Writers: It’s Fine to Like Your Work

My friend, Olivia, posted this blog today about an experience common to writers: Thinking you suck.

It got me thinking about my own involvement with my work. As you know if you’ve read much of this blog, I’ve been writing almost since I can remember. Making up stories. Some have worked and some haven’t so much. Some I got bored with. Some I couldn’t pull off. Some I completed, but didn’t have the chops at the time to translate the grandiose idea to the page. Some turned out to have themes I honestly didn’t want to explore, but trying to ignore them or gloss over them made the work superficial. Some I wrote a lovely first half, put it aside for a while, and forget what was supposed to happen. But I can’t truly say I’ve ever thought my work sucked. Not really. Sure, I get nervous when I hear people are reading it or it’s out for review. I might wonder, “Oh shit, what if it sucks? What if all the good reviews are flukes and THIS ONE PERSON’S negative opinion is the true one?”

This is bullshit, by the way. Even a reviewer’s opinion is only an opinion. Not every book meets with approval from every reader. I’ve hated enough popular books to know this. Unfortunately, it’s common for everyone pursuing some kind of public art to have these kinds of questions. When I was doing my radio show, I could get ten calls from people who thought it was wonderful, and still the single caller who said, “I hate this music! Why are you even on the air?” was the one I remembered. The one who ruined my night.

Anyway.

The point I mean to make is, though there are things I haven’t finished and things that haven’t worked for various reasons, I have never actually in my heart of hearts believed my work categorically sucks. Yes, it can be frustrating. But I believe in my writing ability. I do not suck. My words do not suck. My use of language does not suck. My characters do not suck. Etcetera, ad infinitum.

I mentioned this to my friend, Jennie, and she said: “That’s because you’re a gift to the world of writers: you actually KNOW and can admit when your stuff is amazing.”

This made me angry. Not at Jennie, or at her words, but at the prevelant attitude that writers are supposed to hate themselves and their work until someone else tells them not to. I have been involved with a great many other arts, and in my experience it’s an attitude that you don’t have to deal with anywhere else. Not in music, not in theater, not in dance, not, in my limited experience, in visual arts. (Well, maybe in some types of dance. If you have really bad teachers.) But writers, who already tend to be vulnerable, introverted, and fearful of sharing their passion, are encouraged to hate themselves in the name of personal growth.

New Flash: Hating yourself does not in any way contribute to personal growth. It might give you an impetus to change. But once you’ve decided to do the work, it just gets in the way.

Right now I see this attitude contributing to the Self vs. Trad publishing wars. Militants in the Self camp are tired of “gatekeepers” deciding what does and does not constitute good writing–especially since a lot of Trad publishing seems to care less about writing quality that it does about trends that will sell and fitting within some arbitrary appropriate word count. Militants in the Trad camp are worried about their hard work being devalued if just anybody can do it, and point to the unfortunately large number of self-published books whose authors have not taken the time or paid the attention necessary to turning out a professional, finished product. (And in case you wonder, although I chose self-publishing, I am not in either camp. I’m very glad that writers have a wide variety of options these days and I think you should pick what works for you. I ALSO think you need to put your work under objective eyes before publishing it and spend as much time cleaning it up as you did writing it in the first place.)

So what causes this attitude? How is it we encourage writers to practice self-hate? Well, I see a couple of things. One is the way we tend to view writers, particularly novelists, as inhuman creatures who kind of pop into being, like Athena springing from the skull of Zeus. Unless a writer has a particularly interesting (and often tragic) life story, we forget them. In school–at least in my school–we studied literature, but we paid very little attention to the process that produces it. I can tell you about Freytag’s Analysis and how it applies to Virginia Woolf. I can’t tell you Virginia’s relationship with her characters, or how she discovered the road from Point A to Point B.

Another thing is, writers might be great poets or story-tellers, but it doesn’t mean they know the first thing about communicating as human beings. One of the most traumatic things that I have experienced in my writing process took place at the Naropa Summer Writing Program, which I attended in 1986. At the time I was writing poetry almost exclusively, partly because that was the focus of the program and partly because college level creative writing at the time meant writing poetry. The End. (Aside: I never, ever, have taken a course that explains in clear, concise detail how to write fiction, much less genre fiction. Analysis, yes. How To Do It, no.) So, I was in a workshop with a famous and rather brilliant poet, and I was asked to share what I was working on. I did, and the famous and brilliant poet reamed me up one side and down the other for presenting such garbage and wasting his time, and why the fuck did I think I could write, and on and on and on. I was in tears. Afterward, almost everyone else in the class came to me privately to say the guy was out of line and my poetry was actually rather lovely. But that incident sticks with me. With the perspective of time, I have come to think a couple of things: This brilliant and famous poet was AN ABUSIVE ASSHOLE who got off on screaming at people with less power than he had. And possibly, just possibly, he had no idea how to talk to another person or how to give effective critique. To say, “You know, this theme is interesting, but you should look at tweaking the phrasing here and using a more powerful word here.”

This is something I’ve learned over the years. I’ve mentioned it before, and I will no doubt do so again: People. Please. Learn to give effective feedback. Any writer worth his or her salt should understand that the world is not black and white. “You suck” and “You’re great!” do not constitute anything I need to listen to.

Because some writers don’t actually communicate well, we get nauseating little sound bites of technique advice. You know what’s coming, don’t you? Yes, my all-time least favorite thing ever: Kill Your Darlings!

darlings

When I first heard this, I thought it meant you should kill characters you’re attached to because it will be good drama. (FACT: When I started writing the Caitlin Ross books, I thought, “I’m going to have to kill Timber at some point, aren’t I? Because it would be good drama.” I have since gotten over this. Timber will continue to go through immense shit from time to time, but I’m not going to kill him.)

Later, I learned that “Kill Your Darlings” means you should eliminate any paragraph or phrase you’re attached to.

Hmmmm.

Okay, I will admit there is something to this. My favorite poetry prof, Ken Mikolowski, said it like this: “If you have a poem with one excellent, shining line, you should probably axe that line because it will stick out like a sore thumb. Instead of it shining, it will bring down the whole rest of the work by comparison.” Irish singer Niamh Parsons spoke of voices blending in a choral situation: “You don’t want one or two people going off into ornamentation, even though they might do it in a solo piece. In a choir, the whole sound is what matters.”

Your novel is a choir, with many voices blending to create a smooth whole. So yeah, a single, shining line, a line you love, that you think is so awesome, might have to go to preserve the whole.

However. I see a lot of writers doing THIS:

“Kill my darlings, kill my darlings, Ima axe everything I think is good because I DON’T KNOW WHAT GOOD REALLY IS AND I SUCK!”

Back up. What was that? Okay, yeah: we all fall victim to hyperbole and the occasional purple prose. Especially those of us writing Epic Fantasy. It goes with the territory. But there’s a huge difference between being able to recognize when you’ve taken a description or a turn of phrase too far and actually sucking. “I suck” is a value judgment. It isn’t helpful, and it only makes you feel bad. “This doesn’t work here” is something else entirely.

When you get right down to it, I am a terrifyingly practical person and I like practical solutions. I am always going to ask what works and what doesn’t. This is a question more writers need to learn to ask in a way that doesn’t make them throw up. Does it work? Why or why not? If it doesn’t, how can I fix it? And you know what? If it works, it’s totally all right to like it. Be proud of it, even. You’ve done something not everyone can do, and that’s a good feeling! You’re allowed to feel good about your passion! Society often sets us–people in general–up to dismiss ourselves. We don’t want to appear stuck up or, gods forbid, “Get the Big Head.” But in the words of Sherlock Holmes,

“My dear Watson, I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”

Or in the much shorter phrase attributed to Apollo: “Know thyself.”

It’s good to evaluate and discern. It’s good to be able to apply a critical eye to your work, to find and fix the flaws. But flaws don’t mean you suck. Being critical doesn’t mean you suck. They just mean you’re not done.

Writers: Start practicing liking your work. It’s okay. It’s even beneficial. Once you get rid of that load of baggage weighing you down, think of all the places you might go!

Advertisements

Blog Tour: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

Welcome to another edition of the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me Blog Tour! I was tagged for this tour by Jennie Davenport, author of the forthcoming Swoon Romance title, Hemlock Veils, and all-around trouble-maker. I met Jennie on Twitter just about a year ago through a subject unrelated to writing. We hit it off right away, but I didn’t know she was a writer until a pitch contest in July–the same one where Jennie got both her agent and her publishing contract! Jennie adapts classic fairy tales into a modern, romantic setting. Her stories are full of vivid characters, original insight, and exciting conflicts. I can say this with some assurance because I’ve had the pleasure of being a Beta reader on both her first and second novels. You should definitely check her out.

So, me again.

The First Thing you may not know about me is that there isn’t a whole lot I keep under wraps. Or, you may actually know this if you follow this blog and/or my Twitter account. I’m an introvert inasmuch as social situations drain me rather than energize me and I have a difficult time in a large group of people or an unfamiliar setting. But once I get comfortable, the filter comes all the way off. I’m extremely outspoken and opinionated, and I have no qualms about discussing forbidden subjects and dissecting sacred cows. Some people find this disturbing. I honestly don’t set out to challenge or upset anyone. I simply find examining deep issues WAY more interesting than trivialities. But I’m perfectly willing to drop it or back off if you ask nicely.

That being said, the rest of this blog may turn out to be a hodge-podge of random shit no one cares about and TMI. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all good. But some of you might want to quit while you’re ahead.

Not quite this bad...
Not quite this bad…

The Second Thing you don’t know about me: I have preternaturally fast-growing fingernails. I mean, those suckers grow fast. I can cut them short, and the next thing I know they’re interfering with normal activities like typing and scrubbing the toilet. (PSYCHE! My husband is the toilet-scrubber in our house.) When I break one, I don’t even care, because it’ll grow back in a couple days. In spite of this, I don’t paint them or do anything interesting with them. I use my hands a lot, so the times I’ve tried to make my nails pretty it lasts a day at most before the polish chips or something, and I end up taking it off because I don’t have time for all that. Also, I’m not very good at a lot of “normal” girly stuff. I keep out of my fingernails’ way, and do my best to make them keep out of mine. And that’s it.

shoes

The Third Thing you don’t know about me: I love shoes. My favorite job ever was working in a shoe store, one of the old-fashioned kind, where we sat people down and measured their feet and brought out boxes and boxes of possibilities. I was the shoe fitter for the dance shoe department, which meant I helped a lot of girls find toe shoes and jazz shoes and character shoes for Flamenco dancing. Yet, I hate WEARING shoes. The first thing I do when I get home from being out is take my shoes off. And most of the time when I do wear shoes, they’re Birkenstock clogs. Like this:

Mine are the same color, but much older.
Mine are the same color, but much older.

They’re better for my feet and easier to kick off. I also wear a size nine and a half. This is the size that no one makes for some reason. At least, no one who sells cheap shoes makes it. In cheap shoes, there’s a noticeable absence of a half size between size nine and size ten. In men’s shoes, they don’t make eleven and a halfs. No one knows why this is.

The Fourth Thing you don’t know about me: I would give anything to have children. When I was a kid, I swore I’d never reproduce because my family was so dysfunctional, but by my twenties I wanted kids of my own. Girls, preferably. But I didn’t want to be a single mother, so I was really careful and waited for the right person to come along. I didn’t get married until I was 34, and by then the biological clock was ticking pretty loud. Well, despite the fact that most of the women in my family are super fertile, I’m not. I miscarried twice, which was the worst thing I’ve ever been through. Then I got super depressed and figured that was not the best time to try to reproduce, since I couldn’t even take care of myself. And there’s been an ongoing theme of severe poverty in my life. I never wanted to raise a kid in poverty. Anyway, by the time I got over the depression and realized I still wanted kids, I was 47 and it was too late. It breaks my heart every day, and Mother’s Day is the worst day of the year for me. But maybe the most awful thing is, I still hope! I still believe in miracles. I wish I could let it go, but I just can’t.

The Fifth Thing you don’t know about me: Before the five-year depression when I literally never left the house and did nothing but sit on the couch and stare at the walls, I kept a huge vegetable and herb garden. One year, because it seemed like fun, I entered a bunch of stuff in the county fair. In case you’re a city-dweller, this is an event particular to rural communities where people get to show off their crafts, crops, jams and jellies, pies, paintings, and everything in between. It’s kind of a dying American tradition, unfortunately. In Delta County, Colorado, where I live, a lot of younger people–especially those who have moved in from less rural areas–don’t participate, even if they’re big into organic foods and local eating. Personally I think this is a damn shame. Anyway, much to my surprise, I won a ribbon in every category I entered, including several firsts. So if you want to know who makes the best grape jelly and grows the nicest culinary sage in Delta County, Colorado, that would be me. Or at least it was at one time.

On a somewhat related note, the Sixth Thing you don’t know abut me is: I love doing various arts and crafts. The only prize I ever won at summer camp (which I detested, by the way [the camp, not the prize]) was for arts and crafts. Which was considered a completely UNCOOL activity, so my triumph there did nothing for my social reputation. At one point in my life I made most of my own clothes. I made my wedding dress. My main love is for beautiful fabrics and elaborate costumes. I also made the garb Michael and I wore for all the Lord of the Rings midnight showings.

A much younger me. Yes, I made that. Boning and all.
A much younger me. Yes, I made that. Boning and all.
The LOTR garb.
The LOTR garb.

Right now, what I’m mostly doing is crochet, making juju bags to give away as swag at my book launch. (AUGUST 2! BE THERE!) Long ago, when I got my tattoo, the artist was displaying a bunch of these tiny little crocheted bags in the foyer of her studio. I saw them and thought, “Hey, I could make those!” So I bought some thread and set about figuring it out. Mine are much nicer than the ones I copied, because I learned how to add beads and stuff.

 

Both the crafts and the county fair ribbons can be attributed to something my family calls “The Grandma Lampe Gene.” I don’t remember my grandmother well, but apparently in her younger years she was a real spitfire, who once, when her family shut her in the closet as a punishment, retaliated by spitting in everyone’s best shoes. She was born in Sweden and spoke nothing but Swedish until she was adopted by a well-to-do American family at age five. And she was Greta Garbo’s second cousin. So yeah: I have a completely valid excuse for the numerous times I have said “I vant to be alone.”

Book swag! Get yours at the Demon Lover Launch August Second!
Book swag! Get yours at the Demon Lover Launch August Second!

The Seventh Thing you don’t know about me: Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since second grade, I had a couple other careers in mind. Back in high school I wanted to be a rock star like Ann Wilson of Heart. Unfortunately at that time, in the EXTREMELY hidebound culture of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, being a rock star wasn’t something girls did. At all, and particularly not if they failed to conform to societally-accepted notions of beauty and popularity. Although I do have a good friend who was a superb bassist. I don’t know how much shit Stef got for it, though. Anyway, that ambition got crushed pretty quick. I also wanted to be an actress. I started doing character roles in sixth grade to much acclaim from adults and much sneering from peers who told me that consistently being cast as the ugly/dizzy/crazy old spinster was obviously “type-casting.” My best role, and my favourite, was that of Bananas in John Guare’s House of Blue Leaves. It was also the only leading role I ever got, mostly because it’s as much a character role as it is a lead. I’m proud of my character roles now, but at the time I wanted more than anything to get the silly ingenue part, because I felt it would validate me as an attractive female person. No director ever explained to me that character roles actually require more skill or understood why I agonized over them, or why I cried at being told the leading lady “just wasn’t me.” But those roles followed me everywhere. Even in the green room, other cast members would ride me mercilessly about being unattractive and unwanted and prudish and whatever quality the role called for. Because of this, I eventually gave up doing theater, except for a couple local productions I’ve done since moving to rural Colorado. And you know what? When I get cast in the character role, it still hurts.

The Eighth Thing you don’t know about me: I love Ice Hockey. Well, since I hail from Red Wings territory, this shouldn’t be much of a shock. It’s the only team sport I have any feel for. It’s just so beautiful to watch. Actually, I think it’s the only sport that improves being viewed on TV, because the long shots show you the patterns of the player’s movements over the ice, the way they swoop and dive like flocks of birds. Just gorgeous. One thing my old high school has got right in recent years: They now have a girl’s varsity ice hockey team. Good for them!

The Ninth Thing you don’t know about me: I am extremely flexible. I mean, often more flexible than the people demonstrating poses on my yoga videos. Although there’s this one chick with whom I can’t compete. Even with the weight I’ve gained in the past few years, as out of shape as I am, I can still put my ankle behind my neck. This is a completely useless ability, but physical flexibility can be interesting in other realms that are none of your business. I’m quite grateful for my flexibility, because my dad had horrible joint problems from a very young age and was in pain for most of his life, even after getting both knees replaced. I may have problems, but at least I don’t have those problems. Thank all the gods.

I'll just leave this here.
I’ll just leave this here.

And last, the Tenth Thing you don’t know about me: I’m the smartest person in the room. This is not to blow my own horn. It’s simply a fact. You may know I’m smart, but unless you’re a close friend, you probably don’t know how smart. Not that it really means anything, but on my last official IQ test I scored 175, and I was blind with a migraine at the time. Even my dad, who was pretty grudging in the praise department, once said I was the smartest of his children (he said it to someone else, who later told me. Gods forbid he’d actually say such a thing to me in person!). And I have a brother who has a PhD in Organic Chemistry, who makes a living inventing drugs for a major pharmaceutical company, and a couple of sisters who are bigwigs in other medical fields. But I’m not just smart about book learning. I’m smart about people, and relationships, and the unspoken things that go on beneath the surface of life. I’m good at seeing and analyzing patterns, but I can also pick out details. The downside of all this is I get bored SUPER EASILY. It’s extremely difficult for me to stick with an activity or conversation that doesn’t stimulate me. I’m also very impatient with people who can’t keep up, and I’m a TERRIBLE teacher for this reason.

So. That’s the 10 Things You Don’t Know About Me.

Next on the blog tour:

Ainsley Wynter is a romance writer who loves happy endings and bringing laughter and hope to her readers. Her work features a hybrid of history, fairy tales, and the paranormal. I met Ainsley through Twitter, where she is a member of the awesome writing community. She also has one of the coolest names in existence.

Patricia Eddy is a writer of erotica and paranormal romance. A woman after my own heart, she likes single malt Scotch, robust red wine, bacon, and cheese, and she curses like a sailor when the mood is upon her. I met Patricia when she reviewed my book, The Parting Glass, for the Author Alliance. (She liked it a lot, and that made me feel all special. I still go back and read her review when I’m feeling low.)

Check in next week to find out the 10 things you don’t know about Ainsley and Patricia!

 

 

Ain’t No Fire in This Hole: Deconstructing True Blood Season 7, Episode 3

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!! If you have not yet seen True Blood Season 7, Episode 3 and you don’t want to know, STOP HERE!

 

Today I was supposed to post my installment of the “10 Things You Don’t Know About Me” Blog Tour. In fact, I did start writing that post yesterday. And then I watched last night’s True Blood, and all bets were off.

I came late to the whole Sookie Stackhouse experience, books and TV show both. In truth, vampire fiction is a big yawn to me, and a lot of the standard tropes of the genre give me hives. I can’t even get through a lot of it. But last year, I developed a huge crush on Joe Manganiello, who plays the Were, Alcide. I resisted as long as I could, but in the end I gave in to my fangirl instincts and got the DVDs of the first five seasons of True Blood out of the library. I also read the entire book series last summer, because I write Paranormal fiction and I figured I should.

This is my disclaimer: I only ever watched True Blood for Alcide. I enjoy some of the other characters and the occasional witty bit of dialog. But Sookie is at best annoying and at worst downright moronic. Love interest #1, Bill, is a drag. And I have never, never understood the fan obsession with Eric. So you might understand my distress at the rumours I started hearing around the first of April, of Alcide’s impending death. Well, it happened last night (in episode 3 of season 7, “Fire in the Hole”). I knew in advance of watching, because I live in Mountain Time Zone, and after about eight o’clock here there it was impossible to be on the Internet without being spoiled. What with the speculation and the plain fact that Mr. Manganiello has been everywhere EXCEPT  on the True Blood set this year, it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. So I’m not actually TOO upset that the writers decided to kill off my main reason for watching. The main source of my irritation is the way in which it was done, the rationalizations given for it, and the unmistakable truth that episode–the whole season so far, really–was just badly written. Boring, even.

So. Deconstructing “Fire in the Hole.”

We start off in a Los Angeles ashram, where a previously-unheard-of yoga teacher is conducting a class. After some New Age Speak with focus shifting back and forth between the teacher and various students, we get the big reveal: Here’s Sara Newlin, her hair darker than we’ve seen it, evidently having turned her back on her Christian faith, but with the same ardent Seeker’s smile on her face as ever! Well, that’s okay. Jason let her go at the end of last season. She was a loose end that needed tying up, and I can accept the writers wanting to do something about that.

Cut to main titles, THEN:

Pam confronts Eric in some manor on the Rhône, a place where, according to Pam “he’d never go.” I wondered about that when it first came up, but I figured it had something to do with Eric’s pre-vampiric past and let it go. Turns out Eric–who was revealed in episode 2 as having contracted Hep V–had a love affair with a French vintner’s daughter back in 1986, and, according to Pam, he’s punishing himself for what went down with that. Now we’re treated to a LONG flashback about Eric and Sylvie. As the two of them make sweet love in the vineyard, up pops Nan Flanagan. You remember Nan, the spokes-vamp for the Authority? She has an issue with Eric and Pam being in France without having notified the local sheriff, and living openly as vamps when the secrecy laws are still in effect. Fine. Then there’s some garbled nonsense about an alliance between the Authority and the Japanese Corporation that has begun to manufacture True Blood, and WHAT? I totally did not understand this whole purported conflict, and this is when I started to have major issues with the writing in this episode.

Despite earlier assertions that the writers planned to scale back, they still have a distressing tendency to invent unnecessary new characters instead of letting the stories revolve around the perfectly good characters they already have. In season 6 they took it to extremes with the wacky kids of the Supernatural Rights movement (or whatever they were called), a subplot that brought us the forgettable Nicole, a woman who managed to get discernibly pregnant about five minutes after sleeping with Sam. Oh, and Violet. I’ll have more to say about her later. In season seven, the writers continued the trend with Vince, who apparently ran against Sam for Mayor of Bon Temps, and who is now fulfilling the clichéd Angry Redneck Agitator role. Because there aren’t enough problems in Bon Temps without stirring up the already frightened townspeople. Good one.

Now we get Sylvie, who, to all appearances, was the actual true love of Eric’s life. I suppose it’s not impossible that he had a lot of lovers over the course of 1000 years, but it seems unlikely, given the apparent depth of their attachment, that we would never have heard of her before this. Why do we need to hear about her now, and in a subplot that took up about a quarter of the screen time of the episode? I’m guessing that they may go somewhere with the subplot. But it mostly seems, as my husband put it, “They had to invent Sylvie because no one else was fucking in this episode.” Knowing HBO, I can actually hear that being said at a plotting conference.

Nan leaves Eric and Pam with an ultimatum: Straighten up and fly right or the evil Corporation WILL GET YOU (Again, WHY? Is Eric the only straying vampire on their radar?) Pam suggests that she and Eric get the hell out of Dodge. He refuses because Sylvie wants to finish University. Because that makes so much sense for Eric to say.

Cut to: Alcide has finished the shower he started last week. You remember, when Sookie, like the complete idiot she is, left him without any explanation to go off and hatch a moronic scheme with Bill. So, Alcide finishes his shower, discovers Sookie had flown the coop, and tracks her to Bill’s house. Not finding her there either, he shifts to wolf shape and runs off to hunt her.

Alcides buttt
We do, however, get some nice footage of the ass the gods spoke of.

 

MEANWHILE: Bill and Sookie are driving somewhere to put Sookie’s moronic plan into motion. Sookie wonders if Alcide will be able to track her. He assures her he took care of all their scent traces. Yeah, that worked. Bill also tells Sookie that he can no longer sense her because he was totally drained when he gave the Lilith blood to the imprisoned vamps last season, so the “Vampire Bill you knew no longer exists.” This declaration caused me to give my computer the finger. Bill goes on to say that he’ll always remember and pay for the abuse he put Sookie through. Sookie says, “Good,” and then sucks some more Bill juice, declaring “I have a boyfriend!” So don’t get any ideas, Bill.

NEXT we see Adilynn and Wade sharing a tender moment in a jail cell. Just as they start to kiss, Jessica appears, along with a justifiably pissed-off Andy. Adilynn explains about the mob of angry townspeople, and the four of them take off to get reinforcements.

SAM and the Reverend are having a heavy discussion about matters of faith in the church. When Sam asks what good it does to have faith, the Reverend asks him what good it does NOT to have it, and adds, “Death is a dark and blinding motherfucker, whether you see if coming or not.” This is actually a great line, and the Reverend is one of the newer characters I like. But I half-expected a giant, pointing finger labeled FORESHADOWING to descend from the ceiling at that moment. At that moment, a tripping Lettie Mae bursts into the church, along with a remarkably ineffective Willa. Girl, you’re a vampire. Couldn’t you have restrained the crazy woman, or glamoured her, or something? Anyway, the Rev asks everyone to leave. Sam and his vamp escort head off, only to be met by the aforementioned crowd of angry villagers townspeople. After the requisite gloating, during which rival Vince announces that he’s the mayor now, someone splatters Sam’s escort on the pavement. Sam turns into an owl and flies away.

Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.
Technically, the Angry Mob should have torches and pitchforks, but whatever.

BACK AT JASON’S PLACE, Jason tells Violet he wants to have kids, because “a man is nothing without a family.” Because Andy said the exact same thing last episode, and Jason has never had an original thought. Violet launches into an angry tirade about how “in her day” men were goddam MEN, and warriors trampled the dismembered bodies of their fallen enemies without feeling. Because, in case you missed it, REAL MEN DON’T HAVE FEELINGS. This was another moment when I flipped the bird at the screen. I freaking hate Violet. Not quite as much as I hate Sookie, but she’s a close second. I hated her when she showed up last season, because WHY? Then it turned out that she was denying sex to Jason because she wanted him to prove his macho by raping her on the hood of a car, an action she evidently found a turn on. And now this Real Men (TM) bullshit. Honestly, this little speech pissed me off more than about anything in the episode. I guess Violet’s been around 600-odd years and the entire Women’s Rights movement completely bypassed her. Someone stake that bitch, please. Fortunately, before the argument takes off, Andy and Company show up. They leave the kids at Jason’s place, and the two law officers and the two vamps run to rescue Sookie, whom the believe to be in danger from the angry mob. Because we MUST RESCUE SOOKIE. It’s the Law!

TIME to check in with Lafayette! He’s dancing around and shit, when James shows up, trying to score some weed because Jessica doesn’t know he’s alive. Or undead. Or whatever. Anyway, it makes sense that she doesn’t, because they haven’t has a scene together since he changed bodies, so maybe she doesn’t recognize him anymore. Lafayette only has pills, which he kindly takes so that James can get off by drinking his blood. The two of them trip off into Happy Land, but when Lafayette assumes James is coming on to him, James declares that he’s with Jessica. Because that’s believable.

They're really cute together. Pity.
They’re really cute together. Pity.

AFTER a brief check-in with the Hep V-infected Vamps at Fangtasia (remember them?), during which they decide to go hunting and take Holly along for munchies, it’s back to Bill and Sookie. They’re filling the time waiting for the infected vamps, whom Sookie hopes to lure with her glittery fairy blood, with reminiscence. For Bill, this includes a long and COMPLETELY POINTLESS flashback about getting photographs of his family takes before he goes off to The War. Because it totally made sense to waste our time on that.

ANDY and company find Sam’s abandoned truck, as well as the angry villagers. There’s a confrontation. Maxine shoots at Jessica, and Violet rips Maxine’s heart out, which was admittedly gratifying. I guess Violet’s good for something. The mob scatters, and the good guys continue to search for Sookie.

INSERT over-long, pointless scene of the Rev tossing Willa out on her ear because Lettie Mae is a drug addict.

NOW, without warning, we’re back in 1986, where a group of Japanese businessmen force Eric to choose between Sylvie and Pam for no apparent reason. Eric, also for no apparent reason, chooses Pam, and Sylvie is unceremoniously killed. To which my husband said, “They invented her for nudity value, so they had to invent a reason to get rid of her. Thus the Japanese assassins without apparent purpose.” EXCEPT! Pam manages to get Eric to rise from his bed of pain with the mention of one name: Sara Newlin. Finding out she’s alive is just the tonic he needs. The two of them leave to hunt down Sara and give her what for. Meanwhile, Sara and her guru are finishing up some spiritual practice when the SAME Japanese assassins arrive. With Sara conveniently hiding in the wine cellar, they kill the guru and proceed to search the ashram. Guess they aren’t too chuffed about the Hep V thing.

Just leave me here to die, please.
Just leave me here to die, please.

AND NOW the climactic scene: The Hep V Vamps back in Bon Temps FINALLY locate Sookie. Before they can make off with her, however, Alcide and Sam, in animal form, attack. At the same moment, Andy and company show up to splatter the Vamps all over the scenery. Alcide morphs back into human form, makes sure Sookie is okay, and starts to read Bil the riot act for not being able to protect the girl. Before he can get going, one of the stray angry townspeople shoots Alcide through the head.

THE END

I can understand killing Alcide, I really can. But the justifications for doing it in the way they did at the moment they did don’t fly with me. It may be, from a story point of view, that “the fairy has to end up with the vampire.” I can play that either way. As a writer, I can see the appeal to wrapping everything up into a neat package. However, as a writer, I also kn0w that no story HAS to do anything. My personal preference would have been to have Sookie grow a brain and backbone and discover she can be an independent person. Since I recently saw a tweet from Anna Paquin stating that “part of Sookie’s character is that she doesn’t learn from her mistakes,” I doubt this is ever going to happen.

As far as Alcide being an outsider and thus the character the series can do without: You know, that didn’t have to be. The WRITERS MADE THAT. They made it by separating the vampire and were storylines so far in season 6, and they continued it by asking the audience to swallow the absurd notion that Alcide is still an outsider after living with Sookie for six months that we never saw. Now, I never bought the whole Sookie/Alcide romance in the first place. It didn’t sell in the books, and it didn’t sell in the show. It seemed to me as if Alcide fell for Sookie for no other reason than that every male character has to fall for Sookie at some point. If I try really hard, I can believe that he might have become infatuated with her because he was on the rebound from Debbie–whom Sookie killed. Great basis for love, that. But Alcide was no dummy. I think it would have been far more realistic for him to become disenchanted with Sookie on closer inspection, and for him to leave her. But, you know, that would have taken an effort.

But it’s the final justification that sticks in my craw the most. Alcide had to die because if Sookie dumped the good guy everyone would hate her. I MEAN, REALLY? Because we’re totally going to love her now that her stupidity and refusal to communicate honestly GOT HIM KILLED! Granted, I run in a particular circle of fans–Alcide Fans, that is. But from what I saw last night, it looked to me as if this brilliant move might have lost True Blood two-thirds of its viewers. At the very least, I would have liked to see Alcide continue a couple more episodes and go down in a blaze of glory. The random shot in the dark from an irate hick wasn’t dramatic. It was lame, lame, lame.

You know, I did get one thing out of this poor excuse for an episode. I never understood the brou-ha-ha over the end of the book series, or why people were so upset that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Mostly because I’ve never shipped Eric. So the rants I read about it didn’t make any sense to me. When I read the books, I thought the way Harris ended the series made perfect sense.

Now I understand where those people were coming from.

I expected all along that Alcide wouldn’t make it through all ten episodes. And I fully intended to keep watching after his death, because I don’t like leaving things and I like knowing what happens. But after last night’s travesty, I have no desire to continue. I might pick up the series at some later date if I have nothing to do. But I won’t be waiting for it to air every Sunday night.

#NOTTrueToTheEnd

 

DEMON LOVER COVER REVEAL!

Demon Lover, the sixth book in the Caitlin Ross Series, will be released ONE MONTH FROM TODAY, August 2nd (which, incidentally, is hero Timber MacDuff’s birthday. But I digress).

Demon Lover takes place four months after the close of book five, The Cruel Mother, and finds Caitlin and Timber back home in Gordarosa, with Caitlin’s baby due any day. In late January, all either of them wants to do is stick close to home, put the finishing touches on the nursery, and enjoy their last, child-free moments together. You know, like normal people. Of course, they aren’t normal.

As a young man, Timber had quite a reputation with the ladies. Caitlin knew this, but she never expected one of his old flames to track him down. She gets a shock when she finds out the new dance teacher in town knew Timber intimately while he was a graduate student researching his thesis. Despite the fact that Timber and Caitlin have been married nearly ten years, she wants to pick up where she and the estimable Scot left off, and gets mighty pissed when he turns her down. What follows is a story of magic, murder, and the redemptive power of true love.

And now, the cover:

demonlovercover2

Why is this woman standing in the middle of a lake holding a watermelon? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Demon Lover is available for pre-order as an eBook from Smashwords and in print from Amazon. You can also enter a giveaway at Goodreads. Don’t forget to check my Independent Author Network page for the rest of the series!