Don’t Bite the Hand that You Wish Would Feed You

Alert Bitchery reader S sent me an email pointing me to some wonderful examples of dumbassery, AND a contest spawned by dumbassery. In the Smart Bitch world, there is no higher honor given than to those who come up with a fine competition out of someone else showing their behind.

Seems Blaze Jennifer LaBreque weathered of the experience of a scathingly mean review on Amazon.com. The reviewer, J. Wallace, was particuarly offended by an opening scene, and said “[s]ome may rush out and buy it, and any author who can convince her publisher to run with this deserves the income.”

Owwwwlch. One swipe and down go the readers, the publisher, the editor AND the author.

Now, one might quirk a brow at a Smart Bitch quirking her own brow at such a low blow in a review. I must point out that when we Bitches write a review, we are careful to pay attention to the plot and not the people behind it, and we rarely harsh on the author. There are exceptions to that rule, reserved mostly for authors whose books steadfastly and savagely suck up to stale stereotypes, but for the most part, we try to review fairly and explain why when we raise the scimitar of stank.

So while you may be thinking our pot may seem to be throwing glass houses at our kettle, I will continue with this fabulous tale.

Seems La Brecque has a damn fine attitude about such things, and says, “Gee I wish I could PAY her for that review,” because J. Wallace didn’t reveal the disgusting plot point that so turned her stomach, and in refraining from doing so, spurred sales of LaBrecque’s book.

And LaBrecque writes,“I don’t usually come with a money-back guarantee, but I’m making an exception in this case. If Ms. Wallace will stop by my table at RWA’s National Literacy signing (she’ll be there, according to her website), I’ll have $6 in cash with me at my table to reimburse her. That should cover the cost of the book, tax, and the mental/emotional trauma she obviously suffered during the read. She can keep the change for her scintillating review because I suppose I really should pay her.”

But then, Alison Kent explains the oh-so dishy and fascinating part of the story: not only does J. Wallace plan on attending RWA (per her own website, which several readers found by clever use of Google) but she’s an aspiring author whose manuscript is indeed in front of the very editor whose publishing house she offhandedly dissed in her review.

All together now: DOH!

I wonder if the query letter read, “You shouldn’t have bought that. So buy this instead!”

Alison was also clever enough to do a random drawing for three copies of Highland Fling which, of course, folks are clamoring to read, because if there’s hot naughty bits, we are ALL OVER IT. After that excerpt on Alison Kent’s site, I want to read this book. Srsly, once you have a whiff of that fine eau d’controversy, there is nothing better for sales.

 

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  1. 1

    That’s it?  That’s it?  A common urban myth handled well (I love “I made that part up”) and J. Wallace has a hissy fit in public?

    My mind is boggled.

    This was very entertaining, and I appreciate the SB’s pulling all the threads together. 

    And I’m still mulling over “So while you may be thinking our pot may seem to be throwing glass houses at our kettle…”

    That’s kind of like the man-titty, mulleted cover of mixed metaphors.  It’s a phrase for the ages.

  2. 2
    KariBelle says:

    “That’s it?  That’s it?  A common urban myth handled well (I love “I made that part up”) and J. Wallace has a hissy fit in public?”

    I agree.  I thought it was funny.  Of course, I sometimes have the sense of humor of a 13 year-old boy. 

    If J. Wallace is so uptight that this offended her, I have ZERO INTEREST in reading her book.  I’m sure it will be a snoozefest.  I am glad her review has actually helped the author. 

    I was one of those who was very annoyed if not outright offended by Paperback Writer’s rant last year about how those who are not published authors should just shut the fuck up about those who are.  However, Jennifer LeBrecque is a better woman than I if she has the restraint not to call this ass-hat and say, “And you have published HOW MANY books?”

  3. 3
    celeste says:

    I got the impression from Alison Kent’s blog that she doesn’t know for sure if Jody Wallace has a submission on that particular editor’s desk or not. I think it was more of a “Payback’s gonna be a bitch if you’re ever in a position where the author and her friends can give it to you” kind of thing.

    A few days ago when a friend emailed me about the storm that was brewing, I read the excerpt. This is supposed to be shocking? Amusing? Edgy? Color me underwhelmed.

    I had a feeling there’d be a bunch of people piling on the reviewer. I’m guessing she regrets posting it under her own name.

    What I find distasteful about this latest kerfuffle is the sixth grade girl feel to the “Oh, you’re gonna be at RWA National, are you?” comments. This mentality is one of the things I like least about RWA.

  4. 4
    DebH says:

    Wait.  Someone posted a scathing review over that?  Seriously.  No, seriously???  This person posted a review, using her own name, took a shot at author/editor/publisher while herself an aspiring author…. for a couple of sentences that are clearly an early throwaway bit??  My mind, she is blown.

  5. 5
    Stef says:

    ***What I find distasteful about this latest kerfuffle is the sixth grade girl feel to the “Oh, you’re gonna be at RWA National, are you?” comments. This mentality is one of the things I like least about RWA.***

    Celeste, I don’t really get what this means.  I think it’s a combination of no inflection, and I’ve had the day from hell, so my brain’s fried.

    As for Ms. Wallace – everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and hey, this is America, where one can stand up and say whatever they like, so long as it’s not about a fire in a theatre.

    Personally, I wouldn’t have posted a review like that, whether I was an aspiring writer or a nuclear physicist.  I tend to post reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble when a book really makes me wanna cry, it’s that good.  Sharing the good stuff is fun.  The bad stuff goes in the garbage, never to be thought about again.  I wouldn’t have thrown the book in question in the garbage, because I didn’t see anything bad about it – but as I said, we’re all entitled to our opinion.  Ms. Wallace clearly is offended by hamsters and anal cavities.  Or should I say, hamsters IN anal cavities?  Maybe, taken apart, these are not offensive? 

    Me?  I’m offended by bigots and state politicians named Napoli.  However, if a book opened with a scene that had an x-ray of Mr. Napoli shoved up a bigot’s ass, dude, I’d be telling everyone I know to BUY THIS BOOK!

  6. 6
    celeste says:

    I agree, Stef. I’ve yet to read a book that so offended my sensibilities that I’d write a scathing review on Amazon under a pseudonym, much less my real name. There are MUCH worse things going on in the world, and to make enemies over something that’s very small, in the scheme of things, is a waste of a good rant, IMO.

    I think things would’ve been better all around if the author hadn’t blogged about it. Her blog post reveals that it upset her enough that she went looking for information on the reviewer and then issued the “friendly” invitation to the reviewer to stop by at the signing.

    Maybe MY brain’s fried tonight, but didn’t that come off a bit like the author was trying to intimidate the reviewer? What about the author’s friends’ comments as to what might happen to the reviewer’s manuscript if it were submitted to the same editor/house? THAT’S what I was talking about.

  7. 7
    Robin says:

    I got the impression from Alison Kent’s blog that she doesn’t know for sure if Jody Wallace has a submission on that particular editor’s desk or not. I think it was more of a “Payback’s gonna be a bitch if you’re ever in a position where the author and her friends can give it to you” kind of thing.

    That’s also how I read it, although perhaps there’s more info on Wallace’s own website regarding this. 

    So, since there were only two copies of LaBrecque’s book left at Amazon, I HAD to buy one (damn that Amazon Prime membership!).  I have never heard of or read LaBrecque before.  How did this whole thing become an issue to begin with? 

    My favorite comment at Alison Kent’s site, though, is probably the one about how hamsters don’t have tails.  I’m not sure how that affects the ER “realism” argument, though.

    As for the whole kerfluffle, I actually didn’t think that Wallace’s review was scathing so much as it was not very well crafted and blandly, dismissively negative.  I guess she made a pretty good example, though, for authors to make the “be careful who you criticize if you ever want to be published in THIS town” argument I suspect many have been dying to make lately.

  8. 8
    Miri says:

    Oh Geez!
    (I just read the teaser over on Alison’s site) THAT’S worth a blasting by a reviewer? This gal, got all squeemie and then all outraged enough to leave a review on amazon.com about it? Is she kidding? MY sister is a nurse yes in the ER sometimes, and she’s got stories that would turn your hair white.
    ( Dear Ms. Wallace, don’t watch this!http://www.ebaumsworld.com/videos/buttrocket.html ) (not work friendly)
    The stuff people well…uh, stuff in their orifice is creative to say the least.

  9. 9
    Sanachan says:

    *sarcasm mode ON*

    I am deeply, deeply offended by the blurb posted from this book. I’m so offended that I will never, EVER buy anything written by Ms. LaBrecque as long as I live. How she, her editor or her publisher could let such a heinous piece of garbage out into the unsuspecting world I will never know. But unlike J. Wallace I WILL mention the part that offended me:

    “Kate drained the rest of her double latte with the expresso shot…”

    How dare they make such a crude mistake about the all important subject of high priced Italian coffee? How dare they! Everyone knows that a double latte already contains TWO shots of espresso, not one! For shame Ms. LeBrecque, for shame!

    *sarcasm mode OFF*

    And this, my friends is what happens when you spend a very long summer working at a coffee shop in your teens. You become unbalanced. And you develop a deep psychosis which makes you nauseas every time you open a bag of espresso beans, but that can be treated with therapy.

    Here’s hoping everyone catches the sarcasm so I don’t endanger my possible future writing career. :-p

  10. 10
    Stef says:

    “Kate drained the rest of her double latte with the expresso shot…”

    Not to mention – isn’t it espresso?  Minus the x?  Like in x-ray?

    Just sayin’.

  11. 11
    Sanachan says:

    Stef~

    I was actually going to comment on that, but according to Merriam-Webster expresso is a valid alternate spelling. *shudder* Those bastards. I probably should have checked the Oxford English Dictionary, they tend to be more picky about alternate spellings.

  12. 12
    Wry Hag says:

    To tell you the truth, I don’t know what the hell this is all about and don’t much care.  But, having a hair-trigger link-click finger, I did go to ol’ Jen’s site. 

    EEEEEKKK!  That picture in the upper left in the banner area, what gives with THAT?  At first I thought it was a mother cuddling with her child.  Then I thought—and, believe me, this process took a while and involved many potato chips—well, Hag, that CAN’T be the kind of picture it is, considering the touted drool-cup nature of the author’s output.  So I looked closer.  The larger figure seemed to have whiskers, suggesting it was a man—a man getting way too schmoodgy with a child.  But no, thought I, if that’s a man, his limbs are far more willowy than those of most women I know (but, then, most women I know live in Wisconsin).

    Ultimately, I ran out of potato chips and resigned myself to not knowing what to think.

    So, what’s my point?  Beats me, but I’ll give it a stab.  I don’t know what Jennifer’s book is about (I’m inferring it’s about something Scottish), but I HAVE learned it’s damned important that an author scrutinize the graphics she throws on her web site lest a jaundiced moomoo such as I mistakes the, uh, nature of that author’s erotic bent.

  13. 13
    Jane says:

    I guess I come down on a different side.  Like Robin said, it appears that you can’t say anything negative about another author’s work if you want to be published.  I guess the in crowd is sticking it to the wannabes but good.  What if it was an ordinary reader (not a wannabe author) who wrote the review?  Would we be up in arms then?

  14. 14
    Felice says:

    I think what we’re seeing here, Jane, is that some authors would

    like

    to inflict harm on negative reviewers all the time, but it’s only when they’re temporarily in a position to do something about it (i.e., hurt a less established author’s career) that we hear about it. Ugly, no?

    I guess we can learn from this that with any negative review there are going to be authors who will Google you within an inch of your life, not only looking for a way to get even but also to find something about you they can use to make your point of view less valid to

    them

    . People don’t want to hear negative stuff about themselves and will go to great lengths not to have to believe it.

  15. 15
    katie says:

    i didn’t think it was that bad a review, really. people have different tastes.

    and in fact, after reading the excerpt on alison’s blog, i agree with j wallace that “the humor is forced.” i wasn’t grossed out by the hamster, but the whole excerpt kind of made me roll my eyes.

    definitely not good enough for me to buy, anyway. maybe it’s just my taste, but i found the writing really stilted.

    which brings me to my point- though you might write reviews based on the plot, how would you manage to ignore- or not discuss- bad prose or forced writing or even just the author’s voice shining through too clearly?

    (i’m not necessarily saying the author of “highland fling” is guilty of that, as i’ve only read a very brief excerpt).

  16. 16
    SB Sarah says:

    Jane: I think, as one commenter pointed out on Alison Kent’s blog, that the problem exists with the line crossing. It’s one thing to blast a plot point that you don’t like, but it’s another to wing attacks at the people who put it out.

    So it’s not to your tastes? Nothing wrong with saying, ‘That squicked me out and I didn’t like it’ and moving on to another book. But to cross into smack-the-person territory is the problem here. And really, the romance community might be insular, but that’s also because it’s really freaking small. So you never know who you’re going to diss and then end up sitting next to.

    Which is good advice for my sorry behind, now that I think about it. Will we Smart Bitches be brave enough to show our faces at RWA: Dallas?

  17. 17
    SandyO says:

    When I read the excerpt of the ER scene, I wondered how many country music fans it would enrage.  Mr. Chesney has a rodent up the butt. Chesney is not a common name and there’s a lot of speculation that Keith Chesney (who was briefly married Renee Zwellweger) is gay.  (And hey, I don’t even like country music and know this). Perhaps this is coincidence, but it pulled me out of the excerpt (cardinal sin for an author IMHO).

    As for the how did this get published comment, yes it is tacky and perhaps a bit too snarky (especially if you’re trying to get published), but let’s face it, we’ve all asked the same question before (usually in the privacy of our own home).

  18. 18
    SB Sarah says:

    Smart Bitch and bashful country music fan here: Kenny Chesney.

    And I had NO idea there were rumors he was gay. Huh!

  19. 19
    Taekduu says:

    To be honest, I haven’t picked up a blaze or plan to anytime soon.  I am not sure what offended the reviewer at all but it seems pretty obvious she either lacks a sense of humor or has never been in medicine.  Perhaps she thought that Ms. LaBrecque was being offensive to certain communities. 

    The excerpt in question seemed more anachronistic than anything else to me.  The way the x-ray was brought up was rather odd, it doesn’t feel like it would happen in a hospital ER in 2006. 

    Being someone who has had the rather odd experience of a patient presenting with objects swallowed or placed up their bottoms, I thought she handled it well.  She gave the entire hospital staff much better credit than I would.  Because the last time I had a patient come in with a dildo stuck the entire nursing staff and physicians were ROTFL and had to restrain ourselves before we went in to talk to him.  And I would have spit out my coffee, thankfully we have our X-rays on the computer now to protect them from things like that.

    As for the rest of the review there was mention of concerns with historical accuracy.  So while the last comment was inappropriate she did make an attempt to clearly indicate what offended.  I don’t see what was so bad about the review in the end.

  20. 20
    megan says:

    I’m a country music fan, but I totally missed the Chesney thing…I found that to be a silly, throw away thing that was added to make it more “realistic.”  I wasn’t really impressed, but I attend a med school right now (not for my MD) and we have lots of doctor guest lecturers and the ones who work in the ER UNIVERSALLY discuss the stuff people put up their butts.  I imagine the hamster is not that uncommon. 

    I think she was writing a fairly reasonable review until the end.  She did say she thought it lacked historical accuracy and the sex scenes were uninvolving.  And she was obviously quite offended.  But I’m not really getting why she even thought she needed to add the attack on basically everyone.It didn’t improve the review, it made me wonder if she had a personal beef with this author or the publishing company.  And take her less seriously.

  21. 21
    Ostrea says:

    expresso/espresso

    Or being thrown out of a book when a character says Midsummer is the longest night of the year….

    LaBrecque’s post has a feel of “I’m getting a flood of email/IM pings about this, so I should probably say something” added to amusement over how people respond to a negative review.

    I don’t think it would have been nearly the kerfluffle it has become without that snark about the publisher. No industry is wide enough to toss personal insults around like that. Some of the reactions have a ring of “and your little dog, too!”, but there are just as many of the “I can’t believe she did that!” variety. I’m reminded of the reactions when editors and slush readers discovered Rejection Collection.

  22. 22

    Will we Smart Bitches be brave enough to show our faces at RWA: Dallas?

    Yes! You must! We will all be fighting to buy you appletinis. I’m only sorry there likely won’t be a Johnny Cash impersonator playing in the hotel lounge as there was at RWA: Reno.

  23. 23
    Jane says:

    Some may rush out and buy it, and any author who can convince her publisher to run with this deserves the income.

    I guess I just don’t find this statement to be scathingly mean.  If anything, statements like that probably deter people from giving it credence.  It’s a poorly articulated thought and I wouldn’t normally be arsed to parse out its meaning other than to read it and summarize to myself – huh, I don’t think she liked the book.

    I think the whole thing is Junior High-ish but then I find the romance writing community (at least online) to be very cliquish so this kerfuffle is in keeping with that attitude.

  24. 24
    sherryfair says:

    I thought for sure the rodent-harboring character’s surname would be Gere. (That urban legend’s been circulating for about 20 years, since Richard Gere’s heyday as an actor, hasn’t it? Time for a trip to Snopes.com …)

  25. 25
    sherryfair says:

    Yep, indeedy, this story is available at Snopes.com, only I got my rodents mixed up. The favored rodent of the urban legend is the gerbil, not the hamster.

    http://www.snopes.com/risque/homosexuality/gerbil.asp

    Guess this means the next Romance that I pick up will feature a dead grandmother tied to the roof of a stolen car. Or hundreds of spiders hatching from a woman’s bouffant hairdo.

  26. 26
    Jane says:

    I just want to clarify. I don’t think the SB are cliquey but the romance writing community.  And I appreciate the heads up on the piece.  I think the discussion is humorous.

  27. 27
    --E says:

    While certainly the line was crossed when Wallace spewed at the author, the editor, the publisher, and all the readers who actually like the book, I suspect there was a bit of extra venom from the peanut gallery because Wallace dared to be offended by kink.

    If Wallace hadn’t included the last line of her review, I wonder how many people would have said, “THIS offended you? Get a grip you prude!”

    Also: Allison Kent makes it clear that her scenario of Wallace’s manuscript on the editor’s desk is imaginary. “As I said, that’s totally hypothetical. I don’t know for beans what this person is writing…”

    Also also: hamster, long tail? Er, not unless this story take place in northern China, or this fellow decided to buy an illegal import just for shits and grins. (Whoa, bad pun. Sorry.)

  28. 28
    Lauren says:

    Amazon reviews are like that sometimes though. It comes with the territory. I LOVE it when someone bitches about one of my books having too much sex because without fail, my numbers go up the next month. 

    I think the author dealt with it well and I wish her many sales.

    And you know, sure you can put up a negative review of something and get published. But it’s like anything else, if you insult an editor you should be aware that may bite you on the ass later.

    A simple – this book didn’t work and here’s why is always better than sinking to anything personal and trying to be funny.

  29. 29
    Alison Kent says:

    I got the impression from Alison Kent’s blog that she doesn’t know for sure if Jody Wallace has a submission on that particular editor’s desk or not. I think it was more of a “Payback’s gonna be a bitch if you’re ever in a position where the author and her friends can give it to you” kind of thing.

    Just to make clear, my comments weren’t intended in a payback sort of vein.  I’m doing quite fine *g*, don’t need to pay anyone back – not even my most recent Amazon reviewer who wondered if I owned a thesaurus!

    I was simply shocked that an author trying to sell a book to a particular house would publicly question the taste of that house and an acquiring editor there.  That is definitely biting the hand that feeds you – and isn’t limited to the publishing industry.  It’s simply good business sense not to do it!

  30. 30
    Robin says:

    Some may rush out and buy it, and any author who can convince her publisher to run with this deserves the income.

    I guess I just don’t find this statement to be scathingly mean.  If anything, statements like that probably deter people from giving it credence.  It’s a poorly articulated thought and I wouldn’t normally be arsed to parse out its meaning other than to read it and summarize to myself – huh, I don’t think she liked the book.

    Yeah, I’m a little perplexed by the response to this line, too.  I think I’ve been pretty vocal about being uncomfortable with personal attacks on authors, readers, et al, but how is this statement of Wallace’s different from a comment like, “how did this cover get past the art department” or “where was the copy editor on this one” or even “De Salvo looks like he inhaled once too often on this cover” or “what are publishers thinking to keep putting out the same old, same old”?  Except, of course, for the fact that the review itself was not particularly well-crafted, which IMO may have been its real but relatively unexploited vulnerability.  No editor is singled out and/or criticized in this comment, the author is backhandedly praised as a good salesperson, and the publisher is characaterized how, exactly?  As one that will put out tasteless material?  Well, that’s a new criticism in Romance, isn’t it?  Like Felice, I think the key here is that Wallace is an aspiring author herself and the clunky, outraged review came to LaBrecque’s attention, and voila, and example and a warning were born. No wonder authors don’t publically review each other’s work if a promised rumble at the RWA is the result.

    Like Sherry, I thought about the Richard Gere incident when I read the disputed scene (and I did have a moment’s thought about Kenny Chesney, too), especially since it’s gerbils that have tails.  It didn’t shock me or gross me out, but I do want to read the book before I make my own judgment about whether Wallace was too harsh or not in her general comments about the book.

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