Thursday, September 3, 2015
Alma Boykin's 'Elizabeth of Donatello Bend', and Life Isn't Fair.
I am gradually developing a book review/blog format. I have to separate those two things, because I talk about stuff in my blog that don't really appropriately fit into a book review. Here's what I think is the best format: I review the book on Amazon first, then I copy that review into my blog. However, the blog-specific material, I add in FRONT of the Amazon review. Umm, that's what you are reading right now, by the way: the non-review stuff. Warning: minor rant ahead.
The other day on Mad Genius Club, the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess talks about the split between popular, escapist books and books which feature nasty people doing nasty things without retribution. In that essay, she points out that authors do not have a captive audience.
That's not fair. I WANT a captive audience. I want a HUGE captive audience. Why don't I HAVE a huge captive audience? Well the answer to that last is simple: the 'captive' part doesn't exist, and the huge part is theoretically possible, but my writing is not known outside of we few. The most popular blog post I ever made gathered 510 hits; there were two more, on controversial topics, that were in the 300 range, and one, on a topic that tore all of our hearts out, that was in the 200s. I have lots in the 100+ range. But mostly, if it's on a topic I'm not pushing on other people's facebook pages, I get 50 pageviews on a good day.
I've got to go further, though, and explain WHY I want a huge, captive audience: I am reviewing WONDERFUL books, with great characters, great storylines, marvelously well written, and (gulp) in a lot of cases, nobody appears to have heard of them, either.
This is ridiculous. Haven't you ever found yourself thinking 'there's nothing for me to read?' Now, I always have SOMETHING to read. I've got a downstairs book, and an upstairs book, and I keep an ancient copy of 'Profiles In Courage' in my truck. But there have been times when I wanted something NEW to read, and didn't have anything. If you are a conspicuously consuming reader like me, then you know the joy of discovering a previously unknown-to-you writer, who has written prolifically. Book after book after book, just waiting for you! CHRISTMAS TIME, BABY!
Well, see, THAT'S why I want a huge captive audience. I'm finding these GREAT books, and as far as I can tell, based on the number of Amazon reviews, they just aren't selling a lot of books. THAT'S NOT FAIR!
Let me give you a couple of examples:
John Van Stry. Now, fortunately, he IS getting a bit of attention now, but not nearly enough. I count 12 books, and only four of them have what I would regard as a decent number of reviews.
Laura Montgomery. Four books, and they are all EXCELLENT, and her max # of reviews? 19.
Sabrina Chase. Thirteen publications, by my count, and only ONE of her books has hit 51 reviews.
JL Curtis. Three books. Now, his AVERAGE is a little better, but maybe that's because his genre is different, I don't know. What I do know is that everybody who ever enjoyed watching a Jimmy Stewart Western would love the Grey Man.
Look, I could go on for pages of this. But here's my point, once again: IT'S NOT FAIR!!! These writers should be having to open up new BANKS to keep up with their pictures of dead white men on green paper.
Sigh. I've got to write more. Maybe I could do what George r r Martin did, and include a mention of wimmin with nekkid boobs in every blog post, and then kill their family.
And now, here's the Amazon review a GREAT example of WONDERFUL work thus far ignored:
In my review of the first book, Elizabeth of Starland, I pointed out that the author has made me aware of two conventions when writing about hero-women by violating them.
In the first place, Elizabeth isn't drop-dead gorgeous. She has a big nose and no chin, and she keeps her mousy brown hair chopped off short. In the second place, she has a really rough time with her menstrual cycle.
I haven't yet decided whether her plain features are a real problem for her or not. She has adamantly refused to develop an infatuation with anyone, and that might have been more of a problem if she had hordes of suitors.
As a landowner with demonstrated military skills, Elizabeth has to raise and train the men on her land to be militia, and then to lead them into war. That's when her cramps hit, it seems.
Both of these characteristics serve to make her a real person; someone was commenting about growing tired of the 'hero-engineer' who can fix anything and invent anything; that's not Elizabeth. However (!), she DOES know how to read a map; she also knows how to provision an army in the field, and she knows how to select competent subordinates who can provide training to her troops. She also keeps in mind always that her troops are primarily farmers, and she owes them the right to return to their homes and families so that the crop can be gotten in.
She encounters all sorts of resistance from her peers, who refuse to even consider placing themselves under her command. In one case, the artillery commander has near-fanatic religious beliefs about artifacts from the Landers, who colonized the planet from Earth. That causes him to explicitly forbid Elizabeth from establishing sentry posts near some lander ruins, and it costs them when enemy snipers attack.
The most stinging and unfair treatment of Elizabeth comes at the hands of the son of her neighbor, an impetuous young man who has never been in combat, yet fancies himself to be a great warrior. Will he get his comeuppance?
There is more than a hint that Elizabeth may have a suitor, despite her unfortunate appearance. Nothing is ever made explicitly clear, but the emperor's younger brother, the Archduke Lewis, is certainly in her vicinity a lot, and he writes her a lot of letters.