3. Other Things Authoring Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

New Doings

What’s going on with me? I’m SO glad you asked. It has been a while since I did one of these. (Before DragonCon, I think?) Busy month. Why a gargoyle for the pic? WHY NOT?

Books. I read books that weren’t historical romances! Books I enjoyed!  Contemporary Fantasy! Steampunk! Exclamation points! I have high fantasy and space opera on my TBR list, but don’t get too excited. It may not get reviewed for months. Okay, here goes;

Convergent Lines. Michelle Cori. Its tagline is A Tale of Gothic Horror, and it definitely has a great gothic feel, but  horror makes me think blood & jump-scares. This has a fantastical moodiness, with fae, humans, witchcraft,  loads of intricate world-building and history…and so much more. The narrative jumps between the protagonist’s past and present by chapters leading to a major plot development, and it has that “drop you in and let you roll along”  approach I adore. (but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.) Not sure if there’s an ebook version of this, so buy the paperback or make your library get it. The cover and the interior decorations are mind-blowingly pretty.

A Desperate Plan (Tales of the Automazombs) Toni Johnson et. al. Steampunk. Zombies. Need I say more? I really don’t. It’s a fun collection of shorter and longer stories that each stand alone but advance a larger plot. Some fine storytelling in a variety of styles. Great hints of reveals to come, but no sense of anything being left unfinished.  Ebook and regular book.

A lot of romance got consumed in the last month too, but nothing I would recommend. I must say I seriously wonder if authors who consider “purely masculine scent” to be attractive have ever actually smelled a live man. I’m someone who can find the scent of a sweaty guy appealing, but “masculine scent” still makes me think, “Ew.” Ya know, I think I’ll be moving on now.

Television: Daily Show & Samantha Bee over suppers, and the occasional sportsball game while I peel apples. That’s it.  A bunch of shows got boring or cancelled, others haven’t started. Zero interest in The Orville, not paying to watch commercials with ST:Discovery,  have to wait for DVD on Game of Thrones. I record Law & Order reruns because I know half of them by heart and specifically watch them so I can tune them out.

Movies: Finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Underwhelmed.  I mean, I enjoyed it, I can say, “okay, fun movie,”  but the whole Hollywood knee-jerk sequel philosophy of “take everything that was cool in the first one and evolve it” does not now and never has worked for me.  Plus I loathed the writing for Drax. Sure, expand our understanding of the character, but literal-minded to clueless is not a personality progression. Neither is there a line from single-minded to impulsively stupid. And Gamora was pretty much sidelined except for the OMG-SIBLING-HATRED thing. And then there’s the whole “why can’t heroes have two normal, living parents?” question…

…so, maybe I mostly didn’t like it. I  dunno. Nothing I’ve mentioned will stop me from watching it again a few times.

I watched Wonder Woman again to make sure the DVD worked. Yeah. That’s why.

The latest in re-viewing: disaster flicks.  2012, Day After Tomorrow, Dante’s Peak and San Andreas. Just because. Figured out another reason I love San Andreas: the male teen lead listens to the female teen lead who knows what she’s talking about. Multiple times.

In other news, autumn is apple time, which means day trips into the Wisconsin not-so-wilds in search of all the scrumptious yummies. I’ve already socked away the first of the year’s cider & saucein the big freezer, and the first fruits & cheeses of the season have made into tasty treats. The garden is an exuberant mess of drooping grasses and drying flowers, except for the asters, goldenrod & Joe Pye weed, which are in full glorious bloom.

That’s all for this report. Next post: all about the writing and authoring.

Edited to add a full-length pic of Grawlix the Gargoyle:

Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers.

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! 

Authoring Book reviews

Good Reviews are Better Than Kind Reviews

Are you afraid to leave a bad review for stories by authors you know? Most people are. When a reader knows an author personally, (or has a professional relationship with one) there’s a commendable desire to protect that bond. What friend would want to hurt someone’s chances of success? What professional would want to be disrespectful? No one wants to be rude, nasty, or mean. Better to avoid hurting feelings or worse, setting the stage for retaliatory action. As the saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” Right?

Wrong. When it comes to leaving reviews of published works, the saying is wrong. Reviews are too important a part of the reader-writer relationship to be reduced to platitudes.

If you’ve read a published work — especially one by an unknown author– and you have a strong opinion about it, then I would say you not only have a right to review it, you have a duty to do so. A duty to fellow readers.

(Note: this is an example of rhetorical hyperbole. If you don’t want to write reviews, don’t. If you are uncomfortable expressing negativity, don’t. If you don’t finish a book, don’t review it. If you don’t like an author personally, don’t review their books… you get the picture, right?)

I’m only asking that you don’t misinterpret a review’s prime purpose. The focus on good versus bad obscures the point of reviewing and conflates it with another important interaction between reader and writer: critiquing.

Reviewing  isn’t about being kind or handing out warm fuzzies or being mean or rude.  Anything an author has published is up for public consumption. Reviewing is a public service. Critiquing is something else again. (Another post, someday.)

The reviewer’s role is this: to inform a prospective reader about the work. That’s all. Only one person’s needs should be considered: the reader’s. Not the writer, not even the reviewer. A review by its very nature is an opinion piece, but the essence should be objective evaluation, not a quality judgment.

I’ve been professionally recommending books for 19 years. I’ve sold plenty of books I loathe with a clear conscience for just as long.  My opinion counts, but I have no right to pass sentence on a book’s True Worth. What I hate, others may adore. A reviewer’s role is to inform.

An example: I despise Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule.  If I rated it, however, the star rating would be 3. A review would go into great detail about what I dislike. (And now I feel the urge to head over to Goodreads…no. Must. Resist. Temptation.) Anyway, my evaluation of the book’s appeal to certain readers, based on certain preferences, is 5 stars. My personal opinion is zero stars. In a review, I can explain all that. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I sold a book after saying, “I hate this one, but if you liked XY&Z, you should give it a look…”

Tastes differ. Tolerances differ. Interests differ. Your review can be a litany of complaints, and end up  intriguing a prospective reader.  Your most-hated flavor is someone else’s favorite. Your idea of an insomnia cure is someone else’s idea of a perfect read. As long as any vitriol is wiped off before posting, you should be honest about any perceived negatives of plot, character etc. Be honest about mechanical and structural problems as well. You don’t have to dwell on them. A reader can judge the details by a glance through the free online sample or riffle through the first ten pages. Just don’t pretend they aren’t there, or expect your credibility to plummet.

What about the writer’s feelings? Hm. That’s a toughie. If you’re concerned about how a friend will respond to a review, then run it past them instead of posting it. If objections, protests, or tears flow, then call it a private critique, (another important act of selfless service on the part of readers!) offer warm fuzzies, and of course honor the friend’s wishes regarding its publication.

Still. The point to keep in mind is that a reader’s real responsibility is to other readers. First and only. Lying to the Emperor about his state of undress helps no one, least of all the Emperor (or Empress)

A side note: don’t obsess about stars. A star rating is nothing more than an artificially-colored, flavorless cherry on the rich fudge sundae of a real review. Make your points about a story in detail, using all your words. A writer who is a reader is a reviewer in the making.

Let’s wrap up this soapbox screed on a cheerful note. Bad ratings/reviews do not hurt a book’s chances nearly as much as no response at all. Obscurity is the real enemy. Bad reviews (or middle-of-the-road ones)  do not deter readers, but too many good ones can. When a title with more than 5 reviews has none under 4 stars, it raises my suspicions about the reviewer’s motives. Even the classics get panned. War & Peace has its detractors. So does Twilight. I could go on.  I won’t. That’s enough of that.

For now.