For a single gal, I’m pretty fond of Valentine’s Day.
This is not quite as odd as it seems when you have parents like I do, the kind who tend to show affection through food. For as long as I can remember, waking up on Valentine’s Day meant scrambling downstairs to find small boxes of chocolates, one for each child in the family. Additionally, my parents would often buy us a small gift to share, like a movie. So, overall, when your mental affiliation with Valentine’s Day is chocolate, lots of hearts and flowers, and pink (not tears, depression, or mourning a lack of a significant other) then you count it as a pretty fun holiday. I’ve always liked it and –in fact– never really connected it much with personal romantic love so much as a celebration of love itself, which can manifest in a variety of ways–not just between two people romantically.
BUT WHERE DID VALENTINE’S DAY COME FROM?
St. Valentine himself is a tricky man to pin down; very little is known about his life, although there are various legends about him. The one I heard was always about how he illegally performed marriage ceremonies during wartime in Rome, when the Emperor had outlawed all marriages (cause, you know, newlyweds are too distracted, I guess). While in jail, the jailer asked him to speak with his daughter, who was blind (from what I’ve read, a lot of his legends- which can vary drastically from one another and may not even be about the same person- usually involve a jailer and his blind daughter). Before Valentine was executed, he left her behind a note signed, Your Valentine.
It’s a nice story, but almost certainly not true.
Believe it or not, most of the legends about St. Valentine popped up during the 14th century, and the emergence of the holiday as we know it today is largely blamed on none other than Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales. His book Parlement of Foules is the first documented source in which St. Valentine’s day is first referenced as a day for lovers. Later, in England in the 1700s, it transitioned into more of the way we think of it today with the exchange of Valentine cards and treats, and writing of (often bad, but entertaining) poetry.
Of course, if you are like me and Romance isn’t really your thing, you can always remember that St. Valentine is not only the patron saint of love, affianced couples, and happy marriages, but also of beekeepers, the plague, epilepsy, and not fainting.
If you so wish, you can also find the (supposed) skull of Valentine in the church of Santa Maria in Rome. And yes, I got this picture from Wikipedia. Don’t judge.
We often talk about the curiosity of children, as if its something we grow out of. But is that a strictly natural progression? Or is it something that’s also trained out of us? We learn to laugh at naivete, to play it cool and find it unfashionable to show genuine amazement at things that are new to us or that we don’t yet understand. Maybe because wonder is connected in our minds with ignorance: the ancient man who stands amazed at the eruption of the volcano, so awed by its power and destruction that he names it after his god of fire, must not know that it is simply a naturally-occurring rupture of the earth from its movement of tectonic plates, in which hot lava is able to escape from its magma chamber below the surface.
Which is ridiculous, because that “natural process” is in itself, amazing.In the Christian life, I think we should feel wonder. Looking around at this world that God has created: it is good. For all its problems, it’s an incredible place with creatures like the mantis shrimp which, among it’s other fascinating features, can move so quickly that the water around it boils. But are lightning bugs, with their ability to emit light, any less amazing? Yet we’re so used to them–or the idea of them–that they fade into the everyday mundaneness of everything else. It’s not amazing: it’s just science. As knowing how something works makes the fact that it does work any less incredible! And too often we embrace that sort of cynicism in all aspects of our lives, even down to the type of entertainment we consume, and especially how we view humans and humanity themselves.
But often, the media that surrounds tricks us into thinking that innocence and joy are things that we grow out of too, things that are immature and cheesy. We have to have violence and swearing and sex in our fiction and films, because without it they are unrealistic and–what I’ve even heard it said–shallow. But is it really realistic to show only the darker, dirtier sides of life? Even shows and movies that are relatively tame in regards to content often lack the enthusiastic optimism that a person like myself needs sometimes. I know that when it comes to television and movies, I’m usually in the sci-fi and thriller camp. I like things that make me think, that twist my mind and maybe even creep me out a little bit. That’s not cynicism- after all, it takes a specific kind of lack of it to accept some of the more imaginative science fiction out there- but generally I like more “serious” movies, ones with murder and mayhem and political conspiracy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that…so long as it’s not all the art intake that I consume.
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of being a dull, pessimistic person. I’ve been reviewing books since I was about sixteen years old, and as time has passed, it’s become increasingly difficult for me to turn off my “critic” brain. I think we should think about what we watch and read, but sometimes we can go too far, picking to pieces every little thing about every little thing. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being that five year old who liked watching The Swan Princess over and over again simply because I liked it, without analyzing every moment.
Maybe that’s why I loved The Greatest Showman so much. For the duration of the movie, my critic brain was dormant. For the first time in a long time, I simply enjoyed a movie, without finding plot holes or assessing if the character development was realistic. While I was watching, it didn’t even cross my mind to think about those things, because I was simply there.
While there have been many complaints about the historical accuracy of the film, for me it’s almost a non-sequiter: everything about the movie screams fantasy, not historical fiction. And for a story following a man who sells the “fake” to create a spectacle for other’s enjoyment, it’s strangely fitting. As we watch the movie, just like Barnum’s audience, we’re lost in the wonder and amazement of the strange and the beautiful, the two often being one and the same. The movie is unabashedly enthusiastic- something I don’t see often on the big screen. Films have a way to amaze us visually that is almost impossible to re-create in any other format. Filmmakers have the ability to dazzle us with color, music, dancing, and cinematic magic tricks and when they do it right, the result is mesmerizing.
The last movie that made me feel this way was Cinderella (2015). Cinderella was beautiful. There was a sweetness and a purity of character in that movie that drained all the cynicism I was holding inside right out. Were parts of it a bit cheesy, maybe even too syrupy sweet? Perhaps. But I didn’t care, because I was that little girl again. It was refreshing to watch a movie about two good-hearted people who gain happiness and extend forgiveness, even if it meant defying our own culture’s expectation of what it is to be “strong.” And while this isn’t a post to convince you that these movies are flawless pieces of art (because they do have their flaws, indeed) it is a post celebrating those pieces of art, literature, and film that recapture a sense of childlike wonder in us. The movies that act like Giselle pulling Robert into a full-on musical number in the middle of New York. The movies that celebrate the best in us, the created-in-the-image-of-God part of us that is capable of courage and kindness, of a joy that makes us dance in the streets, and of a love that brings us back to our family.
If we are created in the image of God, and God has created such wonderful things, isn’t there something inside of us that yearns to create beauty–to see beauty–as well? Sometimes we need a little bit of that wonderment in our lives, and I’m thankful for the people who manage to bring it to us in little ways. That’s just a bit of my rambling and realizing that, however much I may love a meaty, philosophically-driven film, sometimes, I just want to see something beautiful, with loads of heart and goodness.
What are some of your favorite wonder-filled films?
Have you ever wondered what an author was thinking as she wrote her book? I’ve always loved reading author blog posts that give behind-the-scenes looks at how a novel was created. You know what I also love? Free stuff. So here’s your chance to get both!
Three other authors and I have come together to organize a giveaway for four lucky winners for each annotated novel. Yes, annotated! I’ve gotten out my post-its and written notes to stick in between the pages to give you a behind-the-scenes look with some trivia about With Blossoms Gold. If you’d like to see the small nods to the Italian version of Rapunzel I included in the story, or if you wondered where I snagged the names for characters, or if you wondered where I got Nella’s beauty recipes from- then enter the giveaway and I promise to tell all. 🙂 PLUS each author is also including some little surprise gifts in their package as well!
Every year, Maribeth at Trekking Through Hobbit Holes does a year-end tag; while I’ve occasionally done “year in review” posts, they’ve been pretty scattered and disorganized. So, I’ve stolen hers 🙂 I’d forgotten so much that had happened over 2017, and it took diving into my journal to remember everything that happened during the first several months of the year. 2017 wasn’t an easy year, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad one.
What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before? I auditioned for a play at my college! I haven’t acted in over four years (and then it was for a school drama program, so the auditions were a bit different) so this was a big step for me. I’ve got a small part in a student-led production of Romeo and Juliet, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and do you have any for next year? The only resolution I made was to read more classics than any other book genre; I actually succeeded. (though it was a close one!)
My resolutions for 2018: I don’t really make resolutions so much as goals. I want to keep up with my journal writing more, and I want to get physically fit. As far as writing goes, I want to get January Snow ready to be published by the end of the year, and I want to finish the first draft of my Little Mermaid retelling. There are other writing-things I’d like to work on, but if I just get those two accomplished I’ll feel like I made real progress.
Did anyone close to you give birth or get pregnant? My cousin announced at our Christmas celebration that she and her husband are going to have a baby, so that’s pretty exciting!
Did anyone close to you get married? Yes. One of my dearest (and oldest) friends tied the knot this summer. Their wedding was beautiful.
Did anyone close to you die? Only my sister’s two goldfish. Alas, Finn and Rey are no more. 😦
Did you move anywhere? YES. Finally, after living in rentals (one in particular a terribly small little place) we moved into our brand-new beautiful house this past spring. It’s been such a blessing to have a place of our own.
What was the best month? My sister Emily, my brother Harrison, and I had the house to ourselves two weeks in late July. Despite missing our parents and two youngest brothers, we had so much fun. We saw three movies in the theater (Spider-Man, Dunkirk, and Wonder Woman) rented one for home (The Dark Knight), made our favorite foods, and tried our hand at being Independent Adults.
What date(s) from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? December 13, 2017. My family and I stayed out late watching the meteor shower. Think blankets on the ground in the backyard, squealing, spilled coffee (sorry, Joey), siblings piled on each other and so much laughter as we all watched the stars and chatted. I tried to remember astronomy facts I learned in my spring course (but mostly just spouted Greek mythology facts instead), my sister fought for the electric blanket, and my youngest brother just tried to keep us all plied with coffee.
What was your biggest achievement of the year? What was your biggest failure? My biggest achievement was finishing the first draft of my first sci-fi novel. The accomplishment wasn’t just in finishing, but in the fact that I consistently wrote nearly every day and finished in a month. Another achievement would be the fact that I started working out at my school’s gym two days a week this fall and miraculously stuck with it. My biggest failure was probably in neglecting my journal. I hardly wrote anything.
Did you suffer illness or injury?Aside from some typical season-change colds, not really. Whoops-I had almost forgotten during that last week of July I suddenly was struck with severe back pain. I still don’t know what it was, but it lasted days and I could barely move. It finally got better around day 5, and then the next month it happened again. I still don’t know what the deal was.
Whose behavior merited celebration? My dad’s. He, my mom, and my two youngest brothers traveled up to Tennessee so he could donate stem cells to his brother, who had cancer (but who is now in remission!). It was a pretty grueling process, and I’m so proud of my dad for doing that.
Whose behavior made you appalled and/or depressed? Uhh…almost everyone on the internet? Whether it was on politics, fandoms, or religion, it seemed I couldn’t click on a single site without seeing profane, nasty, and idiotic comments on everything. And I’m just so sick of everyone celebrating sin.
Where did most of your money go? School books and clothes.
Who or what did you get really, really, really excited about? The end of the fall school semester. It was the most stressful semester that I’ve had thus far, and I was so ready for it to be over.
What song(s) will always remind you of 2017? So, my brother started college this fall, which meant that he, my sister, and I all carpooled. Since he was the driver, we’d listen to his Spotify playlists, and we’d turn up his “Girl Power” playlist which consisted of mostly Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift. It was either that, or we’d sing along to 70s & 80s tunes. Fun times.
What was an unexpected surprise? Um, my brother’s music choices?
Did you fall in love? *laughs* no.
What was the best concert you’ve been to this year? I didn’t attend any; I’m not much of a concert person. They get a little loud for me.
What were your favorite TV programs? I got Netflix this year, and as a result watched way too much TV. I can’t deny how deeply in love I fell with some of the stories, though. Leverage, Person of Interest, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,White Collar, and The Flash were the most notable ones.
What were your favorite films? I feel like this was a year with a lot of movies I really liked and enjoyed, but none that I fully loved. I (finally) saw The Dark Knight for the first time. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would, probably because my expectations were so high because everyone always says that it’s the best of the Batman trilogy. It’s philosophically fascinating, though, and I’d like to watch it again. Wonder Woman was good. Thor: Ragnarak made me laugh a lot and I *think* I liked The Last Jedi.
What was the best book you read? Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races stands out as being the most absorbing and dare I say magical? read that I dived into this year. You can read my review here.
Who was the best new person you met? I’m always meeting new people because every new class has a new crop of faces. But this year I’ve been blessed in cementing some wonderful friendships. Two of my friends and I were in a British novels class during the spring semester (yes! A British novels class! It was amazing) and I got to know them much better and we’ve had a lot of fun together this year.
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? For my 23rd birthday my parents and I did our usual thing of hanging out in downtown Charleston, getting my birthday chocolates at the Godiva store, and then going out to eat.
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017? This year I weeded out a lot of my older clothing that was faded, dated, or just not my style anymore and actually started spending money on clothing that I like. My personal style is definitely a bit quirky-librarian-ish. I enjoy browsing wornontv.net because even if I don’t watch a show, I can usually find a TV character with a style similar to mine. I probably resemble Kara Danvers, Clara Oswald, and a toned-down Cassandra Cillian the most. (Clara’s one of my style icons, y’all. I don’t think there’s a single outfit of hers I don’t like.)
What political issue stirred or exhausted you the most? I’m not sure who I find more annoying: the hysterical Trump haters who think the man literally eats children, or the hysterical Trump supporters who would still defend him even if he did. I’m just tired of it.
What valuable life lesson did you learn in 2017? That I’m human, and I make mistakes. That seems like such an obvious life lesson, because of course I know that I’m imperfect! But there are imperfections that I am, for lack of a better word, comfortable with. I know I can be thoughtless and selfish, for instance. But those are Faults™ that can be overcome. This year I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that being human means that sometimes I say stupid things, sometimes I’m horrifically awkward, and sometimes I just might embarrass myself. Those aren’t sins, but troubling, humbling imperfections that will plague me for however long I’m on this earth, and sometimes I just have to take a moment, sigh, and know that God loves me even when I say something ridiculous.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: I can’t think of a song, but if I was to take a symbolic snapshot of 2017, it would be of a galaxy full of stars. I took an astronomy class, enjoyed a meteor shower, wrote a science fiction novel (and watched several scifi TV shows). Learning about the vastness of outer space and our universe has only strengthened my belief in God and how incredibly amazing and creative He is.
I don’t know what your family does around the dinner table, but mine has a habit of sharing weird things that have happened at school. Sometimes, especially between my sister and me, these turn into a subtle wars of who-learned-the-most-interesting-or-gross- fact-today contests. Given our areas of learning, mine are usually history-related, and hers science-related, but that isn’t always the case, as this history fact is one that I happened to learn from her.
A couple of semesters ago, my sister had the opportunity to read a book on the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 for extra credit in one of her biology classes. Since we share a room, she’d periodically update me with interesting tidbits as she read through it.
The epidemic was significant not only for the sheer number of people it killed worldwide (about 100 million) but also because, in the words of the The Great Influenza, it “marked the first collision between modern science and epidemic disease.” While it’s a fascinating study from both a scientific perspective and a historical one, for the people living through it, it was terrifying. (The epidemic is notably absent from L.M. Montgomery’s novel of the Canadian homefront experience during The Great War, Rilla of Ingleside. Despite having been such a prominent issue and fear in real life, it’s not once mentioned in the book, perhaps because, not only did Montgomery contract the flu herself, but her best friend died of it. We can only assume its intensely personal effect on her life prompted it too painful to write about.)
The desperation of the people affected by the pandemic cannot be overstated. The illness was so widespread that patient care became an incredible problem. According to John M. Barry:
It was impossible to get a doctor, and perhaps more impossible to get a nurse. Reports came in that nurses were being held by force in the homes of patients too frightened and desperate to allow them to leave. Nurses were literally being kidnapped. (The Great Influenza, pp. 276-277)
It sounds like something from a dystopian novel. The lack of nurses during the time came from a variety of reasons, but perhaps the most obvious was the fact that so many nurses were on the front caring for soldiers. It’s amazing what a crisis or disaster can do to society. Nurses literally being kidnapped to care for desperate, frightened families sounds like something more liable to happen in a movie or book than real life- but then again, real life sometimes is even crazier than what we put into fiction.
(also, another little fact: This strain of flu is often called the “Spanish Flu,” even though research suggests the flu actually originated in an army camp in Kansas. This is because when the outbreak occurred during the War, both sides only wanted to report positive news. Spain, being neutral, was therefore the first country to publicly report on the pandemic.)
And now, since I’ve uplifted your heart with that little ray of optimistic sunshine, have a lovely day and remember to wash your hands often, cough into your elbow, and for heaven’s sake, stay home if you don’t feel well.
I’m sooo behind on NaNo, guys. But I just finished one major research paper and I’m 1/2 done with another paper, so maybe after I get those out of the way I’ll take a day to…I dunno…write 10,000 words in a day. (*laughs because that will not happen*)
I actually should be finishing the other half of that paper, but I need a break from that, so I’m tackling Cait and Skye’s Beautiful Books tag.
Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
My mental state is…exhausted? I was keeping up with NaNo really well that first week, but we’re on the last leg of school, and it has worn me out so much. My poor baby brother has been trying to get me to read over his story, but I haven’t yet because every time I come home I just don’t want to look at words. At all.
What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
I’m actually a little annoyed, because I originally had a great opening for January Snow. But, alas, when I reshuffled the story the scene -while not scrapped entirely- was inserted a couple chapters in rather than at the beginning. I’m not particularly satisfied with my current first sentence. Which, predictably for me, is also its own paragraph:
January Snow had long ago decided that the public’s preference for alcohol was stemmed from two things: one, their own inability to face up to their problems; and two, to disguise the fact that without their liquid crutch, they would all be exposed as very tedious, very boring people.
Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
January Snow herself has given me so much trouble over the years that I never would have guessed that I’d grow to love her. But once I discovered who she is and what makes her tick, she’s become dynamic and interesting, and I love writing her.
What do you love about your novel so far?
I love my theme and the feel of it- at least what I have in my head, anyway. It’s been very difficult getting that down onto paper.
Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
Nope. I did make a name change to one of my major characters, though, but I still forget that from time to time, so his name isn’t always consistent.
What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
I love writing beginnings, because there’s something great about starting out on an adventure. I love writing endings even more because I love seeing everything come to a conclusion and wrap up. But middles? They are my nemesis.
What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music?
I usually divide my writing into word count chunks, or on occasion time chunks, and then treat myself with something every time I accomplish one of these smaller goals. For instance, I might take out three Hershey’s kisses and line them up where I can see them, and every time I write 500 words I treat myself to one, or something similar like that. And I always take small breaks after every hour of writing, to stretch or close my eyes or check social media or something. It keeps my brain from frying.
I can’t listen to music while writing, though. It’s too distracting.
What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
Well, during the school semester, I usually like working as soon as I get home. When I’m not in school, anytime from 10 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon is usually a sweet spot for me. I’m fully awake, but the day hasn’t had the chance to exhaust me yet!
I don’t have a good picture of my writing space. I have a vintage 1920s-ish dresser/desk in my room that I write on, underneath a messy bulletin board.
How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
(Well, first of all, Batman has like 10 kids and a cow (and Alfred!) so I’m not sure he’s the best example of working alone.) But yes, when it comes to writing, I do work alone- especially with that first draft. Every once in a while I get the need to talk something out, but I don’t necessarily need another person to do that. Like Sherlock Holmes, I find skulls work just as well. Thanks to my biology-major sister, we actually do have a skull in our room. It’s fake, but it’s a skull nonetheless.
What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
The Hershey’s kisses I mentioned. Sometimes, they are all that keep me going. Chocolate is a powerful motivator.
What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
Be fearless- don’t be afraid of making mistakes or risky plot and character choices. You can always go back and tweak things later, but sometimes those crazy choices turn out being the right ones.
Remember that revision and editing is a thing. That first draft may be absolute trash now, but the thing is to get it written. You can transform it later, but first you have to get all those ideas down somewhere.
T A K E B R E A K S. Your body needs them. Drink lots of water! Do some jumping jacks and stretches! Pet a cat! Defeat the Joker in a surfing contest! For me, taking small (even just 5 minute) breaks helps clear my mind so the time I do spend writing is more productive.
Hello, all! Today I’m sharing with you the cover for Elisabeth Grace Foley’s book A Sidekick’s Tale, coming out in November. I’ve had the privilege of reading quite a few of her books before, and I love her writing style. A Sidekick’s Tale sounds hilarious, and I can’t wait to read it!
and here’s the cover….
Meredith Fayett needed to marry someone before the week was out or she would lose her ranch. It sounded simple, so ranch hand Chance Stevens agreed to take on the job, in spite of his friend Marty’s warnings that it could only lead to trouble. But even Marty, a loyal though opinionated sidekick, couldn’t have predicted the mayhem that ensues when his own eccentric relatives appear on the scene, dragging Chance, Marty, and Meredith into the latest skirmish in a long-running family feud. What follows is a hilarious tangle involving an emerald ring, a fearsome aunt, a scheming suitor, and a team of runaway mules—by the end of which Chance finds that even a marriage just on paper has its complications, and that it never hurts to have a good sidekick.
As any author can tell you, bad reviews aren’t fun. But…you will get them. It’s pretty much inevitable.
Reviews are weird things anyways. Some people think you should only write reviews if you liked the book…but if no one ever wrote any bad reviews, how would you know if a book was really good, if only favorable opinions were allowed? And then there are the time-traveler reviews, rated months before the book even comes out. Once on Goodreads someone went and in one fell swoop rated all of my books one star. I still am a little puzzled over that. (If you didn’t like one of my books…why did you keep reading them? Even more puzzling, why would you keep spending money to read them?)
Some authors don’t read reviews of their books. SO MUCH RESPECT FOR YOU GUYS. Alas, I’m too curious. Maybe I just like torturing myself? As someone who writes a lot of reviews, reads a lot of reviews, and has gotten a fair share of reviews, these are some that I’ve noticed pop up often. I haven’t received all of these types of reviews, but I’ve gotten at least one of most of them.
1. “There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like/connect with it”
Don’t get me wrong: I totally, totally get these. About 70% of all my 2 or 3-star reviews are this very thing. Sometimes, a book just doesn’t connect with a reader, and that’s okay! It’s a little sad that you couldn’t connect with someone, but it’s not anything to be ashamed of. (although if you get a bunch of these types of reviews on a novel, it might hint at a deeper problem with your writing.)
How to deal with it: remind yourself of all the readers who did like your book and related to the characters! Everybody is different and we all relate to different characters and situations. Even the best of characters aren’t appreciated by everyone.
2. Here’s a Novel-Length List of Everything You Did Wrong
These are always a little wince-worthy. For a historical novel, they can be a list of every historical inaccuracy in the book. Sometimes it’s a bullet point list of every grammar mistake or typo you’ve ever made. Those last ones are a double bummer because one, it’s embarrassing, and two, YOU END UP BANGING YOUR HEAD THAT YOU MISSED ALL THOSE EASILY FIXED MISTAKES.
But sometimes these types of reviews cross a line into unkindness. Sometimes, these reviews list all of your plot holes…make fun of your characters…quote lines from your story in mocking derision….
….and make you feel like you want to cry.
How to deal with it: Make a pillow fort and watch a favorite childhood movie. Maybe bake a cake. Or two. Or a batch of cupcakes.
3. The Social Justice Tirade
Most of the time I hate, hate, hate these. Now, sometimes books do have legitimate problems that someone should mention in a review. But these types of reviews can also be an organized “crusade” of reviewers who haven’t even read the book in question, but someone told them through the grapevine that the novel was racist or sexist or something and so they think it’s their sacred duty to get as many people as possible to load down a site with as many one-star reviews as possible. Seriously, these things are like campaigns, and they’re nasty. I’ve seen them for books that haven’t even been released yet, but “oh no! A white person is writing a book about a non-white person, and that’s cultural appropriation! We must drag this book through the mud even though we don’t know anything else about it!”
Nothing ticks me off more than these (or, in general, just people rating/reviewing books they haven’t read). Thankfully, this has never happened to me (and usually these campaigns are carried out for more mainstream, publicized novels anyway) but I’ve seen them on review sites before, and I get upset for the author, because nine times out of ten, the rumors have blown up something in your book way out of proportion and usually have tried to destroy your name in the process as well. It’s a form of bullying, and it’s just not okay.
How to deal with it: Gather your army. Avenge your honor. Defeat your foes.
(okay, okay. Occasionally, a review is right in pointing out something you may have dealt with in an inaccurate and stereotyped way. But if it’s truly unfair, there’s not much else you can do than rant to your friends and open that container of ice cream. Shake it off, y’all. Sometimes the haters are just going to hate. )
4. Did You Even Read The Book?
I recently got one of these on one of my books. They’re basically reviews that are so off you wonder if they got your book mixed up with someone else’s. I was really upset about it because I thought it would be misleading to other readers and even asked for advice on what to do. In the end, I decided to not to respond to the review and just eat some chocolate.
How to deal with it: Do what I did. Eat chocolate. Complain to your friends. Acknowledge that the world is unfair, people are strange, and hey…maybe they made a mistake and really did in some strange twist of fate post the wrong review.
5. The Hit-and-Run
“One star. I didn’t like this book.”
Okay. *shrugs* BUT WHY DON’T YOU LOVE IT? WHAT’S WRONG?
(some authors really hate these kinds of reviews, but I actually don’t??? Sometimes it’s just easier to see one of those reviews without hearing a list of everything they didn’t like.)
How to deal with it: These ones actually don’t bother me overmuch, so I can’t give you much advice, to be honest. I just shrug and move on with my life.
There are other types of reviews as well…the ignorant reviewer, who complains about something being “inaccurate”…when you were actually being accurate. The accuser who is positive you’ve plagiarized another book (which you haven’t read or even heard of). As an avid reader and writer of fairy tale retellings, I come across those reviewers who are upset that said retelling isn’t close enough to the “original” fairy tale…because they only know about the Disney version. (In particular, one Five Enchanted Roses review complained about something in particular that most of the stories didn’t contain that was “in the original tale”…when what they wanted in the story was actually an invention of Disney’s.)
But when all is said and done, for the most part I’ve been blessed. No, not all of my reviews have been good, but generally, they have all been respectful. We all have different tastes, and every reader isn’t obligated to love your book.
But really, the bad reviews don’t matter half as much as the good ones. Because in this world, if you’ve managed to touch a reader’s heart- well, that’s what matters, isn’t it?
For as long as I can remember, historical fiction has always been my first love. It started with Little House on the Prairie and the American Girl series, and only continued to grow as I got older. During my middle school and early teenage years, I pretty much read historical fiction exclusively. I just wasn’t interested in anything else. While occasionally a fantasy or science fiction book would catch my interest, anything remotely connected to today’s life and culture had no appeal. A large part of this was due to the fact that I related much more to characters in the classics and in historical fiction, and found their problems ones I could better sympathize with. (Even to this day, most contemporary characters—especially in romance—always end up striking me as annoyingly ridiculous.) While I do read more genres now, historical fiction is still my favorite and what I always gravitate to for a cozy comfort read. So what are my (many) reasons for loving historical fiction so?
Contemporaries have the misfortune of being just that: contemporary. While they may take place in a variety of locations (which is great) by definition their time period is the same as ours. On the other hand, historical fiction can take you to any time period. While I definitely have my favorites (The Victorian Era, Roaring Twenties, The Regency) it’s always nice to know that if I fancy a jaunt to Ancient Greece or a ride with Genghis Khan, it’s fully possible to get there within the pages of a book. Whatever you’re interested in—or whatever mood you’re in—there is a wide variety of times to choose from.
This certainly isn’t always true, but I fully appreciate the morality of historical fiction, because to be honest, many times the morals upheld as an ideal in times past is more in line with my own than modern sensibilities are. In the Victorian Era, women and men of good standing didn’t live together before marriage, didn’t swear, and respect for parents and authority was more widely held. There was sin, crime, and hypocrisy, of course. But these are generally seen as bad things by the main characters, whereas most modern novels find sexual sin and promiscuity, profanity, and “progressive” morals as things to be celebrated. Of course, this is only in as so far the modern author portrays them to be, which is why sometimes I find certain historical fiction novels just as maddening as any other type of book. (But classics are always nice. Jane Austen never fails me in that regard. I like my heroes to be heroes and my cads to be cads, and not the other way around, thank you.)
I’d much rather have my protagonists named Henry or Charles or Edward or Frederica or Clara or Margarethe than whatever trendy names are out there these days. The more obscure-but-historically-accurate, the better.
This is especially good for Mystery because I feel like murder was a lot easier to get away with back in the good ‘ole days. Also, history is full of weird customs and strange laws and crazy “true-story” events that can really spice up writing. I mean, if hatters really did go mad from using mercury in their millinery, then why wouldn’t you write about it? (And did you know that the mercury exposure would turn their hair red? Why would you not write about that?)
I love old-fashioned adventures, and sometimes I feel like we just know too much in this day and age. I love stories about visiting uncharted waters and lands (something hard to do in a world of satellites, airplanes, and space stations). I love a good battle or action scene filled with archers and swordsmen, rather than a man with a machine gun.
When all is said and done, whatever the reasons are, I’ll always love historical fiction. It’s my safe, cozy reading…the reading that I do when I’m feeling down or blue, or what I read when I’m happy and want to read something that I know I’ll enjoy.
Actually, I find historical fiction is good to read anytime. 🙂
Fellow fans of historical fiction, what are your favorite time periods to read about? What is it you most like about historical fiction? Favorite historical fiction book?