ReaderWriterVille

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Tag: fanfiction

Book-related thoughts

This is a grab-bag post of things I’ve been mulling over.

Goldsmith Prize: My favorite fiction prize was awarded to a very deserving book. Yes, Lucy Ellmann won for Ducks, Newburyport. There were other novels that I would have been happy to see win, e.g. Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything, but Ellman’s work is such an amazing accomplishment. I’ve only read 50 of the 1000+ pages so far but even that short section made it clear to me that something important was going on. This doesn’t change my general attitude to prizes, but I’m very glad that both Ellmann and her publisher, Galley Beggar, will reap the financial rewards that come with a major prize.

Also, reading Ellmann’s interviews as she did her Booker publicity tour has been a hoot. She is completely unapologetic about her dedication to Literature with a capital L and to her belief (one I share) that too many men fail to take women’s work seriously. A man writing a 1000-page book about whatever is brilliant. A woman writing a 1000-page book about a middle-aged married woman in suburban Ohio who bakes pies and thinks about the world around her is doing something weird and unnecessary. Some of the more prize-obsessed readers I follow online were distressed by her answers to questions. She was insufficiently respectful of readers, etc. My reaction: You go, Lucy. You write what you want and you treat the publicity tour crap however you want. It deserves very little respect, frankly, and if writers of literary fiction can’t write what they want and expect readers to come to them, we are truly doomed as a civilization. Which we probably are anyway.


Jeannie Lin has a new book out! It’s a collection of short stories set in the same world as the Gunpowder Alchemy series. It’s her first publication in quite some time, and she made the difficult decision to keep the ebook off Amazon. Lin talks about it at AAR and more extensively at her blog (buy links are at the bottom of her post). This is a major instance of putting your money where your mouth is, given how thoroughly Amazon dominates the book market, especially in the US. Kudos to AAR for hosting her explanation, although of course they don’t miss the opportunity to point out that they make all their money from Amazon (as most blogs with referral links do) and will continue to keep that relationship. And of course there’s that one commenter who spends many, many words explaining how important and wonderful Amazon is for self-published authors. Great place to make that pitch, author-person.

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Recent Reading (tropetastic m/m edition)

After swearing off new-to-me romance authors a couple of months ago, of course I wound up reading three new authors in a subgenre I claimed to have abandoned. It was a mixed bag, not surprisingly, but it was interesting because it gave me an insight into what seems to be popular these days (or at least popular in some niche corners of a niche market).

Soldier's Scoundrel coverFirst up is The Soldier’s Scoundrel. This seems to be a debut, although it’s hard to tell in the romance genre, what with the prevalence of pseudonyms and reinventions. It’s definitely one of the first Avon m/m historical romances I’ve seen that is marketed exactly the way Avon markets its m/f romances. Check out the cover. If you just glanced at it you might not immediately notice that it’s two men rather than a woman and a man, but that is definitely a dude peeking over the shoulder of the abs-licious central figure.

I liked the author’s voice a lot, and I liked the mystery subplot in this book. Sometimes it felt as if there was a good cozy mystery trying to escape from the pages of a stereotypical romance, but the romance was definitely front and center. It hit all the beats of a standard Avon, complete with witty banter, mental lusting, and anachronistic language and dialogue. That last feature was the worst part of the book for me; sentences felt at war with each other sometimes, with a period term mashed up next to a 20thC phrase. The story also borrows a lot of regency-romance tropes, especially from Heyer: the opening scene reminded me a bit of Faro’s Daughter, there is a road romance middle segment, and the final stretch with the aristocratic lead trying to ruin himself to make the “scoundrel” accept him as a partner was right out of Venetia. If you ignore the plot and character inconsistencies and remind yourself regularly that these are fantasy men who do not inhabit the same world we do, it’s a pretty fun read.

Mystery of NevermoreSecond was a contemporary m/m mystery, Mystery of Nevermore. This was a lot more frustrating and disappointing. The book is described as an “homage” to Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series, and the dedication is to Lanyon, so perhaps it was written and published with Lanyon’s encouragement. But it’s both more and less than an homage in that the plot and characters borrow very, very heavily from that series. The main character, Sebastian, has a physical disability (sight problems instead of heart trouble), he’s an antiques dealer who deals in books (rather than a bookseller), and both of his love interests are closeted cops (one on the way out of Sebastian’s life, one coming in). I mentally categorized the latter as “bad Jake” and “good Jake” from the AE series. There’s also a parent with whom Sebastian is very close, but in a  not-so-novel twist, it’s the father rather than the mother.

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