We begin this week with Lani Sarem making some bold accusations against Angie Thomas, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give.
It started in a Facebook group called Indie Author Support, where Sarem made this post:
For those who can’t read the image:
Okay so here it goes…My name is Lani Sarem. You may have heard of me. I wrote a book called Handbook for Mortals. It premiered #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list and then I subsequently became the only person (and the book became the only book) to ever get kicked off the list. Mostly it was due to a lot of people misunderstanding about what actually happened. I was pre-selling the book at comic cons and doing well. I had some help, my friend who is a famous actor is helping turn it into a movie and he was helping promote it at the comic cons. These cons get 40,000-120,000 people each over a weekend and a lot of the people come to meet the celebrities that are there. While meeting with the celebrities they alway ask…So you got anything new coming out? My friend Thomas (he starred in all the American Pie movies and Rookie of the Year) etc would point to our project and we would offer to sell them the book. It actually made it pretty easy to sell the book. I wanted to make my sales count though cause sales that happen outside of a bookstore (and some that happen in a bookstore that doesn’t report) don’t count. It’s hard enough to get sales…they should all count. At least that’s my opinion. Anyway, I got accused of a lot of things that aren’t true and as an indie author really got pushed around cause I didn’t have a big publisher or agent to fight for me. I was wondering in a group like this…Does it frustrate you that your sales don’t count everywhere? The music industry has way to count them no matter where they happen. I’m also happy to answer any other questions you may have as to what happened to me so ask away…Sorry for the long-winded post as well.
As you can see, she continues to beat a horse that died back in August. The story still doesn’t make a lot of sense. Her “famous actor” friend isn’t famous. Booksellers have stated it would be unlikely for established, mega-famous authors like Neil Gaiman or George R.R. Martin to sell twenty-thousand copies at a single convention. She’s still lying, but now the lie is, “Yes, I scammed, but I scammed for justice!” and she’s trying to rally other authors in her defense.
Unfortunately, at least a few people took the bait:
The first comment in this thread, from Jesse James Durdel, sounds like the kind of leading question someone would plant:
For one, most of us here have only heard one side of the story, and it’s not your side at all. Do you suspect someone got jealous and started calling attention to the con sales as a way to besmirch your name in the media?
The key phrase is the “one side of the story” here. I have no proof that JJD knows Lani personally, but I’m a blogger, not a journalist, so I can make whatever wild leaps I’d like, right? I’m going to say that JJD probably is one of Lani’s friends and planted this question to give her the opportunity for this answer:
I can tell you the person that started it was friends with the author and the agent of the book that moved to second on the list and when I was removed the agent took out the two people that started it and toasted about it [winking smiley]
Record scratch. Here we have Lani Sarem accusing Angie Thomas and her agent of deliberately sinking Handbook For Mortals in a fit of jealous panic. After all, doesn’t Angie Thomas, whose book was #1 on the NYT list for most of 2017, has been nominated for multiple awards, was named one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things”, has been adapted for a wildly anticipated film by an acclaimed director, and who has met President Obama, have a reason to feel threatened by Lani Sarem’s successes? I mean, Lani is friends with the guy who jizzed in a beer in American Pie. Who wouldn’t envy that?
Thomas, who until now hasn’t addressed the controversy directly, had this to say in response:
I’ve been silent about this. I laugh about it, honestly. But how dare you even insinuate that me, @byobrooks, or anyone on my team targeted you. YOU messed up. YOU got called out. Own up to YOUR shit.
— Angie Thomas Knows Nothing About the THUG trailer (@angiecthomas) November 27, 2017
I highly recommend the entire thread, because after having been accused of jealousy toward Sarem more than once, Thomas has earned the right to hold Sarem accountable for her words. But Sarem will never allow herself to be held accountable:
I never said your name…what I did say is your agent took the guys that started the twitter hunt and toasted to what happened and posted it on twitter. #handbookforcocktails real nice of him. #checkhistwitterfeed
— Lani Sarem (@RockanRollGypsy) November 27, 2017
Her “I never said your name…” is tantamount to “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” between siblings in the back of their parents’ car.
There was no need to check the Twitter feed, however, as Brooks Sherman is completely uninvested in pretending to give a shit about Lani Sarem:
And so yes, once the entire story came out about how you and your partner tried to fix the list, I *did* take the people who uncovered the story out for a drink to toast their sleuthing skills.
— Brooks Sherman (@byobrooks) November 27, 2017
Having had her ass severely handed to her on Twitter, Sarem stepped out of the conversation. I guess she will never get the chance to tell her side of the story. You know, apart from the op-eds she wrote for Rolling Stone and The Huffington Post. Or the feature Vulture did on her. Or at the many Q and A’s she’s done at conventions and book signings. If only there were some way for this plucky young literary star of tomorrow, who’s been so unfairly maligned by the press, readers and evil, jealous, actually successful authors and their mean-spirited, hard-drinking agents, to tell her side of the story…
The book industry is a mess. I didn’t realize how much until I put out my first novel and officially became the only person to ever get kicked off the New York Times bestseller list. Feel free to read the 769 articles that were written about me in the 9 days after I got kicked off. Not one reporter wrote what really happened, but I’ll tell you in person. I can help you navigate the book industry and the pitfalls and make sure you give making it your best shot.
Lani. Lani, Lani, Lani. The book industry is not a mess. Well, it is a mess, but not because of the way you were treated in the wake of your ham-fisted con falling through. You, my non-friend, are the mess. And now you want people to pay seventy-five bucks to hear “what really happened” and learn how to…what? Scam the list and get caught?
Successful, knowledgeable people should teach others how to do things. You’re not successful or knowledgeable. You’re an unlikeable, unwelcome hack who is only succeeding at slamming doors in your own face. Nobody wants to learn how to do that. If anything, you should be peddling yourself as a cautionary tale.
But of course, there’s always going to be someone in your corner, as evidenced by the last screenshot, where Richard Morgan said:
Dig into the articles and you’ll see there was a whole campaign against her and without anyone having read the damned book.
Well, Dick, I suppose that might be somewhat relevant if the entire “campaign” against her wasn’t based on her actions alone and not the quality of the book, but we agree on one thing: Handbook For Mortals is certainly damned.
On to the recap!
This entire chapter is written in italics, which, let me tell you, is a treat for a dyslexic. And while this entire chapter is mostly Zani free, there are eleven characters named in the first paragraph:
Tad, Mac, Cam, and Riley, along with Jackson and the whole band (Tom, Tim, Mike, Dave, and De’Mar)–and an audio tech named Drew–were all standing around the stage dealing with some work issues.
At least she managed to get De’Mar Hamilton’s name right in this chapter.
Drew had always gotten along with everyone and all in all was a decent guy. He was about as vanilla looking as someone can get, with brown hair and brown eyes. He led a pretty average existence overall, and no one ever had any problems with him.
Damn. This is like when that creepy kid told Mena Suvari’s character in American Beauty that she was boring and normal and ordinary.
The other guys tended to pick on Drew, though, because he was an easy target in a theater full of more-talented, more-experienced, and better-looking people, who all led far more exciting lives.
God damn, Lani Sarem, did a guy named Drew run over your fucking dog or something?
Even so, Drew always seemed to be pretty content and–compared to anyone from the small town in Iowa he was from–he was leading the best life by far.
Holy shit. Drew is Superman. He’s cleverly hiding in Las Vegas. And nobody would ever guess because he’s working with a guy named Clark Kent. It’s the perfect cover.
You might be wondering why we’re hearing so much information about Drew again. After all, we’ve already heard that he’s well-liked, as evidenced by how many people attended his birthday party. You may be thinking, “Well, with this level of detail, Drew must be a major character.” If so, how long have you been here? You know he’s not. In fact, he disappears from the book entirely after this chapter. But he serves a very important function to the story, as you will see.
“Drew, we need to have a rehearsal before the show rehearsal tomorrow,” Tom demanded. He had a way though of not sounding demanding, even when he was being that way. “We’ve gotta work this new song into part of the show,” he added, explaining why he was asking.
Some of you have wondered in the comments if this was a NaNoWriMo draft, which would explain the repetition of descriptions and actions and all the needless extras. So far, there’s been no evidence that it was. But the way she repeats and over-explains, it would have hit 50k on day two.
Lucky, lucky us.
Speaking of needless detail, this not-demanding-demand he demanded not-demandingly results in a conversation about whether or not they can have a pre-rehearsal tech rehearsal, including overtime concerns. I would include an excerpt here but it’s so thrilling that my insurance won’t cover it if you fall off the edges of your seats.
Mac turned to Drew. “Drew, Sofie was saying something about getting shocked by her handheld. You know anything about that?”
Drew’s face flushed and he frowned. “Man, there ain’t nothing wrong with her mic. I’m sure she just wants some more attention…or another new mic.”
“See, reader?” Lani Sarem’s writer brain gloats. “The avatar of every girl who’s ever been more successful than me is so terrible, even Superman hates her!”
As I said up top, Zani isn’t really present in this chapter, except when she’s off in the distance. Don’t be too disappointed, though; we still get to hear about how hot and special she is:
Zade walked by on her way to the main stage, moving too quickly to notice the group of men who had all stopped to stare at her.
“God, that girl is beautiful. It’s beyond that, there is something unique and special about her.” Drew said, nudging Mac with his elbow. “Wonder what my chances are. Is she dating anyone?”
So, this whole “Every man wants Zoltar” thing is really starting to get pathetic. Someone may have mentioned this in the comments and planted the seed in my head, but I’m thinking of other female characters who have magnetically powerful sexual charisma for one reason or another. In Laurell K. Hamilton’s first Merry Gentry book, there’s a potion that makes people crazed with lust. When some gets spilled on Merry, she goes berserk and almost has sex with a police officer at the station. The potion is regarded as incredibly dangerous, and from what I remember, the entire plot of the book revolves around trying to find out who has let it get out and who’s using it for nefarious purposes. Unlike in the Anita Blake series, where Anita’s sexually magnetic curse, the Ardeur, is stated to be a negative thing while really just being an excuse for Hamilton’s self-insert to surround herself with a harem of vampires and were-creatures, in that first Merry Gentry book it’s very much considered dangerous and a violation of consent. In the television show Misfits, the character Alisha gets the “superpower” of turning any man she touches into a crazed rapist set on violating her, seemingly dooming her to a life without any consensual relationships. Again, this is portrayed as a bad thing. There are so many supernatural and sci-fi television shows that feature some variation on how bad this is, from Xander’s love spell in Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Rick’s Cronenberg experiment in Rick And Morty. Having everyone be automatically attracted to you is not good.
But that’s the world Lani Sarem has created for her utterly transparent self-insert in the story she wrote to reflect a perfect version of her world. All snark aside, that’s very sad.
Anyway, Mac doesn’t like Drew asking about Zelda because he’s still trying to figure out his feelings for her:
No matter how much he saw her at work (and out of work) he never seemed to tire of her at all.
Really? ‘Cause she exhausts the hell out of me.
The one thing Mac and Zade were sure of was that they had an unspoken rule that they really didn’t talk about all the time they were spending together with anyone at the show.
You know what I’m not sure of? What the hell is going on in that sentence.
To Drew, the question had been completely random but it didn’t feel that way at the moment to Mac. You know that bible verse: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” In other words when you are guilty you think other people know–even when they don’t. Mac was definitely getting defensive for no actual reason.
I’m not sure why we had to drag God and the bible into this, but at least she credited the source.
Mac tells Drew that it’s possible Lanzo keeps her private life to herself, but Drew insists that if a woman is into someone, she just can’t help but blab about it. Obviously, he’s not aware that Latti ZuPone is Not Like Other Girls™.
“Wow, Drew, I didn’t know you were an expert on females,” Mac said sarcastically.
No one was really paying attention to the awkward conversation except for Jackson, and maybe Tad, who kept looking up from time to time at Mac and Drew.
What’s with the “maybe”? We’re in third person omniscient here. Keyword: omniscient. There’s really no room for ambiguity vis-a-vis what characters are or are not doing.
Drew protests that he could be Zippy’s type, but the other guys–because obviously grown men stand around at work and chat about who their crushes are–tease him. After one particularly cutting remark about who has “game” and who does not, Jackson says:
“That was harsh,” Jackson said.
And hand to God, all I could think of was:
Mac had realized during the banter that he could redirect the attention to Jackson and find out how far things had gone with Zade and him without having to actually ask himself.
Because if any of them communicated directly, the romance element wouldn’t be fraught with needless drama and the entire book would collapse like a house of cards.
That was another thing Zade and Mac didn’t discuss: how much time Zade spent–and what Zade did–with Jackson. Mac knew if he gave her a hard time about it, she’d probably demand to define their relationship, which was something he wasn’t ready to do. Despite how much he knew he liked her.
With all these unspoken rules about what they will or won’t talk about, my assumption is that the bulk of Mac and Ziggy’s relationship is spent just staring wordlessly at each other.
Hey, remember how Mac’s heart got broken because he dated a performer and she strung him along? Isn’t that kind of what Mac’s doing to Lassie? He wants to keep her tied up for his use, but he’s not willing to actually commit to her?
“Yeah, I’ve been testing the waters a little. I’d definitely go swimming in that ocean.” Jackson grinned wide and nodded, making his position very clear.
God, even the euphemisms in this book are terrible. What kind of sex does Jackson have if it’s like swimming? Does he just flop around on top of you with his arms windmilling like he’s doing a dry-land butterfly stroke?
Mac asks if Jackson actually has swam the Zenglish Channel, but that’s a negatory because obviously, girls who would have sex with more than one guy are hoebags and sleezy skanks, and Zim is Not Like Other Girls™.
“Nah. She is quite a catch, but we’re keeping it light. She’s the kind you want to marry, not just use to get laid. Not sure if I’m ready to give up my freedom just yet, but she’d be the girl to do it for, that’s for sure,” Jackson surmised.
The fact that Jackson believes there are women out there who are okay for him to slake his animal lust upon without consideration of her feelings is pretty much a big, flashing neon red-flag. And on that red flag are the words, “I’M THE MOST BIGGEST DOUCHEBAG”. We know that Lydia is going to still be over the moon for her, and in any other story, I would think to myself, “Oh no. Poor Zydeco. She’s going to fall for this guy and it’s going to be like Julia picking Glen over Robbie in The Wedding Singer, but in this book? I’m laying my bets now that this isn’t meant to show us Jackson’s true character and what a terrible guy he is, but another chance to show how valuable a specimen of pure femininity Zatanna is.
What makes it even more difficult to tell if this is supposed to villanize Jackson or deify Linda is that Mac doesn’t think it’s a gross thing to say at all. He agrees with him.
“Yeah,” Mac affirmed, in a daze. He was processing what Jackson had said just as much as Jackon was: Zade was the kind of girl you marry.
Well, I guess we got our answer, didn’t we? It’s the market value of Lazlo’s precious womb that we’re talking about here.
Mac has had about enough of this tom foolery, so he’s like, back to work, doors are going to be open soon. And for some reason, Sarem decides this is a good place to try her hand at comedy writing.
SPOILER: She’s bad at it:
Tom commented: “You know I always feel like there is some joke there.”
(There isn’t, but it won’t stop her.)
“You know that doors being a saying about opening the doors to let patrons come in to see the show, and the fact that the theatre also gets called ‘the house’ and there is a band called the Doors and. . .”
How do you get this lost telling a joke? The house and the door go together, but what does it have to do with The Doors?
Mac shook his head. “And you live in a van down by the river? Kid, I have no idea what you are talking about.”
What a timely reference from twenty-four years ago. And the fact that it’s been introduced apropos of nothing in the style of lazy ’00s era “random” Fanfiction.net humor isn’t indicative of the author’s overestimation of her comedy skills at all.
“Yeah, I know. Like I said, I haven’t figured it out, yet. But there is a joke there.”
After everyone goes off to do their own things, Jackson approaches Mac and tells him that it’s cool if he asks Zumba out:
“[…] She’s still fair game, and I like a challenge. […]”
Every girl wants guys to talk about her like she’s a prize to fight for and not a human being deserving of a relationship that’s not a fucking contest.
Mac says Drew sounds like he’s going to ask her out and Jackson says:
“I said I lik a challenge, not a massacre,” Jackson laughed.
Again, I’m not sure if Jackson’s over-confidence is supposed to be interpreted as Gaston-esque or “sexy bad boy any woman would want to pursue her.”
Mac reminds Jackson that he doesn’t date performers and even goes so far to say that Lou isn’t his type, but Jackson blows that off because Lindsay is everyone’s type.
Then it’s off to the EDR for yet another explanation that the acronym stands for Employee Dining Room, and a description of how the place is set up and how repetitive the food is and how people felt about free food as a perk of the job even when it’s not great food, etc. You know, all the really important details.
Mac and Tad had already been through the line and piled everything that looked edible on their plates as they made their way to a table in the corner, away from prying ears.
How does one fuck up such a common colloquialism?
They were both slightly hunched over the table eating, their hands wrapped around the forks and treating them more like shovels than utentensils,
Two cavemen walk into a bar.
when Tad wasted no time asking Mac why he had gotten so weird and defensive with Drew.
They walked to the EDR together, went through the line together, got a table and had already started eating before he asked him, so I’m not sure “wasted no time” applies here.
Actually, no, I’m certain it doesn’t apply here. But there I go again, expecting too much from this book.
Mac tells Tad all about what’s going on and warns him not to tell anyone because he and Zoylent Leen are keeping things private for now. Tad points out that if that’s the case, Mac can’t run around getting all weird about guys wanting to ask her out.
Tad started laughing as a thought hit him. “Ha! I called it! Don’t forget that. But I’m glad. After all, it’s about time you spent some time with someone pretty, besides me. […]”
What is it with all the men in this book either describing themselves as pretty or being described as pretty? I’m not saying that the word must remain strictly gendered or that guys never use the word to describe themselves, but why is it happening so often? Is this more of Sarem thinking she’s absolutely hilarious?
Tad tells Mac to be careful trying to keep things secret because the show is a rumor mill and there are already things being said about Zarla. But who would ever spread malicious gossip about her?
Tad rolled his eyes. “Just friggin’ Sofie. She’s basically pissed Zade knocked her off her high horse–and sleeping with C.S. isn’t getting her the part back or her star spot on the billboard.”
She didn’t get knocked off her high horse. She got knocked off her pedestal. Plus, are we learning that Sofie was on the billboard for the show? But now Lee is on it? Is there a single billboard for a major show in Vegas right now that’s advertising unknown side performers, or are we learning that Zoobie is famous enough that David Copperfield is willing to share a billboard with her? I would have thought there would have been a scene where the billboard was unveiled and Lilly Zane spilled her coffee all over Sofphiea and lots of paparazzi took pictures.
“Well, that’s not a surprise. Most people in this place have nothing better to do than to worry about everyone else, especially Sofia,” Mac said, disgruntled.
“Yeah. Definitely. One thing’s for sure–she really hates Zade.”
Tad rolled his eyes and frowned, he didn’t understand why Sofia couldn’t just be a better person. It really wouldn’t be that hard, he thought to himself.
I don’t understand why the author doesn’t know the difference between a comma and a period, but whatever.
“You think she could be nicer to the girl that saved her life,” Mac asserted, annoyed by Sofia’s lack of ability to care about anything but herself.
DON’T YOU JUST HATE SOFIA?
“You’re saying that like Sofie could act like a regular human being,” Tad interjected with a smirk.
Mac nodded and remarked, “Yeah, well. One can always hope.”
And that’s the end of the chapter.
“Wait, Jenny!” you cry. “That can’t be the end of the chapter because that would mean that you just wasted precious hours of your life reading and recapping a scene that didn’t advance the narrative at all, and which only existed to reinforce how sexy and attractive all the male characters find the heroine and loathe the other female character!”
“Yes,” I whisper with a desperate laugh, a sound that indicates I’ve long ago forgotten what hope feels like. “Yes, that’s exactly what it means.”