Reprinted from Goodreads:
Dear Ms. Hamilton,
(NOTE: I used "Ms." instead of "Miss" or "Mrs." because I was honestly afraid you might shoot my head off or otherwise maim me in some way shape or form. I got this impression from your "character", Anita Blake, and how she reacts when strangers accidentally call her "Miss".)
Hi there! My name is Crystal Starr Light. I'm sure you don't know me or have any idea who I am (or probably even care - hey, no fault on your part, I'm a nobody stranger in the far corner of the Internet!), but I am a reviewer and have been reading/reviewing your books for probably the last year. It's going to seem strange, but I am not what you might consider a fan of your work, even though I've read 14 books of your Anita Blake series and 2 of your Merry Gentry series.
The obvious question you may be thinking is, why do I bother if I am not a die-hard LKH/Anita Blake fan? Well, to explain that, I need to go back aways. I hope you don't mind a bit of a story.
It all started when I read "Twilight". Yeah, I know, "It's a piece of trash". I'll admit that Twilight is not the best book in the work and certainly not the best vampire book. But that's not the point. You see, that book started me on my voyage through the book world of reading urban fantasy and GOOD vampire novels. And, as you know, your Anita Blake books are some of the "classic" vampire works (or should I say, "highly recommended urban fantasy"). So when I heard about your series and read all your fans' glowing reviews, I had to pick your books up and give them a shot. I didn't know if I'd like them or not, but I wanted to give you a chance because who knows what treasures I can find? There have been plenty of books I thought I would hate and they ended up on my favorites list.
Some of what I'm going to say is going to come across as very blunt and honest. I hope, if you are anything like your character, Anita Blake (and there is a lot to make me think that there is - I'll discuss this further), you might be willing to listen to me. On the other hand, if you are like Anita Blake, then I might have reason to worry. To be honest, Anita isn't very - erm - accommodating of information she doesn't like. If you get my drift. Nor does she like any criticism whatsoever of herself or her lifestyle - no matter how true it might be. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.
ANYWAY, I tried to read "Guilty Pleasures", but couldn't get into it. So I found an audiobook. And honestly - I didn't care for it. It seemed like, Ms. Hamilton, that you had a lot of really cool ideas, but were so excited to put them all in, that the explanations for the plot weren't quite ironed out. Now, don't get me wrong, there was some good stuff, but it felt...cluttered.
But I didn't give up. I tried the second and then the third books. By that point, I found a groove and didn't too much mind the series - even if there were points that grated on me constantly (such as your avatar, Anita Blake...but again, getting ahead of myself).
But, Ms. Hamilton (I hope you don't mind my calling you that!), these last few books have been absolutely a chore to get through, particularly "Incubus Dreams" and "Danse Macabre". Let me be frank and ask you something: Did you honestly have a plot in mind when you started writing? Or did a free writing session (or several!) turn into these books? Because I am STILL struggling to figure out what might have passed for "plot" in those two books. There are some books, such as historical novels, that don't exactly have a plot; they are just meant to show a person's life. And that's great. I've adored my fair share of "character novels". But neither ID nor DM were "character novels". Both hinted at plots - a mystery with murdered strippers in ID and a vampire ballet/pregnancy scare in DM - and both completely fell flat. The murdered strippers in ID were a backseat to the endless discussions the characters had about everything BUT the murdered strippers; the vampire ballet was barely existent and the pregnancy scare was wrapped up before the 70% mark.
Also, Ms. Hamilton (don't get mad at me, please!), it seems that you and your main "character", Anita Blake, have a lot in common. Petite, long curly hair, pale skin, tough as nails, mom died in a car accident - excuse me for saying this, but if I didn't know better, I'd think she was your author avatar. You know, your Mary Sue self-insert. Now, I'm not judging - I've written lots of little stories with my own Mary Sue self-inserts! Of course, I haven't published any of those because I realize how bad they are.
And I wonder Ms. Hamilton (see, "Ms." not "Miss" or "Mrs."?) - perhaps are you too coddling of your self-insert? Perhaps you are using Anita Blake as fantasy maybe a little more than is reasonable, even in the unreasonable world of fiction? I'm not saying that Anita Blake has to be a boring, humdrum person - though I will admit, it was much easier to stand her back in "Guilty Pleasures" and "The Laughing Corpses" because she had to use her brains instead of just asking random people to explain the plot to her constantly - but don't you think it's gotten a bit absurd? Four strains of lycanthropy, when a person is only supposed to have one? An animator that turns out to be a coveted necromancer? Who also happens to be Numir Raj? And Lupa? And the human servant of a Master Vampire? And a part of a triumvirate with the Master Vampire and the Leader of her Pack? And form another triumvirate (which is very rare, if ever seen before) with her own vampire to call (again, very rare) and animal to call (again, hugely rare)? Who also is drawing the attention of two powerful evil women - Belle Morte and the Mother of All Darkness?
I get it - you want to go on adventures. Or I should say, you want Anita to be special and go on adventures. I get that. But when was the last time Anita did go on adventures? Shoot her gun? Kill a vampire? Take out bad guys in a shootout? Go to a crime scene? Use her brain to solve a case, instead of relying on the ardeur to evolve into whatever super power she needs to deus ex machina her way out of the super bad situation? By my reckoning, it hasn't been since "Obsidian Butterfly" - and that was 5 books ago.
I know I'm not a fan, and if your previous blog posts about the subject are still how you feel, I should just leave and not try to tackle the "meaty" subjects you are having your self-insert Mary Sue face (I'm puzzled over what these "meaty" subjects are - being forced to have sex through a metaphysical date rape drug and learning to like it? Violating others' privacy? Forcing all the men you sleep with to be monogamous even if you aren't? Learning to juggle 6 nearly identical, personality-less men who have absolutely no qualms about being 1 of 6? Writing the gender-flipped version of James Bond - only with what is essentially rape?). But you see, I don't think your situation is hopeless. Time and again, you come up with interesting story lines (I personally don't think "Micah" was a complete washout!); with a little fleshing and more focus on the story and less on making Anita Blake cooler and more powerful, I think you could go back to the earlier books' glory. And now that I've read so far in the series, I really can see what your fans, your devoted fans, mean: your earlier books are much stronger than the more recent ones.
Ms. Blake - I mean - Ms. Hamilton, you don't have to take any of my advice. I'm a nobody in a small corner of the Internets. But if you do see this, maybe you should be unlike Anita Blake and be open to the idea. Accepting criticism isn't a bad thing - we all have to be open to it to grow and evolve and get better. Having Anita realize her faults, accept criticism like the adult she is and change (yes, change, and not just her clothes!) would be a HUGE step to making her a more grounded, more relatable character. (The other step would be having her tone back on the misogyny and sexism - no, I'm sorry, Ms. Hamilton, but having Anita work in a "man's world" and talk about how she's just like a man does NOT mean she's a feminist, particularly when she demeans and insults and slut-shames all the women she encounters - and when you don't write any female characters other than Anita Blake who are competent and capable and not crazy, psychotic nutjobs!)
I really appreciate your time and your ear. I wish you luck in your future writing endeavors.
Crystal S. Light
P.S. Please, Ms. Hamilton, don't get mad at me and use your Browning on me. I really didn't mean to insult you - I just thought I'd give you some friendly advice.
P.P.S. I'm serious; I REALLY don't want to be enemies with you!!
NOTE: The above letter is pure fiction, written for entertainment purposes only. It's meant to be read tongue and cheek, subtle sarcasm. Yadda, yadda.