Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Last Word by Ellery Adams

In my constant quest for new authors - new to me, anyway, I stumbled upon the Ellery Adams Books By The Bay series. So far, I have read three books in this series: "A Killer Plot," "A Deadly Cliche," and the one I am reviewing today, "The Last Word." The main character is Olivia Limoges, who moved home to Oyster Bay after a long absence. She owns two restaurant and belongs to a writer's group, made up of people who are writing books, and they have all become fast friends. In "The Last Word," Oyster Bay's newest resident is bestselling novelist Nick Plumley, came to work on is next book, a sequel to his first, which was set in the area. When Olivia happens to discover Nick's corpse in his rented house not far from hers, she and the rest of the writer's group are plunged into a mystery that ultimately reveals some of the area's past and that of some of the people who Olivia considers her long-time friends. These books are mysteries that border on romances. They are well-written enough for me to put up with the "romance" part, but there is one off-putting element on which the jury is still out. Adams will be rocking along with the plot and then brings everything to a screeching halt by injecting page after page of excerpts out of the book Olivia or another member of the group is writing. She goes into detail about their plots, etc., which I find very distracting. Who really cares to hear all about a fictional book that is being written by a fictional character? These excerpts would be understandable if they served to advance the plot of the mystery, but there is no explanation for their existence at all. They are just stuck in there, as if Ms. Adams needs to meet some word-count quota, and can't find enough to say about the mystery at hand. At this point, it is very difficult to go back to the original story, although when I sense her switching into an excerpt, I just skip over a few pages and get back to the original plot fairly quickly. It is still annoying, though, and I'm still deciding if it is distracting enough to stop reading this series altogether. That, and the fact that nobody in the book eats a burger and fries. It's all haute cuisine from Olivia's upscale restaurant or seafood from her newly renovated Crab Shack, and no recipes. The last book review I wrote about a book I didn't like was somehow found and read by the author, whereupon she e-mailed me and explained at length that I obviously didn't "get" her many metaphors. Actually, I did get them. I know what metaphors are, thank you very much. I just didn't think hers were apt. Besides, not every single character and every single one of their actions need be a metaphor. She reminded me of a Lit. professor who insisted that "The Great Gatsby" contained many metaphors. Ho, hum. I "got" what she was talking about, too, but I was still of the opinion that F. Scot Fitzgerald was no deeper than his characters and only wrote for the money. I still think so, so it will do no good to argue with me about it. So, there. What I'm wondering, now, is whether I enjoy the books enough toe-mail the author and ask, respectfully, why she includes all those extraneous excerpts. Should I or shouldn't I? Or, should I just shut up and read something else? I wouldn't want to invite another lengthy explanation pointing out my inability to understand her book. On the other hand, she might be perfectly nice and have a good reason for inserting the excerpts that I haven't yet thought about. What would you do? Stay tuned.


Meryl Baer said...

Go ahead and e-mail. Find out what the author's motivation was/is. Maybe she will re-think her format if enough people find it distracting. The best way to let her know what readers think is to tell her directly.

Ellery Adams said...

Hi Betty!

I'll save you the trouble of an email and post all answers here for folks to read.

First and foremost, thank you for giving my books a try. I appreciate your review and your critiques and can tell that you're a discerning reader.

I am going to continue to include the excerpts and here's why.

When I first sent a proposal for this series to the publisher, the focus on this series was supposed to be on a writer's group. The "Hook" of this series was to give certain tips to aspiring writers via small creative writing segments and the feedback from the writers' group. I've really enjoyed these segments because I've been allowed to dabble in other genres, but I can appreciate your comments about their being a distraction to the main plot. You're not the only one who feels this way and my editor and I have discussed having fewer of them or making them shorter.

On the other hand, many readers love those segments and want them longer, though my word count is already over the norm for this type of mystery (75K) so that's not going to happen.

As you can see, this is a case of my not being able to please everyone, so all I can do is write the book I want to write and hope folks like it. I'm not saying this in a snobby fashion, I assure you, but I do get contradictory feedback on everything from the food my fictional character feeds her fictional dog to the size of the font.

I am now also drooling at the thought of a large, medium rare cheeseburger. Olivia did eat one in A Deadly Cliche when she went to lunch with Millicent Banks and the food in Grumpy's is really diner food (which is my favorite),

Okay, I hope I addressed some of the fair points you raised though I suspect I may not have satisfied all of your desires for future installments. In any case, cheers!

Happy New Year. Ellery

Betty said...

Mercyn: See above. I won't have to e-mail her. Isn't that a nice comment, though?

Ellery: Thanks very much for your comments. I hadn't considered the idea that you might be using your excerpts to provide writing advice. It did occur to me that it might be an interesting way to try out different genres. My remark about the hamburger and fries was just me being my usual snarky self. Since you've been so nice, I'm going to continue to read your books.

Margie's Musings said...

I guess I would stop reading her books if she can't seem to stay on her plot topic and it's distracting. That's just my opinion though.

Olga said...

I was going to say contact her and let us know, but now I see she read your blog herself and responded. (Very nice)
I like mysteries and will check these out--I was not familiar with this author.
Since I belong to a writing group, I may find the excerpts interesting in themselves.

patsy said...

well talk about opening your mouth, the writer has spoken. I had to laugh when I saw her name on your comments. I commented once on a time about a person that had said or done something in the past and low and behold he commented on my comment. I thought it was because he was so old he had nothing to do except search for his name on the net as to why your author is searching for her name on the net I can only guess she has writers block or has used all her metaphors. I was going to comment and say i didn't think I would like her books after what you said about them but after you got you comment I will keep my mouth shut about authors unless they are dead.

Ellery Adams said...


Most writers have a Google alert system in place that sends a daily email whenever the title of one of his or her works appears on the Internet. This is really a necessary tool for those of us that have to pay for every cent of our own promotion. You see, if someone publishes a favorable review, we can send that review to our editor, who may not have seen it otherwise. The big name writers don't have to care about every blog post or review, but paperback writers such as myself do. Believe me, I'd rather be writing (I've never had writer's block in my life, btw) than handling promotion, but I have made new friends via Google alerts and have discovered new blogs such as Betty's as a result. i hope that explain my sudden appearance last night!

Have a good one and happy reading!
(I promise to go away and write now)

lucylocket said...

I have to give Ms. Adams credit for acknowledging your comments. After reading blogs written by authors of "popular fiction," I have come to the conclusion that they don't really care how the reading public feel about their endeavors. It also seems they write more for other authors than for the public. Of course, they care if their books don't sell as well as they once have and the money isn't what they would like it to be.

I read four or five books a week, and I don't like too much technical info or anything else that I suspect is thrown in to increase word count. I like a good plot, interesting characters, and snappy dialogue. I tend to skip a lot sometimes.

Betty said...

Margie: I've been enjoying Ms. Adams' comments. They are very enlightening, and I've learned a lot from her already. I'm going to keep reading her books, especially since they are well-written, even with the excerpts.lol

Patsy: I hope you came back to my blog and read Ms. Adams' reply to your comment. It was very interesting, I thought.

Olga: I hope I didn't say anything that might dissuade you from reading the books. She is a good writer, even with the excerpts, and I like her characters and setting. And, you're right - you may well enjoy the excerpts.

lucylocket: I read a lot, too, especially cozy mysteries. The older I get the more I wan to be enertained.

Kay Dennison said...

Ms. Adams just gained a new reader! Moi! Thanks!

patsy said...

i think the whole thing is funny , who cares if she reads our post. I went to her web site and it is advertiseing her books.
I still think it is odd that she is going around looking for comments about her books but it is fine if she does.
also she keeps coming back or she wouldn't have seen my comment.
truth be told Me and you are a little crazy so she might ought to forget us. LOL

Betty said...

Kay: Hope you like them.

Patsy: Everybody's crazy but me and thee, and sometimes I wonder about thee. lol

Betty said...

Why do you suppose Blogger made one long paragraph out of my blog? That's so irritating! Could it be the "new" Blogger? Grrrrrrrrrr.

Patti said...

Hi Betty,
I haven't read fiction in ages..my bad. That's one of my resolutions for 2012. Of course it was a resolution for 2011 as well!

It's great to see that Ms. Adams has commented on your post. So nice to get feedback.

Thanks so much for stopping by my humble blog!

Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!