One and Two-Star Book Reviews are a Paradox (If you’re Reading For Pleasure)

See, here. So, a thing occurred to me…I mean, a truly new thing. Seriously. I think I’ve invented it. And it will save me time and energy. And, best of all, it makes sense. Sort of.

The thing I realized about novels was—just like with a relationship—when you finish with one, you can never say that the time spent inside of it was wasted. Not truly. Not if you’re being honest with yourself.

I mean, you might have regrets, sure. But (and I have this on good authority from my therapist), fact is, you stayed with it, for however long you did, because it was providing something for you. Something you needed at that time. Girlfriend. Marriage. Living with your birth family as an adult. Taking care of elderly parents…you name it. The situation might not be ideal. It might even be dysfunctional. But, you stayed in it for a reason, even if only maybe to try and grow and escape it.

Switching back the analogy: So, you kept reading the friggin’ novel that you didn’t like. You even finished it. Maybe you hoped it would get better and it didn’t. But, even then, you learned something about yourself in the process. Or you worked your brain. Or, whatever. I don’t know why you did it. My point is: you had your reasons. Right?

This leads me to the paradox. So—follow me, now—that being the case, you should never really give a novel less than a 3-star review (that being average). Boom. There, I said it.

Here’s my reasoning. Let’s say that roughly 50% of the books you start are so bad you don’t finish them. And then you finish a book that is the worst, I mean WORST book you’ve ever finished. Well, that book is still median quality of all the books you’ve started.

Hence: Three stars.

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Shout Out

A meeting of heroes? Marshall Lastpost and his ‘grandmother’, Marian Michaels (aka “The Butterfly”)

I want to help make more people aware of Kat Powell

She is a artist out of Texas who does wonderful work. She helped me by doing commissioned sketches for the various characters in my upcoming novel. (See, above, The Precept meeting The Butterfly. Spoilers: death is imminent.)

Check her out!

Davey, Tell Us A Stooooory

Okay. These past few years, I’ve set out to become a dedicated storyteller. In doing that, I’ve started to look at prose books, comics, and movies/tv shows in a new way. Part audience/Part practitioner.

Just as background: my tastes run towards what you would call classical story-telling. Good ‘n Evil, Character Arcs, Subtexts, good conflict, high-concept metaphors where I can find them, and resolution. Like that.

So, what happens? Well, these days, like some sort of fiction-sniffing hound, I find myself looking for what the shows aren’t doing as much as I am for what they are; this is especially true if they aren’t landing for me. It almost always comes down to a lack of storytelling. When that happens, I ask: What crutch are they using, rather than just telling the story?

Just to kick things off, here are a couple of my most despised Storytelling Avoidance Mechanisms (StAMs).

StAM One – Grimdark.
Look, I saw Chernobyl Diaries at a hotel. I was super-excited by the trailer. The opening premise was good. The characters were introduced nicely— aaaand then?

Well, then the characters were all methodically slaughtered, one-by-one. Except for one, who was captured by unknown figures, and then killed, for reasons that are never explained. Roll credits.

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Friederike

“We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up,

if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves—

such a friend ought to be—do not lend his aid to

perfectionate our weak and faulty natures.”

-Frankenstein’s Creation

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The candlelight shadows shivered at the sudden opening of the door behind her.

She caught her breath and readjusted herself—but didn’t get up from the chair. Two heartbeats later, she recognized who it was by the faint smell of rotting flesh beneath the perfume and alcohol and decided to stay still. If he was going to kill her there would be no stopping him, anyway.

Without preamble: “Who is Fritz?” the monstrous visitor demanded.

She had to sigh at that: “Who, indeed?”

The daemon circled into view, towering over her with the grave air of a parent about to tuck their child in for bed. Beneath his overcoat and breaches, he was wrapped from head to toe in soaked bandages of methanol and gin. And where bandages failed, so, too, had his yellow flesh—rather the sinews and blood-soaked innards underneath were quite visible.

But she did not avert her eyes. She did not scream.

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Writers’ Politics

I’m a fan of Josiah Bancroft. You’ll notice I didn’t say I’m a fan of Josiah Bancroft’s work, which I am, but this isn’t about that. Here’s a Tweet from Mr. Bancroft, in response to the attempted coup last Wednesday.

“As someone with a broad audience whose livelihood depends upon a certain ambiguity when it comes to political matters, I respectfully suggest that the people who are carrying Confederate flags into the Capitol are dimwitted treason weasels who stan their mother’s panties.”

I mean, sure, I could write my own blog entry; but, I’m not going to top that, so why try?

I will say this—the topic of whether or not an artist has a duty to address politics (or to avoid it, for commercial sake), is an important one. As Scott McCloud says in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art: “…when art becomes a job or a matter of social status the potential for confusing one’s goals goes up considerably”.

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2020

Would you buy a novel from this man?
Would you buy an epic fantasy novel from this man?

As we begin the 22nd decade of the 21st century (Math!), I want to pay a fitting tribute to the year we all love to hate. So, let’s talk about…

WRITING VILLAINS
First, it’s more effective when your villain doesn’t act villainous. Remember, sociopaths/psychopaths typically present as quite positive. This is no doubt why they tend to rise to positions of power. According to the study: ”They [psychopaths] display emotions only to manipulate individuals around them.”

It’s all learned camouflage so that people won’t realize that they are empty inside. That’s why sociopaths can act so hatefully, without remorse, when they want to. But to present them exhibiting evil without first presenting the glossy exterior will render your villain into just another mustache twirling cliché.

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