So, I’ve been reading less because I REALLY need to do the final push on Darkship Revenge, a) before something else goes wrong with my body b) so that my publisher doesn’t kill me.
But I’ve still been reading, because, well, one needs to go to the bathroom, and read something (even if just a couple of pages) before going to sleep.
Mostly I’m reading from KULL both because until I turn books in we’re semi broke (not broke/broke, but being careful) and because, well, I am not paying close attention to the books. Not right now.
Because books are from KULL, it is easy to start reading and then put it down without thought, and move on to another one.
I’ve done a post on MGC on Wednesday about stopping points. This post is about how I didn’t stop, even though the book’s worldbuilding makes as much sense as American Rednecks drinking gin and pounding hapless paleontologists.
But I do have morning after regrets, and a sort of nauseous feeling I did something awful.
This post is to explain both the mistakes, and why the book seduced me. If we’re going to break the stranglehold of the left, it is important to know how to keep people who disagree with us (or in this case who think this is from another universe) reading.
As a side note, this book is not self published, but put out through an Amazon imprint, which just shows you the new forms quickly get like the last.
So, first the sin count and why they’re sins:
The South is so exotic, it’s another planet covers most of these sins. This pisses me off, as I’m fairly sure most Southerners are still human (my friends excepted. They’re SUPER HUMAN) and also having lived in the South, yep, there are differences, but again, the basic rules of life end up being the same.
1- The entire book hinges on four generations of a family being put in a madhouse and killed there. The most recent one escapes.
This is present day, and she’s supposed to be involuntarily committed to a mad house and disappear.
Oh, hum. Yeah, sure thing, Bob. Beyond impossible now. But let’s get back to that, “involuntarily committed for generations, then killed there” and no one ever got curious, and the family is still political and really big. Uh uh. It’s also implied the family is (of course) conservative. Apparently these people haven’t met our press.
Anyway, there is an explanation for this. It’s stupid. Moving right along.
(On a side note, I ran across this while reading a book on — of all things — Porto. There was some home for upper class emotionally disturbed women that operated in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. I’m okay with the idea parents and husbands used this to get rid of inconvenient women (not kill them, but put them away) SOMETIMES. I’m even okay with the idea that things we consider pretty normal were insanity in those days, like, you know, consistently talking back.
It’s the assumption that it was ALWAYS used to get rid of rebels and perfectly sane women that gets under my skin.
[Let’s unpack this, shall we: So women never get unstable, or are a danger to themselves and others?
So, you’re saying that in a more rigid society, being completely outrageous shouldn’t get you put away? You’ve never lived in a traditional society if you don’t get that achieving outrageous behavior means something has already gone seriously wrong. Well behaved women might not make history, but crazy-behaving women and men simply don’t survive in REALLY traditional societies. Look to the middle east if you have doubts.
Also, there were the same type of limits on men as on women. SURE different limits. But men could get put away just as easily by acting outside society’s norms.
This is probably the subject for another post, but in our anything-goes society it’s hard to picture that one already needs to be wrong in the head to let one’s freak flag fly. And yet, it’s true.
I’m not saying it’s right, I’m saying it happens in different cultures — I’m also not sure that our “no madhouse, let homeless people widdle on themselves and talk to invisible people on street corners” is more compassionate, but that’s something else — and that the stupid assumption that a madhouse for women or a woman sent to any madhouse is just “brave feminists being oppressed” is idiotic and provincial. Mrs. Lincoln might have been a “brave feminist” — she wasn’t — but you can’t avoid realizing, if you read primary sources, that she was nuttier than a fruitcake. Possibly for one of the many reasons that made madness among women more common in the past: lack of hormonal therapy, frequent miscarriages, frequent emotional shocks with children’s deaths and in general a far HARDER life than our feminist flowers can even imagine, much less endure.]
Beyond all that, again, two/three generations in a row dying in a madhouse, in a political (particularly a conservative) family, the press would be all over that like flies on sh*t.)
2- The plot only hangs together, to the extent it does, because all the police in Alabama are in the pocket of the kkk. Yep, still. Because “in Alabama these things never go away” or some such bullshit.
Let me put it right here, right now, that yep, the KKK had a lot of power in some places, 20s and 30s. The elementary school my kids attended (In Colorado) has a cornerstone stating the building was donated by the KKK. When I attended my older son’s college graduation, the dean read a letter about how when the KKK controlled state government, they tried to get the college to kick out “all Jews and Catholics” and when that didn’t work they cut funding to the college. The letter he read was the dean’s response, and it amounted to “Dear KKK influenced state government, these are my middle fingers.” Only it was much more polite and beautiful than that, because the dean wasn’t me.
So I know the KKK was, historically, a force to be reckoned with. Historically. Right now they are a dying and tiny movement, no matter how much the left keeps trying to resurrect them. (They were a leftist movement anyway.) The idea they have that kind of influence in Alabama amounts to thinking the south is a place like in that story of rednecks drinking gin and beating on paleontologists because… no reason.
This is the South as seen from NYC.
3- Continuing with the South as seen from NYC: a not inconsequential part of the plot hinges on some girl having climbed a water tower naked (in the thirties) claiming her brother was sleeping with her and she was pregnant. When she threw herself down, she only broke an ankle (let it go) and was confined to the madhouse, where they kept the baby after she was born because… cheese.
Okay a) It is NOT normal, in the South, even in isolated communities for brothers and sisters to sleep together. That’s a calumny put about by pseudo cosmopolitan idiots. b) I think it’s based on the fact that in isolated communities cousin marriage is tolerated, whatever the law says, because, isolated. Some idiot made a joke about incest, and the pseudo cosmopolitan idiots swallowed it hook line and sinker and have been propagating it forever. c) it happens. It happens in all human tribes from isolated mountain communities to the pseudo-cosmopolitan-enclaves. It just happens. RARELY. d) when it does happen, the traditional communities are much better at dealing with it than the big cities. (Terry Pratchett whose environment in childhood seemed to be much like mine had it right about the “rough music”.) Yeah, in a big city, in relatively affluent circles, I could see finding a way to put the girl and the baby away and never talk about this again, while the brother went on to probably do it again. In a traditional community? Oh, hell no. Everyone knows everyone else’s business and trust this woman who grew in such a community (and one arguably more patriarchal than anywhere in America) something very bad would have happened to that brother, while the girl would have been allowed to forget or pretend that it had just been a traveling salesman. Or more likely someone would have taken the baby to raise (usually a distant relative) and it wouldn’t have been mentioned again how that baby was conceived. But that guy, if he didn’t get away and stay away? He’d have suffered a mysterious accident, or committed suicide by beating himself to death with a half brick.
You see, traditional communities are already relatively inbred by force of circumstances. They can’t afford to let this kind of thing happen. No, they are not geneticists, but they have the traditions of generations. And whatever feminists think, it’s usually the guy who pays in this case. (And in most cases of this sort, it is the guy who should. Though, yeah, there are exceptions and we know some historical ones, where it was mutual consent)
4- We are in the head of an unreliable narrator, a woman just out of treatment for drug addiction, who keeps stealing pills and putting them in her purse (although she doesn’t take them) but we’re supposed to believe her version of the story in a murder mystery. Sure, it can be done, but in this case given the other problems of the book, I’m still working out how all this could be her insanity.
5- Women in the south so crazy! This is another of the “sins against flyover country”. While I’ll admit that the South like Portugal has a tradition of “romantic crazy” in which very smart or misunderstood geniuses are supposed to be a little nuts, it’s still too much to expect us to treat as perfectly normal that the main character sees things.
6- Her brother alternates between sounding like a more or less reasonable, occasionally unpleasant politician and trying to kill her. 0 to murder in ten seconds. And we’re supposed to buy this character, and that he functions well enough to be in politics. Also, that during an active political campaign, NO ONE WOULD BE TRACKING HIM WITH CAMERAS.
7- Oh, yeah, even though she identifies at least the family of the most recent murdered girl as being Catholic, the book keeps talking about how she was a snake handler with a crazy evangelical sect. Even though a Latin Catholic prayer has been passed down through generations of the family, one of the boys is in the KKK — in fact, the author seems QUITE unaware that the KKK targeted Catholics as much as black people — and in the whole, I’m forced to assume this person thinks that the Catholic church and one of the snake-handling evangelical churches are one and the same. This is at best really bad editing and at worst completely delusional ignorance by someone so far from religious belief as not to realize there are SECTS and different branches of Christianity.
Proceeding from those kicks to reality, there are about a dozen minor ones. And yet, I read the book.
So, why did I read it?
1-It starts with an intriguing title. This book is called Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. I was going to download and read at least a sample, given that title.
Let’s dissect it, shall we: Burying: perfect for a mystery cue. Honeysuckle — brings with it a sensory load of sense and taste. Girls — signals women in peril, which is a subset of thrillers. Honeysuckle-girls together projects an ethereal fragrant image.
It’s a seductive title.
Compare that to a mystery title for a mystery and did download but read only a few pages, because the language is clunky, and the name of the detective distracting:
The Heiress of Linn Hagh, the second book in the Detective Lavender series. The title is completely non-alluring and not descriptive. Heiress does not signal murder mystery. Linn Hagh is a bad-sounding combination. And detective Lavender sounds like it should either be a gay mystery or a Chinese mystery.
I am not disparaging that last. While the story threw me out, it apparently appeals to many people, as it sells well and has excellent reviews. (Good for them) but even one hint of bad world building in the first page and I’d put the book back, since it doesn’t seduce me, and the title promises nothing special.
2- The first person voice is convincing and lyrical. We’re in the head of a woman recovering from addiction and just released from a half way house, and she feels “real”. The character is there, present, and even when she does crazy shit like steal pills, you want to believe her, and you sympathize with her.
3- The stupidity comes on slowly. In the first chapter her family seems fairly normal. The strangeness between the Catholic church and the snake handling evangelical church is not evident till almost the last chapter.
4- In the first few chapters the family dynamics make sense and are heart-wrenching: the father dying of Alzheimers, the sister in law who wants to believe the girl is recovered from her issues, the brother who gives her the benefit of the doubt, and all along, the woman who is unreliable and somewhat unstable.
As part of this they turn on her too fast and somewhat unconvincingly, but I kept reading because, well, she had an history, maybe they had a reason, etc. (Turns out no, the entire family behaves like they’re bipolar, all through the book.)
We don’t find out till the middle of the book that the misfit-love-interest is working for her brother. BTW from that point on he’s not fully convincing, and her getting together to him in the end is oh, um.
3- Though the plot conclusion is not satisfactory, the clues laid out, etc, are intriguing. You only realize the idea of all these murders isn’t believable AFTER you’re done reading. So, fast-moving, intriguing narration and intriguing clues will keep you reading, because you think there will be a pay off.
4- While there is obviously feminist stupidity in this book, the writer herself might not realize it’s there. It’s deep laid beliefs in things like women could just be put in a madhouse and no one would ask questions. Or murders in a little town aren’t talked about. Or these men FROM OUTSIDE THE FAMILY who kept marrying the girls in the family, all connived in their murders and never protested I guess because all men naturally want to murder all women. BUT IT WAS NEVER STATED UPFRONT, it was buried in the text, and thus it never came up and smacked you in the face while you were reading. It only did so afterwards. By the time you realize how preposterous it is, you’re done reading the book.
So, in conclusion, if you’re selling a world view, it’s probably best if you’re going to sell a point of view, if it’s so deeply laid-in that you don’t know it’s there. However, if you don’t have that, at least try to hide it in the plot and the playing out of the story. Hint, to you it will feel like you’re not putting any message in at all, because these are the things you believe.
A good or at least fast paced story will hide a multitude of errors, and a lot of sins and keep the reader reading.
However if you want THIS reader to read your next one, and not to have morning-after regrets, doing a modicum of research helps.
Yes, I know, comedians, other books, and all the right people have assured you that the South is like this. However, it helps to actually go and look and talk to the locals, or read biographies of people who grew up there and who aren’t trying to ingratiate themselves with the glitterati. And if you grew up there (I honestly didn’t read the author’s bio) it helps if you get out of your circle of Yankee transplants and would-be sophisticates and talk to people you think are beneath you. No, really.
Also on the “southern women so crazy”, I put up with the visions because I NORMALLY read fantasy, so I’m willing to take a bit of weirdness in my books. BUT the author never explained why the voice character sees red ravens and streaks of gold. I guess all Southern women are crazy or mystical or stuff. (Maybe all women. Maybe they psychically talk to plants. Who knows.) Which doesn’t help with morning-after regrets.
You guys know I never do a harsh review and name the book. This is not a harsh review. This is how despite defects (and they’re massive) the book kept me reading. And it has the reviews and ranking to prove it kept a lot of people reading.
Go you and do likewise. Seduce the reader, even if she knows better. Only you, do enough research, and make the plot tight enough to make sure she doesn’t regret it in the morning.