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What Stace had to say on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016
So it’s election time again.
No, no, wait! Don’t go! Remember, I don’t really talk politics on this blog, and this is not really a political post–or at least, it’s not the kind of political post that tells you why you’re a bad person (or a good person) if you plan on voting for Candidate A or Candidate B and how evil those assholes planning on voting for the other candidate are. Back in 2008 I wrote a post about why I don’t talk politics here, and…honestly, it was a little depressing to go back and read it, because things have only gotten worse. So, so much worse.
In 2008, I could honestly say that I believed both candidates were good people who would do a pretty good job. The same is not true this year, sadly. Both candidates suck. Both candidates suck so bad that it feels like the set-up to a joke. Years ago I posted the “Douche vs. Turd” South Park song here as a sort of nod-n-wink, just to illustrate, in a humorous fashion, my general feelings about many elections. This year, Douche vs. Turd is not a joke. It is basically the literal illustration of our two choices. Neither of these people deserve to be President. The fact that one of them will be kind of horrifies me and kind of makes me wonder when the punchline is coming and more than kind of makes me want to cry.
But you know what? (Or, “You know whats,” because I have a couple of points to make here.) First, the fact that both candidates are dishonest scum who see the Presidency as some kind of free cash machine, who’d go through your pockets, take everything you have, and then sell you for a quarter if they could and feel justified in doing so because they think you are stupid and disgusting, is kind of our fault–or rather, it’s the fault of the people who have worked so hard over the past, I dunno, fifteen years or so, to divide us and fill us with hate. It’s the fault of people who convince us that we are more different than we are similar and we should focus on the differences more than the similarities; that there are no common experiences; that anyone who disagrees with us is not only against us, but is actively evil and doesn’t deserve to live or speak; that we do not deserve to be proud in any way of any thing; and that society as a whole is just a sea of selfish, wicked morons. It’s the fault of people who go out of their way to insult, degrade, and silence others. Our two candidates are, basically, the result of an environment that convinces us not to see other viewpoints and relate to each other to reach common ground, but to see others as stereotypes rather than people, and set ourselves firmly against them–and convince ourselves that we’re morally in the right as we mercilessly attack and name-call. (And by the way, I have seen examples of all of those things on both sides of the aisle–all over the room, in fact–lest anyone think I’m singling out either side. Also, yes, guys, some people really are just dreadful people. Every place in the world has its share of just plain horrible shitbags; they’re the human equivalent of cockroaches. But there aren’t as many as some would have you believe, there really aren’t. Most people–the vast, vast majority!–are not festering piles of slime.)
But here’s the other thing, the other “you know what” that answers the first. I’m not worried.
Many of you are familiar with my Downside books, and the world they’re set in. Humanity was ravaged by a calamity in which bloodthirsty spirits rose from the grave; millions died. The world is run by a totalitarian atheistic “Church,” that demands obedience in exchange for safety from the dead. Religion, or faith in any sort of god or gods, is illegal. People are only allowed to believe in the Church, and in facts. Because there is no religion and one single world government–one viewpoint on how the world should run–there’s no war, and a lot of unpleasant social problems have disappeared, either because they were products of different belief systems or because there was simply not a large enough population, and people were shaken and traumatized enough, to set that stuff aside and pull together.
Lots of people have mentioned that “atheism” thing, either as something they disliked or something they liked. A few people have asked how it came about. But no one has asked me what it means to me.
The world in these books is, in some ways–some might say more than “some”–better than ours, for the reasons listed above. There are some great, positive things in there.
But it also sucks. It’s awful. It’s full of fear and punishment–not overtly, not in a way that makes everyday life seem other than normal for most people, but it’s still there. People know exactly what will happen when they die: they’ll go to the cavernous underground City of Eternity. Which seems great, knowing what will happen, but at the same time means there’s no mystery, and without mystery there’s no hope. Without hope…well, that’s just despair. The world, even with all of its good points, is not perfect, because the world is made of people and people are not–can not–be perfect. We’re human; we have emotions and dreams and fears, and those mean we’re always feeling things for no good reason or imagining things that aren’t true or whatever.
The people in the Downside books know they’re not supposed to have faith in things. But they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to think certain things, or to want certain things, but they do, just the same. They know they’re not supposed to do certain things, but guess what? Yep. They still do it. They do it all the time. Even in Triumph City, right there under the nose of the Church government, the people of Downside commit every sort of crime imaginable; the Church can’t enforce what it doesn’t know about, and people are not robots. People cannot be programmed to do nothing but spit out the correct answers without any independent thought. The Church may control the law and the enforcement of the law, but it cannot, no matter how hard it tries, control the hearts and minds of people.
And people hope. We hope so hard and so much that we built skyscrapers and went to the moon. We hope so hard, so fucking hard, that every day we pledge to spend our lives together and we have children. We hope so much and so hard that we get out of bed, we say hi to a stranger, we apply for jobs and we start companies and we go meet the neighbors and we adopt pets and drive cars. Every single one of those acts comes with and from hope; everlasting, beautiful hope. We need that hope.
We want to connect with other people. We just forget that sometimes, when we’re angry and feeling ignored and belittled; we forget that not everything is personally directed at us. But when it comes down to it, when things go wrong, we reach out and we help and we listen, and we connect. That’s special and important, and it’s not something you find everywhere. I’m sorry, but it’s not.
This is why I’m not worried about what will happen on Tuesday, not really. Oh, sure, I spend time thinking of worst-case scenarios, but honestly? Our system is set up to avoid those worst-case scenarios. Our Founding Fathers created that system specifically to protect us when we go crazy and vote in a lemon. Presidents are not monarchs; they do not get to create laws out of whole cloth and demand they be enforced. Laws do not leap into being overnight and suddenly become enforced nationwide within hours. Everything takes time. And we have a voice, and we can talk to–talk to, not scream at–each other and make things better if we try.
I’m not saying it’s going to be a great four years. I don’t think it will (I mean, stranger things have happened, but still). But I do think we can get through them together. I hope–I very very much hope–that maybe this will be the thing that re-unites us. (And please don’t tell me “Well, if the Other Side would stop demonizing us–” because I don’t care. Be the bigger person. Everybody has at least one legitimate grievance–yes, they do!–and everybody could stand to extend a hand and try instead of deciding that the pain of others is somehow deserved. No, I don’t care if it is or not. No, I don’t care if yours is worse. Extend the hand anyway, and try to really listen and understand instead of just looking for things to get mad about, and maybe if you do you’ll get the same in return and look, there we’ll all be talking and understanding and buying each other a Coke.) Maybe this will remind us that we’re in this together, and that we can deal with whatever happens as long as we remember that. Maybe we can stop demonizing each other and start trying to accept each other instead, and recognizing that even points and people with which we disagree have value. Even points and people with which we disagree add something to the conversation.
Because if you have a world where those points aren’t allowed, you have a world where no one is free and no one can be trusted. That’s a world without hope. I don’t want to live in that world. I hope you don’t, either.
…This was supposed to be shorter, and more concise, and have a point, though (other than that one, which I’ve been thinking and wanting to say for a long time). The title of this post is “Deals and Dealing,” because it’s about, well, dealing–see above–and deals, which is this part here. Those Downside books I talked about? The first one, UNHOLY GHOSTS, is currently on super-sale in the US: only 99 cents in ebook format. Personally, I think there’s nothing I’d rather do this weekend than hunker down with a book and lose myself in some other world for a while, maybe a world where both of our major Presidential candidates do not make my skin crawl. (And by the way? Vote third party if you want to, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste. Personally, I think maybe if enough people vote third party, then A] those third parties will be inspired to step up their damn game a bit and stop looking unprepared and/or silly; and B] maybe the Big Two will be inspired to realize they’re losing voters and will start trying to speak to us instead of just special-interest groups and corporations. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but again, I hope, and I believe.) Maybe a world that reminds me that no matter how bad things get, there is still hope, and there are still people, beautiful, complicated, messed-up, confused, delightful people who try to be happy and try to help others and try to believe that after all, tomorrow is another day.
But, uh, don’t let that last part inspire you to read GONE WITH THE WIND this weekend. Read my book. It’s only 99 cents in ebook format.
And you can get it here:
Barnes & Noble
This 99-cent deal ends on Saturday the 5th, though, so don’t miss out.
…So that’s what I wanted to say, guys. I know some of you–a lot of you–are scared. I’m scared, too, because the unknown is always scary and getting a new President is always a little scary even if you like the person you’re voting for. But I’ve been listening to dire predictions–which are voiced as certainties–for several decades now, about how Candidate A will definitely start a nuclear war and Candidate B will definitely make abortion illegal, and our country will go to Hell in a fiery handbasket if Candidate A is elected and Candidate B will turn us into some kind of third-world prison camp and Candidate B will make being different illegal and Candidate A will literally take a shit on the Constitution. I’m not entirely joking, either; some of those are real things people said, on national television. I remember being terrified as a child because it seemed like everywhere I looked, people were telling me that Ronald Reagan would start a nuclear war. Funnily enough, though, he didn’t and we’re still here. In fact, I can’t think of a single dire “This will absolutely happen, you guys,” election-year predicertain (get it? Prediction made with the air of certainty) that I’ve ever heard that has come true, and I’ve heard a lot of them. I don’t buy them anymore. You shouldn’t, either, because what all those predictions fail to take into account–again–is that we’re people, and we’re generally good, creative, inventive, smart people who care. We are, and I refuse to apologize for this next statement, Americans, and we will unite, we will reach out to each other, we will find a way to make it work, and we will try to make things better, because that’s what we do. Always. Whoever ends up in office, that won’t change.
And that’s my personal predicertain, because I have faith in you.
What Stace had to say on Friday, October 7th, 2016
This morning I got a little curious.
Since–as you all know–I’ve been largely “offline” for some time (which actually means online, just not getting involved much in the writing/reading community), I haven’t seen any other reactions to the closing of Ellora’s Cave. I’d had a quick look before posting my own blog and hadn’t really seen anything. I decided this morning to have another look, and see what other reactions have been, if there are any. My own post about it the other day had been linked to a couple of times, so I figured I’d start there.
The first one I looked at was over at The Passive Voice, a blog I’m vaguely familiar with–I know I’ve read something there before, but it’s been some time. They basically just quoted the relevant parts of my post (i.e. the EC-related parts), which was, of course, perfectly fine.
But then I read the comments, where people were discussing unpaid royalties and, in a couple of cases, using disbelieving/sarcastic tones to ask where I’ve been the last few years or to sneer at my use of the word “feel” (as in “I know many people felt honestly cheated or betrayed”) because it wasn’t a feeling, some “feely-feeling,” it was fact, and they “don’t know how an EC author could not know…given EC’s principal carrying on all over the internet for at least two years…”
So let’s deal with this a point at a time.
First, I had no idea–absolutely no idea at all–that there were issues with royalties being unpaid. None. I had not heard of this or seen anything about it.
My own EC checks have for the last five years gone to a mail-forwarding service, and from there directly to someone who deposits them for me. I don’t see them. I don’t get the statements*. At some point late last year or early this year I started thinking about getting my rights back (with an eye toward publishing the omnibus I discussed here a few days ago) and made a mental note that I needed to contact EC about getting digital copies of those statements, to see if my books had fallen under the sales threshold for rights reversion. I never did get around to contacting them; I kept forgetting, basically. It wasn’t high on my to-do list.
*I’m sure there are now people reading this and wondering who the hell doesn’t look at her statements or bother with them. But the thing is, my last release with EC was 2008 or 2009–which was the last time I wrote or released a genre romance, btw. Those books weren’t exactly stuffing my bank account with fresh wads of cash at this point.
Which is why I didn’t really notice when those deposits stopped. I honestly forgot about them for a long while, and when it did occur to me, Hubs and I weren’t sure if there was an issue with our mail-forwarder–with whom communication has always been slow–or if checks were just not arriving. Given how low the royalties had fallen it seemed that it could be either. Checking on that went on our To-Do list and, like asking about sales numbers, fell by the wayside. (Things have been extremely busy here in the Kane household for the last year or so.)
I also didn’t pay attention to the rare group emails I got from EC; I skimmed one or two of them, I think, but since I was no longer “actively” publishing with them or writing in that genre, the emails didn’t seem relevant. I’d heard something about the EC/Dear Author lawsuit, but didn’t care, didn’t pay attention, and didn’t go to Dear Author or anywhere else to read whatever blog posts the case was apparently about. I knew it was a defamation suit, but beyond that I didn’t know the details. I still don’t, honestly.
I certainly wasn’t aware of anyone at EC “carrying on all over the internet,” in any way. The reason I wasn’t aware of this, or of any of the above, is because–as I said–I have not been involving myself in the online romance community. At all. For several years. (If you’d like to know why I deliberately removed myself from that online community, then really, the answer to that question is right here in this post.)
One of my publishers closed. It was a place where I had a good experience. I knew some authors didn’t have such great experiences, but all the stories I’d heard–this is all pre-2009, btw; seven fucking years ago–involved things like cover art or edits or personality conflicts. So I posted about how the house has closed, and it makes me personally a little sad because I had such great memories–but, being aware that not everyone had such great memories, I made sure to mention that I knew some people didn’t, that for some people this news was welcomed and celebrated, and that I was genuinely happy for them.
I’ve had issues with publishers myself, in the past. I’ve seen other authors have the same or different issues with publishers. One of the things I’ve always found upsetting and unpleasant about those situations is that, time and time again, when authors attempted to relate their experiences they were shouted down by others insisting that they were liars, that they “couldn’t accept editing,” that they were shills for other houses, that they were just jealous or pissed off about being rejected or any number of other accusations, and that House X was the greatest place on earth, one big happy family, they cared so much about their authors, and how dare some big mean poopyhead claim they were anything other than Messiahs with publishing software.
I didn’t want my post to seem that way, or like the experiences of other authors didn’t matter. So I made sure to mention that I knew some people felt they’d been treated badly and that not everyone had such fond memories. Again, the issues I was aware of were not misreported sales or missing royalty checks. Furthermore, to me, for the purpose of my post, the actual “facts” of these cases were far less relevant than the fact that the authors in question felt they’d been shabbily treated and betrayed.
I didn’t really care, for the purpose of my post, about the actual facts regarding whether Author B’s cover was truly shitty. What mattered to me was that Author B felt her cover was shitty, and did not get the support she expected from her publisher. I didn’t really care if Author Y’s editor was truly brusque or uncommunicative; what mattered to me was that Author Y felt that her editor was brusque and uncommunicative, and that made her feel marginalized, and she did not get the support she expected from her publisher. What mattered to me, also, was that since the details of those stories are now a tad fuzzy (since it’s been seven fucking years or so), I thought it was best not to give any details or even speak about them as if I knew all the facts, so it was best to simply acknowledge that some of my fellow authors had bad experiences which made them feel used/betrayed/cheated/whatever.
I didn’t want anyone to read my post and think I was looking back at EC as The House of Dreams, or that I was dismissing or just plain didn’t give a fuck that for some people, working with them had been a miserable, unhappy experience that they regretted. I wanted to make sure my post didn’t read as a defense of the company, but just as a brief personal note about my own personal experience.
So I wrote that. I said I knew some people felt they’d been mistreated, and that I did not want to erase those feelings/experiences but that I consider them valid. I said I didn’t believe that the publisher had been acting maliciously in the situations I’d heard of, but that didn’t change those people’s feelings or experiences, either. Nor did it mean their experiences or feelings were untrue, or that they were wrong.
It was intended to be supportive. It was intended to show those authors, if they happened to see it, that they and their experiences mattered, and that even though I had good memories of a good experience I hadn’t forgotten them. It was certainly not a defense of the company or all of its actions. It was certainly not intended as some kind of patronizing smirk at those whose experiences were not good or a dismissal of those experiences as mere “feelings.” It was certainly not intended as some sort of lip service, that I could afford to pay as I sat smug in the knowledge that I had my rights back so who gave a shit about anyone else? (For the record, I do not have my rights back.)
And it certainly was not intended to downplay or diminish an issue as serious as inaccurate royalty statements or unpaid royalties, for which there is no excuse or justification.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Well! I’d expected to be back here on the blog sooner, sorry–the girls went back to school, we all got sick, and I’m working my butt off. (Also, I’m allowing myself one hour three days a week to play through the Batman Arkham games on the PS3; I’ve finished Origins and am now halfway through Arkham City. I think City is a little more fun so far, but Origins has more fun things to do. Except for the Bird side mission, because that glitched for me and I never got to finish it grrr. I really wanted the damn “Disarm and Destroy” skill! Anyway.)
I have a couple of review for MADE FOR SIN that I didn’t blog before! First, a really lovely one from B&N:
Stacia Kane has a knack for writing damaged characters. …Kane draws her Vegas with all the casual depravity the city is infamous for, with aging Mafiosi, pick pockets, safe-crackers, fences, compromised cops, chorus girls, and thieves rounding out the cast…. I love Kane’s characters: they manifest a deep and riveting moral ambivalence, acted out in dark and magical worlds.
(It’s actually quite hard to pick an individual quote or two from that review, but the full thing is definitely worth a read.)
It’s About the Book has this to say:
If you like urban suspense with a twist, this book has it in spades. And while it might start off slow and gentle, it silently crawls under your skin and haunts your dreams. I know I’ll be thinking about it.
From All About Romance:
…the chemistry between Ardeth and Speare worked for me. They circle one another suspiciously, come to reluctant truces, and move from begrudging respect to sexually charged friendship in scenes that had me not wanting to put down my reader. This book has elements of romance to it, but it’s definitely more urban fantasy than traditional HEA romance and as with many an urban fantasy series, the ending of Made for Sin leaves things rather open-ended – and left this reader wanting to read the next book in the series right away.
And speaking of my books etc….
I imagine many of you have already heard about the closure of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.
When I started writing seriously in 2005/2006, EC was the biggest name out there in erotic romance. Everyone wanted to be an EC author; it was a goal of mine, and I’ll never forget the day I got that acceptance email from them. I was thrilled.
I know a lot of authors did not have a great experience with/at EC. I’ve heard (a few of) their stories. I know many people felt honestly cheated and betrayed by them, and those stories, those feelings, are valid; their experience was their experience, and just because mine was different doesn’t mean theirs was or is untrue. It’s the nature of publishing, to some degree, that different writers can have wildly different experiences with the same publisher. While I honestly saw/heard nothing that led me to believe EC was being malicious or deliberately mistreating authors, again, that does NOT mean that A) it didn’t happen; and B) that those authors are wrong to feel that they were maliciously or deliberately mistreated. In other words, if there are authors out there telling stories about their ill treatment at the hands of EC, I believe them–I absolutely do–and I’m not at all saying they’re lying or exaggerating.
However. That was not my experience. Not at all, not remotely. My time at EC was–truly!–nothing but pleasurable, professional, and fun. One of the first “I loved your book!” emails I got for UNHOLY GHOSTS came from Raelene Gorlinsky, EC’s publisher, and that was very typical of the way I was always spoken to and treated by everyone at EC. I always felt valued. I always felt professionally treated and like I mattered. EC went out of its way (seriously, out of its way) more than once for me, and I was and am grateful for it. I stopped actively writing for EC because I’d moved in a new direction with my work and didn’t have the time (or the option clauses) that would allow it, but that is the only reason I stopped. I made good money at EC. I loved being, and was proud to be, one of their authors–I always will be proud to have been one of their authors.
Again, I’m not saying others didn’t have different experiences, or that their experiences didn’t or don’t matter or aren’t valid. For them this news is either a sigh of relief or a moment of bitter pleasure, and I understand that, and am happy for them. But for me, EC was a great place. It was a house I loved working with and writing for, and I’m genuinely very sad to see it close down. I wish all of my former EC associates, from writers to cover artists to layout designers to editors (my editor Brianna St. James was, IMO, the best editor at EC, and I adore her and adored working with her) to management the very, very best in future.
However, their closure does mean that the rights to all of my EC books revert to me. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of getting them all together, re-editing them (mostly to remove stylistic quirks put in place due to EC’s rather specific house style, which I admit to never being a huge fan of), and releasing them all–except, of course, for the two I co-wrote with the always-awesome Anna J. Evans–in one big omnibus edition, for a couple of bucks. That would be:
BLOOD WILL TELL
THE EIGHTH WAND
ACCUSTOMED TO HIS FANGS
DAY OF THE DEAD
DAY OF THE DEAD was a novella (which I loved; it was written as a Halloween story [if the title didn’t give that away] and has a big hot-sex-in-a-graveyard scene, heh), but the others are all full-length novels; BLACK DRAGON is my medieval romance, which isn’t erotic per se but still has explicit sex scenes in it, of course, and, in addition to being only the second book I ever wrote, was my attempt to write an old-school-type of romance (so the voice is a little different). I actually re-read BLACK DRAGON recently; I was trying to remember a specific thing in it, so opened up the file and began perusing, and ended up going back to re-read the whole thing start to finish. That was pretty fun–I’ve always had a real soft spot for that book and its characters anyway–and I was pleased to see that, despite the many things about it I would probably do/write differently now, a dozen years or so after I wrote it, I still think it was a pretty good book.
Anyway. The point is, I’ve been considering compiling all those together and releasing them myself, and this is an opportunity to do so. The only hesitation I have, really, is wondering if that’s even something you guys would be interested in. All of the books (except BLACK DRAGON) are paranormals, and BLOOD WILL TELL has lots of action in it (and not just in a that’s-what-she-said kind of way but genuine fighting and car chases and such), but they’re still romance, not UF. ACCUSTOMED TO HIS FANGS is a MY FAIR LADY spoof, even, which has what I still consider to be one of the funniest lines I’ve ever written (my vampire hero, who’s been in hibernation for a hundred years or so, is making toast; he muses to himself that sliced bread is “in his opinion, the greatest invention since the seed drill.” Yeah, maybe it doesn’t sound as funny written out here like that, but I giggled like a loon when I wrote it, and I still giggle at it now). Point is (again) the book is written as a comedy and is supposed to be at least amusing. So none of these books are what you would typically think of when you think of me/my work.
The other hesitation, of course, is if it’s worth doing simply because if you’re interested in my erotic romances, you’ve probably already read them.
So, what do you guys think? Is an omnibus like that something you’d be interested in? Something you’d pay three or four bucks for? Let me know. It wouldn’t take a long time to put together, really, so doing it wouldn’t take me away from any of the other projects I’m working on (aside from Downside [both Book 6 and the second Terrible-POV story], I’m finishing edits on a gothic that my agent and I are both excited about, and toying with an idea for a sort of episodic story, and working on a sexy early-twentysomething [is “New Adult” still a term?] paranormal adventure romance, and considering some options for the dystopian YA whose concept–and thus its chances–that show “Penny Dreadful” completely shat upon, sigh) so that’s not really a concern. It’s more just curiosity/uncertainty if it would sell enough copies to be worth the effort at all.
Soooo…that’s it for today, I guess. I have lots of other stuff to blog about in the coming weeks, but for the moment we’ll end it there.
Goodbye, EC, and thanks for the memories.
Note: Since I wrote this post, I learned some things that, having been away from the romance/erorom genre for seven years, and having deliberately distanced myself from online drama for the sake of my fucking sanity, I was not aware of. Please see my follow-up post here.
What Stace had to say on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Well, it’s here–release day for MADE FOR SIN!
How the time has flown!
I really hope you’re all enjoying it!
Nervous Nell Justice over at One Book Two Book certainly did! She gave it four stars and said:
I loved this book, ok? I’m just getting that out there for all the world to see. The cover guy? Nope, he does not even come close to E.L. Speare, the anithero, and his appearance in my head.
(Note: I only quote reviews here if the review’s author has drawn my attention to them in some way; I don’t go looking for them, and don’t read them otherwise. I’m sure there are more reviews out there if you guys want to check, and I encourage you to do so! As I said last week, this book is something of a departure, so I’m sure there are lots of different opinions on it, which is one of the most fun things about books, isn’t it?)
Barnes & Noble
…it’s also available at iTunes (iBooks?) and anywhere ebooks are sold.
Really looking forward to introducing you to some new and different characters!
What Stace had to say on Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Today is the 25th of August, and I have no fucking idea where this month went! Wasn’t it my birthday, like, yesterday? And didn’t the kids just get out of school a week or two ago? (Actually, here, they did just get out of school in the third week of July, but still.) This summer has flown by, and here we are, only five days before the release date of MADE FOR SIN!
Speaking of which…I believe I mentioned that the book received a STARRED review at Night owl Reviews? Reviewer BookGirl gives it 4.5 out of 5 and states:
This is a must read for fans of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
I’ve been asked if this book is the start of a new series or a stand-alone, and the answer is that I don’t know. When I was asked if I’d like to do the book, it was presented to me as something that could go either way, and I honestly wasn’t sure as I was writing it how it would end. Then the ending appeared (as they do) and ideas for future stories with these characters trotted along behind it. I’d certainly enjoy writing those future stories, because they’re pretty fun and exciting, but I imagine it’s really going to depend on sales and whether or not you lovely people are interested in reading them. Either way, it was fun to write! I haven’t really gotten to do something that’s (intended to have) a more noir-detective-novel feel than a UF or romance feel before, so I definitely enjoyed playing with that kind of sensibility and trying something a little different. (It was/is a little scary, too, but that’s how it goes, really.)
Would you like to see a bit more of that, by way of an excerpt? Of course you would! Here you go:
“So who knows what you’re looking for? Who shot at you?” she asked, leaning against his desk. Like it was her fucking house or something.
“I don’t know,” he replied, aware that he sounded irritated, and not caring. “Who knows what you were doing there? Maybe they were shooting at you.”
“What makes you think—”
“Oh, fuck this.” Having her stand over him as if he were a kid was really getting on his nerves. She was getting on his nerves, like an itch he couldn’t scratch. Maybe that was why he didn’t feel tired anymore. “I’m not playing these little word games you seem to enjoy so much, okay? I’m not that kind of guy. I—”
“Yes.” Her arms were folded across her chest, her legs crossed at the ankle; her voice dripped with meaning. “I know what kind of guy you are, Speare.”
“Then you know I don’t like to waste my time.” She really knew how to make it sting, didn’t she? Damn. “Cards on the table. There are a lot of reasons somebody might take a shot at me, just like I figure there’s a lot of reasons they might take a shot at you. But it probably happened tonight because somebody doesn’t want us talking, which means no matter what we do now, we’re both targets. And the sooner we find the people responsible, the better. Right?”
“I—wait, were you hit?”
He glanced at his arm, his short sleeve and the bare skin below it soaked with blood. The bullet had grazed the back of his biceps, so he couldn’t see the actual spot very well, but he could feel it well enough. That would stop soon, though. One of the few benefits of the beast in his head was that he healed fast—not Wolverine fast, but faster than normal people. “Oh. Yeah. Don’t worry about it, it barely—”
She ignored him and lifted the bloody fabric away from the wound. Maybe Felix was right about how good she was at her work; he barely felt the touch, and he was actually watching it happen. “It looks torn.”
“It only scratched me.” He glanced at it—at what he could see of it—and saw it did indeed look torn rather than scraped. What kind of bullet had done that? Had it been a bullet? “A flesh wound.”
“We should clean it up, though.”
“I can do it.”
“I doubt you can even see it. Come on, quit being a baby and let me clean it up for you.”
Shit. He didn’t want her to do it. He didn’t want her to touch him, not when the pressure in his head was higher than it should have been already. Especially not when he was getting a good look at her in a well-lit room and realizing that her eyes were even deeper and brighter than he’d thought, that her hair was the color of bloody copper and sparks of flame were buried in it like secrets, that his eyes kept wandering up and down her slim figure and watching it move.
“Besides,” she said, “for all we know, those bullets were coated with something unpleasant. The kinds of people we both deal with have access to all sorts of things.”
She had a point there, he had to admit. It had happened before—not to him, or anyone he knew well, but it had happened. And that wound really didn’t look like it had been made by an ordinary bullet.
Damn it. He’d just have to focus on what a pain in the ass she was, instead of on that fragrance that clung to her skin. “Fine.”
“Your place is nice,” she remarked, as he led her down the hall to the bathroom where he kept his first-aid kit. “You have a cleaning woman?”
He pulled out the kit and set it on the counter; his eyes narrowed. “Why? Because a guy like me can’t clean his own house?”
She ignored his glare. “Most men who live alone don’t keep their places this neat, that’s all.”
“Yeah, well, I do.” Of course he did, having grown up in Va-va-voom Vera’s house, with piles of skimpy clothing and magazines and makeup everywhere. His mother was not a housekeeper, in any sense. When he was a kid it had been a special occasion if she’d used the oven to heat a frozen meal instead of sticking it in the microwave. “And that’s not a compliment, you know, saying I’m not as much of a slob as most men. That’d be like me saying you seem pretty smart for a girl.”
“Do I? How sweet of you to say.” Those red lips of hers curved into a smile that was maybe a bit too satisfied, as she poured antiseptic on a cotton pad. “Of course, I imagine you don’t pay much attention to women’s brains in general, so it might be hard for you to judge, but I’ll still say thank you. Take your shirt off.”
He hesitated. Only for a second before he caught himself, but it was long enough; she noticed it. Thankfully he got the thing off before she could make some snotty comment about it, and from the change in the quality of her silence he knew she wasn’t going to. Not when she saw the scars, the marks. The evidence of the kind of life he’d been forced to live was all over his body: places where the talons he couldn’t always control had sliced at him, places where his skin had torn again and again when the beast took over. Places where he’d paid the price for whatever sins he’d committed to keep that from happening, too, where he’d taken a beating or hurt himself escaping.
And, of course, the count. The tidy little lines, one for each person he’d killed and one for every ten mortal sins, tattooed across his chest, each one a ticket to hell all on its own. Three hundred and thirty-two black lines, in slightly uneven rows like a crooked picket fence, etched into his skin over nine years, starting with the upper left side.
That mark—the upper left—had been the first. The first time he’d killed a man. That was the day he realized that all those sins mattered, that he wasn’t a kid anymore and that beast or no beast, he was making choices—choices he’d one day have to answer for. He’d bought a tattoo gun and spent an afternoon learning how to use it, and ever since then he’d been keeping the count, emblazoning his skin with a physical reminder of what his life truly was.
The slightly awkward pause lasted just a second or two longer than it might have normally before Ardeth spoke. “It doesn’t look that bad.”
His chest? Oh, no, right. The wound. “I told you it wasn’t.”
The last word turned into a hiss of pain as she rammed the antiseptic-covered cloth into his injured arm. Maybe “rammed” was the wrong word, but she definitely pressed it against him harder than she needed to. Harder than anyone would even think they needed to. The thing in his head roared. It could feel the pain, too. More than that, it could smell her and feel the heat coming off her skin just as well as he could, and it was hungry and it wanted things he didn’t want to give it. Maybe not feeling tired anymore wasn’t such a good thing.
“Oh,” she said, her tone as artificially sugary as a diet soda. “Sorry, did that hurt?”
He gritted his teeth, trying to keep his own voice smooth and calm. “It’s fine.”
“I can stop for a minute, if you want.” She’d sat on the edge of the tub beside him, angled so she could get a closer look at his arm. The position meant both of her knees pressed against his thigh.
Worse, she’d decided to rest her left arm on his back, her bent elbow on his shoulder and her breath warm and soft against his side. Shit. The beast didn’t care what kind of person she was, whether or not he trusted her or what the ramifications might be if he even thought about making a move—a move she would probably reject, which would make the whole situation even worse. The beast didn’t give a damn what he wanted. It wanted what it wanted, and it wanted to be fed or to bust out and go feed itself—and it was more gluttonous than Henry VIII at a pie-eating contest. It wanted her. He clenched his fists. She’d be done soon, and once she was done he could get her out of his house and go do what he needed to do. “It’s fine. You almost done? I’ve got shit to do.”
“You don’t have to be so rude,” she said, reaching over to grab the ointment and gauze. Her hair swung down off her shoulder, the only color in the whole room blazing at him. “I’m trying to help.”
“I didn’t ask for your help.”
“Yes, you did, actually. That’s why I’m here to begin with.” Her fingers, her palm, slid over his arm, smearing ointment over the wound in smooth, light strokes. Goddamn it.
It wasn’t her. It was nothing to do with her, personally. If he hadn’t been so busy all day, if he’d had time to do what he had to do earlier, the beast would hardly have noticed her and he wouldn’t be sitting there trying not to sweat.
Her next words didn’t help. “And you said out there that we’re in this together. I think you’re right. Whether I help you or not, they’re going to think I am. Whether you told me anything or not, they’re going to think you did. That means neither of us is safe until we find the people who shot at us, so we might as well pool our resources, right? Maybe together we can figure this out faster than we would alone—in my case I doubt it, but I’m okay with helping you out.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” he managed. It was hard enough paying attention to what she was saying, without trying to think of a clever reply, too. His vision was starting to go red; just a little around the edges, and it would ease when the pain did, but it was still not good.
“I never do.” She finished wrapping the gauze around his arm and tore off a strip of tape with her teeth. “I never have to. There’s plenty of people to do that for me.”
“Lot of drunks in this town,” he said.
Tuesday’s the big day!
What Stace had to say on Thursday, April 21st, 2016
As promised yesterday, here is a sneaky peeky (it is so hard to type “sneak peek” without typing “sneak peak,” it really is, but the whole “peak/peek” thing really fills me with pique) at my upcoming novel MADE FOR SIN!
A lot of bad hands get dealt in Vegas, but E. L. Speare may be holding one of the worst: He’s cursed with the need to commit sins, and if he misses his daily quota, there’s hell to pay—literally. Fortunately, his hometown affords him plenty of chances to behave badly.
But Speare’s newest case really has him going out on a limb. The right-hand man of a notorious crime boss has been found dead in a Dumpster—minus his right hand, not to mention the rest of his arm. What catches Speare’s attention, however, is that the missing appendage was severed clean by a demon-sword, a frighteningly powerful tool of the underworld.
Speare’s out of his element, so he turns to a specialist: Ardeth Coyle, master thief, dealer in occult artifacts, and bona fide temptress. Ardeth’s hotter than a Las Vegas sidewalk on the Fourth of July, but she’s one sin Speare has to resist.
The dismembered corpses are piling up, unimaginable evil lurks in the shadows, and if this odd couple hopes to beat the odds, Speare needs to keep his hands off Ardeth, and his head in the game.
Excerpt under the cut…
Read the rest of this entry »
What Stace had to say on Thursday, January 21st, 2016
Florence King has died.
I am heartbroken.
I was nineteen or twenty when I picked up a copy of CONFESSIONS OF A FAILED SOUTHERN LADY. And I fell in love with it. I recommended it to practically everyone I met; I read and re-read it dozens of times. How could you not fall in love with an author who says, “No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street,” as proof that she is still the lady her grandmother wanted her to be? How can you not fall in love with an author who makes you laugh so hard, for so long, and keeps doing it on almost every page? You can’t, or at least I couldn’t, and I was desperate for more.
I was lucky there. Plenty more existed. Over the years I’ve read (almost) all of it, and loved all of it, to the point that for a while I actually subscribed to the National Review just to get her column, “The Misanthrope’s Corner.”
It wasn’t just the humor, or the wit, or the incredibly sharp eye she turned on everything, that made me love her work so much, or keep reading even when I disagreed with her. Florence King’s writing jumped off the page; everything she wrote was elegant, concise, with an edge that could cut glass. This is the woman who, in a review of some turgid literary novel, referred to a long, dull analytical conversation between strangers passing in the night as a “zipless Weltschmerz.” This is the woman who cancels an eye appointment with an optometrist whose receptionist doesn’t know how to spell “King” because, as she says: “If his receptionist couldn’t spell King, what was the optician who hired her like? I wouldn’t trust these baby bloodshots to just anybody, to paraphrase Lynda Carter, so instead of rescheduling the appointment I canceled it.” The woman who referred to a religious gathering as “the Promise Keepers Washington writhe-in.” This is the woman who once wrote a reviewer a letter chastising his positive review of her book because the review was poorly written (Miss King [she was never “Ms.”] reviewed numerous books professionally herself, and all of those reviews were delightful to read).
It’s that last one that speaks the most to what she meant to me, though. Florence King was the first writer I ever read who talked about writing. Who analyzed other writers she admired (an essay on Edna Buchanan was one of my favorites) and what was so admirable about them. She talked about punctuation–I can’t recall her exact words about comma usage here, but she said something about how she liked to use as few as possible so the sentence would just slide down the reader’s throat in one smooth gulp; it’s an analogy I think of constantly while working. She talked about word choice (“Fear of getting mad is so widespread that nobody says mad any more. The word is angry: somehow it sounds less mad than mad,” isn’t the best example, but it’s one I can link to)
and language in general. She talked about passivity in language and weasel-words and phrasing which obfuscates the point. She talked about paring sentences down, getting to the meat, and eliminating all of the side dishes. She talked about words in harmony with each other and the importance of an “ear.” She wrote a long article about GONE WITH THE WIND, wherein–among other things–she discussed some of the literary rules broken by Ms. Mitchell, and how it didn’t matter; it was from her I learned that any character in a story must have a purpose for being there, and that characters without purpose shouldn’t be created (Mitchell broke this rule, specifically in one very subtle way: the strong implication that Rhett Butler had a son with Belle Watling. The child is brought up two or three times, without ever being called Rhett’s son despite the obvious truth that he is, but the potential plot issues which could be caused by such a character are never addressed. Perhaps it’s because only the reader sees all of the comments about him, which means that one character [Melanie] only knows that Belle has a son who lives elsewhere, and another [Scarlett] only knows that Rhett has a young male ward in New Orleans; this put the reader in the fun position of knowing personal secrets that the characters do not, but still doesn’t make any difference to the story itself.)
None of these were part of a specific writing lesson. They were just observations she made while skewering culture or people (or complaining about fact-checkers and copyeditors, which she did hilariously more than once), but they made me think, really think, about how things are written or said. They made me think about how to express what I meant in the best, clearest way. They made me think about how to think, how to draw connections between one thing and another, and point them out. They led not only by explanation but by example.
It wasn’t just writing, though. Miss King had a love of, and a knack with, historical anecdotes and stories. If you do not follow any other links in this post, follow this one, an absolutely fascinating analysis of the Lizzie Borden case (who else could refer to the Borden case as a “zany tragedy?”). It was from Miss King that I learned the gruesome details of Edward II’s death (they shoved a red-hot poker up his ass) and the best story about the importance of punctuation ever told: Edward was imprisoned, and his queen and her lover wanted him dead. Of course, they needed to communicate said desire in writing, but could not actually order it in writing, since regicide is a pretty serious crime. Their compromise was genius. They sent a letter which read, exactly like this, “Kill Edward not to fear is good.”
Place the comma after “Edward,” and see what you have. Now remove it, and put it after “not.” Isabella and her dastardly lover knew what they were doing. That’s plausible deniability if ever I saw it, and it’s the kind of story that makes those of us who love words and language shake our heads in admiration.
The National Review has archived some of her columns–that’s where the links in this post came from, as otherwise it’s hard to find her work online–but that archive isn’t really representative of her entire body of work (which is not really political), IMO, and although the columns contain her trademark wit and style, none of them are her best work, either. That came in her books, from CONFESSIONS to THE FLORENCE KING READER and beyond–the latter contains a chapter from the bodice-ripper she wrote in the 70s (when the term “bodice-ripper” actually fit) under the pen name Laura Buchanan; her description of writing it while drinking glass after glass of bourbon, culminating in her passing out in a closet, is hilarious. If anyone is looking for a place to start as far as reading King, I’d say either of those two titles is the place to go.
And I urge you to do so. I can honestly say that Florence King is part of the reason I became a writer. She made me realize it was possible. She taught me what to do and what to look for. I didn’t always agree with her, but I always loved reading her take on things. She was an inspiration to me, and I cried when I learned that she had died.
RIP, Miss King, and thank you.
***A few other tidbits:
YES, Downside 6 is happening, and I am working on it. Carpal tunnel has been limiting my work-time/word-count a bit, but I’m doing better.
I caught some horrible plague-sickness at Christmas and it took me a couple of weeks to get better. The Brits refer to this sort of cold as a “lurgy,” (with a hard G) and that describes it pretty well.
For Christmas, I bought myself an InStyler–supercheap on Ebay. I like it. It works pretty well. It takes a bit of time to do my hair, but the results are good, and it’s much easier than rolling my damp hair in Velcro curlers and sitting around in them for hours, which is what I’ve been doing.
The Hubs and I are still obsessed with the game Far Cry 3, which he’s been playing on the Playstation 3 since we bought the thing back in the summer(?) According to the game, 115 hours have been spent playing it. Mostly he plays and I watch; we allow ourselves like an hour of this several times a week (I’m not watching him play when I’m supposed to be working, I promise!). If you’re not familiar with video games or don’t know which one to try or whatever, I highly, highly recommend it. (Far Cry 4, which he has also played all the way through, is good, too, but I prefer 3; the scenery is prettier. I was Very Excited when I saw they were using the Himalayas as a setting for 4, but there’s actually very little time spent in the mountains, which was/is disappointing.)
I think that’s about it.
What Stace had to say on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015
Random House has put UNHOLY GHOSTS (ebook format) on sale for 99 cents! The sale ends on Friday, so snap up your copy now, wherever it is that you buy your ebooks.
I am hard, hard at work here, putting the finishing touches on MADE FOR SIN (which I really hope you guys are going to like), editing another new project, and of course working on Downside 6 and the next Terrible-POV book, all of which I’m hoping to be able to give you guys some news on soon.
Everything else (meaning, things that aren’t writing) is kind of falling by the wayside, sigh, but the hubs and I have been really enjoying watching Fargo (we finally sat down to Season One and loved it, and are enjoying S2 almost as much so far) and a couple of other shows–I’ve kind of cooled on The Walking Dead so far this season, but that will change when Jeffrey Dean Morgan shows up, obviously.
Meanwhile, sigh. A friend of ours had a relative who had a pregnant cocker spaniel, and we were really thinking of getting a puppy for the girls for Christmas. Unfortunately, they want waaaaay more money for one than we can afford to spend or are interested in spending (in US dollars it’d be about $800), so we’re a bit disappointed there. When did puppies become so expensive? I remember when you used to see ads for free-to-a-good-home in the paper all the time, but not anymore, at least not here. I know that’s a good thing, of course, because it means spay/neuter rates are up, it’s just odd how much things have changed.
I’ve never really gotten a puppy before–our last dog came from the pound, and that’s usually my first port of call, so to speak. But listen, guys. My girls have never had a pet (aside from their beta fish, Gary, a few years ago, who sadly only lived a few months). They’re both a little scared of dogs (they love them, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not entirely comfortable around them at the moment), so we’d like to get them a baby that they won’t be frightened of or nervous about, that they can be comfortable with and then, of course, keep being comfortable with as it grows. Puppies seem to be incredibly rare at local shelters etc.; we’ve never seen one available, and we’ve been checking their websites on and off for a few years. So we’re thinking we may have to put the puppy plan on hold for a bit, sadly. Of course, since we’d planned this as quite the showstopper gift…again, sigh. Not the end of the world, but still disappointing.
Also disappointing is the fact that this is all the time I have; back to work with me!
What Stace had to say on Monday, September 21st, 2015
When I was in eighth grade, I went on a class trip to Washington, D.C. (which was amazing, btw; I love D.C.). We did all the things people do there: we hung around outside the White House (we didn’t go in, I don’t remember why), we saw the U.S. Mint, we visited the FBI building and saw the 10 Most Wanted list, we wandered around the Smithsonian and saw the Hope diamond, and we went to see the giant pandas at the National Zoo–that was Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, not the current pair. (Also, click here if you want to see something adorable and wonderful and amazing. It will open in a new tab, which you can then keep open all day to check on periodically and feel whatever stress you’re dealing with evaporate. You’re welcome.)
Anyway. When we made our National Zoo visit, the panda exhibit/habitat was being renovated or something–my memory is fuzzy as to what actually was going on, maybe they’d just had a baby?–so the pandas were in a big glass box. And they weren’t doing much. I got bored fairly quickly, and decided to go back to the bus (we were all in a big tour bus) and hang out in there.
Sitting across from me was a girl from my school I didn’t know very well, named Vanessa. She was reading, with the sort of intense focus one only sees when someone is reading a book that has utterly captivated them, a thick paperback. Its cover was black, and across it stretched an image of a gold necklace with a ruby heart in the center. Above and below the necklace were the author and title:
This is the cover I saw.
Jackie Collins, and LUCKY.
I’d heard of Jackie Collins before, but had never really seen one of her books. I’d never read one; in fact, I’d never heard of anyone my age reading one. At that time, although I was (of course) an avid and voracious reader who read YA and adult fiction, I’d never ventured into the world of adult potboiler/bestsellers. So I asked Vanessa about it, and she told me how good it was and even let me borrow it while she went to look at the pandas herself.
I started reading. And I couldn’t–didn’t want to–stop.
For the rest of the trip, Vanessa and I would race to see who could get back to the bus first to read LUCKY, and the first thing I did when we got home was insist my mom take me to the bookstore so I could buy my own copy. I’d never read anything like it in my life: beautiful rich people having copious sex, saying “fuck” every other word, being criminals, killing people, using sex as currency or as a weapon, flying in private jets, cheating on each other, betraying each other, backstabbing each other, spending millions of dollars on jewelry and cocaine, taking cruises on private yachts with their husband’s mistress and then fucking some guy who turned out to be the husband of their stepdaughter and former teenage best friend while at port. Teenage girls ran away to the South of France, where they got drunk and gave blow jobs to sleazy wannabe film directors. Other teenage girls got scammed by bad actors and kidnapped by sleazy mobsters. Actual gay and lesbian sex was described. Everybody murdered everybody else while building hotels and there was family drama and daddy issues and gay porn and strippers and dead lovers and riots and crime everywhere. I was thirteen, you guys. This was the most incredible book I had ever read in my life.
Vanessa and I became friends, and she told me all about the first Santangelo book, CHANCES, which I of course immediately grabbed a copy of. I remember my mom taking me to the library to check out more Jackie Collins novels, and her having to give her permission to the librarian so I could do so (would that still happen today?). HOLLYWOOD WIVES, HOLLYWOOD HUSBANDS, THE STUD, THE BITCH, THE WORLD IS FULL OF MARRIED MEN, LOVERS AND GAMBLERS…whatever I could get my hands on, I read, though none of them captured me the way the Santangelo books did.
Now, I fully understand the…shall we say, limitations…of Jackie Collins’s books, literary-speaking (I know that’s wrong, but it sounds funny). I just don’t give a damn, because my goodness, they’re fun as hell, aren’t they? Ridiculous and silly and over-the-top, crazy, dirty, trashy fun. I still love them. I will always love them (and I’m still planning a project that will hopefully have all of the same trashy, over-the-top fun). The novels of Jackie Collins helped show me what was possible in a book, just as much as the novels of Stephen King or Richard Matheson or Edgar Allan Poe, or Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters (whose books I devoured at age twelve and still adore), or Herman Wouk, or Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Charles Dickens, or Orwell or Tolkein or Harper Lee or any number of other writers with incredible stories did. I never realized you could write books like Jackie Collins wrote; I’d never been exposed to anything like them before. I’d certainly never realized that they were something girls my age could read–while I’d read plenty of books written for adults, her books seemed like books for ADULTS, if you know what I mean, far beyond the comprehension or enjoyment of someone my age. (A few years before that, I’d found a book in one of the cabinets in our basement called THE CHOIRBOYS, by Joseph Wambaugh [some of you are probably chuckling right about now]. The cover copy described it as “shocking,” so I thought I’d give it a read. I think I gave up after three or four pages, having become simultaneously bored, confused, and terrified–I vividly remember something about a dead person with dog poo in his or her mouth, and deciding that was not the kind of “shocking” or “adult” I’d been looking for and furthermore who would want to read that?) (Apparently it is a very good book; I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it or reading it, of course, just that at twelve or thirteen it seemed horrifying.)
I’m starting to ramble and digress, so I’ll get to the point of all this.
Jackie Collins died on Saturday. I’m sad about it, although I admit I haven’t read one of her books in some time–actually, the last one I read was LADY BOSS, when it came out in paperback, so yeah, it’s been a while. That doesn’t change the fact that they were a huge influence on me, and that I will be forever grateful that I met Vanessa on that long-ago trip and she introduced the barely-a-teenager me to this incredible, sparkling adult world, where sex and wealth dripped off the pages to infect me with possibilities. Her books were about giants; larger-than-life, slightly insane, sometimes unlikable, oversexed, wealthy giants who made up for what they lacked in gravity and humanity by being flashy and tough. I remember trying a few other potboiler-y books, looking for something that would give me that “Jackie” rush, and being sadly unable to find any. (I think my favorite out of those others was Sidney Sheldon’s MASTER OF THE GAME, although there wasn’t enough crazy sex in it for me. Harold Robbins left me cold, though I imagine I might enjoy his books more now. Danielle Steele was too tragic and sentimental for me, though she enjoyed quite a period of vogue among the girls at my school during our freshman and sophomore years. I never could get into Judith Krantz or Rosamunde Pilcher.) No one could compare to Lucky Santangelo and the collection of mobsters, prostitutes, models, politicians, businessmen, actors, and idiots who peopled her world.
So thank you, Jackie Collins. Thank you for blowing my thirteen-year-old mind, and thank you for showing me that you could do anything, go anywhere, in a book. That there were no limits. You will be missed.
What Stace had to say on Friday, September 4th, 2015
A while ago I was wandering around the IMDb page for “The Departed.” I imagine it won’t be much of a surprise to many of you for me to say that I fucking love The Departed, but just in case: I fucking love The Departed.
Anyway. As is my wont, I had a look through the discussion threads for the movie; there is often fun to be had there, even if it’s of the “Really?” sort. (Example of fun: A thread on the Unforgiven page suggests that maybe William Munney moved to San Francisco, where, in order to put his criminal past behind him forever, he changed his name to Callahan. Seventy-some years later, his great-great-grandson Harry becomes a cop. Silly, maybe, but I thought it was fun.) The discussion I saw is either no longer there–since IMCb has started ruthlessly deleting discussions after a short period of time, which is very annoying–but it was basically somebody sniffing snootily (say that three times fast) about how The Departed sucks, because they had to add some dumb happy ending to it and Americans always have to ruin movies with their stupid endings that imply the world isn’t a miserable shithole. Dumbasses!
(I note that in the current discussions there’s a discussion which will be the subject of another post in future.)
Many of us are probably familiar with these wet-blanket sneerers at happy endings, since anyone who’s spent any time in the “book world” has seen them. I bet you have. You know, the ones who insult women’s fiction as a category and the genres within it as “stupid trash” because the endings are usually happy and that’s just dumb because what idiot wants to read a book where the characters are happy in the end? Really, what sort of moron enjoys it when things work out for other people? Don’t the readers of those genres, or of any books where the ending is anything less than an apocalypse of misery and death, know that in the real world things don’t always end happily? How stupid do you have to be, to enjoy reading something uplifting when you could be spending a nice afternoon being reminded of the world’s inhumanity and that that no matter what you do, you’re likely to end up screwed (in a bad way)? Dumbasses. People who like books with happy endings or movies with happy endings are clearly barely above a dog in terms of intellectual capacity, and also are cowards who bury their heads in the sand.
Can you tell from the above just how much these misery-gut thought police annoy me?
I don’t think there’s much purpose behind pointing out that, as bad as things might be, in the real world things often do work out for people. If in the real world people never got married and spent their lives together, then maybe we could agree that books in which the protagonists do exactly that are “unrealistic.” But they do. It happens every day. I’ve been married for over fifteen years, and while we’ve had a few less-then-perfect periods–as most couples do–we are still quite happy together. I’m aware of more than a few others, who’ve been married far longer, and are still pretty happy to spend time together.
But it’s not just romances/stories with strong romantic elements, I hasten to point out. Again, this all started (partly) with a discussion of The Departed, where the term “happy ending” fits loosely at best. The complaint there seems to be that revenge was gotten, or at least vengeance was served. Thinking people know that just because vengeance was served doesn’t mean anyone is happy; the dead certainly do not come back to life. To say that’s a “happy” ending makes me wonder just how much you hate people, and if you will ever consider your personal revenge on humanity complete.
But honestly, the point is not how mean people who sneer about happy endings are and how they probably kick puppies in their off hours. (No, really, it’s not.) And–honestly, again–I don’t insist on them in everything myself, and have been known to enjoy plenty of books and/or movies where the ending is ambiguous or downright unhappy. I’ve even hated a few happy endings which I felt were tacked on or unearned or just plain shitty–I’m looking at you, Natural Born Killers.
But in general. I don’t think turning up your nose at a story with a happy ending (and anyone who enjoys it) while drawling about how much better it is when stories are realistic, like real life, man, not inane and sappy (as if real life is not inane and sappy sometimes), and how stupid it is for people to like happy endings and how American movies should be more like European movies because they’re real and nobody is ever happy in them and nothing ever works out in the end. Which, wow, sounds fun, but also, can we please get over the idea that it is somehow intellectually superior to wish ill on others, and that it is some kind of virtue to expect everything to be shitty and horrible and that doing so makes you a person of fine and elevated tastes far beyond the average in some fashion?
It’s not. I promise. And you’re not either, Joe Misery. There’s nothing virtuous or clever or special about thinking it sucks when other people find happiness, and that’s what you’re doing when you get all grumpyass about happy endings: You’re saying that it’s wrong–it’s dumb or it’s naive–to take pleasure in the joy of others (because in its essence, taking pleasure in a the happy ending of a story is really taking pleasure in the joy of others, isn’t it? Being glad that things worked out for them, that they overcame their obstacles and found happiness at the end? We don’t smile and sigh because the protagonists ended up miserable and alone and it’s made us feel better about our own shitty lives of existential horror–at least, we don’t if we’re decent people and the characters are, too [I make no apologies for being glad when hideous evil characters get what’s coming to them]. It’s nice to be pleased when other people are happy. It’s virtuous and good. It’s kind. It indicates that you have positive human emotions instead of being riddled with envy and hate and rage.
And I have to admit, it’s that last part that always crosses my mind when I come across some “Why do you people want a happy ending, you simps,” person. Why don’t you want one, man? What is it about things working out okay for other people that you find so offensive? Why do you want people to be unhappy? Is schadenfreude so noble that you want to pat yourself on the back for it, really? Do you think you’re actually imparting some earth-shaking wisdom by reminding people that things aren’t always great for everyone all the time? Or are you really just stomping on the only joy someone might have, in the middle of a shitty patch–the only joy to be had by someone whose life could very well be a hell of a lot worse than yours, by the way, Mr. or Ms. Emotional Bully?
Of course the world can be a cold and miserable place. We all know that already, and don’t need you to tell us. That’s why we need happy endings. And happy endings aren’t just about fooling us into thinking things could work out for us, too, or whatever. They’re about reminding us that they sometimes do, and that even when things look awful and we’re at our lowest, there could still be something good around the corner. It’s like playing the lottery, but everybody wins. That’s a good thing. And it doesn’t deserve anyone’s contempt.
(Note: Yes, my tongue is slightly in my cheek as I write this, and I’m not referring to people who disagree with a particular ending to a particular story or even people who simply prefer ambiguous endings. I’m talking specifically about people who feel the need to insult others who do like happy endings, and who act as though there’s something especially clever or cool about not liking them; that’s what I take issue with. Also, about halfway through this post I began feeling like I was writing some sort of obscure porn about massage parlors; the double entendres are just everywhere, aren’t they? But it couldn’t be helped.)