Friday, March 25, 2016

Thanks, S&S Divas. for Welcoming an Opinionated Rhymes-with-Witch! by Suz deMello

These days, we're inundated with people's opinions, and most of them are based in lies and half-truths (yes, I am referring to politics). And I am highly opinionated. I'm never surprised when I'm labeled by the B word. Because I am, though I'd rather be a witch than a bitch. Alas, magic isn't real (oh, hush up and wipe off those rainbows coming out of your unicorn's ass along with your tears. And, Virginia, there's no such person as Santa Claus. Deal with it.)

This is my first blog for the Sweet and Sexy Divas and I'm grateful to have this forum. Though I'll keep politics out of it, I do have very strong opinions about books and will not hesitate to share them, though I will refrain from slamming another author by name despite what I may think about her writing. Because, in general, most of us are lovely people. 

Despite the fact that we're sisters under the skin and all of that warm-and-fuzzy stuff, still, I find a lot to dislike these days though I am, I swear, a positive person.


In a book by an otherwise good person who will go unnamed (I wish to spare her embarrassment and public humiliation), she wrote that the detective hero had helped the prosecution's case with his testimony on appeal.

This happened early in the book and I did not read another word. Even laypersons who have watched a highly publicized trial (or are addicts of TV shows like Law and Order) are aware that testimony is never taken on appeal. In their decision-making, appellate courts are limited to the record, i.e., the evidence presented at the trial court level.

Several years passed. This same nice lady's career advanced, and I decided to try another of her books. Though I didn't read anything as egregious, still, the second book of hers I tried was simply a mess. It bore all the hallmarks of a series opening novel in which the author leaves all kinds of loose ends in order to have something to tie up in later books. A paranormal romantic suspense, it was well out of her comfort zone (she usually writes contemporary RS with a strong police procedural feel) and it was just bad bad bad. Predictably, the series sputtered and died after only one or two more books, when quite clearly the author had planned for several based on the characters she'd introduced.

I had forgiven her too early. Maybe I should not have forgiven her at all.

In another very nice lady's first book for Harlequin, she began with the heroine awakening from sleep by an odd noise, and then spent several pages with the character thinking about her situation. In other words, the author dropped an info dump on the unsuspecting reader starting at page one. That never works with me. I hate info dumps even when they're only a paragraph, and they certainly don't belong in the beginning of a book. Get me to care about the character before you lay a whole bunch of backstory on me. Otherwise, that's just boring. Actually, info dumps don't belong anywhere. Slip in the info cleverly, without me noticing. 

Though I really respect this author as a person, I haven't read anything by her since, and it's been a very long time. I've tried--I swear--but after a couple minutes of struggle, I give up. I just don't like the writing, though I admire the person.

Other authors may slump and with me, my interest never recovers. And it's sad. I used to adore Ja--(oops, almost let the kitty out of the backpack) a certain author in all of her personae, especially her historicals, which I loved, loved, LOVED! Then the dreaded series bug bit her--or maybe it bit her editors. She began writing these very formulaic books, mostly three part series. They are awful, stilted, predictable bores. 

I don't understand why an author of J's stature bothers. She can't possibly need more money or fame--she's already there. 

Maybe I'm probably too picky about what I read, and often find myself moping around grumbling that there's nothing to read, it's all crap, I might as well go reread something I know will be good.

Should I be more open-minded? Probably. But please, authors, do your research when writing about anything, but especially about something--like the legal system--that a lot of readers have experienced. 

Don't bore your readers. That means no info dumps even if you think that they're wonderful prose. Maybe they are, but until the reader is deeply invested in the characters, no one is going to want to read them.

And don't get formulaic. I hear over and over again that romances are formulaic. Okay, they are. So are mysteries--they all begin with a crime and end with a solution. Most pop fiction is formulaic.

But somehow, we still love Sherlock even though we know what's going to happen. We still love Georgette Heyer even though we know that the dashing Regency blade will marry the sweet debutante.

The search for the elusive something is what obsesses writers, who want to create it, and readers, who want to experience it.

When you find out what it is, let me know.

If you want to read more about my opinions on writing, read this book:


It really is wonderful prose.


Tina Donahue said...

Welcome to SNSD, Suz!

I'm surprised by the data dump one getting pubbed. I've always heard that's a no-no, especially at the beginning of a book. If this author is popular/famous/rich, clearly readers don't feel the same as authors do. I also have to wonder about the editor - what was s/he thinking to let that slip through the editing process?

When I was in high school (all girl, Catholic - we don't need to go there), I was hungry for sex in novels. I scrounged up a popular bodice ripper (they weren't popular any longer, but I digress). The first book in this hugely popular author's series was a revelation. I read those 500 or so pages without stop and couldn't wait to find the second one. Once the shock of the constant, graphic sex wore off, I was left with a book about two people who snarled at each other, didn't trust anything the other said/did, and generally argued through the entire book. Not my idea of a great romance.

That's always been my beef with some romances - keeping the love interests apart by manufacturing conflict that doesn't ring true and by having them mistrust everything the other does. Doesn't make for a good love story. Sounds more like two immature adults getting together in real life.

Fiona McGier said...

Welcome Suz!

I was told by my first editor not to do the info-dumps. Like Tina, I'm surprised that made it into being published. And yes, romances are formulaic in that a couple (or more) meet, fall in love, overcome conflicts, then have a HEA. But sometimes the tropes are followed so stringently that you can see the author's thought process: "Hmm, time for a jealousy scene...time for a reunion...time for an ex-lover to appear," etc.

As for doing your research, that's a peeve of mine also. And since me faither was from Glesga, I'm very familiar with the Scottish brogue, as well as words only used by Scots. I don't read Highlander romances because the accent doesn't say "sexy man" to me, it says, "Hi Dad." ;-D But mostly the abysmal attempts to recreate an accent that the author only imagines, or has heard in movies done by people who've never been to Scotland, drives me crazy. And I cannae write one either, since, "Hello Dad," would be in my mind too much. He was sexy to Mom, but not to me!

Suz said...

Thanks for your comments. Yeah, Tina, the manufactured "non-conflict" is also very annoying. I cover that in the book--how I wrote it was I asked people what made a book a keeper while others were destined for the UBS or the recycle bin.

Interesting comment, Fiona--I write vampire historicals set in the Highlands, and I'm sure I'm not getting much right! I often start out books with an Author's Note apologizing for my distortions of facts and history in order to write a good yarn.

And they're pretty steamy--don't read them--they'll squick you out if you're thinking about your father!

Fiona McGier said...

LOL! Thanks for the warning, Suz! Nice to have a new voice here to join with us long-timers.