Thursday, 31 March 2011

When authors attack

Having enjoyed the recent meltdown of self-published author Jacqueline Howett, I found that this wasn't an isolated case. Author meltdowns happen not only to self-published or unknown writers, but big names too, like Anne Rice. Sometimes, like with Jacqueline Howett, the situation is funny; other times, like with Victoria Laurie and DeborahAnne MacGillivray, it gets a lot more serious. Laurie reported posters on Amazon thread to the FBI and MacGillivray allegedly hired a private detective to obtain names and addresses for a bad reviewer's family. Not good.

Laurie and MacGillivray both write romance novels, which I am not interested in, so I can't comment on how good or bad their writing actually is; never read and and never will. Howett's book, at least, may have sounded mildly interesting to some people; maybe something you'd have picked up to read the back of. Had The Greek Seaman been a printed book, and I had read the back, I'd have quickly put it back down again. The spelling and grammar of the back cover blurb make it very hard to read. From the Amazon page:
"Description to The Greek Seaman novel.

What is an eighteen year old newly wed doing traveling on a massive merchant ship anyways? Hadn’t she gone to Greece on tour in a ballet as a dancer? These are questions, Katy asks herself while traveling the high seas with Don her chief officer. However, little do they know a smuggling ring is also on board for this ride, on a blue diamond exchange and when explosions and threats to sink the ship also happen, they must try to save themselves.

Getting to know the smugglers, the Arabic and Pakistani deck hands and Don, the Greek Seaman is an exciting sea adventure with enough suspense and romance that will make you laugh and cry. It will take you on a voyage to experience the magnificent soothing wonders and beautiful scenery at sea, dolpins, flying fishes and takes you through storms and hurricanes where Katy finds herself navigating through it with a seasick crew. From Piraeus, Greece, your visit the ports of Lebanon and Libya and enjoy the exotic magic of the bazaar. The love between Don and Katy, in their ordeal at sea makes this a memorable story."

Description to The Greek Seaman novel? She makes a grammatical error on the second word that a reader will read before deciding to buy her book. That's just not good enough. When I read her first comments on Big Al's Books and Pals blog, I sniggered a little, but then got angrier and angrier as I read further down the comments. Some posters gave examples of poorly constructed sentences, such as:
"Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance."
and her response was: "...what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine." I watched a YouTube video of her reading an extract of her novel, and I did feel sorry for her. When she reads it, it kind of makes more sense. She pauses, when reading, so the sentence is clearer, but neglects to insert commas into the written text. To me it seems that she is trying to write as she thinks an author should write. When speaking, one might say "Don and Katy watched Gino putting coffees down on another table" which doesn't sound particularly interesting, so she has tried to write it in an 'authorly' way - but it just doesn't work. If she had left well alone, none of this would have been emailed, tweeted or blogged by as many people as it has (me included!)
To the people who say that we should leave her alone, and that this is bullying, I say: no we shouldn't, and no it isn't. She started posting childish and defamatory replies which ended in her telling various posters to "Fuck off!" for that, she deserves everything she gets, and long may it continue. Other posters have pointed out that Al (of Big Al's Books and Pals) has grammatical errors on his own blog, and that he is a hypocrite. Tripe. Al does not charge people to read his blog, so he is entitled to write it however he wants to, bad grammar or no. He is not a hypocrite.

I feel very sorry for Rebecca Black, who some have compared to Howett. I don't think she should have been subjected to such vicious attacks - she's only a kid. Don't get me wrong, I think the song is utter shite, but it's no worse than many songs being played on the radio at the moment, by older, and supposedly wiser, artists.

I will continue to watch this train wreck to see what Howett does next. I think it's appalling that family members posted 5 star reviews on Amazon, and are continuing to do so. That's another reason she deserves all she gets.

Edited: I've been reading more and more blogs saying everyone should lay off Howett, or talking about dogpiles: "Seriously, it’s one thing to righteously smack someone down when they’re giving you a hard time. It’s another to join in on a dogpile. Dogpiles are for cowards and for fascists.
And it’s completely another if you’re a famous author with a million followers to feed that dogpile. For real, NEIL GAIMAN? I’m defending some poor crazy lady from NEIL GAIMAN?"
All Gaiman did was point at Howett's behaviour and say "don't do that". When someone suggests this to the blogger they respond "The more power you have, the more careful you have to be. I can write a whole couple of paragraphs trashing Neil Gaiman, and not have to worry that I’ve harmed him in any significant way; for someone with a million and a half readers, even pointing to something like this can constitute a kind of cruelty." I would agree with the blogger if Gaiman had written somethign horrible about this woman, but he didn't. He pointed at her on his Twitter page. People seem to forget, this is the internet. Everyone can look at it, and comment on anything on it, as much as they want. What Howett did was done on a public forum - it's like she came into a café where I was enjoying a coffee, and screamed in my face. If Gaiman wants to do the same thing, that's totally allowed. It's the internet. It's public. If you don't want to discuss yourself on a public forum, you make a choice not to go to that public forum and discuss yourself.

Man alive!


Nic said...

Was Howett's book published as a book? I got the impression that it was an ebook that she was distributing herself. (Checks Amazon. Yeah, Kindle.)

What can you do? When anyone can publish their own books, without even the financial bar of having to pay a vanity press to do the dirty work, bad books will get out there, written by people who've no idea how bad their writing is.

I don't blame people for wanting to add fuel to Howett's self-immolation, but I don't really get why anyone would treat this tripe seriously enough to review it in the first place.

Having said that, maybe some good will come of this. Someone commenting on Big Al's blog says "I forwarded the link along not to make fun of her but as a lesson to the writing community I'm a part of. Be gracious. The internet is forever and editors have long memories and love to gossip."

There was a bit of a pile-on last week in the Welsh language blogosphere, when a certain Julian Ruck posted a rant about the "bloody Welsh language" on his blog. I won't link to it here, but Google "Welshy journey" if you're interested. The rant itself was pretty ho-hum, with the usual stuff about "stuffing it down our throats". When Ruck was challenged, instead of either apologising for the offence caused, or sticking to his guns and defending his opinion, he went for the "Jeremy Clarkson defence" -- "it was just a joke, and if you can't take a joke, it's your problem, not mine."

The difference between Ruck and Howett is that Ruck's books are published by a bricks-and-mortar publisher, Gwasg Dinefwr, and the head of the company is a Welsh speaker. Once the blog post had been brought to Dinefwr's attention, Ruck went into a spiral nosedive of retractions, post deletions, comment censorship, and finally a re-post of the original rant with a mealy-mouthed introduction. I lost interest about the time he deleted my comments from the blog.

Of course, web memes that start in the Welsh language web community rarely cross over into the wider world, luckily for Ruck, who has some kind of career as a writer. Also, while he was naive with regards to how the web works, he wasn't gauche enough to abuse the people who left comments on his blog, even the ones who were abusive towards him.

When I shared the link to Ruck's original blog post, a few people said "don't feed the troll", but it seems unlikely to me that Ruck was a troll, or that he even knows what a troll is in this context. He was simply sharing his thoughts with the only people who'd been reading his blog up to that point, his friends and family.

Sorry, don't know why I've written such a long comment. I think I basically agree with you. Good work. :)

Andrew Craig Williams said...

I've just read Julian Ruck's blog post. Why must we keep hearing the same silly anti-Welsh arguments? It's the same as the old 'joke' about German sounding harsh and shouty, German spoken by a German person is as smooth, melodic and beautiful as Welsh spoken by a Welsh person. The main points of Dewi Prysor's well-written argument were largely ignored by Ruck. I can't believe we're still having to fend off these ridiculous attacks on our language and culture.

Diolch am fwydo'r trol!

Nic said...

He's deleted the post again, and all the follow-ups.

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