Is It REALLY a “Novel” Idea?

Many times when I tend to my ebook addiction and scroll through hundreds of titles to download a few dozen books, I find something that I think is odd: book titles such as “Vampires: A Novel,” “Romance: A Novel,” and “Meat Cleavers: A Novel.” Obviously, these titles aren’t exactly real (Although, I didn’t do a search ahead of writing this, so I suppose they could be real. If they are, please don’t sue me. I don’t have anything).

What’s my beef? I don’t necessarily get the “A Novel” part. I thought the fact that it was a novel was implied by the number of pages and the fact that it’s one continuous, fictitious story? What makes more sense is to find titles such as “Vampires: An Anthology,” or “Meat Cleavers: A Musical.” These denote something different from the norm, with the norm being the novel. So why do authors do this? I know it sounds like I’m hating on these people and their books, but actually, this is a cry for help. See, I don’t enjoy hating on something blindly and ignorantly. I like to have all the facts. So, if there’s a reason why authors add the “A Novel” at the end of their titles, I demand to know about it! I would appreciate an answer to this so I can either understand the phenomenon or continue hating, but in a more educated and informed manner. Thank you and good day.

A Curious Double Standard

You know how people can watch violence against humans all day long but if someone kicks a puppy it’s a capital offense? I’m sort of guilty of this myself. I love action movies and Law & Order SVU, but if someone shoots a guard dog or a horse gets hit with a arrow meant for its rider, a teensy tiny part of my soul cringes. This happens in books, too. You know what else I see a lot of? People being more sensitive to violence against women, moreso than violence against men. Personally, I cringe for both sexes if the assault is particularly cruel and unusual.

Case in point? Russell Blake’s Fatal Exchange. It’s his first novel, and it’s about a female bike messenger who becomes entangled in an elaborate conterfeiting scheme meant to deplete the value of the US dollar while a select few make millions. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, there’s also a serial killer running around targeting female bike messengers in NYC. What a bummer for her, right? Anyway, I enjoyed the book. It was kind of like reading a Quentin Tarantino movie. Eventually I’ll add my thoughts to the Books I’ve Read In Bed page.

So, before I downloaded the book, I read some of the reviews. One review stuck out. It was a 2-star review that started off with this sentence:

“The amount of space and words dedicated to extreme violence against women was somewhat surprising to me.”

Now, I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone, but the serial killer does cut off the breasts and scalps of his victims, as well as cut out their eyes. That’s rough, fair enough. But it’s not described in detail. It’s mentioned when the victims’ bodies are found, that’s all. Here’s what I thought was amusing: there are no less than half a dozen MEN that get gruesomely tortured in this book. I’m talking ice picks through their eyes, certain reproductive organs removed inhumanely, faces melted off with boiling oil, etc. I mean, WAY more “space and words” were “dedicated” to these acts of violence against men. And this woman mentions it absolutely nowhere in her review.

A curious double standard, don’t you think?

Jerks & Irks XIV: Didn’t Finish The Book? DON’T Write A Review!

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I often gripe about negative reviews, from people who didn’t finish the book. There I’ll be, skimming through books on my Kindle Fire -because apparently having over 500 books on there already is not enough- and almost every title that sparks my interest has at least a few 1-star reviews. So I filter by those and read them, just out of curiousity. Also, people who write positive reviews may not know enough about writing to complain about typos, structure, characterization, etc, so  reading the 1-star reviews is sometimes helpful. Sometimes. Other times I read something like this:

I usually finish what I start. It was just something ingrained in me by my parents. Having said this, I have to say this is the first Kindle book I didn’t finish. It started well then there was a subplot that the author felt the need to include and it just didn’t make sense with the main plot and who the hell was Sandy anyway? It was just a disgrace. Don’t waste your time.

Um, hey nimrod, do you know why the plot elements didn’t make sense and you didn’t know who Sandy was? BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T FINISH THE BOOK, JERK!

So, for those who don’t see the shame in writing a review for a book you haven’t finished reading, please refer to the following list:

  1. Shoes. You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes, NOT wear them, then return them because they made your feet hurt.
  2. Air Conditioners. You wouldn’t buy an air conditioner, NOT crank it to the maximum setting on a hot day, then return it because it didn’t properly cool your living space.
  3. Diet Pills. You wouldn’t buy a bottle of diet pills, NOT take them for the requisite 30 days, then ask about their money-back-guarantee. This can also be applied to the 87% of infomercial products that claim you’ll see results in a specified period of time.
  4. Restaurants. You wouldn’t order a steak, NOT finish it, then pull out your cell phone and use your Yelp app to complain that you’re still hungry.
  5. Hospitals. You wouldn’t go to the Emergency Room, NOT wait for your diagnosis/treatment, then sue the hospital for malpractice.
  6. Sports. Would you go to a ball game, NOT stay past the first quarter/period/inning, then say it was a terrible game?
  7. Salon. Would you go to get your nails done, NOT wait for the final coat of polish to be applied, then complain about chipped nails?
  8. TV. Would you complain there’s nothing to watch when you have NOT browsed through all the channels?
  9. Frozen Pizzas. Would you put a frozen pizza in the oven, NOT bake it for 22 minutes, then get upset when it’s cold in the middle?
  10. Movies. Would you walk out of a theater in the middle of the movie? You would? So would I, but I would NOT write a review about how horrible the movie was!!! And that’s my point. Can you think of any other examples? 🙂

 

 

Hot Shot Guest Spot! Author: Monica La Porta

You know all the articles and blog posts out there dedicated to How Not To Annoy Everyone On Twitter? Author Monica La Porta is the antithesis of those annoying Tweet Creeps. I bought her first book because a singular tweet (not one that repeated every twelve seconds) piqued my interest. Soon after we became cyber pals of sorts. Right? That would be the modern day version of pen pals? Anyway, Monica is a lovely woman and I thoroughly enjoyed the unique world she created in her books (she had two by the time I got to the first one on my TBR list). And since I adore her so much I wanted to share her and her awesome-sauce books with the blogosphere. So without further ado, meet Monica!

1. Welcome Monica! Can you please describe your novels, The Priest and Pax in the Land of Women?

The Priest and Pax in the Land of Women are respectively the first and second installments in The Ginecean Chronicles and are set in an alternate Earth called Ginecea.

The Priest’s blurb:

Mauricio is a slave. Like any man born on Ginecea, he is but a number for the pure breed women who rule over him with cruel hands. Imprisoned inside the Temple since birth, Mauricio has never been outside and has never felt the warmth of sunrays on his skin. He lives a life devoid of hopes and desires. Then, one day, he hears Rosie, President Layan’s daughter, sing. He risks everything to take a look at her and his life is changed, forever. An impossible friendship blossoms into affection deemed sinful and perverted in a society where the only rightful union is between women. Love is born where only hate had its roots and leads Mauricio to uncover a truth that could destroy Ginecea.

Pax in the Land of Women’s blurb:

Love doesn’t obey preordained rules. Sometimes, social status and gender mean nothing. The purest of affections can be born between two people living in different worlds. In a society where women rule over an enslaved race of men and love between a woman and man is considered a perversion, Pax’s and Prince’s union is destined for a tragic end. Coming from an existence of privilege, Pax has never endured harshness. She has never had any reason to doubt the rules Ginecea was built on. Everything changes when she is sent to spend her summer on a desolate farm and is exposed to the ongoing brutalities against defenseless men. A wrong turn leads her to witness Prince’s thrashing at the hands of the guards. One look from him and Pax’s perfect life is shattered, the memory of his dark eyes haunting her night and day. As a pure breed, born to one of the most prestigious family in Ginecea, she would have never thought it possible to fall in love with a man. Marked as a sinner, Pax abjures her ancestry to save Prince’s life. She hopes they can disappear into the desert, but social prejudice and political schemes give them no respite. The Priestess, the ruler of all Ginecea, has other plans for Pax Layan and her family.

2. How did you come up with the idea for a homosexual, matriarchal society where men are slaves and heterosexual relationships are blasphemous?

I have always loved what-if kinds of stories, where you take a look at an established aspect of reality and twist it. Sometimes, it resembles looking through a mirror and it’s easier to see the reality you live in. There are aspects of our society I truly dislike. For all the accomplishments human kind has been capable of, we still live harboring in our hearts prejudice and hate for anybody who is different. A few years ago, I read an article explaining how women could procreate without any contribution from men. Around the same time, I heard of an organization called It Gets Better that aims to give bullied kids an outlet to share their experiences and helps them find their rightful place among their peers. The idea of an alternate Earth where society had evolved in a different way from ours slowly formed in my mind, and starting from the concept of a coming-out story I built the Ginecean world.

3. Fascinating! When can we expect the next installment?

I finished writing Prince of War several months ago and it’s currently being edited. If everything goes as planned, it should be published before the end of the year. It would be nice to have a 12-12-12 release.

4. (You heard the woman! Mark that date on your calendars, people!) So, what do you have planned for after you finish The Ginecean Chronicles? Any other projects currently in the works or ideas brewing for a later date?

I’m working on two different projects. One is set in the universe of Ginecea. The Chronicles of Ginecea started as a trilogy, but lots of people told me they wanted to know more about certain aspects of its complex society. A fourth title is slowly coming to life and it will follow the story of a fathered woman, the last Ginecean cast I had yet to study in depth. The second project is a fantasy set in a world where people live in complete darkness without knowing there’s life outside their claustrophobic haven. What happens when two people coming from darkness and light meet? The inspiration behind this fantasy tale comes from the urban legend about people living in Seattle being afraid of the sun. It is not true. At all. We just don’t know what to do with it.

5. That sounds intriguing as well. You sure have a knack for creating alternate societies! Now, of course, I have to ask the requisite question: when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always toyed with the idea of writing and used to fill pages with longhand pieces about anything I fancied, but only three years ago I woke one morning and decided to do something with this dream of mine. After I wrote the first five novels, I realized writing was something I could do for a living. Three years later and almost 800k words typed on my keyboard, I’m still of the same opinion. Let’s hope someone else shares my certainty as well. Otherwise, it’s going to be a lonely ride.

6. 800,000 words? Wow! Tell us about your writing process? Outlines? Seat of your pants? Have to squeak a rubber duckie twelve times before you write?

My writing process resembles my painting/sculpting/cooking process. I start from the mere glimpse of an idea and see it blossom while adding and removing details until it makes sense to me. Every time I make a decision in terms of actions a character take, the story comes at a crossroad. If the character goes right, all the possibilities on the left disappear, and so on and so forth until only one story remains.

7. What a beautiful way to describe writing. So, changing gears a bit here, why did you decide to self-publish?

I could go with a long list of reasons, but the first and foremost is that my Ginecean Chronicles would’ve never seen the light of day uncensored. And, since I already pay for my editors, proofreaders, and cover artists, and I’d have to work on the marketing of my work anyway, right now self-publishing seems the way to go for me.

8. I wholeheartedly agree with you there. You mentioned above that you live in Seattle. You’re originally from Italy. What brought you to the states?

My DH’s (darling husband) job. We moved to Washington State twelve years ago, and I’ve come to love this place. At the beginning it wasn’t easy; I could read English, but my talking skills were laughable. I remember being frustrated by the mere act of grocery shopping. Once, I had to repeat the word ‘mayonnaise’ several times before somebody finally showed me the aisle where I could find it. Daunting experience. My accent is still thick, but I must repeat things only once or twice now. Also, I memorized where the items with the most difficult names are at the nearby QFC. Why risk it?

9. Haha, I can’t directly relate, but my grandmother was an Italian immigrant. If it’s any consolation, your novels and your responses here are well written, better than a lot of Americans. Back to Seattle, you mention in several online profiles that you actually enjoy the rainy weather that Washington State is prone to. Why is that?

I like the rain. When I was a kid, I used to go out and walk every time it sprinkled.  I remember the feeling of pure joy at the first sign it was going to rain. The air smelled differently and the sky changed color a few minutes before the first refreshing drop. I had a small, colored umbrella with a wooden handle and I kept it by the door, ready to use. Normally, my mother would find me before I could manage to catch a cold. Italian mothers are huge experts in all the ways a kid can catch a cold. You’d be surprised by the length of the list. The flavor of the forbidden walk has stayed with me long past my youth.

10. Not sure if our lists were the same, but my Italian grandma had quite a few rules about catching a cold as well. Speaking of rules, what do you think the most important part of the writing process is, besides copious amounts of writing?

Re-writing and editing. I can’t stress enough the necessity of going through the two processes in a religious fashion. If you don’t have the money to hire a professional editor, please find an alternate way of having someone who is not a relative to take a look at your work. Beta readers are quite useful. Critique circles can be your greatest allies. Finally, once your book is published and someone feels the urge to write a review about it, be grateful.

*Amen to that! Now a Bonus Question: Anything you’d like to add before I shoo you away to go finish working on the rest of The Ginecean Chronicles?

A plea to your readers: Follow Jordanna’s example! Support indies! So we can hire editors and cover artists and work on fourth books in a trilogy. Don’t judge me on my math, I’m an author.

(Cue Jordanna laughing at “fourth book in a trilogy”)

Thanks, Jordanna, for having me. It’s been a pleasure answering your questions.

Monica, the pleasure was all mine.

If you’d like to know more about me, here’s the link to my blog where sometimes I also talk about my writing. Be warned, you might find pictures of a beagle called Nero.  http://monicalaporta.com/

This is the link to The Ginecean Chronicles Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/#%21/ginecea

And these are the links to my books’ Amazon pages, in case you’d like to take a look at the fantastic covers Alessandro Fiorini created for me and read an excerpt from The Priest and Pax in the Land of Women. They were recently awarded the prestigious 4Js!

http://bit.ly/monica_thepriest

http://bit.ly/monica_pax

Haha, since only like eight people know I have a review page on here (Books I’ve Read in Bed), I don’t know how prestigious my J’s are, but thank you, haha. You deserved it!

Now everyone wave Arrivederci to Monica La Porta, check out her links, and buy her books. And remember, being engaging on Twitter leads to book sales and blog interviews. 🙂

What do you mean the typos aren’t your fault?

I’m currently reading the last book in a series recommended to me by a friend who shares some of the same reading interests as me. I say “some” of the same reading interests because some of what he reads either would make me laugh when it was meant to make me cry or it would bore me to eleven pieces. Sorry Donald, to each their own dear. Anyway, I wasn’t going to disclose the author at first, but I’m not saying anything overtly negative (in fact, I’m enjoying the series very much), so here goes. I’m reading the Pine Deep Series (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song, & Bad Moon Rising) by the quite well known Jonathan Maberry. I’ll post full reviews on my Books I’ve Read In Bed page as soon as I finish reading the last book, but for right now I want to talk about something else that’s troubling me: TYPOS.

I read a lot of Indie books and sadly they contain more than their fair share of typos because a lot of new authors are A. Super eager to get their work out there and B. Super broke and can’t afford an editor. But Mr Maberry is not an Indie Author. His books have won awards and stuff. He has a publisher. A pretty big one (Pinnacle Books via Kensington Publishing). Yet, throughout the series I found misspelled and missing words. What gives, Maberry?

Get this: it’s not his fault. To my surprise, when I was facebooking with my friend who recommended the series (because facebooking is the new phone call/email/text message), he mentioned that he read the books in paperback and didn’t recall any typos. Why should I take his word for it, you ask? Umm, only because he’s currently penning a non-fiction book on how to write better, that’s why. I would imagine that a person setting out to help writers write better would remember phantom words and grievous  misspellings. So am I to believe that during the process of digitizing a novel, typos just appear out of thin, digital air? Has anyone else heard of or encountered this? I’ll tell you one thing, if — I’m sorry, WHEN–I self-publish my novel, if I get one fricking review that cries foul over typos that aren’t in my manuscript or in the print version of the book, heads will roll ladies and gents. Heads. Will. Roll.

 

 

**I wish I could say heads will roll if you guys don’t follow me on Twitter & Facebook, but I don’t have that kind of reach. But feel free to follow me anyway.**

No Jerks, But Plenty of Grape-Feeding Vixens

Hello there faithful followers and scared newcomers! (Don’t be scared, I don’t even curse on here. Unless you count “frick.”)For those of you that follow this blog, you may have noticed I didn’t post a Jerks & Irks installment this past Monday. (Newcomers can click here to catch up on all those good times) That would be because here in the good ole US of A, it was Memorial Day. There are NO Jerks on Memorial Day, just hard-working, brave individuals who leave their loved ones behind to fight for our country. The only irksome thing is some people’s inability to see Memorial Day as anything other than a reason for a long weekend to hang out at BBQ’s and beaches and buy a big, blue washing machine on sale at Sears.

Alas (more people should use “Alas” in everyday conversation, don’t you think? Alas, we have plenty of Oreos and no milk…), there will always be people like that on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, and on 9/11 Day when that inevitably becomes a holiday. But in an effort to not make this a complete Debbie Downer post, here is an Amazon book review I came across over the weekend that had me doubled over with the giggles. I don’t know if the reviewer is being sincere or facetious, but it’s great:

“In what is going to be the Odyssey of the 21st century, Scott Middlemist tells the epic of a man trying to recover parts of his soul. The book was an amazing experience and I literally could not put it down until I had finished reading every single word between the covers. After finishing the book, I realized that I had grown a lustrous, thick beard that was the envy of lumberjacks all across the Pacific Nothwest. My testosterone levels had tripled during my 18 hours of literary fascination and after letting out a throaty roar, vixens from all across the land flocked to me and fed me peeled grapes. “Since reading this book, I have become a lot more popular with the women of the world and I have never had to spend a Friday night on my own. I would also like to extend thanks for my new, thick beard (if you do grow a beard from reading this book I would recommend using Mane n Tail to ensure that it keeps its shine and hue). I can also bench press 250 lbs now which always comes in handy throughout my day. “Thank you for all you have done for me Mr. Scott Middlemist. Please write a sequel for everyone out there delving into the deep corners of your mind. You are my hero.”

In case you are inspired to grow a beard in preparation for the hoard of grape-feeding vixens, the book is called Jigsaw Soul by Scott Middlemist. I downloaded the book based on the summary (and this review, let’s be honest), and probably won’t get to read it for months. However, when I do get around to it, I can guarantee my review won’t be anywhere near as entertaining.

Disclaimer: If she doesn’t ring your doorbell within minutes of you reading “Jigsaw Soul,” don’t blame me, I didn’t write the review. K, thanks.

Evvvvvverybody’s a Critic…

Writers need to read and readers need to write reviews for writers. It’s a lovely little symbiotic relationship. It also means everybody’s a critic. Even me! But I’m not that bad, I promise. So check out the newest addition to my blog, the review page entitled Books I’ve Read In Bed. I’ve added about the half of the books I’ve read so far this year, with the rest to be added later this week. Let me know what you think of my rating system and be sure to leave book recommendations in the comments section.

With that, I’ll leave you with this comic that made me chuckle because I often say I read something quickly, overnight, in 24 hours, etc.

 

Jerks & Irks VII: Stick to whatcha know

Its rainy and damp outside. I’m still in bed, Kindle Fire in hand, and I’ve found a book cover/title that caught my eye. I click on it. It meets my criteria for length (I hate it when a book doesn’t tell you its a novella or a short story and I get bamboozled into paying $2.99 for 87 pages, which only technically translates into 2.2 hours of actual reading time). I peruse the reviews, they’re glowing for the most part. Except one. One freaking JERK out of 152 reviewers has decided that this particular book isn’t worth four shiny stars on Amazon. I click on this one review against my better judgement: its not like this one JERK is actually a literary genius and knows something about reading that the rest of us mere morons do not. But alas, after reading the acerbic little diatribe, this JERK just simply doesn’t like and/or usually doesn”t read the genre this book falls under. Ugh! I can’t explain how often this happens.

Examples:

JERK REVIEWER A: “I’m a super manly man. I didn’t understand why “The Glitter Pony,” a YA paranormal romance, didn’t have more gunplay and car chases and international intrigue. What a waste. This book sucks.”

JERK REVIEWER B: “Seeing a commercial for The Walking Dead gives me nightmares but I decided to read “Zombie Lore and Gore” anyway. Boy, was this book terrible! What was the author thinking with all that bloody and disgusting imagery? Ugh, no thank you!”

You know what all this reminds me of? My brief bartending stint at a New Orleans themed restaurant in Philly. People would order Sazeracs because they had heard of them somewhere in their lives and were trying to be cool. They ignored the fact that the drink includes whiskey and a licorice-flavored liquor, then they would snootily push the drink back over the bar towards me because they didn’t like it. They blamed ME! They would whisper to themselves that if they had ordered the drink in New Orleans it would taste better. Despite the fact that I was trained how to make it by a person who was FROM NEW ORLEANS for crying out Mardi Gras!!! Agghh!

But I digress…The point is, feel free to leave your comfort zone, but don’t blame the new zone for its entire existence just because it’s not to your liking. You big, stupid, IRKSOME JERK.

Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge, the above examples are not excerpts of actual reviews and the sentiments expressed are not in reference to actual book titles. Please don’t sue me. I have nothing. Except a facebook and a twitter. Feel free to hit the “Like” and “Follow” buttons.