one star reviews

everybody gets them. I try to make them a learning experience, or at least I try to laugh at the worst of them.

Constructive criticism doesn’t hurt; it’s the stuff that writers need if they are really serious about their work. A lot of criticism out there is in no way constructive, and that sometimes does hurt, if I’m in the wrong mood or make the mistake of taking it too seriously. Amazon.com has caused a lot of writers some really bad moments, because of course the reader reviews are all anonymous and anonymity brings out the worst in some people.

Into the Wilderness has 192 reviews on Amazon, and ten of them are one star reviews. A few of those don’t like the novel because I’m not Diana Gabaldon. A few more don’t like it because Into the Wilderness isn’t a proper sequel to Last of the Mohicans (of course, I never said it was; it’s more of a retelling of Cooper’s The Pioneers; a [careless] critic called it a sequel, and I’ve never heard the end of it). Others have managed to find some bodice ripping somewhere in it (maybe some edition I never approved, what do I know?) and object on that basis. Some find fault with my historical research. Here’s the funniest one:

I was hoping Elizabeth would end up being a black bear’s main entree, but no luck. Of course, with her amazing luck, she’d have brained him with one of her “boots” and eaten him for dinner.Oh, I forgot. Elizabeth is so ahead of her time, she’s no doubt a vegan. [from Amazon]

There are, of course, many wonderful reader reviews on Amazon, very complimentary and encouraging. The point is that not every book is right for every reader. I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway but that’s my fault, for the most part. I wouldn’t put the blame on him. And what a boring place the world would be if we all liked exactly the same things.

Of course, editorial reviews are a different (and very complicated) matter altogether. More on that some other time.

heroes & their problems

Robyn, clever woman that she is, has pointed me to Doris Egan‘s essays. Doris writes science fiction, which of course I must now read because anybody who would write this particular essay: Why I Like Heroes With Unsolvable Problems is someone whose fiction I suspect I will like. Here’s a paragraph:

“Dramatic structure most often asks the question, “How will they solve this problem?” Character asks, “How will they adapt to this problem?” And it’s watching them attempt B while having to do A that evokes the flash of empathy in the audience — that in fact makes “A” worthwhile. Because, after all, a mere court case or a murder is not enough — we want to know how Sherlock Holmes will deal with this. Or Peter Wimsey or Fox Mulder or our boy Miles or Ally McBeal. We want the specifics, the style of this particular dance, the scent of the rose and not merely the dried petals.
We want a little bit of mess in the perfection of structure, and the hint that we have here a life that will go on after we close the book or turn off the television.

And that’s why I like heroes with unsolvable problems. “

technobabble

the long and short of it is: the website wasn’t cooperating with me for the last three days, so I couldn’t post anything. Now it’s back. Why? I have no idea. I don’t dare look too closely. My theory is that computers are the modern day equivalent of the cantankerous gods of long ago. No sense in trying to figure them out, because they take all their joy in confounding human expectations.
More real stuff soon.