Tag Archives: literary crimes

‘A “Celtic Adventure” and a Literary Crime’ (2014)

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This is the illiterate feminist knock-off of Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mysteries. If you were creating a dictionary of literary errors and prat falls, it would very closely resemble this disaster, St. Brigid’s Bones.


Why does anybody write a book like this? Well, ignorance would explain that.

But why would anybody ever publish it? You’ve got me there!

Can’t Miss! ‘Throne of Games’

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While I’m waiting for them to print The Silver Trumpet, I’ve got an idea for another fantasy series that just can’t help but make boxcar-loads of money.

I’ll call it A Throne of Games–I’m already offering the TV and movie rights–and it will feature beloved fantasy characters with really cool names.

Tydibol, the drop-dead gorgeous Invincible Female Warrior who does jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks.

Gassex the Crusty But Benign Old Wizard who talks like a text message.

Clairol the Buxom Tavern Wench, always up for a good time.

The Duke of Pez, villainous beyond belief, with a castlefull of monsters.

Solgar the Strong, the drop-dead gorgeous Hunk, Invincible Male Warrior with this really thick neck, it’s hard to tell where his head begins, who does jumpin’, spinnin’ kicks.

Plus a multitude of drop-dead gorgeous know-it-all Elves, insatiably lusty Dwarves, and all sorts of supporting characters who have absolutely no morals and commit all manner of revolting crimes.

Because, you see, in A Throne of Games, everyone’s bad–unless they’re, like, this total victim who’ll be lucky to survive two pages–and so the reader doesn’t have to decide who to root for, he can just sit back and enjoy the sex and carnage. In fact, these characters are so loathsome, even I’m turned off. Whose idea was it to get me to write this garbage? Well, confound it, I won’t! And I am withdrawing those movie and TV offers as of this confounded minute!

‘I Stand Rebuked’ (2016)

So here it is, past 11:00, only my body knows it’s really only just past 10 and I’m only running late, and can’t catch up, because of stupid Daylight Savings Time–fap!

Be that as it may, here’s what can happen to you when you write a somewhat less than enthusiastic book review.


‘Stop the Lousy Writing, Please’ (2015)

Back when every word I wrote got rejected, it used to drive me plum crazy to see all the howlingly awful books that were being published. Even some of the best-sellers! Stories that made no sense. Prose that read like a six-year-old wrote it. Stuff that read like a space alien wrote it, after taking a two-hour course on how to imitate humans.


Why it still goes on is a matter that defies analysis.

How to Gum Up Your Story

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a fantasy, a murder mystery, or any other kind of novel. The surest way to gum it up is to have an agenda besides just telling the story.

Yesterday we watched an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit because Amanda Plummer had an award-winning part in it, playing a schizophrenic who’d been the victim of a sexual assault. She was good, all right, although the rest of the acting was kind of wooden and mechanical: sort of like what you’d expect from Hollywood screenwriters who think, “This is the way New York cops talk–like puppets.”

But what was really wrong with it was the show’s fetish for “diversity.” Because of a need to represent every identity group in New York, the script had to accommodate a bewildering parade of characters–and even then they left out African pygmies and transgender types. The story staggered under its burden of identity politics, and we got the impression that watching this show on a regular basis could get quite tiresome.

“Oh! But this or that group will be offended if we don’t include a character representing it! We’ve got to be inclusive!”

You can’t tell any kind of worthwhile story if you’re standing on a soapbox.

Words and Terms That Can Kill Your Fantasy Dead

Do you want any more transgender news today? Naaah–let’s talk about fantasy-writing instead.

But first, an antique joke: The debutante’s father says to her, “My dear, there are two words I forbid you to use. One is swell and the other is lousy.” To which the debutante replies, “Of course, papa. And what are the two words?” [laugh break]

Well, if you’re trying to write fantasy, or even historical novels, here are six words, or terms, that you may never use without reminding your audience that they’re only reading some stupid thing that you made up, and they won’t be able to enjoy it by imagining it’s real.

Ms. People living in the Middle Ages did not use this title. In fact, it’s not even as old as I am. Characters inhabiting a fantasy world shouldn’t use it, either. Otherwise the author calls attention to the fact that what you’re reading isn’t real.

Lifestyle. Under no circumstances use this word, either in narrative or dialogue. It strongly hints that the author is a putz. Characters in fantasy stories do not have lifestyles. Can you imagine the damage done to his work, if J.R.R. Tolkien had ever mentioned “the hobbit lifestyle”? Perish the thought.

Gender. This used to be called “sex.” It’s a garbage word used by nitwits. Of course, you might wish to imagine a world in which there really are more than two sexes. If done well, it might even be interesting. But I am not aware that anyone has ever done it well.

Multicultural or Diversity, etc. If you want to talk about “diversity” among the natives of your fictional world, don’t insult the reader’s intelligence  by telling him something like “There is great diversity among the Heathen peoples of Obann.” No, no, no! Describe what these people look like, how they live, what they believe–paint a picture of them. If you really have no idea at all how to do this, you’re better off writing something other than fantasy. Instructions for assembling a chair, perhaps.

Social justice. This term is mere camouflage for liberal politics. Trust libs to give justice a bad name. Never, never, never use your fiction as a soapbox for your politics. Not only will most people hate reading it; before too long, no one will be able to read it because it will have become totally irrelevant.

Self-image, and similar preoccupations. If your fictional hero’s interest and attention is focused on himself, you can be sure your reader’s attention will soon be focused on someone else’s book. Make sure you never stoop to using such a phrase as “So-and-so’s journey of self-discovery.” Discovering the source of the Nile is interesting. Discovering a some fictional character’s self is not. And anyhow, you can write that theme without ever boring the reader by baldly stating it. In other words, don’t talk about it–do it.

Even a really good story can be murdered by the author’s most trifling use of these words and phrases. It’s hard enough to come up with a really good story. Don’t handicap yourself by weighing it down with any of this literary slag.


Romance + Fantasy = Literary Vandalism

As I struggle to get anything done today, the perky publicist is at me again, this time trying to get me to review something that sounds like it might be one of the worst books ever.

Because I’m not going to read the blasted thing, I won’t give the title or the author’s name: no way anyone will be able to say I gave them a bum steer. Anyhow, what matters is some general principles.

Two unwholesome cliches are basic to this book–which, incidentally, is not self-published.

First, we have the Beautiful Female Police Officer who, it turns out, much to her surprise, is the daughter of a Greek god. Yeah, I guess that’d surprise most people–unless they read a certain kind of squishy, nauseating fantasy. Then they wouldn’t be surprised at all, because this daughter-of-a-pagan-god thing is done to death.

Second, we have her–let me quote it exactly, because there’s no way to paraphrase the bodacious awfulness of this–“saved by the man of her dreams–the tall, dark and sexy vampire named Xen Lyson.”

The publicist goes on to tell us that this author “lives with her husband and their Alpha and Beta children…” What is that? How are these different from regular children?

Are these writers and publishers and publicists trying to bury fantasy altogether? Put it out of business? Suffocate it under a mountain of tacky, unwholesome, unoriginal, stale, brainless, tiresome, lubber-headed garbage?

The sexy vampire–it ought to be a flogging offense. There’s a certain kind of romance mind-set, involving sex with entirely unsuitable objects, that totally makes me scheeve. You don’t go far in the romance genre without encountering this. To bring it into fantasy, too, is literary vandalism.


Murdering Fantasy

Y’know, I’m beginning to think ill of publicists. They’ll take anybody’s money.

Today a publicist invited me to read a great new fantasy novel “about a female warrior with a kind heart.” When the Sarmatians went culturally extinct almost 2,000 years ago, that was the end of the only nation that actually produced female warriors on purpose. Look it up in Herodotus if you don’t believe me.

Since then, The Invincible Female Warrior has become the most commonplace–and the most annoying–cliche in half-baked fantasy literature. Along with crusty but benign old wizards and know-it-all elves: but really, Ms. Gorgeous with the unbeatable kung-fu moves is the worst of them all–except for maybe little kids with fantastic martial arts skills that enable them to wipe out full-grown male villains.

The book seems to be self-published. This is what gets me about self-publishing: no quality control. The publicist ought to be ashamed for taking this author’s money and trying to hoodwink people like me into reviewing it. I won’t give the author’s name because it just wouldn’t be humane. By the way, though, she wants a pretty hefty chunk of money for this book.

If you are an aspiring writer, this author commits a literary stumble that I’ve told you about before ( https://leeduigon.com/2015/10/21/a-silly-name-can-ruin-your-fantasy-novel/ ).

Do not name the principle characters in your story after familiar household products. Trust me, it doesn’t work. Here we have an Invincible Female Warrior named “Aleave.” Does that at all bring to mind the brand name of a popular headache medicine?

If you conscientiously avoid all the cliches that make fantasy so prone to low expectations on the readers’ part, and write a great story populated by memorable characters, and yet succumb to the temptation to give those characters names like Drano, Tylenol, Pennzoil, or Fancy Feast–well, you might as well not have written it at all.

Literary Crimes: Anachronisms

Are these cave men looking for the strike zone?

Let’s say you’re writing an epic novel of the events leading up to Noah’s Flood, thousands of years ago.

Can you envision any circumstances which would induce you to employ the phrase, “strike zone”?

Well, yeah, if you want to remind the reader that he’s not really visiting the ancient world, but just reading a stupid book about it.

My friend “Abner,” in his amazingly successful novelizations of Biblical events, resorts to every anachronism he can think of. Here are a few that light up the second book in his series.

“It depends on what ‘is’ is.”

“Hope and change”

“Fundamental transformation of society”

God accused of “colonialism, imperialism, sexism, speciesism” and also described as “macho”

“I feel your pain”

“You didn’t build that”

“The 99 percent”

“We”–the speaker is an archangel–“saved your rear ends”

All right, let’s be fair: he has stopped short of equipping Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, with cell phones. Well, who would they call? And a cell phone might be a nuisance if pockets haven’t been invented yet.

Strike zone? Macho?

Please, whoever is out there thinking about writing a novel–if you’re writing fantasy or historical fiction, please do not riddle it with stupid and inane anachronisms that won’t make a lick of sense to a reader ten years from now but which surely will, for the time being, remind the current reader that all he’s doing is reading a mutton-headed comic book without pictures.

I must point out that I am paid to read these books. Otherwise I could not endure it.

Another Literary Crime

Not to pick on “Abner Doubleday,” whose very successful series of fantasy novels I am now plodding through: but since I’ve given him the protection of a pseudonym, I suppose I can say what must be said. Like, if I don’t say it, my head will explode.

As I trudge into Book Two, I find Abner has drifted into the habit of constantly editorializing about his characters. It’s a very annoying habit.

Now, I think he’s writing this badly on purpose, creating as it were a comic book without pictures, pitched to an audience of mis-educated 10-year-olds. He writes like he’s afraid the reader won’t be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys. He already has his villains doing exceedingly cruel and villainous things, on page after page, and also bragging about how villainous they are. You’d think that would be enough, but no–he has to throw in adjectives like “diabolical,” “greedy,” “sadistic,” etc.

His good guys fare no better. If I were a fictional character, one of the heroes inhabiting a long story about grim events leading inexorably to total disaster, I would take strong exception to being described as “feisty,” “perky,” or even, Heaven help us, “spunky.” Abner would have to keep me stapled to the page; otherwise I would escape from the book and take up another line of work.

This stuff was stale a hundred years ago. This is the stuff that makes silent movies laughable today. When Snidely Whiplash ties Little Nell to the railroad tracks, and then leers and snickers at the camera, we think it’s hilarious.

Well, Abner’s novels aren’t meant to be hilarious. If his fantasy world had railroads in it, his villains would for sure be tying sweet, defenseless maidens to the tracks. In small doses, this would be amusing. In great big novel-sized doses, it’s more than flesh and blood can bear.

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