Book in a Minute: Mad About the Boy

Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones, #3)Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mark Darcy is no longer in the picture for Bridget, and by now, most Helen Fielding fans know why he’s not there. But no matter the reason for his absence, it’s simply a cheat to go from that happy ending so many years ago to no books at all about their married life together. To open with Mark as gone as gone can be at the outset of the new book is at first confusing, then infuriating, and finally just disappointing.

While I understand Helen Fielding’s desire to shake things up, it didn’t feel like “playing fair” with the audience. Also, it didn’t quite work. The book lurched between moods in a jarring way. To be fair, that is much how real life feels as one passes 50, but fiction, as the saying goes, needs to make more sense. Forced attempts to recall the wacky Bridget of yesteryear (upside down in a tree while wearing a thong, no less) alternate uneasily with moments of touching, heartfelt emotion about her grief over Mark’s death.

Some scenes and images really stuck with me. Bridget recalling how Mark died and how she learned about it, the scene where her mother consoles her, and the owl that flies away near the end of the book–all were beautifully written. Women of a certain age will definitely relate to many of Bridget’s funny/sad experiences–the reading glasses, the stiffening body, the truly hilarious Botox mishap. But by and large, it’s an uneven book and a disappointment.

I suppose I should only give it two stars, but I’m too fond of Bridget–and Helen Fielding–to be that hard on either of them. Here’s hoping Bridget’s allowed to keep this latest happy ending, while Helen moves on to new territory.

View all my reviews

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Apocalypse Next Week

Mayan Calendar
Mayan Calendar (Photo credit: Michael Kwan (Freelancer))

Holy Christmas Mania, Batman! Has it really been nearly an entire month since I blogged?!?!

Why, yes, it has.

I know you’ve all been clamoring for new insights from me into how to avoid zombies when the apocalypse happens next Friday, but I have to tell you — it’s probably not going to be a Zombie Apocalypse. I know. I was disappointed too. All the time I’ve spent watching that damned zombie soap opera, The Walking Dead, trying to learn how to handle a katana in case I need to start lopping off heads next weekend and it turns out — no zombies in the Mayan Apocalypse! [No I don’t watch it all the time. The zombies are too comical and the guys are too busy alternating between whining and trying to out-macho each other. Also because it really IS a zombie soap opera. But I love me some Michonne. She should have her own superhero comic. She’s almost up there with my girl, Wonder Woman. But I digress.]

Michonne2_(TV_Series)

Unlike a George Romero-esque zombie apocalypse, the Mayan Apocalypse sounds more and more like some spacey, New Agey Aquarius thing. True, maybe we’ll get hit by an asteroid and all die. Or maybe we’ll all just wake up and have some big collective revelation about how stupid it is to kill one another over boundaries and religion and nothing at all, and how pointless it is to trash this planet when it’s the only one we’ve got, and even how equally stupid it is to NOT be spending more time exploring other planets so that we can finally build a zombie-free colony on Mars or maybe even a planet orbitting Alpha Centauri. (The advantage of the latter is that if I moved to that colony, I would probably no longer be expected to spend major holidays with the in-laws.)

So my main advice for you regarding next week’s Apocalypse is: Be optimistic. The word “apocalypse” actually comes from a Greek word that means “to uncover or reveal.” So as it turns out, it’s not really about endings at all. Just about cleaning house and making a fresh start.

But just in case I’m wrong (it does happen), make sure to stock up on canned goods. Remember, as Susan Beth Pfeffer has pointed out in her brilliant Moon Trilogy, Progresso soup is better than Campbell’s in an Apocalypse because you don’t need to add water. And don’t forget a manual can opener. That pesky electrical grid might get kind of wonky after next Friday.

You won’t be hearing from me for awhile. I’ll be away for the holidays, then I’ll be recovering from the holidays, then I’ll be adjusting to post-apocalypse living. Plus there’s this freaking book I need to finish writing. Two books, really. Because after I finish [start] The Monaco Mission, I’m seriously considering writing a chick lit apocalypse novel. What do you think of the title Zombies and Margaritas?

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and may a wonderful, zombie-free 2013 be yours!

Book Covers & the Law of Unforeseen Consequences

I try not to use the blog to self-promote, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to do with blogs. But I’m like that.

Nonetheless, this blog is mostly about my new/old book, Thirty-Nine Again, which was originally released over four years ago by a small indie ebook publisher. I’m sure they did their best, but small indie publishers nowadays seem like the worst of both worlds – you don’t get the kind of royalties you get when you self-publish and you also don’t get widespread distribution in bookstores. So Thirty-Nine Again, the original edition, sold maybe 250 copies. Since my other novel, Love Capri Style has now sold about 25,000 copies at Amazon, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to move more copies of Thirty-Nine Again in its new self–published edition.

Poor distribution certainly hurt Thirty-Nine Again, as it does most other novels published by very small publishers. But there was another problem with Thirty-Nine Again that I hadn’t foreseen at all. It was this:

Now, I thought this was a pretty awesome cover, and I still do. It’s got the romance, it’s got the danger. The chick is grinning mischievously at the camera, so it’s got the humor of the story too. My biggest objection to this cover was that it looked more like the book should be titled Twenty-Nine AgainBut that’s where Lynn’s Law of Unforeseen Consequences comes into play. Lynn’s Law of Unforeseen Consequences states that the more enthused you are about an idea, the more likely it is that it will blow up in your face.

As it turned out, the age of the heroine on the cover was the LEAST of my troubles. And so I will tell all my aspiring author friends a little secret: It doesn’t matter if you like the cover. If the target audience doesn’t like it, you are going to have a hard time promoting that book. My target audience was, as evidenced by the title, forty-something women. There are two things most forty-something women have – kids and failing eyesight. The first reaction to this cover from even my most liberal, artsy, aging Bohemian friends was, “Oh dear God, I’ll have to hide it in a drawer so the kids don’t see it when they come home.”

The second and far more disastrous reaction was: “Is that two WOMEN?? I didn’t know you wrote erotica! Is this a Lesbian porn novel???”

Because it turns out that if you need reading glasses, but you’re on that threshold where you think you can see clearly enough so you keep refusing to wear them – well, then that slender guy with the longish hair apparently looks to you like HE is a SHE.

Now, I’m as liberal as they come when it comes to sexual orientation, so I have no problem with Lesbians at all. In fact, if Scarlet Johansson was a Lesbian, I – well, never mind. Anyway, the problem here wasn’t that I was morally offended. The problem was marketing. If you’re trying to sell middle-aged moms a chick lit suspense story, they get confused if the cover looks like Gay Fifty Shades of Grey. It also makes local libraries and businesses reluctant to carry bookmarks with the cover image on them. I had to have new bookmarks done that showed only the lower half of the book cover – the title with the gun and roses. Some websites agreed to mention the book in posts but refused to put up an image of the cover. Ultimately, after only three appearances, it made me lose all interest in doing any in-person signings or talks about the book.

When I decided to self-publish a new edition of Thirty-Nine Again, I knew I needed a cover that would more clearly reflect the chick lit nature of the story. I call Thirty-Nine Again “chick noir,” not because it’s bleak and dark (it’s not), but because it combines the self-deprecating humor of good chick lit* with guns and gangsters. I hope the combo works, and I hope you’ll buy the new edition with the improved PG-13 cover by the lovely and talented Rita Baker-Schmidt. Most of all, I hope you’ll be able to look at the cover (even without reading glasses) and know what sort of story you’re getting into.

Next time – we’ll talk about tempting fate by making bad things happen to your characters.

Or maybe the Mayan Apocalypse. It’s getting mighty close, folks, so we really do need to be prepared.

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A New Beginning. Or maybe just a slow fade.

As I said in the last post at my old blog, I’m making some changes this year. I’ve got the rights back to the two books I published with The Wild Rose Press and plan to republish them with new covers. This should end the whole pesky “lesbian porn” issue. It seems a number of friends and acquaintances were quite spooked by the original cover of Thirty-Nine Again, not just because the couple were undressed and in a slightly risque pose. No, the fact is, lots of folks thought that guy on top of the blonde chick wasn’t really a guy at all. He looked pretty manly to me, but clearly I wasn’t considering the effects of bad lighting, aging eyes, eyes too vain to wear their glasses, and the dreaded over-active imagination. Hence, the belief that a nifty little chick lit suspense novel was actually some sort of lesbian erotica – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Still, the next cover will definitely be somewhat more tame.

But what’s to come after I re-release the first two novels?

To be honest, I have no clue. Many friends are urging me to get back to writing fiction and to self-publish my works. I like that with self-publishing, I can choose my own covers and schedule my book release dates at a time convenient to me. But I have to confess, this whole self-publishing e-book thing does take a bit of the shine off of publishing for me. I bought a Kindle, but I still have difficulty seeing e-books as “real” books. In the world of self-publishing (or indie publishing, as it’s more fashionably called now) I’ve discovered some wildly talented authors – James Everington, I’m looking at you. But I’ve discovered that an alarming number of people with no knowledge of spelling, grammar, or the most basic storytelling techniques have decided they want to be authors – or at least be able to call themselves “authors.” I worry that these hacks and self-deluded hipsters are going to give self-publishing a bad name. Oh wait – it already had a bad name in traditional print publishing.

Still, e-books and indie publishing could mark a fresh start for the entire industry, so I hope we don’t wind up awash in badly written third-rate fiction. And I definitely don’t want to contribute to the pile of third-rate stuff.

My friends who’ve jumped on the indie bandwagon are urging me to “hurry up” and get some new stories written and get them out there – as if the most critical component of a story is the speed at which it’s written. I’ve always been pretty fast at writing news stories; but fiction, not so much. I understand what my friends are saying: they fear the big names are swooping into the e-book market now and will soon be crowding out the lesser-known indie authors who launched this new wave. And they’re probably quite right. But I have to be who I am, and who I am is just not fast.

So I’m hoping to find the time to write some new fiction this year, and I’m planning to self-publish it if I do. But I’m going to take my time – something I know the Internet gods really hate. The stories will come when they come, and if they come, I’ll definitely share them with you. But I’m not going to scramble to put together some formulaic fiction I don’t enjoy just so I can follow the Pied Piper of Instant Gratification. I’m going to sit back and take my time with this thing called living, and if I find a story worth writing down, that’s cool. If not, I’m beginning to think that’s cool too. As my hairdresser says, It’s all good.