I wrote this…whatever it is on my plane ride back from Australia. My mom read over my shoulder and when I was finished she said- “Your individualized people…what do you call them?” “Indie reader’s mom.” “Yeah, those. I’ve seen them react to some of the other things you say. They’re going to get mad at you for this post.” “Yeah.” “You’re still going to post it aren’t you?” “Yeah.” “How come?” “Because I’d rather be hated for having an opinion than overlooked for not having one.” “You’re going to lose readers.” “Yeah.” “Then how will you buy shoes?” “I have enough to last for the next few years until I can win them back.”
I’m the most pathetic wine drinker on the planet. True story. For the most part when people start drinking wine they start with the cheap, sweet stuff. That’s what I started with anyway; a nice glass of Mogden David strawberry zinfandel. It tasted like candy. Mmmmm mmmm. Once you get a handle on the fermented taste-you move up a notch on the taste pole-maybe try something in a sweet red. That’s where I stopped progressing, over ten years ago when I tasted my first glass of wine. The acquired taste for expensive, sophisticated wine never developed on my taste buds no matter how hard I tried. Now, if you visit my wine rack you’ll find it loaded with Jam Jar-a South African Shiraz so sweet it curls back your top lip. So why didn’t I get the acquired taste everyone is always talking about? Was my wine growth stunted? Am I a white trash wine drinker? Who the hell knows-and what does this have to do with Amy Harmon’s The Law of Moses, anyway? For the record I’d like to be able to stick my nose in the air and say “This bottle of wine cost two hundred dollars you cheap Shiraz drinking scumbag”. But, it’s more likely that I’ll pull out a bottle of Jam Jar, screw off the top, and sheepishly offer you a glass.
What I can say after reading The Law of Moses is this: This is a top of the line book-you cheap reading scumbag! I hope I don’t have to say this to you. I hope you can see this for yourself within the first few extremely well written pages. But, I’d like to talk for a minute about acquiring a sophisticated reading palate (Can someone tell me how to acquire a sophisticated wine pallet?). Now, just like with wines, there are all kinds of fine books: dry ones (Dave Newel’s Red Lory), spicy ones (Alessandra Torre’s The Girl in 6E); she writes so well that the fact I’m reading erotica-which isn’t my normal genre-comes secondary to the brilliance of her work. There are also soft toned books (Slammed by Colleen Hoover) and just outright disturbing ones that take a unique palate (The Dark Duet series by CJ Roberts). All of the books mentioned have one thing in common: damn good writing. In the independent publishing world there is a little bit of everything for everyone. (For the record Colleen is no longer self published and Alessandra has a foot in each world). All of the books mentioned are-or were self published and defiantly brave. They broke through, tore down lines, and taught us what readers want. They are, in my opinion, the best of indie.
I’ll probably take a lot of flack for this post, but just like you, I am entitled to an opinion so don’t be rude in your comments and I won’t eat your soul while you sleep. I’m a finicky, picky reader. The order of importance when I read a book goes as follows: writing technique (which includes dialogue), believable characters and storyline that contains a beginning, a middle and an end. Why does storyline come last and writing technique come first? Well, first and foremost, I’m a writer. I like to read things that hone my skill, that make me sit up straighter and go “damn! That was a great way to say something that’s been said a million times before!” And if a book is well written it’s easy for me to read. But, learning how to write good sentences takes work, and that’s a whole other post. (Though I do urge writers to read On Writing by Stephen King. It’s the best crash course in writing you will ever take.) And it seems that in this Goldrush Indie movement, fewer and fewer writers are willing to put in the work to hone that particular skill, rather rushing to publish. Not realizing that work pays off! Characters-let’s move on to why they are important. Characters are the hands that guide you through a story. No one wants their boring, vapid cousin to lead them through a particularly turbulent time in life. You’d want someone smart, sassy, interesting, and most of all, intelligent. So why read a book in which the heroine says things, does things, acts on things that are trite and overdone? I want flaws. I want real. And the more excellent books I read, the more I crave interesting, multi layered characters (Frank from Angela’s Ashes is the perfect example of this). Storyline runs last in my book of importance. Why? Because, let’s face it: not everyone has a giant named Hagrid come to collect them for their first year at a magical school. And not everyone volunteers to take the place of their eleven year old sister in the Hunger Games. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never touched a stone and met a handsome Scotsman (though I’d like to). Life is sometimes boring. I’m okay with that so long as the participating people make it interesting. I could sit in a white room for hours with my friend, Madison Siedler, and she’d have me laughing hysterically the whole time. We’d make fun of each other, we’d philosophize about life, we’d make fun of other people, we’d cry. But most importantly, there would be a lot of personality in that room. Characters drive plot. I can’t emphasize that enough. Okay, okay so what does this have to do with Amy Harmon and her newly released The Law of Moses? Everything. Because Amy nailed it. She nailed it so hard I feel like I’ve taken a hammer to the head. She could teach a class on writing (I’d attend). You can miss the finer points of this book if your taste buds are attuned only to one type of wine. If you’re looking for a quick thrill, wet panties, or mindless entertainment, you won’t like the subtle hues and expensive flavors in The Law of Moses. But I’m urging you for once to keep your panties dry and explore yourself a little bit. The corners. The way she consistently developed characters (Georgia’s small town humility and concrete boldness never wavered or shook) or the complex duplicity of Moses and the way he sees the world. I also enjoyed her strong, carefully crafted sentences (They found Moses in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death). This gives you the entire story without droning on and on, and on, and on. It’s sharp and graphic. Beautiful. And the storyline. The powerful storyline! One that I can’t hint at in case I ruin it for you. But it’s the type of book you can take a week to dissect. Does Amy Harmon infuse her belief system into her stories? Absolutely. We all do you know. Though what I have found about Amy’s belief system causes me to respect her more as both a human and a writer because she believes in something other than tattooed biceps and a long, experienced dick.
After writing a particularly inflammatory facebook post one afternoon in which I harshly judged people’s reading tastes, one of my readers and a writer herself (Lori Worely) gave me a bit of advice. “Don’t criticize what people read. Criticize what they don’t read.” Duh, Tarryn! I was humbled. It’s so true. I like Jam Jar and that’s my business. But, what am I missing by not trying something else? Knowledge is power and all that true bull crap. Experience will not hurt your mind. And here I end my review of wine and The Law of Moses. If you can forgive me for drinking crap wine I can look past your book tastes, but at least take a sip every now and then…of something that can expand what you know. Make your mind burst with new flavor. You can set it aside after that and go back to your Mogden David strawberry zin, but you won’t forget your experience with dark chocolate and cherries aged in an oak barrel (haha Jonathan! oakoakoakoak). Whatever genre you read, read the most well written of its kind (no genre judgement from me) and every so often read outside of that genre. At the very least you can say “I drank that once” and feel a little bit more experienced. For the record The Law of Moses was a Pinot Noir: dark with hints of chocolate and blackberry, with subtle hues of the tree of life. Five Stars Amy Harmon. Well done. It was so beautiful it made my soul quiver.
***I have three signed copies of The Law of Moses to give away to readers. I will chose the winner from the comments on this post so please leave one before you go.