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Jealous Haters Book Club: Handbook For Mortals chapter 7 Strength, (part 1) or “Rebel Without A Clue”

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The chapter lengths in this book are all over the place, and this one was really long, so I’ve split it up in two parts so that we don’t have to wait a week without a recap and also so you don’t have to read a recap that’s roughly 14,000 words long.

The chapter starts with a description of how things are run at the theater:

We rehearsed all the time; it’s a huge show that has constant changes, so full rehearsals have always been held weekly. We typically rehearse on weekdays, and usually have to be at the theater by three or four in the afternoon so we can rehearse for a couple of hours before needing to get ready, at six, for the first of the night’s two shows, which stat at seven.

So, their weekly rehearsal happens on weekdays, plural? And are only two hours long? So they can get ready in an hour for the seven o’clock show? Look, I’ve never worked for a Las Vegas magic spectacular, but I’m almost 100% certain that they need more than an hour to get ready for curtain up, especially when getting into places involves climbing up a catwalk and stuff for some of the performers. We’ve already heard about these intricate costumes that require dressers and such, and besides, Lani needs time to dry off after her multiple impressive dives into the pool.

Everyone also needs to have a backup in case they get hurt or need to go to a wedding or get sick or something, so we rehearse not only our own parts but also each of us has to know several other roles so we can shift around and cover for almost anyone–or a combination of anyones.

As far as I know, that’s not actually how professional theater works. There are performers called “swings” who know several roles and can step in at a moment’s notice, and that’s literally their job in the show. There’s no reason for a main performer to have to know other roles, even if they might someday have to go to a wedding. I’m reading this book as I recap it, but I’m going to place money on this information being included so that at some point, Larnie can step in for Sofia or something.

Zarni is on the catwalk with Riley, who is her rigger for all her scenes.

I realized, as I learned the ropes, that he’d probably asked for me when I got hired, since he was relatively new himself and hadn’t been assigned to a main performer yet.

Just in case you hadn’t figured out that Lazar is special, yet.

Riley and I had grown very close, very quickly;

How unexpected.

already I loved him like a little brother. I often found myself wishing that he was my little brother. I had never wanted to be an only child, but it’s not like that’s something you got to decide. Therew as just something about him that made me want to protect him, even though it was actually his job to protect me.

So, just so we’re all on the same page, all the guys love Zani, even if only platonically. Every. Single. Guy. Loves. Zani.

Riley gets a call over the headset and tells Lani that the people on the ground are resetting the scene. This gives them time to chat about, what else, Larni having a crush. She asks Riley why Mac won’t date performers, and Riley teases her about liking him.

I blushed and bit my lip.

Dakota Johnson as Ana Steele, biting her lip in the beginning of 50 Shades of Grey

She insists that she doesn’t have a crush on Mac, she’s just curious about him. Riley is reluctant to tell her, but after an excruciating page, he does:

“The short version is that there was a performer here, Clara Faust. Mac was young and new, and he fell completely in love with her.” I waited for Riley to continue, but he seemed to think he had explained everything, so I realized I needed to push for more information.

“So what happened?” I asked.

“I guess one night she ended up sleeping with him, and he thought they were going to be together, and she just thought that it wasn’t a big deal. She strung him along and really put him through the ringer by the end of it. I’ve heard Clara’s a terrible person–she makes Sofie look like Mother Teresa.”

Well, of course, she’s a terrible person. She’s a woman in this book who isn’t Zanzibar. And note, Riley doesn’t get Sofia’s name right.

“Sounds like the reverse of what normally happens.” I couldn’t imagine a young and naïve Mac madly in love with some girl that was probably a lot like Sofia and Mel.

Note: Riley said Clara was worse than Sofia.

I also couldn’t help but wonder what Mac madly in love looked like. He definitely was a passionate person and I was pretty sure “madly in love,” for him, was intense.

“Madly in love” is intense for anyone. That’s what the “madly” part is there for. As in, “driven mad (insane) by love.” But I want to know how Zand thinks he’s a passionate person. All we’ve seen him do is isolate himself and be kind of lukewarm-friendly to Zard. The only thing he seems passionate about is his job, and really, he needs to be passionate about that since people’s lives are at stake, but he’s not super passionate about it when a performer plunges to their almost-death. Then he’s just like, meh.

I had never been in love with anyone. I had never gotten close enough to anyone to be in love. Like, yes. Crushes, plenty. Love, no.

That’s it. I revoke your right to ever use italics again, Sarem. If I were a witch, I would do a binding spell to stop Lani Sarem from abusing italics ever again.

That’s all Lando can get out of Riley, so we jump ahead to the end of the night after the second show is over. Larva hasn’t seen Mac all day. She describes all the possible reasons why that could be in a long, block paragraph that also includes a descriptions of what kind of day jobs people in show business can get and how the crew jokes about them, etc. You know, your boilerplate “Look how much I know about this subject” exposition that will have nothing to do with the story.

I didn’t even see Mac during the break between shows. Sometimes we used that time to get food together, but I made out okay, since I ended up eating with Jackson.

Don’t worry, dear reader! There is absolutely no time at which Lanzo is without male company.

She finally sees Mac in the parking garage as she leaves. He’s walking with Tad.

I pulled on the straps of my backpack nervously as I listened to the sound of my jeans making a swishing noise. I couldn’t put my finger on why all of a sudden I was nervous, but I was. I wonder if I was sensing something was going to happen.

IDK, nothing has really happened so far in this chapter. Why start now?

Jackson appears with two of the other band members, Tom and Mike, who are both super talented to the point that we need a breathless description of their genius and all the multiple instruments they play (which I won’t recount here).

“So, Zade, you still gonna come see our band play tomorrow?” Jackson asked. He had asked me this earlier when we were eating together in the Employee Dining Room, which we cleverly refer to as the “EDR.”

As with so, so many things in this book, I’m sitting here thinking, “Why? Why do we need to know this?” Just like the rehearsal schedule, the many instruments all the musicians mentioned play, the jobs that none of the named characters have, WHY DO WE NEED TO KNOW THE COLLOQUIAL ACRONYM FOR THE DINING ROOM?

He had told me more about the original band that they had, that played their own songs and what they called themselves.

“Oh yeah, Plain White T’s, right?” I hoped I had gotten the name of the band right.

Uh…

Bill Hader as Stefon from Saturday Night Life, saying "What?" and looking disgusted.

So, let me get this straight, Lani Sarem, author, not Lani Sarem, clear self-insert in this garbage avalanche of a novel. A Grammy-nominated band with a #1 record that went certified platinum is side-gigging as a house band for a Las Vegas magic act? Hey there, Delilah Lani, we know you used to manage Plain White T’s. Are you going to name drop literally everyone you’ve ever worked with? Do Tom Higgenson and Mike Retando know that they’re fully undisguised characters in your book?

This book might honestly be the most nakedly obvious self-insert fantasy of all time. Imagine writing people you actually know, people who are more successful than you, as struggling in their own field and desperate for your approval and support, just to fulfill some weird fantasy of yours. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I try to make at least one Billy Joel reference per book, if I can work it in. But I try to be just a little more subtle about it. I’m not going to write a book where a fat writer magically becomes a bestseller and meets Billy Joel and then hangs out with him all the time and condescendingly forgets his name.

“A lot of the cast and crew usually go and support them. Riley, Mac, Cam, and I are going for sure.”

I am so hung up on this. I am out to dry. What is happening here? They’re going out to support a mega-popular band? Because they need all the help they can get or something? What even?

Oh, that last quote was said by Tad, if that’s important to you. It shouldn’t be, but just in case. Examine your choices if it is.

I had realized that joking around and giving people a hard time in jest was how to fit in around here, and it was my turn. “Oh, Jackson, I’m sorry. I can’t go if they’re going,” I teased. I caught Mac’s eye and smiled.

Jackson piped in. “Sorry guys, you’re officially un-invited. Pretty girl always wins.”

Oh, Zarni. You didn’t figure out that giving people a hard time was the way to fit in. Your author figured out a way to make Jackson Rathbone think she’s pretty. Also, “piped in?”

Mike made a face and over-exaggerated his voice as he said sarcastically, “Great, that’s probably half our audience.”

Not only does she force Plain White T’s to be in her shitty self-insert fic, she made them less successful than her. You would have to rob one of those plastinated human body exhibits to see more nerve on display.

So what do you guys play?” I asked, not really directing the question at any one of them specifically. I wondered if it was alternative or Americana or–hopefully not–metal, which wasn’t really something I liked listening to. Mike, always trying to be the funny guy, responded again with another sarcastic answer. “Instruments. Duh.”

So, metal, then? Because that’s a joke someone in a metal band would make. They’re basically a mythic race of lovable dorks.

I’m still so completely gummed up in this whole thing where Sarem thought she could turn this into some kind of in-joke about the band she’d managed. This isn’t like throwing your buddy Don’s neighborhood dad band in. This is a legitimate Top 40 act.

Jackson tells Zand that he’ll buy her a drink at the show and gives her a kiss on the cheek.

“Ooh, I think someone just asked you out,” Tad teased. I turned bright red and shook my head.

“I think they want people to come see their band,” I suggested.

Tad nodded before he reasoned, “Probably both–but he’s yet to kiss me on the cheek for agreeing to come to a show, I feel gypped now.”

First of all, “gypped” isn’t an okay thing to say. A lot of people don’t know that, so heads up, if you’re one of them. Now you know. It’s probably okay for Lani Sarem to use it, since she’s a “rock n’ roll g—-” according to her author bio and probably is 1/64 Roma. Second, why does every single character in the entire book need to talk about Zardi’s crushes? It’s getting to the point where conversations that aren’t about her crushes feel like they’re just waiting it out until we can get back to talking about her crushes.

He feigned acting sad for a moment and then he glanced at my bike. “Nice crotch rocket. I think you get more awesome every time I see you. You might be the coolest chick I know, next to my wife.”

Get it? Because Tad is Thomas Ian Nicholas, and he’s Lani Sarem’s in real life friend, and he’s married so she has to make sure to mention his wife while the character based on him is effusively praising the character based on her? Get it? It’s to make sure everyone knows that definitely nothing is going on there and his real-life wife shouldn’t feel threatened by the real life Lani’s perfection and beauty. But also, Tad has to be a little in love with Zardon, because otherwise, he’s unlikable.

No, seriously. That’s what makes a character unlikable in these stories: they don’t think the self-insert is wonderful. That’s it. It’s a running theme in most bad, wish-fulfillment fiction: either a character is gaga over the Mary Sue, or they’re evil. If you don’t believe me, find basically any story in any fandom with the pairing “[popular male character] x OC” and report back.

“Thanks, Tad. You have a band you want me to come see too?” I cocked my right eyebrow and glared at him.

Why are you glaring? Facial expressions mean things. Glare has a specific context. It’s annoyance, it’s anger, it’s outrage. Glare is not what you do when you’re making playful fun of someone.

Also, try to glare and raise an eyebrow at the same time. It’s kind of difficult to do.

Tad leaves Mac and Dr. Zaius alone, and Mac tells her that he was planning on riding his bike tonight, too. He invites her to come along.

I felt like I was being fought over, and I had never been fought over before. Maybe I was thinking about it too hard, though. I couldn’t figure out if Mac really liked me or not, and I couldn’t decide if I really liked him. Either way, the ride sounded fun.

Gosh golly gee whiz, I think two boys like me! And in a book where every other woman is a trashy whore all men hate? What are the odds?!

I swung my leg over the seat of my Ducati. I had been riding for years, but the motion of throwing my leg over my bike was still exciting.

Shit, sitting on the washing machine excites me but I don’t write about it.

I rested my right leg on the foot pedal and grabbed the handles.

“I got on my bike.” There, fixed it for you.

They ride out of town, and Zade thinks:

It’s funny how, in Vegas, you can be in a city one moment and a desert wasteland the next.

I don’t know why this strikes me as so funny, other than the fact that you can actually see the desert wasteland from the hotels on the strip. I mean, sure, there are other towns that are Vegas adjacent, but everything is in this one big cluster surrounded by nothing but national parks. That are deserts. This isn’t a nitpick with the book, it’s just funny to think about.

We had been riding for at least a half an hour before the wind had started to pick up some; all of a sudden, it started to rain.

HERE IS THAT CONVENIENT WEATHER YOU ORDERED. You know I looked this up, dear reader. Mac and Zandi managed to go riding on one of the TWENTY-ONE days per YEAR that Vegas gets rain. But the dramatic downpour that Larni describes doesn’t jibe with what any of the locals have said regarding the rain in Las Vegas. Mac describes it as a “freak storm” that won’t last longer than a few minutes, but residents giving travel advice uniformly report that most of the year’s precipitation happens during “monsoon season” in late summer/early fall. During that time, huge downpours like the one that Sarem describes do happen–just not “for a few minutes”. The storms will last for more than an hour and produce an inch or more of rain. The “for a few minutes” rain is mostly five minutes of light drizzle that makes the escalators slippery. The place only gets four inches of rain per year, total. Now, I don’t know what time of year this is (because that context is never given), but I do know that “this absolutely pouring buckets rain will certainly stop in a few minutes” runs contrary to basically anything I have doggedly researched about Las Vegas weather.

I mean, feel free to refute me in the comments, if you live in Las Vegas. I’m just going on like, weather and tourism sites. I’ve been wrong about shit before.

Mac and Zander see a conveniently abandoned store with an overhang of some kind, and they huddle with their bikes beneath it to wait out the rain so that Mac can do his bad boy impression.

He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket and lit one. He leaned against the door of the store, which looked like it had been closed for a few years at least. He inhaled deeply and exhaled the smoke carefully away from my face.

“Thanks for inviting me riding,” I said, staring at him.

He kind of looked like a modern-day James Dean in his black leather jacket.

“Sure, no problem. Figured it would be nice to have a little company for a change. I usually ride alone,” he admitted with a shrug.

IDK what my original point was, but somehow this excerpt ended with me looking at pictures of dead bodies on the internet. Probably to cheer myself up.

Anyway. We get it. Mac is a bad boy. A stand-offish loner. A deep, cigarette smoking, crotch rocket poet.

Pee-Wee, from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, saying, "I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."

I was suddenly aware that we were standing very close together and that I was at a loss for anything better to say. My breath grew deeper and I could feel myself inching closer to Mac as I looked up into his face. I wasn’t sure what I expected to find, but I found myself looking deep into his eyes. It was funny that a few months earlier we couldn’t stand being in the same room standing twenty feet away from each other and yet there we were, huddling together only inches apart, in the rain. I was standing so close to him I could almost feel his heartbeat.

The band The Police, in the video for their song "Don't Stand So Close To Me", with the words "Don't stand so close to me" across the bottom.

I mean, are they standing close to each other? I couldn’t tell. I think I need more description of their proximity so I can really tell whether or not they’re standing close to each other. It’s only stated four times in five consecutive sentences. They could be miles apart, for all we know.

Mac must have noticed that I was shivering, because he took both his hands and started to rub my shoulders to warm me up. He seemed to thrive in the crisp air; I could tell that he wasn’t cold at all.

Well, he’s got your closeness to keep him warm. And the cigarette.

He unzipped his jacket and opened it so I could huddle inside. He wrapped his arms around me, and I felt safe and warm–or at least warmer–being so close to him wrapped in his jacket and arms. It was oddly comforting.

Now, I’ve seen (and accidentally perpetrated) word rep in a single sentence before. But I am hard pressed to think of a worse example of repetition in a single sentence as “He wrapped his arms around me […] wrapped in his jacket and arms.”

 

All of a sudden he pulled me in even closer, I hadn’t realized there was any space left between us but there was just a small amount and with that eliminated, he kissed me. I don’t think I knew what was happening at first. I almost tried to fight it but the fight went out of me rather quickly as his pushed his tongue past my lips. He was an incredibly good kisser and, for a moment, I got lost in just that–but then thoughts started running through my head.

I highly doubt that, but let’s continue on, anyway. Is anyone as grossed out as I am by the description of this kiss? The fight went out of her because he forced his tongue into her mouth, but he’s a good kisser? All I can think of is someone just sticking their tongue out and plugging it into someone’s mouth like an electrical socket, but we’re supposed to be like, oh, swoon, how sexy and hot that is. Especially after he just got done smoking a cigarette. I would rather kiss someone who just puked than kiss someone who just smoked, and I used to smoke.

Mac pulled just far enough from my face to speak. “I knew you were trouble the moment I saw you.”

Taylor Swift in the video for "Trouble", singing "I knew you were trouble when you walked in," and the lyrics are printed across the bottom of the gif.

SO SHAME ON MAC NOW.

He tells her his rule about not getting involved with performers, and of course the conversation just drags fucking torturously out, covering why he has rules, how every romantic relationship is bound to go bad, but how he’s been fighting his feelings for Zerd for a while. He even references REO Speedwagon, I shit you not.

He smiled and looked deep into my eyes, I could feel my face flush. He kissed me again, this time more passionately.

More passionately than badly described tongue intercourse?

A part of me wanted to stop it. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea. But before I could really think about it, I was wrapped up in being kissed and forgot about everything else.

Here’s another common staple of these types of Not Like Other Girls™ self-insert stories. The self-insert character must be conflicted as to whether or not sexual contact is wanted. If she just genuinely enjoyed being kissed without any reservation, she’d be, you guessed it, a slut. And since only evil women are sluts (and our self-insert can’t be evil), the self-insert must have some objection or reservations when it comes to the rightness of sex or kissing or hand holding or flirting or whatever else the author has condemned other female characters for.

The convenient rain also conveniently slows the moment they’ve had this romantic make out interlude. They decide they should head out before it picks back up again.

“So, REO Speedwagon, you like playing with fire now?” I asked. He laughed, looked me straight in the eyes, grabbed my hips, and kissed me hard once more.

When he pulled away he asked one more question: “Got any matches?”

I, too, would like some matches.

In a scene from Game of Thrones, Daenerys stares coldly as her dragons light shit the fuck up behind her.

Part two is coming next week.

154 Comments

  1. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    How do you “over-exaggerate” something? Can you “under-exaggerate” too?

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • I’m pretty sure you can under-exaggerate. Like, if I said that Zade was a bit of a Mary-Sue, that would be an under-exaggeration.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Or understatement.

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
    • Dorth Vader
      Dorth Vader

      I think you can in Europe. #10thingsihateaboutyoujoke

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
  2. K.
    K.

    So if all the performers have to know how to do a bunch of other acts, who’s trained to take over Zandi’s act if she can’t make it one day? And how’s that going to work without magicK? (I’m guessing, splat).

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Ilex
      Ilex

      I was wondering that, too!

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Goooooood point!

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Hahaha, of course not. The show simply shuts down when Zade disappears. I’m being serious.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Cavalish
        Cavalish

        I’m pretty sure when Zeus isn’t around, the entirety of Vegas just, like, turns off.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          “Did you remember to turn off Las Vegas before you left, Charlie?”

          I bet it just disappears off the map if Zoolander isn’t around. Like a fantastical lost city! I can imagine the lights going dim and the entire thing sinking under the sand as the camera pans away from it. XD

          October 19, 2017
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            It’s the Holodeck.

            October 19, 2017
    • Ha K! That was my first thought too!

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
  3. Nasitha DovRenee Blackshire
    Nasitha DovRenee Blackshire

    As a rare native of Las Vegas, I find the storm very convenient. Considering our lack of trees like a city in California, its very easy to see when a storm is coming. Sometimes it stays in the mountains, sometimes it only hits one part of town before moving onward. While we do get heavy rain, the downpour does not last very long. Of course I live on the northwest side of town and we do miss out of the better storms that the east side gets. What is most common is the drizzle rain storms. Those can last all day but you have to stand outside for a while before you’re even damp.
    Also the heavy rains as zcherazade explained move quickly throughout the valley. Its really pretty to see- clear blue sky on one side, dark thunderous clouds on the other.
    When I read this passage in the book I didn’t believe because rain is never a surprise here. Or never a sudden surprise. Unless you are cooped up in a windowless building all day without no outside access, you will know if it’s raining or if it rained. The smell is very strong long before or after a rainfall.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      That makes sense given the lack of obstructions to block out the sky.

      The smell is very strong long before or after a rainfall.

      Oooh… I hadn’t thought of that. In other regions, I’ve heard the scent of rain comes from the worms wriggling up out of the ground. What does the desert smell like?

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Atrista
        Atrista

        Rain in the desert smells like wet dirt and humidity. The desert is rarely humid, so even something like 30% humidity smells and feels different than dry air. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it feels dense and wet. Also, like Nasitha mentioned, rain in spread out desert towns mostly hits different areas during the day instead of the entire city. Therefore, you can see and smell the wet dirt coming your way an hour before it hits. Sometimes it smells like rain all day even though you get none in your part of town.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Interesting! I guess it’s just the smell of all the sand that got moved around or… well, it could be dirt from other regions. From what I’ve learned, raindrops don’t actually form until the drop gets to a certain size and it’s really hard for the water molecules to reach that goal on their own, so most raindrops have dirt particle(s) and/or other extremely tiny debris trapped in them. 🙂

          October 20, 2017
          |Reply
  4. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth

    “She’s a woman in this book who isn’t Zanzibar.”

    I actually read a YA book this year where the MC was named Zanzibar (Zanzie for short), I shit you not. It was more readable than this book, though not by much. The MC was ridiculously shallow and judgmental; I don’t require MCs to be totally likable, but when the MC’s mother is missing and her father is hospitalized and comatose, and the MC goes to the hospital and mentally judges all the staff (“eww, she’s fat”), you’ve completely lost me as a fan.

    I’ve noticed that MCs with ridiculous names tend to be awful Mary-Sue types (or just awful, as in the case above). There’s a definite pattern.

    “Are you going to name drop literally everyone you’ve ever worked with?”
    Just wait, it gets even worse. I’ve never seen such a blatant self-insert character, and I’ve read The Name of the Wind and oodles of terrible fanfiction.

    (She has a completely pointless scene with Zade running into two celebrities at the mall. I’m 30, I’ve never heard at all of one of those celebrities and have barely heard of the other. This was supposed to be a YA book, but all the pop-culture references are at least 20 years old, sometimes much older.)

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Amy
      Amy

      Because that’s what kids are into these days, B-list celebrities from the 90s.

      Like you, I was around when Carrot Top was at his peak popularity and *I* barely know who he is.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I’ve noticed that MCs with ridiculous names tend to be awful Mary-Sue types (or just awful, as in the case above). There’s a definite pattern.

      Well, the names are all flash and no substance, which is how everything else about a poorly crafted character tends to work. The thought processes all go towards making an impression and acting like the character is special without giving the character any real depth. It’s also different from having a character who acts like this, but it’s all just a facade. There’s nothing underneath for a Mary Sue.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Erin C
      Erin C

      I will give Zade credit for being the worst blatant self-insert character I’ve seen. Previous title holders include Robert Langdon and Mikael Blomkvist, so the competition is pretty fierce.

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
    • Carla
      Carla

      Yeah, I’m 24 and I only vaguely know that Carrot Top is a red headed comedian, and I have no idea who the other guy in that scene is. If this book is supposed to be aimed at teens that is not a timely reference! And if it’s supposed to be aimed at “new adults” which I think it what I am, then it still has very outdated references. I know that Zade is supposed to be one of those “I only like music from before I was born” types, but a 25 year old should still occasionally reference something from this decade.

      October 25, 2017
      |Reply
  5. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob

    We rehearsed all the time; it’s a huge show that has constant changes, so full rehearsals have always been held weekly. We typically rehearse on weekdays,

    I’m not a professional writer type, but did we just jump from past-tense to present tense, to future perfect tense in like, two sentences? Isn’t that, like, not good?

    You know what I hate about that section, I mean, aside from everything? I hate how little meaningful information is conveyed. When does Zombii wake up in the day, or go to sleep? What does “practice” mean if your act is walking and diving? Do you swim, or stretch, or do yoga? What’s the point of having a POV protagonist if you refuse to filter information through their, um, point of view?

    each of us has to know several other roles so we can shift around and cover for almost anyone–or a combination of anyones.,/blockquote>

    Again, this information fails to either advance the plot, develop the characters, or enhance the setting or mood. It’s just there, squatting on the page, demanding that you read it before you continue on to something (possibly) more interesting.

    If Zumba’s act requires her to walk and dive, but now she has to learn how to work rigging and lights and sound, that’s a neat opportunity for us, the readers to learn about what she likes, what she might struggle with, how she handles being challenged with new tasks. Buuuut that’s really boring if you’re just writing rampant wish-fulfillment, because the only audience you care about is yourself, I guess.

    [Riley] probably asked for me when I got hired, since he was relatively new himself

    He’s relatively new… but already knows Mac’s backstory. Because… reasons.

    The short version is that there was a performer here, Clara Faust…

    Faust. Faust. Really? Really?! I mean, that’s not even a half-assed attempt at word-play. “Mary Stopheles” I could accept with a wince and a groan. ‘Louise Cipher’ could, if you squinted and looked at it from the side, pass for a subtle jab. But then again, the head of the magic show is a dude named “Spellman”, so I have only myself to blame for having expectations.

    He unzipped his jacket and opened it so I could huddle inside.

    I just realized: what the hell is Zuchinni wearing in this scene? If the character has been riding for years, shouldn’t she have her own thick leather jacket? or even just a riding jacket with armor pads? You just zip closed the vents on your riding gear, and you’re plenty warm. Unless, of course, Lani actually knows very little about safe riding practices, which well, big list of things the author knows nothing about.

    Also, I don’t recall, but didn’t Zygote drive a car to Vegas? Like, in the completely unnecessary prologue, she was driving a car, right? So was there a tow-rig that wasn’t mentioning holding the bike, or a 5th-wheel trailer? I guess there had to be a trailer to hold her camping gear, guitar, and whatever other scene-appropriate accessories Lani’s action-figure needs.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Goddesstio
      Goddesstio

      Zanadu probably protects herself from road rash with “magicks”

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Erin C
      Erin C

      Mary Stopheles is way way too clever for this.

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
    • Chris
      Chris

      Whahahaha TRUE. All of it! It’s so incredible that Jenny can actually do these recaps when the book just doesn’t make sense, anywhere. What the hell is up with the motorbike. Did we miss something?

      What I love most about these recaps and these kind of comments is how they complement the Writing Advice column. I’m learning a lot from this.

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
    • CI-B
      CI-B

      I thought the same thing about the motorcycle! We get all this needless detail and then so much seems to just poof into convenient existence. I guess we’re expected to handwave it and say “it was magick?”

      October 23, 2017
      |Reply
  6. The Inconstant Gardener
    The Inconstant Gardener

    I’ve been hate-reading along and the thing that strikes me is that you have a young woman who is a witch, named after a legendary princess (ignore that the story is pretty icky for a moment), who has brought her hopes and dreams to a theatre where magic is made, inside a casino where hopes mostly die, inside a city that stands shining and seductive in the middle of nowhere like something out of a debased fairytale, and you have all these nested layers of desires and dreams and illusions populated by driven, talented, practical people all with their own characters and virtues and faults and rivalries and what I’m getting at with this enormous run-on sentence is, basically, how did she manage to take this very promising set-up and make it SO DARNED BORING?

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      how did she manage to take this very promising set-up and make it SO DARNED BORING?

      Sheer laziness, very little self-awareness or critical assessment, almost no research, and focusing on her self-insert to the point of ignoring everything else. The plot literally can’t kick in until the author knocks Zade out cold (as will become evident towards the end.) Zade isn’t a protagonist; she’s a black hole. :p

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • The Inconstant Gardener
        The Inconstant Gardener

        I’ve enjoyed reading all the replies – it’s good to get the extra perspectives (also makes me think about other (good) books I’ve read and why they work.

        Having said that Zanzibar is a black hole, well, all of them are. Not much in the way of shading. If these people were drawings, they’d be stick figures drawn in a gigantic chisel marker with ‘gud’ and ‘bad’ written above each one, so you know who you’re meant to cheer for.

        Also, does she ever give a sense of the environment? I’d love to know more about the theatre, how it feels when it’s empty and expectant or full of excited people. What Las Vegas is like, the fake and the real. Does this ever get developed?

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
        • She describes the the theater of being “kept a bit warmer than room temperature” and then at some point says that it’s “humid.” Which, ew?

          October 20, 2017
          |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          I called her a black hole because she sucks other characters into her event horizon. Then we see their spaghettified afterimage where, to us, they seem to be frozen in place, but we’ll never truly get to see them again or find out how they’re doing because they’re trapped forever. Literal beams of light can’t escape a black hole.

          I would agree that they’re all stick figures, but if Ziziphone is an unreliable narrator, then it’s possible some of them have more going on inside than at first meets the eye. Ironically, Sophia is probably the most well-developed character, if viewed from a more sensible perspective. Charles and Mac are both explored more thoroughly, but the moment the camera tries to dig deeper is the instant the narrative fucks them up, so it’s a bit meh for them.

          Haha but even if they are all stick figures, which is definitely a great analogy, I still maintain that Zombify is a paper doll with a stick up her ass. We’ve gotta make her special somehow! Plus it makes it easier to parade her around those cardboard backdrops. 😀

          What Las Vegas is like, the fake and the real. Does this ever get developed?

          I could be mistaken, but I don’t think Sarem gave a damn about the city. The closest she gets is describing a few real places that exist without making much of an impact on the reader. I’m with you, the whole setting should be really intriguing, which makes this even more disappointing. 🙁

          October 20, 2017
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            It all comes down to the fact that skilled writers can BREAK the rules and get away with it. Rumor Godden and Frances Mayes switch tenses in _China Court_ and _Under Magnolia,” but in addition to being the works of skilled writers, both books are about memory. Charlotte Bronte gleefully skewers every upper-class twit she ever resented as a governess in _Jane Eyre_, but her revenge porn reveals something about the society, and also sheds some light on how different characters react to Jane, Mr. Rochester, and Adele. Take the house party, at which the only really important guest is Blanche Ingram, who appears to be destined to marry Rochester. There are a number of other characters whom we never see again, but (and I haven’t looked at the book in years), they are still pretty vivid in my mind:

            Lady Lynn and Baroness Ingram, who are both pushy matrons of the Lady Bracknell type. They both bully anyone who’ll stand for it;

            The Eshton sisters, who are kind to Adele, say nice things about their governess, but are vapid enough to find the mysterious visitor more handsome than Hot Goth Guy Rochester;

            Blanche’s siblings, who seem less malicious and less intelligent at the same time;

            A few husbands, who don’t run society and don’t care to–they just want to get at the port and go hunting or shooting;

            Mrs. Dent, who likes flowers and seems lady-like, thus drawing Blanche’s verbal abuse;

            Blanche, a bitch on wheels who is such a pathetic try-hard that even Jane realizes her forced style of flirtation is going to alienate Rochester.

            We know why they are there: to explain the choice Rochester has to make between a glittering but shallow society, and quiet but deep little Jane. Jane has already accepted the fact that she can’t compete in the looks department; she even draws pictures of herself and of what she thinks Blanche will look like from Mrs. Fairfax’s description to stifle any inappropriate vanity on her own part. So the reader shares in her simultaneous triumph and frustration when she realizes these people Ain’t All That, but Rochester still might marry Blanche because that’s what men in his position do.
            Is Jane a self-insert for Charlotte and her frustrated love for M. Heger and who knows who else? Of course she is, but she manages to do so without alienating the reader or describing her Perfectly Cut Bangs.

            October 20, 2017
    • Amy
      Amy

      Easily. On top of the million other Mary-Sue tropes, here’s another one to discuss: Zade doesn’t suffer.

      Simple storytelling rule is, have your character want something, and make it impossible for them to get it. Zade doesn’t work to get what she wants, everything is handed to her on a platter. She gets the job on the first day. She gets attention from all the guys by existing. She gets her dad back without any trouble.

      Even things that should be a roadblock for her, like her dyslexia, Zade never talks about it, how it affects her life, how other people treat her if they knew. I don’t think Lani has ever heard of Chekov’s gun.

      The plot finds Zade. She could be walking down the street and the plot could come up to her– wait, we already saw that, with the random magic fight. (if you can call that a plot point)

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Hey, now, be fair! Zade spends months trying to figure out which love interest to choose!

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          And then she can’t actually pick one because that’s too hard.

          The tarot cards do their best, but eventually, chaos magick has to decide for her, haha. I never realized just how lame that was until I typed it out.

          (Sorry, I know you were being sarcastic, but it’s just too easy.)

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Easily. On top of the million other Mary-Sue tropes, here’s another one to discuss: Zade doesn’t suffer.

        While I agree wholeheartedly that a character should earn their success in life, I don’t think it’s about suffering per se. Zade could suffer and we still wouldn’t care. We need a reason to feel some sympathy first.

        The bigger problem is that Zade has no real motivations, based on needs or desires. Sarem pretends that she does, but when it comes right down to it, there’s no agency behind Zade’s actions. She gets pushed and pulled around, purely based on what other people think or expect, which is why she’s the only thing they ever think about. It’s a vicious cycle that results in nothing interesting, even when Zade lashes out at other people. She’s been gutted for the sake of the male gaze, and her humanity was warped to make her seem more dynamic, but at the end of the day, she’s a flimsy paper doll with a wooden stick up her ass.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Amy
          Amy

          If this was a regular story about an unknown actress trying to make it big in Las Vegas, then yes I would agree, the character should struggle, but not suffer.

          But HFM is about a Prophesized Magikal Chosen One with “five or seven movies” to be made out of it. THAT type of story demands suffering. Even hardcore Twilight fans were miffed that no one died, robbing the book of any tension and suspense.

          It’s bad enough Lani hand waved Sofia’s injuries and near-death experience away. By doing that, by showing us that there’s no long lasting consequences to one’s actions, then what’s the point?

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            I agree with what you’re saying, especially about having consequences for actions, but I think you missed my point.

            Suffering doesn’t matter if the character has no guiding motivation. Or let me put it another way…

            Demolishing a house doesn’t matter that much if it’s an empty shell with nothing living in it. We need reasons to care. Does its structural integrity still suffer from a wrecking ball crashing through it? Yes, but it’s just a statistic without any inherent meaning. Give the house a backstory involving a sweet and funny family, and I bet you can make a reader care when it gets torn down.

            But Zade? Who cares if she gets hit with a wrecking ball and actually dies from it? Zade could be tortured worse than Sofia, maimed for the sake of brutality alone, and no one would care because she’s devoid of life… She isn’t a fully realized character, even though Sarem pretends that’s the case.

            That’s why horror films aren’t that good if the audience doesn’t care about the characters who are dying on the screen. It’s the difference between pure spectacle and honest sentiment.

            October 18, 2017
          • Fer
            Fer

            Like in Forest Gump when Jenny throwns rocks to her father`s house?

            October 18, 2017
          • mydogspa
            mydogspa

            Dove, it’s not the wrecking ball that makes the story good, it’s all about who caused the wrecking ball to come down, i.e., the antagonist. A very common failure of newbie writers (especially in screenplays) is that there are no conflicting character arcs where the wants and needs of one character (protagonist) clash directly with another (antagonist). Everyone seems to get the concept of Act I but Act II is lost on the vast majority of writers.

            Here Zod doesn’t want or seem to need anything and there is no one directly opposing her efforts whatsoever in the narrative. Hence: The Big Yawn (TBY)

            It’s no wonder they turned down the script when it’s this boring.

            October 19, 2017
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Re: the legendary princess and her “romantic” story:
      This is how 18th-century writer Crebillon (rather snottily) refers to Shahriar in one of his many naughty tales:
      *********************************
      the magnanimous Schah-Riar, of whose great
      deeds one reads in the Thousand and One Nights;
      who, among other activities, took such keen delight
      in the strangulation of women and in listening to
      varied tales.
      *********************************
      It’s also worth pointing out that Shahriar goes on his Deflowerin’-n-Death rampage after discovering his original wife having an affair with a “Negro slave.” I leave others to figure out where the romance is in all that racism/classism/socio-economic exploitation, etc.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        I leave others to figure out where the romance is in all that racism/classism/socio-economic exploitation, etc.

        “Thank you, Zade! But our Romance is in another book.” 😀

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
  7. Mike
    Mike

    Real-person fiction has always creeped me out. It’s one thing to write about fictional characters doing things they wouldn’t normally do, but it quickly becomes disturbing when it’s a real person. It just feels wrong. At least TRY and separate them from the real life individuals. But now, she gave the actual band name, and their real names, and then made them unsuccessful, coming across as some kind of petty ‘see where you would be now if I hadn’t been there to manage you?!’ way. I wouldn’t even put it past her to later in the book insert her giving the band some advice that helps them get their big break or something.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Glitz novels of the 80s often have real celebrities like Barbara Walters or Princess Di interact with their characters, but they are pretty jarring, even for trash novels. Kinda breaks that fourth wall or something. Jackie Susann and Harold Robbins, the godparents of trash, preferred to have thinly disguised versions of people like Ethel Merman and Howard Hughes and gave them different names. Everybody knew who they were anyway.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Mike
        Mike

        While not a whole lot better (and still jarring as you say), it’s at least less uncomfortable to me if the person is at least thinly veiled or just in a scene. To have a real person showing interest in your self-insert character, man, keep that shit in your personal fantasies. Especially uncomfortable in this case because from the posts the band have made regarding the book (if I’m remembering correctly at least), it doesn’t seem they’re exactly on great terms with her. So she’s rewriting real history with real people so they never met her and were significantly less successful, and crushing on her. In a real book that she really published and really intends to make into a movie.

        “Kinda breaks the fourth wall” You may have hit it on the head why this comes off as weird in the examples you gave. Having real people in a wholly fictional story makes you question what universe it’s taking place in, and that breaks the immersion.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Amy
          Amy

          is it worse that Lani is not even subtle about it? I’m sure anyone, even those who don’t know about the controversy of HFM would blink and go, “wait, is she referring to a real life person here???”

          One of the rules of fanfic is to NOT show it to the actors and writers. Lani broke them all in one fell swoop.

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Somehow, says talent manager Arnold Stiefel (then a Bantam P.R. assistant), Mansfield managed to obtain the names of the 125 bookstores that The New York Times polled when compiling its all-powerful best-seller list. Like a general spearheading a battle, Mansfield recruited friends for his strategic book-buying campaign. “Irving would say, ‘You’re going to San Francisco to visit your mother,’” Lily Naify recalls. “‘Go to this bookstore on Post Street and buy every copy of the book you see. Then order five more.’ In New York he’d want you to go into Doubleday or Coliseum and say, ‘You only have four? I need 12 for Christmas.’ And then we had to make sure the book was displayed up front. I had stacks of them in my closet.” Twentieth Century Fox apparently also pitched in; it was in the studio’s interest to be able to trumpet in its ads the exhilarating words “based on the best-seller.” – Vanity Fair article

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Mike
          Mike

          …So she wasn’t even original in how she got her 15 minutes of fame. There is absolutely nothing original or creative about this woman. That’s actually impressive.

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            She should’ve just written a biography, honestly.

            October 18, 2017
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Mike:
            Susann was able to pull it off, because at least her seamy depiction of showbiz was considered terribly shocking on those days. In addition, her bad characters were thoroughly hateful and her good ones were flawed and rather pathetic, which at least made you wonder what would happen next.

            Sarem has a achieved the Fenimore Cooper feat Mark Twain described of making the reader wish all the characters, good and bad, would get drowned together.

            October 19, 2017
      • Vivacia K. Ahwen
        Vivacia K. Ahwen

        Violetta, that article was awesome!

        October 21, 2017
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          Found it by accident when I was googling to confirm which Susann characters were based on which stars. As I’ve posted elsewhere, she could get away with that kind of promotion because at least her book was *fun* trash.

          October 21, 2017
          |Reply
  8. Mylissa
    Mylissa

    That is not how professional theatre works. Ugh.

    Okay, I’ve never done a magic show in Vegas but nothing she ever says about this theatre makes sense. That’s not how dark days work, that’s not how rehearsals work, that’s not how casting works, that’s not how swings work, etc etc. AND WHY DON’T THEY HAVE A STUNT CHECK BEFORE SHOWS?! Because Lani didn’t care about anything making any sense in this shit show.

    I can’t speak to AGVA which is probably what these folks would fall under if they aren’t AEA, although maybe assuming they are union is too much with the nonsense. AEA only requires a half hour before curtain call time, although depending on people’s personal preferences, plenty of AEA actors show up before they have to be there for their personal warmups and to settle in.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      That’s not how dark days work, that’s not how rehearsals work

      May I pick your brain just a bit? How do those work? I’m assuming rehearsals shouldn’t be on dark days, but several hours before the first show on a given work day. To be honest, I once checked Copperfield’s site and he doesn’t have individual set days. He seemed to take entire weeks off at a time and then works several weeks straight. Is that more common?

      Also, I think OSHA was mentioned, but I could be wrong.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Community theatre might have a brush-up mid week for weekend shows, but it’s often a speed-through.
        AEA might have an alternate to cover several parts in case someone gets sick. The non-union shows I’ve done are sometimes double-cast, so if there’s a problem, the other person playing the part takes over. They did this once when one actor got in an argument with the director a few days before we opened.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
      • Kate
        Kate

        In union houses you’re looking at a sacred dark day – violate that and the pay premiums are crazy until you give people their next day off. Also, it would be mean, taking away people’s one day off.
        Post-openings rehearsals are usually limited depending on the type of show. I imagine a magic show wouldn’t be Equity, but even still I don’t see daily understudy rehearsal happening. I believe that understudies and swings would be minimized because of the complex and potentially dangerous nature of the work.
        What got me, oddly, is that there was no pre-show prep time or meal break. For a highly technical show you would expect 60-90 minutes of set-up before the house opens at the half hour call, and the cast and crew would require an hour at least for dinner before that. So Loonie’s suggested timing is impossible.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
  9. Stormy
    Stormy

    While reading this, I have the same feeling that I did toward the last Twilight book. This is very obviously the author’s very thorough personal fantasy life…so why is it so pedestrian? I’m not only bored, I’m disappointed and bored. There’s so much detail and none of it is remotely interesting! It’s almost impressively devoid of personality. She’s a spunky 20-something with technicolor hair and phenomenal cosmic powers and she decides to join a Vegas revue and put up a tent? She gets tangled in juvenile snipes and power struggles over boys? She hangs out with C-list celebrities who all uniformly adore her and only her? What’s the point of reading this for anyone not named Lani Sarem?

    However, I’ll give her points for getting to the kissing with relative quickness. I was so sure there would be more “But Jackson! But Mac!” ~tension~ before we got there.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • However, I’ll give her points for getting to the kissing with relative quickness. I was so sure there would be more “But Jackson! But Mac!” ~tension~ before we got there.

      Oh ho you are in for an unpleasant surprise

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      This is very obviously the author’s very thorough personal fantasy life…so why is it so pedestrian?

      Some people have no imagination. Also, our fantasies tend to be pretty mainstream and generic overall, so anything based on wish fulfillment is inherently rather bland. Kind of similar to how dreams are really weird and interesting to experience when you’re asleep, but no one actually wants to hear about some random dream their friend/co-worker/relative had because they don’t normally make much sense or have an actual point to them.

      It takes writing skill and a lot of thought to turn that into something more distinctive and entertaining.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Oh hell, I wrote an (unpublished, thank God) bodice-ripper back in the day in which the heroine, an 18th-century ballerina (who was MUCH prettier and more talented than I ever was or ever will be) got plotted against by the scheming courtesan, kidnapped by the Hellfire Club, and then there was the handsome but ruthless aristocrat who “rescued” her, but only so he could…you get the idea.
        Total crap, but at least stuff HAPPENED.
        If this is how Sarem escapes reality, I hesitate to guess what her reality is like.,

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          That’s the difference between a book and a daydream. Creative people have more intersection because that’s how they train themselves to think and see, but even then their daydreams won’t be nearly as elaborate unless they’re plotting something out so they can turn them into a story, which requires a lot of work. 🙂

          Sarem just wrote down her daydreams and left it as is. It sounds like you tried to write a book from the start, even if it was also wish-fulfillment.

          Additionally, Jenny is only reviewing this book as she reads it. Lani Not-Sarem has gone through the entire thing, which led her to believe that about two-thirds of the book is padding. The plot doesn’t kick in until much later and Jackson presumably never existed in the screenplay, so Sarem basically took what little plot there was and she diluted it with as much extra crap as possible, in order to pump up the word count by any means necessary. Lani Not-Sarem also has a very good theory that is kind of ridiculous but only works because most of Jackson’s scenes from the screenplay were originally assigned to Charles.

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
    • Indigo
      Indigo

      YES. This is someone who clearly missed the memo that hearing about another person’s daydreams is the only thing more boring than hearing about their actual dreams, especially when they don’t even have the imagination to dream big, or the uniqueness to think of something really creative. Shit, some of the kids I’ve baby-sat come up with cooler and more inventive stuff in two seconds flat when we play Let’s Pretend (“I’m a fairy princess who can talk to animals and make trees grow cotton candy!” “Well, *I’m* a superhero who can fly and see the future and saves the whole world from broccoli monsters!!” “Well, *I’M* a half-alien intergalactic rock star who invents time travel and rides a dragon through space!!!”)

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
    • Tracy
      Tracy

      I noticed this too. As a personal fantasy it’s extremely dull. I’m sure the screenplay wasn’t much better.

      October 24, 2017
      |Reply
  10. Ilex
    Ilex

    I’m trying to Be Nice (TM) and think that Lani Sarem is doing all this name-dropping so that when her movie gets made, all her friends can be in it and benefit from her success.

    I’m not published, but I try to name-check a book by one of my writer friends, whether they’re published or not, in every book I write. Since my characters all like to read, they might as well read something that plugs a friend. So Lani might be thinking along the same lines.

    I don’t use actual people from the real world as characters in my books, though. That always feels jarring to me in fiction, unless it’s explicitly a novelization of a real story or something like that.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      SOMETIMES, I’m cool with the name dropping authors/books thing, but there is one author who lately name drops EVERYONE. Her heroines are always big time readers and they’re always reading the most recent releases of the authors who’ve given a cover quote for the book the name drop is in, or if they do each others’ events or what have you. It’s so blatant that it got to the point, before I stopped reading her, that I would see a book or author mentioned and go, “I bet…” and I’d head over to Amazon to see where that author was quoted praising the book.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        Ugh, circlejerk.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
  11. Um… where did she get a Ducati? And when?
    Money is just another one of those magical things Zani can pull out of her ass, I suppose.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Amy
      Amy

      So i did just a general search and your average Ducati has a price tag of $5000-$7000.

      Zade implies she had this damn bike for years, so how does someone who lives with her “tarot card reader” mother could afford such a thing? I dont think tarot card readers make that much money, even if they are the best in town.

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Maybe it was a literal asspull? Magickal crotch rocket coming out of her hoohah…

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Fer
        Fer

        But that wouldn`t break the “oh so pure” v-card and her mary sueness so she would be just like her slutty coworkers?

        Oh man, I wish her name was Juliet.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          She’s still a virgin as long as they don’t know. 😉

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
  12. Amy
    Amy

    Look, we know smoking looks cool, but kids these days are a lot more informed about the dangers of smoking. And considering this is supposed to be YA, having your characters kiss a “cool” smoker is such the wrong message to send to teenagers.

    The worst part about this scene is not the smoking though. This is suppose *the* kiss and I am not wooed. I did not swoon. This is the scene where I go, “Finally! They’ve kissed!” and I’m BORED. Hell, I’ve read fanfics from ten years ago that still send butterflies to my stomach when I think about the kissing scenes, but this? Nada.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Mike
      Mike

      Sarem thinking smoking is attractive gives away her age. She grew up while it was still regularly used as a trope. A real 25 year old in 2017 would have grown up during the 90’s and early 2000’s, when things like the Simpsons were regularly making fun of that trope and it was getting used much, much less.

      It’s frankly ridiculous to have a smoker portrayed as cool, and with her being a non-smoker (as far as we know at least) kissing someone who just took a drag on a cigarette should be like kissing an ashtray. Though even without that I agree with you that the kiss was entirely passionless and boring to read about. And I’ve never liked the reluctance thing. It feels very uncomfortable to constantly see women being portrayed as not wanting it but then giving in and enjoying themselves. #metoo and all that…

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
      • Amy
        Amy

        I’m only five years younger than Lani and I remember DARE and all the old 90 cartoons talking about how dumb drugs are. (The best one I remember had the teenager mutant ninja turtles)

        And you make a good point about the resistance bit. There’s a difference between a character who is nervous, and one who is thinking of saying “No”. The two do not intersect.

        October 18, 2017
        |Reply
        • Mike
          Mike

          I’m only a year or two older than you but lived in a lot of small towns with exceptionally limited cable options. So I grew up watching whatever was on, which tended to be old shows and movies like Happy Days and Grease. I still think smoking is disgusting, but I can at least see how someone who grew up in the 80’s could grow up with the image of the cool rebel smoking.

          Huuuuuge difference. Nerves are understandable. Someone new, you’re still not entirely sure how you feel about them, you think they like you but you’re not sure, but in that moment you’re both turned on and it just happens… versus ‘oh he’s kissing me… I’m not sure I like this… oh man he’s FORCED his tongue down my throat, now I’m totally into this!’ That could also account for part of why the section reads so badly. It’s hard to make that sound sexy.

          October 18, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            Yeah, I think there’s a disconnect involving the unfortunate implications that we see in a lot of media where the female love interest puts up a fight until she changes her mind, and it can get all kinds of weird without some really good nuance. There has to be a reason for the character to resist and then another reason for the character to change their mind, plus some amount of time between these thoughts… It definitely shouldn’t change in the middle of a kiss unless it’s a porno. Otherwise, it leads to the mistaken assumption that men just need to keep being persistent, even if a woman says no or seems to reject them.

            There’s also the typical female fantasy which isn’t about rape, it’s about consensual submission, but a lot of people don’t realize that.

            October 18, 2017
          • Amy
            Amy

            ohhh… even more, Zade is just… standing there. There’s no description of action on HER part, so I’m just imagining her not moving, not breathing, not moaning. We’ve all seen kissing in porn and it’s TERRIBLE. It’s all a smash of teeth and lips, and this is because kissing is an intimate act and often actors don’t want to share that with others.

            my god, it’s such a turn on draw back and have your partner following you wanting more. To hear them gasp and moan and sigh. To see them SMILE. And what do we get?????

            “he shoved his ashtray-tasting tongue down my throat and I considered pushing him away, but whoops, i guess i like it, so whateves.”

            (also, who uses tongue on a first kiss????? maybe this is why Mac got his damn heart broken the first time. He moves too fast! slow down boy!)

            October 19, 2017
    • Nocturnal Queen
      Nocturnal Queen

      The whole smoking-as-a-way-to-show-that-character-is-rough-or-bad has weird class implications too. Smoking today is generally associated with the poorer working class and poor people in general. Both are categories which has a reputation for being a bit rough. The people who take smoking as a way to show that their character is rough around the edges often forget to include the class context from which the roughness and smoking stems from. They basically have the characters wear the poverty aesthetic like a costume without the characters suffering the consequences of actual poverty.

      Buffy-viewers can for example notice how Spike went from having a British upper class accent when he was good to a British lower working class accent when he turned evil.

      Sorry if I made horrible grammar mistakes. English is my second language and that makes me so nervous when I’m commenting at a place where a lot of writers are.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        Reminds me of the most recent Crossfire book by Sylvia Day. Eva VAPES.

        So I guess maybe that’s a class thing, too: Poor people smoke; rich people vape.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Sorry if I made horrible grammar mistakes. English is my second language and that makes me so nervous when I’m commenting at a place where a lot of writers are.

        Most writers won’t have amazing grammar in online comments. They don’t edit themselves as rigorously on a casual basis because the vast majority of English speakers don’t care. The exception is if incorrect grammar creates confusion, but then it’s easy to ask for a clarification. So don’t worry about it too much!

        If you want some feedback though, I noticed a few things, which I’ve corrected. I think the second one is a matter of context, rather than grammar.

        Both are categories which have a reputation for being a bit rough.

        The people who use smoking

        Normally I wouldn’t have mentioned it because I understood exactly what you meant and it’s easy to make little mistakes without thinking. As with any language, people who are paying attention will always make fewer mistakes than someone who is sleepy or in a rush. You’ll probably write better English than a lot of native speakers because their overconfidence makes them sloppy writers and you’re concerned about getting it right. 🙂

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
    • Kate
      Kate

      I agree with you so strongly about the smoking. I personally do smoke, which is how I know it’s a horrible, addictive, stupid habit that should never, ever be portrayed positively to young people and I doubt it would be by responsible writers or publishers. That section was when I knew this was truly a money grab by all involved and not even half-hearted YA.
      Then there’s the consent and madonna/whore debacle. I can’t engage with that; fortunately, everyone else has exploded its vileness. It is grotesque.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Amy: Hey, my first make-out session WAS with someone who put his tongue in my mouth immediately, but we were both in Jr. High at the time. And I did hesitate, despite the fact that I had been ferociously crushing on him for an entire school year and this was May, because (as I finally admitted to him), “I never kissed long before.” We both tasted of cigarettes, but once I was sure his tongue wouldn’t get caught on my braces, the hesitation soon dissipated….

      Also, we were in the upper bunk of my friend’s room, which smelled strongly of cat-shit.

      Ah, romance!

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        And that story is way more interesting and thrilling than what Sarem wrote! It’s the context that matters most, plus your situation gives some insight into how it could actually work. Sarem’s scene is a paint-the-numbers cliche because she’s never kissed a smoker or she thought the gritty details were too gross for a supposedly sexy scene, but that destroys the illusion of life.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
      • Amy
        Amy

        My first kiss was on a curb in front of a stadium. And then I never saw him again. lol

        (but I do remember how fast my heart was beating, how bright and warm the sun was)

        As miss Dove pointed out, your experiences show why/how your first kiss came to be. It’s actually a lot more entertaining and memorable than Zade’s.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
  13. Fer
    Fer

    First, thank you so much Jenny, not only for this recaps and your blog in general, this idiot is for me forever Larva. Really, I spent 10 minutes laughing when I read that part.

    Second, ewww. That scene makes the impossible; larva here wasn`t into the kiss, probably because sarem choose the wrong words, and that alone is soooo grooss. I mean even Ana wanted to be kissed and usually is at the time of the sex when this kind of things happened, but at the very first kiss? As far as I remember that is when we know with who the main character is going to stay, like when Jacob kissed Bella and she broke her fingers trying to slap him. Yes, it still was a little flirting with him towards the end but we already knew Edward was the endgame. And while Mac doesn`t seems violent to Larva, why she didn`t want him? Why no use words like surprised or confused? Those not only make more sense, also opened the door to the love triangle.

    Third, CLARA? Before this I was just bored and a little upset whit the Larva writer, now I really hate her. Just…

    Fourth, Mac is bitter and lonely because the Clara thing. Larva is one of those girls who hate Summer, right? Is so 500 days of Summer and really, while at the end I feel the movie tries to blame her, I don`t feel she did nothing bad. The same here, is not Clara`s fault that superass is too inmature and wanted tie her to him forever just for a night. More so, Clara looks like Chedwar`s mom and is probably victim of the addiction (for the cocaine comment) but of course instead of being just a woman with a problem, is the Robinson, despite being probably a closer age to Mac and not, you know, force him to sex while his underage.

    I keep what I said last post, the problem is Larva, but not even the book one, the real one and she needs help.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Fourth, Mac is bitter and lonely because the Clara thing.

      Yeah, it’s terrible given the many better reasons other people came up with in the last post that didn’t have to involve Clara at all. And it gets worse when Dela and Charles tell the story of how they got together before Zade was born. This novel is terrible at presenting healthy and unhealthy relationships; none of them seem realistic. :p

      I keep what I said last post, the problem is Larva, but not even the book one, the real one and she needs help.

      I agree. Larva has some issues. She ruined a perfectly good idea with her laziness and her single-minded pursuit of fame. 🙁

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
  14. Emerald
    Emerald

    First, thank you for pointing out that “gypped” is not an ok word to use.
    Second, serious question cuz maybe I’m getting it wrong, but is the proper term Roma? Or Romani? Or are both acceptable?

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Rroma seems to be the term for the people and Rromani is the term for the language (from the minimal research that I’ve done, thanks to this book.) I think you can use the two interchangeably if you want, but that’s the distinction that I’ve discerned. Additionally, the extra r might be optional. It’s an acceptable spelling and I like how it looks (plus I think it indicates a gentle roll of the r sound… It’s been a few weeks so I looked this stuff up.)

      October 18, 2017
      |Reply
  15. Sam
    Sam

    Even just following along via the blog, the over-writing is driving me BONKERS!! Describing every part of every physical movement is so incredibly amateur–but all you need is one person to point it out and you can ruthlessly edit it down. (For some reason in my rough drafts my characters are constantly opening and shutting doors. Why can’t they just walk in? What’s the deal with all these doors?)

    It’s Mickey Mousing in literary form, and to keep myself entertained I imagine a piano accompaniment dogging all their steps. XD

    Also, I hardly ever write romantic/sexual subplots, but things like this make me want to write an MC who is a tall, chubby gal full of self-confidence who is constantly trying to get laid. You do you, girl, you’re my imaginary hero.

    October 18, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      (For some reason in my rough drafts my characters are constantly opening and shutting doors. Why can’t they just walk in? What’s the deal with all these doors?)

      We all love doors? XD

      I noticed that in my own writing recently. I think, when the threshold matters, it can work, but otherwise yeah… It’s this awkward side effect of wanting to make sure the reader pictures everything just so, or understands exactly what’s going on when certain details are actually irrelevant. If people are staring at the door to rev up the tension, or startled by it specifically, or they’re focusing on what it means for someone else to enter, that makes a difference, but even then it can go overboard.

      Also, I hardly ever write romantic/sexual subplots, but things like this make me want to write an MC who is a tall, chubby gal full of self-confidence who is constantly trying to get laid. You do you, girl, you’re my imaginary hero.

      Sounds awesome! But I think the problem is too much focus on getting laid vs. not getting laid. She should have casual sex when she feels like it, and sometimes changes her mind or doesn’t find a guy she actually wants, and she only has a steady partner if she wants one. Maybe she has a few flings that end amicably.

      The same thing should apply to a male MC. It’s not about conquests; it’s just about fun. However, for a female MC, there will always be the unfortunate slut/stud distinction, so it’s better if she acknowledges it and faces the repercussions in her own way. Depending on the time period and the world building, that could alter who she is as a person, so it’s not inherently bad to address the idea if it doesn’t derail the plot or come off as a diatribe. It allows for some character building if it’s handled well. 🙂

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
    • I enjoyed “Ready Player One” but boy oh boy does Cline do a ton of that “narrate every single action” thing. It gets realllllly old.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
  16. Tania
    Tania

    I self insert like crazy in my fanfic but that’s because I want to bang it out with hot fictional characters and there are no secondary characters around to love my self insert for no reason because there’s no plot. Just bangin’.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Indigo
      Indigo

      I’m sure Sarem would be outraged if I called her work pornographic, but that’s the best description I can think of. Artistically speaking, porn is anything that’s designed to give you a fast, uncomplicated hit of whatever emotion or response you happen to desire. That’s not to say it’s crap – porn can be very well-made. But the defining feature of pornography is, I’d say, that it’s not something you can learn to like by developing your tastes: there’s nothing to “get” about it, it just either hits you in the pleasure centre, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, it’s deadly boring at best and incredibly offensive at worst. (Yes, this does mean that things like pictures of cute animals or sitcoms or whatever can be porn too. I have two wall calendars, one of pin-ups of various genders, and one of puppies and kittens cuddling, and I don’t find them as divergent as all that.)
      There’s nothing wrong with making your own porn to cater exclusively to your own personal desires – sexual or otherwise. The problem is assuming that if *you* find it pleasurable and interesting, that makes it universally so. Anyone who doesn’t also fantasize about [Author’s Name] being beautiful, rich and powerful/having sex with their favourite celebrity/getting back at anyone who’s ever wronged them isn’t going to find it very exciting.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Eh, I agree to an extent. Cuteness gets commercialized as much as sexiness does (just look at Moe in anime/manga), and I’d certainly agree that this novel is downright pornographic, even though there aren’t any sex scenes. However, I think it’s a bad idea to conflate aesthetic and interest into outright pornography in the general sense. That’s like saying every single aspect of personal taste is porn because it scratches an intangible itch. Maybe it’s true on some level but I think to be pornographic, it needs to be crass or openly gratuitous. Otherwise, the word loses its meaning.

        For example, food porn is very similar to food advertisements, but we wouldn’t call a cooking show pornographic just because it shows a ton of food, even if a foodie might consider it that way. It has to earn that label from the general public somehow, which means it has to cater to people who drool over food more than it does to people who just wanted a new recipe or couldn’t find anything else more interesting to watch at the time. This novel is pornographic because it’s explicitly built for Lani Sarem to get off on, and it wasn’t revised with anyone else in mind.

        So I do agree with your general sentiment. It takes real effort to create entertainment out of our own desires, and we don’t all like the same things. Simply assuming that something will be amazing because we enjoy it, and then leaving it at that, will always lead to a subpar product that misses the mark for a general audience.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
  17. I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to go back and check, but have you called her Zardoz yet?

    And gah, that kiss scene made me cringe both from the description and the fact that he’d just smoked a cigarette.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
  18. Nocturnal Queen
    Nocturnal Queen

    I just watched the episode of Angel called The House Always Wins (the one in season 4 where they go to Las Vegas). Guess who is in that episode! Our favourite scammer/wannabe-actress/fanfiction writer (also known as Lani Sarem). She is the blonde woman sitting in the right corner of the screen when Lorne reads the future chef Vivian as she sings. We even get a cameo of Lani’s “perfectly cut bangs”!

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I hope I remember this in like seven years when I get to that episode! 😀

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
  19. Perlite
    Perlite

    So… I’m still not getting why Mac’s “rule” is performer-specific. I thought it was gonna be something like he got distracted and someone got hurt, like some people suggested. But, it seems like he just had a bad experience. As much as I don’t want to believe Mac’s tragic story, considering Lani’s track record with her fictional women, Clara’s probably evil because she didn’t think a one-night stand meant “twue wuv” and Mac couldn’t take the hint.

    (Also, I know Jackson is the other leg in the love triangle, but he barely feels like a presence in this book. He always seems to be away on some other business or just chilling in the scenery. He has less of a personality than Mac other than being nice to everyone except “Slutty McJerkface” Sophia.)

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Nocturnal Queen
      Nocturnal Queen

      Yes! I was just thinking of this! I’ve read other recaps of the entire book and I still have no idea who Jackson really is as a person. All we know is that he plays the guitar and is the lead singer (I think?) in a band that already exists in real life. He is also probably Jackson Rathbone but without the 3D of the actual person. He seems to be in the story just to cash in on the love triangle success of YA novels and to tell the readers how much more attractive Zade is than all the other women in the world.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • I am pretty sure Jackson wasn’t in the original screenplay, and was added when LS was told she needed to make it franchise-able.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      So… I’m still not getting why Mac’s “rule” is performer-specific. I thought it was gonna be something like he got distracted and someone got hurt, like some people suggested. But, it seems like he just had a bad experience. As much as I don’t want to believe Mac’s tragic story, considering Lani’s track record with her fictional women, Clara’s probably evil because she didn’t think a one-night stand meant “twue wuv” and Mac couldn’t take the hint.

      Ironically, Zade treats him worse than Clara did, if that’s the case. There was simply miscommunication in that situation and she wasn’t interested in Mac, which is her prerogative. Zade, on the other hand, strings Mac along by making him think she’s interested in a relationship when even she doesn’t know what she wants and she doesn’t seem to desire going steady based on her inability to give up Jackson. Yet it’s treated as if Zade is better for leaving her vagina out of it, and when Mac makes a weird assumption later that she might have held off because she loves him, he’s presented as being in the wrong when he thinks he’s caught Zade being explicitly in love with another guy. It’s all sorts of messed up and has no bearing on his exact rules other than all the girls showing an interest are performers. But if anyone pointed all of this out to Sarem, then she ignored it or tried to justify it in the text.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Jane Eyre
        Jane Eyre

        I thought the same thing, and Zade is even worse than Clara also in an aspect that SHE KNOWS ABOUT CLARA. She knows he was burned in the past but still strings him along. She knows someone has trust issues and she is abusing this trust. Not that this is surprising…her doing abusive awful stuff. There was the Lemonade girl and then there is the ending(you’ve read other recaps Dove so you know the thing) where she just looks into people’s minds and it is kind of said that she would do things like that, get to people’s head and look around even for things they don’t want her to see. So…yeah.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Right. Zade plays with his heart and mind; she or her family could’ve altered his memories afterward. And of course Sarem could argue that isn’t true it’s because she never edited her monstrosity, but that’s her fault. She accidentally wrote the biggest bitch and it’s more telling than she probably wanted it to be. If Zade truly hasn’t been at fault, then it’s Sarem stringing Mac along, but her actions are mostly pointless and she forces the hurt on him towards the end for no reason other than to get everyone together with Dela. It’s a huge mess that doesn’t feel natural at all.

          October 19, 2017
          |Reply
  20. Chris
    Chris

    You would have to rob one of those plastinated human body exhibits to see more nerve on display.

    Only coming to the comments to applaud you on that sentence. Holy fucking shit. That was good. Now I’m gonna go back and read the rest.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • bewalsh
      bewalsh

      !!! I thought the exact same thing when I read that! It’s a brilliant quote Jenny, and if it’s ok, I’m planning on using that at the first opportunity.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
    • Mimi
      Mimi

      I’d also like to highlight “I am so hung up on this. I am out to dry.” It’s a way more eloquent way to express that you “can’t even.” (A phrase that I found useful for describing a feeling but ultimately unsatisfying.) And I plan to start using it all the time.
      On a related note, I’d also like to dust off the word Flabbergasted, as in “I’m completely flabbergasted by the utter shamelessness of the name dropping in this crappy book.”

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
  21. I had to re-read her description of getting on the motorcycle about 5 times before I understood.
    Like, how does one rest their leg on a foot pedal?
    Also, has Sarem ever ridden a motorcycle? I’m typically not too picky, but the utter lack of research and how things actually are has been driving me bonkers. There are no “pedals” on a motorcycle. There are pegs where you rest your feet and in front of those, on the right side is your rear brake (is that what Zandar was resting her foot on?) and on the left is your gear changer. And I’m surprised that there’s no long-ass boring description of the colour of her bike and how she perfectly matched her helmet (and I will judge the shit out of her if she wasn’t wearing a helmet even though I know it’s legal not to in some US States).
    To go more biker-nerd, who decides to go for a ride without checking the weather? Never mind what others have mentioned about being able to see storms coming in Vegas because there’s no trees to block out the view of the desert. It’s part of bike riding 101 that you check the weather and if there’s going to be rain you either don’t go or you pack rain gear so you don’t get soaked through. But, of course, that’s not very sexy *rolls eyes*.

    I’m not even going to get into how much it would cost to transport the Ducati to Vegas, considering she just drove off in her car with no real indication that she had anything shipped out there, just what she could fit in the car. And while a basic Ducati isn’t too expensive, they can get pricey. There’s various models and it’s kind of silly to give needless information about somethings and name drop all these different celebrities, but not give the model of the bike. That would be like me saying both my dad and I drive Hondas. We do, but mine is a little CBR 300 (~$4000 CAD) and my dad has a 750cc Shadow (~$8000 CAD). Huge difference. Honda also makes a massive 1800cc Goldwing (~$31,000 CAD). I’m not super familiar with Ducati’s, but it took all of 30 seconds to find their website, with prices and technical specifications of each bike. If it’s a “crotch rocket”, it’s probably one of their “super bikes” or “super sports” and would have cost a pretty penny (the least expensive one I saw I think was close to $15,000 CAD).

    Annndddd…didn’t realize I was going to get that in depth about a little annoyance haha.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Amy
      Amy

      No, this is very interesting. I am not a biker and there are plenty of things I would’ve never thought of.

      I’m actually quite surprised Lani didn’t go into a 1000 word description of what type of bike Zade rode. Considering the amount of detail went into her “rips in all the right places” jeans and multi-colored hair, a description of a cool ass bike wouldn’t be out of place. BUT the fact there is no description, not of the specific type of Ducati bike, color, where Zade got it, or even if she had a helmet, makes it stand out more.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Ah, I’m glad you found it interesting!

        It absolutely makes it stand out more, so that’s why I was super surprised.

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Sarem does two things in this novel that are really irritating: 1) she makes huge assumptions based on her life experience and then she never researches the truth, and 2) she only includes things as a status symbol or to create a better visual for the movie. On the one hand, just mentioning a brand name is usually better than the unnecessary detail she gives certain things, but on the other, she never includes stuff because it’s about passion. Her magick is a status symbol and a visual for the movie, which is why it’s never really explained.

      I’d bet you’re right and Sarem has never actually ridden; she just thinks it’s really cool. The things that get details are mostly padding to increase the word count anyway. Whatever sounds vaguely interesting is most likely from the screenplay and for some reason mostly ignored when it came time to write the novel.

      Then there’s her laziness overall, which is the main reason we get such conflicting info. Zade has ridden for years, but most likely bought the Ducati in Las Vegas since no other details are given (I think?) It’s entirely possible to add a few more sentences that explain this: perhaps Zade owned a much older and cheaper bike for years, then sold it for a used car before leaving her mother. After getting her contract and her first few paychecks, she splurged on a Ducati. This could suggest she’s bad with money or falls for the glamorous life without any thought to the future, or maybe she really missed her old bike and decided that a new one was a worthy investment, plus she has great credit. If Sarem had simply gone back and revised more, it could be explained. Instead, it’s just there on the page, limp and lifeless.

      Annndddd…didn’t realize I was going to get that in depth about a little annoyance haha.

      You should see what I did at the Blandbook for Chortles. lol

      But anyway, it’s always interesting when people give their two cents, especially when Zade’s account conflicts with reality. That’s never annoying! You’re fighting reckless misinformation and curious people enjoy learning about new things. 🙂

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • I definitely agree about her assumptions and her status symbols and that she’s super lazy in her writing.

        I also checked out Blandbook for Chortles and I adore what you’ve done lol.
        Thanks for thinking my spiel was interesting!

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Nessy: I see no reason why you shouldn’t be appalled by her lack of research on bikes; the theatre folks have been foaming at the mouth at her complete cluelessness. She has stuff happening in a large union house that wouldn’t be allowed in a community children’s theatre with double matinees.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • I’ve been following the comments and saw all the appalled theatre people, that’s what gave me the courage to speak up! Hell, I’m not even that familiar with theatre and I know that the things she has going on in there are huge no-nos.

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
    • Alicee
      Alicee

      I hadn’t think about it before reading your comment, but don’t you have to wear a jacket to ride a motorcycle? I mean, it may not an obligation but it’s way better for safety?

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • I can’t comment on laws everywhere, but at least where I am (Ontario, Canada) jackets are strongly recommended but not required by law. The only legally enforceable riding gear here is a helmet (I know for sure that a few US States do not require riders to wear helmets), but I would say that most riders wear a jacket because you’re absolutely correct. It is way better for safety. Roadrash sucks (I wiped out – at a relatively low speed in a parking lot, thankfully – and my jacket rode up a bit but it would’ve been way worse had I not worn a jacket at all).

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
  22. This book would have been 4,000 words shorter had an editor excised all the superfluous instances of the word “that.”

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      This used to be my big thing when I was writing. So then I took out so many “thats” that my crit partners thought I needed to add some back in 😉

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
  23. Teresa
    Teresa

    This is like, so bad that all I can do is shake my head. So sick of “everyone likes me and I don’t know who I should choose?” business.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
  24. Athena
    Athena

    Ok, I’ve gone with the version that Clara was upfront with what she wanted out of the relationship, but Mac got clingy since first reading about her from Lani-not-Sarem. But, there are female users, and Clara could have been one of them. If this had come from someone who had been there, and not Riley’s second or third-hand account, we might have gotten more reason to vilify Clara.

    That being said, there’s still not enough for Mac to have made this rule. Now, if he had a bad habit of falling for users and Clara was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, then we have something to work with. One and done only works if there was a tragic accident as others have mentioned.

    Also, given Mac’s rule, am I the only one that feels the kiss should have come at the end of the book? If Mac is turned off by casual dating, I don’t think he’d puppy dog around Zaza until she decided between him and Jackson. And he definitely wouldn’t break his set-in-stone rule after a few months of lukewarm interactions. Zambi having some succubus alure powers is the only reason it makes a modicum of sense, but even then it’s not a complete mind roll so he should be fighting his desires, blaming his traitorous libido for being attracted to exactly the person he doesn’t want to be with. Then realizing he actually loves her during her near-death. She survives, they confess their love, grand kiss, fade to black. La Fin

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Let’s imagine how to make Mac’s Rule actually relevant and interesting. I’m not personally a huge romance person, so I don’t actually know if this would be any good.

      -Zade goes to work in Magic Daddy’s Magic Show (and that is the actual name of the show) after a lifetime of Dela’s enforced secrecy and masquerading as normal in a small Southern town. Rather than a “normal” life, she’s seeking a place where she can be herself and feel accepted. She meets her BioDad Charles (who, for all intents and purposes, has been fused with Zeb). Zade is excited to have her abilities celebrated, despite the struggle to keep her actual powers secret. Charles keeps pushing her to realize her full potential, saying that she’s capable of so much, etc. It comes off as nurturing, but later it’s revealed to be nefarious.

      -Charles encourages her to hang out with Jackson (who in this story is not secretly Charles). Jackson is actually magic, so she can be herself around him. Also every time he’s onscreen, an ominous ice-cream-truck version of Hey There Delilah plays in the background, so that the audience knows he’s actually evil

      – But Zade and Mac are very much drawn to one another. They get along well, and have chemistry. But Mac doesn’t date performers for ethical reasons: as many have pointed out, it could cause him to over-focus on Zade at the expense of, like, Sofia. Maybe while he was wrapped up in Clara Faust drama, he was so distressed/distracted that another performer almost got hurt. So while he acknowledges being attracted to Zade, he’s super afraid of hooking up with her.

      -After Mac tells her unequivocally that nothing can happen between them, she starts spending more time with Jackson He’s kind of an arrogant lady’s man type, but she likes him well enough. Mac and Zade are still friends, but there’s still all this sexy tension between them. Mac doesn’t like Jackson because Jackson’s actually an asshole and gives off bad vibes, but he can’t directly express this without coming off as jealous. Maybe he does express this, and it makes Zade get angry with him because she doesn’t want her friend/new boyfriend to cause love-triangle drama. She cuts everything off with Mac because she’s still struggling with her feelings for him, and wants to be fair to Jackson.

      -Once Mac is out of the picture and Zade and Jackson are official, Charles, Jackson and Zade can start working on Big Magic Illusion. Let’s say that Charles and Jackson have wanted to do this spell/illusion for a long time, but Jackson wasn’t powerful enough on his own: they need Zade. Also, the “magic illusion” isn’t actually just a performance piece: it’s actually an evil ritual that requires Zade to be sacrificed to raise Cthulhu or something. I don’t know. It’s more than just a performance, and will be life-threatening to Zade (though she doesn’t know this).

      -As opening night approaches, Zade starts feeling uncomfortable with the pressure, but every time she brings this feeling up to Charles or Jackson, they dismiss it. So she starts talking to Mac again, and he’s all sweet and understanding. He tells her that if anything goes wrong he’ll be right there, and they almost kiss or something as Aimee Mann plays in the background romantically.

      -On opening night, Zade is anxious, but Jackson does his sparkly eyes thing, and tells her how A+ she looks, and he’s charming and her fears are mostly soothed. She tries to convince herself about how happy she is to be with her BioDad and New Magic Boyfriend. This is everything she wanted, right?

      -During the performance, something disastrous happens. Jackson doesn’t quite go Hans from Frozen on Zade, but the thought occurs to her. Her life is in danger, oh no!

      -Mac starts to take her to the hospital, but Zade says that they need her mom.

      -Drama about getting to Tennessee while literally dying. Also fears about Charles and Jackson following.

      -I don’t know how to end this. Charles and Dela need to have a final confrontation. Dela and Zade need to reconcile. Maybe Jackson turns into a snake like Jafar in Aladdin, because Arabian Nights, geddit? I don’t fucking know. There’s drama.

      -Zade and Mac start their own magic show, and travel the world together. But there’s still hope for a sequel, because Zade is like so super powerful that other evil magic dudes will be out to get her.

      The End.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Your quick rundown is way better, even though you’re not big on romance, and it absolutely works for Mac’s rules. 😀

        The ending kind of depends… See, if Dela isn’t meant to come into the story at all, then Mac could just take her to the hospital and Zade could show her true power by casting off her affection for the people who used her and fight them off/shut them down herself while she’s struggling not to die. Alternatively, Jackson or Charles could turn out to show some regret when she becomes injured because they do actually love Zade, and they help her fight the other who is evil. Or Dela could’ve been keeping tabs on her baby and show up in Las Vegas on her own to help her fight. There’s literally no reason to go to Tennessee in this version and taking her out of Las Vegas puts her into a coma, which ruins her protagonist position in a version where we actually want to see her conscious.

        October 19, 2017
        |Reply
        • Jackson has to actually be literally evil so that I don’t feel all sad when Zade breaks up with him for Mac. I hate love triangles where a good person gets heartbroken because their beloved liked someone else more. Maybe he’s been duping Charles? Who knows. But maybe after he turns into a snake he realizes the error of his ways and sacrifices his snake-self to Cthulhu so that Zade and Mac can get away. As he dies, his final word is “ssssssssssssorry.” Zade forgives his lifeless giant snake corpse tearfully, but then she and Mac have to get away while Cthulhu is wounded.

          It’s probably a better idea if Zade is at full capacity for the finale, so yeah, having her get injured would just be a dumb move. But I personally like the idea of a road trip/chase scene where Zade and Mac have to outrun an eldritch horror. Preferably on horseback. And Dela’s the only one who knows how to lock it away again, so she has to emerge to help Zade. But first she feeds Charles to it.

          I’m joking about most of these story elements, by the way. I still think that mine would be better than HfM, though. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so maybe I’ll pour precious hours of my life into writing something ridiculous. Maybe I’ll get a movie deal!

          October 19, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            Jackson has to actually be literally evil so that I don’t feel all sad when Zade breaks up with him for Mac. I hate love triangles where a good person gets heartbroken because their beloved liked someone else more. Maybe he’s been duping Charles? Who knows. But maybe after he turns into a snake he realizes the error of his ways and sacrifices his snake-self to Cthulhu so that Zade and Mac can get away. As he dies, his final word is “ssssssssssssorry.” Zade forgives his lifeless giant snake corpse tearfully, but then she and Mac have to get away while Cthulhu is wounded.

            (I know this is awful, but I’m imagining him transforming into one of those sea worms that resembles a penis instead, and I’m snickering as he is filled with regret and saying how sorry he is.) Ahem, but yeah, Jackson could be pure evil, for lack of complications (maybe super campy fun evil), and Charles is just a dumb douche bag. Maybe Charles sacrifices himself to kill Jackson snake instead, while they get away? Every option works for me. 😀

            It’s probably a better idea if Zade is at full capacity for the finale, so yeah, having her get injured would just be a dumb move. But I personally like the idea of a road trip/chase scene where Zade and Mac have to outrun an eldritch horror. Preferably on horseback. And Dela’s the only one who knows how to lock it away again, so she has to emerge to help Zade. But first she feeds Charles to it.

            Injured is fine, just not incapacitated. Fearing for her life is good if we want her to survive. 😀

            Horseback riding in the desert! I love it. Better than the crotch rockets… They just don’t need to go as far as Tennessee. Dela can simply appear with… well, magick. Before feeding Charles to the abomination.

            I’m joking about most of these story elements, by the way. I still think that mine would be better than HfM, though. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so maybe I’ll pour precious hours of my life into writing something ridiculous. Maybe I’ll get a movie deal!

            I agree! Haha and the ultimate irony: someone rewrites Sarem’s book and does it competently, with just some name changes and no real world people used. Then they get a franchise first and a movie. I say go for it! Maybe Geek Nation will publish it? 😉

            October 19, 2017
      • Mimi
        Mimi

        OMG this is fantastic. Please write this immediately. I’ll wait here.

        It’s really impressive the difference a plot makes…

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
  25. First I’d like to say that “Cam” is “Mac” spelled backwards. And vice versa. Also…

    “All I can think of is someone just sticking their tongue out and plugging it into someone’s mouth like an electrical socket.”

    I laughed literally out loud, almost woke up my kid, and had a pretty close call with peeing myself.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
  26. I put on my pajamas, they were pink with little checker marks. I like pink, but not the floo-floo pink that other girls wear. I sat down at my computer with the skull screensaver and looked up horror movies on the internet. I know most girls don’t like horror movies but I do. On the internet you can find a lot of horror movies if you search with Google. I typed in the one I was looking for and hit enter. Then..

    ARE YOU BORED YET?

    This is why real life makes for terrible fiction! And self-inserts are just as boring.
    I understand people being the Mary Sue in their daydreams. We all do that. But if you write it down, and forget to add flaws, conflict or a plot, all you have is your own personal wish fulfillment. And that doesn’t make for good reading.

    October 19, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      This is why real life makes for terrible fiction! And self-inserts are just as boring.

      Whoa, wait! The problem with this novel has nothing to do with real life; it’s not even grounded in research. I’d argue it needs more reality, not less. Sarem might have stolen the names of people she knows, but that’s all she does… name dropping. She didn’t actually use them as inspiration for fully realized characters.

      I’d, therefore, argue that your example only showed why stream of consciousness writing can be lazy, rambling, and aimless. That’s what makes it boring (and yes, as a parody of Zhazha and her internalized misogyny, it works beautifully.) If you edited that paragraph, it could be something interesting, but removing the realism wouldn’t be necessary; getting to the point would make it better, or turning it into a character development study with relevance to the plot…

      Also, self-inserts aren’t automatically boring either, but a lot of people like Sarem use them as cheap shortcuts for creating a protagonist. That lack of effort from the writer is what kills their potential in most cases, and that’s why people urge against them in leading roles.

      I understand people being the Mary Sue in their daydreams. We all do that. But if you write it down, and forget to add flaws, conflict or a plot, all you have is your own personal wish fulfillment. And that doesn’t make for good reading.

      This I agree with entirely.

      October 19, 2017
      |Reply
      • Athena
        Athena

        I think the problem is there’s a difference between “real life” and realism.

        Real Life: the day to day minutia. Think pretty much everything of the first half of Twilight without Edward in it. (I’ve only read the first half.)

        Realism: things that ground a story in the real world. A teenage girl moves back home with her father and falls for the hot bad boy in her biology class.

        Now real life can be the realism in a story, but it needs to serve a purpose. It needs to move the story along, not bog it down. And something of importance needs to happen during the bits of real life to make them worth the reader’s time.

        The sad thing is, HFM is doing that, just very, very, very badly. Take the last two chapters, please! *rimshot* Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

        We have the camping trip, nice, normal, mundane, and it serves as the backdrop for Zade to find out that Mac has a rule about dating performers. Then a non-eventful rehearsal gives us the details of the said rule. But, not only are these scenes poorly written as scenes, the information they impart is half-assed and barely relevant. I mean, she finds out that Mac doesn’t date performers, and why, and barely HOURS later he breaks his rule? What was even the point? We just wasted two chapters on a plot point that died before it had a chance to make a difference.

        tl;dr We need real life to give us a sense of the characters, we need realism to ground the story and make it believable, but most importantly we need the author to know how to use both correctly.

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          tl;dr We need real life to give us a sense of the characters, we need realism to ground the story and make it believable, but most importantly we need the author to know how to use both correctly.

          Amen. 🙂

          October 20, 2017
          |Reply
  27. Erin C
    Erin C

    I keep coming back to wondering what shes actually doing in the show. If shes been doing a what should be impossible trick with no set up people should notice. The crew would no that there isn’t a pool or trap door by that part of the stage and that no one is doing prep work for her act.

    But the description makes it sound like she just dives into the regular visible pool now, which wouldn’t impress anyone.

    The use of real people is still so gross. Has anyone asked any of the real people how they feel about it? I’m curious about what Nicholas’ wife thinks about having her husband fawn over the writer in the story, sure they throw in a mention of him having a wife but make it clear that he likes Zani more.

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
    • Jane Eyre
      Jane Eyre

      Same, real people are real people and all about them is real. Im pretty grosed out with shipping esp like thesebpeople have partners already very often…and their sexual orientation is real too, they sometimes even have kids…and how do yoi explain to a little kid that even tho it has daddy’s/mommy’s name in it and they are with a different person nothing is rrally going on, no one is cheating or divorcing ?

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
  28. Dove
    Dove

    (This is in reply to mydogspa but there’s no reply button there sooo…)

    Dove, it’s not the wrecking ball that makes the story good, it’s all about who caused the wrecking ball to come down, i.e., the antagonist. A very common failure of newbie writers (especially in screenplays) is that there are no conflicting character arcs where the wants and needs of one character (protagonist) clash directly with another (antagonist). Everyone seems to get the concept of Act I but Act II is lost on the vast majority of writers.

    But the antagonist’s actions don’t matter if we don’t care about what he’s doing or why. The protagonist needs to be someone we care about before we care what happens to them overall. Also, man versus nature doesn’t have an antagonist, in the strictest sense, yet it does have a conflict because we empathize with the need to survive. It still helps if we like the poor bastard who’s stuck in this situation, but it brings them down to their most basic needs, so it simply becomes more memorable and enjoyable if we get to know them first. This can also become spectacle over sentiment though, especially if we don’t understand what the hell the character is thinking. Then would get frustrating if they don’t act like any person would in a desperate survival drama (unless it’s a really good comedy.)

    Here Zod doesn’t want or seem to need anything and there is no one directly opposing her efforts whatsoever in the narrative. Hence: The Big Yawn (TBY)

    I addressed the need for agency and how Zygote has none. She should earn her goals with some much-needed effort, but torturing her won’t make us feel sympathy when we’d rather see her dead. Suffering can become a cheap way to garner emotion and there isn’t a tangible pay off if we don’t feel sympathy for the protagonist. There do need to be consequences for actions, but suffering doesn’t matter if the character has no guiding motivation and no personality. It’s like beating a corpse.

    Zirconia isn’t the protagonist anyway. Even with what little measly conflict that she gets, she won’t pick a course of action. Charles is the one who goes through the most character arcs, even if we don’t get to see all of it. Zangoose actually has to be knocked unconscious for the plot to kick in. 🙂

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
    • Athena
      Athena

      Zangoose actually has to be knocked unconscious for the plot to kick in.

      I agree to that in part. It’s obvious that the only two real plots were Zinfandel getting Mac and Charlie and Dela reconciling. Everything else was just to get those things to happen. Even Zippity-do-dah nearly dying was just a plot device to get Charlie and Dela in the same room. Yes, there was something about Mac having to cure her with the power of love or something, but that takes such a backburner to getting Charlie and Dela’s backstory out there that even the character’s themselves remark on it.

      When your character’s are ridiculing the plot, you have problems.

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
      • Amy
        Amy

        i love how we’re all dissolving Zade’s name into ridiculous words. and yet, i can still recognize them as Zade without pausing in my reading. XD

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
    • mydogspa
      mydogspa

      Oh. My mistake. I thought Zed was the protagonist. I mean, the narrative (to this point) is all about her, so I’d have thunk . . .

      Oh well. But yeah, I think we’re saying the same thing.

      Can we skip to the chapter that actually doesn’t have anything about Zuiderzee in it please?

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Oh. My mistake. I thought Zed was the protagonist. I mean, the narrative (to this point) is all about her, so I’d have thunk . . .

        That would actually make sense, but this book is the worst. Zither could be dropped to a supporting role and nothing would change, except the book would get a lot shorter and the plot would be tighter. You could switch to Mac as lead and lose nothing important. Switching to Charles would simply have the most impact and allow the reader to know that Zipper is innocent during one very specific scene where Mac condemns her (even though Zulu promptly defends herself in the narrative so the reader has no reason to think less of her, immediately killing all tension and spraining our disbelief.)

        Somewhat spoilers!!!

        I chose Charles earlier because his relationships theoretically change over the course of the book with no less than four different people: Zoro, Sofia, Mac, and Dela. Possibly five if anything happens with the Zeb hints because of Zinger’s accident on stage (although it seems to be a mistake; Zeb keeps getting portrayed as being misunderstood by Zootopia.) Regardless, seeing Zeb from Charles POV would be more interesting since Zeb was originally in charge of his illusions, so there’s some minor conflict between him and Zoom Zoom. It’s probably the undercurrent of what Zealot picks up on, but it never gets properly addressed. Presumably, Charles dealt with that as much as he dealt with Sofia’s frustration at being undercut by the new girl… Basically, most of the interesting stuff happens to or around Charles. His daughter does jack shit on her own, except ruin other people’s lives. She could do just as much if she was better written, but even if she was, she has no direct impact on the ending as it is. Mac, Dela, and Charles are the ones actually doing something to save her.

        Can we skip to the chapter that actually doesn’t have anything about Zuiderzee in it please?

        Sadly, Zenith can’t be silenced; we have to get her Pensieve reactions and commentary about what happened to other people while she was in a goddamn coma. Yes, the author went out of her way to make sure we’d get some of that stellar narration when she’s not even in the room. But the third person scenes are still better handled overall. 🙁

        If you actually want to skip ahead of Jenny, the Blandbook for Chortles has finished the novel. The build-up for the magic act going awry and the original triangle of Mac thinking that Charles was with Zodiac starts in chapter 12. That’s where the plot starts to kick in, but you could probably skip to about chapter 15-16 and it wouldn’t make a huge difference. The magic act is… interesting for other reasons though.

        October 20, 2017
        |Reply
        • Athena
          Athena

          Yes, the author went out of her way to make sure we’d get some of that stellar narration when she’s not even in the room. But the third person scenes are still better handled overall.

          The scene-bombing of the narrator does ruin that part, if for no other reason than having her tell us, “BTW, guys, I totes got these memes after the fact ’cause I lived and junk. kthxbye!” ruins any and all tension in these scenes. Though, does her taking people’s memories mean that all the third person scenes have been her telling us about other people’s memories? They were nearly all from Mac’s perspective. Did-did Lanerazade do something almost clever and not beat us over our heads with it? I don’t know how I feel about that.

          October 22, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            Though, does her taking people’s memories mean that all the third person scenes have been her telling us about other people’s memories? They were nearly all from Mac’s perspective. Did-did Lanerazade do something almost clever and not beat us over our heads with it? I don’t know how I feel about that.

            Nah. This was a screenplay first, so Sarem simply kept certain scenes that couldn’t logically be told from Zoot Suit’s perspective (even though we didn’t necessarily need them.) Rather than figuring out how to do it naturally from the first person, she allowed the mindreading to be the lazy way out (when Sofia falls, she for some reason reads Sofia’s mind in that instant and that’s why her fortune telling made the details confusing) and she just didn’t address this until much later. Which is when we come back to the ending…

            If Zinc Oxide supposedly needs permission to make this easier and was planning on finding ways to do so, how did she have such an easy time jumping into Sofia’s brain twice? Especially since one could’ve been an accident since doing so had no purpose, other than to make the vision unclear for Zits. She could’ve dug deeper into Mac’s mind than she promised, but not Sofia’s. That had to happen earlier at least once, and these are also memories which weren’t terribly relevant to the people involved. Sofia probably wouldn’t remember that conversation with Mel so strongly, and Mac surely didn’t memorize ogling her body before Tad turned up to be another douche. I mean maybe but it’s a little unlikely since he was actively trying to avoid an attraction to her in the beginning and she was just in her underwear.

            I don’t think it’s cleverness so much as laziness, but it could’ve been clever if she devoted some time to explaining it earlier and actually used the mind reading to her benefit. That’s how a lot of things work in this book, sadly. With some effort, it could’ve worked.

            October 22, 2017
  29. small jar of fireflies
    small jar of fireflies

    Finally! After a life of being stifled and contained, I could leave my tiny, boring town! I threw my scuba gear in the back of my battered car, although there was barely enough room with all my high-diving trophies. I called ahead to the city, checking my financing options so I could have my Ducati shortly after I pulled in. And then I was on my way!

    ???

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
  30. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    All I know is, I’ve never laughed so hard at a book that isn’t funny.

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
  31. Chuffy
    Chuffy

    Suddenly I can’t find the comment that mentions Zaragoza getting on a horse and riding through the desert, but I’ve been reading Ana Mardoll’s deconstruction of the Narnia, and she’s just done with The Horse and His Boy, and now all I can think of is Zaphod and Biff running into Shasta and Aravis.

    Also I feel bad butchering the name so much, but can’t stop laughing.

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
    • Chuffy
      Chuffy

      That should read “The Narnia series.”

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
    • Tracy
      Tracy

      Thank you so much for that Ana Mardoll rec!

      October 24, 2017
      |Reply
  32. Lea
    Lea

    I can sincerely say that I have read better fanfiction than this drivel. Why does this woman get publicity and a published book when so many writers I know are writing free fanfiction? The stories I have been reading are beyond amazing. One of my favorites are about an OC (based slightly off the writer, yes) but so complex with lots of faults. A fanfic writer managed to create a non-mary sue character bases on herself where Sarem cant write her way out of a paper bag. This story belongs on Wattpad with all the other tween written self inserts.

    October 20, 2017
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I’ve seen comments on Amazon that suggest this book started out on Wattpad, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. It wouldn’t surprise me.

      Fanfiction can produce some amazing stuff though. 🙂

      October 20, 2017
      |Reply
    • Athena
      Athena

      I have said, and will always say, that fanfiction is a great writing exercise, if the author doesn’t fall into the traps of fanfiction. And I’m not talking about the tropes like Mary Sues. Fanfiction is easier to write because you already have a world built. You don’t have to add flavor or dimension because the people reading are fans of the original work and thus already know all that. You just have to make an entertaining story in that world. But, that can lead to getting lazy when it comes to description or world-building in general. So the reader ends up with stuff like this book, where pages are spent on what Zenomorph looks like, but do we know anything about the theater except that there’s a catwalk, some sort of moving thingie, and a round stage with a tank/pool? What about how it echoes when the seats are empty? Or that the air in the auditorium is musty because the cushions are old and need beating out? In the camping scenes, is there even one mention about how different camping in Nevada is from camping in Tennessee? Has there been anything at all about the strangeness of being in such a dry heat when she’s used to humidity so thick the air has weight to it? (I’m from Tennessee, this is a thing.)

      Sorry, I went on a tangent. I do agree that there are amazing fanfiction authors out there. I just think it would be nice if fanfiction, in general, was seen and used as a way to hone a craft and not treated like an insult.

      October 22, 2017
      |Reply
      • Athena I think we need you to rewrite this book! Your added imagery would be awesome.

        October 22, 2017
        |Reply
        • Athena
          Athena

          *blushes* Thank you. I’ve been actively working on immersive descriptions in my own writing. What I’m seeing in parts of this book is very similar to my last NaNoWriMo. I’m the type of writer who wants to get things on “paper” then go back and flesh them out. You can’t edit a blank page, after all. In this case though, I know Tennessee weather and I can guess a bit how different it must be from Las Vegas.

          October 25, 2017
          |Reply
          • Dove
            Dove

            You can’t edit a blank page, after all. In this case though, I know Tennessee weather and I can guess a bit how different it must be from Las Vegas.

            Plus it’s easy to get first-hand information from comments here and elsewhere on the internet! I think the best easy comparison I’ve seen is to think of opening an oven. I’m sure there are some differences that someone visiting/living there could mention, but it’s a decent start for getting a rough draft out anyway.

            October 25, 2017
      • Dove
        Dove

        I have said, and will always say, that fanfiction is a great writing exercise, if the author doesn’t fall into the traps of fanfiction. And I’m not talking about the tropes like Mary Sues. Fanfiction is easier to write because you already have a world built. You don’t have to add flavor or dimension because the people reading are fans of the original work and thus already know all that. You just have to make an entertaining story in that world. But, that can lead to getting lazy when it comes to description or world-building in general.

        Yeah it’s a great way to cut your teeth, and I’ve definitely experienced what you’re talking about. In general world-building is really tough: finding the inspiration and research for fleshing it out, deciding what matters enough to actually end up in the novel, keeping yourself from procrastinating by focusing too much on expanding the world over actually writing the story, and trying to make things mesh together in a way that makes sense. And a lot of fanfiction tends to be based on a visual medium over a literary one, so they don’t think about the other senses, or if they do it’s very cursory (although realistically this is just an issue every writer has and something that needs simple training.) Or they go off on tangents about what seems cool but not the ones that actually matter more for the sake of realism.

        It can also be harder getting into the heads of multiple characters or implying that those characters have a life beyond what we see if the writer isn’t used to creating their own, especially if they’re not a PoV character. And then we have stuff where the introductions are awkward (we really shouldn’t have met almost everyone at once in the beginning and the ones who do almost nothing didn’t need to be introduced until later especially.) In general, the audition was pointless and the info from that chapter could’ve been gleaned throughout later ones.

        Er anyway, I agree that fanfiction is great for building writing experience but it can’t fully prepare you for making your own original world unless you love creating AUs out the wazoo. That’s probably the one aspect of fanfiction where the reader knows less so the writer has to supply more information and even then it creates some juxtaposition shortcuts.

        In the camping scenes, is there even one mention about how different camping in Nevada is from camping in Tennessee? Has there been anything at all about the strangeness of being in such a dry heat when she’s used to humidity so thick the air has weight to it? (I’m from Tennessee, this is a thing.)

        I asked the same thing. Zany brings it up at a later point but doesn’t actually connect the two dots in any meaningful way. This is another issue Sarem has; she doesn’t explain things when they’re most relevant or with any proper depth to give a sense of realism. I’m not sure if it’s a rough draft/editing issue, having the idea and intending to elaborate but never did, or something she’s just terrible at. I know she didn’t do any research but I’m also assuming in her many travels that she actually was in Las Vegas at some point. I think someone said she worked briefly for Copperfield (although she got the stage wrong, if so; either intentionally because she thought that would work better or she simply didn’t know what to call it or remembered it wrong.)

        For the record, the camping scene is a huge missed opportunity; The lake should’ve been amazing. We never saw the scuba diving mentioned, we never got to see what different members of the crew liked best about camping there (hiking, fishing, swimming, diving, simply camping, weenie roasts, campfire songs?), and quite frankly understanding where exactly the fuck they camped could’ve helped explain how no one saw her put up the tent.

        There are also mountains and hills around that lake but as far as I can tell the places where you can park are flat and so is most of the immediately available beach presumably. I got annoyed and looked up their website. You can pay for group rates so there had to be about three more people than Zesty mentioned and even for group reservations there is limited parking, so some of the crew surely drove together, even if some of them paid for individual reservations for more parking. Also, we get a scene where Zilch bought some fancy clothes for her big date, later on, but it would’ve been far more relevant and interesting to see her shop for a tent before the trip! Even if no one went with her to help, we could see her struggling to be independent as she gets annoyed by the people working there or whatever constantly offering her help as she debates what to get, which could explain why she didn’t end up buying one of those super easy pop-up tents.

        Sorry, I went on a tangent. I do agree that there are amazing fanfiction authors out there. I just think it would be nice if fanfiction, in general, was seen and used as a way to hone a craft and not treated like an insult.

        Yeah. Unfortunately, a lot of people think of the inundation of newbie writers over the somewhat smaller group of people who are skilled but average, or amazing and might even be published somewhere. Fanfiction gets a lot of flack because of the lowest common denominators but that applies to everything really. It’s just an easier target because the garbage is more prominent, especially when editors and the process of self-editing aren’t as ubiquitous. And to be fair, there are is a large subset of fanfiction writers who don’t care about their quality, don’t actually want to improve, and simply want to share what they’ve written for fun in the short term. That’s fine when it’s free but for Sarem to act that way and then expect payment is atrocious.

        October 22, 2017
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        • Athena
          Athena

          This is another issue Sarem has; she doesn’t explain things when they’re most relevant or with any proper depth to give a sense of realism. I’m not sure if it’s a rough draft/editing issue, having the idea and intending to elaborate but never did, or something she’s just terrible at. I know she didn’t do any research but I’m also assuming in her many travels that she actually was in Las Vegas at some point.

          From what I’ve read from several articles, she is supposed to be living in Vegas now. I don’t know why she would have made Zero come from Tennessee if she didn’t know enough about it to know how different the two places are. I’m betting she was trying to go for a small town country girl vibe. She’s probably terrible at fleshing the story out and doesn’t care. In every interview I’ve seen she sounds like she couldn’t care less how bad her book is. She just did it for the money/publicity. Like she actually believes that this horrid drivel would get a movie deal just because it got on the NYT list.

          Speaking of world building, a friend of mine just got back from a trip to Las Vegas. She said she was constantly thirsty, her lips were dry and cracked and she needed chapstick the entire time, and on the last day there her sinuses were so dried out she got a nosebleed. She said it was like the place was drawing all the moisture out of you. I’m not saying that we need that level of detail, but it makes the fact that there was none at all even more obvious.

          I can’t remember the exact advice, or where I read it, but it went along the lines of “You have five senses, write them.” You don’t just feel the wind, you hear it, you can probably smell something on it, you might even see it moving something. I try to remember that when I write now.

          The camping trip was a huge missed opportunity. As it stands now it could be completely cut and we wouldn’t be missing anything of importance. Even Zero (I think I’m going to stick with Zero as her name. It suits her.) finding out that Mac doesn’t date performers could just be added to her chat with Riley as him chatting on and saying something he shouldn’t.

          I was really confused about the camping scene honestly. I’m still not sure whether Zero drove herself to the lake or if she rode with someone else. Driving herself makes her going off to do her own thing make a bit more sense (not good, but it continues her solo characteristic), but looking back she says “we arrived” so that sounds like they at least caravaned, so her whole ditching chores and swimming all day looks even worse for her. And I agree, instead of some character bonding around the campfire, we get catty, high school antics from grown women. Jackson playing guitar around the campfire and Sofia singing would have been a much more fluid way to bring that in. Hell, Mel ogling Mac’s ass and Zero overhearing Mel and Sofia lamenting that Mac doesn’t date performers/coworkers would have been a better use for the scene and characters than what Sarem wrote.

          Also, we get a scene where Zilch bought some fancy clothes for her big date, later on, but it would’ve been far more relevant and interesting to see her shop for a tent before the trip! Even if no one went with her to help, we could see her struggling to be independent as she gets annoyed by the people working there or whatever constantly offering her help as she debates what to get, which could explain why she didn’t end up buying one of those super easy pop-up tents.

          Again we have a scene with no real purpose. Sure, there’s Lambo Girl, but given that she makes almost no appearance in the rest of the book, her initial appearance barely phased Zero, and her warnings fell on deaf ears, her introduction could have been pushed back to the second book and probably should have. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have the fight in the next book and Zero feeling like she knows Lambo Girl from somewhere, only to realize she saw her in Mac’s memories from the hospital? (Though the memory extraction should probably just be written out and the book be full third person for that part.) Not to mention her doing the crazy chaos magic could have been what set Lambo Girl and whoever she’s working with on Zero’s scent in the first place.

          And to be fair, there are is a large subset of fanfiction writers who don’t care about their quality, don’t actually want to improve, and simply want to share what they’ve written for fun in the short term. That’s fine when it’s free but for Sarem to act that way and then expect payment is atrocious.

          See above. Sarem never meant for this book to be good, and I don’t think she ever meant for the screenplay to be good either. She was probably more interested in starring, so she expected it to be bought and rewritten by competent writers, and she’d get something like, “Original Screenplay by…” which, if I’m not mistaken, usually means that there was a lot changed between the original and finished products.

          October 25, 2017
          |Reply
  33. Juni
    Juni

    I love you Jenny, but I really don’t like the sarcastic “she’s probably 1/64th Romani” comment. It’s p gross to bring up blood quantum theory for a variety of reasons. Like I get what you’re going for, but that kind of insult is more harmful than helpful. If she WAS 1/64th Romani, she’d still be Romani, and then her use of slurs and fetishization would be an intracommunity issue. I doubt that’s the case, I think she’s just a dumb white girl, but like. Can we cut it out with denying mixed race ppl their identities? It’s backwards race science.

    October 28, 2017
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  34. Cody Cromarty
    Cody Cromarty

    Not only is this universe’s version of the Plain White T’s a struggling local act made up of members of a magic show’s house band, their lead singer has been replaced by Jackson Rathbone!

    November 2, 2017
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