Friday, May 28, 2010


One of the photographs taken in a local cemetery which I drew on for a scene in Dark and Disorderly.

[personal photo]

I mentioned Wednesday Stacia's new book Unholy Ghosts is just released to excellent reviews.

After a controversy erupted in the comment trail following a review on Dear Author, over the fact that Stacia warned readers that the heroine is a drug addict, DA actually instituted an opinion poll to gage reader's opinions about the need/necessity of an author delivering such and similar warnings about the content of their novels.

Some readers approved of the idea; others thought authors should keep their mouths shut. Both views often articulated the same reason: reader's hard-earned money.

It all struck me as rather funny--considering that book blurbs generally go out of their way to entice readers with hints and claims that a book's content and characters are different and exciting and dangerous to one's morals.

And it all gave me furiously to think.

Thoughts both honest--and promotional.

No author wants to induce wall-banging because s/he has touched on a topic that offends a reader; and in some quarters there is thought to be a certain obligation toward readers, a responsibility known quaintly--and perhaps paternalistically-- as "a duty of care."

On the other hand, controversy does sell books.

Personally, whenever one of those standard TV announcements are made that "the following program contains scenes of violence (or as one protect-the-public speaker pronounced it, vi-lence) and coarse language..." I reach for my popcorn.

So I've been trying to assess if anything in Dark and Disorderly might qualify for any type of ominous warning.

Does contain scenes of vi-lence. But, ho-hum, any book that includes bad people--dead or alive--gunning for good people does contain rough stuff. Or it should.

I wonder a little about the mutilation scene. And there is a righteous killing...but he deserved it. Really. And Lillie doesn't go into oh, oh, anguished conscience stuff...that might disturb some people. Still, I don't think there is anything outre.

Doesn't contain scenes of explicit sex--mouth-to-mouth, body-to-body contact, yes--but not sex. No fuss can be raised there.

More apt to be a disappointed fuss because the book doesn't contain explicit sex scenes, come to think of it. Can't help that. Not logical in the circumstances. Maybe later.

I can't come up with anything in particular to justify a WARNING! banner on D&D. A good thing. I am not the sort to enjoy nasty e-mails.

How about you? Do you have reservations about possible reactions to certain elements in your work? Have you ever been castigated for what you've written?


Charles Gramlich said...

I've been attacked several times, for writing blasphemous material, or material that is gore for gore sake. I think pretty much every horror writer has been there though.

sylvia said...

I hit some rough subjects in Faeries and the main character dies in Chapter 3. I have had proof readers really wanting to prove that it wasn't true and she was OK and just "somewhere else" - one reader told me I was flat-out wrong about what happened to her. So that's interesting. No one was really angry with me, just that they wanted a happy ending.

I'm not good at happy endings.

That said, I find that discussion you linked to appalling in the way that people are putting words into other people's mouths. Poor Stacia, her responses are very calm and collected, I don't think I could have phrased my position so carefully (and still from the follow-up post, it seems she was misunderstood).

However, it is great to see the number of people who are planning to get this book on the basis of the discussion!

fairyhedgehog said...

I wonder if they'll end up putting content advisories on books like they do with films.

Halting State
Sexual content: implied
Violence: explosions and some peril
Language: some coarse, some Scottish

Bernita said...

Charles, I suppose for some readers, anything not inspie, is "blasphemous."
I've avoided your horror stuff, simply because you are simply too good a writer--I really would be horrified. But I'm getting Bitter Steel as soon as things settle down a little.

Sylvia, that's why I always check as novel's ending - I'm of the need-a-happy-ending school.

Yes, Stacia's comments were typical of her--she has always been honest, straightforward and totally genuine in her respect for readers.I was glad to see one poster pointed that out--saved me the necessity of wading in as I was about to. In the long run, I doubt she'll lose by the controversy.
Another interesting point was raised briefly by one poster during the discussion--the problem of character development over a longer story arc.

Fairy, in some cases I think they do already, usually about erotic content.

I do like it when things blow up!

Funny, I have characters use the f-bomb a couple of times--a word I have used myself perhaps only four or five times in my entire life.

laughingwolf said...

lol... like some wag put it: we can't please everyone... so why try?

great post, btw

my wip is sure to offend a lot of folk, but i did not write it with that intent... all is necessary to the tale, methinks

a line from one of the books on writing: always push the envelope, the publishers will dumb it down!

charles, i agree

bernita, his 'cold in the light' will not scare you overmuch, and it's my fave of his tales i've read, so far

Bernita said...

Thank you,LW.

I think we have to try. It's their money they are plunking down, and they have lots of books to choose from.

Think I'll stick to his heroic fantasy stuff. Charles understands heroic, and I just don't care for horror now.

writtenwyrdd said...

I thought that Stacia's warnings about the protagonist's unrepentant drug addiction were unneeded; but apparently I am not in the majority. Besides, I think that info was in the backmatter. If the blurb doesn't say it, the publishers failed.

If I were Stacia, I would try to resist engaging in the conversation about the book. But perhaps that's the coward's way out? Dunno...

Bernita said...

It did seem to only fan the flames, Written.
Still, it must be hard to sit on one's hands. I have no idea what I would do. No, that's not entirely true. I'd probably keep quiet.

raine said...

I think the discussion at DA will result in more sales for Stacia. Good.

Are such warnings necessary? Before my last release I would've said "no". There's usually enough info in the blurb or on the author's site (or if you check out a few pages before buying) to ascertain if there's something you might find offensive/disturbing. But when I heard from someone who'd read it that they were uncomfortable with the 'demon' aspect (though it's made clear that's what the book's about), I'm beginning to wonder...

Or the e-mail received from a reader who earnestly wanted to be assured, in advance, that my werewolf didn't have sex with the heroine while in his animal form (no, no, no!).

And I'm with you on reaching for the popcorn at that announcement, lol.

Asbestos Dust said...

I haven't any experience with "real" writing like y'all do. All my stuff's hobby-level splurge on the web. Insert plug here.


But I will promise you that I've managed to offend practically every one of my readers at one time or another, as my online "persona"(?) is a borderline sociopath with no "PC" filters of any kind who laughs at...well, everything.

And I've discovered this: Some rare people are never offended at anything. They'll just laugh and say "Oh, that's just Dusty."

The rest (who are more-or-less always offended at least part of the time) will read or not.

That is to say, when they hit something that disturbs/offends them EITHER they stop reading and leave OR (more commonly) THEY KEEP READING, apparently with the sole purpose of telling me how much they hated it.

After which, they come back and read more at least a couple of times per week, presumably in order to have something to be offended/outraged about for the day.

It's all very confusing.

The bottom line is that people will decide whether they like something or not based on what they read, and they'll continue to read or not based on whatever weirdness is in THEIR makeup, not on cover "ratings."

Warn if you must, (juvenile lit, for example) but other than that, don't use cover ratings for anything except as a selling point: "WARNING! This novel is EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. It contains numerous dead people, blood, guts, strippers, ho's, werewolves trying to figure out how they got fleas THERE and whether that creme and tiny comb will actually cure them, and a long bit in which a friendly faerie and her expandable stardust-shooting wand helps a curious young girl and her mirror enter womanhood. You WILL be offended and you DON'T have the guts to finish this book SO DON'T BUY IT."

Yeah, that should do nicely.

Bernita said...

It's funny, Raine. I suppose it's like a "wet paint" sign, people don't believe it and then become miffed at the paint on their fingers or pants.
Or, like a local case here, people buy a house next to a heavy traffic rail line and now are screaming at the local council to approach the rail line to have a no-whistle rule imposed at the level crossing.

Some rare people are never offended at anything.
Perhaps they are, Dusty, but they value your right to express yourself above their sense of indignation.
I think if any book contained your sample warning , it would become an instant best-seller!

SzélsőFa said...

if i understand well, there was an explicit warning on the cover about the hero being a drug-addict?
i just don't see the point of such warnings.
as someone has said, a potential buyer reads the blurb and well into some pages before spending his hard earned money on something. those few glimpses would definitely show if there was any drug involved, for example. the rest is the responsibility of the reader.

Anonymous said...

Warnings on books seems a bit crazy to me. Aren't books one of the few places where art can truly flourish? Where controversy and challenging thought is good? I can see certain standards in books for kids, but not beyond that.

Bernita said...

You do understand well, SzelsoFa.
Very well.
In essence, all necessary "warnings" have already been given.

Caveat emptor seems to be dying a slow death, Jason.

sylvia said...

Language: some coarse, some Scottish

LOL, that would be quite a useful warning!

BernardL said...

With sample chapters, book flap blurbs, and teasers, I'm not sure giving out warnings is necessary. Someone will always be offended no matter what is written - and some look for ways to be offended. I hope the added controversy increases sales for Stacia. She's certainly helped a lot of writers, including me.

Bernita said...

You're right, Bernard, but one understands the's our hyper-demanding society

December/Stacia said...

Thanks, Bernita. :-)

Honestly, my worry about the content has less to do with drugs (although I am concerned about the possibility of it being triggering to people, just as I would be had I written about the high an anorexic gets from not eating) and more about the readers who do visit my blog, which is to say, readers of the Demons books.

Because the series are so different I've been trying very hard to let them know that they ARE different, and not to expect the same sort of comedic/romantic story.

I don't want them to feel misled or betrayed by me; I don't want them to dig into the new book thinking they're going to find another set of brothers or another Greyson and Megan, and realize that's not the case, and feel like I lied to them somehow and they've wasted their money.

So it wasn't so much about warning new readers as it is about protecting my current readers and not betraying them.

At least that was my intention. I thought I was doing right by them. :-/

But of course, we all know what the road to hell is paved with, don't we?

Bernita said...

And also: No good deed goes unpunished, Stacia!
I think anyone with the slightest of acquaintance with you knows absolutely that your comments were made with the best of intentions.
And anyone who has followed comments on DA also knows there are undercurrents and anti-sentiments that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject or the author of the moment.
Don't worry, Love. This is a Teapot.

writtenwyrdd said...

It really does seem to be the tempest in the proverbial teapot. I think Stacia's intentions were clearly to warn current readers that Downside was different from the first series, and it seemed clear to me. But the people who commented negatively had me puzzled. Why the hell were they complaining? If they didn't like the topic, they shouldn't read it.

The one that particularly irked me was the one that wanted Chess to 'repent' her drug usage by the end of one novel. Hah. Obviously that person has never written a series (or likely never read many, lol) to say a profound element of the protagonist's character is wham-bam resolved at the end of one book.

Natasha Fondren said...

It's funny, I've noticed that my erotica with warning labels on them sell better, LOL. Seriously. They serve good purpose in my genre. :-)

Bernita said...

Yes, Written, that was rather a silly comment.
And I would be in trouble with that poster for the same reason, all issues are not neat and tidy resolved at the end of D&D.

Well, there you go, Natasha.
It's not going to hurt Stacia in the slightest.

December/Stacia said...

It's not going to hurt Stacia in the slightest.

Except personally. ;-/

Oh well. Learning experiences are called learning experiences for a reason. :-) Thanks, hon.

sylvia said...

I've come to the conclusion that I *do* want warnings.

But literary ones.

WARNING: secondary characters in this book may appear to be cardboard cutouts.

WARNING: hero motivation flimsy

WARNING: fantasy aspects in this novel may simply serve to save a failing plot

Wordver: exerioni

Bernita said...

Yes, I know, Stacia; but only because you ARE honest and straightforward and with the best of intentions that it hurts to be misunderstood (in some cases, so egregiously.)

Ah, Sylvia, you've provided me with one for D&D after all.
WARNING: Wasn't sure what to do at one point so I blew things up!

fairyhedgehog said...

Sylvia, I love your literary warnings! (I'm glad you noticed the Scottish comment, too!)

Stacia, it's really frustrating when people don't read what you've written and twist your words to suit themselves. At least you have a lot of people behind you!

Bernita, I'm glad you're hosting this discussion!

Bernita said...

Fairy, when I was about twelve or so I puzzled my way through a book about a dog that was written entirely in a Scots dialect.
Nothing Scottish has fazed me since.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Yikes. Do I ever, Bernita. I'm sure THE RAVENING has some scenes that will upset, but the most upsetting thing I have ever written isn't published. It will be eventually, I am sure, but the novel DARK HAVEN, a ghost story, has a scene where a little girl is kidnapped by her mother and although I don't show it or say it, the undertext is that this scumbag is getting ready to sexually abuse her.

Which...brings me to one of my constant horror, what is more horrible, the supernatural? Or what we do to one another in real life?

Bernita said...

Stewart, I could argue both sides of the case.
At the moment I'll opt for the supernatural.
Perhaps because its horror may seem so random while we may dimly understand the horrors humans inflict on each other.
Then I think if one posits that the supernatural is not "real", then we have created it to explain the horrors which we do; extraditing those horrors as various demons.

Lana Gramlich said...

Well, I have had to adjust the subject matter in my paintings since moving to Louisiana. Dragons & other, fantasy subjects are just too "demonic" for the highly Catholic locals. Evidently 99% of what "sells" here are scenes you'd see every day; the French Quarter, jazz bands, Fleur de Lis, etc. Being more of a visionary artist, I abhor painting local mundania, but I've even had to adjust to that (although I might treat myself with something more imaginative, from time to time.)

fairyhedgehog said...

Lana, I'm amazed at that level of superstition! How terrible to have to reign in your art like that.

Bernita said...

Lana, how constricting and frustrating...with so many spirits of woodland and bayou begging to be represented! And you with all the skill and wonderful style to render them transcendent!
Perhaps it's because the paranormalities which they fear are dark and dangerous--without a lightness of being. Have sometimes thought that Catholicism is responsible for some of our blackest demons.