This is an addendum to my last blog, The Bullying Of Charlaine Harris And The Wisdom of Neil Gaiman. I wrote that blog in response to what I felt was unfair treatment of a colleague and also because I really get off on "Charlaine Harris" "Neil Gaiman" and "MJ Davidson" being in the same blog post. Before if you Googled "Charlaine Harris" and moi, the only thing that happened was some of our awesome anthologies came up. Bo-ring! But now if you Google the three of us...ahhhh. Smell that spicy Neil/Charlaine/MJ three way goodness. Mmmm...I can sense Neil a little more every day, you know. My courageous bitchy blogs are making him love me though he has never met me and has no idea I exist. Ah, Neil...embrace this newer blog and come to Mama.
I am so sorry for any mental images I might have just slammed into your brain.
Anyhoo, the "debate" (that would be the polite word, which I owe to all of you after what I did to your brain a few seconds ago) rages on. Everyone's got something to say and because there's this thing called the Interwebs (is that the technical word?) we're all saying it. "So stop blogging about it, MJ". Hey! Don't tell me what to do. Neil Gaiman won't stand for you bossing me around! He will be all up in your shit before you can say "I thought the Other Mother in CORALINE was a perfectly viable alternative". You do not want to bring the wrath of Neil upon your cringing head, trust me.
Now where...? Right. Spoilergate still blazes. Almost literally, but I'll get to that below. To recap: a reader was able to buy a copy of DEAD EVER AFTER because the bookstore either a) wasn't paying attention, or b) said, "what legally binding contract?" Mysteriously (except not) the spoilery ending was posted on the web. Cue everybody losing their shit for various reasons. I blogged about the shenanigans last week, and since then have found out a few things I didn't know at the time. The "should Charlaine Harris be beaten to death and then scolded for hours?" debates have been all over Amazon, Goodreads, FaceBook, and my blog. Plenty of readers found my snarking hilarious; plenty more are starting "should MJ be beaten to death and then given Godiva chocolates?" threads, and plenty more are honestly concerned with my mental health. ("You're annoying beyond belief but I really think you should see someone.") Not to worry, gang, I switched out all my meds for Flintstone's Chewables because they're prettier and cheaper, and I'm getting saner by the millisecond. Does anyone else hear a high-pitched constant whistling but only when they're drinking a ton of alcohol?
Anyhoo. Below is my post in response to other posts about my post on Goodreads re-posted here with some edits for your posting pleasure. And mine! But that goes without saying.
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I'd like to thank readers for taking the time to read my post and comment. We don't all agree, but how dull would the world be if we did?
First, Charlaine Harris isn't hiding behind me. Although she could, since I'm still at my winter weight ("But we're almost two months into spri--" "Shut up."), and have yet to finish losing the baby weight ("But the baby is starting high school in--" "Shut UP!"). She didn't ask me to weigh in on Spoilergate. Charlaine Harris has never asked me for anything.
But part of the reason I was so interested in jumping in is because something like Spoilergate happened to me when UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED came out. The spoiler-free version is, readers of my series found out something completely shocking about the hero and heroine that was a huuuuge game changer, that I'd never so much as hinted about in earlier books, and reactions were everything from, "Whoa, way to shake up the series and leave me on the edge of my seat!" to "You vapid whore, I told you not to go off your meds."
What was startling was the intensity of the reactions and how out-and-out horrible some readers got, the mildest of which was "f*ck you, you'll never get another penny out of me, you cant" (Except, ahem, it wasn't cant.)
Even more startling: many readers thought that I'd ended the series that way. This blind-sided me, for several reasons: 1) at no time had I ever said UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED was the last book, 2) I told every reporter (blogger, newspaper, magazines, radio) the exact opposite: not not NOT the last book, and 3) I titled the book UNFINISHED. As in the opposite of FINISHED. In really really big letters on the front of the book as well the spine. Shiny big letters: UNFINISHED (ta-dah!). And at the end of the day it came down to how some readers were hurt ("How could you do this to me?") and my bewildered reaction ("How could you think I'd string you along for ten books only to screw you in the end?").
[This is MJ, breaking into this post to address the readers of the Betsy series: seriously, how could so many of you leap (ka-sproing!) to the conclusion that UNFINISHED was the last Betsy book? Everyone's calmed down now, but nobody ever explained that to me and it always puzzled me. Did you read about it somewhere? Did someone tell you? Did you just assume that a shocking ending meant...ffftt! No more Undead books. Did you not notice the big shiny letters spelling UNFINISHED on the cover and the spine? My editor and I knew this would shake things up and did everything we could to make sure people knew there were more books to come. As above I bogged and told every blogger, radio, TV, and newspaper reporter that more were coming. And, I feel obliged to again mention, there was the title: UNFINISHED. In all seriousness, all snark aside, what else could my publisher and I have done to reassure readers?
Back to the GR post.]
So, for me, the DEAD OVER EASY fracas wasn't just that some readers willfully made Spoilergate happen. My problem was that several readers were/are raining down all kinds of holy hell on the author based on the ending of a book they haven't read, which continues today, and the book *still* isn't out. They don't care what she's done in past books; they don't care that there may be a method to her alleged madness. In the case of UNFINISHED, readers completely discounted the several thousand pages they'd loved after reading the last paragraph on the last page of a book that wasn't the last in the series and was helpfully titled UNFINISHED. As we all agree, the readers were 100% entitled to feel any way they wished about any book I wrote at any time, as I was to write the book I wanted. But I was startled at how some readers made up their mind on the spot: boom, done, see ya.
So, yeah: the DEAD EVER AFTER furor is all about me. (I know how it sounds. Admitting you have a problem is the first step and perhaps some day I will take that step.) Anyway, Charlaine knows this. Most authors writing a series know this: some readers will be thrilled ("OMG, just how I figured!"), some will be satisfied ("Not the way I thought it would go, but okay."), and some will be pissed ("I have read your books thus you owe me happiness and also, I demand a romantic HEA for the last book in a mystery series."). But it doesn't make it easier to understand.
As to the perception that I think the onus of Spoilergate is on the reader who got DEAD EVER AFTER early, I'd respectfully ask that you re-read my original post, where I wrote that, in fact, it is not up to the reader to call the bookstore out on their breach of contract. I owned my hypocrisy by saying if THE WINDS OF WINTER (pub date unknown because George R.R. Martin enjoys torturing me) was on the shelf tomorrow, I would buy the HELL out of that book. And then I would...NOT...post "OMG Sansa ends up on the Iron Throne and has triplets with Tyrion!" on the web, but that's a whooooole other thread. Spoilergate is not about the lone reader getting the book early; it's about what the reader did after they read it. And what happened after that. And what happened after that.
When Charlaine mentioned "malicious readers" she wasn't referring to the reader who got the book first; she was referring to the readers who have been...well...malicious (which the dictionary defines as malevolent or spiteful). "I hate the ending" isn't spiteful; "Charlaine is stupid and lazy" is. And while the person who started the "here's the spoilered ending to DEAD EVER AFTER but watch out 'cuz it's spoilery with spoils!" thread on Amazon might not have intended the uproar that followed, the bottom line is that it's a brush fire of bitchiness over there and has been for days. Saying "but I didn't know people were gonna come to my thread that I started and say nasty things in response to my thread that I started" is up there with "I only started the brush fire; it's not my fault it's still burning." This strikes me as, at the least, naive. The person who started the spoiler thread seems like a nice enough person (we've been courteously going back and forth a bit on Amazon), but she also seems completely unconcerned about her part in Spoilergate. She feels the blame for the personal attacks on Charlaine lies with Charlaine, for not having some sort of DefCon 3 lockdown plan for spoilers.
Regarding the readers who suggested Charlaine should have disabled all comments on her FaceBook page, limiting reader exposure to spoilers and her own exposure to the virulently negative posts: there was no way Charlaine was gonna win this one. Her choices:
1) Charlaine doesn't restrict any comments from anyone: nearly 200,000 readers get spoiled and understandably enraged. "What is wrong with you? How could you not delete those out of respect for the rest of us? Manage your social media, dammit!"
2) Charlaine only deleted posts with spoilers: readers instantly assume she's only deleting negative posts. I saw many "you're only deleting negative posts!" comments posted after negative posts that had not been deleted. In other words, I had to read through several negative posts to get to a post complaining that negative posts were being deleted. So not only are some readers enraged, they're not paying attention. If Charlaine is slow to delete the spoilery ones, she must not be paying attention, either. If she's quick to delete the spoilery ones, she's OMG only deleting negative ones, what a jack-booted bitch!
[Me again, with an aside to my readers: that? Was hilarious. "You're deleting negative posts just like BiteMeHarris said in her post about how hateful and shitty you are to us she totes proved how you're deleting only neg posts and if u don't believe me just scroll down and read their negative posts about how you're being shitty and only deleting neg posts plus they were so right to call you shitty because you are so shitty Charlaine you shitty shit!!!!" Me: "Holy hell. I think I'm having a stroke. So much snarking and so little...yes, the nosebleed confirms I'm definitely having a sarcasm stroke. Worth it. I regret nothing except having a Twix for breakfast which I washed down with a V-8."]
3) Charlaine disables all posts: this had the potential to be at once the most all-encompassing but also the most damning. "Are you that afraid of getting negative feedback, you Paula Deen-sounding fascist? We demand to be heard! GUYS, GUYS, HARRIS ISN'T LETTING ANYBODY COMMENT SHE'S PRACTICALLY RE-WRITING "DEUTSCHLANDLIED" OVER THERE!"
So, again: no way to win. Just like she couldn't write an ending that would please everyone. Or deal with Spoilergate in a manner that would please everyone and offend no one. I also don't see how Spoilergate can in any way be "partly Charlaine's fault". Because she wrote the book? Because she knew the ending would polarize readers? Because she was wearing a miniskirt at night in a bad part of town? I don't...what? WHAT?
All that to say, I think several readers were dead on when they pointed out that there's not a chance in hell we're all going to agree. They're right, of course; we probably all know that. But disagreeing doesn't have to be a synonym for disrespecting. I appreciate reading others' viewpoint and I've learned a lot from the other posts here. I think at the end of the day if we can come away with that, it's not a bad thing.