haven’t read yet are non-fiction
- Fifty were bought in the last 6 weeks
- Eighteen of the novels were by 3 different authors
- Six of the novels were fails
- Two of the novels were DNF
- Five of the 50 were MAJOR wins for me. All of them were self-pubbed
- forty-seven were good books that I enjoyed reading.
- I am a book whore
- I read a lot of fiction
- I read more non-fiction than I thought
- I am more or less no longer buying Big 6 MMP. Holy CRAP!
- I’ve managed to find a lot of non-Big 6 books I really, really enjoyed
- When I find an author I like, I buy their backlist
I’ve been thinking about a lot of publishing stuff lately, gathering thoughts, forming opinions etc. But of all the upheaval lately, I can’t help but be struck by something ironic.
Way back before Jeff Bezos named a website after a very large river, there were bookstores! Physical bookstores. Then along came chain bookstores. Really BIG bookstores that had the power to demand and get steep discounts and payola that got called co-op (where a publisher pays the bookstore pretty big bucks to get a title in the best part of the store, or to get a piece of paper tacked onto the shelf under the book, all to improve the chances of that book selling.) This put the independent bookstores at a disadvantage. There was an outcry. Shop Indie!! Don’t buy from the chains!!!
The Mega-Store Model Is Anti-Avid-Reader
I remember when Mom and Pop bookstores started disappearing from my town because they could not compete with Crown, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks and the like. Several cute little bookstores just up and closed shop. The hue and cry was still Shop Indie! Don’t Buy from the Chains! Chains are evil!!
As smaller indie bookstores went away, the selection of books at chains and even some of the large independents started to shrink. I remember how hard it started getting to find what I wanted to read. For years and years, my local independent, which I LOVED and still do, did not carry romance. And the dozen or so smaller stores that did were gone. Drugstores, who used to carry racks and racks of genre fiction, got rid of the racks of books because the jobbers who filled those racks were all fired. Suddenly, the only books in drugstores were the same damn books in the chains. One less place to find and buy books.
Then Amazon came along and I remember booksellers and publishers scoffed. Who would buy books on-line and wait for delivery when you could go to a bookstore and walk out with the book right then? Why, you couldn’t even browse!
Amazon’s Model is Pro-Avid Reader
As I reader, I discovered that at Amazon, I could now find the books I wanted to read. I knew who my favorite authors were, I knew what titles were getting word of mouth and I could get those books from Amazon. I could jump on Amazon, search Romance or Fantasy or Barbara Hambly and browse for the books I wanted. I also started hearing that editors, though they scoffed at Amazon, were using Amazon as a way to find out what was unexpectedly selling and as a book-finding system. Amazon kicked ass at that.
I remember when the chains started gobbling each other up. B.Dalton? Acquired. Waldonbooks? Acquired. More bookstores disappeared, gobbled up by other chains. Fewer bookstores, but much bigger stores. Too big?
The pressure from Amazon built and some of the bigger independents started having trouble, because more and more avid readers, annoyed with the dwindling selection of books and the relentless push of the same-old same-old, turned to Amazon. And then Amazon solved the wait-for-it problem. I could order a book and have it the next day. And it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.
Some really big independents closed. Here in the Bay Area, the two shockers were Cody’s Books in Berkeley (not romance friendly) and Staceys (also not a Romance friendly story, I’m sorry to say).
Avid readers complained about the Borders selection and its inability to shelve or reshelve their stores with books that were getting buzz. Impatient avid readers didn’t wait for the book to finally show up. Why should they when they could order from Amazon and have it the next day? Border’s problems with inventory control were an open secret among readers. They really did support Romance, though, and I suspect that kept their doors open longer that might otherwise have been the case. Several years before the Borders bankruptcy the Borders/Walden Express nearest me closed not because of sales (they were quite profitable per square foot, which I think was in large part due to their awesome romance and genre sections) but because the landlord (a Mall) tripled their rent. If I’m recalling correctly, to $30,000 a month. A MONTH.
Then Border’s failed and suddenly, everyone seemed to forget that Chains were supposedly responsible for the demise of the independent book store. No, it was Amazon who killed them. And Amazon killed Borders too! Except if you read past the first paragraphs of articles analyzing the failure, eventually, you’d get to the description of the inventory problem. That, combined with a corporate cookie cutter mentality about what books would be stocked — so that a Borders anywhere would, supposedly, be the same experience, was a far bigger problem because it was baked in. This cookie cutter/chain store mentality infects Barnes & Noble, stores too.
The Avid (Romance) Reader’s Dream Comes True
Then Amazon came out with the Kindle. It was a success, and anyone paying attention to the Romance community could have predicted it — because eBooks had already been a success in Romance for 10 years. At long last, we’re seeing mainstream acknowledgment that Romance readers are the leading edge. Ignore us at the peril of your book delivery business. Then came 70% royalties for self-publishers and Amazon started eating a lot of lunches.
Now we’re all supposed to cheer for the survival of the last remaining chain store and it’s all Amazon’s fault.
Maybe. From what I hear, Amazon is ruthless. I don’t doubt for a moment that there’s a reason publishers and booksellers actively despise (not just fear) Amazon.
But I’m a reader, and darn it, Amazon makes my reader life better. Print publishers have not made my reader life better. They make it worse, and that’s true despite the fact that they’re publishing books by authors I want to read. As a place to buy print books, Barnes & Nobel is irrelevant to me. The nearest one requires a drive of 13 miles that typically takes 45 minutes. No. No. No. NEVER.
If there’s a book I want to read, or even just a certain type of book, I can have that book 30 seconds after my click and I can do it lying in bed. If it’s backlist that has been self-published by one of my favorite authors, I have that book at a better price.
Since this post is already too long, I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for another post.
What are your thoughts?
Where to start?
Some Sad Annoying Stuff
Tuesday, I restarted my iMac and it could not. Could. Not. I made an appointment with the Apple Store and Wednesday took the computer in. Alas, the result was not good. The iMac needed an overnight stay . . . I confess I suspected the worst going in. Not being able to boot generally means a hardware failure (unless you did something stupid like delete system files, which I did not do.) Indeed, the disk repair utility found icky errors.
Today I got the call that the hard drive had breathed its last byte.
So, that’s bad. I’m pretty well fully backed up, provided my Time Machine backups weren’t backing up corrupt data. I’d been thinking about getting a new desktop anyway, but at the moment, I need to save as much cash as possible. So for the meantime, I am using MacFang (the laptop) which, of course, has all my critical writing files on it. I’m having the iMac drive replaced but I’ll have to do the restore from Time Machine when I get the iMac back.
I read a historical romance that made me sad. Because I LOVED LOVED LOVED the hero and heroine, but there were HUGE problems that I could not get over. Also, I think there might not have been any sex, but at the end I was paging through so fast I might have missed it.
Some of the problems:
The story starts with the heroine cleaning out a house she has just inherited.
Two chapters later is the reading of the will in which she is left the house plus some other wacky things that made no sense.
While she’s cleaning out the house, she meets the hero and pretends to be a servant for reasons that made no sense at all. NO EFFING SENSE other than the plot required it.
There were so many problems. So many. Illegal terms of a will. Misstatements of the law as they related to women and property and the rights of husbands. The heroine was the trite and cliche and completely historically inaccurate spinster who could not understand why she did not have the same rights as men and behaved as if this was so blazingly obviously unfair that everyone must see that she is right. Except of course, most people did not. Because there was still about 150 years of social progress yet to be hard won.
And then, then, oh my God. She has a fancy gown made so she’ll look all spiffy for the hero. And the dressmaker tells her the gown, which is transparent more or less, MUST be worn without stays. Because stays would ruin the line of the gown. WTF???? And everyone stands around saying, yes, this is so. You must not wear stays! Stays will make your see-thru gown all lumpy and bumpy.
No. No it would not! ::spluttering::
That’s when I gave up and stopped caring. Because really. Could you at least crack open a fashion book and read about how the stays provided the line of the gown?
Seriously. If you were at a party and some chick walked into the room in a see through gown and NO undergarments whatsoever— no matter how spectacular her body — would you think that was a fashion statement to follow? Wouldn’t you be embarrassed for her lack-wittedness? And that’s today, 50 years after women were burning their bras. Which didn’t last all that long because actually, as most women soon discover, a bra provides comfortable support for the girls.
Today was not really a good day for me.
Wait a sec. I forgot what it was. Tomorrow is Friday?
Oh, right. Apparently, I am considered a Twitter expert on . . .
Not that either.