(insert pithy rejoinder here)

Jazz, Jesus and the 1 Star Review

jazzEvery so often there comes a moment when we see ourselves through another person’s eyes. Determining whether that’s good or bad depends entirely on what we see. Most of my epiphanies are delivered in the form of my sister telling me my ass looks fat in my jeans, whether I ask for her opinion or not.

Commentary on my fat ass or bad breath I can handle, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the reality of personal feedback in the form of reviews for my novella, Reapers With Issues.

Before I begin I’d like to state that every reader who reviewed my work negatively did not condemn me personally for what I’d written, despite not particularly enjoying the book. I’ve read reviews of other books where the reviewer took the author to task, and I am happy to say I’ve been blessed with a classy group of readers who didn’t feel the need to blast me.

I guess what confounds me most is that I expected there to be more blow back for subject matter. Portraying Jesus as a closet homosexual and writing a scene where Genghis Khan violates a shi-tzu wasn’t going to win me an audience with the Pope, and I knew that going in. I also prepared myself for a critique of the quality of the writing itself, which as it turns out I didn’t receive much of. What I did get was essentially the same question, asked in so many words, of what kind of person could conceive of the Reapers idea at all. Again, good or bad depends entirely on what we see.

[enter the dreaded introspection process]

The first thing I did was try to answer the question of what kind of person I am. Despite an obscene amount of navel-gazing I am no closer to that answer now than I was when I began. My motivation to write Reapers With Issues was just as strong and the subject matter just as easy to conceptualize as Gods of Asphalt’s was, so identifying a specific default in thinking didn’t pan out. The truth is that I’ve got a hundred different stories buzzing around in my head; everything from harmless children’s stories to British comedies to even more Reapers sequels (oddly there’s nothing milling around in there that remotely smacks of Erotica, but that’s a post for another day after an hour on a couch).

So after an even more shameless bought of self-contemplation I began to ask myself a different question, “Why do any of us write what we write?”

Do we choose our genre or subject matter because of who we are, or because of what we make of the world around us? I imagine it’s no coincidence that Reapers With Issues was written during the darkest hours of a friend’s battle with cancer, or that Gods of Asphalt was written while stuck in bed, listening to my two teenaged sons bicker amongst themselves and argue with their father.

It is also not lost on me that I wrote Reapers With Issues from a third-person point-of-view, allowing me to observe at a distance the story of a Reaper whose best efforts to gather souls are thwarted by a Savior, or that the overall theme of Gods of Asphalt is how brothers cope when their mother isn’t around.

I suppose in the end what we choose to write comes from the harmony of both who we are and what we see. I’ve learned that whether my writing is received as harmony or dischord depends entirely on who’s doing the reading, and no amount of alteration of my “music” will accommodate everyone.

For the record, I’m fine with that. I am a Jazz fan, after all.

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28 responses

  1. Strega

    While a little out of my comfort zone, I believe that Reapers was conceptually brilliant, completely original, and perverse enough to make certain parental figures squirm. For that I say bravo. I could never have seen you writing some steamy romance for that is just not who we are. And that is why I love ya. By the way,I am still waiting for the next GOA. I read the first one in 6 hours.

    Like

    April 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    • Steamy romance, huh? Now that sounds like a tire pile to me. Knowing me I’d make it between someone or something perverse. I blame my mother. ;)

      Like

      April 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm

  2. I haven’t had a chance to read Reapers yet….but now I want to get into that part of your brain. It’s next on my list. :)

    Like

    April 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    • “It’s next on my list. :)” Famous last words of my former GOA fans. Sigh…

      Thank you for taking a chance, Poly. I’ll supply the brain bleach when you’re finished.

      Like

      April 28, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      • Haha….I’ve been cleaning out my mother’s house (she’s has to move into assisted living) and her house is full of cat pee….I think the bleach will come in handy!! I would have picked it up sooner, but it’s been a whirlwind this past month.

        Like

        April 28, 2013 at 12:55 pm

        • Ahh…the dreaded parent relocation. That’s a big job, both physically and emotionally. I hope you have support in your corner. Luckily for me my mother isn’t terribly old, so I don’t forsee having to go through that process for a while. Unless of course my sister “Strega” up there decides to ship her to me.

          Shh…let’s not tell her about this conversation.

          Like

          April 28, 2013 at 1:02 pm

  3. You have a distinct writing voice, and while it may not be for everyone, I can’t imagine that people who like it don’t in fact love it.

    Like

    April 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    • That just may be the best writing compliment I’ve ever received. You’re Guaptastic. Now there’s a word. :)

      Like

      April 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  4. While I have not yet read Reapers I can answer the question of what kind of person would write such a book – an intelligent, perceptive, highly imaginative writer with a wicked sense of humor. I know this because I have been reading your blog for quite a while and I read GOA.

    Like

    April 28, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    • Thanks, Sandy. And I know someone else who is just as good if not a better writer than myself. You’ll be seeing her work in a post this Tuesday. ;)

      Like

      April 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

  5. I think that the fact that you confused people may be the most positive feedback you could ever get. If they can’t tell what sort of person you are from all those words then you must be reaching outside of yourself to write. Most of us can’t even do that.

    Like

    April 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    • Huh. I never considered that.

      I like the way you think.

      Like

      April 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm

      • Well if people can figure you out by fiction you wrote, then it can’t be very fictional.

        Like

        April 28, 2013 at 5:19 pm

  6. I confess I have not read Reapers because I don’t think it’s my kind of book. I read the excerpts you did on your blog & even though they were interesting, they didn’t appeal to my taste in reading. What I did read was highly imaginative & well written though. Just not my cup of tea. I don’t read steamy romance or Westerns either.

    Like

    April 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    • You make total sense to me. It didn’t seem like your kind of book, so you didn’t read it. No harm done. I guess I am confused by the reader who already knows it isn’t their kind of book, but makes the conscious choice to read it anyway. THEN they give me a one star review.

      For the record, I’m not a fan of steamy romances or Westerns either, but I recently proofread a short story called THE TROOPER that completely changed my mind about both genres. I hope it comes out soon so others can read it. I was blown away.

      Like

      April 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      • I’m wondering if some people read Reapers because of your reputation from Gods of Asphalt or because they like you as a person. I have sometimes read a book by an author because I’ve liked other things they have written & been disappointed by one book. It usually doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading other books by that author, just I’m disappointed in a particular book.
        Thanks for taking my comments in the spirit they were offered. I meant absolutely no disrespect to you, just wanted you to know why I was not part of your audience.

        Like

        April 29, 2013 at 11:34 pm

        • Of course I wasn’t offended! You offered what any author wants- honest feedback for their work. A CATCHER IN THE RYE is one of the greatest pieces of literature to come out of the last century, but I could barely get through it because all I wanted to do was slap Holden Caufield upside the head. My lack of connection to the work was simply a matter of taste and had nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

          I also agree with your statement of a readership connection to me as an author. I did consider writing Reapers under a different name, but decided against it since I wasn’t prolific enough a writer to risk it. Breaking into this business is hard enough as newbie, and I dreaded doing it twice.

          Like

          April 30, 2013 at 6:44 am

  7. I write because I’m an ego maniac, but I do have a point to make…well, occasionally. And I think if you’re true to your craft, that’s what really matters. I honestly don’t like reviewers bashing work, because then it changes how you yourself, writes. It gets into an ugly place where an author now writes to appease the few, instead of listening to all the people that connected with the work. In other words, never change your style, people read your work for a reason. Or just do what I do…tell them to eat shit, and pick up a keyboard if they can do better.

    Like

    May 2, 2013 at 10:46 am

    • I think what I like best about what you write is that you expose the real human being behind the mask of celebrity. Sometimes it’s good exposure and sometimes it’s bad.

      What I like best about how you write is that you pull no punches or slam someone simply because you want the opportunity to show off your writing. You leave your readers speechless, and that’s a good thing. I should probably take a page from the book of JB Maddawg. :)

      Like

      May 3, 2013 at 6:41 am

      • You are too kind, and a talented writer. Keep showing the world your versatility as an author.

        Like

        May 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

  8. Sorry I’m late. John Erickson and I were taking a mental vacation together, separately. Tell me more about this screenplay about Narcissus, and is Mamma ever going to come out of the blog-closet? I bought some stock in Goldilocks LLC. I’m also getting the urge to tell Americans some more of the truth about Canadians. I’ll warn you. :D

    Like

    May 12, 2013 at 3:33 am

    • Okay, I laughed at this comment for ten minutes before I could reply.

      [takes deep breath]

      Lots going on in Hellisville: I am writing a stage play for a teen actor’s troupe that is a mix of comedy and horror- think SHAUN OF THE DEAD for kids. This all while writing GOA2 and REAPERS WITH FANGS simultaneously.

      As far as my mother and her blog, she is going to start it officially when she comes to visit this summer, as she has no clue how to use the internet. If you visit the link at the bottom of the post I just put up called CONVERSATIONS WITH MY MOTHER you’ll see why this is such a trial.

      I’ve had an idea brewing for a while now about a pro-Canadian post that you may like. I think what I’ll do is write it and forward it to you before I post it. Maybe after reading it you can write your Canadian Expose based on my New England perspective.

      Like

      May 12, 2013 at 7:29 am

  9. I was so happy to provide a lightning-bug glimmer of amusement and entertainment for you. I’m also happy that you are living in “interesting times.” I assumed that you were just too busy to push mamma out onto the information highway, but yours is not the only prose garden which grows Narcissus. Canada For Dummies is ready to publish any time. Please send your post over whenever it’s ready. We could do a Canadica, or Weebles/LeClown, he said/she said, counterpoint.

    Speaking of ten minutes of laughter, I translated sister’s comment-name from Italian to English and howled. Unless you named her, it seems you didn’t get All the talent in the family.

    Like

    May 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm

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