Thursday, January 29, 2015

Confronting Claims of Mediocrity

So, obviously I think I write a decent book. I’m nobody’s Shakespeare; heck, I’d settle for a nice Ilona Andrews. I’m a much better character builder than world builder. I do dialogue way better than action scenes. Metaphors flow like electrical impulses through my creations, but my pacing is sometimes a bit slow and introspective. But, ya know, I think I do this writing thingy pretty good.

You can imagine my open mouthed surprise, my prim little gasp, my grumpy tingle, when I discovered a reputable romance review site had given The Tithe three out of five stars. Three. Out of five. That’s, like, a 60%, which in my classes is a D-.* Ouch. Super, duper ouch. I tried to laugh it off, to rationalize it as mere differences in opinion. But, like a bee sting, these things kinda keep burning until, finally, you chomp your lip and yank out the stinger.

Consider this the stinger yanking.

I don't know. Maybe I would have preferred receiving one star out of five. I see this all the time on Amazon with heavily ideological books. It's not the writing but the content they're blasting. These one star ratings don't reflect on the author but the disconnect between author's and reader's intellectual positions. But, worse than a giant "FAIL" stamp, this reviewer gave me a lukewarm rating. Like, "Good job for trying! Maybe next time!" 

Truly, I would rather be told I suck like an industrial Hoover than be considered "okay" or "passable." Elle doesn't do mediocrity.

On the positive side, the reviewer said she really liked my characters and their developmental arcs, especially Josh and Blue, my main protagonists. She seemed pretty pleased overall with my world building, which I tend to do gradually and through discussions rather than in exposition. In fact, the only negative thing she mentions is “What this society accepts and what it doesn't will probably leave some readers pleased, while others cringe.

So, she disagrees with the politics of my world’s “utopic” theocracy? Or, even if she agrees with some of them (dubious, but possible), she’s worried on others’ behalf? I earned a D on my paper because my theocratic regime has no problem with lesbian and gay folks but sacrifices people with disabilities? A regime that strictly enforces vegetarianism and population control ala modern China? That uses illiteracy as a fun and handy way to ensure ignorance and social control?

Are some of those offensive? Good. I hoped some of them would be. Granted, I may be offended by other things than some of my readers, but the arbitrariness of what constitutes a supposed utopia is kind of the point of the whole novel.

Speaking of politics, the reviewer described my main character, Joshua, as “a crippled orphan.” This may say more about our philosophical differences than anything else she wrote. I don’t want to police her language (okay, I totally do), but the c-word is, you know, outdated. Insensitive. Maybe even a little mean. For anyone who wants a brief primer on some alternatives, there are debates in disability communities about terminology; some advocate “people with disabilities,” while others prefer “disabled people.” I’m a fan of the first, personally, and like to speak of people as having blindness, like Blue, or Charcot-Marie Tooth Syndrome, like Josh. Any of those are preferable to the c-word.

Reading over this, I find myself chuckling. I think the poison is getting purged, peeps. Heck, I think I may even have spawned a new blog post, since it occurs to me I’ve never discussed outside my brief and possibly pointless virtual book tour the reason I wrote The Tithe. I knew this book was going to raise some hackles and possibly even garner some intense criticism. It's inevitable! The Tithe is an ideological book, an intense no-no in the romance genre.

Maybe I’m rationalizing away my less-than-sterling grade. Maybe, like some of my students, I’m pouting and saying, “The teacher never liked me, anyway!” But given the lack of any other criticism in her review, I’m led to believe the reviewer finds objectionable the politics of my book. Folks, I’m super used to that; I'm an academic liberal in a square, flyover state. Call me an idealist. Call me a pinko commie. Call me a preacher yelling out from the book-pulpit. I can handle any of those.

I’m a relatively new, and kinda tender, author. I would have had a much more difficult time hearing someone thinks The Tithe’s writing leaves something to be desired. This reviewer doesn’t say this; in fact, she acknowledges it’s a well-written book. And, in all modesty, it is. I may be a liberal, Atheist feminist writing in an inherently conservative literary genre, but wielding words well is what I do.

All this said, I’m still grinning at her final sentence, which pretty well sums up her experience with my sociological novel: “Overall, an [I’m mentally inserting coughing sounds] interesting read.”

* Yes, I’m aware it doesn’t work that way for reviews. In fact, according to their own grading scheme, a 3/5 means a book is “good.” Sniff.

Thursday Threads: Fallen Redemption by RB Austin

Fallen Redemption 
by R B Austin

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Heat Level: Sizzling


Killing Fallen to save mankind is Cade’s redemption for murder and only one human—mouthwatering and absolutely forbidden—stands in his way.

Cade committed himself to saving lives before he learned the full consequences of his life-altering decision. It wasn’t until he was tending his sick wife that he learned the enormity of what he’d done and he was unable to save her from the monster he had become. Consumed with guilt and praying for absolution, he threw himself into killing every Fallen he could find to save the humans he’d sworn to protect. But then Emma, deliciously mortal and completely forbidden, swept into his world, stirring an overpowering desire. Now he’s not only fighting soulless creatures, but also his inner cravings, trying to maintain his distance and continue on his path to forgiveness. He won’t lose control again and lose another love.


The cut was small and not deep; it would stop bleeding in a matter of minutes.
Blood seeped from the wound. It trickled down Sarah’s wrist and pooled in her upturned hand.
He froze.
Changes overcame his body. Uncontrollable. Unknown.
Breath quickened. Heart pounded as loud as a horse’s gallop. Sarah hadn’t awakened. The pain from her cut was insubstantial compared to the pain of her sickness.
The thick, crimson liquid flowing from the wound was anything but insubstantial to Caderyn. Still unable to move, his eyes hadn’t wavered from the blood. The tray left his hands and clattered to the ground. His knees buckled and he sank to the floor, bringing himself an inch from the cut. The scent of blood filled his nostrils. Consumed all thought. Sight. He wanted to close his eyes and savor the reverent aroma filling his senses. Something awakened inside of him.
He was hungry, yet didn’t want food. Thirsty, but didn’t want to reach for a cup of water. Another drop of blood welled from the cut. A growl tore from his throat.
It was the switch and it had been thrown.
One moment he was himself. The monster inside separate. Next the wall between the two vanished. He was the Behnshma. His humanity gone. Another growl. It echoed around the house. Filled his ears.
He was ravenous. The fact he hadn’t eaten in a little over a week ached his empty belly and burned his dry, parched throat. There were two pricks of pain in his top gum. Finger in his mouth, he found two long, sharp as knives, teeth. Like Elias. Like the wolves in the forest when they tore into a deer carcass. Their muzzles bloody, meat dangling from their mouths. Blood.
He knew what he wanted to do, what his body demanded he do. Caderyn licked his lips and his tongue nicked an elongated tooth. His own blood melted decadently over his tongue. A flood of senses erupted. Never had he tasted anything this wonderful. His mouth zinged with flavor. The blood coated his throat. He’d been dying of thirst his whole life but hadn’t known it. Warmth spread through his body.
His hands shook as he brought them to Sarah’s arm. Grasping her wrist and forearm he leaned toward the blood. Inch by inch. He was a magnet and her arm was the polar opposite.
Her inaudible yelp of fright permeated through the rushing noise in his ears. He tore his eyes away and met her wide-eyed startled ones.
Fear was an acrid, burning stench in his nostrils. Her thoughts a chaotic jumble weaving through his mind. She tried to move her lethargic limbs. Tried to escape. To break free.
He flexed his hands, squeezing her arm as his gaze trailed from the vein in her neck to the one in her wrist right below the cut. The blood slowed and the edges of the wound begun to dry. The tangy, copper scent of the fresh liquid underneath her skin reached his nose. Caderyn listened to it pass through her veins. Faster and faster.
Ignoring his wife’s futile attempts to escape, he leaned closer and inhaled. A growl erupted from his throat. He bent. Licked the wound. Groaned. His cock hardened.
Sarah, panicked now, tried to yank her arm free. It was the most she’d moved in days. Growling, like a dog with his bone, he held down her upper arm and her squirming hand. Pushed it back until her forearm bowed, and the cut extended to him like a present.
Caderyn. Please. I beg you.
He was hurting her arm. Scaring her. She was begging.
Flicking his tongue over her wrist, he caught another drop of the thick liquid gold. Then another and another. It wasn’t enough. He bared his teeth, striking fast to sink them deep into her wrist. She gave a weak jerk. Caderyn drew her blood into his mouth with long pulls. His cock jerked and warmth spread inside his breeches. There was no stopping. Her struggles to escape were an annoying insect buzzing around the room. The pleas to stop were shouts in his head. Both were easy to ignore. Sarah ceased to struggle.
He was killing her.
He couldn’t stop.
And didn’t stop until she was dead


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thursday Threads: Riding for Love by Tina Susedik

Riding for Love
Tina Susedik

Genre: Contemporary Mystery
One Line Hook: Can a man who is afraid of horses learn to ride to re-establish a relationship with an old flame? Love, Loss, Redemption
Heat: Sizzling


            “Hi, sweetheart,” Rose said, ruffling his hair before going to the refrigerator for a glass of lemonade.
He jumped and slapped a hand to his chest. “Geez, Mom, you scared the daylights out of me.” He set the brochure down and picked up an envelope. “What are you doing home? I thought you were going out with friends tonight.”
Rose sat down on the opposite her son. “I did, but Tom had to get back early and the others had family obligations. Tonight is the last night at the ranch for a youth group from Milwaukee.” She reached over and slid the brochure across the table. “It’s a group of teenagers learning to ride and care for horses to teach them alternative ways to channel anger. Eve developed the program this year.”
“Wow, I’m impressed.”
“You should be,” Rose commented, flipping through the pamphlet filled with photos of the cabins, lodge, barn, and horses on trail rides. “Eve’s worked very hard to make the ranch a success. Every year she comes up with another way to help others relax and have fun. Last year was the first year for winter activities.” She folded the brochure and pressed it smooth. “Have you been out there yet?”
Denton opened the envelope and slipped out a sheet of paper. “No, I’ve been too busy at work. Besides, I don’t think Eve would appreciate me just showing up.”
“Why? She’s so proud of what she’s accomplished.” Rose peered at her son. “You never did tell me what happened when you went to dinner with her. Is she still mad?”
Running a hand over his face, he huffed out a breath. “I guess that would be a good way of putting it, although mad seems too light a word. I explained about Marie, and she seemed to understand what happened, but, after all these years, she’s still angry with me.”
“There could be a good reason.”
“Yeah, like what?”
Rose reached across the table to stop his shredding the sheet of paper he was holding. “Could be she still has feelings for you. Do you still care for her?”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Just answer your mother, Denton Johansen.”
“I never lost my feelings for her.” He pushed the paper away and tapped his fingers on the table. “She said she never had closure. Well, neither did I. One week, I’m home enjoying time with her and next, I’m married to someone else.” He raked his fingers through his hair again. “Now she’s ignoring me. I’m probably beating my head against the wall. I’ve called, written, sent flowers.”
“Hmm . . .”
Lord, he hated it when his mother got that tone in her voice. She didn’t have to say one word, just utter “hmm” like she knew something he didn’t and he would ultimately pay for it. “Hmm, what?”
“What happened when you went to dinner with Eve?”
“We met, had a drink, talked about old times, etc., etc.”
Rose chuckled. “Oh, I’m sure much more than that happened for you to be this upset.” She held up a hand to stop a reply. “Don’t say you’re concerned about the lawsuit. I’m your mother. You’re a problem solver and taking care of the embezzlement was more than work for you.” Rose rested her chin in her hand and stared at her son. “It’s solving the problem of Eve making you discombobulated.”
Denton pushed the piece of paper toward his mother.
“What’s this?”
He smiled nervously, stood, and paced the length of the kitchen, stove to refrigerator and back again. “Part of a plan to get close to Eve.” He finally settled his backside against the stove, folding his arms over his chest in defiance.
Rose dropped the paper on the table. “Are you crazy? You can’t possibly do this.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”
Rose stood and placed a hand on his cheek. “But this is a little drastic, isn’t it? Are you so keen on getting her back you’d go this far?”
“Mom, I need to find out if what we had as teenagers can be resurrected.” Denton wrapped his arms around his mother and held her close so she wouldn’t notice the tears in his eyes. “I’ve missed Eve for ten years and will do anything to win her back. Anything.”
“But, dear, how are you going to be able to get through two weeks of riding lessons? Aren’t you still afraid of horses?”
He laughed, hoping to ease the trip in his heart at the thought of spending fourteen days on the back of one of those giant creatures. But fourteen days spent in Eve’s company sent his heart tripping faster. “Nope.”
Rose leaned back. She squinted at him.
“Nope, not afraid.” His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, and he refrained from wiping sweat from his upper lip. “More like petrified, horrified, scared stiff.”
“Well, you should be, considering what happened the last time you rode one,” Rose said, leaving Denton’s arms and picking up the confirmation for his stay at the ranch.
“Mom, that was twenty years ago. I need to overcome my fear of horses to spend some time with her, hopefully break through the wall she’s built against me,” Denton replied, trying to convince himself as much as his mother.
Rose shook her head and patted her son on the shoulder. “Well, you have only three weeks to convince that to your shaking hands, my dear boy.”

You can purchase Riding for Love at: 
Twitter: @tina susedik
Facebook: Tina Susedik, Author