cranky pants

Things you should never, ever ask an author.

The  stranger asks:

The author answers:
You’re a novelist? Have you published anything?


You’re a surgeon? Have you ever operated on anyone?
Have you written anything I might have read?


Do you read novels?


Then, no.
Any bestsellers?


I read a couple every year.

Still haven’t figured out the formula.

Literature or fiction?



Any of your novels

made into movies?


Only in my nightmares.

Who do you get compared to,

as a writer?


My brother compares me to a

volcano of repressed anger.

My therapist doesn’t disagree.

So self publishing, how difficult is that?


It’s a challenge, from what I can tell.

I am not self published.

You have a publisher? how did that happen?


I wrote a proposal and a first chapter. My agent tapped the right editor on the shoulder, the publisher bought it, and that started the ball rolling.
You have an agent? how did that happen?


I wrote a lot of letters and talked to a lot of people

and had a really good proposal and first chapter.

Could you introduce me to your editor, publisher, agent?


Wait, you write fiction?

I plan to give it six weeks.

That should do it.  


Now that’s a coincidence. I was planning on

learning how to take out an appendix this summer.

That’s a no to the agent, editor, publisher intro?


Technically it’s a no, no, no.
So you’re writing a novel now?


Are you still practicing medicine?
What are your novels about? Any good reviews?


Funny you should ask. I’m wondering what kind of surgery you do and how your patients evaluate you.
You are tough.


Yes, I’m a published novelist.
So when is your next novel coming out?



About six to ten months after I finish it.


Really? So what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at home working? When will it ever be finished, the way you slack off?


Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.





a romance by any other name

Here’s a cheesy, tacky,  pretentious turn of phrase that makes me shudder:
They shared a kiss. 
This phrase works for me like a red flag. It says that I am reading   a run-of-the-mill, no surprises, HEA romance.   Which is fine, if that’s what I’m looking for. 
But this morning I was looking for a summary of the latest political fuckery, when I caught sight of an unusual headline in The Washington Post:  “A ‘lost’ wallet leads to found love.”
Now, it’s no secret that I truly appreciate a good romance, so I read the article, and I’m both confused and irritated by it. It’s not fiction, it’s not a review, it’s not news, it’s … family newsletter material. A little story about how two young people met and fell in love, shared that kiss, and got married.
Nice enough people, boring story. If it were fleshed out to novel length and turned into fiction, it would not be anything exceptional and in fact might be crap, in accordance with  Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of genre x is crap, but then 90 percent of everything is crap.
[This] was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms (Venture 49, 1957).
So I find this WaPo article to be surprising in its ordinariness and I wonder why it deserves column space.  I wonder if it could be rewritten into something interesting.  I wonder, but mostly I’m just irritated.  
The only upside:   I was reminded of an entertaining 2016 Guardian article  about genre and reactions to genre,  with emphasis on romance fiction.   That was worth reading again.

Cranky Pants: The Chef

If you are a novelist and you live in a small town you run into people who have read your novels now and then,  at the grocery store, at signings, when you stop by the neighbor’s place to ask about the missing newspaper delivery boy, at parties, on the bus. 

It makes sense to be polite and respectful, no matter who you are. No matter what kind of questions they ask you. But sometimes it’s really hard. Now, every profession has a list of questions they fear. For physicians I assume it goes like this: you’re browsing the dessert table at a wedding and the groom’s great uncle charges right up and challenges you: Would you look at this gigantic (fill in the blank) on my [foot, head, rear] and tell me what it is? 

The thing about questions from readers or would-be readers is that they are not always neutral or friendly. Once in a while you get a suspicious character who is sure you have cheated your way into publishing. From this person you may get a conversation that feels a little like an interrogation.

Sometimes you cannot get a handle on your temper.

This conversation didn’t go exactly this way. But I wish it had.

Person: So, you’re a writer, I hear. You don’t look like a writer.

Me: I get that a lot.

Person: What exactly do you write?

Me: Mostly novels.

Person: Novels! Really? Novels! Have any of them ever been published

Me: Quite a few, actually.

Person: Oh really. Are you one of those Amazon self-published types?

Me: I am not. What do you do for a living?

Person: I’m a chef. 

Me: Really? Have you ever cooked anything? Do you make money doing that or do you just cook for yourself? What kind of cooking do you do?  Do you cook real food? Would I have eaten anything you’ve cooked?  I’ve been eating pretty much every day for my whole life so that makes me an expert on food, and in fact I think I’ll be a cook. But I’ll only cook real food. I’m not interested fashionable stuff, it’s critical approval I’ll be after.  And a television show. 


Me: Thanks, you’re a real inspiration.

Amazon Kerfuffle: Sock Puppets Real or Imagined

Before this spins out of control, I’d like to get something on the record. 

I posted a question on Amazon’s Kindle Forum regarding an invitation I received for Amazon’s  Whispercast program. Whispercast allows a person to register a group of Kindle owners, and then send materials to their Kindles. You can imagine this would be useful for teachers.  Today I got an invitation to be included in a group by somebody I don’t know and whose name I didn’t recognize, and I was then surprised to see that there was no way to find out who had sent the invitation. 

So that’s the question I posted on the Amazon Kindle Forum. 

Let’s just say that I didn’t get a lot of help. In fact, the tone was confrontational pretty much right from the start. I responded in kind, when I should have just gone away and asked customer service my question.  What followed:

–Four or five people piled on. 

–I remarked on this phenomenon, and pointed out that I had heard about bully tactics on Amazon Forums. 

–One person came back with the observation that I reviewed my own novel. To this point:

This was a reference to a specific review that I put up when The Endless Forest first came out because I had had so many emails asking about changes in titles and the order of the books in the series. Here it is exactly as it appeared on the page:

5.0 out of 5 stars This is the final book in the series.
By RL Green on May 9, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am Rosina Lippi, aka Sara Donati, author of the Wilderness series. To clarify some points of general confusion: This is the sixth and last book in the Wilderness series. The whole series, in order: Into the Wilderness (Wilderness Saga 1), Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire Along the Sky, Queen of Swords, and finally: The Endless Forest: A Novel. Thanks to all of you who have left comments and such generous words about the books.

At the time I wrote this so-called review, information about the series was not on the page for the novel and there was no way for me to provide it. I decided to post the missing information in the only way that was available to me at the time. Because I had to give a star rating, I gave it five stars. This is, of course, not allowed. But my reasoning was that as I  (1) identified myself as the author and was not trying to fool anybody about anything  (2) provided missing information and (3) did not actually review the novel, that it was not such a terrible sin. 
Until this person on the forum went to the trouble of finding the review and announcing that it existed, I had forgot about it.  I could have deleted at a later date once all the information was on the page, if I had remembered. As it is, it went up in 2009 and I deleted it today.  
This revelation about the non-review has thrown the Amazon Kindle Forum into a killing frenzy. They want my blood. They believe that I am a dishonorable person, and the world should know that. Here’s where it begins to spiral into the stratosphere, when J. Pence starts with accusations. My response follows. 
So I would like to repeat, for the record: any one who wants to examine the reviews of my novels on Amazon or anywhere else to see if I have been falsely inflating the ratings is very welcome to go ahead and do that.  J. Penrose may stay up all night looking for evidence of my perfidy. Everybody has to have a hobby, I suppose, but it seems pretty sad that some people  depend on the Amazon forums for entertainment and excitement.