More indie authors, part 1

There was a little tent of indie authors flogging their wares among the jewelry-makers, costumers, and hippies with herbs of the Renaissance faire. But I was having a strong case of too-many-people-itis, so I just grabbed all the free be-blurbed bookmarks and business cards and got out. But to be honest, the highlight of the day was when I got to hold an eagle owl named Katara (squeeeeeeeeeeee).

First that caught my eye was E.J. Willis‘s Battle for the Throne: Tales from Falyncia Book One, because I was thinking How much does this rip off Game of Thrones? And when I read a blurb on the author’s site about a legendary magical item left behind by a dangerous wizard, I was thinking How much does this rip off LOTR?

And when I got to the Kindle sample, I realized this was intended for a much younger audience than I assumed. I think. I took classes alongside education majors, but I never learned the system for age-appropriateness. The general rule of thumb is that the age of the intended audience is about the age of the protagonist(s), so the sample puts this at about 10. And then I was thinking, “Jesus, who implies about child sex slavery in a book for 10-yr-olds?” Hopefully it all whooshes over their little heads.

Maybe the protag gets significantly older over the course of the book, and the real audience is YA? Except the style makes me think not, because it’s waaaay too ‘splainy. It spells out character thoughts, reactions, motivations, etc. to the extent where it’s not omniscient so much as infantilizing. It makes me wonder if it’s for particularly slow 10-year-olds, but I don’t know how much the average one needs exposition spelled out for them.

To sum up, it sounds like the tale of the Secretly Important Child, with our protag Alaina starting out intended to be sold as a child (sex?!?) slave but escaping with help of a winged wolf guardian. And there’s an evil emperor and a magical medallion left by an evil wizard and evil spirit animals who fight with the wolf-angel.

The author is also a CS Lewis junkie, so I think this is supposed to be Christian spec faith. Let’s hope it isn’t prone to the same pitfalls. In any case, I am not kid-adjacent, so I have no real interest in paying to find out.

Next up is Suzanne Dome with the Weird Wheat and The Scrounger Trilogy. I sampled Weird Wheat first because I worked at a grain elevator for several summers and I know/care too much about wheat. Happily for everyone who doesn’t have a weird emotional connection with cereal grains, this book is actually a semi-urbanish fantasy thing. Kinda like Disney’s Enchanted except rural Kansas instead of NYC and way less painful and annoying fantasy-landers.

I am on the fence on whether or not I want to pay money for it, because while there is good in it, there are various problems:

  1. Sketchy copyediting. Maybe I wouldn’t hate it so much if it hadn’t set off my #1 irrationally hated grammar pet peeve with reigns vs reins, but what was seen cannot be unseen.
  2. This is another one that tends to describe too much. Text is impressionistic, not photographic. The audience will not visualize the person, place, or thing how you do no matter how many paragraphs you take. We don’t even need to know if the barn is northwest of the house, because most people can’t tell northwest from a hole on the ground.
  3. The characters are ehhhhhhh. I’m not convinced that Main Character Girl is not going to turn into a Mary Sue, and there are few things I want to burn to the ground more than a Mary Sue who perpetuates the worst of the teenage girl stereotypes even if she likes goth over cheerleader fashions and can do karate. Chances are this book would be better if it was from the old-lady aunt’s perspective.
  4. There is Comic fucking Sans on the cover. Or something way too close to it. The cover is actually pretty good, especially for an indie author, so why did they shit on such a good effort with that font choice?

Actually, that last point is a suitable encapsulation of all my hopes and misgivings about this book. Moving on.

The Scrounger Trilogy is an earlier work and frankly, it’s a mess. I’ve made it through William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, so I can safely say its choppy narrative isn’t avant-garde so much as not thought out.

This is another one that I want to like for its creativity and worldbuilding, but I spend most of my time hating its Mary Sue on a molecular, bitch-eating-crackers level. Look, I get the conflict women, especially teenagers, have over sexuality in general and theirs in particular. You want to feel pretty, be acknowledged as attractive, but at the same time you’re scared of the way it can be used to threaten, objectify, exploit, and hurt you. But for fuck’s sake, don’t reinforce the Madonna-whore dichotomy by constantly repeating that your character is super pretty and sexy but not, like, slutty or anything.

Hopefully the next indie books I sample will at least get basic feminism right, but they are romance books. It’s not that there can’t be such thing as feminist romance novels, but the cultural baggage of sexism is a circling vulture over every stereotypically feminine thing in existence. May the book-gods have mercy on my soul.

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