waiting room jitters

You know those old movies where the father is smoking one cigarette after another while he paces the waiting room? Sterile white hospital, a couple other tired looked men who need shaves.

Then the nurse comes out and announces whatever it is, and his face lights up. Gee, he sez. That’s swell. He’s happy; no reviewers around the corner waiting to spring details of the delivery or newborn on him with pithy commentary. Now they just have to go home and raise the kid.

For some reason I’m feeling very anxious Tied to the Tracks. I am more nervous about this book than I can remember ever being about any other book. There are some obvious reasons for that, but they are really too easy to be the whole story.

Now see, I’m not asking for sympathy. I have nothing to complain about; in fact, career wise, I’m pretty well off. It’s hard to get review space these days, so when I tell you there was a two line blurb in the Washington Post, you should remember that sometimes there really is no such thing as bad publicity. Because those two lines? Not nice. My agent called to paraphrase and it went something like this: run of the mill chiclitromance; completely predictable.

I don’t suppose you’re surprised to find out that the Washington Post is disdainful about anything that smacks, no matter how faintly of (whisper it) romance. Now, I don’t think the ending is completely predictable (there are a number of endings, and some of them go interesting places), but that’s beside the point. And what was the point again?

Oh yeah. To the WP, being able to predict the ending of a novel is a mortal sin, and thus am I cast into the fires of wapostian hell.

But Booklist loves Tied to the Tracks, and Booklist is all about librarians, and I hold librarians and libraries in much higher regard than WaPo, so I’m fine. Really. No need to worry about me, nosirreee.

Oh, and the person who went to Barnes and Noble and was told they didn’t have it? They do have it, or will. but I’m glad you’re calling Village Books. They are nice people, and deserve support. However, if you do try to buy it someplace and they don’t have it, would you send me an email and let me know? My editor needs to be kept in the loop on that kind of thing.

Finally: in a month or so I want to post about the theory of the Super Duper Magical Negroes (those litcriterati, such wags. such players with language). Because I have been thinking about this, and I have come to the conclusion that Curiosity is not a SDMN. Nor is Miss Zula Bragg. But I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

Link via RydraWong via the Radiant Robyn Bender.

23 Replies to “waiting room jitters”

  1. Maybe the sdmn were created to play on the white peeps fear of peeps of color and other attributes(e.g. low intellegence etc…) and is’nt it nifty when they’re there to help not hinder. Thier differences are fascinating and it’s not hard to tag them with magical powers and other attributes. Smacks of ignorance I’m guessing.
    did’nt think this through as much as I would have liked but gotta scoot to work. :(

  2. I was thinking of you last night — on TTTT-Eve — and hoping the suspense of such a New Thing being sent out into the world wasn’t making you miserable. Some people will love it and some people won’t. Just remember, my momma gave my gentleman friend VERY bad reviews for a considerable number of years (and would put them out on the wire services if she could have). And he’s been my high-quality husband for more years than a lot of readers have been reading. Some people just can’t recognize good stuff if it falls into categories they don’t like.

    [In typographical news: In the font you use, “chiclitromance” is surprisingly easy to misread as “clitromance,” at least before my first cup of caffeine. I was thinking huffily, oh, those stuffy literary types, they think EVERYTHING “girls” like is probably really porn.]

    On the SDMN front, another tiny but telling characteristic I’ve noticed is, such a figure is often immersed in a pool of white characters. The character has no visible family, no intimates of their own culture or background, no network of friends; often there’s no other significant character in the whole story who isn’t White. Isolated beyond isolated. Name me one American novel where the reverse is true. (Also, keep working through those items from Rydra’s LJ, there is some powerful stuff linked there.)

    Anyway, go pet somebody furry who appreciates you properly, and have a good day.

  3. Okay, Robyn, how about “The Secret Life of Bees”? Of course, as the main character is the white girl, I’d say half the characters in that book are SDMN. A whole bevy of them.

  4. Okay, Curiosity is a STRONG woman. Even in Into the Wilderness she had a presence in the novel. She was a force of nature. She had endured many hadships in her life and had rose above them (My Hero). I think that men (and a few women) see this type of person and it frightens them a little. They have never delt with her kind of pain and sorrow. They have never met a woman of such great streangth and they have to come up with an explanation. Futhermore Curiosity was educated. She had read every book in the Judges library. Therefore I conclure that Curiosity was just a normal woman, not magical.

    As to Tied to the Tracks, pay day is tomarrow and I will be dialing the number for the h2b the moment he walks in the door. You are a wonderful writer. No need to worry, your fans will be flocking to the stores to buy your book. We know that you are a wonderful author!

    Can’t wait to get my hands on TTTT!

  5. Hi Rosina,
    Just wanted to let you know that I went to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore this afternoon to pick up Tied to the Tracks and would you believe they did not have your book. Their response was that it was at the distributors. So now I wait to hear from them so that I can go pick up your book.
    (Big Sigh!) Have a nice day.

  6. Remember- Curiosity didn’t want Elizabeth to succeed for Elizabeth’s own sake, she wanted Elizabeth to buy some boys out of slavery to marry her daughters. Which isn’t to say that Curiosity was only using Elizabeth, and of course that isn’t the only reason she is looking out for her, but I did want to point out why I don’t think Curiosity is a SDMN. Also, in ITW, Curiosity has information that Elizabeth doesn’t have access to anywhere else (Richard’s history, etc). Curiosity has to help Elizabeth because no one else will tell her the whole story.

  7. ou are all very wise and kind, and I aoppreciate you one and all. I hereby invite you to a cyber booklaunch party. Help yourself to the huge dessert buffet.

  8. Rosina – just to let you know for some reason Amazon and Barnes and Noble now show your date of release (as does my bookstore) as being Tuesday June 13th – AAAGGGGHHH!! However, just so ya know, I have picked “Into the Wilderness” for my bookclub – for them to read over the summer – about 15 women – they were getting too “Oprah” for me and we break over the summer and I said “time to read a phenomenal book with a great story and great characters – particularly Elizabeth and Nathanial (and I’ve told the Gabaldon lovers that Nathanial is as good as (and in some ways better than) Jamie and definitely helps smooth the wait for her books (b/c I too am a Gabaldon fan!!). So – – re “TTTT” – breath, and relax. I’m telling everyone I know who has read your Wilderness series about the new book and your real name and the date it’s coming out. Glad you told the ladies in Starbucks you have a book coming out. And don’t worry about the Washington Post – on occasion with books that you can’t guess the ending? Often the ending isn’t believable or is too contrived or is too “convenient” and I get pissed off. Case in point – Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” – great book – stupid ending and stupid reason for the murders. A friend of mine is reading it and she said “like how stupid? The murdered hates men in skirts?” and I said “almost that stupid” – any complicated ending you could guess was not the reason for the murders. (Not that your books are similar to Dan Brown’s but you get my point). So hopefully this will inform your many fans that the date of publication is now Tuesday June 13th for some reason.

  9. Andrea,
    Thanks for the update on the new release date of June 13 for Tied to the Tracks. My book store never bothered to tell me when it would be out. I to am a big Gabaldon fan, but I also enjoyed the Wilderness series and I am eagerly awaiting the release of Queen of Swords. Have fun with your book group.

  10. SDMN – Curiosity nor Zula fit the archetype as laid out in the article you link to. In my opinion, the very omnipresence of Zula throughout TTTT rules her out of the phenomenon. And anyway, how do you write a story where black and white people relate to each other in large and small ways without risking some level of archetype, either through the characters’ viewpoints, or through situations. Is there an anti-SDMN movement at all? I could immediately identify SDMNs in movies, and realized that explained the discomfort I’ve sometimes felt where characters are parachuted in. And then this is where, when contemplating literature or artistic endeavours, I sometimes feel like I’ve stared longer than is polite. Oh could I be any more Canadian? Let’s just all enjoy the books/movies and not ask too many questions or say anything critical, eh? (she said with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek). I look forward to your discussion.

  11. Andrea, can I just second that Nathaniel is (waayyy) better than Jamie. Jamie has never done a thing for me, but any man that quotes the ‘comfort me with apples’ line while looking into my eyes has my vote for best date. Most romantic scene ever.

    Not to start a debate–I just love Nathaniel.

  12. I think Claire, from D. Galbaldon’s series, as well as Elizabeth Bonner, would qualify as “Tough Broads”. In my opinion a Tough Broad” can play with the big boys and still be sexy.

  13. Some of Cecelia Holland’s historical fiction heroines are pretty tough. “Great Maria,” for one. The heroine of “Floating Worlds,” her sf novel, for another. Mammy, from “Pacific Street,” is a very hard person. And I think Cat, from “The Bear Flag,” is also quite tough.

    They are all strong and push back in the sense that they’re operating in traditional women’s roles but they are actively involved in shaping events in the story, to the point where they’re not worried about still being sexy for the boys. None of them smokes, but that’s probably because of the time frame: Great Maria is in the Crusades, and Pacific Street and The Bear Flag are from the period when California was annexed from Mexico. (Mammy might smoke a pipe; I can’t remember.)

    Lyra Bevilacqua, Philip Pullman’s child heroine from the “His Dark Materials” trilogy, is pretty tough, as well.

    The problem I have with “tough broads” as described in the crime genre is they seem to be mostly just acting like men (smokes, shoots, and screws). Seems like a sell-out to a behavior model more valued by society. Interestingly, after “Prime Suspect 7,” Helen Mirren said a police officer had advised her on proper behavior in the role, and two of the rules were never cross your arms (looks defensive), and never ever let anyone see you cry.

    Film noir and femme fatales (think Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon, or Jane Greer in Out of the Past) are a lot closer to what I think a tough broad would probably resort to in a story like that: use your best weapons in a game where the rules are set by men.

  14. Just commenting for National Delurking Week. I’ve been reading too much Jane Austen fan-fiction. Does Elizabeth Bennet qualify as a tough broad? :-)

  15. Dorothy Dunnett’s novels come to mind for T(ough) B(roads):

    Bad TB: Margaret Douglas of Lymond Chronicles in the Barbara Stanwick style of scheming, immoral broad. She never changes, never does something kind – somewhat cartoonish rendering.

    Good TB: Philippa Somerville, of the Lymond Chronicles. Phillipa grows from child to loving woman in thoughtfully drawn scenes.

    Good TB: Gelis de Fleury of Niccolo novels. Same evolution as Phillipa.

    In thrillers and crime novels, the TBs can shoot, kick, and otherwise do manly things. In other types of novels, the tough broads accomplish stuff by their wits instead of doing manly things. Maybe the “manly things” is the key to it all: Good broads don’t do manly things, except in thrillers and crime novels.

  16. Do they have to be strictly fictional? Elizabeth I, in numerous works of literature, I think would qualify as a “tough broad”. Also from the fiction series by E.V. Timms about early Australia, starting with Forever to Remain, I would say Martha Guppy, the inn-keeper. She is not unfeminine, but very determined and strong, and as she is very broad cannot be physically intimidated.

  17. The first woman in fiction to spring to my mind as a ‘tough broad’ would be Beatrice Lacey from Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre (the first of the trilogy). Put aside the incestous relationship with her brother and the fact she went a bit mad in the end, Beatrice was a very strong character emotionally and physically, determined/goal orientated to a fault as well as keeping her feminine charms and sexuality. On the whole she footed it successfully in a man’s world running a large farm and estate in the early 18th century (if my memory serves correct!).

  18. I haven’t read most of the novels that have been named, so in those cases I can’t speak directly to the tough broad potential —

    but there are some great examples here I do recognize. I think Murgatroyd is right that in the crime genre at least, a tough broad is one who acts like a man. Outside of that genre, a tough broad is one who meets challenges in a way that evades some of the societal restrictions of her time and place.

    Dunnett certainly does have some tough broads, I don’t know why I didn’t think of Gelis.

    As to Elizabeth: I don’t think so. She has the potential and makes steps in that direction, but all in all, I’d say she’s not quite tough enough to fit into the category.

  19. I always figured Curiosity(ITW) for a “tough broad” She don’t take no lip from NOOBODY. Figure she’s tough because she can’t be intimidated. Also she refuses medical treatment, which is typical of a tough guy.

  20. ..Oh, s’pose Curiosity’s not a MAJOR character, oops. Well she should be! hehe
    *the “remember me” dosn’t work

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