The Green-Eyed Author (or, Is It Okay To Say I Hated Your Book?)

Let’s talk about jealousy for a minute.

I’m not talking about jealousy over a man or woman.  Not the kind of jealousy that makes people do crazy and stupid things when they think their special someone might have another special someone on the side.

I’m talking about professional jealousy. Namely, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Oh, my God, I hate that book.  I hate it with the kind of stomach-churning distaste that makes my lip curl into a sneer every time it is mentioned. I’ll admit that I even find myself wanting the movie to flop.  Big time.  We’re talking Heaven’s Gate flop.  Waterworld flop. When Justin Met Kelly flop.

But to be fair, I have to look inside myself to understand why the Fifty Shades phenomenon provokes such a strong reaction in me, especially after a young co-worker made a rather pointed comment to me yesterday.

“You’re just jealous that those books are so successful and yours aren’t,” she said.


Let me just say right here that I truly value this young lady’s opinion.  She was one of the few people in my circle who was honest enough to point out some glaring errors in my first book, and I find her honesty to be worth more than gold.  To put it into non-writing terms, she’s the kind of person every woman wants to take on shopping trips because she’ll give an honest answer to that age old question: “Does this make my butt look big?”

So yes, my butt looks big and I am jealous of E.L. James. Of course I want my books to be read by millions of fans.  I want a movie deal. I want my name to be known by millions, my books to be the center of discussion and controversy, my bank accounts to be overflowing . . .

Um . . . where was I going with this? Sorry, got a little distracted by the fantasies of money, fame and adulation.

But I guess I have to look a little deeper and question whether my negative opinion of Fifty Shades would be the same if it wasn’t so successful. I have to ask myself if I might like the books better if they weren’t such a huge success. As a writer, can I ever separate myself from that envy to form an honest, unbiased opinion of another author’s work? Are any of us able to do that?

I believe so. I didn’t like Fifty Shades.  There, I said it. I just don’t think it’s a very good book. If she had only sold a dozen copies, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. That’s not jealousy; that’s the honest opinion of someone who started reading at age four and hasn’t stopped since.

I know I should be cheering for my fellow self-published author, but I just don’t understand what the fuss is all about.  I did not think the book was very good.

So, is my opinion invalid, simply because the book I dislike is doing so well? Is it fair to dismiss my opinion as petty jealousy on my part?

I like to think that I know the difference between a good book and a bad one.  That I can form an honest opinion regardless of my feelings about the author, regardless of my envying the success of others.  I like to think that I can be fair and impartial.

Then again, I also like to think that I look good in jeggings, and we all know that’s not true.

So let’s get to the point here.  When I say that I think another book is bad, am I saying that I think mine is better?  No, not necessarily.  When I wonder how a book that I dislike can possibly do so well, am I whining that its success is unfair or undeserved?  Again, no.  I am not.  Nor am I saying that the authors of these books don’t deserve their fame and fortune.

I’m simply saying that I don’t like certain books.

The fact that I am an author doesn’t take away my right to have an opinion. The fact that I wish I had E.L. James’ success and money doesn’t negate my opinions of her work.

Authors are allowed to have opinions of other books. We can say that we didn’t like Fifty Shades or Angela’s Ashes or even Catcher in The Rye if we really didn’t like those books.  It’s okay to question the popularity of something that we didn’t like.  And yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to feel a tiny bit of jealousy or envy once in a while.  Go ahead; own it.

What’s not okay is letting that jealousy take over.  It’s not all right to use it as an excuse to shred someone else’s work unfairly.  And it’s definitely not okay to continue to disparage another author or his/her work because of that jealousy.  Express your opinion in the fairest way possible, own your envy, and move on.  Go write your next book and make it better than the ones you dislike.

Because I can guarantee that there are people out there who won’t like what you write, and some of those people are going to be your fellow authors.  And guess what?

They have a right to their opinions, too.

Time Flies

Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets.  You can only afford one.  Which of these do you buy, and why?


A time machine, of course.  No question.

I’d love to say I would be altruistic and use a time machine for the good of the world:  Save the Titanic.  Unload the Eastland before she tipped over.   Kill Hitler before he gained power.  Tell E.L. James to get out of fanfiction and write her own damn book.

You know, the kind of actions that could prevent untold human suffering.

But I’ve read enough Science Fiction to understand that altering the past like that could have terrible consequences. Besides, I think I’ve established here in my blog that I’m basically a pretty selfish person at times, so let’s just accept that I would use a time machine for my own selfish purposes.

I’d go back to Woodland Elementary and pants a little boy named Tripper.  Totally humiliate the little bastard and warn him to leave my six-year-old self alone.  While there, I might also warn Leroy Butler to stay off the monkey bars in order to avoid shattering his jaw during recess, and I’d have a nice sit-down discussion with my mother about sending me to school in home-made “Stretch-N-Sew” polyester clothes.

I’d go back and tell my high school self to stop worrying about being fat and unpopular and just enjoy herself.  I’d tell her to give up the crush on a boy named Bucky, because in thirty years he will still be with the same perky little blonde — who will still be perky and blonde (and much nicer than I ever gave her credit for).  I’d point out the skinny, geeky science nerds and hint at all of the wonderful things puberty is going to do for some of them in a few years.

I’d tell her to savor the moments with Dee, Dawn, Aaron, Dale and all the others who are going to be gone too soon.

A time machine would give me a chance to go back and tell my college-aged self that dropping out of college is the stupidest thing she will ever do in her life.  I wouldn’t tell her just how many other stupid things she is going to do, but she should know that her future will be a mess if she doesn’t get that degree.

I’d tell the young, starry-eyed bride at my wedding to dance with Dad. It’s just one song, for God’s sake.  Not for him; for her.  She needs to understand that he is a good man who did the best he could, and that he never stopped loving his daughters.  She needs to forgive him, and she needs to realize that he doesn’t have much time left.

I’d tell that same bride to keep a closer watch on her marriage and recognize when things start going bad.    Get out sooner, before they hurt each other as much.

On the subject of hurting people, I’d tell myself to name the jerky ex-boyfriend character in Her House Divided  “Lester” instead of “Randy.”  Trust me on this one.  Sorry, Randy.

I’d let the air out of all of the tires of both of our cars on June 21, 2011, so that my kids couldn’t go to Christian Fellowship that night.  Better yet, I’d make a call to the Van Buren County Road Commission a week earlier and tell them to cut down a certain half-dead maple tree on County Road 388 before it falls in a storm and hurts someone.

I’d go back and tell Doug Adams to stay off the treadmill and see a cardiologist.  Beg Kurt Vonnegut for just one more story.  Tell Jim Henson it’s not the flu; go see a doctor.

I’d tell myself to gossip less, laugh more.  Say “I love you” as much as possible, even when no one says it back.  Tell my sisters I love them, no matter what.  Both of them.  Read more books from unknown authors.  Eat less, exercise more, and don’t lose touch with old friends.  Don’t wait for the universe to drop a tree on my head to make me understand that I am loved and I matter to a lot of people.

Of course, if I did all of those things, I wouldn’t have the chance to gain wisdom from the experiences, and my present-day self wouldn’t know what to do with the time machine.  Wouldn’t have the advice and warnings to give . . . which means nothing would change.  Or everything would change. . .

I think I just understood the theory of a Moebius Strip, but only for a second.  Then it was gone and now my head hurts and I suddenly remember why I don’t write Science Fiction.

So let’s just say I would use my time machine to travel back to 1973 so I throw myself at Randolph Mantooth.  Then again, I’d be old enough to be his mother then, and I’m not sure I could pull off being a cougar.  And now my head hurts again.

Screw the electronics store.  I’ll spend my money on Toblerone and Diet Coke.

The Land of Painful Reality

Now that I’ve gone public with my new weight loss goals, I decided to try to find a few weight loss blogs to follow for inspiration.  I want to find recipes, success stories, helpful hints, etc.  I keep looking for someone like me, someone facing similar struggles.  But instead, I keep finding daily food diaries and exercise logs.

I don’t care.

I can’t imagine anything more boring than a blog that lists what I ate, how many calories I burned, or how many Weight Watchers “activity points” I can count for scratching my ass.    And I strongly doubt whether or not anyone really gives a damn that I counted eight points for a Wendy’s Frosty last night.

Worth every tasty point!
Worth every tasty point!

I have lost count of how many times I have tried Weight Watchers before.  I once lost nearly one hundred pounds while following the program, but I was also in the midst of my obsession with running at that time; my weight-loss was due more to frenetic exercise than to my haphazard attention to what I was eating.   I think I can say in all honesty that I have never actually done Weight Watchers correctly.

So I’m not sure what is so different this time.  I just finished one full week on the program and actually did it right all week long.

Of course, I don’t know if it worked or not because my fancy electronic scale doesn’t work and I’ve been in denial for so long that I didn’t realize it was broken until I hopped on it to take note of my starting weight.  Fortunately, the lovely people at Salter have agreed to replace it and will be sending me a new one in 4-6 weeks.  Love those warranties!

There’s an entire blog post in there somewhere about how it felt to realize that I had broken my scale, but quite frankly my ego just isn’t up to that.  If not for my skinny-mini daughter telling me that it’s been broken for months I might have been suicidal when I looked down and saw “Err . . . Err . . .Err” in bright red letters on the readout.

Slim people like my sister don’t stay home and survive on specialty foods created just for weight control.  I’ve watched her, and she eats real food.  My tall, slender daughter eats the same foods that I eat – foods that I have prepared in my own kitchen.  We don’t use fat-free, artificially-sweetened frankenfoods in this house, and yet she maintains her weight just fine.

Granted, both of them are much more physically active than I am. But the point I am trying to make here is that I think the easiest way to lose weight is to eat real foods in more practical portions.  If I had to lose weight by eating pre-packaged, preservative-riddled, mail-order meals, I think I might last a week.  Or if I had to always be set apart from the people around me, eating something different and “special”, I’d be good for about two days.

If I had to accept the fact that I would never again eat another slice of pizza or –God forbid!—a Toblerone, I’d last exactly 4.7 seconds.

The fact is, I am going to eat real food.  Pizza, lasagna, cheesecake, Toblerone, Wendy’s Frosties.   If I’m going to move out of the Land of Bigass Denial and take up residence in the Land of Painful Reality, I’m going to have to do it with the occasional dish of tater-tot casserole and chocolate cake.

The difference is that I am going to have to limit my portions.

Part of my denial was telling myself that I really wasn’t eating that much.  I blamed my weight gain on slow metabolism, a sedentary lifestyle due to my disability, too much snacking, heredity, and so on.  I think I even blamed E.L.  James, not because she had anything to do with it but because I just like blaming her for everything unpleasant in life.

I was appalled this week to discover that I have been eating easily as much as my husband (sometimes more).  The problem with that is that the Big Guy is a six-foot, one-inch man who rarely stops moving.  The man has got the appetite and metabolism of a seventeen year-old marathon runner.

I, on the other hand, am a five-foot, four-inch sedentary woman with the metabolism and activity level of a three-toed sloth.

I’ve realized that the points value of one meal at Pizza Hut was an entire days worth of points.  Holy crap.  I can still eat there; I just can’t continue to match the Big Guy slice for slice.  Seriously, what the hell was I thinking?  I am not a stupid person.  How did I not get that I can’t eat that much?

The past week has been a real eye-opener in terms of my own idiocy and bad habits.  It’s also been a relatively hungry week as I have drastically reduced the amount of food I’m taking in.  I haven’t even started to worry about “activity points” and exercise just yet because I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many changes, too soon.  That’s something for another week and another blog post.

If you have a weight loss blog and want to share some inspiration or some of your secrets, please leave a link for me in the comments!  I’d love to check it out.