Monday, March 30, 2009

Exhibit A

Longtime followers of this blog will remember a time when I would bitch whine incessantly about how I was burnt out on Regency Historicals and for the love of God, why was every historical romance published set in Regency England? However thanks to a starvation diet, and the new Harlequin Historical Undone e-book short stories, my moratorium on all things Regency is starting to lift. Unfortunately, I've traded one burn out for another.

Yep. I am so over (really over) paranormals.

Now some of you are probably wondering, "What does that bitch librarian have against paranormals?"

Well I'll tell you.

First, I've never been a big fantasy reader. Not even as a kid. As fantasy as I get is Harry Potter. Second? Paranormal and urban fantasy authors are apparently incapable of writing series books that stand alone. And that pisses me off some kind of awful. Mostly because I think it's sloppy writing.

Maybe it's the fact that I discovered the joys of reading by browsing the public library as a kid. Or maybe, it's the fact that most of the mystery series I follow I got hooked on by starting the series out of order. Patricia Cornwell. Laura Levine. Marcia Muller. Sue Grafton. All authors I discovered out of order, and that I still follow to this day. I have a hard time believing that mystery writers know some sort of secret handshake that allows them to write stand-alone series books. So why? Why, why, why, why can't paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors do this? And don't give me that world-building crap - because any writer worth their salt does world-building in their stories. Whether or not the book is populated by vampires, wood sprites, or werewolves - any decent book, regardless of genre, has world-building in it.

This is all a long-winded way of saying I finished the second to last book in my required batch of contest reading - Night Secrets by Cherry Adair. It's book two in a paranormal romantic suspense series, and the book does stand alone well...until the end when the author leaves about 398 plot threads left dangling in the breeze. So yeah. If you like paranormal romantic suspense hybrids and you want to try this series? You're going to need to read all three books, or at least read books two and three in order. Just sayin'.

And that's why I'm burnt out on paranormal anything. It's why I skim every review for anything paranormal I run across in Blogland (sorry y'all, I just do). I think series books need to stand alone, and no I do not think this is remotely unreasonable. Mostly because not every reader is 1) anal retentive or 2) knowledgeable about the author's work beforehand. Note to authors: You're doing a big disservice to a large, huge chunk of potential readers by ham-stringing your writing. Yeah, I said it. And yeah, I meant it. Every. Single. Word.

/ Rant over


Barbara said...

Wendy, you're the best. You can take anything subject--argue it and make total sense, lol.

Nah, I see what you are saying. Honestly, I'm a historical junkie above all else, but I do enjoy the occassional paranormal. It all depends on the author and the plot. I don't like anything that's too far out there.

Eve/SHe Reads said...

If you find an answer on the whole regency england thing, let me know! It's why I read very few historicals!

On the paranormal, I agree to an extent. I think that because we're talking about a world that (probably) doesn't now or ever has existed there's a lot more depth in the background and detail of the world. Authors have to be much more talented and focued on bringing these details to light in each book much more than those set in our reality. That said I expect every book I read to stand alone and not lean on "to be continued" for too many plot lines. THAT annoys me regardless of genre.

BUT! Good paranormals and fantasy books can be read out of order and enjoyed... just not quite as much as going in order. I think this can be said for many series though.

LoriK said...

At least you have traded one issue for another. I, unfortunately, just added on. I'm pretty sure I could live the rest of my life without ever visiting the Regency again. (What is the big all-consuming whoop about that one time period?) That's been going on for a while.

Now I've added the paranormal issue as well. I can still deal with magic and the occasional shape shifter but vampires are pretty much off my list.

Considering that those are the 2 genres that seem to generate the most books this leaves me a bit of a sad panda.

JamiSings said...

I suppose since they deal with things like Fae and Beserkers and time-traveling Druids you could call Karen Marie Moning's books paranormal but I find they can pretty much stand alone. Except for two - Kiss Of The Highlander and Dark Highlander, since both deal with the same set of twin brothers. (But even then they pretty much stand alone. It's just you have to understand what happened to the first twin to understand why the second one started to deal with dark magics.) But even other books that deal with the same family or Faes like Adam who have interacted with the brothers' family can stand alone.

But that's just my opinion. The longer I go on being single the harder time I have with romance novels period. Especially since they rarely have women who are short and fat like me, just tall and slender, tall and slender.... grr! (Though Moning's girls tend to be short and sometimes chubby.)

Wendy said...

Barbara: I've been on a big historical kick so far this year. That and category romance.

Eve: I've probably had a run of bad luck - but the last several paranormal romances I've tried have had a definite "To Be Continued..." vibe to them. I can understand a few dangling plot threads - but when 99% of the book is left up in the air, I get twitchy. Some closure is always a good thing.

LoriK: When I say I went on a starvation diet of Regency historicals, I mean it. There was like a 5 year period where I was reading *maybe* one Regency-set book a year. That's it. I got back into them thanks to shorter reads, and that has helped tremendously.

And LOL at "sad panda."

Jami: Funny you should bring up KMM - I agree she does pretty well in the stand-alone department. I read Dark Highlander (which I didn't like because of the heroine) and Immortal Highlander (which I did like). For me though it's all about her Fever books. I thought the first two stood alone very well. I've still got book 3 languishing in the TBR - but I'm thinking it will be the turning point in the series. It's going to get "harder" for her (I think) to keep that stand-alone vibe going with those books.

Rosie said...

I'm just wondering why there have to be so many series. Are we truly incapable of reading a book and having it end? Do we have to have a book for every person who walks on and inhabits a scene?

Sandy said...

I'm okay with reading a series as long as I know it's a series when I pick the book up. The worst books, though, are the ones that *could* be stand alone, but which add in all those unresolved plot-lines in the last fifty pages, and that's what I think a lot of authors are doing these days. Someone - maybe their agent or editor - tells them they want more books set in whatever world they've created and the author, because s/he wants to be successful and prolific, agrees. This results in writing a book to sell a book, not writing a book because the characters demand to be written.

Wendy said...

Rosie: I think there's something to be said with leaving readers wanting more. Some of my favorite books are stand-alones where everything is tied up at the end...but....I still want more. All my questions are answered. All the conflict is resolved. But I loved the book so much that I didn't want it to end. I'd rather have that feeling than becoming disenchanted with a series because it's losing steam.

Sandy: And I think we're going to see more of that as long as the publishing world continues to be "unsettled." Publishers want a "sure thing" - and readers (suckers that we are) have shown time and again (with our wallets) that we love series books.

JamiSings said...

I'm having a hard time seeing the Fever books as romance novels anyway. There's no real romance in them. Especially the third one. (Fourth is on pre-order.) They're more like adult fantasy books then romance novels.

I feel that it's the publishing companies pushing these series books. They see that if people buy one then they have to buy the others, which means more money. And money makes the world go round.

Even the sci-fi books that normally semi-stand alone (I'm talking about things like the Star Trek books) are getting this way - series within the series. Normally you can read say ST:TNG #31 and skip all the way to #50 without missing anything. But now they'll have ones you have to read in order and it'll be a minimum of three books.

JenB said...

I'm burned out on paranormal too, and I don't even bother reading UF. I don't have the time or attention span to devote to reading long series, and I get pretty irritated at cliffhanger endings that make me feel obligated to read the next book. I rarely read past book 1 in a series. If I get close to the end of a book and it starts to look like things won't get wrapped up, I skip to the end. If it continues into the next book, I don't bother finishing it.

I think in a lot of cases the worldbuilding thing is a cop-out and a cheap way to get repeat readers. A lot of readers love it, but I don't fall for it. It just ticks me off.

Regency is also my very least favorite time period. Politics, silly social games...blehhhh.

Taja said...

I'm rather anal about reading books in order*, but even without that I would be leery to read books in a paranormal series out of order. So I understand your rant. This "you-better-read-them-in-order" impression is stronger still for urban fantasy (which is why so far I haven't really read much in that genre).

If this trend for series or connected books continues, I'm in trouble because I also have a thing to see things through to the bitter end*. Or it might make me stop buying books in series altogether because I don't like to feel "manipulated" like that.

Of course, then I would be - thanks LoriK - a sad panda, too.

(* yes, I'm working on it)

Mel Hiers said...

I came by romance by way of SF/F. I think Jane Austen Book Club movie did a great job of illustrating the difference between SF/F readers and, well, everybody else. He comes to the group with that big-ass omnibus edition just in case he "has to refer back." He's then tersely told, "They're not sequels."

SF/F readers have come to expect series. A lot of us will re-read a whole backlist to prepare for a new release. I think that's why the series thing doesn't bother me as much.

What DOES bug the ever-living holy crap out of me is the "I'm a secondary character with no other purpose than to be fodder for future sort-of related books" thing. But I'm weird. :-P

Wendy said...

Jami: Yes, good point about the Fever series. Those aren't really romance. And yeah - I think we can safely expect more series books on the immediate horizon. With the economy the way it is, I think a lot of publishers are going to be playing it safe.

JenB: A big reason I was so burnt on Regencies for a long time was because it's just not my favorite time period in British history. Period. I find the Victorian and Edwardian eras much more exciting.

Taja: That's it exactly. I don't want to be "manipulated" into reading the next book in the series just because I'm wacky and like closure. I'm pretty anal about reading mystery series in order (these days).

Mel: OMG - I hate walk-on characters who serve no purpose other than to be "series bait." A huge, huge reason why I don't read Christine Feehan. I read the first Ghostwalker book and there were so many hunky, faceless, interchangeable guys walks around that I seriously couldn't keep them all straight.

And you're right - I think the idea of series is a much more new concept in the romance genre. Certainly mystery readers just come to expect series these days. A stand-alone mystery is almost as rare as a stand-alone SF/F novel.

Mel Hiers said...

"...there were so many hunky, faceless, interchangeable guys walks around that I seriously couldn't keep them all straight."

Ugh, that's not fun. I tried one of hers, but everything was so absolute and angsty. I've pretty much run out of patience for angsty. And vampires. A vampire novel has to be written with The Magic Golden Pen of Super Awesomeness and Originality for me to try it these days.

Oh, and the "he" in that movie is Grigg. I should never comment and work a public desk at the same time. :-D

JamiSings said...

I'm just burned out on romances, period. No matter what the kind. As short and fat I'm so sick and tired of the "tall and slender." Especially when they're tall an slender in time periods where men preferred fat! Ever hear of historical accuracy? Like I said, that's one reason I like Moning. In at least a few of them her women are anywhere from 5 to ten pounds overweight. I just wish someone was brave enough to write about a herione who is 5' 3", 230 lbs, a fan of both Star Trek and Barry Manilow, a dog person (why are so many romance heroines into cats?), reads comic books, and can sing.

Okay, so I want someone to write a romance novel where I'm the star. LOL At least I admit it! Heck, it would get me reading romance again and get out of my current Dean Koontz kick for awhile.

Vampire romances bug me anymore because I went through a vampire obsession phase in high school and the writers get so much of the actual mythology wrong. Drives me crazy. Especially when they start in with how "there's never been a vampire/human pregnancy before!" Um, hello? There's a whole mythology within the mythology about that! Ever hear of Dhampires? Half-vampire, half-human, natural born vampire hunters? Duh!

If only I had a talent for writing. But I sing, not write.

Sorry, Wendy, that I ranted a bit there. I'm just so tired of the same old thing in romance novels. I keep hoping I'll come across something in your blog that'll bring new life to romance for me. Though I admit, I have a tendency to gravitate only to the ones where the heroine is a blond because it's a little bit easier to put myself in her place. Though not so easy cause she's usually tall and slender! Grr! Sometimes the romance novel writers are worse about acknowledging different body shapes for women then the fashion industry!

*pant, gasp* Alright, I think I'm done ranting now. Sorry. *blushes and hides*