Saturday, September 4, 2010

And now a word from Uncle Walt

by Uncle Walt

I am a man who has manly pursuits. I have fixed cars and toilets. I own a chainsaw, a tractor and a fishing boat. I have designed and implemented full-scale computer networks. I can pee standing up. Yet, due to a strange quirk of fate, romance novels have taken over my life. Thousands of them fill shelves, boxes, crates, tables, even the floor of my house. I am often found with my nose buried in one, another open on my lap, one put aside after being perused, and a stack of more ready to be cracked open.

You see, late one night The Wife laughed aloud. This is not typically a life altering occurrence, but my life is not typical. Innocently I inquired as to what was funny. I don’t regret the question, but I often wonder what my life would be like had I not asked it. She looked up from her book and said: “The desire deepened, went lower. It filled her hips and made her vulva cry.” After pulling my jaw off the floor, I rustled up enough courage to ask her what the hell she was talking about.

Amidst what was apparently an otherwise well-written romance novel, that line appeared. While it wasn’t the “purple-headed warrior” of cinematic fame, it was certainly a literary gem. After some questioning, The Wife admitted that such lines are not uncommon, even in the best books in the genre. With prompting she quoted from another novel: “His body wept within her, her shuddering passage milking his seed, while orchids burst like fireworks and pink dolphins leaped through the sparkling cloud that had once been her mind.”

Being the bright fellow that I am, I saw the value of these quotes. I recognized that they needed to be preserved for posterity and shared with mankind. Thus the Uncle Walter’s Bad Romance Novel Quotes blog was born. Later a bastard brother in the form of Uncle Walter’s Bad Romance Novel Covers would appear, to highlight and honor the oft-times terrible cover art that graces these published works. For over a year, The Wife and I have updated the blogs daily with a unique quote and (minus the occasional accidental duplicate) cover.

The only downside to our creation is the rarely-voiced opinion that we are anti-romance novel or that we are insulting the genre. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The Wife is still a fan and continues to read a surprisingly large portion of our inventory. I have even developed an appreciation for them myself. While I doubt you will catch me actually reading “The Billionaire Boss’s Virgin Mistress’s Baby Bargain,” I am the first to admit that there are quality authors and stories. Why, then, would we poke fun at them? Believe it or not, it’s somewhat altruistic. Sure, we feel the pain of “desire slammed into his loins like a fist” as if we were the ones who had received a cock-punch. But the ultimate goal is to prevent us ever having to read a phrase like that in the first place.

Criticism is an effective and useful educational tool. If you clearly illustrate what not to do, you often provide a much more valuable resource. I hold no illusions that I’m changing the world. I realize that by the time I read “Christian’s manroot jumped against her thigh and she imagined it a velvet-tipped iron spear,” it’s just too late to help the poor, lamented author – after all, it’s already in print. But perhaps, just maybe, a budding writer will realize that describing a man’s genitalia as a thistle is not a flattering comparison.

There are lovely, romantic, sexy and fun books, just as there are tasteful, attractive and sexy covers. We see them, we appreciate them, and we do not put them on our blogs. Sure, maybe we cheat a little, taking a line out of context. I mean, surely “actually, I stuffed a dead hedgehog in your muff” can’t possibly mean what it sounds like it means, can it? We’ll never tell! You’ll just have to read the book to find out. Which, believe it or not, is what happens. People search out and purchase books that we’ve featured on our site. I imagine that the author won’t complain too much about the occasional out of context quote if it helps them sell more books.

I would love to be put out of business. But until such a day comes that I will no longer read lines like “Kissin’ your red-hot love flower made this stem grow big and hard just for you Baby Doll,” I consider it my civic duty to mankind, a gesture of kindness and compassion, to warn my readers of what to expect. You’re welcome.

Uncle Walter’s Bad Romance Novel Quotes and Covers have been featured in the March 2010 issue of RT Bookreviews Magazine. Uncle Walter also has his very own Facebook fan page. You can submit quotes and covers to the site via email at


  1. Uncle Walt,

    Thank you for joining us at the Grip this week. Your response to all this purple-prose is probably one of the kindest things you could have done for humanity: helping writers to realise the error of their ways and allowing readers to giggle at at these wonderful examples of how not to write.

    I use examples of 'how not to do things' when I'm teaching creative writing. I use the poetry of William McGonnagal and the Bulwer-Lytton prize. Now I have some more resources to keep my learners entertained.

    Thank you.


  2. Thank you so much for having us! We had a blast writing the post. It helped us to realize that perhaps we should post our explanation so that our readers, and others who stumble upon the sites, will understand our motivations. They will see the truth beneath the snark! Hmmm... surely there's a humanitarian award inspiration in there somewhere? We are writing up our story for our soon to be released "About Us" tab. Soon being a relative term, but it will be done eventually!

    Nothing would make us happier than seeing our hard work put to good use. If just one more person will be spared from reading (or even writing) something like... well... this:

    ...then we will have lived a full and worthy life. Give us meaning, Ash! Give us meaning!

  3. Bad erotica could give bad romance a serious run for its money. The real problem here is convention. The convention of how to write is a killer. And it's not helped by ludicrously over-inflated parodic digs at these genres, because it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Romancese is a language new writers learn at their fellow writers' knees, and also from the media and internet. And bad editors are as much to blame as the writers they commission, guide and edit. So let writers be kind to one another and say, 'Nothing wrong with a little realism' rather than 'Lose that awful euphemism - it's fooling nobody'. Let us lead by example, not cruel parody.

  4. Walt and The Wife - I'm torn here. On one hand, the examples have me cringe laughing, on the other hand, I hate to see any writer publicly ridiculed.
    I hope that I never write anything that merits an entry on your site, or if I do, no one tells me. I suppose the worst that can happen is hours of mortification on my part, and minutes of laughter for everyone else. I can survive that.

  5. Jane,

    Bad erotica is fair game as well -- we consider it to be under the "umbrella" of romance, and has been included in our posts. Perhaps a stretch, but "Uncle Walter's Bad Romance, Erotica and Romantica Quotes" seemed a bit of a mouthful, and perhaps more detailed than necessary.

    Let's face the truth here, shall we? A writer must take responsibility for the product that they create. The AUTHOR wrote "He had a sudden urge to tell her how sweet her rosy nether lips smelled." That didn't come from an editor. That's not the fault of the "internet." That's not the fault of the "media." That is poor writing, plain and simple. The only way this author was "failed" was by the people who allowed a line like that to slip by without question or, yes, criticism. Ultimately, if an author wants to take credit for the good, they must also embrace and accept the bad.

    Cruel parody? How so? The words are not twisted or changed in any way (although, as was mentioned, we have been known to take a quote out of context). These are directly transcribed from published works, as written by the author. Our commentary is only to illustrate our reactions upon reading it. Those reactions are not, we can only assume, the ones that the author intended.

    Don't you think it's a bit MORE cruel for us, as readers, to be subjected to writing that at times can only be described as juvenile? I do. Especially when we're the ones paying $7.99+ per book. Not to mention the time we invest in reading the work, which we can never get back, even if we can somehow recoup the money.

    There are myriad other places to receive ego stroking and gentle praise with perhaps a smattering of possible criticism. Even the dreaded Amazon reviews are limited in scope and content by the heavy editing hand of the Powers That Be. Sure a minuscule portion of sites contain unadulterated opinion, but the traffic is limited at best. Where are authors being given the unvarnished truth?

    There are many negative stereotypes associated with the romance (and attached) genres. Unfortunately, many of those are well earned. Equally unfortunately is that, rather than accepting the blame for it, rather than recognizing that the quality of their writing is directly responsible, authors are passing the blame onto editors and publishers and even readers. It's been used as an excuse for everything from poor sales to plagiarism.

    Some people won't "get" it. We realize this. Many of our friends and family just shake their heads at what they view as a "waste of time." They see the time spent on the blogs as "beneath" them. That the topic isn't "worthy." Hm... Sounds rather like the criticisms leveled upon the romance genre, doesn't it? The value of the novels and works themselves are minimized and criticized. They're not "worthwhile" enough or "intellectual" enough. Yet they bring pleasure and enjoyment to others (even when poorly written!).

    Ideally an author who reads the quotes from our site, who maybe even sees their own words there, will come away imbued with determination. Uttering the refrain: Never again! They will give the promise to do better, to improve, to strive to represent the genre in a positive way. You can't fire someone up that way with gentle words and kindly praise. And, well, it's just not our style.

  6. Kathleen,

    As with the initial quotes that started the blog, many come from books and authors that I quite like. Some of my favorite authors have been featured. We admit that, in the beginning (while still finding our "voice") we were a bit heavy handed in what we considered "bad." There are some quotes that we have both agreed probably wouldn't merit posting based on our current standards.

    It took us a few months to really get a feel for what we wanted to focus on and what we wanted to bring attention to. And our tastebuds have become a bit jaded -- things that would have nauseated us in the past have become almost old hat (this is especially true amongst the covers -- where authors tend to have little or no input, so the blame can officially be passed off).

    If you ever find yourself on our blog, I apologize in advance for hurting your feelings. And perhaps you'll apologize in advance for giving us cause to post your work. ;)

  7. Walt & Wife,

    I just want to add, the one thing I love about your blog is that you both adore the genre you write about. Not only do you adore it but you you're also immersed in it.

    I've spoken with readers who criticise Dan Brown for shallow characterisation. I ask them which Dan Brown titles they've read and they admit they've not read any. They're just repeating the criticism second and third hand.

    In the UK the same thing used to be popular with Jeffrey Archer and Mills & Boon titles. You didn't need to have read one of their books to criticise.

    I've even had a co-worker tell me my entire output is lurid, filthy sleaze - even though they've never read a word of my material. (Admittedly, this is a chillingly accurate description of my work, but I still get defensive because I didn't get one penny in royalties for that condemnation).

    At rottenromance I know the criticism comes from someone who's read every word of the book they're discussing.

    I also know, if Walt and Wife ever pick up any of my titles, I will undoubtedly have a whole new blog dedicated to the many examples of lurid purple-prose I used when I first started writing.



    PS - I'm kidding, I still use that purple-prose. ;-)

  8. Ash,

    I must sadly admit to one bit of misinformation: We don't necessarily read every single word of every single book. Many of them, yes, but some we just skim. With the exception of our Reader Submissions, though, we actually *own* each and every book and can verify each and every word. I hope we haven't let you down too much. :)

    I agree with you completely about the rush to judgment that many people make. I mean, *I* can say that Dan Brown has shallow characterizations, but that's because I've read several of his books. (Except for that NASA one, I just couldn't bring myself to read any more after finishing his comedy, Digital Fortress.)

    For some reason I suspect that when you write a purplish phrase, you are quite aware that you are doing so -- and the humorous quality of said prose... and would probably laugh at yourself on our site. Seriously, any author who wrote this: "Her whole body vibrated with want, arching towards him, opening like some exotic, fleshy flower, oozing nectar" could not *possibly* expect to have that praised and valued could she? She would HAVE to know the absurdity of it, or be utterly blind.

    Now, of course, you do realize that I will be getting some of your books, don't you? I can't possibly ignore a challenge like that. If we DO post any of your writing, promise me that you'll respond!

    It would be amazing if a featured author would take the time to discuss the quote with us. An author who is on our site is also a fan of the Uncle Walter blogs. Perhaps I can convince her to open a dialogue about it. Do you think??

  9. Glad to have stumbled through your door to the comedy section of romance in the bedroom or meadow or boardroom or..or..wherever.

    Also glad to be a reader and not a writer of the genre - one where I think there are very good and sometimes carried away authors who would love to just stick to the romance part...but then some, probably are 'all aquiver with passion' and it has to leak onto the pages.

    I'll stick to writing for kids and keep my head down.


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