Being honest with your fellow man

Jennie Hansen is a respected reviewer/writer in Mormon fiction. She reviews at Meridian Magazine and (I believe) is a judge for the Whitney Awards.

She is also a LIAR.


I have been very unhappily mostly silent about this for two years now, but one of her latest blog posts, “A Reviewer’s Confession,” has me seeing red and I’ll be damned if I sit silent any longer.

In this confession, she said:

Only once did I give a book a one star rating and that was because the language was filthy and the author hadn’t researched LDS policy. (The author came unglued over my rating!)

Oh, Jennie. Honey. You haven’t seen unglued yet.

Why? Because you gave me that rating not actually having read the book. How do I know this? Because this:

the author hadn’t researched LDS policy

is patently untrue.

If you had read past the one-page prologue you would know that.

My journalism training had qualified me as a critic . . .

Apparently you didn’t learn how to check your facts (or other reviews) before opening your mouth.

You also probably don’t grok that part of the temple recommend interview where the bishop asks you if you’ve been honest with your fellow man. Or else you were honest and you don’t have a temple recommend.

I don’t know if you were part of the judging panel for the Whitney Award committee or not, but if you were, that adds another layer of fraud to your pattern of behavior for this book—and is the catalyst for my having come unglued at your “review.”

You lied about reading my book.

In church vernacular, then, I challenge you to:

1) actually read the book and rescind your lie


2) declare publicly that you read the entirety of Magdalene. Anywhere will do: your blog, Goodreads, my blog, Meridian magazine.

But before you attempt #2, I want to direct your attention to Scott Hales’s review (he who is also a respected scholar of Mormon literature), the Exponent II review, and the Publisher’s Weekly review, all of which refute your claim that I did not research church policy.

You lied about reading that book, Jennie. That by itself is dishonorable and worthy of contempt. If you were assigned to read it for the Whitneys, you also tarnished the integrity of the awards.

Own it and confess.

Magdalene and Publisher’s Weekly

For an author, a Publisher’s Weekly starred review is one of the holy grails of reviews. It’s one of those things that, for a writer, is right up there with The Call (“Hi, Mojo. I want to offer you a contract for your book.”). I’ve had pretty close brushes with getting The Call, which (three times, to be precise) ended up to be “I love this book and I want to buy it, but I can’t because of Freak Things 1, 2, and/or 3.” What I have never dared aspire to (especially once I started down the self-pub path) is a review in Publisher’s Weekly at all, much less a starred one. But then Tuesday, this happened:

And you know what? I’m kinda proud because I had some goals with this book and, at least for this reviewer, I hit some of them. Later I received an email from the senior editor of reviews at PW passing along some more remarks the reviewer made, which made me believe that I accomplished almost all of my goals with the book.

But there is one I want to talk about because it’s not one that’s obvious. And it’s not obvious because I set this challenge for my own benefit, not for the reader’s.

In 2008, my editor for Monsters & Mormons, Wm Morris, wrote this piece at A Motley Vision (a Mormon lit blog): Stephenie Meyer’s Mormonism and the “erotics of abstinence.” The erotics of abstinence. Well, that’s an intriguing little idea. He was springboarding from this Time piece: Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling?, wherein the author says this:

But it is the rare vampire novel that isn’t about sex on some level, and the Twilight books are no exception. What makes Meyer’s books so distinctive is that they’re about the erotics of abstinence. Their tension comes from prolonged, superhuman acts of self-restraint. There’s a scene midway through Twilight in which, for the first time, Edward leans in close and sniffs the aroma of Bella’s exposed neck. “Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he says. “You have a very floral smell, like lavender … or freesia.” He barely touches her, but there’s more sex in that one paragraph than in all the snogging in Harry Potter.

I, like Wm (and pretty much everybody else who read the book), was intrigued by that idea.

In 2008, Mitch and Cassie were a bare glimmer in my mind. I had mentioned Mitch’s name a couple of times in The Proviso with absolutely no intention of following up on that. Cassie didn’t even exist when I wrote the sketch with a nameless unreliable and unlikeable narrator in the style of “Snuff.” I like to do those sometimes, usually because something catches my attention and I’m restless and haven’t written for a while and though I only have a few words in me, they must come out. That 250-word monologue was in my head when I started thinking about Mitch’s role in Sebastian’s life. The two disparate ideas simply wound in and around each other like different streams of smoke drifting on the same breeze, tickling my mind with vague possibilities.

I was still in the planning stages of Magdalene, trying to figure out if I would or would not have my bishop succumb to temptation. I will tell you: I didn’t want him to, because that wasn’t who he was and besides that, I’d already gone down that road with Giselle. But how was I going to do this? I didn’t think I could write sexual tension, didn’t think I could carry abstinence too far and still make it seem legitimate. (We Mormons have all sorts of ways to justify our celibacy, but nobody outside our culture buys a word of it.)

Then I stumbled upon the “erotics of abstinence.” Stephenie Meyer had to go to paranormal lengths to justify abstinence until marriage. I don’t write paranormal, so I didn’t want to do that. She also had teenagers, which is its own justification. I don’t write teenagers, so that was out of the question.

I wanted to do that. With adults. Who weren’t vegetarian vampires. Plausibly.

I wanted to do it better.

So I did.

Magdalene contest winner…

…is DIANA!

The five runners up are

Traci Kenworth
Rachel T
Ju Dimello
Gian Faye

who will receive all the ebooks in a bundle as soon as I gather your email addresses together.

There were 37 entries total, counting each link or citation as a separate entry, and each link is very much appreciated. Thanks to all who participated and helped get the word out!

That was kinda fun. Maybe I’ll do some more contests…

Magdalene: a contest and a prize

Magdalene, the third book in the Dunham series, will be released on Sunday, April 24, 2011. This is the last book in the series with contemporary characters; book four, Dunham, is an historical and book five, tentatively titled Delilah, is post-apocalypse.

For this, I thought it would be fun to have a contest. The grand prize winner will receive an Easter basket full of goodies pertaining mostly to Magdalene, and five runners up will win a trilogy ebook. Here’s the grand prize:

(Click to make big; a couple of the items are not shown.)

1. Print copies of The Proviso, Stay, and Magdalene, all signed,

2. Two canisters of Jacques Torres hot chocolate (one milk and one spicy),

3. Magdalene mug and mousepad,

4. One new CD of Carmina Burana,

5. A thumb drive with all three books plus their playlists,


6. A super secret and sexy prize hinting at what Mitch and Cassie might have done in a scene I never wrote…

…all in a nice Easter basket that will arrive at the grand prize winner’s doorstep at least a week before the release date. (Even if you live out of the country. I can do that. Because I’m in charge.)

2011-04-04 UPDATE: I failed to remember that many of the songs on the playlists are full albums, so instead of burning them to the stick, and in addition to Carmina Burana (orchestral version), these will be included as full (new) CDs: The Piano (Michael Nyman), Messiah (Handel), Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky), and the Rach 3 (Rachmaninoff). (Unfortunately, the chamber version of Carmina Burana that I have is an import and very hard to get.)

The five runners up will receive their ebooks at the close of the contest.

But every contest has rules, right?

1. Post about Magdalene and link to this blog post anywhere on the web.

2. Come back here and comment on where you posted it.

3. The more places you link from, the more chances you have to win. (One link per comment.)

4. The contest runs through midnight, April 10, 2011, US Central Daylight Saving Time (Chicago).

5. If you’re related to me or you worked on the book, you’re not eligible. I will know who you are. *ahemDudeahem*

That’s it.

I’ll use to pick the grand prize winner and five runners up.