Who Likes Unlikable Characters?

TheSopranos

My husband and I just finished watching the entire Sopranos series. I’m probably one of the last people on Earth to see The Sopranos, I know, but after James Gandolfini passed away, I wanted to see the show that made him a star. I wanted to see his legacy. So about a year ago, hubby-pants and I fired up HBO Go and went to town. Now, he had seen most of the series (he stopped watching for whatever reason around the fourth season), and then tuned in for the finale. As you may have figured out, I was a Sopranos virgin.

Fast forward to a few days ago when the screen went black at the end of that infamous series finale, and I had a few things to say…

First of all, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Hubby-pants tried to explain the groundbreaking nature of the show: mafia-centric, from the perspective of the criminals, big-picture that includes home and family life, etc. I’ve decided to give him this defense, especially since I’ve strived to be equally as groundbreaking with my own Blood for Blood Series (partially told from the perspective of a female serial killer while exploring her psyche). However, I do have to take issue with the number of unlikable, can’t-standable characters constantly on-screen during The Sopranos.

Tony Soprano is a pig. His infidelity is repulsive. The way he speaks to his wife, his kids, his family, and his friends is disgusting. Eww.

Carmela Soprano should be a sympathetic character because Tony cheats on her and treats her like shit, but she’s not. Why? Because all Tony has to do is buy her a fur coat, a new car, or a shiny bauble and she turns a blind eye to the mistresses, the abuse, and the overall inexcusable behavior of her husband.

Meadow and A.J. Soprano are so fake. They both straddle the line between being spoiled mob prince/princess and pretending to care about the problems and injustices of the world. Both can be silenced with the perks of being a Soprano, same as their mother.

Everybody else? Sucked. Paulie, Chris, Adriana, Janice, Junior, Livia. I could go on and on. They were all horrible people. No one had actual friends. I mean, actual, REAL friendships. Going “way back”, smiling in each other’s faces, and telling old stories while inwardly wishing each other dead or wondering if the others wish you dead is NOT a relationship.

And don’t even get me started on Tony’s shrink, Dr. Melfi, and her merry little circle of friends/fellow psychiatrists. Good grief.

But…

My darling husband brought up a good point: if the characters conjure up such hatred, but viewers continue to tune in, hat’s off to the writers, right? I fell quiet when he said this. Why? Because I can’t count how many times I’ve said this in book reviews. If I hate a character it’s most likely because the writer did their job and portrayed the individual in such a light on purpose.

As a matter of fact, when I submitted the first draft of Blood in the Past to an editor, they returned the manuscript, complaining that Jillian Atford’s character was too unlikable because of her affair with a married cop. I refused to change the character because her actions were integral to the overall story, but I added things to make her tolerable. Her foster home childhood, for example, allows readers to see that Jillian never had anything of her own, that things were always taken from her, and that she felt she deserved to be happy, regardless of the situation.

In a lot of ways, I think the writers of The Sopranos did the same with their characters. Tony Soprano was very protective of his family. Janice wouldn’t stand for a man who physically abused her. Uncle Junior slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Again, I can go on and on.

In the end, I stand by my internal 3-star rating of The Sopranos for other reasons, but maybe I should lay off them for being so unlikable. Thoughts?

 

DP Lyle on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Affairs

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DP Lyle is one of my forensic heroes, and if that makes me a nerd, so be it! He even personally answered a couple of questions of mine when I was conducting background research for the Blood for Blood Series. This isn’t the first time he’s been on TV, but I make sure I tune in every time (and you should too!).

Originally posted on The Writer's Forensics Blog:

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Set your DVRs for the ID Channel show Deadly Affairs Saturday night 8-23-14 at 9 p.m. EDT. I was asked to discuss this horrible crime that took place in Irvine, CA, a very few miles from my home. A chilling crime story.

Watch the promo trailer at the link below—-after an annoying commercial of course.

Details:

Program: Deadly Affairs

Episode Title: Swan Song

Air Date: August 23, 2014

Air Time: 9pm EDT/8pm CDT

Channel: Investigation Discovery (ID) 

Link to ID Show Schedule: http://www.investigationdiscovery.com/tv-shows/deadly-affairs/tv-schedule.htm

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Masterful Storytellers

Even though I haven’t been writing recently–this move is proving to be both stressful and time-consuming–that doesn’t mean I won’t have anything new out for you to read!

First up is an anthology being compiled and edited by the esteemed author/screenwriter Joel Mark Harris. Myself and twelve other authors have come together to write a dozen gritty mystery and adventure tales, all with a heavy, pulp fiction feel. Look for the Amazing Adventures Anthology next Tuesday, August 19th!

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Isn’t that a beautiful hand-drawn cover? (And as a contributor, I’m considered a “masterful storyteller! Hot damn!) We have the very talented Elyse Bruce (she’s also one of the authors) to thank for that. And if you like the cover, you’re gonna love the customized, hand-drawn illustrations she created to accompany each story! Can you guess which one is mine?

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Georgia on a Fast Train

It’s official: Hubby-pants and I are moving from New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia the first week of September. I’m both excited and utterly terrified. I know what you’re thinking though: What does this mean for Jordanna East? What’s next for Jordanna East? Well, I’ll tell you what’s next! This:

  • The next installment of the Blood for Blood Series, Blood in the Paper, is going to take a little bit longer to write/publish. Placate your craving for my writing by checking out two anthologies featuring short stories of mine in the upcoming months.
  • My appearances/book signings in New Jersey/Pennsylvania are going to be few and far between. As in, only happening when the stars align and a multi-author event takes place during one of our family visits up north. But you aren’t afraid of flying, are you? That’s okay, you guys love long drives/train rides, right?
  • I’m going to have to find some Atlanta area writing groups. STAT. Suggestions?
  • Oh good grief, I’m going to have to update my bio on my books and pretty much every writing website where my books are listed. That sounds irksome…
  • Speaking of irksome situations, I can resurrect my Jerks & Irks blog series that you all miss so much. Hooray!
  • I get to scare/annoy a whole new group of professionals when I inappropriately conduct research. The police stations and hospitals don’t know what they’re in for!
  • I can find new places to write. New cafes. New bars. New parks. I might even have my own office, fingers crossed!
  • I can expand my blogging to complaining about new things, like purchasing a home, home improvement projects, and neighborhood shenanigans. I know how much you guys like when I complain about stuff.
  • I can (hopefully) schedule some events in a new area, introducing my books to a new audience. This should probably be higher on the list, but I’m socially awkward, so we’re lucky it made the list at all.
  • And last, but certainly not least, I can meet some of you people! My blogger friends that live in the south! So speak up in the comments section below if you’re within driving distance of Atlanta!

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Insecurities Abound!

I’ve been pretty down in the dumps, guys. A real sophomore slump. Let me explain. My prelude novella, Blood in the Past (released this time last year), did pretty well. No one really had a bad word to say about it. I was proud of myself…and then terror set in.

Last year, as I was editing and revising the full-length follow-up to Past, Blood in the Paint, I began to worry that it wouldn’t measure up, that my creative prowess had a quota and I had used up everything in my reserve to write Blood in the Past. As a result, I hit the Publish button on Blood in the Paint a few months ago with closed eyes. I dragged my feet with the paperback edition. I haven’t sent out many review copies, and I haven’t done much promotion. I’m subconsciously forcing myself, and my Blood for Blood series, to fade into oblivion. I’m making my own nightmare, of my sophomore release not measuring up, a reality. Or am I?

When the news of Blood in the Paint’s release broke, I had an immediate spike in sales. I might have been able to capitalize on those numbers had I done some promoting. After I ordered my first shipment of Blood in the Paint paperbacks, I almost sold out of them…and I still have two events to do this week. And the reviews? The reviews have been pretty awesome. There are only nine so far (actually, as I’m writing this, a TENTH popped up!), none of which were written by me or hubby-pants, but they are all FIVE-STAR. Every single one of them. My mother-in-law, who awarded Blood in the Past with a three-star review, is raving about Paint. As is my father-in-law, who keeps asking how the next book will unfold. My niece even forgot about her “ghetto reality shows” (her words, not mine), because she’d been so caught-up in reading it. You guys don’t know my niece, but that’s probably the best compliment I could have received, short of something from Gillian Flynn herself.

So what’s the problem? Why haven’t I really written anything since April, when I went on a writing retreat, where there was nothing to do BUT write? I still feel unworthy, I still feel talentless, I still feel like everyone’s compliments are a fluke. Then I read a recent review of Blood in the Paint written by Ileandra Young. You can read the full review here, but the part I want to point out is when she mentioned a Facebook status where she posted, “Soooooooooo that feeling of inadequacy you feel while reading a fellow indie author’s novel then returning to your own WIP.” Guys, I actually remembered that status, I even Liked it because I knew the feeling. Turns out, she was talking about Blood in the Paint. Words cannot thank her enough for sharing that with her followers and blog readers and, most importantly, me. Between that and the pep talk hubby-pants gave me recently (more on that in another post, I think), I might be ready to write again. At the very least, I might be ready to begin my medico-legal research to make sure my next book, Blood in the Paper, is on the right track.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy this week, which happens to be the one-year anniversary of Blood in the Past’s publication. To celebrate (and get back into promoting for the love of everything sacred and holy), Blood in the Past will be FREE on Wednesday, June 18th, and Blood in the Paint will be dropped to $1.99 today through Friday, June 20th. If you haven’t read them yet, now is the time to do so. Because, I’ve been down in the dumps and sales will make me feel better. ;-)

One of My Biggest Literary Pet Peeves Done Right

Those of you who know me in person, or know me a little better than just reading my blog from time to time, know that I’m pretty picky. This goes for books too. For example, I really love mystery/suspense/thrillers, but I really HATE (with the flames of a thousand campfires) when the main character/investigator is a civilian/layperson without even the tiniest bit of tangential experience. I’m talking about major crimes and conspiracies that are solved by bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers. And it’s not like the bike messengers and cab drivers and grocery store cashiers are taking evening or online classes in law or criminology. No, they go home and watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones like the rest of us.

So, to sum up, I hate those novels.

However…I just finished reading Sister by Rosamund Lupton. And it was amazing. It was definitely the second best book I’ve read this year and probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. And guess what? The main character, Beatrice, “investigates” her sister’s disappearance/murder and she isn’t a detective, a lawyer, or even one of those plucky reporters. In fact, she worked for a business design company, creating logos and ad copy. Why didn’t throw my Kindle across the room and take a long walk to calm my rage? Well, for one the Kindle was a gift from Hubby-pants a few years ago, but I mostly didn’t rage out because I LOVED the way the book was written. It was Beatrice’s love for and intimate knowledge of her sister that propelled her and kept her from accepting the police’s version of events. The characterization was done so well that I never questioned her lack of experience. I mean, she suspected everyone in the whole book! She looked crazy in the process! She never gave up though. And that’s what made it believable. Add in the fact that it’s formatted as though Beatrice is writing a letter to her lost sister, recapping the events that led to her finding the killer, and there’s so much to love about this story. I highly recommend you give it a read. I stumbled across it when my local library suggested it because I’d enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and they were spot on.

So, readers, do you have any literary pet peeves with exceptions? Any novels that, though they exhibit something you normally hate in a book, you ended up enjoying the novel anyway? I’d love to hear about them!

Jerks & Irks LXIV: Where’s My Easy Button?!?

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The other day I went to the office supply store, Staples. I’ve been to this specific location several times and I hate to say that my experiences haven’t always been pleasurable. I don’t know why I keep going there, but the other day was just as disappointing.

I had three author events last week and all I needed was to print an “Enter to Win” sign I’d made to raffle off a signed paperback copy of Blood in the Paint (since I don’t have the paperback version yet) and a few pages of raffle tickets. Should have been easy-peasy. But it wasn’t.

I entered the store and headed straight for the do-it-yourself printers. I scanned my membership card, inserted my business debit card, and selected the first file from my USB flash drive. The damn machine took almost 7 minutes to tell me that the loading of the preview image had taken too long. Well, no $hit! It had been SEVEN MINUTES! I could have used an Easy Button just then…

So I moseyed on over to the print desk. The man who usually works in this area is 103 years old and I’m surprised he doesn’t think computers are the devil and will steal his ancient soul. (In case you’re wondering, yes, he’s the reason why I originally went to the do-it-yourself area.) Let’s call him Whitey. Not because he’s Caucasian, but because his hair is as white and blinding as snow in the sun. His presence alone justifies an Easy Button, but let’s move on…

Whitey was busy with another customer. Said customer was trying to print a list of several names, in large font, on one sheet of paper. The font said customer wanted was like size 72 or something, and, as one would expect, the last name wouldn’t fit. It would print out on a separate piece of paper. But said customer didn’t want to pay for two sheets of paper. Heaven forbid he should pay the extra TEN CENTS to accommodate his size 72 freaking font. I was forced to stand beside him, thrumming my fingers on the counter, wondering where my Easy Button was…

While I waited, I noticed two employees to the right of the print desk, behind a “tech” desk, just shooting the $hit. I know it’s not their area, but I’m willing to bet anyone behind a “tech” desk knows how to pull up a file from a flash drive and print it out. It would have been nice if one of those fellas would have asked if I needed help. There was also a store manager chatting with her associates up front. She could have helped me out. But she didn’t. Maybe if I’d had an Easy Button…

FINALLY, Whitey told the customer how the universe works, told him that the last name would have to print on a second sheet of paper if the font were enlarged so much. The customer walked off in a huff to complete the rest of his shopping and Whitey was able to get to my project. For a second, one glorious second, I thought I was no longer in need of an Easy Button. I was wrong…

Whitey printed out my files. But he accidentally printed them out on better quality paper. At this point, I had been in Staples for almost thirty minutes. I think I actually felt a few new gray hairs sprout from my scalp. As such, I offered to pay whatever the better quality paper cost. It wasn’t card stock for heaven’s sake; how much could it be? (And for the love of everything sacred and holy, where was my EASY BUTTON???) But Whitey refused, seeming flustered by the mishap. He insisted on reprinting my files on the regular paper I had requested, which took so much longer because he was too old to remember the names of the files (because “Enter to Win” and “Enter to Win 2″ were not the helpful file names I had meant them to be), and I had to shout the file names several times before he heard/understood me. Guys, I would have given anything for an Easy Button…

So, have any of you lovely readers experienced any shopping nightmares recently?