So, in Handbook For Mortals news, brace yourselves, because there is a lot. If you need a break, I encourage you to visit author Claribel Ortega’s Tumblr, where she’s writing an excellent Handbook For Mortals fanfic.
So, remember when Lani Sarem insisted that no one gamed the system, that her books weren’t bulk-ordered, that she played by the rules and was viciously robbed of her legitimate success by jealous haters? She hasn’t exactly changed her tune, but she’s definitely singing her sad song of lies in a different key. In an op-ed for Billboard.com, she writes:
If I had purchased the books directly from my distributor, Itasca Books, they would not count as sales for purposes of the New York Times list. If they were purchased from booksellers — brick and mortar or online — they would count. While I didn’t limit my purchases to only those booksellers involved in the Times list, I did purchase books in bulk from booksellers to resell them later at events.
But it’s not a scam, she argues. It’s publishing’s antiquated model that constrains artists that’s at fault for her con game:
What I have chosen to do is to build a community of interrelated fans at these 3D, real-time events. This is part of what I believe is an innovative strategy — one that is aimed at building an entire new franchise in the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones mold, yet without having to give up creative control and a huge cut of the revenue to some synergistic studio giant a la Disney or Fox.
What Sarem is describing here is indie publishing and indie film. It isn’t new or innovative to bring your book to a convention. Self-pub authors do it all the time. And it isn’t new or innovative to make a movie without a studio.
Sarem concludes by saying that she hopes the New York Times will return her book to its rightful #1 slot on their list, albeit with their bulk-sales indicator. But perhaps the most delusional part of her piece is that despite the laughably bad writing, lack of any major star attached to the project, and the total bungling of her brilliant con, Sarem still appears to believe that she’ll be starring in a major film franchise:
That is why we published the book with the film rights already in place, set to produce the first of up to five “Handbook for Mortals” films that will star, in the lead role, yours truly, alongside my producer and co-star, Thomas Ian Nicholas. If all goes well.
However, one amazing thing has come to light in the wake of allegations that Sarem wrote the infamous troll fic My Immortal. It has brought the actual author of My Immortal out of the shadows, and she has a memoir in the works. Because the story is too fascinating to be believed, I won’t say too much here, except that rarely has an internet mystery had such a satisfying and heart-wrenching conclusion.
As Sarem continues to name-drop her connection to various celebrities, especially her former ties to the band Blues Traveler (who fired her), let’s all sing a beautiful ode in her honor, to the tune of the band’s hit, “The Hook”:
It doesn’t matter what you sell
So long as you sell at conventions
It’s such a freakin’ unique way
To make the headlines through deception
And it’s not fair that you lost face
To all those nasty trolls and haters’ campaign
The New York Times should apologize
You’ll take that asterisk and tout it without shame
‘Cause the book brings you fame
From a spot you had to buy
The book brings you fame
You got caught because you lied
The YA world is gonna miss
The stellar prose you tried to bring them
Who wouldn’t want to read another teen witch
Who’s old enough to rent a car
You could have just written a screenplay
And shopped it around to your famous friends
When your biggest names are ’90s stars
Maybe a scam was the way to go
‘Cause the film won’t get made
With the guy from American Pie
The film won’t get made
Here’s a camera you can buy
Con and win, con and win, con and win
That’s the position that you are in
If they find out all the ways you sinned
There’s always blame to pin on the community
At least you get publicity
“A lot of folks are jealous of me”
You’ll just project your problems on the trolls
Go ahead and take somebody’s art all for yourself
Stage pictures of your books up on some shelves
Now change your name and hide
From the critics who deride and all the deceptions that you tried. Your career is fried,
it died, you killed it with your lies
And all the claims that we won’t buy
about the bullies at the New York Times
You said fuck all the rules
they don’t apply to Lani
That shit might fly in music
It’s much harder to sleaze your way into YA
You’re pissed that none of us wanna kiss your ass,
And we don’t want to read you
Act innocent and victimized
To try to make a buck
With names to drop, like Mall Cop
You’re delusional please stop because we’re
Not buying your crap
It’s embarrassing to watch
Please don’t bother to try
My apologies to John Popper for mangling his rhyme scheme.
Now, on to the recap!
“Hey there, Sleeping Beauty,” Cam said softly after lightly touching my shoulder and sitting down next to me. “It looked like you met everyone that works here today. The line to say hello to you after your performance resembled an autograph signing by a boy band. I don’t really know what the latest one is, but Backstreet, Five Directions, One Second of Winter, 98 Celcious, O-City, NSYNC Boys or Old Kids on a Curb or something like that.”
I laughed hard at his combo of wrong boy band names and his clear indication that he knew all the boy bands; he purposely had made the small wrong switches in their names.
“Ahem.” Cam and I both looked up to see Mac standing directly in front of us, holding a clipboard pressed against his stomach. He still looked angry and bothered for reasons I had yet to figure out. I looked at him with my eyes narrowed and he puckered his lips together in a manner that resembled a very fake smile.
As annoyed as I was, I couldn’t help but notice how piercing Mac’s deep hazel eyes were when he looked at me, despite the anger that was engulfing him.
“I’d like to schedule a crew call for you once your contract has been signed. You, me, and all of our techs, so we can go over your trick and map out how it will be safely implemented into the show.”
He knew that calling what I had done a “trick” instead of an illusion I would take as a slight. It’s sort of like telling someone who had just won an Olympic gold medal and was proudly wearing it around their neck, that their necklace was cute.
Second, Tad called it a trick twice in the last chapter, and Zani was cool with it then. Probably because he looked “blown away” by it at the time.
Third, I love how with nearly every line, Zade fires cannonballs into the sides of her own characterization. She’s modest and humble and oh gee and nobody will notice her. Now, she’s comparing herself to a gold medalist.
Zani stands up to him, literally. And she’s super, impressively tall:
I’m five foot nine inches and so while I don’t usually tower above any guys I know, I can definitely look them directly in the eye. Most girls at five feet five inches (which, I believe, is an average height for a woman) have to look up. My height was an advantage that I never took for graned and here, again, I was happy I didn’t have to look up to him–figuratively or literally. In heels I could even be as tall or taller than him and I’ve alwasy love that part about being the height I am.
Not Like Other Girls™
PS. the way the final sentence is written means that the part Zani has always loved about being tall is that by wearing heels, she could be taller than this specific dude she just met.
“Maybe you misunderstood. I don’t show anyone how it’s done. That wasn’t just for the audition. I handle this illusion on my own.”
SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! TWO TITANS ENTER THE CAGE, ONLY ONE CAN LEAVE VICTORIOUS! IT’S REALISM VS. WHAT LANI WANTS IN AN NO-HOLDS-BARRED SHOWDOWN! WE’LL SELL YOU THE WHOLE SEAT BUT YOU’LL ONLY NEED…THE EDGE!
But seriously, we know for a fact that she’s just going to get what she wants, as this entire book is wish-fulfillment fantasy meant to become actual real-life career wish-fulfillment. And while Mac (a.k.a. reality) might sound pretty tough:
“Listen, lady, I don’t know who else you worked for, but we don’t do that Lone Rnager stuff around here. I’m the technical director and in charge of everyone’s safety, no matter how stupid you want to be. You do what I say, and I keep your pretty self from getting hurt. Got it?”
it won’t matter because absolutely nothing is going to happen that isn’t going to make Lani happy in this story. I foresee this entire plot being a loose tangle of momentary conflicts which give Zade the chance to look like a badass, but which will ultimately resolve exactly the way she wants them to within paragraphs.
Notice that while Mac is fighting with her, he’s also calling her pretty? We have to be sure that we all know how pretty
Lani Zade is. Also, how tough she is:
I could feel my hands tightening into fists. I really did want to punch him.
And how sexual tension fairly crackles between her and every man in her path:
I leaned into him so closely that it might have looked like to an outsider that I was about to kiss him.
They keep arguing over the thing, with Zani prodding him with her fingers and Mac “jolting” when she touches him, probably from spontaneous ejaculation.
I grabbed him by the shoulder, stopping him in his tracks and swinging him around to face me. My face had flushed and I’d raised my voice to a full yell. “And you need to get some manners. I’m not showing you how it’s done, okay? If we have a problem I can go to another show where the technical director doesn’t have a God complex. I’m not a girl who needs a knight in shining armor.”
I…huh? I know that Sarem probably thought she was making
herself Zade come off as empowered here by spouting a line about a knight in shining armor, but like…it doesn’t apply to anything that’s happening. And remember, this isn’t even her first day of work yet. She just auditioned. Yes, she knows she got the job, but the first thing she does is manhandle the technical director and yell about how she could just get into another show?
He laughed loudly. “Ha! Good luck finding a Technical Director who will treat you like the princess you clearly think you are. If I found you locked in a tower, I promise I’d leave you there.”
Is Mac an avatar created by my own thoughts? Did I wish him into being?
Mac sends someone to get
David Copperfield Charles Spellman to back him up, and Lani notices that everyone has been looking at them.
One petite, pixie-like girl who I knew was in the case, though I didn’t know her name, was standing the nearest to me. She ahd really bright red hair that was short and framed her face. I glanced her way and she immediately looked down at her arm and pretended to scratch it over and over with her bright-colored nails that were a beautiful shade of teal. She continued to stare at her arm as if there was something wrong with her perfectly tan skin.
Maybe she’s got eczema, Lani. Maybe people do shit that has nothing to do with you. But this is such a weird, in-depth description of this person that either a) she becomes a character later, or b) this is a cameo role for a friend in the eventual movie and Sarem went ahead and wrote it into the book. And note, earlier in the chapter, Zani says she the met so many people, she can’t remember all their names, but she remembers the names of every. single. male. character.
Zade blames Mac for the fact that she’s embarrassed in front of everyone because she feels he should have spoken to her privately and not in front of the cast and crew. Except, the only reason anyone took note of the conversation is the fact that she started shouting and attracted their attention.
I was back in his face, stern and loud. “Look. It was part of my deal, end of story. I dind’t know Joffrey Baratheon worked here now.” I wondered if Mac even watched Game of Thrones, but hoped he would get my reference to the child king from the first two seasons who acted like, well, a child given power he didn’t derserve or know how to handle.
Joffrey didn’t become king until like the seventh or eighth episode of season one, and he was the king until season four. Do you even watch Game of Thrones? But seriously, she just got hired onto this show and she’s saying this guy who has worked there for far longer than she has and knows the business better than he does is acting like a childish tyrant? Excuse me, but he’s not the one shouting in someone else’s face that they could just waltz into another show and automatically get hired.
I didn’t know if Mac was really a spoiled brat,
He isn’t. He’s a professional trying to do his job so that the show won’t get shut down and two-hundred people won’t be suddenly out of work.
and I knew I might have been overreacting,
but I had to protect certain things–and my secrets were definitely among them.
Then maybe (and this is just constructive criticism, you can take it or leave it) DON’T PUT YOUR SECRETS ON DISPLAY IN FRONT OF SOLD-OUT CROWDS OF 2,000 PEOPLE EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, TWICE ON SATURDAYS.
Lani is done with this conversation, so she’s about to dramatically stomp out of the theater.
I had only taken four or five pounding steps when Charles appeared from behind one of the black curtains that hung down and around every stage entrance.
In a theater in the round? They’ve got legs and tabs on the stage, but the show is in the round?
Charles calls her over to talk to him, and she instantly regrets what she’s just done.
I had wanted to look professional and put together and I instead ended up looking like a five-year-old child throwing a temper tantrum. It’s not even technically my first day yet and I’ve already made this huge fool of myself, I thought as I edged my way toward Charles.
It’s okay, Zade. I guarantee someone is going to admire you for standing up to Mac. Someone important, even. Or hot. Either way, you’re not going to look bad for this, because you’re the protagonist.
I wouldn’t blame him if he changed his mind right there and just had me leave his theater.
That would be fine, though, right? Because you can get a job with any other show, right?
And of course, everyone is watching as Zade and Charles and Mac talk to each other.
Even those who had previously not cared about the spat Mac and I were having, were now also watching all of us.
Remember in the last chapter, when I talked about how Sarem uses “seemed” wrong like, almost constantly? This is a place where “seemed” would have been useful. Zade can’t possibly know the mental states of all of the cast and crew. She has no idea who was and was not previously interested in the argument. “Even those who had previously seemed ambivalent about the spat,” or something similar, wouldn’t have skewed POV to omniscient first.
Charles looked angry, but his voice was firm and calm. He slowly leaned down and forced his eye to mine. He reached his hand out and pulled up my chin.
His voice is firm and calm, but he hasn’t said anything since he called her over.
I finally allowed my eyes to look up and straight into his eyes.
But you just said he “forced his eyes” to yours. You’re already looking into his eyes. Note, now that Sarem is trying to make her self-insert seem child-like and vulnerable, she is no longer tall. She has to look up, like all of us pitiful, not 5’9″, average wretches have to.
I don’t know why he held her chin, other than to be extremely inappropriate as her employer because he lets her go to scold Mac.
“When I auditioned Zade, I guaranteed her the privacy to set up her own act.”
I am dying to know how Zade never met Charles Spellman before but somehow got him to agree to not only let her audition for his show but guarantee that she would be able to set up her own illusion under total secrecy without ever having seen her perform. I mean, the fact that she was able to get on the phone with David Copperfield is the absolute first place we would have to start in the chain of getting this whole scenario rolling, and that in itself is pretty fucking unlikely. I’m assuming that we find out Charles is either her father, as some of you have guessed in the comments, or otherwise connected to her family.
Mac continues to be the voice of reason:
“Charles, that isn’t up to O.S.H.A. requirements. I can’t run a show like this. People on this crew have to know how it’s done. We have to be involved in the production of it. She needs help with it, I’m sure. How will we even known if something is wrong? This is crazy. We would never do things that way. You’ve got to agree with me.”
Dude, that’s what I’ve been saying. Even Zeb, who apparently doesn’t usually agree with Mac, agrees with Mac. So, Charles comes to the compromise of having Lani tell him how the illusion is done, but nobody else. Which…really doesn’t fix any of the shit Mac just said. Charles knowing how the trick is done doesn’t help the crew do their jobs.
Also, remember how Lani didn’t need a knight in shining armor? She’s not exactly rejecting Charles now that he’s riding to her rescue, is she?
I didn’t really love his idea, either, but I could deal with it. I knew that he would never push to know the way it was truly done.
How? You just met him like an hour ago.
I could give him just enough information to comply. I could make it work.
How? You’re going to make up a practical way to perform your illusion, but still keep doing it the magic way? And if you can do that, why not just do it the practical way, to begin with, to protect your very important family secret? That would be a far more interesting plot, to be honest. A magician who really can do magic, but relies on practical effects so their illusions won’t appear to actually be magic would be such a cool character. Gosh, it’s too bad nobody has ever written a character like that…
The entire theater was watching me. I could hear whispering. I was used to some of that from where I grew up, but even so I wanted to melt into the floor.
Of course, when the people back home were whispering about her, they were whispering about how gorgeous and kind she was.
Lani agrees to Charles’s condition, and the whole kerfuffle is settled. For them. Because it still isn’t settled for the reader. The fight solved nothing and made nothing about the plot more plausible. In fact, having a character acknowledge stuff like OSHA and safety regulations, then presenting the reader with a solution that doesn’t actually work only drives home the fact that nothing in the scene makes sense. You can’t acknowledge that something doesn’t work, then make it not work and just hope that everyone will go along with it not working.
Charles tells Zade to come to his office, then casually tosses off that they’ll be cutting his girlfriend’s act to fit Lani’s in because of course that’s what he’s going to do.
Sofia, who had been standing off to the side with another performer, looked indignantly at Charles. I watched her redden, as her eyes got wide. She looked as if she was going to kill someone. I wondered if that someone was Charles or me–or maybe both of us. She gave me one terrible death stare, so I’m guessing it was me, before storming up to Charles.
“You’re cutting my main illusion?” she huffed angrily.
So, after the huge diva fit we just saw Lani throw at Mac, we’re not expected to accept Sofia in the role of Carlotta in this particular horror-show production of Phantom of the Copperfield?
Charles met her gaze and raised his eyebrows just slightly. I could tell that she didn’t intimidate him.
Maybe she’s 5’5″.
Everything was always on his terms, including his relationships. I doubt the word “compromise” was in his vocabulary.
How would Zani possibly know this? Again, she met the guy like an hour ago. Tops.
Charles walked closely to her, stroked her face, and took her hand in his. I’m guessing it was meant to be loving, but looked more like he was brushing her off.
Obviously, Charles doesn’t love Sofia. Who could possibly love her, when she is so clearly being set up as the vapid bitch of this piece? And we already know that in stories like this, only one woman gets love, and that woman is the
author main character.
Charles tells Sofia that he’s going to work on another illusion for her to be in, then walks away and takes Zade with him. After once again noting that everyone has been staring at her, Zade reminds us that everyone is staring at her:
I could feel everyone watching us as we walked toward his office offstage.
Look, Lani, if you could just stop being so pretty, kind, humble, blue-haired, tough, and talented, this wouldn’t be a problem. But thanks for the heads up about his office being offstage. I thought his fucking desk was like, right in the middle of that water tank.
As we approached his office door no one said anything until they heard the door thud to a close. It was a big heavy door that made a hard pounding noise when it shut, and then I was alone with him.
Again, POV skew. If the door is so big and heavy, she can’t possibly know if people started talking after it shut. Also, let’s appreciate the fact that his office is literally right offstage. They’re on the stage, they walk off the stage, and they’re in his office. I can’t even begin to imagine what this fucking theater looks like. It’s in the round, with legs and tabs over the entrances to the stage that negate the point of theater in the round in the first place, and then directly offstage is an office.
I’m going to draw a floorplan of this monstrosity before this recap is over.
In the office, Charles tells her to sit down.
He was facing the wall, but he spoke deliberately. “Well, my dear. Tell me everything.”
Why is he facing the wall? Is this like, “I want him to face out of the window like Christian Grey on the movie poster, but I can’t because they’re inside a theater inside a casino,” or something? Because all I’m imagining is a Sims character glitching and trying to go through a door that’s been removed.
That’s the way the chapter ends, by the way. With Charles saying “Tell me everything.” So I cannot wait to get to the next chapter to find out how Lani gets out of this mess!