Or maybe not.
For the past few days I've seen a lot of rapture talk with some lighthearted banter accompanying it. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is cruelty and ridicule.
For the record, I believe in God but I don't believe in the rapture, so I have no dog in this fight. I'm just more than a little confused as to why Christians who wait for the rapture to come are fair game, but a certain other group of people are off limits. Which group? Other authors.
I've recently been involved in more than one discussion online about whether or not it's good form to express one's opinion about any given book, genre or trope online. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all," has been uttered (or typed) more than once, and a more irritating phrase I cannot imagine, unless it's "Let's listen to Mariah Carey's entire back catalogue until our ears bleed."
A fellow writer whom I won't name for reasons of her privacy (See? I can be discreet!) had this to say:
If people want to be rude I have no problem with that. Much better than carefully stage-managed little pronouncements.I'm not advocating deliberate rudeness. What I am saying is, it seems to me that these days an awful lot of writers hold back from expressing their opinion for fear of...well, I'm not entirely sure? "Oh no; some people I've never met might decide they disagree with me?" Wow. That's...tragic. Imagine that. Fellow human beings having a different opinion, which they should never have expressed in public, according to some.
Me? I think if you say "I don't like such-and-such in erotic romance," (or whatever genre) it makes you look like not-a-clone. Someone who's willing to express his or her own opinion. Someone who, God damn it, has one. Because there are far too many people who are in danger of becoming anodyne sheeple due to their reticence. Dare I mention the word "Stepford"? Why yes, I do. Come on; you're hardly going to be ostracised by the entire writing community if you say "I don't like books where nipples pebble or pussies gush, soak, drench or cream." (Trust me, I've read all of the above in published work).
You're allowed to not like particular books. Honest! But, as I've said before, I'm not condoning rudeness. It's not a choice between "Rude," and "Shut the hell up." It's perfectly possible to express likes and dislikes without causing offence, or should I say without deliberately causing offence. And that's the key. You'll piss someone off no matter what you say...which is why, I believe, so many writers are afraid to say anything.
Lord knows why. My Tweetstream's about as classy as a drunk lapdancer snorting coke off a monkey's nutsack, and my follower count keeps climbing. I've had people contact me to say they've decided to read my books in the hopes that they will contain the same sarcastic-but-not-cruel-just-funny sense of humour I display online. I've lost count of the amount of people who have said to me, "I wish I had the balls to say what you say," and I don't even think I'm being that outlandish online! So, y'know...for every person your perfectly legitimate opinion drives away, two or three more will be amused or intrigued.
Some people have actually got work because of their willingness to be themselves online rather than obsessing about their apparent, deliberately-constructed internet personalities. I know I certainly have. It hasn't put people off from wanting to work with me, nor actively seeking me out to make that happen.
If I'm reading a book - and most of my reading material these days is erotic romance, though not always - and it makes me laugh, I'll probably tweet about it. "WTF is this? Twitching cocks and pulsing pussies?" I'm pointing out crap writing without mentioning the author or the book so as not to embarrass them publicly, or make myself look like an unprofessional bitch. If readers take it on, they'll maybe become a bit more discerning. It's not bitching; it's good-natured ribbing. Honesty. Expressing my opinion.
No, I don't have to.
Do you have to follow my tweets or my blog?
On the odd occasion I have actually named names, I'll admit, but I hardly think Charlotte Bronte's going to rise from the grave and zombie bitchslap me for saying I'd happily burn every copy of Jane Eyre in existence. I feel confident that John Boyne cares not a jot that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas made me want to spork my own eyes out.
I'd rather express my dislikes because it makes my likes more sincere when I do mention them. Make no mistake, when I like a book, I tweet and blog about that too. It's not one-sided. Just the other day I tweeted, nay, raved about Ash Penn's Passing Time, which I read in one sitting and want to push onto every other reader who rates my opinion on this sort of matter. (Honestly. Please read it. Do. The ending was sublime.)
I trust people who are willing to say so-called 'negative' things because it gives their compliments more weight when they do arrive. If someone only ever says "I like this book...I like this book...I like this book..." and they eventually turn their attention to mine, I wonder, "Really? Do you really like my book or are you just scared to do anything other than toe the party line?"
No-one's gonna die if you don't like one of my novels, really. I mean, you might when I break into your house in the middle of the night with a baseball bat and a chainsaw, but hey, you deserve it for being a mean girl.
Of course, there will always be those who advise, "Don't say negative things on Twitter. It makes you look bad," but a thought occurred to me this afternoon. Such people usually make a big deal of keeping their bitching and whining for private discussions with friends and family alone. On the surface you might think that's controlled, disciplined and professional.
Me? I think it's hypocritical.
As I tweeted earlier: It would be far more noble (and difficult) to cease bitching at all rather than doing it behind closed doors, telling yourself that's okay. Only then would you be able to say you're truly 'not saying anything at all' if you can't think of anything nice to say.
I could list people; some authors, some not, who absolutely excoriate other people behind their backs then act like their best friends online. Okay, I'm rather taking my argument to extremes there, but I honestly see nothing worth emulating in this behaviour. There's no integrity in keeping your bitching for private conversation if it goes that far, if it's so two-faced.
Luckily such people are relatively rare in the publishing industry and word gets out about their behaviour eventually, but even so...kinda makes my skin crawl, y'know? Makes me wonder why publicly saying "I didn't like it when Author X wrote such-and-such," is not the done thing but deeply, deeply insulting people behind their backs is practised by some alleged 'professionals'.
My advice? Ignore the saying, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." That bleaches all the life out of your online presence. Nope, definitely don't set out to be rude. But don't fear expressing your opinion. You're allowed to not like any book you spend time and money on. Even mine. Ask yourself, "Would I say this to the author's face?" If you would, cool. If not, maybe your conscience is pricking you. Perhaps you should listen. It's entirely up to you.
And let me just say at this point, it's pretty dangerous to ask me, "Would you say that to so-and-so's face?" because chances are...yeah, I would. *grins*
And for the love of God, don't think whispering behind your hand or laughing up your sleeve about a book/author makes you somehow more noble. It doesn't. It makes you a hypocrite, and you will be found out. There are authors out there who have unwittingly blacklisted themselves at particular publishers or with certain higher-ups because of such behaviour. It's up to them to deal with the consequences meted out on their career.
So while I will no doubt offend some people with this blog post, I'm prepared for that. So far, it doesn't seem to have done my career much harm. Some folks disagree with my manner of presentation and others admire it. That's cool. There's room for everyone's opinion. Even if they're different.
Oh, and one more thing: it's okay to not believe in the rapture. But taking the piss out of those who do while saying "Mocking authors is bad?" That kinda makes your professional hat fall off. Mmmkay?