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Eve Dallas is a terrible cop.

There, I’ve said it. I thought it the first time I read the series and as I wind my way through for the third time, it still strikes me as true. It’s not her ability to solve crimes that are at issue. As a detective, she’s very good, as she is written to be, and solves the crimes, gets her man/woman and throws them ‘in a cage’ at the end of every installment. This is her job, both as a detective and as the main character of an ongoing series of books. She’s entertaining which makes her fun to read about. She is an excellent example of a strong female character, one who has strengths aside from being able to beat up bad guys and being bitchy.

But gods in dark little holes, I’d never want to meet the woman myself. She’s a stone cold bitch who misuses her authority like nobody’s business. She browbeats damn near every person she meets from receptionists whose only crime was being there to the people she interviews. She is always using threats and harassment to get information she wants without a warrant and acts like people who want a warrant are the scum of the earth who do so as a personal slight to her. In the book I just finished, Holiday in Death, Eve thinks she knows who the killer is and makes his life hell for several days while she tries to pin the murders on him. She knows in her heart, which she admits to in the book, that she knows it’s not him, but has a personal reason for wanting it to be him anyway. She bullies him, uses illegal, warrant-less means to dig up dirt on him, threatens to destroy his life with information she knows about him and is eventually forced to let him go. In another scene she fails to indicate her change of lanes while driving, hits a cab and when the cab driver comes out and calls her on it, pointing out that her lights and siren were not on and that she didn’t use her indicator, she threatens him with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer and a few other things. And the cab driver was right! What makes it worse is that the people around her praise her for this kind of behavior and think she’s ‘iced’.

Eve Dallas is a bit of a Mary Sue. She’s a very readable and pretty entertaining one, but it can be annoying and distracting at times. I’m not going to lambast authors for writing wish fulfillment into some of their work. The idea that authors should avoid this at all costs is pure silliness. What’s the point of building a whole new world and creating new characters if you can’t have some fun with them? I don’t mind that Eve Dallas, Sookie Stackhouse, Bella Swan and any other female lead you want to add to this list, happens to be seen as hot by the male lead and maybe one or two others. That’s part of the fantasy. Men do it too, writing male leads that have women throwing themselves at him all over the place. Fine and dandy, but for the love of chocolate chip cookies, be subtle about it! You want to avoid readers rolling their eyes as much as possible. A few characters wanting to hump the female leads leg is fine, but when more than half of the men in the series want to hump their legs, you’ve gone to far. Balance is key.

And that’s what’s happened to Eve and her use of her authority. I want her to use it, I even want her to misuse it on killers, jerks and really annoying people, but she doesn’t. She’s a complete bitch who throws her weight around with pretty much every person she meets. We’re talking 90% here. No, I’m not kidding, she’s that bad. Yeah, she’s had a rough life and all, but it doesn’t really come back to bite her in the ass like it should. Instead, people throughout the series praise her to the hilt for it, which starts to get old if you read too many of the books back to back, which I keep doing. It starts to become book after book of Eve worship. She always talking about how she’s protecting and serving the people of NYC, but we really just see her abusing them most of the time.

Do I love the books? Yep! Do I think they could be better? Well yeah, but what book couldn’t be better? Eve has a lot going for her as a character and it outweighs her annoying parts. That’s one of the joys of reading books you love that have flaws. You get to find out why you love it anyway so you can make your own writing more compelling.

Write on~

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in All About Writing

 

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Flash Fiction

I’m not getting a lot on the writing front done, which is quite typical of me really.  I have an inner critique that could make Simon Cowel look like someone’s dotting grandmother talking to her favorite grandchild.  I will often not proceed with any project that I don’t think, on some level, I can do well.  It’s a paralyzing thing, and I am working on.

Okay, flash fiction.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  While I think about what I want to do next, pick up an old project that I’m probably not competent enough to write yet and do any justice too, or start something a little more simple, I’m doing some flash fiction.

I like it for a couple reasons.  First is that it’s short and fairly easy to do, without the rigors of long plotting, world building and character developing sessions.  Second, it keeps you writing and with the word limits, keeps your writing tight.  It teaches you to drop the extraneous word clutter that slows down the reader and bores them to tears.  Everyone could learn to write lean.  Third, and perhaps my favorite reason, my inner critique is SILENT when I write flash fiction.  I don’t worry about messing it up, I don’t care if it’s good or not.  Well, I care if it’s good, but I’m not concerned about ruining a long, arduously built world and story.  If it comes out being terrible, it’s okay, I haven’t wasted months on it and I’m not going to have to spend a month trying to fix it.

Reason four, I don’t mind sharing it either.  And here’s the picture I used as a prompt.

Flash Fiction 03-07-2013

Lacruse put one steel shod foot on the rail and looked up, trying to ignore the sweat running down his back. The tree was enormous, not only the largest he’d ever seen but beyond what he’d imagined possible. It was as big around as the walled city of Padfeal and was rumored to hold more people. The forest that grew around it looked more like clumps of tall flowers than proper trees.

He wiped a gloved hand across his damp forehead and took in the shallow lake, mazed with roots from the monster that reached to the shores like drunken bridges, allowing access from every direction. People in simple, colorful clothing walked them, burdened like pack mules. They looked a lot cooler than he felt in the thick, humid air.

The first level of the Great Tree Dwelling was visible, the sun low enough to reach it and set its brightly colored decorations to glowing even from across the water. Blue lights that hung in the darkness of the upper levels winked through the leaves reaching up and up, out of sight.

And the whole damned thing was completely indefensible.

He kept his face neutral, betraying nothing to the natives around him.

“Gentke, how high is the city from the water?” he asked his translator and official leason.

The dark eyed young man considered. “Dry season now, so six men, maybe seven.”

“The dry season?”

Gentke nodded, fingering a bright yellow and blue feather that adorned his much thinner and far more comfortable looking shirt. “Rains flood the lake in two moons time. Will be much higher then.”

He ignored the impulse to take off his helmet and throw it in the lake. “How high does it flood?”

The native pointed to a passing tree.

Lacruse looked, running his eyes up the trunk, along the thin tendrils that reached to the water from it like roots. Twenty feet up the tendrils disappeared and the trunk became smooth bark, like any tree. He felt relief flood him. No army would have enough boats on hand and then he realized that there weren’t any boats on the water around them. They’d taken a boat from the highlands, this wasn’t a native vessel.

“Do you have boats that you use in the rainy season?”

Gentke blinked. “No. Only fishing men need boats.”

“So you stay in the city in the rainy season?”

Gentke looked up at him as if he were a child asking if the sun would come up tomorrow. “No.”

Lacruse felt his face flush in the tropical warmth and asked, teeth firmly clenched. “But you don’t have boats. How?”

“The branch-ways.” He pointed up at the huge branches that radiated out from the trunk. They were easily as large as the roots and he thought he could just make out small shapes moving along them.

“Where do they go?”

“To the high places.” He said slowly and nodded to the hills that rose around the lake.

The Lord Protector of the great highland kingdom of Rarimor wanted to laugh. In the dry season an army could walk to the city along the roots and in the rain they could walk along the bloody branches.

He closed his eyes and with great deliberation unbuckled his armor. The breast plate fell to the wooden floor of the boat with a clang, followed closely by the back.

Gentke looked on with interest while his man servant looked horrified and came running to collect the piece. He grinned. “Come on Fourt, help me get the rest of this mess off.”

“Sir.” The man said with a bow of his head but his tone clearly said he thought his Lord was touched.

“Gentke,” Lacrouse said, shucking out of a boot with a sigh as fresh air cooled his wet clothes. “I hope you might provide me with clothes in the style of your people?”

Fourt made a strangled sound behind him, but he ignored it.

Gentke grinned. “You will be more comfortable.”

“I’m begning to see that.”

“Fourt, bring me a fresh set of clothes.” He looked down at the heavy wool of his shirt and frowned. “Make that a fresh set of under clothes. Anything else would be foolish in the extreme.”

“Sir?”

“We aren’t in Rarimor. I have three moons, maybe less to try and defend this place. I think I should learn about it first.”

“I did not think there was wisdom among the mountain people. I am glad I was wrong.” Gentke said.

Lacrouse laughed.

 

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When authors cross the line

I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts’ In Death series. I’m not huge on her romances, but that’s a tough genre for me and my standards are a bit on the niche side. Still, her writing strength is her snappy dialogue. She writes some of the best in the business in my opinion. It’s like the witty repartee in a good movie only it last through the whole book. And she has a really good sense of humor as well. The relationships Eve develops through the series are really the center of the story, and flow through and weave together the various murders that we see her life through.

I’ve read them all, including short stories, except the latest one. Waiting for the audio book version from my library, and I have to say that the narrator for the series, Susan Erickson, is amazing. She sounds just like I would expect Eve to sound. Sorry, couldn’t help the plug. I’ve been re-reading them over the last few months and I’m noticing a trend, one I’m not really on board with. It seems that in the later books, Eve is starting to get, dare I say it, almost worshiped in each book by the other characters.

The character of Eve has a lot of issues. Fine and dandy, I’m all for that and she spends the series working through those issues, also good. But at some point the other characters in the book are giving her too much praise for things. It seems that in every book at least two people go into a long monologue about how great Eve is and how something she did was just so deeply touching to them. Not just her husband, which is fine, or her best friend, but most of the supporting cast has had this kind of conversation with Eve at least once. This I have to call BS on. People just don’t have those kinds of conversations with each other on a regular basis. These are the kinds of conversations you would have maybe twice in your life. They are deeply revealing conversations that leave you open emotionally to the person you are talking to. Eve isn’t the kind of person you would bear your soul to, because you’d expect her to make a very cutting remark in response. To her credit, she doesn’t, but still, not everyone she knows would take the risk.

If someone saves your life, you’d thank them, sure. Probably profusely the first time. After that, it would be a more simple expression of thanks, not several long, heart felt and gut spilling conversations. Conversations that go only one way in most cases. Eve just acts flustered and embarrassed by the compliments and rarely responds in a positive way. Which makes perfect sense for her. It’s the other characters I wouldn’t expect this from.

It just seems like overkill in a couple spots, like the author is really feeling an emotional bond with her main character, seeing some of herself in the character, or who she wants to be in her character. Nothing wrong with that, all authors pour some of themselves, and some of the selves they want to be into their main characters. It’s the heaping of praise upon this MC in a way that strikes me as heaping such praise upon the self you wish you could be that seems off. Unrealistic and heavy handed. It’s not narcissistic, it’s just uncomfortable for me to read at times. It feels like I’ve just walked in on a couple making love. Too intimate and it takes me out of the fantasy and to far into the author herself.

And it kind of feels like seeing that girl who’s wearing the tee-shirt that proclaims that she’s ‘hawt’, or the mother who gets a license plate that says MILF on it. (Yeah, I’ve seen that plate. More than one I’m afraid.) There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but that takes it a step too far. You can not declare yourself to be hot. You can think you look hot, but you can’t go around telling everyone else that you are. It seems really pretentious and people feel a bit insulted by someone taking it up on themselves to tell you how you are to see them. Who can stand the guy who tells everyone he’s the best on the football team? Who likes the prom queen who makes sure to work that into every conversation? Let everyone else make up their own minds and we won’t be embarrassed for you. And no, I’m not jealous. I have days when I feel pretty hot and I tell my husband and he’s happy to tell me I’m right. And he’s supposed to, but I don’t go to the 19 year old guy at the mall and tell him I’m hot. He might not share that opinion.

I could be reading this wrong, that’s just how it’s striking me. It’s a line and I feel it’s starting to get crossed. Let me decide to love or hate Eve Dallas. Don’t tell me how to think of her, show me who she is, and I’ll decide for myself.

 

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Weaving the tangled skein.

This, for me is always the hardest part. I never have too much trouble creating characters, a world, the magic system, back stories, motivations and so forth. That seems to be rather easy for me. It’s always the plot that trips me up. Nothing small, oh no. And I’m not saying that I make all this stuff with no idea for a plot…okay, it happens on occasion, but I set those aside to work on more later. I have an idea for the plot it’s just really basic. I usually come up with a basic premise and a few major plot points…and then I tend to get stuck…

How do I go from having a really solid idea of what’s going to happen on the grand scale, to near paralysis on the details? It happens every time and it’s always frustrating. I’m not the best at plotting. I think it’s in how I think, I’m a big picture kind of girl. I see the forest, but the trees are a bit hard to distinguish.

What really makes me crazy is that I’m super annoying to watch movies with because I can almost always figure out where the plots going. I’m the one going “Oh! That’s why he wants that thing-a-ma-do” ten minutes before he uses the thing-a-ma-do. So, if I can see plot arches to easily, why can’t I create them?

I know why, I’m not good at holding a lot of things in my head at once. I don’t think I’ll ever be too good at getting more than two plots lines in the same story. Not without a whole lot of whiteboard and a dedicated assistant. I’m not that great at chess either, because I can only see a few moves at a time. And that thinking is part of what makes it hard. When you don’t think you’ll be good at something, you keep second guessing yourself. I’m totally guilty. Half the time I don’t trust my own plot point choices. Self confidence, or at least the wilingness to just give it a try, will do a lot toward perfecting ones art. It’s something I’ll have to to work on, and I’m up for the challenge, but it’s still annoying. ^_^

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in All About Writing

 

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The Great Urban Fantasy Debate Part 4, Urban Fantasy vs Contemporary Fantasy

And you thought I was done at 3! Sadly no.

So here we come to an funny little side note to the debate, but one which is really the heart of the debate in essence. I don’t like the term Contemporary Fantasy. I don’t like the idea of even having a “present tense” genre. And I am being subjective, which is annoyingly unobjective I know, but hear me out. When is something no longer considered contemporary and what is it then? Is something written in the 60’s considered contemporary? Probably, but is it really? No, it isn’t, at least not to me. Technology is changing to fast to have long periods of time that are essentially the same with only minor changes in daily living. Yes, compare to the 1700’s, the 60’s are contemporary, but not compared to today. Heck, the 80’s can barely be considered contemporary. So what are fiction novels written in the 60’s called? Hippie lit? What would we call a book written about the world of Bioshock? It’s in an Urban setting so it’s sort of Urban Fantasy, sort of Horror, but not contemporary. Steam Punk would fit it to a point.

See my point? It’s all subjective to one extent or another on some level. And to be fair, Urban Fantasy is really a sub genre of Contemporary Fantasy…sometimes. And that’s why I don’t like it. As far as I’m concerned, if it happens in basically our world, past the point of industrialization, but has fantasy elements, then it’s Urban Fantasy. I know that’s not the strict definition of the term, but I think it can stretch to accommodate. Mercedes Lackey’s SERRAted Edge series is Urban Fantasy to me, even though half of it happens well outside cities and it should be rightly called Contemporary Fantasy. My current WIP isn’t really a UF, it’s a CF, since most of it happens outside of a city. But I consider it a UF anyway. It has those elements that I consider UF. So does that make Urban Fantasy set in Victorian England something else by my definition? Nope, just add a modifier and you get the very apt Historical Urban Fantasy.

There are many who already consider the two to be basically the same thing, and I’m okay with that, because the plot that drives them both is the fantasy elements of that world. That isn’t true with Paranormal Romance. (And for the record, I don’t like the term Contemporary Romance either.) There are even a lot of PR books that are labeled CF even though the Romance novel is clearly not a Fantasy Novel.

So I guess it comes down to what’s more important. I’d rather Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy be confused and interchanged than either be confused with Romance. Not because I have a problem with Romance. I freely admit that I read it so that’s not the point. I would be just as upset if Mystery were being confused with Urban Fantasy, and it happens. A lot. It’s the principle of the thing. There are fruits that are considered vegetables because of their lack of sweetness, such as the tomato and avocado. But they are still fruits. Why? Because sweetness isn’t what makes it a fruit, the hardness of the seed is. This is a set way of categorizing edible plants so scientists can speak the same language and understand each other. We need to have some understanding of how to group things so we can better understand our world and each other. It all really comes down to communication. We have enough trouble with men and women understanding each other, and people from different countries understanding each other, we don’t need to add to the confusion. Not when there is a system in place already to deal with this very issue.

Maybe that’s what annoys me the most about this whole thing. We aren’t using that system and it’s creating a problem already. We aren’t using the time spent arguing and discussing this to do anything new. It’s a waste of time in the end. There is a system in place, so let’s use it and stop wasting time with miscategorizing things. We could be using that time to find new names for the next new kind of book to come out.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in All About Writing

 

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The Great Urban Fantasy Debate Part 3

Finally, on to part 3. The publishers. Now, I’m not going to beat the publishers to death on this one, because they are doing the best they can to sell their products. They are businesses, they do their jobs for the same reason we all do, to get enough money to make a decent living or more if they want to put in the time and effort to get more. I’m not one to beat on ‘evil corporations’.

However, I find the drive to earn money, to cash in on the next big thing rewards, or at least doesn’t curtail confusion and ignorance on the part of the consumer. It happens with words all the time. We lose the rightful meaning to words more because of gross ignorance than to a true shift in language. I feel the same way about this issue. I think a lot of people just don’t understand what defines a genre and the publishers cater to that lack of understanding by lumping things into ill fitting categories for fear of losing money, instead of labeling books correctly and thus educating people on what truly goes where.

I know, educating people isn’t the job of the publishers. But, in the long run, it is of more benefit than continuing to allow the degradation of the category system. Especially in this age of internet search engines, when knowing what to search for is paramount if you want to find what you are looking for. If genres aren’t kept well defined, we risk making it harder for the consumer to find what they are looking for, which will result in people buying fewer books.

Now we add to that, the frightening proliferation of the ‘butt cover‘ and/or tramp stamp. These are becoming rampant and they do two things. They sexualize the female heroine, which I do not understand, since most of the readers are women, and they make the genre look frankly trashy. If you compare these covers with other fantasy book covers, you’ll find that, though there are a few fantasy covers with buxom ladies in impractical gear, there aren’t too many. However, compare the UF covers to that of the PR covers. In fact, here’s a video that shows both UF and PR covers in a parade of butt covers. And I’m not even close to the first one to notice this. It seems like the only way to show that a chick is tough is to make her overtly sexual to the point of nearly slutty and cover her in tattoos, even if she doesn’t have any. Let’s look at these covers of the Mercedes Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. They aren’t all butt covers, but look at how she’s dressed in every one. Mercy doesn’t dress like this and and she has a tattoo of a coyote paw below her navel and two celtic knots on her upper arms. She doesn’t have sleeves, she has an athletic build, not breast implants. So what’s the point of making her look slutty? Does it sell better? Why? Because if they are trying to make it look like Mercy is a girl who gets lots of fun on in the sac, then they are disappointing readers who want that.

Now lets look at The Dresden Files. Now here we have Urban Fantasy with a male hero and these look just like Harry Dresden, with the exception that he doesn’t wear a hat. Other than that, he carries a staff, wears boots and a long black duster and a pentacle amulet. So why isn’t one of the many lovely ladies of the Dresden Files draping the front in sex appeal? Wouldn’t that sell to the male audience who reads these books? Why not have him shirtless and manly looking to get the female readers interested?

This is the other thing I blame the publishers for. The covers they give female written books that are about female characters are a joke nine times out of ten. And we wonder why UF is lumped in with PR and why it’s starting to get a trashy rep. I’d really like to know if we the readers buy these books because of the covers or despite of them. I know I buy them despite the covers, usually while rolling my eyes at the silliness. This is the one thing I agree with Saintcrow about. Most female written and female hero-ed fiction seems to be poo-pooed. I don’t really care that it isn’t seen at real ‘literature’ since none of the Sci-fi and Fantasy is seen as real ‘literature’ and we are all glad of it. But I would like some of what we women like to read and like to write given some level of respect.

Part 4

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in All About Writing

 

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The Great Urban Fantasy Debate Part 2

Continuing where I left off, my thoughts on Lilith Saintcrow’s post. Her first words are a question, what is Urban Fantasy. Not a bad start, but right off we have this as her answer. “That’s simple, you might say. Chicks kicking ass. Well, leather-clad chicks kicking ass. Leather-clad chicks kicking ass in an urban environment where some form of “magic” is part of the world. There. That’s about it.” I can not begin to state how disappointing this is, coming from a published author. Obviously, this is not at all the definition of UF, not by a long shot.

It is interesting to note that “chicks kicking ass” does seem to fit with the majority of the UF out there. And there are some truths to the points she brings up, but I think she focuses a little too much on what are her pet issues. She mentions in passing male authors of the genre, but only the once, even as she promises to get back to them in due course. I’m going to digress for a bit here and note something I found both interesting and alarming. In the second part of this blog by Carrie Vaughn, Vaughn laments the lack of strong female characters, other than the main character. It’s a pet peeve of hers in UF, and one I myself share. And reading Saintcrow’s article, you’d think the majority of strongly caste female in UF would be from female authors. Not so much. Of the UF I have read, Jim Butcher’s Dresden files has far and away, the most strong female characters of any UF I’ve read. In fact, pretty much every female in Harry’s world is a strong woman with the very few weak ones being notable for that trait. Even one of the females that looked weak turned out to be strong. I can name off the top of my head 13 strong female characters from the Dresden files. (I just now counted them on my fingers as I thought about it for a whole 15 seconds.) I can not think of another UF with even 5 female characters that pop out to my like that. So at least Jim Butcher has no problem with strong women. If anything, he has more respect and love for women than most of us have for ourselves.

Saintcrow goes on to say “What truly defines UF, and why the genre has exploded recently, is the moral and ethical ambiguity of its protagonists.” Once again, I think this a flawed idea. I can think of several High Fantasy and Sci-Fi Protags that fit this bill quite well. In fact a lot of them do. I don’t think this has anything at all to do with it and is not at all a new thing. Her point that the gender for this has changed may have some merit, but then why are the Dresden files and the Nightside books so well loved? From what Saintcrow is saying, this is old hat and shouldn’t be new or interesting.

At this point the article does cover some interesting ground on the nature of the relationship between women, power and violence. But I’m not sure what that has to do with UF in particular. I think it’s coming into a lot of genres, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and most notably, Mystery. Nora Roberts under the pen name J.D. Robb has birthed Eve Dallas, one of the foremost ass kicking women in fiction with over 30 stories dedicated to Eve’s foot kicking said ass. It’s not UF, it’s not romance, so how does that fit with the idea that UF is about this issue? It doesn’t and it isn’t. That is not what defines the genre.

I think there is still some merit to the argument that women and female fiction is second class, both in the reading and publishing world. And this is were we get to the meat of my issue with this whole debate, which I touched on in the first part. Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance should not be so closely tied. I don’t like that fact that it is and it concerns me that it is looked as almost the same thing.

Why? How did this happen? Why would Twilight ever be even remotely considered UF? And yes, I’ve seen it put in that bracket. Twilight is barely Paranormal Romance, it’s Young Adult PR if anything. It doesn’t take place in a city, it’s primary plot focus is on romantic relationships. The age of the characters involved put it firmly in the YA category. So how did it ever end up being lumped in with UF? Here’s were Saintcrow and I will agree. It’s not that PR is being lumped in with UF, it’s that UF is being lumped in with PR…if it has Vampires in it and is written by a women. I hate to say it, because it just makes me look like a frothing feminist fanatic, but the publishing world in many ways looks on women readers as bored house wives. Think about it. Titanic anyone? Why did it do so well? Because there was a certain set of women and teen girls who went and saw the movie over and over again in the theater. That alone wouldn’t be so bad, look at Star Wars. (the original trilogy, not the new crap which has no business being in the mythos whatsoever) But here’s what makes it different? It was a good story! If Titanic had been a good story, it wouldn’t be seen as silly as much as it is, but it’s not a good story. Women, whom men do and will always see as being silly and emotional, get caught up in the love story and men don’t get it. What makes it worse, is that there are women out there who think Titanic is bad and roll our eyes at the ones who see it over and over again. It’s a tangled problem.

It also doesn’t help that the market is being flooded with books by authors who themselves don’t understand the difference between UF and PR or don’t care because let’s face it, it’s what’s new and hot. Which brings me to the third big culprit in this debate that should not be. But another time. This one has grown too long as it is.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in All About Writing

 

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