I would always rather be happy than dignified

I’ve harped on this elsewhere in the past, but I firmly believe that an adaptation of Jane Eyre rises or falls on the strength of its Rochester. It’s not that Jane isn’t a great, complicated character. It’s more that there’s absolutely no way you can dislike her. She’s one of the greatest literary heroines we have. Nobody sitting in that audience is going to have a hard time rooting for Jane.

Rochester, on the other hand. Kind of an asshole, right? No, no, not entirely. I’m not saying I don’t love Mr. Rochester. Of course I love him. But I do have to be brought around to loving him. Come on, the guy keeps his wife locked in the attic. Whatever the circumstances, you can’t just let that go with nary a raised eyebrow, you know?

For viewers to fully appreciate Jane’s struggles, sympathize with her, and ultimately nod in teary delight at the point of reader-I-married-him, versus screaming “YOU DID WHAT?” and throwing the popcorn, they have to be able to see what she sees in the man. While Jane is busy declaring herself his equal, the rest of us are wondering if he’s really good enough for her. If your Rochester can’t pull it off, even a flawlessly played Jane isn’t going to save that film.

fassbenderochesterThis is why I’m not surprised that the Wasikowska/Fassbender version of Jane Eyre won the September poll by a landslide, with 56% of the vote. Michael Fassbender, please don’t take this the wrong way, because I know nothing about you personally and I’m sure you’re a nice person, but you’re a very convincing asshole. You can probably blame Cary Fukunaga for that if you want, because this is an expertly directed film. There’s no shying away from the darker sides of Rochester’s character, but it’s mixed with the exact right combination of vulnerability, sympathy, and emotion (and, because this is Rochester we’re talking about, brooding) to make the whole thing work. Plus, regardless of everything I just said about the cruciality of Rochester, Mia Wasikowska delivers a really excellent performance as Jane.

stephensrochesterI was glad to see the Wilson/Stephens version come in second place with 22% of the vote, because I quite like that one, too. It’s a different spin, to be sure. Neither character is really dark and broody enough, and Toby Stephens’s only flaw here is that he’s just a bit too likable. But the performances are very good, and the chemistry as well, so it all works anyway. And of course the beauty of the miniseries format is that there’s more time to get in more of the book. Everything benefits from the highest possible amount of Brontë.

The October poll is up, be sure to cast your votes!

The post title is not terribly relevant, except that it’s one of the best Jane Eyre quotes, and probably appropriate for my blog. Or my epitaph.

September wind-down

Just a week left in September. Time to stow away the Earth, Wind, and Fire and pull out the Danny Elfman. I think that’s not a bad trade. I’ve always felt that October is unequivocally the best month of the year. And not just because of the Halloween treats. Okay, mostly because of the Halloween treats. But also foliage! And fall weather! And the Carolina Renaissance Festival! Although let’s face it, the purpose of the Ren Faire has a lot to do with caramel apples, which just brings us back to treats.

My next newsletter is coming in early October and will include the recipe for the coconut-curry-lentil soup that sustains me for the first half of NaNoWriMo. Whether you participate in NaNo or not, this soup is just the best if you live somewhere that has autumn. Or lentils. Also in that newsletter: the first look at the ebook cover for Ghost in the Canteen, the latest release information, and great mostly-semi-healthy snacks to eat at your desk.

Speaking of NaNo, the site always resets around October 1, so that’s a good time to register, if you haven’t already. If you’re into the November madness and want to be my buddy, I’m hiding there under the very clever alias of jenrasmussen.

Finally, you’ve only got another week to cast your vote in the September poll in the sidebar. Frankly, I’m kind of surprised the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version hasn’t gotten more love, though it’s not my personal favorite. I’m sure the October poll will be something super fun an exciting! Well, mostly sure. I haven’t thought of it yet.

CreateSpace formatting, Aunt Nancy, and galoshes

Someone smart needs to tell me what I’m missing. Or if you’re not that smart, but still know what I’m missing, that’s okay too. I won’t know the difference.

I built a ton of time into my workplan for CreateSpace formatting. That’s because everyone told me what a nightmare it would be to do myself, especially this first time. I am prepared for a long haul.

So here’s how I started the haul. I picked a trim size. (5×8, a conclusion I reached after exhaustive market study, or, by grabbing a few of my favorite trade paperbacks off the shelf and measuring them.) I downloaded their template for that trim size. I copied and pasted all my chapters into that template. I uploaded the file. Then I looked at their interior reviewer.

And: it looks pretty much like a book. It’ll need tweaking. I don’t like how I formatted the couple bits of verse that are in there. (That’s because I just put them in italics and called it a day.) And it’s not very fancy, to be sure. I may do something interesting with the chapter titles. But that seems like kind of minor stuff, no? Where’s this nightmare I was warned about?

The best I can figure is, this interior reviewer is a trick that makes me think it looks like a book, but when I get the proof in the mail, it’ll actually look like someone’s Aunt Nancy made it herself in the craft nook in the corner of her basement. Because craft nooks are certainly scary, and BAD THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN IN BASEMENTS.

So tell me, experienced friends. What horrible things are about to come out of the basement? Will I need a can of bug spray? Protective herbs? Galoshes? What are your CreateSpace formatting tips?

Authors United vs. Amazon: a Primer

I strongly suggest to you all that you read the latest letter from Authors United to Amazon’s Board of Directors, because seriously, it is just the very cutest thing. My favorite is “books are not consumer goods,” but the cry that traditional publishing and traditionally published authors like themselves are crucial, because editors (and also America), paired with the error in the very first line, is pretty good too. Over a thousand people signed that letter, and it claims that every one of them read it first. So I guess they’re right. They really do need editors.

But, I know my peeps are busy. Maybe you don’t have time to read it. Because you’re working, like, day jobs, and writing books and stuff. So to help you stay informed within the confines of your busy schedule, I’m going to go ahead and sum up this whole kerfuffle for you.

AUTHORS UNITED: We’re really mad because you’re blocking sales of Hachette titles!

AMAZON: We’re not blocking sales of Hachette titles. Go buy them from our site right now.

AUTHORS UNITED: Well, our sales are down.

AMAZON: Then maybe some of you clowns should stop urging your readers to boycott us? (shrug)

AUTHORS UNITED: But you’re not stocking them in your warehouses! Or putting pre-order buttons on the pages!

AMAZON: We can’t be stocking or promising future sales of books from a supplier whose products we have no contract to sell. Business and customers and stuff? And by the way, the reason we don’t have a contract with this particular supplier is that they let the contract expire and refused to negotiate a new one.

AUTHORS UNITED: Okay, but we’re really mad because you’re blocking boycotting sanctioning Hachette titles!

AMAZON: Are not.


AMAZON: Whatevs.




AMAZON: But your publisher is arguing that you authors can’t eat unless the prices are kept high, so…

AUTHORS UNITED: You can’t just go charging the price Hachette put on the cover, are you nuts? Nobody is going to buy books at that price! YOU OWE US DISCOUNTS! WE ARE ENTITLED TO DISCOUNTS! Also, we have never commented on the price of books.

AMAZON: But… isn’t complaining about discounts kind of like commenting on the price of books?

AUTHORS UNITED: Books are not consumer goods!

AMAZON: Then why are we discussing discounting and warehousing and selling them?


AMAZON: Kk. We’re going back to work now.

NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: No! Listen! They are prominent! Also important! WHALE MATH!!!!

So there you have it. HTH.

Further reading:
Joe Konrath’s hilarious fisk
Hugh Howey’s summary of lies from many directions

In which I review reviewing and my own reviews

The subject of reviews was suddenly popping up this morning. There’s a discussion going on in the comments to this post on The Passive Voice about reviews and honesty and writers trading good reviews with one another. Some are saying they don’t leave reviews, period, because they are writers and that makes it a conflict of interest of sorts. Marcia is talking about how she doesn’t like to leave negative reviews for anyone, whether she knows them or not.

The subject made me feel uncomfortable in ways I needed to examine, because I definitely think and say good things about the work of friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have never once said to someone, “I’ll leave you a gushing review if you do the same for me,” and I hope it goes without saying that I never would. But if it’s a friend’s book, I’m going to be inclined to like it, and to want to support it. I will absolutely say nice things about it. Does that make me dishonest?

What I came up with is: no, because I don’t lie. (Of course my friends’ books are good, people!) I only say nice things that are also true things. And if I can’t come up with any nice true things, I keep my trap shut.

I don’t do Amazon reviews with my full name, either. These stories about retaliatory reviews, etc. make me feel like I don’t want to make it super easy to click from Jen-the-reader to Jen-the-writer. What about that? Dishonest? I don’t know, but I’m sleeping fine on that one.

As for negative reviews, I’m with Marcia insofar as I don’t bother talking about books I hate. I will criticize, of course, but that’s different.

Oh! And star ratings. Here is where I must make a shameful confession: I am wildly inconsistent. That has nothing to do with whether I know the writer personally or not, but it does have to do with whether I’m familiar with the writer’s other work or not. I can’t seem to help being influenced by my expectations, which means I’m not grading everyone on the same system. If it strikes me as a phoned-in, lazy effort from a writer who can and has done better, especially if it’s a writer I know gets big advances, which makes it feel like a cash grab, that affects my rating. Even if it would be a good, say, debut novel from someone else. So yeah, that is something I’m bad at. What can I say. People are bad at stuff.

They’re reviews. By definition, they’re subjective. Are we influenced in one way or another by our feelings about the author, if we have any? I’m sure I am. But I do my best to be honest. As far as review policies go, I guess that’s mine. What about you? Do you have a personal policy or code for reviews? Is it tough ground for you to navigate at times?

Wake-Robin Ridge

wake robinIn the comments to one of the posts below, Marcia Meara describes her novel Wake-Robin Ridge as “romantic suspense with a touch of spooky.” Well, let’s consider this post my open letter to Marcia requesting something full-out spooky, because if this is her “touch” of it, I’d love to see what it’s like when she goes whole hog.

Don’t get me wrong, the love stories this book does focus on are very sweet. From a purely subjective standpoint, they run a little sentimental for my usual taste, along the Notebook/Bridges of Madison County end of the romance spectrum, but even for a morbid horror girl like me there is some lovely stuff here. I especially enjoyed the letters from one of the star-crossed lovers to another. And dogs! Several dogs. I’m choosing to ignore the presence of the cat.

But it will surprise nobody who knows me that I found the scenes with the ghost, and the hours leading up to the ghost becoming a ghost, to be the strongest in the book. They are expertly paced, and the imagery is first-rate. That phantom red Impala, making its awful way around an isolated cabin in the woods, and that rabbit–that rabbit!–are the things that will stick with me after I’ve put this book away.

I happen to live in Charlotte, not far from where this book is set, and the descriptions of the mountains and woods of North Carolina are very well done. I had a small nitpick or two with the details, but the important thing about that is, she got the barbeque right. [EDIT: to the surprise of absolutely no one, those nitpicks turned out to be my mistakes, not the author’s.]

Two thumbs up for this book, and I’ve already bought Ms. Meara’s other currently released novel, Swamp Ghosts.

Bookshelf tag – I’m it!

I’ve been tagged by Marcia Meara, whose answers you can find here. It works like this:

“Answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five other bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.”

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

Actually there isn’t. Goodness, my first answer is boring. Now I’m sad.

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

One? Just one? Well, I guess I have go to with good old Lord of the Rings then, which when I was 8 or 9 years old made me a fantasy reader for life.

More recently, although still many years ago, I was generally bored by biographies until I started reading Allison Weir. I believe The Six Wives of Henry VIII was the first of hers I read. I enjoy historical fiction, though, so that was kind of a natural progression.

I can’t think of anything recently that’s inspired me to read a genre I haven’t before, but that’s because I’m pretty much a genre floozie. I’m not sure there are any I haven’t read before.

3. Find a book you want to reread. (Question 3 is suspiciously absent from Marcia’s list, but I found it on Stella’s.)

I reread books regularly, specifically books with very well-drawn settings that give me that sense of being transported elsewhere: Rebecca, Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series.

Oddly, it’s not necessarily the same list as my favorite books, although of course I wouldn’t reread it if I didn’t love it. But rereading for me is more about the world than the characters or story. Jane Eyre is probably my favorite book of all time, but I don’t reread it as often as some others.

4. Is there a book series you’ve read but wish that you hadn’t?

Heavens, no. Why would anyone wish they hadn’t read something? I suppose that happens in the sense of wishing you hadn’t wasted time on something, but if I felt that way about the first book, I wouldn’t go on to read the whole series.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Well, can’t I just save my Kindle, so I’m saving a bunch at once? Or scoop a whole armful off a shelf? It seems unlikely I could only save one. But if my fingers are burning off and I can only balance one book on my elbow, I’d go for Jane Eyre, because poor Jane’s had enough destroyed by fire.

I don’t actually have any expensive or special editions of anything, so from a collector’s standpoint, I wouldn’t weep for the physical objects themselves. Apart from all that wasted paper, that is.

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

Again with the just one! It’s very cruel. I’m just going to ignore the “just one” instruction from now on, okay?

I’d have to go back to all the children’s books that meant so much to me in my youth: Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, Narnia. Anne Shirley, I will always love you.

I also have fond memories of waiting on my front porch for the last Harry Potter book to arrive, then spending the entire rest of the day eating fudge and reading it, having delegated all household and child-rearing chores to others. It was like a holiday.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

I’d have to say all the childhood books named above. They made me love books and reading, which is something that has shaped my entire life.

8. Do you have any autographed books?

Nope. But I’m considering stalking Marcia long enough to find out where she lives and break in to steal that autographed copy of Rebecca she has. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.

Maybe this doesn’t count, but I’ve got the covers of my original childhood copies of The Horse and His Boy, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and Anne of Green Gables all framed. As for which entire book is oldest, I’m honestly not sure. They’re all looking pretty beat up. I’m one of those people who eats while she reads and stains the pages with chocolate, and dog-ears her pages, and makes a tragic mess of the binding. (You can see why I love my Kindle.) I don’t mind my books being lived in.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

Not really. I don’t read the ones I don’t think I’ll enjoy. I’m trying to think if I felt forced to read anything in college and then ended up liking it, but as far as I recall, I pretty much looked forward to all of those too, because I’m a dork. Except Moby Dick and Notes from Underground. I never imagined I’d enjoy either of those, and I was right.

Tag time!

I’m going to tag Servetus. I’m not sure she’ll do it, as her blog is themed and this won’t fit, but she’s all scholarly and stuff, so I’d be curious to read her answers.

I’m also going to tag Paula Light.

And Roy.

And Lisen Minetti.

And Lyda.

Mostly because those five seem like they’d have very different answers, and I imagine variety and discovering new books is part of the point. I’d tag Don too, but I’m pretty sure he’s busy burningburning.

Thanks for thinking of me, Marcia!